Education Opportunity Network

Education Opportunity Network -

2/25/2015 – Dumb And Dumber In The House Education Bill

THIS WEEK: Testing Wrong Things … Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School … Problems With Virtual Education … Suspension Rates Too High, Racially Biased … Education ‘Experts’ Aren’t Experts

TOP STORY

Dumb And Dumber In The Republican House Education Bill

By Jeff Bryant

“The bill, HR5 the Student Success Act, was written completely by Republicans, passed through committee without any Democratic support, and has already drawn strong opposition from the Obama administration and others … Should the bill pass, as is predicted, Democrats then must continue to insist that any revision of NCLB must ensure equity and quality rather than austerity and further privatization.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

We’re Testing Children On The Wrong Things

The New York Times Magazine

NPR’s education reporter Anya Kamenetz writes, “Are we measuring what we really want to measure in education? A flood of recent research has supported the idea that creative problem solving, oral and written communication skills, and critical thinking, plus social and emotional factors, including grit, motivation, and the ability to collaborate, are just as important in determining success as traditional academics. All of these are largely outside the scope of most standardized tests, including the new Common Core–aligned tests … So some important things we don’t test because the tests aren’t up to it. Some we could test but don’t bother. And for the things we do test, the tests are actually too small a sample of behavior to make wide-ranging judgments.”
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Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School

Slate

“While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution … Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific … But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions … Adults often assume that most learning is the result of teaching and that exploratory, spontaneous learning is unusual. But actually, spontaneous learning is more fundamental. It’s this kind of learning, in fact, that allows kids to learn from teachers in the first place … It’s more important than ever to give children’s remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.”
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Virtual Education: Genuine Benefits Or Real-Time Demerits?

The Atlantic

“Proponents, including [Jeb] Bush … argue that conventional learning is holding students back and that virtual education, both in and out of K-12 classrooms, is allowing them to advance at their own rate … The outcomes are hardly positive. In fact, due to the way many virtual courses are structured … the temptation to cheat is almost irresistible. These students not only understand how to get around the system, they also know they can pad their GPAs with As in honors and AP courses … They can take multiple online courses per semester. And they often learn nothing unless the course is so outdated they can’t find the test answers online … This could be just why some states, like New York and New Jersey – which according to Bush’s report received failing grades on various aspects of digital learning – are leery about accepting virtual credits … Other states are backtracking on virtual-education efforts.”
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Suspended Students Lose Millions Of Days Of Instruction While Out Of School

The Washington Post

“Suspension rates dropped for many of the nation’s school districts … but US students still lost about 18 million days of instruction to out-of-school punishments in the 2011-2012 school year… School systems in Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania … showed ‘alarming’ suspension rates of 20% or higher for elementary school children … National suspension rates have not changed in a meaningful way and racial gaps persist … 16% of black students were suspended in 2011-2012, compared with 7% of Hispanic students and 5% of white students.”
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Education ‘Experts’ May Lack Expertise, Study Finds

phys.org

“Prominent interest groups are promoting reform agendas and striving to influence policymakers and public opinion using individuals who have substantial media relations skills but little or no expertise in education … People associated with the American Enterprise Institute were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be cited in education media … Likewise, experts were 1.78 and 1.5 times more likely to be mentioned in blogs if they were affiliated with Cato or the American Enterprise Institute, respectively … Perhaps the most troubling finding was that possession of a doctoral degree was associated with 67% fewer blog citations and 60 % fewer newspaper mentions, and fewer Klout points, which indicates that academic researchers with empirical expertise in education are often far removed from popular and policy conversations.”
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2/19/2015 – Testing Isn’t Helping

THIS WEEK: Young Black Males In Crisis … Scott Walker’s Bad Priorities … Charter Schools’ Low Performance … NCLB’s Test-Based Reforms Failed … Student Loan Defaults Rise

TOP STORY

Memo To Civil Rights Activists: Testing Isn’t Helping

By Jeff Bryant

“Is forcing every child to take annual standardized tests in reading and math a civil rights issue? That certainly seems to be one of the questions most in consideration in Washington, DC, since deliberations began on how to rewrite the federal government’s most significant education policy No Child Left Behind … However, the civil rights argument for The Big Annual Test continues to devolve into circular reasoning: Justifications for the tests are based exclusively on what the tests produce – that we need to test every poor black and brown child every year to see what their test scores are. We know what to do when we’re going in circles. Change directions.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

In The Nation’s Capital, Fewer Than Half Of Black Males Graduate From High School

Mother Jones

“A new report on the state of black youth in the public schools, looks at suspension and graduation rates and points to some alarming trends … 15% of black males nationwide have been suspended from school, versus only 5% of white boys … Suspensions increase the likelihood of students dropping out, and many end up in the criminal justice system … Only 59% of black males graduate from high school, versus 80% of white males. The worst rates were found in Washington, DC, and in Nevada.”
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WI Gov Walker Budget Cuts $300 Million From UW, Sets Aside $220 Million For NBA Stadium

National Education Association

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker revealed his priorities this month when he announced a massive $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin (UW) system – and a $220 million donation of public funds to the Milwaukee Bucks to build a new basketball arena … The cuts are ‘way too big’ … at UW-Madison alone, they would equal 650 faculty positions or 1,083 staff positions – or the total budgets of five smaller colleges within UW-Madison … In Maine, where Walker’s cohort Gov. Paul LePage cut support for the University of Maine system, the University of Southern Maine responded this year by eliminating its geoscience and applied medicine programs, as well as New England studies, the classics, and 10 others. More than 50 faculty – basically 1 out of every 5 or 6 – are gone.”
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Charter Schools Struggling To Meet Academic Growth

StarTribune

“Students in most Minnesota charter schools are failing to hit learning targets and are not achieving adequate academic growth … The gulf between the academic success of its white and minority students widened at nearly two-thirds of those schools last year. Slightly more than half of charter schools students were proficient in reading, dramatically worse than traditional public schools, where 72% were proficient … Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter school movement … But the new information is fueling critics who say the charter school experiment has failed … Just like traditional public schools, the highest-performing charter schools tend to serve students from more affluent families.”
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No Child Left Behind’s Test-Based Policies Failed. Will Congress Keep Them Anyway?

The Washington Post

At The Answer Sheet blog by Valerie Strauss, education research experts with the National Education Policy Center write, “There is now a parent-led backlash against ‘over-testing’ … Nevertheless, the debate in Washington, D.C., largely ignores the fundamental criticism leveled by parents and others: testing should not be driving reform … We as a nation have devoted enormous amounts of time and money to the focused goal of increasing test scores, and we have almost nothing to show for it … Some state and federal initiatives are aimed at evidence-based reforms, such as expanding high-quality early childhood education and community schools. These remain small exceptions, however, within a system that still has test-based accountability at its core.”
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Student Loan Defaults Rise Throughout 2014

Washington Examiner

“Student loan balances and delinquencies are rising … The broader picture of household indebtedness is more encouraging … Total household debt is still nearly 7% below the late 2008 peak … But within that trend … is the explosion of student debt, which has doubled since the start of the recession to $1.16 trillion. The share of student loan balances at least 90 days past due rose from 11.1% to 11.3% in the quarter, higher than any other form of consumer credit … Many economists expect student loan delinquencies to keep rising as the effects of the recession wear off, as the large cohort of students who entered college during the worst of the jobs crisis end their post-college grace periods and begin repayments.”
Read more …

2/12/2014 – Why Reject Bobby Jindal’s Education Plan

THIS WEEK: More State Takeovers Of Schools … Teachers Mixed On Common Core … New SAT Problems … More College Freshmen Depressed … TFA’s Truth Problem

TOP STORY

Why Democrats Must Categorically Reject Bobby Jindal’s Education Plan

By Jeff Bryant

“Education is one front where the apparent strength of newfound Republican populist rhetoric threatens the Democrat Party’s traditional ‘ownership of the issues’ … This week, Bobby Jindal came to the nation’s capital to proclaim a ‘sweeping education plan’ … Unfortunately, for Jindal, conservatives in charge of education policy in Louisiana have produced some very troubling results … The Republicans’ track record for education is their undoing. So seeking ‘the center’ and copying Republican education policies, as Democrats have a tendency to do, will likely lead to more assurance of a Democratic Party defeat.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

More State Takeovers Of Public Schools Possible

USA Today

“The recent takeover of the Little Rock School District by the Arkansas State Board of Education has angered parents … but as schools nationwide begin to see the results of new math and reading tests based on tougher Common Core standards, they could find themselves the targets of similar moves … Proposed reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law – which orders states to assess academic achievement at specific grade levels – would give state governments more power over troubled school districts. That means more potential takeovers … Several analyses have predicted that more students will fail to hit academic goals laid out by new Common Core standards.”
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Teachers Mixed On Common Core, Support Blended Learning

THE Journal

“More than 9 out of 10 teachers in America report using technology in the classroom. Two-thirds said they support the idea of a blended classroom, where students spend part of the school day working with a teacher and part working on a computer. A similar number of teachers said they like the idea of requiring students to take at least one online course … The Common Core isn’t a big favorite among the country’s educators. Slightly more than half said they have an “unfavorable” opinion about the learning standards. Only three out of 10 teachers said they believe the standards will improve the quality of education in their communities or state; 36% said they believe they’ll have no impact; and 34% said they believe they’ll have an ‘adverse effect.’”
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New SAT, New Problems

The Atlantic

“The new [SAT] test will correspond with the Common Core Standards … That means the new SAT could have the opposite of its intended effect … closing opportunities for students who aren’t yet well-versed in the standards. Kids who lack access to in-person test preparation … could also suffer. The most vulnerable students are those who live in low-income areas or don’t speak English as a first language … It will force students and schools to play a long game of catch-up … Students at struggling schools – where teachers tend to have less experience and support and where Common Core-related textbooks can be scarce – could be at a disadvantage.”
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Emotional Well-Being Of College Freshmen At All-Time Low Levels, Survey Shows

Education Week

“A new survey of college freshmen finds stress and depression is on the rise, with students rating their emotional health at the lowest level in 30 years … Among the freshman class entering in the fall of 2014, about half considered their emotional well-being above average or in the highest 10% of their peer group … The other half described themselves as average, below average, or in the lowest 10% in the emotional health categories … In the mid-1980s and then only about one-third of students put themselves in the lowest three categories … The survey also revealed nearly 1 in 10 students in last fall’s incoming freshman class reported feeling “frequently” depressed – the highest level since 1988 … Students report spending less time socializing, partying, drinking, and smoking than in previous years.”
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Teach For America’s Truth Problem: TFA Advocates Aren’t Being Honest About Education Reform

Salon

At Salon, Jeff Bryant writes, “Evidence of Teach for America’s academic benefits to students continues to be a mixed picture at best … Meanwhile, costs of hiring TFA recruits continue to overtake costs of hiring traditionally prepared teachers … So why all the clamor to support, even expand, TFA? … We must remember hard truths of American schools revealed to self-proclaimed reformers … are not revelations about schools their own children attend. Their drive-by prescriptions … are meant for ‘other people’s children,’ not theirs.”
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2/5/2015 – An End To Education Austerity?

THIS WEEK: Pre-K Save On Special Ed … School Spending Drops, Again … The Activity Gap … More Churches In Schools … Lani Guinier On Meritocracy Lie

TOP STORY

Is This The End Of Education Austerity?

By Jeff Bryant

“Don’t get too excited yet, but there are signs we may have finally turned a corner for the better in the war for public school financing. Recently, government officials and politicians – from the Beltway to the heartland – have declared allegiance to do what has been, up until now, the unmentionable: Spend more money on public education.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

Study: Early Childhood Programs In NC Reduce Special Education

Raleigh News & Observer

“Children enrolled in North Carolina’s state-supported early education programs have a reduced chance of being placed in special education by third grade, Duke University researchers say. The findings suggest that state investment in quality early childhood programs can prevent costly special education later … Access to the state’s prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds (at the 2009 funding of $1,110 per child) reduced the likelihood of third-grade special education placements by 32% … The study confirmed … there are conditions in young children that could be improved by high-quality early childhood education … Even children who were not funded for an NC Pre-K slot benefited.”
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School Spending Per Student Drops For The Second Year In A Row

The Hechinger Report

“The most recent data, from the 2011-12 school year … show that average per-pupil spending fell 2.8%, to $10,667, from the previous school year. That’s the second year in a row that per-student spending fell … the steepest drops were in Arizona, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. … One major reason is that federal funding to schools fell by more than 20% … The U.S. has a higher percentage of children in poverty than other top performing countries, and many experts say that poor children need more resources … It is troubling to see the rise in poverty and a decline in education spending happen at the same time.”
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The Activity Gap

The Atlantic

“Income-based differences in extracurricular participation are on the rise, and these differences greatly affect later outcomes. This disparity exacerbates the already-growing income achievement gap that has kept poor children behind in school and later in life. While upper- and middle-class students have become more active in school clubs and sports teams over the past four decades, their working-class peers ‘have become increasingly disengaged and disconnected,’ particularly since their participation rates started plummeting in the ’90s … While there’s always been a gap in access to extracurriculars, participation numbers for the two groups increased at about the same rate until they started to diverge precipitously – in the early 1980s for non-athletic activities and in the early 1990s for sports teams … outside experiences have just as much impact on a child’s life as the classroom ones.”
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The Movement To Put A Church In Every School Is Growing

The Nation

“The fusion of church and school … is an increasingly common phenomenon in the U.S. Indeed, a number of national and international franchise networks are dedicated to planting churches in public schools across the country, sometimes providing services that fill in the vacuum left by the government underfunding of public education. The mingling of church and school has also been encouraged by some poorly understood but profound changes originating in recent Supreme Court decisions about the relationship between religion and public education … Evangelical networks that have planted churches in public schools across the U.S. … The religious right has invested in legal-advocacy organizations that promote a certain version of Christianity in public life and seek to destroy the separation of church and state.”
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Lani Guinier On Our Ivy League Meritocracy Lie

Salon

In a Salon interview with Lani Guinier, Jeff Bryant writes, “You remember Lani Guinier. In the early days of the Bill Clinton presidential administration, she became a lightning rod for wingnut conservatives when news broke that Clinton would nominate her to be the first black woman to head the Civil Rights … In her new book, ‘The Tyranny of the Meritocracy,’ she once again takes on a component of right-wing authoritarianism … Guinier argues for a radically different view of how merit is awarded in American society starting with the college admission process. Guinier does not confine her argument to higher education, but merely uses the college admission process as a launching pad to critical examinations of K-12 education policy and the greater public arena. ‘We need a culture shift,’ she writes, “about how we reevaluate the meaning of merit by measuring its democratic values rather than its testocratic machinery.’”
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1/29/2015 – Senator Warren Clarifies The Money Matter

THIS WEEK: Get Rid Of College Debt … Common Core Is Less Common … School Choice Is Hard … Teacher Run Schools … Rich Kids Get Most School Funds

TOP STORY

Senator Warren Clarifies The Money Matter In Revising NCLB

By Jeff Bryant

“Where can Democrats find clarity in the current debate over how to rewrite No Child Left Behind legislation? … The federal government spends nearly $79 billion annually on primary and secondary education programs, and state governments eagerly want to get their hands on that money … What’s sorely needed in the revision of the federal statues is to put the emphasis back on its original intent to spend money where it’s needed most. Senator Warren has provided a powerful corrective message that Democrats everywhere should heed.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

Liberate 41 Million Americans From Student Loan Debt

Campaign For America’s Future

“It is time for a truly transformative idea: Let’s abolish all student loan debt in America. If you agree, click here

to take action … Our massive student debt burden is a moral and ethical challenge. This debt draws upon the as-yet unearned wealth of each new generation, mortgaging tomorrow’s wealth and inhibiting the prosperity of the future … We are not naïve. We know that this idea will meet with bitter resistance from those who argue that it ‘rewards the undeserving’ … There are those who will argue that the idea is fiscally irresponsible, despite the fact that it will have a positive economic impact in the long-term … This is a new idea to most people. It represents a fundamental shift in our moral universe … These shifts don’t come easily. They take time, and debate – and an organized movement. We hope you will join us

.”
Read more …

What Happens When The Common Core Becomes Less … Common?

The Washington Post

“The Common Core State Standards were envisioned as a way to measure most of the nation’s students against a shared benchmark, but education experts say political upheaval and the messy reality of on-the-ground implementation is threatening that original goal … As some states head into their first round of testing, the picture has fragmented amid political blowback from parents and conservative lawmakers … There has been even broader resistance to the common standardized tests … Opposition to the Common Core tests has come amid a broader national debate about standardized testing, which many parents and teachers argue has warped public education.”
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Parents Confront Obstacles as School Choice Expands

Education Week

“Research shows that an abundance of school choice doesn’t guarantee access, and many parents in high-choice cities struggle to find adequate information, transportation, and, ultimately, the right school for their children … Part of the argument for school choice is based on the idea that consumer demand for good schools will increase their supply and starve out their poorly performing counterparts. But parents, especially those with less education or with children who have special needs, face multiple barriers when choosing a school … As choices multiply, new problems crop up, often with no clear entity to take charge of solving them … Having a large enough supply of good choices is also a challenge.”
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Let Teachers Run The Schools

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Teachers are in charge of at least 70 public schools in 15 states; most, but not all, are charter schools. Ten more teacher-run schools … are in the planning stages. These schools are not only redesigning the learning process to better engage students, they’re improving student performance. On top of that, they’re stemming the high dropout rate among teachers … Most teachers have no say in their schools’ decisions about hiring, promotions, firing, budgets, pay levels, curriculum or scheduling. This lack of control is a big reason they leave the profession … Having more control keeps teachers and students more engaged … There are many different teacher-run models; some schools have principals, but teachers make the key decisions, even selecting the principal … The biggest obstacles to the spread of teacher-run schools are school districts’ central rules, most of which make it impossible to use unusual personnel configurations, alter budgets and make myriad other changes the teacher-run model demands.”
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Rich Kids In Low-Income Countries Get Most Of The Public Education Money: UN

International Business Times

“A new United Nations report finds … almost half of public education resources spent in low-income countries of the developing world goes to benefit just 10% of the best-educated students, who tend to come from affluent families … The trend documented by the report shows poor, developing-world countries mimicking a trend in the United States … In the United States ‘many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding’ … Unicef is calling on wealthy countries and corporations to devote more international aid to education initiatives that will more fairly distribute resources.”
Read more …

1/22/15 – Democrats: Listen To Senator Whitehouse

THIS WEEK: Money Matters A Lot … How Parents Choose Schools … Most Students Live In Poverty … True Cost Of Teach For America … Koch Brothers/Charter School Nightmare

TOP STORY

Democrats Should Listen To What Senator Whitehouse Said About Education Policy

By Jeff Bryant

“A populist message for public education needs input from the populace, not just from Beltway wonks that have fed the policy mill at the Department of Education for years … If Democrats want to have any clout in the education arena, they must find their populist voice just as they are doing for other issues. If President Obama isn’t going to provide that, maybe Senator Whitehouse just did.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

When Public Schools Get More Money, Students Do Better

The Washington Post

“Beginning 40 years ago, a series of court rulings forced states to reallocate money for education, giving more to schools in poor neighborhoods with less in the way of local resources … A new study on those who went to school during the school-finance cases a few decades ago found that those who attended districts that were affected by the rulings were more likely to stay in school through high school and college and are making more money today … The benefits were most obvious for students from poor families … A 10% increase in the money available for each low-income student resulted in a 9.5% increase in students’ earnings as adults. A public investment in schools … returned 8.9% … The increased funding had the greatest effect if it was used to raise teachers’ salaries, reduce class sizes or lengthen the school year. ”
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A New Study Reveals Much About How Parents Really Choose Schools

NPR

“The charter school movement is built on the premise … parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools … An intriguing new study … suggests that parent choice doesn’t always work that way. Parents, especially low-income parents, actually show strong preferences for other qualities like location and extracurriculars – preferences that can outweigh academics … A choice-based system all by itself won’t necessarily increase equity. The most economically disadvantaged students may have parents who are making decisions differently from other families … If this is true, choice could actually increase, rather than diminish, achievement gaps.”
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Majority Of U.S. Public School Students Are In Poverty

The Washington Post

“A majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families… 51% of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 … The explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon … The shift to a majority-poor student population means that in public schools, a growing number of children start kindergarten already trailing their more privileged peers and rarely, if ever, catch up. They are less likely to have support at home, are less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and are more likely to drop out and never attend college. It also means that education policy, funding decisions and classroom instruction must adapt to the needy children who arrive at school each day.”
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The True Cost Of Teach For America’s Impact On Urban Schools

The American Prospect

“When public school districts hire teachers from Teach For America, they pay a greater upfront cost than if they hire traditional entry-level teachers … TFA hiring contracts are generally non-refundable, even if a teacher turns out to be a serious problem or quits early … TFA, which is built on a model of two-year teaching commitments, presents a challenge for schools that are looking to recruit teachers who will remain in their classrooms for the long haul … Districts, their students, and their communities pay a high price to support TFA’s routine teacher turnover … [TFA] receives millions of dollars from the government each year, and is increasingly funneling its recruits into charter schools. TFA reports that 33% of their recruits teach in charter schools, up from 13% in 2008. Many of these charter schools were founded by TFA.”
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Koch Brothers/Charter School Nightmare: “White kids get to go to a school with a Montessori approach while children of color get eye control”

Salon

An in-depth investigative report by Jeff Bryant from Nashville finds, “a raging Music City controversy. Conversations about public education … have exploded into acrimonious bickering, full of charges and counter-charges … Low scores on student standardized tests and other indicators led the state to designate 15 Metro Nashville Public Schools … which gives the state or district power to … hand the school over to a charter school management organization … Enforced charter takeovers like the ones being carried out in Tennessee are happening across the country … In every one of these charter takeover cases, there have been large numbers of students, parents and teachers who have spoken out in opposition … Due to the influence of federal policies, such as Race to the Top, and relentless marketing by charter school advocates, virtually every state has a methodology for designating ‘low performing’ schools as Priority and targeting them for radical solutions like charter school takeover … Charter schools have become a darling of conservative politicians, think tanks and advocates. One of those powerful advocates, nationally and in Tennessee, is the influential Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing issue group started and funded by the billionaire Charles and David Koch brothers.”
Read more …

1/16/2015 – What The Test Debate Is About

THIS WEEK: More Jails Than Colleges … What Will Derail Common Core … Jeb Bush Education Foundation … Parents Don’t Care About Teacher Ratings … Corporations Cheat Schools

TOP STORY

Why The Test Debate Is About Politics, Not Education

By Jeff Bryant

“See if this makes sense to you: Conservatives want to let states have potentially more options for wasting taxpayer money on wayward attempts in ‘accountability,’ and liberals are insisting on continuing measures that have been mostly bad for the education of black and brown students.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

The U.S. Has More Jails Than Colleges. Here’s A Map Of Where Those Prisoners Live.

The Washington Post

“There were 2.3 million prisoners in the U.S. as of the 2010 Census. It’s often been remarked that our national incarceration rate of 707 adults per every 100,000 residents is the highest in the world … Hundreds of thousands more individuals are locked up in the nation’s 3,200 local and county jails … We have slightly more jails and prisons in the U.S. – 5,000 plus – than we do degree-granting colleges and universities … Prisoners are literally every where you look in the U.S. Nearly 85 percent of U.S. counties are home to some number of incarcerated individuals.”
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Will Test-Based Teacher Evaluations Derail The Common Core?

The Hechinger Report

“The one-two punch of Common Core and new test-based accountability systems is too much to handle and leaves teachers – and students – overwhelmed … A major backlash erupted in the last year against both teacher evaluations and the Common Core. The backlash has become mainstream, no longer relegated to teachers and administrators, and has fueled legislation and multiple lawsuits aimed at dialing back the new policies … Some supporters of the new standards have blamed the Obama administration for its ambitious and controversial initiatives to overhaul American public education … Earlier this summer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called for a two-year moratorium on states or districts basing personnel decisions on Common Core-aligned tests. And in August, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged states to delay using test results for an additional year when tabulating teacher ratings. Despite a temporary reprieve, a recent study jointly commissioned by Scholastic, the education publisher, and the Gates foundation shows that, among teachers, support for the Common Core has started to wane.”
Read more …

Jeb Bush Education Foundation Played Leading Role In Mixing Politics, Policy

The Washington Post

“[Jeb] Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has an unusual role mixing politics and policy – drafting legislation and paying travel expenses for state officials, lobbying lawmakers, and connecting public officials with industry executives seeking government contracts … The foundation has, for instance, pushed states to embrace digital learning in public schools, a costly transition that often requires new software and hardware … The foundation has helped its corporate donors gain access to state education officials through a committee called Chiefs for Change, composed of as many as 10 officials from mostly Republican-led states who convene at the foundation’s annual meeting … his foundation has secured $5.2 million since 2010 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary funder of the campaign to promote the [Common Core] standards.”
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Parents Make Few Requests For Teacher Evaluations In New York School Districts

New York Daily News

“After battles in Albany over who should have access to results of state-mandated teacher evaluations, the group given the right to see them – parents – appears to be showing little interest … Few, if any, parents have asked for their child’s teacher’s rating since New York began requiring teachers to be classified every year as ‘highly effective,’ ‘effective,’ ‘developing’ or ‘ineffective’ … The AP found there were zero requests in Syracuse, Rochester, Batavia, Amherst, Hudson Falls and Amagansett on Long Island.”
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Cheating the Schoolkids: Corporations Don’t Pay Their State Taxes, Either

Common Dreams

“Most of the attention to corporate tax avoidance is directed at the nonpayment of federal taxes. But state taxes, which to a much greater extent fund K-12 education, are avoided at a stunning rate by America’s biggest companies. As a result, public school funding continues to be cut … The percentage of corporate profits paid as state income taxes has dropped from 7% in 1980 to about 3 percent today. It may be getting worse. A PayUpNow analysis of 25 of our nation’s largest corporations shows a total state tax payment of 2.4%, about a third of the required tax … companies play one state against another, holding their home states hostage for tax breaks under the threat of bolting to other states … The effects of state tax avoidance are seen all around the country, with impacts on schools.”
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1/8/2015 – An Education New Year’s Resolution

THIS WEEK: Crucial Year For Common Core … Teacher Diversity Problem … Preschool For Low Income Kids … Worst Way To Address STEM … Students Stuck Funding Colleges

TOP STORY

An Education New Year’s Resolution We Can All Believe In

By Jeff Bryant

“Let’s resolve to make 2015 the year we work on the most important education issue of all … Recognition of the blatant inequity in our nation’s education system is growing … Maybe 2015 can be the year that education equity gets the emphasis it deserves.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Why 2015 Is A Crucial Year For Common Core

Vox

“This spring, hundreds of thousands of students will be tested against the standards for the first time… In New York and Kentucky, two states that adopted Common Core tests early, the percentage of students considered proficient in reading and math plummeted … This year, 39 more states will join them … Many states haven’t been preparing parents for lower test scores this year. And in most states, teacher evaluations will eventually be based on students’ test scores. That means the stakes are higher … 2015 could be the year that political controversy over Common Core is revived, and with a different coalition of opponents this time.”
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Our Teacher Diversity Problem Is Not Just About Recruitment. It’s About Retention.

Slate

“For the first time in our country’s history, a majority of public school students are children of color. But most teachers – 82% in the 2011-2012 school year – are white … The number of teachers of color who left their schools or the profession altogether jumped 28% between 1980 and 2009 … Minority teachers are more likely to work in high-poverty, low-performing schools where turnover rates are higher among teachers of all races and backgrounds … A significant body of research suggests the benefits of a racially diverse teaching force are considerable … There are countless programs designed at drawing more minority teachers into public schools, but comparatively few focus on supporting them once they get there. A few promising new initiatives aim to counter this trend, however.”
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Study Endorses Preschool For Low Income Kids

Associated Press via Komo News

“A new study shows low income kids from Washington state who go to a state supported preschool are likely to do better academically than their peers at least through fifth grade … Kids who attended state funded preschool when they were 3- and 4-years old, had a 7% higher passing rate on the fifth-grade reading test and a 6% higher passing rate on the fifth-grade math test … Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde said … ‘This appears to dispel the myth of fade-out, or diminishing impact of early learning’ … The study does not reach the gold standard of academic research, since children were not assigned randomly to a preschool or control group. But researchers believe they got close to that standard by looking only at children who were eligible for the program and comparing those who attended with those who did not.”
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The Worst Possible Way To Push Kids Into Studying Science, Math And Engineering

The Washington Post

“President Obama has perennially championed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as key fields for the economic success and competitiveness of the economy … The tech industry, of course, is a huge booster of STEM education … A new study from Stanford looks at what happened in Italy, when a 1961 law doubled the number of students in STEM majors graduating from the country’s universities … The first surprise: College seemed to provide no financial benefit to the students from the technical schools, who typically came from less-educated families … Italy’s experience is in part a cautionary tale … A huge increase in the number of STEM graduates sounds great, but the workers themselves didn’t seem to benefit that much financially. It’s anyone’s guess what the optimal number of science and technology workers is in an economy, but industry will always lobby for more job candidates who will compete with each other and drive down wages.”
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Student Tuition Now Officially Pays More Than States For Public College Funding

The Huffington Post

“Students now pay more of the cost of attending public universities than state governments … Tuition officially surpassed state funding in fiscal year 2012, the GAO found, accounting for 25% … State sources dipped from 32% in 2003 to 23% in 2012 … State budget cuts drive up tuition at public colleges … Many young Americans typically blame colleges – public and private – for rising student debt … The federal government’s Pell grant now covers smallest portion of the cost of college in the program’s history.”
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12/19/2014 – Education’s Newsmaker Of The Year

THIS WEEK: Wave Of Immigrant Minors Hits Schools … Climate Change Denial Goes To School … 2015 Policy Forecast … Rural Schools Hit By Cuts … Reading For Common Core

TOP STORY

Education’s Newsmaker Of The Year: Charter School Scandals

By Jeff Bryant

“In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams … from local stories to national scandal … the charter school scandals of 2014 forever altered the narrative about what these institutions really bring to the populace.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

U.S. Schools Are Saying Goodbye To Foreign Languages

The Hechinger Report

” So far in fiscal year 2014, the number of unaccompanied minors caught on the southern border is more than triple the number apprehended in 2010 … Whatever their reasons for coming, the vast majority of the newly arrived children … are now attending the one American institution legally bound to serve them: public schools … Many new arrivals have had little formal schooling. A majority stopped attending school after sixth grade … In addition to learning English and the subject matter of their various classes, they also must learn to raise their hands to answer questions, change classes when a bell rings and never wander the halls without a bathroom pass … Students have faced starker trauma on their journey here. Several girls told staff at Oakland International that they’d been raped … Many students have lost family members to the violence in their hometowns or even seen them murdered.”
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The Plan To Get Climate-Change Denial Into Schools

The Atlantic

“Truth in Texas Textbooks coalition, a volunteer-run organization of more than 100 activists that wants global warming to be taught as an opinion rather than fact … have accused publishers of creating textbooks with an ‘anti-Christian’ and ‘anti-American’ bias … Textbooks are often the first conduit between climate science and young people. The books that the Texas truth coalition is fighting over are expected to be used by more than 5 million Texas public school students for at least a decade. Texas is also the second-largest market for textbooks behind California, and publishers often peddle best-selling Texas textbooks in other states … The coalition’s system of rating textbooks could soon spread beyond Texas. White says that activists in California, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin have already contacted the coalition to learn how they can create their own rating system.”
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State Leaders Confront Full Plate Of K-12 Issues

Education Week

“Common standards, testing, and school choice are likely to dominate the education policy debate … A generally improving economic climate … could turn up the heat on lawmakers in many states to raise K-12 spending … Changes to assessment policies could attract significant bipartisan interest … Issues include whether high-performing districts should be allowed to opt out of certain tests, and whether districts should be permitted to pick tests they believe are better than those aligned with the Common Core State Standards … Pushback to the common core could also surface in legislatures.”
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Rural Schools Hit Hard By Budget Cuts

District Administration

“Funding cuts since the recession have drained the accounts of rural districts, which cannot rely on a resurgence in property tax revenues as heavily as urban school systems can. Some 9.7 million students are enrolled in rural districts, representing more than 20% of all U.S. public school students. And rural enrollment continues to rise… The average expenditure for rural students is $5,826 per pupil, compared to the national average of $11,153. With so few students, it is often more difficult for rural districts to get federal grants to pay for technology or special education. And transportation costs are high, since students are sometimes spread out over hundreds of miles. Finding and retaining teachers for upper-level math and science courses is also a challenge.”
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How The Newest High-Stakes Tests Are Stealing The Joy Of Reading From Our Kids

Alternet

Chicago teacher Katie Osgood writes, “I haven’t heard many people complain about our skill-based reading instruction that has been in vogue since before [Common Core State Standards], but now under the new standards it’s bad literacy on speed … Even when we choose beautiful pieces of literature, they become lifeless vehicles to teach a dry, decontextualized skill … That looks like reading two myths without any teaching around what myths are, about Ancient Greece, about how the myths point to our own humanity … We are told to do a ‘close read’ of stirring passages about the Underground Railroad for the sole purpose of pulling out the main idea and supporting details. We don’t actually talk about the Underground Railroad, letting the horror of slavery sink in. No, it’s simply about getting the skill, so the kids can demonstrate the same skill on the dreaded test … Schools under high-stakes accountability have been forced into this twisted form of reading instruction for many years. But things are getting worse.”
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12/11/2014 – Who’s Really Failing Students

THIS WEEK: How Charter Schools Profit … Costs Of Youth Incarceration … So Many School Shootings … Schools As Tech Training Camps … More Education Doesn’t Pay Off

TOP STORY

Who’s Really Failing Students?

By Jeff Bryant

“New standardized tests hitting most of the nation this school year have been engineered to increase failure rates, and policy leaders tell us that children and parents deserve this. The expected sharp downturn in scores will no doubt further tarnish the brand of public schools, siphon yet more precious public dollars into private operators pledging to hold schools ‘more accountable,’ and add fuel to the already raging fires of a growing anti-testing movement. But what too few are asking is who really is the failure here.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

Propublica

“Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances … This arrangement is known as a ‘sweeps’ contract because nearly all of a school’s public dollars – anywhere from 95 to 100 percent – is “swept” into a charter-management company. The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers … Schools have agreed to such setups with both nonprofit and for-profit management companies, but it’s not clear how often. Nobody appears to be keeping track. What is clear is that it can be hard for regulators and even schools themselves to follow the money when nearly all of it goes into the accounts of a private company.”
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Hidden Costs of Youth Incarceration Nationwide Estimated To Run Between $8 Billion And $21 Billion Each Year

Reuters

“33 U.S. states and jurisdictions spend $100,000 or more annually to incarcerate a young person … The first-ever estimate of the overall costs resulting from negative outcomes associated with incarceration … found that these long-term consequences of incarcerating young people could cost taxpayers $8 billion to $21 billion each year … The billions of dollars in hidden costs result from formerly incarcerated young people earning lower wages, paying less in taxes, as well as having a greater dependence upon government assistance and higher rates of recidivism. Research shows that the experience of incarceration increases the likelihood that young people will commit a new offense in the future.”
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There Has Been A Fatal School Shooting Every 5 Weeks Since Sandy Hook

Mother Jones

“In the two years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut … A total of 32 victims were killed … 11 victims were injured … 5 shooters were killed … Lockdown drills have become common at schools, and many have added armed personnel or even tested active-shooter detection systems that use technology deployed in war zones … All the same, the toll has gone on, with hundreds of children shot to death, daily violence routinely claiming multiple victims, and mass shootings becoming three times more frequent.”
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Seeking Coders, Tech Titans Turn To Schools

Politico

“The $30 million campaign to promote computer science education has been financed by the tech industry … But the campaign has also stirred unease from some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools. And it’s raised questions about the motives of tech companies … Silicon Valley CEOs have complained for years about a huge shortage of qualified programmers … Skeptics, however, aren’t convinced that there’s a real shortage … They note that salaries in the IT industry have not increased, in real terms, since the late 1990s – unlike salaries in other fields, such as petroleum engineering … Only about two-thirds of students who earn college degrees in computer and information sciences take jobs in that field within a year of graduation … The industry’s initiative comes at a time of increasing corporate involvement in public education. High schools across the country have turned to local businesses to help them develop classes and host internships for students preparing for careers in fields as varied as hospitality, marketing, health care, and environmental planning.”
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Census: Young Americans More Educated, Not Necessarily Better Off Than Parents

Education Week

“American young adults are more likely to have attended and graduated college today than in earlier generations … but they are also more likely to be earning considerably less, and living either in poverty or with their parents … Americans ages 18 to 34 earn $2,000 less per year than earlier generations, after correcting for inflation, though the percentage graduating college has risen from a little more than 15% to more than 22% … Massachusetts’ young adults earn on average $6,500 more than they would have three decades ago, while young people in Michigan, Wyoming, and Alaska earn $9,000 less … College graduation rates in the Northeast and in Mid-Atlantic states like Maryland and Virginia have grown by double digits, but have flattened in the Midwest … Said Census analyst Jonathan Vespa … ‘Income inequality for households and families has gone up at the same time as the country as a whole has become more educated.’”
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