Education News Roundup: April 4, 2012

Amelia Earhart Elementary Read-a-ThonToday’s Top Picks:

State Education Board nominating panel rules that the eight incumbents seeking reelection this year won’t get a free pass to the ballot. (SLT)

Feds are looking at reading programs in four Iron County schools, and, yes, it’s a good thing. (SGS)

GreatSchools is finding a niche marketing in online school ratings. (Ed Week)

College Board aims to make education an issue in the presidential election. (PRNewswire)



Incumbents won’t get preference in Utah school board race Education » Nominating committee debates incumbents, secret ballots.

Four Iron County schools chosen for study

Public Lands Battle

Students go head to head with Irish debate champions about sex ed

West Lake teacher charged with abuse of a student Court » Incident involved woman throwing a soda can at a 14-year-old.

Students perform gravity egg-speriment

High school students, faculty grow mustaches, raise money for food pantry

Sixth grader is no-nonsense with Big Budah


Common Core Standards: a view from the time machine

Teacher evaluations: Who gets a glimpse?

Differential pay for teachers

Where Teachers Are Replaceable Widgets, Education Suffers

Why School Principals Need More Authority Under the current system, educational leaders have all of the responsibility but none of the power. Allowing principals to act like CEOs may foster a more efficient system.

U.S. Officials Tackle National Adoption of Digital Textbooks

3 reasons funding should follow kids

Report: Arts Engagement Linked to Academic, Civic Benefits

Schools dispensing birth control

Best Practices Are the Worst
Picking the anecdotes you want to believe

Defining Strong State Accountability Systems: How Can Better Standards Gain Greater Traction?


GreatSchools Finds a Niche in School Ratings School ratings service has designs on parent market

Jobs & Economy of the Future: Educating the Next Generation to Compete

College Board Releases Swing State Education Survey; Announces Grassroots Campaign to Keep ‘Ed’ in the Political Spotlight

Q&A with Steve Barr: Lessons from charter schools in L.A. and New Orleans

Visalia charter school provides classes for home-schooled students

Wis. School Districts Saved After Bad Investment

Group Aims to Counter Influence of Teachers’ Union in New York


Incumbents won’t get preference in Utah school board race Education » Nominating committee debates incumbents, secret ballots.

State school board incumbents hoping for another term will not automatically appear on the ballot for their seats in November.
A committee assigned to help narrow the field of candidates for the school board voted Tuesday against automatically forwarding incumbents’ names to the governor for ballot consideration. They also considered whether to vote by secret ballot for finalists, ultimately deciding to cast paper ballots but promising to reveal results, including who voted for whom, immediately after the votes.
This year, in what could be a record, 59 candidates have filed to run for nine open state school board seats. (SLT)

Four Iron County schools chosen for study

CEDAR CITY – The success elementary schools in the Iron County School District have had in helping children who are struggling with reading has caught the eye of the United States Department of Education. The agency has approved the inclusion of four ICSD schools in its study on remedial reading programs in elementary schools.
Jennifer Wood, director of Special Programs for ICSD, said the schools being studied for their reading programs, known as Response to Intervention, are East, South, Three Peaks and Enoch elementary schools.
Jerry Oldroyd, principal at South Elementary, said his school was notified of the interest in its RTI program in fall 2011. At that time, representatives of MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization, contacted them and conducted interviews with them. (SGS)

Public Lands Battle

Two-thirds of Utah is owned by the federal government. But opinions about whether the federal government’s management of these public lands is an asset or a burden sharply differ across the state. In a move that’s been dubbed the new Sagebrush Rebellion, the Utah Legislature passed a law this year demanding nearly all those lands be transferred to state control by the end of 2014. Supporters say Utah has that right under the state’s Enabling Act, opponents say it’s unconstitutional and could devastate Utah’s national treasures. (KCPW)

Students go head to head with Irish debate champions about sex ed

The Debate Society hosted the Irish Times Debate champions during their tour of the United States, and held a parliamentary-style debate about sex education. The motion was that comprehensive sex education should be universally mandated.
The Irish Times Debate is a highly competitive national debate in which the newspaper hosts competitors from the leading universities in Ireland. The winning team and best speaker tour and compete with U.S. universities. (Chrony)

West Lake teacher charged with abuse of a student Court » Incident involved woman throwing a soda can at a 14-year-old.

A Granite School District special education teacher was charged with child abuse for pushing a student and then hitting him with a pop can, according to prosecutors.
Court records state on Feb. 29 a 14-year-old male student was hurt while attending school at West Lake Junior High School at 3400 S. 3450 West.
The teacher was charged Tuesday in 3rd District Court with child abuse, a class A misdemeanor.
The student said he walked into class with a soda pop, which upset the teacher, according to charging documents. He then argued with the teacher about the drink, drank the soda, and threw the soda can in the garbage.
The student said the teacher grew angrier because of the student’s actions. The teacher removed the soda can from the trash and “smashed it in his hand,” charges state.
The teacher pushed the teen out of the classroom and picked up the can and threw it at him, hitting him in the shoulder and causing scratch marks to his arm and back, the teen states in charging documents. (SLT) (DN) (KSL) (KSTU) (MUR)

Students perform gravity egg-speriment

WEST JORDAN — Students at Westvale Elementary on Tuesday tried to see if their projects were everything they’re cracked up to be.
Second-grade students performed the first egg drop from the roof of their school. The students have been learning about the effects of gravity and were challenged by their teachers to come up with a creative way to test their skills. (DN)

High school students, faculty grow mustaches, raise money for food pantry

SMITHFIELD — After battling a massive pro wrestler named Thunderlips in a brutal exhibition match in “Rocky III,” the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa proclaimed: “You know, sometimes charity hurts.”
A handful of students from Sky View High School now understand what Sylvester Stallone was talking about.
After coming out on the short end of the inaugural Stache Clash with Logan High, four Bobcats ended up experiencing a little thunder — and lightning — on their young upper lips Friday afternoon.
By raising roughly $800 to the $1,000 contributed to the Cache Community Food Pantry by students and faculty at Logan High, Sky View’s Brandon Burger, Hayden Singer, Bryon Geddes and Kelton Miller had their month-old mustaches “sugared” off by local esthetician Kim Parkinson. (LHJ)

Sixth grader is no-nonsense with Big Budah

Students at Scera Park Elementary participated in their own storytelling festival.
One sixth grader shares her story, “The Truth About Jack,” with Big Budah as part of the Cool School feature on Wednesday. When he questions some of the details, the girl takes none of his nonsense. (KSTU)


Common Core Standards: a view from the time machine Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

I was surprised, initially, that so many states – including Utah – adopted the Common Core Standards for math and language arts with so little controversy or fanfare. Well, the controversy is certainly erupting now. The education blogs where I love to linger are erupting in Common Core critiques and defenses.
That’s good news. If thoroughly implemented, these new standards will drive some very important changes in the way we educate our children. They deserve a lot more attention.
I’ve been planning to post some of the details of these standards and, I hope, promote discussion on this blog. Let me kick off with a tongue-in-cheek article by Rick Hess.

Teacher evaluations: Who gets a glimpse?
Deseret News commentary by columnist Mary McConnell

Today’s Education Week Online includes an article about efforts in several states to amend open records laws to prevent public disclosure of teacher evaluations.
Newspaper publication of value-added scores sparked a conflagration in Los Angeles and New York . . . and statements by prominent education reformers such as Wendy Koop and Bill Gates opposing such moves.
But what about sharing teacher evaluations with parents? The proposed Tennessee law would give only administrators access to information on teachers. New York seems to be trying to find a way to give parents at least some data.

Differential pay for teachers
(Provo) Daily Herald letter from Macklin Johnson

Teachers should receive differential pay, based on which subject they teach.
One of the most compelling arguments for differential pay is that professionals in the fields of math and science make significantly more than teachers in those same subject areas. If we want math and science majors to become teachers, we have to pay them what they’re worth.
Secondly, teachers in core areas are required to take more advanced schooling than those teachers in other subjects. Teachers who make the effort to go through more difficult and rigorous schooling deserve to be paid more.

Where Teachers Are Replaceable Widgets, Education Suffers Education Week op-ed by Robert Boruch, Joseph Merlino, and Andrew C. Porter (Robert Boruch is a professor and Andrew C. Porter is a professor and the dean at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, in Philadelphia. Joseph Merlino is the president of the 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education, in Conshohocken, Pa.)

We have become convinced that in our nation’s struggling urban schools, teachers and would-be education reformers are battling through a hurricane that shows no signs of abating. We call this hurricane “churn.”
Churn is a remarkable instability among school personnel that makes it nearly impossible to build a professional community or develop long-term relationships with students. It happens when teachers are treated like interchangeable parts who can be moved around cavalierly to plug a hole in a school schedule. It happens when administrators repeatedly order teachers to switch to a different grade, teach a different subject, or move to a different school.
We recently tried to test an idea for improving the middle school science curriculum through a multiyear randomized controlled trial in a big-city public school system. But the constant stream of teachers leaving the classes we were studying made it nearly impossible to get reliable results. After just one year, 42 percent of the teachers in 92 schools who began participating in our study had left it to take other positions within and outside the schools. The instability was about the same in both the intervention group and the control group.

Why School Principals Need More Authority Under the current system, educational leaders have all of the responsibility but none of the power. Allowing principals to act like CEOs may foster a more efficient system.
Atlantic commentary by Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

A venerable maxim of successful organizational management declares that an executive’s authority should be commensurate with his or her responsibility. In plain English, if you are held to account for producing certain results, you need to be in charge of the essential means of production.
In American public education today, however, that equation is sorely unbalanced. A school principal in 2012 is accountable for student achievement, for discipline, for curriculum and instruction, and for leading (and supervising) the staff team, not to mention attracting students, satisfying parents, and collaborating with innumerable other agencies and organizations.
Yet that same principal controls only a tiny part of his school’s budget, has scant say over who teaches there, practically no authority when it comes to calendar or schedule, and minimal leverage over the curriculum itself. Instead of deploying all available school assets in ways that would do the most good for the most kids, the principal is required to follow dozens or hundreds of rules, program requirements, spending procedures, discipline codes, contract clauses, and regulations emanating from at least three levels of government–none of which strives to coordinate with any of the others.
Solving the nation’s most entrenched problems See full coverage In short, we give our school heads the responsibility of CEO’s but the authority of middle-level bureaucrats.

U.S. Officials Tackle National Adoption of Digital Textbooks Education Week commentary by columnist Katie Ash

The Federal Communications Commission, the newly formed LEAD Commission, and the U.S. Department of Education met today with textbook publishers and technology providers in Washington to discuss the future of digital textbooks in K-12 classrooms.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appealed to the crowd of technology company CEOs and senior executives, urging them to consider how they can contribute to lowering the dropout rate and improving education throughout the country. “Things are tough, so we’re going to keep limping along, or we’re going to change the game. And I think you guys collectively have the ability, potentially, to change the game,” he said.

3 reasons funding should follow kids
Fordham Institute commentary by Chris Tessone, Bernard Leee Schwartz Policy Fellow

Last week, the Hoover Institution’s Eric Hanushek argued in Education Next that liberals and conservatives’ optimism about weighted student funding was misplaced. Hanushek argued instead for performance-based funding: schools that drive their students to better performance should get more funding, while failing schools should not be financially rewarded. I’d like to offer a few reasons why education reformers should still be bullish about funding that follows kids.

Report: Arts Engagement Linked to Academic, Civic Benefits Education Weekc commentary by columnist Erik Robelen

At-risk youths with a history of intensive arts experiences enjoy better academic outcomes and are more civicly engaged than disadvantaged students who largely miss out on the arts, finds a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The benefits can be seen across a variety of measures, from test scores and school grades to honors-society memberships, high school graduation, and college enrollment and attainment. In addition, these young people are more likely to get involved with volunteer activities and local politics.
To be clear, this research does NOT provide evidence that extensive arts engagement causes those positive outcomes in at-risk young people. Rather, the two are associated. In other words, it could simply be that youths who are more apt to be highly engaged in the arts also are more prone toward academic and civic prowess. We don’t really know for sure.

A copy of the report

Schools dispensing birth control
USA Today op-ed by Patrick Welsh, an English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va.

The Alexandria, Va., school system made a decision in 2010 that will ultimately do more to improve the test scores and behavior at T.C. Williams High School than all the educational innovations it has spent millions of dollars on over the years. The school moved an adolescent health center that since 1986 had been three blocks from the campus into the school, right next to the guidance office. Rechristened the “Teen Wellness Center,” the clinic is staffed by a full-time primary care physician and a nurse practitioner.
Since the move, student use of the clinic has almost doubled. In a school where 55% of more than 2,000 students are on the free and reduced lunch program and many have no medical insurance, a free clinic can deal with health issues that might otherwise go untreated or cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in emergency room care.
Of all the benefits of the move, the most striking to me and other veteran teachers here on the front lines is that we have not been seeing as many girls making their way down the hallways seven or eight months pregnant. Our impression was confirmed by David Wynne, the school’s social worker, who says that two years ago, when the clinic was still off campus, there were 50 pregnancies. Last year, the first year the clinic was in the school, the number was 35 and as of now, there are only 20 with the year more than two-thirds over.

Best Practices Are the Worst
Picking the anecdotes you want to believe Education Next book review by Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas

Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems
Edited by Marc Tucker
Harvard Education Press, 2011, $49.99; 288 pages.

“Best practices” is the worst practice. The idea that we should examine successful organizations and then imitate what they do if we also want to be successful is something that first took hold in the business world but has now unfortunately spread to the field of education. If imitation were the path to excellence, art museums would be filled with paint-by-number works.
The fundamental flaw of a “best practices” approach, as any student in a half-decent research-design course would know, is that it suffers from what is called “selection on the dependent variable.” If you only look at successful organizations, then you have no variation in the dependent variable: they all have good outcomes. When you look at the things that successful organizations are doing, you have no idea whether each one of those things caused the good outcomes, had no effect on success, or was actually an impediment that held organizations back from being even more successful. An appropriate research design would have variation in the dependent variable; some have good outcomes and some have bad ones. To identify factors that contribute to good outcomes, you would, at a minimum, want to see those factors more likely to be present where there was success and less so where there was not.
“Best practices” lacks scientific credibility, but it has been a proven path to fame and fortune for pop-management gurus like Tom Peters, with In Search of Excellence, and Jim Collins, with Good to Great. The fact that many of the “best” companies they featured subsequently went belly-up—like Atari and Wang Computers, lauded by Peters, and Circuit City and Fannie Mae, by Collins—has done nothing to impede their high-fee lecture tours. Sometimes people just want to hear a confident person with shiny teeth tell them appealing stories about the secrets to success.

Defining Strong State Accountability Systems: How Can Better Standards Gain Greater Traction?
Thomas Fordham Insitute analysis by Eileen Reed, Janie Scull, Gerilyn Slicker, Amber M. Winkler

Rigorous standards and aligned assessments are vital tools for boosting education outcomes but they have little traction without strong accountability systems that attach consequences to performance. In this pilot study, Eileen Reed, Janie Scull, Gerilyn Slicker, and Amber Winkler lay out the essential features of such accountability systems, intended to add oomph to new common standards and aligned assessments. “Defining Strong State Accountability Systems” identifies six essential elements of effective systems:
1. Adoption of demanding, clear, and specific standards in all core content areas, and rigorous assessment of those standards;
2. Reporting of accessible and actionable data to all stakeholders, including summative outcome data and other formative data to drive continuous improvement;
3. Annual determinations and designations for each school and district that meaningfully differentiate their performance;
4. A system of rewards and consequences to drive improvement at the school and district levels;
5. A system of rewards and consequences to drive improvement at the individual student level; and
6. A system of rewards and consequences to drive improvement at the individual teacher and administrator level.


GreatSchools Finds a Niche in School Ratings School ratings service has designs on parent market Education Week

Plug a school name into any Internet search engine, and within a few pages, you’re likely to come across the GreatSchools website. neatly ranks more than 136,000 traditional public, private, and charter schools nationwide on a scale of 1 to 10, based on state test scores. But what often draws readers are the gossipy insider comments posted by parents, students, and teachers, and the star ratings those commenters contribute.
The growth of online school rating services has gone hand in hand with the growth of the school choice movement: Parents need independent information on the array of educational options opening up to them. And the San Francisco-based nonprofit GreatSchools has garnered long-running support from philanthropies that back such school choice measures as charter schools and private school vouchers.

Jobs & Economy of the Future: Educating the Next Generation to Compete Atlantic town hall discussion

On March 27, 2012, The Atlantic hosted the “Jobs & Economy of the Future: Educating the Next Generation to Compete” town hall, underwritten by Microsoft. The town hall continued on themes from last year’s “Finding Work, Finding Our Way: Building the Economy & Jobs of the Future” digital town hall, bringing together a live audience of over 120 people with remote audiences joining the conversation via Skype from a group of key stakeholders gathered at the Microsoft offices in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called on America to “invest in a vision of reform.” “There are no good jobs for high-school dropouts,” he said, but “we have over 2 million” high-skill jobs “we can’t fill.” Woodruff pushed Duncan on issues like boosting teacher morale in the face of the increasing demands national standards place on those the profession. Duncan advocated for doubling teacher salaries, higher selectivity during teacher recruitment, and more intensive job training. Additionally, he attempted to reconcile what some consider competing values in education. The country needs thousands of new STEM teachers, he said, while acknowledging arts education as “key” to engaging students. Following the interview, Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith and Chief Executive Officer of the International Youth Foundation William Reese took the stage to unveil the “Opportunity for Action” report. The report, commissioned by Microsoft, analyzes the rising unemployment levels of the largest population ever of youth ages 18-24 worldwide. The report identifies several reasons behind this global “opportunity divide” and recommends public-private partnerships as way to provide educational economic opportunities to disadvantaged youth.

College Board Releases Swing State Education Survey; Announces Grassroots Campaign to Keep ‘Ed’ in the Political Spotlight College Board via PRNewswire

NEW YORK — A survey released today by the College Board identifies education as the sleeper issue of Campaign 2012. Although education hasn’t traditionally dominated media coverage on the campaign trail, swing state voters clearly believe it should be given more attention. With no party holding a distinct advantage in reflecting voter priorities on education, the issue is up for grabs in swing presidential states and key Senate races.
“The message voters are sending to candidates is clear: ‘Don’t Forget Ed,'” said Gov. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. “People in every region of this country and from all economic backgrounds feel that education is getting short shrift in this campaign. They want the candidates to give more time and attention to their plans for improving educational opportunities in America.”
The College Board Swing State Education Survey reveals that education is a top issue for voters in this year’s elections, ranked only behind jobs and the economy and on par with government spending. In addition, 70 percent of independent women in swing states believe that “education is extremely important” in this year’s elections for president and Congress. This call for a renewed focus on education will be heard more frequently thanks to a campaign announced today by the College Board.
“Don’t Forget Ed,” the College Board’s call to elevate education in the presidential campaign, will launch next month and will continue through Election Day in November. The national, grassroots effort will provide students and others concerned about education a vehicle to press for education to be a priority during the political contest of 2012.

Q&A with Steve Barr: Lessons from charter schools in L.A. and New Orleans Hechinger Report

Steve Barr has often found himself in the minority as a charter school founder who supports teacher unionization, albeit of a transformed nature. About 12 percent of charter schools nationally employ unionized teachers, according to recent data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Barr is probably best known for the 2008 takeover of Alain Leroy Locke High School in Los Angeles by the charter management organization he founded, Green Dot Public Schools. Barr has since left Green Dot, and expanded his work to New York City and New Orleans through his new organization, Future Is Now Schools (formerly Green Dot America). He lives in Los Angeles.
I spoke with him recently in New Orleans at John McDonogh High School, which Future Is Now will run starting in the 2012-13 school year.

Visalia charter school provides classes for home-schooled students Visalia (CA) Times-Delta

Tucked quietly beneath the shadows of the Venice Hills and between fruit orchards off Road 180 in Visalia, the Eleanor Roosevelt Community Learning Center is a bit off the grid.
But the small kindergarten-through-12th-grade charter school, now in its 11th year, mirrors its niche student population.
The charter provides core classes for about 220 home-schooled students.
The classes, administrators say, give students who would otherwise spend the bulk of their time at home an opportunity to interact with their peers.

Wis. School Districts Saved After Bad Investment NPR All Things Considered

Before the financial crisis, five school districts in Wisconsin borrowed $200 million and invested in some very complicated financial instruments tied to real estate. They quickly became worthless. The school districts sued, claiming they were misled about the risk they were taking.

Group Aims to Counter Influence of Teachers’ Union in New York New York Times

Leaders of a national education reform movement, including Joel I. Klein and Michelle Rhee, the former schools chancellors in New York and Washington, have formed a statewide political group in New York with an eye toward being a counterweight to the powerful teachers’ union in the 2013 mayoral election.
The group, called StudentsFirstNY, is an arm of a national advocacy organization that Ms. Rhee founded in 2010. Like the national group, the state branch will promote the expansion of charter schools and the firing of ineffective schoolteachers, while opposing tenure.
Led by Micah Lasher, who is leaving his job next week as the director of state legislative affairs for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the campaign is beginning while advocates of reform have an ally in the mayor. But their eyes are focused on 2014, when a new mayor — most likely one who is more sympathetic to the teachers’ union than Mr. Bloomberg has been — enters office.
Members of the group worry that without a significant marshaling of forces, their achievements could be dismantled. Their aim is to raise $10 million annually for five years, hoping to make an imprint throughout the next mayor’s first term.

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