Monday, June 25, 2012

Recent Tech News

Online resources for creating video lectures and lessons
Thanks to the easy availability of free digital media, today's educators can use several online tools to make their course lectures and lessons accessible to students both in and out of the classroom. The TED-ed website features customizable education videos, while the online Khan Academy offers thousands of instructional videos on a wide variety of subjects. The Flipped Learning Network provides information and resources to teachers interested in using video lectures in the flipped learning model. The New York Times

More students enroll in online education programs
In California and elsewhere, a growing number of students are taking at least some courses online before college. However, the growth comes as data on the effectiveness of such programs is still being compiled. "When I compare myself to brick-and-mortar-school friends, we had a lot more assignments to turn in," said recent graduate Angelica Pronto. "You have to prove you're going to class every day. ... But, overall, it prepares us for the same test." San Jose Mercury News

What is holding schools back from going digital?
A recent report identifies six obstacles to schools' integration of technology. Among them are the lack of training in digital media literacy instruction available for teachers and the need for an effective way to blend formal and informal learning. Other obstacles, revealed in the "NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition," is rigidity in the education system and the lack of resources to support the current demand for personalized learning. blog

Gates Foundation launches new tech-focused grant program
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced two new education grant programs this week that invest in digital learning. One $1.2 million grant program, the Next Generation Learning Challenges, will provide funding to secondary schools that offer cost-effective personalized learning for students that is based on a blended-learning model. About $9 million will be invested in post-secondary education, through the foundation. Forbes 

Students with autism benefit from social media
Educators and experts increasingly are touting the benefits of social media in helping students with autism. They say the technology, such as YouTube, helps such youth gain confidence and relay their stories to a digital audience. While researchers say they are unsure why social media has been found to change the behavior of students with autism, one theory is that technology triggers a motivation in students with autism in a way that human interaction does not. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Nonprofit aims to improve access to iPads for students with autism
A new nonprofit group is working with school districts to provide access to iPad tablet computers to students with autism spectrum disorders. The group -- Reach for the APPs -- has set up a website and is seeking donations of devices or funds to further their cause. Mashable 

Freezer malfunction could mean setback for autism research
Some scientists say autism research could be set back by a decade after a freezer failure at a research facility damaged about one-third of the world's autism brain samples. "This was a priceless collection," said Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, where the 150 brains were housed. "You can't express its value in dollar amounts." The Boston Globe

How should school districts use social media?
School districts nationwide are using social media, but not in a way that allows them to communicate with the community, some experts say. It's recommended that districts create social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere to relay positive news stories, showcase district programs and engage the community. "Districts should be using technology for communications much like they want schools to be using technology for instruction -- as a seamless part of their approach to doing business," said Ann Flynn of the National School Boards Association. T.H.E. Journal 

Schools learn lessons from iPad roll-out
Several lessons were learned during a yearlong program in which some Michigan students used school-issued iPads in the classroom. Among these lessons are that iPads are fragile, with between 15% and 25% requiring repairs during the school year. Some students also said they did not feel challenged by the curriculum, and several educators said the tablet computers were distracting in some cases. One educator said the district intends to educate students more about how to appropriately use the devices during the next school year.

How principals can facilitate tech integration in their schools
A recent national survey of school principals identified seven attributes that principals believe are necessary for school leaders who want to be effective technology leaders. This article discusses the attributes and provides examples from principals who have successfully implemented educational technology in their schools. Also included in the article are 10 tech-integration tips from the National Association of Secondary School Principals. T.H.E. Journal

Union launches website where teachers can share materials
The American Federation of Teachers is preparing to launch a website for teachers to collaborate and share teaching materials online, through a partnership with TSL Education. On the site -- to be named -- teachers can upload materials and resources, such as PowerPoint presentations, worksheets and lesson plans. The materials then will be rated by fellow users. The New York Times

State censorship of Internet on rise, Google says
Governments across the world, including democracies such as Spain and Canada, are increasingly petitioning Google to remove links content that is critical of public figures and the nations themselves. "It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect -- Western democracies not typically associated with censorship," Dorothy Chou, Google's senior policy analyst, wrote in a blog post. The Guardian (London) 

Schools slowly write off cursive instruction
Schools in New Jersey and elsewhere are decreasing the amount of time spent teaching students to write in cursive. The trend is driven by the national Common Core State Standards, which does not require penmanship instruction, and by technology, which some say has decreased the need for students to learn cursive. "I don't think it's going to disappear soon or quickly, but I do see emphasis on writing by hand is less than it was 10 years ago, and 10 years from now it will be less," said Arizona State University professor Steve Graham, who has studied the issue. New Jersey Online/The Star-Ledger 

More pros than cons during school's iPad trial
A school in Maryland plans to provide iPads for all middle-school students following the success of a yearlong trial. The curriculum remained the same, but the school replaced most traditional textbooks with digital textbooks while using the tablet computers. A year-end survey completed by families found that most favored the iPad program. However, some parents complained that students became distracted by the devices and it was difficult to monitor the information they accessed. The Gazette (Gaithersburg, Md.)

New Zealand school uses iPads, iPods to engage students
All Year 7 and Year 8 students at a school in New Zealand are using iPods in the classroom, and the school also has a pool of iPads available to all students. Officials said students are using the application Puppet Pals to create animated movies, and Lifecards to make post cards and newspaper articles. Educators recently told parents the technology is helping to engage students in lessons, and explained that they are working to ensure students are using the devices appropriately. Stuff (New Zealand)

Smartphone applications seek to curb student bullying
Several new smartphone applications are intended to help stop school bullying, including Stop Bullies that allows students to report incidents of bullying anonymously by sending photos, messages and other information to school administrators. Another app, Back Off Bully (BOB), was created by students and offers similar features, along with resources on bullying and a function that allows students to schedule counseling appointments. Mashable 

The Tennessee School Board Association has launched its official mobile application, iTSBA, which is now available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The app is free and also available to the public. Board members can now access the latest on education trends, legislative updates, events and meeting materials, something the TSBA believes is even more important now because of the state’s transition with Race to the Top, common core state standards and assessments and new teacher evaluations. Tennessean

Is Teach For America Failing?

This from NPR:

As the school year winds down around the country, we decided to take a closer look at a widely touted success story in education that's getting new scrutiny. When then-Princeton University student Wendy Kopp created the idea for Teach for America as part of a student thesis, an adviser told her she was, quote, "quite evidently deranged," unquote.

But the idea of bringing outstanding college students from a variety of fields to teach at needy or underperforming schools caught on. Since 1990, Teach for America has trained over 20,000 would-be teachers. And it is still a powerful draw for many college graduates.

Teach for America, or TFA, reports that nearly 50,000 applications were received for just about 5,000 openings in the most recent program here. But now, some graduates of the TFA program are among those criticizing the group, and questioning whether it is really helping struggling students and schools. One of those is Gary Rubinstein. He is a math teacher at New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School. He's a two-time recipient of Math For America's Master Teacher Fellow. He's written books about teaching, and is a contributor to Teach for Us. That's an independent blog for Teach for America alums...

The SAT-ACT Duel for Supremacy

This from Walt Gardner's Reality Check
The school year is finally over, but the summer will not be the idyllic time of yore for many students. Their days will be spent prepping for either the SAT or ACT, which still remain the gatekeepers for most marquee name colleges and universities.

When I was in high school, the SAT had the entire market to itself. But in 1959, the ACT was founded and slowly began to make headway. It was originally most popular in the South and the Midwest. But by 2008, the geographical distinction had largely disappeared. Nationwide that year, 1.4 million students took the ACT, while 1.5 million students took the SAT ("ACT is to SAT as ...." Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 2008).

Which test should students choose? Although the ACT is less expensive, its growing appeal is still unclear. There is no evidence that either test is easier or that admissions officers are more impressed with one over the other. Some students are swayed by the ACT's claim that it is an achievement test, while the SAT is seen as an aptitude test ("Scores Stagnate at High Schools," The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 18, 2010). But this belief confuses the two terms. An achievement test measures knowledge and skills; an aptitude test predicts the likelihood of success in a future setting. While the two sometimes are related, they are not the same.

To understand the reason, it's instructive to look at the changes made in the name of the SAT over the years. In 1926, Carl Brigham conceived the test as an instrument for promoting greater meritocracy. He called it the Scholastic Aptitude Test, in the belief that it assessed innate ability. But by 1994, the College Board, which owns the test, renamed it the Scholastic Assessment Test because the original designation was associated too often with eugenics. In 1997, however, the board again altered the name to simply the SAT, which stands for nothing ("UnSATisfactory," Education Week, Jun. 14, 2006).

What students and their parents need to bear in mind is that both tests are designed to engineer score spread among test takers. If the tests were loaded up with items that truly measured effective instruction, test makers would run the risk of not delivering on their promise. To avoid that possibility, both the ACT and SAT contain many items that largely measure what students bring to class in the form of their socioeconomic backgrounds. That's because such items have been shown to spread scores out.

But even more important is the role that determination and perseverance play in academic success. Neither the ACT nor the SAT measures these qualities. As a result, it's not uncommon to find students whose lackluster performance on the tests is dramatically overshadowed by their grades in college.

Study: Class Size Increases Should Focus On Higher Grades, Smaller Classes Critical In Early Years

This from the Huffington Post:
Small class sizes are crucial for learning at the younger grades, but may be less important as children mature, according to a new study.

The report, called "Smart Class-Size Policies for Lean Times" and released in March by the Southern Regional Educational Board, comes as state education departments have repeatedly cut costs by increasing class sizes, and when critics are questioning the significance of small classes and the success of liberal education reform policies.

Complicating matters is the high cost of reducing class size -- one of the most expensive education reforms. Lowering the nationwide average K-12 class size would cost $10 billion a year, the report finds. Furthermore, decreasing class size would require more teacher positions to be filled, and could lower average teacher quality in the process.

Noel Sheppard, for instance, notes in a NewsBusters op-ed that while the nationwide teacher to student ratio has increased over the past decades, test scores have not improved dramatically. Newsbusters is a project of the Media Research Center

"That's not something the Left and their media minions care to discuss as political leaders try to deal with budget deficits by cutting payrolls," he writes. "Yet the solution we constantly hear for declining test scores and graduation rates is ever more teachers."

Yet the SREB report cautions against expanding class sizes at the lower levels, where effects of class size on student achievement are greater. "Research shows that students perform better in small classrooms, especially in kindergarten through third grade" according to the news release.
Although the public tended to choose larger classes with better teachers over smaller classes with average teachers, researchers note that if policymakers must increase class sizes to cut costs, the larger classes should be implemented in high schools, where class sizes have not yet proven to be a key factor in academic performance.

While figures pulled from the U.S. Department of Education show that teacher-student ratio declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 15.3 in 2008, nationwide reports have indicated a surge in class size in the last couple years, since the onset of the recession. A Texas teacher reported a high school class with 50 students last year. A Las Vegas elementary school kindergarten class had 41 students.
Even President Obama has been asked to weigh in on the class size debate.

On May 25, Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, wrote an open letter to President Obama requesting that he "rein in" Education Secretary Arne Duncan for defending "smartly targeted increases in class size" in a 2010 speech.

"If you respect the priorities of parents and teachers as well as the best education research," Haimson writes, "You will immediately restore the $620 million in your budget that districts can use for class size reduction."

Recent attention to class size and teacher hirings come amid debate over Mitt Romney’s comments regarding Obama’s calls for Congress to make more of an effort to retain teachers, among other public sector professions.

Romney attempted to diffuse the situation Tuesday while appearing on Fox and Friends. He said it was "completely absurd" to accuse him of being opposed to hiring teachers, noting that it was up to state and local governments to make those decisions, not the president.

Mister Rogers Remixed

Garden of Your Mind

This from the KyPost:
Technology has found a way back into Mister Rogers' neighborhood.
Symphony of Science's John "Melodysheep" Boswell teamed up with PBS Digital Studios to produce "Garden Of Your Mind," a remixing of the famed PBS television host and cultural icon Fred Rogers. The video...has received more than 600,000 views within a day of being released.
Viewers hear words of wisdom from the late Mr. Rogers like the question, "Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?" MTV News reported that the auto-tuned mash-up video of Rogers "speak-singing about the power of curiosity, imagination and learning" features scenes from more than three decades of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
"When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube, we immediately wanted to work together," PBS Digital Studios stated on the description to the video. "Turns out that he is a huge 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes."
Mister Rogers won't be the only icon to return. Gawker reported that "Garden Of Your Mind" is the first in a new video series titled "PBS Icon Remixed." The video has received an outpouring of support on PBS's Facebook page where fans paid tribute to the host of what was PBS's longest-running series.
"Loose the headphones and crank it up so everyone can share the message," one viewer stated. "It's a message that REALLY needs to be spread right now."
There were a few critics including one who gave it "two thumbs down." The viewer stated that it "goes against Mister Rogers' basic premise – that kids need a calm, soothing, accepting environment," not "drum machines, processed beats, and monotonous droning voices." "I know the video wasn't intended for children, but I am still of the opinion that Mr. Boswell and the good folks at PBS Digital Studios should have left this one alone," he stated.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Crazier…

This from Diane Ravitch's blog:
I opened the following email and at first I thought it was a prank or, as another reader put it, an article taken from The Onion. See what you think:
—–Original Message—–
From: Leonie Haimson
To: nyceducationnews ; paa news
Sent: Fri, Jun 8, 2012 10:08 am
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Gates Foundation: one more step into the dystopian future with electronic bracelets for students & teachers

Gates Foundation experimenting w/Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets in teacher eval project
 See Susan Ohanian, excerpt below:
Look up “effective teaching” on Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants. Here’s one of the awards.

To: Clemson University
Purpose: to work with members of the Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) team to measure engagement physiologically with Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets which will determine the feasibility and utility of using such devices regularly in schools with students and teachers [emphasis added]
Amount: $498,055
Think about that!!
NOTE: The emerging field of neuromarketing relies on biometric technologies to determine a participant’s emotional and cognitive response to certain stimuli. In the case of neuromarketing, this stimulus is anything from a television commercial to an internet advertisement. There are six primary biometrics used to gather data on physiological responses to marketing…

So Gates wants to apply it to effective teaching.

The Affectiva Q Sensor is a wearable, wireless biosensor that measures emotional arousal via skin conductance, a form of electrodermal activity that grows higher during states such as excitement, attention or anxiety and lower during states such as boredom or relaxation.

Here’s a paper on the topic: MobiCon: Mobile Context Monitoring Platform for Sensor-Rich Dynamic Environments

Smart mobile devices will be the central gateway for
personal services in the emerging pervasive environment
(Figure 1). They will enable a lot of personal context-aware
applications, forming a personal sensor network with a
number of diverse sensor devices, placed over human body
or in surrounding spaces. Diverse sensors act as the useful
tool for the applications to acquire users’ contexts1 , i.e.,
current status of an individual or surrounding situation that
she/he faces into, without their intervention [42].
Wikipedia says neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. So the Gates Foundation joins Google, CB S, and Frito-Lay in looking for ways to measure consumer reactions to products.
Put a Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelet on every kid in the class and you can measure teacher effectiveness in keeping their attention.

Maybe the next step is for the bracelet to zap them with electric current when their attention wanders.
And then the next generation will be the Galvanic Skin Response bracelet on every teacher–to zap her when she veers from the Common Core curriculum. Then. . . bring on the drones to eliminate such teachers.
 Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.

I needed A reality check, so I googled “galvanic skin response” and added “Clemson.” up popped the following link:

Home/Clemson University
Clemson University
Date: November 2011
Purpose: to work with members of the Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) team to measure engagement physiologically with Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets which will determine the feasibility and utility of using such devices regularly in schools with students and teachers
Amount: $498,055
Term: 1 year and 2 months
Topic: College-Ready Education
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Clemson, South Carolina
Grantee Web site:

What can I say? Shades of Brave New World.

Which district will be first to put the bracelets on their students and teachers? Will charter school students have to wear them, or only children in public schools? Who will pay for them? Will schools raise money by selling the data to Amazon and Google and other data-mining corporations? Have we lost all common sense?

Dept. of Education Updates College-Cost List

This from College Bound:
Students looking closely at the cost of college will find updated information today on schools with the lowest and highest tuition—and where is it going up fastest—at the U.S. Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency Center.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing some alarming trends," said Secretary of Ed. Arne Duncan on a press call this afternoon.

Between 2008 and 2010, the published price of tuition at public, four-year universities went up an average of 15 percent and the net cost rose 4.6 percent. The bright spot was at two-year, public institutions, where costs went up 16.6 percent but the bottom-line price paid by students increased just 1 percent in the same time.

Historically, community colleges have been more affordable and have developed partnerships with industry that keep costs down, said Education Undersecretary Martha Kanter on the call. Without the research mission of a flagship university (and costs that come with that), community colleges have been able to focus on teaching and learning, she added.

The national average for in-state tuition and fees in 2010 for four-year, public universities was $6,669. Topping the most expensive schools in that list was Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus ($15,250), University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus ($14,936), University of Vermont ($14,066), University of New Hampshire-Main Campus ($13,672) and St Mary's College of Maryland ($13,630). States hit particularly hard with budget cuts, and therefore, had big spikes in tuition, included California, Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Private, not-for-profit college tuition and fees averaged $21,949 with the following schools priced highest: Connecticut College in New London, Conn. ($43,990), Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.($43,564), Columbia University ($43,304), Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. ($43,190) and George Washington University in D.C. ($42,905). The average net cost of private, not-for profit institutions rose 9.7 percent from 2008 to 2010, according to the department.

The cost of attending a for-profit institution continues to outpace other higher education sectors, with tuition and fees at West Coast University-Orange County in California leading the category at $36,075 a year.

With household incomes remaining stagnant and college costs rising, higher education is becoming out of reach for many families. This website is an effort to help families become savvy consumers and get the most for their tuition dollar, said education officials.

The department first published the College Affordability and Transparency lists last year, fulfilling the requirement of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. While some lists contain tuition and fees, others look at the net price so families get a snapshot of the true cost of attending for full-time, first-time students once grants and scholarships are deducted.

The department plans to release a report online of those colleges and universities (1,878) where prices are rising the fastest, why costs have gone up, and how the institution will address rising prices, according to a department press release. There are a total of 4,165 institutions included on the combined lists.

Exquisitely Timed GAO Report Slams Charters

This from This Week In Education
A new GAO report requested by Democratic House member George Miller was unveiled to several media outlets (presumably under embargo) and reported all over the place today (Charter schools enroll fewer disabled children than public schools, GAO report says) which just happens to be halfway through the national charter school conference in Minneapolis.

What makes the report noteworthy isn't so much its main finding (that charters serve 8 percent SPED kids compared to 11 percent in the general population) but its timing.  GAO reports usually come out at random times.  The occasional exception is when a new report is released around a Committee hearing.   In this case, Miller's office handled the press and seems to have orchestrated the timing.
From Miller this morning: "This report rightly calls on Congress and the Department of Education to focus our efforts on providing students with disabilities the full opportunity to achieve a complete mainstream education whether in a traditional public school or a charter school.”  (see full press release below)

Even before the report came out, CER's Jeanne Allen was raising warning flags about media coverage this week, describing a Minnesota Public Radio story as "a taste of what is to come" this week.  "we will see many more stories citing “studies” that show “mixed results” on charter school performance," said Allen in an email Tuesday. NAPCS and NACSA are working on statements, I'm told.

GAO Report Finds Students with Disabilities Underrepresented in our Nation’s Charter Schools  
WASHINGTON – As charter schools continue to grow steadily and have become an important part of our education system, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that nationally, charter schools are not serving students with disabilities at the same rates as traditional public schools.  In addition, while charter schools have the potential to provide students with increased educational options, additional measures are needed to ensure access for students with disabilities.

 The charter school movement began in the early 1990s and, as of the 2009-2010 school year, more than 1.6 million students – approximately four percent of all public school students –attend nearly 5,000 charter schools in 40 states and the District of Columbia. GAO found that in the 2009–2010 school year, charter schools enrolled 8.2 percent of students with disabilities compared to 11.2 percent of students with disabilities in public schools.

 “The charter school movement across the country is breaking down old stereotypes about which students can and can’t learn – whether poor, minority or a student with a disability,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). “As we move forward with education reform, we need to ensure that students with disabilities are a part of the educational revolution that is taking place within charter schools. This report rightly calls on Congress and the Department of Education to focus our efforts on providing students with disabilities the full opportunity to achieve a complete mainstream education whether in a traditional public school or a charter school.”
 “This report scratches the surface of the equal access issues we know still exist in our nation’s schools. We need to make sure students have proper facilities and support no matter where they choose to go to school,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).“Whether they’re disabled, are still learning fluent English, or have any other special educational needs, our students should be sure our nation’s schools accommodate them and provide a quality education. We can’t be satisfied with anything less. I look forward to GAO’s findings on English language learner access, and I sincerely hope these findings spur the public attention and Congressional action our education system deserves.”

 Like traditional public schools, charter schools have an obligation, which comes with the receipt of public funding, to serve all public school students, including students with disabilities. However, GAOfound that in most states, charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities when compared to traditional public schools.   GAO found that several factors – from parental preference to school capacity – may account for the differences in enrollment levels of students with disabilities.

 Additionally, GAO found that:
  • ·         Students with disabilities represented 8-12 percent of all students at 23 percent of charter schools compared to 34 percent of traditional public schools.
  • ·         About half of charter schools reported having insufficient resources, including limited space, as a challenge to serving students with disabilities.
  • ·         Some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling and denying admission to students with more severe disabilities because of the cost of services.
Last year, as part of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the House passed a bipartisan bill – the “Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act” – that took several steps to increase access for students with disabilities and address the challenges highlighted by today’s GAO report.  Under this reauthorization of the charter school program, students with disabilities would have increased opportunities to attend and succeed at high-quality charter schools. The bill requires charter schools to have recruitment and enrollment practices that promote inclusion, retention, and engage students with limited opportunities to attend charter schools.

In response to GAO’s report, the Department of Education is considering issuing additional or updated guidance for charter schools and local agencies related to the recruitment, admissions, and accessibility of students with disabilities.

For charter schools, mixed results at 20-year mark

This from Minnesota Public Radio News:

In Kitty Taylor's third-grade classroom at Hiawatha Leadership Academy, the pace is quick.
When Taylor hands students a math quiz, they have two minutes to finish before a timer goes off and they have to turn in their papers. Then they must snap to attention and move to the next task. "One, two, three, eyes on me," Taylor calls. "One, two, eyes on you," her students respond.

That's a tiny fraction of a very long day for the south Minneapolis charter school's nearly 400 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Similar scenes are repeated across the nation in the some 5,000 charter schools that serve 2 million students.

[Last] week, charter school officials [gathered] in Minneapolis to share notes and discuss the progress of the national charter school movement, which marks its 20th anniversary this year. The first charter school in the country, City Academy in St. Paul, opened in 1992 and is still in operation today...

Despite their growth, the schools' effectiveness is still being debated.

A University of Minnesota study found that students at charter schools in the Twin Cities, for example, scored 7.5 percentage points lower on math testing and almost 4.5 points lower on reading tests than their counterparts at traditional schools. National studies have found similar results across the country.

In Minnesota, 40,000 students attend charter schools, or less than 5 percent of the state's total K-12 enrollment. Though relatively small, enrollment at charters has tripled in the last decade.

Charter schools are public schools, but they are freed from some of the regulations that guide traditional schools. They operate independently, and develop their own curriculum and focus.
Advocates for charter schools say they offer families a choice over failing district schools and are particularly helpful for minority and low-income families.

Most of the students at Hiawatha Leadership Academy are Latino and from low-income families. Students there are in school from 7:50 a.m. until almost 4:30 p.m. Combined with a longer school year, the children spend 40 percent more time in class than the students in district schools.

Eli Kramer, executive director of Hiawatha Academy, said that's key to the school's mission of preparing students for college.

"Rigorous academics and a very heavy on focus on developing character and the social and emotional skills that we believe students need to thrive in a higher education setting," he said.

According to state testing data, since the school opened in 2007, its students have essentially closed the gap between their reading and math scores and those of white students.

Kramer said Hiawatha Leadership Academy is living up to what was promised of charters when they began in Minnesota 20 years ago, but he acknowledges his school's success isn't characteristic of the entire charter movement.

"There's a huge range of quality of charter schools," he said. "There are some terrible charter schools. We have to be honest with ourselves about that."

Two decades of data show that Minnesota charter schools often underperform compared with traditional district schools, said Myron Orfield, a law professor and director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on Race and Poverty. He authored the study on Twin Cities charter schools.
"Charters have promised something better to kids that are desperate and their families that are desperate and they've given them something worse," he said. "They've tricked them. And they've tricked us. And it's a tragedy."

Orfield's research has also found that more than 40 charters have closed in the Twin Cities since the mid-1990s because of financial mismanagement.

He thinks charters that routinely underperform traditional schools should be closed. Some charter school advocates concede that the charter system needs to change...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jimmy Kimmel's Best/Meanest Sketch Ever?

This from
Does Jimmy Kimmel not like kids?
After his previous (and hilarious, always) pranks on kids at Christmas and on Halloween, he’s now turned to torturing small womb hobbits via lie detector.
In the sketch, Officer Jimmy Kimmel, professional Lie Detective, joins the glamorous and beautiful Truth Fairy to get to the bottom of whether Blake is a tiny, adorable little LIAR.
We learn that Blake actually doesn’t like school, but does like math, wears hair gel and…. has peed in the pool. “I think we all have,” said Kimmel, probably because Blake seemed like he wanted to die. “It’s fun.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” the Truth Fairy agreed. But only when it’s someone else’s pool. Also, Blake hates puppies. He’s a pool-peeing puppy hater.
Check it out, via ABC:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Richest School Districts in America

Three of the Nation's Poorest Districts in Kentucky
Pineville, Monticello and Barbourville at the bottom

This from 24/7 Wall St:

The average income of Americans differs by state, county, city and ZIP code, obviously. At each level, the amount residents earn every year impacts available government services, health and overall quality of life. This is especially true when education is examined by school district.

24/7 Wall St. analyzed Census data from 2006 through 2010 for each of the more than 10,000 unified school districts in the United States. Wealth appears to have an outsized effect on education at the local level. Residents that live in wealthy school districts have among the best schools in the nation based on graduation rates, test scores and independent ratings of academic success. Children who attend these schools are more likely to earn a college degree than the national average. To illustrate the influence wealth and poverty have on educational attainment, 24/7 Wall St. examined the wealthiest and poorest school districts in the country.

Nearly all of the wealthiest school districts are within a short distance of one of the richest cities in the country. Other than one suburb of Portland, Ore., all of the wealthiest school districts are commuter towns of New York City, located in either Fairfield County, Conn., or Westchester County, N.Y. The poorest districts are rural communities scattered all over the country, from Ohio and Kentucky to Texas and Mississippi.

Compared to the national median income, the families in the most well-off districts are incredibly wealthy. In the 10 richest school districts, median incomes ranged from $175,766 to $238,000. By comparison, the national median household income from 2006 to 2010 was $51,914. Among the 10 wealthiest districts, between 48% and 64% earned $200,000. Nationally, only 5.4% of households earned more than that.

Median income in the poorest school districts was just as extreme. Annual median incomes in those districts ranged from $16,607 to $18,980, well below $22,314, the national poverty line for a household of four. In San Perlita Independent School District in Texas, one of the poorest districts in the country, 30% of residents earned less than $10,000 each year.

According to the National Center of Education Statistics, all of the wealthiest school districts spend far more per pupil than the national average. The Darien, Conn., public school district spends $15,433 per student per year, more than 50% above the U.S. average of $10,591. The Edgemont, N.Y., public school spends more than $25,000 per student annually. Barbourville, Ky., the poorest school district, spends less than one-third that amount.

Not surprisingly, the richest schools are considered better than the poorest schools, based on measures used by the media to rank academic success. All of the richest school districts were included in the 2012 U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools list, except for Bronxville, which was ranked fourth in Newsweek’s Top 20 High Schools in the Northeast. U.S. News based its rankings on state test scores and college readiness, while Newsweek’s methodology included graduation rates, college acceptance and AP exams. The poorest school districts did not fare as well. Only two were included in the U.S. News rankings.

On a national level, nearly half of all property tax revenue goes to public school funding. As a result, most districts rely heavily on local funding. In the richest school districts, up to 90% of the school district budget is from residents’ taxes. Homeowners in these regions pay an average of $18,000 in Weston, Conn. to $43,000 in Bronxville, N.Y. Bronxville’s average property tax bill alone is more than twice the median household income of any of the poorest school districts on this list. By comparison, as little as 6% of school revenue is generated by local taxes in the poorest school districts, with state and federal funding making up the difference.

24/7 Wall St. used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2006 to 2010 to measure the economic conditions of more than 10,000 unified school districts across the United States. After eliminating the districts with fewer than 10 school-aged children, those that are not unified and those that do not provide a K-12 curriculum, we identified the 10 districts with the highest median income among residents and the 10 with the lowest median income. We also considered income distribution, the percentage of children living in poverty, median home values and the percentages of adults holding high school and bachelor degrees in these school districts. From housing information site Trulia, we obtained academic test scores in all of the districts. Information on academic performance for each district also was based on the 2012 U.S. News Best High Schools, the 2012 Newsweek Top High Schools and individual district websites. 24/7 Wall St. contacted assessor’s offices to obtain average property taxes paid in these areas and relied on the National Center of Education Statistics for information on school funding.

The Poorest School Districts in America

10) Centennial School District R-1, Colo.

9) Pineville Independent School District, Ky.
>Median household income: $18,933
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 1.3%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 16.3%
>Expenditure per student: $9,829
>Pct. local funding: 12%
With a median household income of just $18,933, Pineville households earn more than $30,000 less than the national median. Similarly, the median home value is only $58,600 compared to the national median of $188,400. These low home values have affected the community’s abilities to provide for its own students through property taxes. The Pineville Independent School District spends $9,829 per student, and only 12% of that is provided by local residents. Less than 50% of high school students received proficient scores in writing or social studies on the Kentucky Core Content Tests.

8) San Perlita Independent School District, Tex.
7) New Boston Local School District, Ohio
6) Hayti R-II School District, Mo.
5) Santa Maria Independent School District, Tex.
4) West Bolivar School District, Miss.
3) North Bolivar School District, Miss.
2) Monticello Independent School District, Ky.
>Median household income: $16,778
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 0%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 18%
>Expenditure per student: $9,964
>Pct. local funding: 8%
With 18% of households earning less than $10,000 annually, and not a single household earning above $200,000 per year, the Monticello Independent School District is one of the poorest school districts in the U.S. Nearly 40% of Monticello household incomes are below the poverty line, and 43.4% receive food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. In addition, median home value in Monticello is a meager $61,600, which is less than a third of the nation’s median home value. As a result, residents contribute just 8% to funding the district’s schools, or $892 per student. Only 60% of adults in the district have a high school diploma and 6.3% have a bachelor’s degree. On the Kentucky Core Content Tests, Monticello students were well below state proficiency levels on math and social studies.

1) Barbourville Independent School District, Ky.
>Median household income: $16,607
>Pct. households earning $200,000+: 0%
>Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 6.8%
>Expenditure per student: $8,178
>Pct. local funding: 16%
About one-third of households in the Barbourville Independent School District live well below the poverty line, earning less than $15,000 annually. The median home value in Barbourville is just $80,700, compared to the national average of $188,400. Poverty affects children in the district a great deal; an estimated 282 of the 680 children between 5 and 17 live in households with incomes below the poverty line. Surprisingly, U.S. News gave Barbourville’s high school a ranking on the 2012 Best High Schools list, explaining that Barbourville students received scores on their Kentucky Core Content Tests that were higher than state averages, despite the fact that 62% of the student body is “economically disadvantaged.”   
The Richest School Districts in America

1) Scarsdale Union Free School District, N.Y.
> Median household income: $238,000
> Pct. households earning $200,000+: 64.3%
> Pct. households earning less than $10,000: 0%
> Expenditure per student: $26,742
> Pct. local funding: 89%
With a median income of $238,000, the Scarsdale Union Free School District tops 24/7 Wall St.’s list of the wealthiest school districts in the country. In the district, just 35.7% of households earn less $200,000 a year. Because Scarsdale collects an average property tax of approximately $31,000, the district is able to spend a lot on education. Scarsdale provides 89% of funding for its own schools and spends $26,742 per student. The district’s schools are also among the best in the country. About 90% of eighth-grade students at Scarsdale Middle School meet or exceed NYSA’s standards, while in each subsection of the NYSA high school tests at least 90% of Scarsdale High School students had passing grades.

2) Weston School District, Conn.
3) Riverdale School District, Ore.
4) Chappaqua Central School District, N.Y.
5) Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District, N.Y.

6) Byram Hills Central School District, N.Y.
7) Edgemont Union Free School District, N.Y.
8) New Canaan School District, Conn.
9) Bronxville Union Free School District, N.Y.
10) Darien School District, Conn.