Articles in the Announcements category

Week in blogs: Do Easter Island statues represent Race to the Top?

Ready for today’s “Week in Blog Question?” Here goes: “How are those weird Easter Island statues like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition?”

“Say what?”

Sorry, time’s up.  But because this is our inaugural, occasional, semi-monthly-on-average Week in Blog Question, the Judges have graciously offered to give you another try.  “Now take the eraser end of your pencil and open the test  booklet…” No, actually, just think real hard.

Question #2: “So. About those statues: How is the fact that their construction is said to have totally devastated Easter Island civilization as we know it (or think we know it – it was, after all, hundreds of years ago) analogous to what RTTT will do to the public schools?”

Yes, it’s a toughie, and, yes, I’m poking fun at Yong Zhao’s blog on these two seemingly disparate topics (“I can’t help but make the connection between Easter Islanders’ race to erect the statues and the Obama’s Race to the Top program…” he writes) because it’s a little, well, out there; but the fact is, the University of Oregon professor writes some of the most original and provocative analyses of K12 education on the web today.

Here, to be as brief as possible, is his point: According to Jared Diamond’s thesis in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, just as the Easter Islanders exhausted their human and natural resources in a misguided competition to build ever-grander icons, so is RTTT exhausting our schools’ resources in a misguided competition for the best test scores.

“Test scores have no doubt become American’s stone statue in education…” Zhao writes. “Just like the Easter Islanders’ obsession with building statues damaged their ecosystem, America’s obsession with test scores have already begun and will continue to damage its education ecosystem.”

Of course, others have completely different views. I’m just waiting for Arne Duncan to conjure the Italian Renaissance.
Other blogs? Well, closer to home (and the 21st century) Alexander Russo writes about the rising reputation of former Gov. Jeb Bush, in some education circles. A story on Bush appeared last week in the Washington Post.

In another post, Russo talks about the latest education controversy in Rhode Island, where, according to a published report, the Providence Journal failed to disclose that education columnist Julia Steiny is a paid consultant for the state’s Department of Education on the district in Central Falls.  Yes, Russo deadpans, “that Central Falls.” Is that why she wrote so glowingly of state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who’s strongly supported district administrators in their long running fight with the teacher union? Steiny says there’s no connection.

Finally, read this moving op-ed from the New York Times about a teacher who made a difference in the life of author Marie Myung-Ok Lee.

Lawrence Hardy|April 3rd, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Federal Programs, School Board News, Week in Blogs|

Education headlines: Record-setting teacher layoffs looming, Ohio limits collective bargaining

The Associated Press reports that the Ohio legislature voted Wednesday to severely limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers, including teachers. The measure, which is expected to be signed by the governor, would allow unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits; bans workers from striking, and replaces automatic pay increases with merit raises or performance pay.

America’s public schools may see the most extensive layoffs of their teaching staffs in decades, the New York Times says, as school districts across the country have given layoff warnings to mass numbers of teachers… The AP also finds that many principals removed from low-performing schools as part of the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program are quickly finding new jobs, often in the same districts or schools where they previously worked.

And, according to the Washington Post, former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee admits “that some cheating may have occurred” after vehemently denying such claims made by USA Today as part of its ongoing investigation on cheating. That story asserts that teachers changed answers on student tests at some D.C. schools.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 31st, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Teachers|

Education headlines: Teacher evaluations, charter “space wars,” and crowded community colleges

Bloomberg News analyzes the recent proposals to drastically change teacher seniority rules and collective bargaining in numerous states, while the Los Angeles Times reports on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to “plunge ahead” with value-added teacher evaluations.

As part of a continuing investigation on cheating, USA Today examines the soaring scores at one D.C. school and finds and unusual number of erasures on standardized tests… The New York Times writes about the “space wars” between expanding charter schools and traditional public schools in New York City. Are big-name charter corporations getting an unfair advantage? Meanwhile, members of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards testified against a bill in the state’s senate that would expand the state’s charter school law to allow an appointed state charter school board, in addition to local school boards, the power to authorize charters, the WASB reports.

And California’s community college classes have become so popular and so crowded that a new survey found that students there are almost twice as likely to be shut out of classes they need than in other states, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 28th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

Week in blogs: Reality shows and SAT questions

First, a disclaimer: Our first item is not a blog, and it was not published this week. (Other than that, the headline above is perfectly accurate.)

But this article on high-flying high school students being flummoxed by an SAT essay prompt involving  …. Gasp! TV reality shows! .. was too good to pass up. Yes, it’s from the New York Times. And, yes, I tend to cite them a lot. And, yes that’s because I really like Times. And no, I’m not getting paid by them to say this.

Back to the story: It seems an SAT question on just how real the “reality” is on reality TV shows like American Idol and Real Housewives of New Jersey — which all high school kids know something about, right? — was too much for those high achievers who don’t have time for the tube.

“I ended up talking about Jacob Riis and how any form of media cannot capture reality objectively,” one frustrated student wrote on the Web site College Confidential, referring to the 19th century reformer. “I kind of want to cry right now.”

The irony, unmentioned in the article, is how for years SAT opponents have criticized the tests for being culturally biased toward affluent white students and against minorities and the disadvantaged. A famous example from years ago was the analogy that required students to know the meaning of “regatta,” which could be tough for children who’ve never seen a sailboat or a racing shell.

I don’t begrudge the high-achieving, non-TV watching students their complaint, but it seems to me that, if anything, the tests favor students with their life experiences over kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

While we’re on the subject of standardized tests, blogger Jennifer Fox writes in the Huffington Post about her campaign “to stop the testing trend.” One suggestion: “Ask teachers to have their classes of students fill out the cards [postcards to First Lady Michele Obama asking the president ‘to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!'] and bring in a quarter to mail them as a class.” Don’t think teachers – or administrators – would relish being be put in that position.

Finally, be sure to read Joanne Jacobs on how respondents to the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher say they need more help in differentiating instruction for diverse learners.

“Ninety-one percent of public school teachers say schools need to do more to prepare ‘diverse’ learners for success after high school,” Jacobs writes.

Lawrence Hardy|March 25th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News, Week in Blogs|

Education headlines: Fla. governor approves merit pay, ends tenure for new teachers

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill that will invoke merit pay for existing teachers and end tenure for new teachers, according to the Associated Press… Japanese graduation ceremonies are typically held in March, and the New York Times reports on the resilience of students who are receiving diplomas and the uncertainty that they face… The Times also reports that a judge has ruled “New Jersey’s cuts in school financing violate the State Constitution’s mandate to provide “a thorough and efficient’ education system and hit poor districts especially hard.” The state, which is under a 30-year court order to better fund its poor districts, is facing its worst fiscal crisis in decades.

Updating a recent story on the Douglass County, Colo., school board’s plan to provide $4,500 vouchers to parents who wanted to send their children to the area’s private religious schools. As the board approved the plan this week, the Los Angeles Times editorializes that it will worsen inequities between children from poor and middle-class families.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 24th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

Education headlines: “Dropout Factories” declining, many Calif. schools may be unprepared for earthquakes

Following up on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, NPR notes that “California’s five-year-old program for helping cash-strapped public schools seismically retrofit their most vulnerable buildings has so far disbursed only a tiny portion of the $200 million set aside under the effort.”

A new report by the America’s Promise Foundation finds that there are fewer high school “dropout factories,” identified as schools where less than 60 percent of students earn a diploma… Even affluent Chicago-area school districts are feeling the strain of tough financial times, the Chicago Tribune reports… As high school students continue the trend of applying to more colleges, the result is somewhat tougher competition and more uncertainty. And it has intensified the national debate about the ethics of colleges recruiting ever more applicants, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 22nd, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

Education headlines: NSBA letter, Obama call for quick ESEA reauthorization

President Obama is now calling on Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law and remove some of its most punitive features by the start of the 2011-12 school year, the New York Times reports… But an article in the Christian Science Monitor explains why, even though many in Congress agree the law needs an overhaul, it will still be tough to push through.

NSBA’s advocacy department has also issue a letter to Congress detailing school leaders’ issues with ESEA and the urgent need to complete a reauthorization–with significant changes to the current law–as soon as possible.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 15th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

NSBA General Counsel discusses bullying on C-Span

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negron Jr. appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal on March 12 to discuss NSBA’s viewpoints on federal bullying policies and the overall concern of bullying and cyberbullying in schools. Negron answered numerous challenging questions from callers with a wide range of opinions from around the country.

The show followed the White House summit on bullying last week. View a replay of Negron’s 45-minute appearance on C-Span’s website, and read more about the White House summit here.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 14th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Bullying, School Board News, School Boards, School Climate, School Law|

Education headlines: Duncan says up to 82 percent of schools could be “failing” soon

Nearly all of America’s public schools could be labeled “failing” next year under a federal formula that relies mainly on annual testing to gauge progress, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said this week, the Washington Post reported. In a press release, the Department of Education explains how Duncan estimates that as many as 82 percent of schools could be sanctioned.

In Memphis, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum this week to give up the charter that created the Memphis City school district, which serves about 103,000 minority and predominantly poor students. If the move is not overturned by courts or state lawmakers, the vote sets up an unprecedented merger between Memphis and the much smaller, less diverse, and more affluent Shelby County school district. NSBA’s Legal Clips has its analysis, here.

And USA Today continues its series on cheating, examining the students and teachers who cheat and the reasons why they do so.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 10th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, School Board News|

NSBA asks for examples of unneeded NCLB regulations

NSBA has an opportunity to influence language in the upcoming Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization related to federal mandates, data collection requirements and reporting requirements.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is soliciting examples from school districts of unnecessary and burdensome requirements.  NSBA’s advocacy department is asking school board members and superintendents or other administrators to complete this survey on Federal Requirements and Mandates by Monday, March 14.

NSBA will consolidate and submit the information to help bolster its case to remove unnecessary and burdensome requirements.  NSBA also will provide information by Congressional district in targeting selected members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

In today’s headlines, the Washington Post reports on the Obama administration’s efforts to reauthorize ESEA, noting that the president “is pushing an agenda very similar to his predecessor’s,” former President George W. Bush.

Joetta Sack-Min|March 8th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, School Board News|
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