Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick Hits

Creative opportunities of students soon may be measured:  Several states are considering developing an index to gauge whether schools are fostering students' creativity. Supporters of such a measure -- proposed in California, Oklahoma and Massachusetts -- say opportunities for students to be creative would be measured in school curriculum, as well as in before- and after-school programs. However, the issue concerns those who point out the difficulty in teaching creativity and question how the measure will be used. (Education Week)

Study: School principals affect students' long-term success:  The quality of school principals -- like teachers -- affects students' long-term success, suggests Stanford University researcher Eric Hanushek. He recently released his findings, saying that "principals matter." The findings show that school leaders are not interchangeable, but rather are "pivotal to our schools functioning as networks of opportunity for all children," says Karin Chenoweth, a senior writer for The Education Trust. (The Huffington Post)

Obama seeks to train 100,000 new teachers in 10 years:  President Barack Obama was expected today to announce a plan to train 100,000 new teachers over the next 10 years. The proposal calls for an additional $80 million in federal grants for colleges that offer top training programs for teachers, as well as $22 million from private entities for similar initiatives. In his announcement, expected to be made at the second annual White House Science Fair, Obama will speak about the importance of educators in improving the country's global competitiveness. (The Washington Post)  

Can BYOT programs help bridge the digital divide?:  Some say Bring Your Own Technology programs may help bridge the digital divide for students in low-income school districts. Jennifer Roland writes in this blog post about policies, such as one in the Mankato Public School System in Minnesota, allowing students to use their own mobile devices for learning in the classroom, creating more availability for school-owned computers for other students. There are challenges to such arrangements, however, including meshing the use of various devices from new iPad tablet computers to older laptops and the need for increased bandwidth on campus, she writes. (Mind/Shift blog)

Teachers must be part of the reform process, says R.I. schools leader:  Rhode Island is undergoing a series of school reforms under the leadership of Deborah Gist, the state's Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. In this interview, Gist suggests other states taking on similar initiatives should include teachers in the conversation. "Communication is the key, beginning with involving teachers in the development and design process," she said. (The Hechinger Report)

Positive-behavior program may reduce bullying in elementary grades:  A school program designed to improve student behavior may help reduce bullying in elementary schools, a new study shows. Teachers at schools that have implemented the School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, in place now in about 16,000 U.S. schools, reported less bullying, teasing and aggression among students, the report found. (Chicago Tribune)

Studies show income-based achievement gap is growing:  The achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers has grown by roughly 40% since the 1960s, according to a recent study by researchers at Stanford University. Another study from University of Michigan researchers shows a 50% increase since the late 1980s in the imbalance between rich and poor students completing college. Furthermore, researchers say they expect the gap to widen amid the effects of the economic downturn. (The New York Times)

States consider holding back students who lack reading proficiency:  Legislative measures are being considered in at least four states to allow schools to retain students who are not proficient in reading by third grade. Critics of the proposals say retaining students increases their odds of dropping out, while supporters say promoting students who are struggling is not the answer. "We know it's hard on a child's self-esteem to be held back, but it's even harder on self-esteem to be illiterate," said Linda Fandel, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's special assistant on education. (The Wall Street Journal)   

Documentary captures efforts to curb hate, school bullying:  A new documentary highlights efforts by educators and students in one public-school district and two colleges to stamp out hate and bullying in the school environment. "Not In Our Town: Class Actions," set to premiere today on PBS, was produced in conjunction with a social media campaign that offers online resources for educators seeking to launch similar initiatives. (Suzie Boss' blog)

Arts program helps raise student test scores, researchers find:  A program that integrates the arts across the curriculum has led to higher standardized test scores, new research shows. The Developing Reading Education with Arts Methods, or DREAM, is in place in 10 school districts, where educators are trained to integrate arts into lessons and professional artists provide weekly coaching in the classroom. "I would say we knew that arts make a difference in student achievement," said Brenda Hall, a co-director of the project, "but it's rewarding and validating to see it show up in the test scores in such a significant way." (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Obama seeks to increase funding for education:  President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal 2013 budget, released Monday, includes $69.8 billion for education -- about 2.5% more than the previous year. The proposal calls for $850 million in Race to the Top funding next year -- $300 million more than last year -- intended to help close racial and economic achievement gaps among students. "Education and lifelong learning will be critical for anyone trying to compete for the jobs of the future," Obama said in the budget documents. (Bloomberg), ( The Washington Post/44 blog)

Should schools fine students for disciplinary infractions?:  A Chicago charter-school operator has raised about $400,000 over two years by fining students at the 10 high schools it runs for disciplinary and behavioral infractions. While minor infractions can cost students $5, multiple infractions can require them to attend a behavior-improvement course in the summer that costs $140. Some parents and advocates are critical of the strategy, but officials say the strict discipline policy is needed to maintain a learning environment, and the fines are used to help offset the cost of detention. (Chicago News Cooperative)

Ideas for teaching students to craft logical arguments:  The writer of this blog post suggests ways in which educators can teach students to construct logical arguments, a key element of the new Common Core State Standards on writing. Among other ideas, Katherine Schulten suggests students analyze a series of opinion blog posts on a topic that interests them, or create a collection of classroom opinions on a new topic of their choosing. (The Learning Network blog)

What does Obama's budget proposal include for education?:  President Barack Obama's fiscal 2013 budget includes $300 million more for the federal Race to the Top competition and directs a quarter of a $2.5 billion fund to competitive grants. Some say the proposal is unlikely to pass, as some lawmakers call for a diminished federal role in education. (Education Week), (Teacher Beat blog)       

Will common standards drive improved student achievement?:  New Common Core State Standards are not likely to improve student achievement, according to a study released Thursday by the Brookings Institution. The study, which considered the effects of state standards on student achievement, revealed that even higher standards and higher cut scores do not necessarily lead to improved performance on standardized tests. (Curriculum Matters blog)

Atlanta's new superintendent sets a different course:  Atlanta public schools are under the steady direction of new Superintendent Erroll Davis Jr. The former utility executive and chancellor of the state's higher-education system was a choice who officials thought could heal the district after a cheating scandal. (The New York Times)

Teacher-evaluation reform is problematic in some states:  About a dozen states have agreed to evaluate teachers in new ways in an effort to receive federal Race to the Top funds. However, some states have encountered problems with the evaluations, which include more classroom observations and emphasis on standardized testing. In Tennessee, principals say the evaluations are burdensome and, in some cases, do not reflect teachers' effectiveness. Delaware was unable to adopt a system based on student growth because of a lack of data, and Maryland has postponed a similar requirement. (The New York Times)

Congress mulls the federal role in education:  Lawmakers at a congressional committee hearing disagreed over how to define the federal government's responsibilities in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Republicans want to give states more control over assessing and improving schools, while Democrats seek to retain federal protections. "States have demonstrated that, without being compelled by the federal government, they've adopted higher academic standards," said Tom Luna, superintendent of public instruction in Idaho and president of the Council of Chief State School Officers. (Education Week)


Anonymous said...

The last one should bother citizens, regardless of your political persuasion. Since when does the federal government need to protect citizens from themselves. Especially during this month of February we are more in tune with the abuse by states to offer African American's equal voting, educational and general social rights fifty years ago. With that said, I don't think we ae talking about the same sort of "protection" in this case as much as we are being expected to accept federal encrochment into a realm in which they are not constitutionally suppose to tread. I have to believe that no state intentionally seeks to provide inadequate education to all its citizens childrens, so what exactly are the folks in Washington "protecting" us from?

Richard Day said...

Thanks for the comment.

I don't believe that state legislatures set out to intentionally harm their children or limit their futures. But they can't always see the future. The facts show over and over again that Kentucky's legislature was content to neglect the public schools - relative to other states. Education of "the rabble" was only episodically seen as a priority. After all, how much book learning was necessary to work a plow? And the rich had private options.

I believe the record clearly shows that, without public pressure, the General Assembly would happily content themselves to under fund the schools for as long as they could get away with it. They simply had other priorities.

On the other hand, there is a ton of early literature and case law supporting the conclusion that there was clear intent to "keep down" African American kids. And rural kids got the short end of the stick too.

The thing is....Kentucky doesn't have to follow most federal education mandates. We could raise the money necessary to fund special education, school lunches and a host of other school services within the state. But we don't do that - no state does - because it's expensive and state legislators would be thrown out of office if they raised the taxes necessary to offset what the feds provide.

So instead, Kentucky gives away its tenth amendment authority to govern it's own educational programs in exchange for the money. And ever since LBJ, if you want the money, you have to be willing to abide by the federal programs. It's how he got desegregation done - because many states weren't going to do it otherwise. Intentionally.

During the G W Bush administration, when the federal intrusion reached its apex, Kentucky and Vermont flirted with the notion of foregoing NCLB testing but ultimately caved in because of the bucks.

Anonymous said...

Now I feel even worse. State legislators who are content to underfund schools and federal legislators who will pimp the state legislators with red ink tax dollars. The federal "funding" doesn't necessarily funnel down directly to teachers and schools but goes to state coffers and those educators are left to carry the work and responsibilities upon which federal expectations are placed.

I appreciate your points about state legislators' historic lack of priority for Kentucky students, but to be honest, I don't think that is neccessarily a shortcoming at only the state level. I sense that politicians in Washington embrace similar indifference and bias as evidenced by their usual focus on more self serving priorities similar to their state level counterparts.

As I once noted to a classmate one evening, I would rather have corruption at the local level than at the state or federal level, because at least you know some of the folks in the community are benefitting directly from the misappropriations and financial inequity and maybe that will trickle down to you.

As we enjoy another season of tax filing, I have no idea where our tax dollars go (went) but do see where they haven't been spent.