Friday, March 09, 2012

Quick Hits

Will magnet schools make a comeback?:  Magnet schools -- focused on a particular academic theme or instructional strategy -- were first created in the 1960s as a way to voluntarily integrate schools without imposing mandatory busing, says Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Despite successful outcomes, the growth of magnets has stalled as the popularity of charter schools has increased. However, Kahlenberg predicts a renewed interest in magnets as a way to ensure more diversity in the nation's schools. (The Hechinger Report)

Teachers - Test prep consumes majority of classroom time:  A recent survey of 600 teachers in North Carolina found that among those polled, more than half say they devote more than half of their classroom time to preparing students to take standardized tests. The survey -- by the North Carolina NAACP, Advocates for Children's Services and the Advancement Project -- also found that 90% cite testing as a reason for low teacher morale. The report follows a separate survey showing teachers' job satisfaction is at a 20-year low. (State EdWatch)

How should teachers of untested subjects be evaluated?:  States and school districts in the U.S. are working to develop and implement new teacher-evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores, but are facing challenges evaluating educators who teach subjects not typically tested by the state. For teachers of these subjects -- from science and social studies to drama, art and music -- some states and districts now are developing end-of-course exams. However, some critics say this approach leads to more student testing that takes time away from learning. (The Wall Street Journal)

What are the qualities of an effective administrator?:  Award-winning teacher Megan Allen in this blog post lists the qualities she is looking for in an effective administrator. She writes that administrators should interact with students and staff, put people first, create a comfortable school environment, show appreciation and develop community partnerships. They also should be willing to try innovative ideas, trust teachers, love their job, and give teachers time to collaborate and learn from each other. (Schools of Thought)

2 AP courses aim to develop students' research, critical-thinking skills:  Two new Advanced Placement courses being introduced next year will focus on developing research and critical-thinking skills that some say many high-school graduates lack. Over the next three years, high-school juniors will be offered the AP/Cambridge Interdisciplinary Investigations and Critical Reasoning Seminar, which will have teams of students researching and writing on topics of global importance. Another course -- the AP/Cambridge Capstone Research Project -- is for 12th-graders and focuses on writing a comprehensive research paper. (College Bound blog)

School uses iPods to help boost students' reading skills:  Educators at a California elementary school are using iPods as part of a reading program to help boost students' reading performance. The strategy, which has students using iPods to listen to audiobooks as they read along with the print versions, originally was used with English-language learners and struggling readers but is now being used with other students as well. The school has 400 audiobooks and 50 devices for use by students. (T.H.E. Journal)

Mo. judge hears arguments on St. Louis school transfer policy:  A circuit court judge in St. Louis County, Mo., heard arguments this week on a policy that allows students to transfer out of the unaccredited St. Louis, Mo., public schools to nearby suburban districts at the district's expense. Critics of the policy, including St. Louis Public Schools superintendent Kelvin Adams, who testified Wednesday, say it will lead to the demise of the city's schools, while overburdening the suburban districts. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Regulation of teacher preparation is debated:  Representatives from the public and private sectors negotiated last week over the direction of new federal rules on teacher preparation. As negotiators seek to rewrite the federal standard, they appear divided over the role of schools of education in ensuring their graduates are effective teachers. If negotiators fail to put forth draft regulations, the Department of Education can establish its own standards. (Education Week)

Nevada study to consider equity of school-funding formula:  A legislative panel in Nevada voted Monday to commission a study of the state's formula for funding schools. The study is meant to determine whether the state's formula is adequately serving an increasingly diverse student population. The study is being paid for with private donations, a move that may be the first for a state-commissioned study. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

More states are revising policies over "seat time" in schools:  A growing number of states have relaxed their requirements on "seat time," allowing schools or districts to award credits to students who demonstrate proficiency in a particular subject. The revised policies are meant to assist struggling students working to catch up, students who are gifted working to get ahead, and others who face geographical and scheduling challenges. They also are seen by some as a way to boost graduation rates through online or alternative courses. (Education Week)

How are charter schools using blended-learning models?:  The number of charter schools utilizing a hybrid instructional model, combining online and face-to-face learning, has increased over the past five years. While some research suggests blended instruction may be effective for some students, new research being funded by private groups is specifically studying the use of various hybrid models in charter-school settings. (Education Week)

Retention disparities are seen in new civil rights data from schools:  Black and Hispanic students are more likely than white students to be held back a grade in school, according to data released today by the Education Department. The disparities were seen particularly in elementary and middle schools, and were most significant for black students, who accounted for 56% of all fourth-graders retained at the end of the 2009-10 school year. According to an Education Department analysis also released today, black and Hispanic students were disciplined or expelled at a higher rate than their white counterparts. (Education Week)

Researchers look at quality, innovation of charter schools:  Studies show that charter schools across the country vary widely in performance for numerous reasons, and researchers are working to determine whether the schools have become the innovative models of education they were intended to be. Charters now serve more than 2 million students across 41 states and Washington, D.C., and researchers are looking at the practices in place at the most successful schools to discover what can be replicated elsewhere. (Education Week)

Chicago to offer signing bonuses for top principals:  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a plan Friday to offer $25,000 signing bonuses to 50 top principals from across the country who agree to work in struggling city schools. The mayor's announcement came as officials also announced a partnership with universities to train and support new principals, and is in addition to a plan put in place last year to offer merit pay for the city's school principals. (Chicago Tribune)

Tenn. is expected to release teacher ratings this year:  Tennessee plans to release teacher ratings to the public for the first time this year. The ratings, based in part on students' scores on standardized tests, will rank teachers on a scale of one to five. The move to release teachers' rankings, as well as their names, follows similar moves in Los Angeles and New York City. Critics, however, say the scores do not provide a full picture of teachers' effectiveness, and one state lawmaker is seeking to prevent value-added scores from being attached to teachers' names in the future. (The Tennessean)      

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