Education Opportunity Network

Education Opportunity Network -

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.”
Read more …

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.’”
Read more …

12/4/2014 – Award For Questioning Charter School Hype

THIS WEEK: Test Score Declines Coming … Costs Of Digital Learning … Koch Brother Influence … New Teacher-Prep Program Rules … Colleges Charge Poor Kids More

TOP STORY

EON Awarded For ‘Questioning The Charter School Hype’

By Jeff Bryant

“Charter schools have been relentlessly marketed to the American populace as a silver bullet for ‘failed’ public schools … But as these institutions proliferate, so are troubling reports of what the charter movement has unleashed.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Test Scores Are Going To Go Down Next Year. Blame The Common Core.

Vox

“Most students’ math and reading skills are going to look much worse after they take Common Core-aligned tests in spring 2015. More than half of students will probably get scores too low to be considered proficient … New York and Kentucky … have already learned that lesson. Proficiency rates dropped by about half in both … Low scores on Common Core tests will add more fuel to criticisms that the standards are too hard, lessons are too confusing, or that the whole reform is being rushed.”
Read more …

Is Digital Learning More Cost-Effective? Maybe Not

NPR

“Digital learning … a new study suggests … is neither more powerful nor cheaper than old-fashioned teaching … Researchers don’t really know what works and what doesn’t … Consumers – local school districts – are buying blind … Buzzwords like ‘personalized instruction’ and ‘personalized learning’ that sound great … are a bit nebulous … Online-only learning had no impact on student achievement and in some cases had a slightly negative impact. The results of blended learning were more mixed, but in cases where it improved student learning, it also cost more than traditional methods.”
Read more …

How The Koch Brothers Are Sneaking Their Way Into Public Schools

Aternet

“For years, the Bill of Rights Institute has … been the conduit for millions of dollars from Charles and David Koch, as the brothers seek to influence the country’s social studies curriculum … In its materials for teachers and students, the Bill of Rights Institute cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit … Educator resources for “Documents of Freedom” at the BRI site underscore this business-good/government-bad message … Another Koch organization that targets public schools, Youth Entrepreneurs… produce an economics curriculum to challenge what the group identified as ‘common economic fallacies,’ including: ‘Rich get richer at the expense of the poor … What makes the Koch brothers’ focus on public schools so profoundly cynical is that they hate public schools.’”
Read more …

New Rules Would Judge Teacher-Prep Programs On Job Placements And Student Learning

The Chronicle Of Higher Education

“Proposed rules … would require states to evaluate teacher-training programs based, in part, on how many of their graduates get and keep jobs and how much their graduates’ future students learn. Only programs deemed effective by their states would be eligible to award Teach Grants, which provide students with up to $4,000 a year … Teacher unions and college lobbyists worry that the rules will punish programs whose graduates are concentrated in high-need schools, where test scores tend to be lower and teacher turnover higher. They warn that the plan could discourage colleges from placing their students in such schools … Skeptics say the existing “value added” measures are unproven. They cite a recent statement by the American Statistical Association that concluded that ‘the majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control, such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences.’”
Read more …

Colleges That Pledged To Help Poor Families Have Been Doing The Opposite, New Figures Show

The Hechinger Report

“As institutions vie for income and prestige … net prices they’re charging the lowest-income students, after discounts and financial aid, continue to rise faster on average than the net prices they’re charging higher-income ones … This includes the 100 higher-education institutions whose leaders attended a widely publicized White House summit in January and promised to expand the opportunities for low-income students to go to college. In fact, the private universities in that group collectively raised what the poorest families pay by 10%, compared to 5% for wealthier students … Even at the 36 taxpayer-supported public universities that signed the White House pledge, poor students paid an average net price of about $8,000 in 2008-09 and almost $10,000 in 2012-13. That’s a 25% increase. During the same period, wealthier students at those schools saw their average net price go from about $18,000 to $21,000, a 16% increase.”
Read more …

11/20/2014 – People ‘Walk In’ For Public Schools

THIS WEEK: Number Homeless Children Soars … New Test Scores, More Failures … Banks Rip-Off Schools … K12 Charters Tank … $3.9 Billion For EdTech

TOP STORY

Why People Are ‘Walking In’ For Public Schools

By Jeff Bryant

“Organizations representing advocates for public schools have joined their voices today in events across the country as part of a national Week of Action for the Public Schools All Our Children Deserve. The combined groups refer to themselves as the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a national alliance of parent, youth and community organizations and labor groups fighting for educational justice and equity in access to school resources and opportunities. The actions and appeals of today’s events vary, but there’s a unifying theme throughout: well-resourced community schools.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Number Of Homeless Children In America Surges To All-Time High: Report

The Huffington Post

“The number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30 … Nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013 … Child homelessness increased by 8 percent nationally from 2012 to 2013 … Neither federal nor state housing assistance nor incentives for developers to create low-income housing have kept pace with demand.”
Read more …

Cutoff Scores Set For Common-Core Tests

Education Week

“A consortium that is designing assessments for the Common Core State Standards released data Monday projecting that more than half of students will fall short of the marks that connote grade-level skills on its tests of English/language arts and mathematics … According to cut scores approved Friday night by the 22-state consortium, 41% of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33% will do so in math. In elementary and middle school, 38% to 44% will meet the proficiency mark in English/language arts, and 32% to 39% will do so in math … If the achievement projections hold true for the first operational test next spring, state officials will be faced with a daunting public relations task: convincing policymakers and parents that the results are a painful but temporary result of asking students to dig deeper intellectually so they will be better prepared for college or good jobs.”
Read more …

How The Banks Bamboozled Chicago

Chicago Sun Times

“The City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools pay more than $100 million annually on interest rate swaps … Banks misled CPS about the risks involved with these deals … Complex financing schemes involving auction rate securities and swaps likely could cost CPS at least $100 million more than plain vanilla bonds … Banks unlawfully steered CPS into these deals without making adequate disclosures about risk … The banks have a legal and moral obligation to give back the money they have stolen from Chicago and CPS.”
Read more …

What Went Wrong At The Upstart School Milken Backed?

Bloomberg News

“K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling. Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it … Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year … Once-soaring enrollment at the more than 60 public schools it manages has dropped almost 5%. Targeted by short sellers, who benefit from a company’s decline, K12 shares have tumbled by two-thirds.”
Read more …

FCC Proposes $3.9 Billion For School Technology Program

THE Journal

“A proposal … called for a permanent $1.5 billion increase in the cap for E-rate, up from the current $2.4 billion, that would be used to pay for technology in schools … E-rate is funded through a fee users pay as part of their phone bill. The increase in the cap, to $3.9 billion, would be covered by an increase to that fee of about $0.16 to $0.19 per month per residential ‘rate payer’ … The announcement was met with immediate support from education advocacy groups.”
Read more …

11/13/2014 – Can We Stop Using Tests To Drive Education Reform?

THIS WEEK: Where Education Won … What $160 Gets You … Importance Of School Absentee Rates … Choice Breeds Segregation … For-Profit College Stocks May Soar

TOP STORY

Can We, “Stop Using Tests To Drive Education Reform?”

By Jeff Bryant

“With the new standards seemingly a potentially beneficial ends being undone by a stifling, narrow-minded means … the best idea may be to ‘stop using tests to try to drive education reform.’ That conclusion is in fact rapidly becoming the center of the debate over education policy across the country… Reports about widespread protests against standardized tests are now routine … Politicians and public officials are starting to hear the growing chorus against testing … We’ve yet to hear a coherent answer to, ‘Can we stop using tests to drive education reform?’ But any legitimate notion of ‘reform’ will have to come up with one.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Ballot Measure Wins Show Strong Support For Pro-Public Education Policies

National Education Association

“Many voters who had the opportunity to vote on specific issues supported policies that are good for students and working families. That held true even in states that elected candidates who are less-friendly or downright hostile toward public education … Missouri voters took a stand on behalf of their educators and public schools when they voted overwhelmingly against … an initiative to change the state constitution to use student performance on high-stakes standardized tests to determine teacher pay; demote or terminate educators; or punish struggling schools … Illinois voters said ‘heck yeah’ when they were asked whether individuals with incomes greater than $1 million should pay more of their fair share in taxes in order to increase support for public schools … Voters in Hawaii rejected a ballot measure that would have used public money on private pre-kindergarten programs. Opponents of the measure strongly believe that the state should indeed expand early learning programs, but by establishing fully funded preschool through the public education system … Washington state passed its class size ballot measure. [Update here]”
Read more …

Running A School On $160

The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The number couldn’t possibly be right, Marc Gosselin thought: $160. That was the total discretionary budget he was handed as the brand-new principal of Anna Lane Lingelbach Elementary … Gosselin zeroed in on students’ reading levels – just 42% were meeting state standards. He wanted to administer short tests to gauge children’s reading … But there was no money to buy the test – or even paper to copy it … The school has no music class nor playground equipment … Nearly 90% of pupils live in poverty … Still, the school is calm. It runs smoothly, and its staff want to be there. They have been the glue holding Lingelbach together, and classrooms are bright with materials teachers have purchased themselves.”
Read more …

Absenteeism: Another Way To Measure School Poverty

The Hechinger Report

“A new report out of New York City suggests that policy makers should identify troubled schools by their absenteeism rates – a relatively easy data point to obtain – and then work to fix the schools by addressing each one’s unique problems, from homelessness and child abuse to teacher turnover and safety … Only 11% of the students at schools with chronic absenteeism passed the city’s math and reading tests in 2012-13. Other schools with similar poverty levels but better attendance rates posted much higher test scores … Schools with chronic absenteeism were likely to be beset by other poverty-related problems, such as male unemployment in the neighborhood and high rates of homelessness.”
Read more …

Cliques Thrive in Schools That Give Students More Choices, Study Says

Education Week

“Students are more likely to organize in homogenous and hierarchical cliques in schools that offer them more choices … ‘Schools that offer students more choice – more elective courses, more ways to complete requirements, a bigger range of potential friends, more freedom to select seats in a classroom – are more likely to be rank-ordered, cliquish, and segregated by race, age, gender, and social status,’ … Such tight social arrangements are less likely to form at schools that limit social choices – encouraging students to interact based on school work rather than on the basis of their social lives – and at smaller schools … Choice in schools just makes it easier for students to form those social clusters. So maybe the answer can be found in addressing those social and emotional elements, rather than taking the choices away all together.”
Read more …

Banks Urge Investors To Buy For-Profit College Stocks Now That The GOP Is Taking Back Congress

Think Progress

“The Republican resurgence on Capitol Hill makes for-profit education company stock a hot commodity, according to industry analysts who expect a GOP-controlled Congress to loosen oversight of both student lending firms and for-profit colleges … The analyses were based primarily on future legislative predictions … much friendlier to the companies that run for-profit schools … ‘diminished regulatory risk characteristics of a Republican-controlled electorate’ makes student lending company stocks likely to rise in value … Stock in Strayer Education Inc., one of the largest for-profit college companies, was up almost 10% from Tuesday morning to Thursday morning. DeVry’s stock is up nearly 3% and Apollo Education Group’s is up over 2.5% … The companies that operate these high-cost, low-value degree-granting institutions are immensely profitable, spend a billion dollars more on recruiting than on educating annually, and reward their executive officers with massive pay packages. In many cases, these companies get 90 percent of their income from federal student loan dollars.”
Read more …

10/6/2014 – Education Coalition Isn’t There, Yet

THIS WEEK: States Fund Prisons Instead Of Schools … Ant-Testing Movement Grows … Don’t Abolish Teacher Tenure … High Principal Turnover Rates Hurt … After School Programs Help

TOP STORY

The Coalition For An Education Agenda Just Isn’t There, Yet

By Jeff Bryant

“Proponents claiming the mantle of “education reform” have been quick to jump on the one-sided election results as proof-positive of widespread voter support for their ideas … But results from the midterms mostly revealed an education agenda has yet to have its day in the sun, electorally, and any agenda for the nation’s schools will have to be bound into a coalition of other, more populist, causes … There’s evidence that Democrats can get their house in order when they adopt more populist messages that align with coalitions that advocate for economic fairness and social equity. Advocates for public schools won’t reliably win elections until that they embrace that coalition and successfully push the party that direction.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

States Are Prioritizing Prisons Over Education, Budgets Show

The Huffington Post

“If state budget trends reflect the country’s policy priorities, then the U.S. currently values prisoners over children … The growth of state spending on prisons in recent years has far outpaced the growth of spending on education. After adjusting for inflation, state general fund spending on prison-related expenses increased over 140% between 1986 and 2013. During the same period, state spending on K-12 education increased only 6%9, while higher education saw an increase of less than 6% … since 2008, spending on education has actually declined in a majority of states in the wake of the Great Recession … Rates of violent crime and property crime have actually fallen over the years, even while incarceration rates have risen … States’ spending practices are ultimately harming their economies, while not making the states especially safer.”
Read more …

The Rise Of The Anti-Standardized Testing Movement

The Washington Post

At the blog hosted by Valerie Strauss, Monty Neil writes, “Across the nation, resistance to test overuse and misuse reached unprecedented heights in the spring of 2014 … Resistance erupted in more states with far more participants, and it won notable victories, such as ending, lessening or postponing graduation exams in at least eight states and easing or ending grade promotion tests … The most visible, dynamic form of resistance was to boycott the tests … Test resistance and reform campaigns used many tactics … School boards are also resisting test overkill … The ultimate goals of the movement are to dramatically reduce the amount of testing, end high stakes uses, and implement educationally sound assessments.”
Read more …

Don’t Abolish Teacher Tenure

CNN

Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile writes, “Right now, we should be lifting up and championing educators. The last thing we should be doing is discouraging or dampening the enthusiasm of a new generation … Due process policies such as tenure are put in place to protect good teachers from being fired without cause. They aren’t there to protect ‘bad’ teachers … Contrary to what some naysayers – and magazine covers – continue to hawk, the American people are proud of their public schools. And they’re proud of their teachers, too … Far too many Democrats have largely avoided this issue out of a mistaken fear that running on a pro-public education platform would be a far too risky topic for their campaigns. Turns out these Democrats are just plain wrong. They’re missing a golden opportunity to highlight this important issue.”
Read more …

Principal Turnover Takes Costly Toll On Students And Districts, Report Says

Education Week

“The high rate of principal turnover is costing school districts dearly, particularly teachers and students in high-poverty systems … A quarter of the country’s principals quit their schools each year, according to the report, and nearly 50 percent leave in their third year… That churn happens after a district typically has spent an estimated $75,000 on each leader to prepare, hire, and place that person on the job … Strong leaders contribute up to 25 percent of the school factors that influence a student’s academic performance, according to the report. And teachers often make decisions about where to teach and how long they stay at a particular school in a large part based on its leadership … A number of factors drive the principal exodus, including workload, costs – personal, psychological and financial – lack of autonomy, and isolation. Another key reason leaders leave is the lack of support and professional development that principals receive once on the job.”
Read more …

After-School Programs Can Help Teens At Risk Of Dropping Out

US News & World Report

“After-school programs … can be an important tool in preventing at-risk teens from dropping out … Students who participate in what are known as expanded learning opportunities – which includes after-school programs – show higher rates of school attendance, lower dropout rates, and improved attitudes toward school … Besides giving students something to look forward to when coming to school, students in after-school have less opportunity to be involved in illegal activities, such as drug use and gang involvement, during the critical hours immediately following school … Teachers reported students in after-school programs improved their behavior in class. Plus, the additional tutoring and homework help often provided in after-school programs can help students improve their grades.”
Read more …

10/30/2014 – Big Money Taking Over Education Politics

THIS WEEK: Civil Rights & Accountability … Don’t Dis TFA … Fewer Want To Be Teachers … Black Girls Suspended More … New Accountability Needed

TOP STORY

Big Money Taking Over Education Politics

By Jeff Bryant

“Big money from businesses and private individuals and foundations is now altering the electoral process in school board elections and state level contests for school administration. Often, the big money comes from people who associate with the Democratic Party. Further, these wealthy Democrats often collude with conservative Republicans in these school-related elections in ways they never would in other contests. This confluence of big money is often called ‘bipartisanship.’ But the results are apt to be the same we’ve seen in more popular elections – a distortion of democracy that leads to governance that is less progressive.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Civil Rights Groups Want Resources For Students To Factor in Accountability

Education Week

“Federal and state accountability has to do more than just hold schools’ feet to the fire when it comes to student outcomes, a coalition of civil rights groups said in a letter sent to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders … The systems also have to ensure that school systems and policymakers at all levels are held accountable for ‘inputs,’ including providing conditions that make it possible for learning to take place. Students – especially poor and minority kids – need equal access to resources, including good teachers; social, emotional, and health and nutrition services; and high-quality instructional materials (everything from technology to facilities). Schools must also provide tailored professional development to educators that work with diverse student populations, and sustained outreach to parents and communities.”
Read more …

This Is What Happens When You Criticize Teach For America

The Nation

“Teach For America has spent nearly $3.5 million in advertising and promotion… Much of this promotion goes toward attacking journalists … The organization, which represents less than 0.002% of America’s teaching force, enjoys disproportionate sway in the political realm … 63% of recruits work, as Teach For America puts it, ‘full time in education,’ yet a 2010 study found that 80% of Teach For America recruits quit after three years. The disparity suggests that while TFA recruits may not be able to stomach teaching, they do feel up to the task of other education-sector activities, like policy reform and foundation management … TFA alumni like [Michelle] Rhee, [John] White and [Cami] Anderson continue to be hailed as innovative policy experts … Despite much empirical evidence to the contrary, Teach For America’s premise remains tenable thanks to the enormous prestige afforded to TFA recruits. In this light, TFA’s PR extensive apparatus begins to make sense; lacking results, their image is the only thing left for the organization to stand on.”
Read more …

Steep Drops Seen In Teacher-Prep Enrollment Numbers

Education Week

“Massive changes to the profession, coupled with budget woes, appear to be shaking the image of teaching as a stable, engaging career. Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10% from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education’s postsecondary data collection … Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit … Federal data … show an overall drop in education degree programs across all institutions … The enrollment downturns already appear to be contributing to some unsettling hiring patterns.”
Read more …

The Economic Impact Of School Suspensions

The Atlantic

“A recent report finds African-American girls were suspended at six times the rate of white girls, and more than any other group of girls (and several groups of boys). This is despite evidence that African-American students do not misbehave more frequently than their peers … The study … shows how poor educational outcomes can limit their opportunities, from lower graduation rates to setbacks in expected lifetime earnings … African-American girls are more than twice as likely as whites to be held back a grade … The reasons for such setbacks have less to do with student behavior … than with disproportionate and overly punitive disciplinary practices that remove African-Americans from classes for minor and subjective infractions (examples include violations of dress code or even wearing natural hairstyles).”
Read more …

Coalition Wants New School Accountability

USA Today

“The nation’s two largest teachers unions – along with school administration organizations, business advocacy groups and school equity leaders – on Tuesday announced a new framework for accountability that focuses more on a holistic ‘support-and-improve’ model than the longstanding ‘test-and-punish’ mindset that’s commonplace in schools nationwide … The New Accountability framework centers around making changes to three central concepts in educational accountability: standardized testing, teacher evaluation and school resource equity … Rather than advocating for an outright repeal of standardized testing, the partnering organizations say they want fewer, better tests that more accurately measure what schools and business leaders say is the most important objective for students who’ll soon have to compete in the high-tech, global economy.”
Read more …

10/23/2014 – Will Education Save The Democrats?

THIS WEEK: States Decrease Per-Student Spending … Demand For After-School Programs … More Private Money For Public Schools … Real Accountability … School To Prison Pipeline

TOP STORY

Will Education Save The Democrats?

By Jeff Bryant

“Democratic-leaning activists have stepped up their ground game to make support for public education a wedge issue in campaigns around the country … Should the actions of grassroots public schools supporters help bail out the campaigns of some Democratic candidates, there are lessons to be learned and potentially intriguing shifts in how the Democratic Party treats education policy ahead.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

School Funding: Most States Have Decreased Per-Student Expenses Since Recession

International Business Times

“A majority of states are still providing less cash for schools than they were prior to the recession … Although most states have increased their per-student funding in the current school year compared with the last … that funding has not increased enough to make up for cuts in recent years. Some 46% of total education spending in the U.S. relies on state funds … Costs of state-funded services have surged as a result of inflation, growing needs and a shift in demographics. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that there are about 725,000 more K-12 students … Additionally, more than 37,000 unaccompanied child migrants between January and July have joined adult sponsors and family members in communities across the nation. All are entitled to a public-school education … The state-level education cuts have a national impact, as they’ve slowed the nation’s economic recovery from the recession.”
Read more …

Demand For After-School Programs Outstrips Supply by Millions

Education Week

“Interest in after-school programs over the past decade has far surpassed their growth, shutting out millions of families that need a safe place to send their children while parents are at work … More than 10 million children attend after-school programs, up from 6.5 million in 2004 … 89% of parents said they were satisfied with their child’s program and 83% agreed that having after-school programs available helps working parents keep their jobs … Nationwide, there are 19.4 million students – two for every child enrolled – whose parents want them in an after-school program, but can’t find anything available or affordable … 11.3 million children – 800,000 of them in elementary school – are on their own after school, with no adult supervision.”
Read more …

Nation’s Wealthy Places Pour Private Money Into Public Schools, Study Finds

The New York Times

“Private groups are raising an increasing amount of money for public schools in wealthier communities, highlighting concerns about inequality … Nonprofits organized by parents and community leaders more than tripled in number and more than quadrupled the dollars they generated between 1995 and 2010. Communities with higher median incomes were more likely to have these fund-raising groups in the first place and, perhaps not surprisingly, more likely to raise more money per student than those in less affluent neighborhoods … In some communities, the amounts can rise to four figures per student … State funding for education has fallen since the beginning of the recession, however, at a time when schools are being asked to incorporate new, academically rigorous standards and tests and support a growing group of students from low-income families and students who are learning English as a second language … Private fund-raising has not filled the public gap.”
Read more …

Report Urges Revamping Student Testing

EdSource

“A new report … recommends alternatives to annual standardized tests … Schools should focus more on ‘formative assessments,’ the curriculum-based problems and quizzes that teachers give to students throughout the school year for feedback on how students are doing, in addition to locally developed alternatives to assessments, … science experiments, literary essays, classroom projects and, by the senior year of high school, internship experiences and portfolios that students can present to employers and colleges … It is critical to stop using annual tests as the chief gauge of school success and student achievement … Congress would give states more flexibility to create strategies addressing student achievement, an equitable distribution of resources and teacher preparation.”
Read more …

For More Teens, Arrests By Police Replace School Discipline

The Wall Street Journal

“A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody … At school, talking back or disrupting class can be called disorderly conduct, and a fight can lead to assault and battery charges … Some jurisdictions are so overwhelmed that they are experimenting with routing schoolchildren into specially designed courts that would keep first-time offenders from being saddled with an arrest record. Others have passed new laws or policies to dial back police involvement in school discipline … Police, judges and civil-rights organizations all say schools are increasingly the way young people enter the justice system.”
Read more …

10/16/2014 – Why Change How We Talk About Education

THIS WEEK: Parent Trigger Misfire … Republicans Vulnerable On Education … Calls For Fewer Tests Build … Blended Learning Is About Making Money … Free College, Not For-Profit College

TOP STORY

Why To Change The Way We Talk About Education

By Jeff Bryant

“At a time like this when policy ideas that once seemed so resolute become shaken by strong voices of opposition, it’s important to reflect back on what kind of thinking went into the policy to begin with … Fortunately, there’s a new book to help us in the serious work of rethinking the nation’s education agenda. What it proposes is to start that work by changing the way we talk about education.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Adelanto Report Card: Year Zero of the Parent Trigger Revolution

Capital & Main

“Throughout 2011 and 2012, the eyes of the education world were focused on Adelanto … and the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy, the first (and so far, only) school in California and the U.S. to be fully chartered under a Parent Trigger law… At the end of Desert Trail’s inaugural, 2013-14 school year, a group of eight former Desert Trails teachers hand-delivered a 15-page complaint to the Adelanto Elementary School District (AESD), charging Desert Trails with an array of improprieties and its executive director, Debra Tarver, with unprofessional and sometimes unethical conduct … Among the most serious accusations are charges that administrative chaos at Desert Trails has resulted in both a stampede of exiting teachers and staff; that uncredentialed instructors have taught in its classrooms; and that Desert Trails had an unwritten policy of dissuading parents of students with special learning needs from seeking special education … The school’s extreme miserliness shortchanged teachers and students on basic classroom tools … Only nine of Desert Trails’ first-year teacher roster – or 33 percent – are returnees this year.”
Read more …

This Is What Happens When Republicans Try to Destroy Public Education

The Nation

“Republican candidates around the country are confronting a shared, and significant, vulnerability: education … Several Republicans could fall victim … Conservatives are on the defensive in Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin over their records on education… Polls in several states show education as a top-tier issue … Democrats running for Senate in red and purple states are also picking on education to highlight the impact of Republican policies … Education is also a hot issue in local elections, where some races are attracting a flood of big money.”
Read more …

Fewer Tests: Momentum Building, But for Different Solutions

Education Week

“There is a swirl of new activity on the anti-testing front, and it’s yet another sign that the fervor to cut back on testing is moving from the grassroots into the policy world of Washington … A certain angle on the evolving conversation about rethinking testing … seems to be that if we can only clear all the underbrush and make way for PARCC and Smarter Balanced, our testing problem would be solved … But the argument that Smarter Balanced and PARCC will collectively address the nation’s testing problems is unlikely to win universal acclaim … There is a growing chorus of folks out there who don’t see testing as a solution to testing. To put it a different way, they want less testing, or no testing, not different tests. The agitation of those parents, teachers and activists is helping light a fire under the discussions that are creeping increasingly into the salons of Washington’s alphabet-soup groups.”
Read more …

Rocketship To Profits

Rethinking Schools

“Blended learning, the hallmark of the Rocketship education model, is based on using computers more and teachers less. Its roots lie in a [Silicon] Valley dominated by high-tech factories … Where do teachers fit into this picture? Rocketship’s charter application in Morgan Hill specified that its staffing ratio would go from 35.92 students per teacher in 2014-15 to 41.27 in 2016-17. Many teachers are hired from Teach For America, and noncredentialed paraprofessionals staff the learning lab … In Silicon Valley the commodification of education is proceeding rapidly. But the takeover of privatized education isn’t inevitable … The Morgan Hill district rejected the corporate charter petitions because of a strong mobilization by the union and other groups.”
Read more …

How To Pay For A Free, Non-Racist Higher Education

Black Agenda Report

“The dominos are falling in the for-profit college racket, a cauldron of corruption that has crushed the dreams of millions of African Americans … Corinthian College’s stock fell from a peak of $33 a share, ten years ago, to 33 cents last month, when it became clear that the federal government intended to pull the plug on the $1.6 billion a year rip-off … Corinthian is only the third or fourth-worst offender in the pantheon of for-profit colleges created for the sole purpose of diverting public money to the coffers of hedge funds and mega-banks … Players like the University of Phoenix and Ashford University have become the top producers of baccalaureate degrees among Blacks. But the [Obama]administration – and the Democratic Party, as an institution – also worships at the alter of privatization. Rather than eliminate the felonious educational enterprises root and branch – and spend the money on a nationalized system of free education – Obama will continue to provide tens of billions to nourish the poisoned tree … The for-profits should be put out of business with all deliberate speed, but it would be a further crime to shift that portion of federal aid to schools that have never demonstrated a willingness or competence to serve the demographic so cruelly exploited by the likes of Corinthian.”
Read more …

10/9/2014 – Education ‘Reformers’ Have Lost Their PR War

THIS WEEK: Absenteeism Hurts Achievement … Cheating Is Widespread … Teachers Souring On Common Core … Suburban Schools’ Uncertain Future … Don’t Major In Business

TOP STORY

Education ‘Reformers’ Have Lost Their PR War, So Now What?

By Jeff Bryant

“Americans have become accustomed to seeing the figureheads of big-money interests distort reality to suit their needs and get a lot of well-meaning folks to agree with them in turn … But despite nearly a generation of browbeating and finger wagging, the efforts of the ‘education reform’ campaign have completely and utterly failed. Popular opinion appears to be more behind public schools than ever. Few of the measures that have been mandated by self-anointed “reformers” appear to be widely held in favor. And those reform measures that still have some support are not generally well understood by most people and therefore remain shaky.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Chronic Absenteeism Can Devastate K-12 Learning

Education Week

“Half of all students who miss two to four days of school in the first month will go on to miss nearly a month of school in excused or unexcused absences … Nine out of 10 students who missed five or more days in the first month went on to be chronically absent – defined as missing 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences – for the year … In the early grades, students who are chronically absent have lower reading and math scores, as well as weaker social-emotional skills than they need to persist in school … Chronic absence in middle school is another red flag that a student will drop out of high school. By high school, attendance is a better dropout indicator than test scores … Poor attendance can be turned around if schools and community partners work together with families to monitor who is at risk for poor attendance, nurture a habit of regular attendance, and identify and address the challenges that prevent students from getting to school. The key is using data to identify and intervene early, before students have missed so much school they can’t catch up.”
Read more …

Shockingly Widespread Standardized Test Cheating In Schools In 39 States

Alternet

“The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) … has found documented cases of cheating, and in some cases, systematic manipulation of scores, in 39 states and the District of Columbia, over the last five years alone. The organization has also identified more than 60 methods administrators and teachers have used to alter student scores on these tests, from urging low-scorers to be absent the day of the test, to shouting out and otherwise indicating correct answers during testing … FairTest’s director of public education, Bob Schaeffer says … ‘The cheating scandals are one reason among many why the U.S. needs to adopt a new direction in school assessment. We need to move away from testing overuse and misuse, and towards systems of performance-based assessment, in which we look at the real work students do over time, which is much harder to game.’”
Read more …

More Teachers Are Souring On Common Core, Finds One Survey

The Hechinger Report

“Fewer teachers are enthusiastic about Common Core implementation and fewer think the new standards will help their students … The percentage of teachers who are enthusiastic about Common Core … is down from 73% last year to 68 … The percentage of teachers in the survey who think the Common Core standards will be good for most of their students is down sharply from 57% in last year’s poll. The percentage of teachers who think it will hurt has more than doubled from 8 percent to 17 percent. And the percentage of teachers who think the standards won’t make much of a difference remained the same at 35 percent … Teacher enthusiasm appears to be declining despite the fact that more teachers report that they are prepared to teach Common Core … teachers with negative views of the core are more likely to express concerns that the standards are not grade appropriate and more likely to worry about how student standardized test results will affect teacher evaluations.”
Read more …

America’s Suburban Schools Facing New Pressures

The Washington Post

On the blog of Valerie Strauss, professors Amy Stuart Wells and Douglas Ready write, “In suburbs across the country, we see this 21st Century version of ‘white flight’ leading to a declining tax base and too often increasing racial tension … Our nation’s K-12 public school population – now more than 50 percent ‘minority’ – implies that suburban public schools will be the front line of these changes moving forward … The number of Americans living below the federal poverty line is now greater in the suburbs than the cities, and fewer than 20% of people in the largest metropolitan areas still live in predominantly white suburbs … Once predominantly white and middle-class communities and their public schools begin to change demographically, absent a concerted effort to stabilize the housing market and public schools, a downward fiscal and educational spiral can ensue.”
Read more …

In U.S., Business Grads Lag Other Majors in Work Interest

Gallup

“U.S. college graduates who majored in business are the least likely of those who majored in the four large major categories – social sciences/education, sciences/engineering, arts and humanities, and business – to express strong interest in the work they now do, regardless of what career path they may have followed after graduation … Fewer than two in five U.S. college graduates with a business-related degree (37%) strongly agree that they are deeply interested in the work they do, notably lower than majors in the social sciences/education (47%), sciences/engineering (43%) and arts and humanities (43%) … Those who majored in business also lag by a substantial margin behind their academic peers in the critical area of purpose well-being … Less than half of business majors (48%) are thriving … Despite the perceived marketability of business fields that should help boost a person’s earning potential, business majors do not enjoy clear leads over other majors in the area of financial well-being.”
Read more …