• Back to school, back to the front lines | school, district, people
    Whether it’s incessant fighting over the teaching of human origins, clashes over controversial books in school libraries, battles over sex education or sundry other flashpoints, our public schools constantly ignite social conflict. Americans have highly diverse beliefs and values – generally a sign of great health in a free country – but public schools force them to fight over whose values will be taught. To be ground-zero in sociopolitical warfare, of course, isn’t why any school district is here. Nonetheless, it is inevitably what happens when you force diverse people to support a single system of government schools. Thankfully, there is a way out: Give parents control of education funds and let them choose options commensurate with their values offered by liberated educators. Instead of making people go to war, let them go in peace.
  • Colorado school-choice plan that echoes Ohio’s will win in court
    Today, Douglas County has an admirable plan for popular sovereignty, in school choice. But the plan has been disrupted by a judge who says that providing parents with scholarship money that can be spent at religious or secular schools violates Colorado’s constitution. That document says “no person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination against his consent.” Such “compelled support” clauses in state constitutions were written to prevent establishment of official state religions. But Douglas County’s scholarship program is religiously neutral, enabling families to choose whatever school best suits their children.
  • Suburban Costs of Municipal Schools
    When looking at the cost of a municipal school district, there are almost as many ifs, ands, and buts as there are school buildings in the suburbs. And, the possible added cost of buildings will make it expensive for suburban municipalities to start school districts. But the suburban mayors are moving forward and nearly all have met with consultants who would guide the forming of a new district. So it looks likely that there will be some cost involved in attaining school buildings. So if the new municipal school districts must give the unified school district what it paid to construct these schools, or build new ones, the price jumps dramatically.
  • A+ College Ready program has more than doubled pass rate for Alabama students in advanced placement classes
    The A+ College Ready program has resulted in a 108 percent jump in passing scores on the AP tests in math, science and English, among schools that use the program statewide. The program provides training and support for teachers, special Saturday study sessions for students, incentives to teachers and a $100 bonus to students if they pass the AP exam at the end of the year. The program also provides financial incentives to students and teachers for passing the AP test. Students and teachers each get a $100 bonus for each passing score, and teachers get other incentives for exceeding goals.
  • Back-to-School Special: Arne Duncan Goes Off Script
    As a new school year begins, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plans to use waivers to rewrite parts of the nation’s signature federal education law, whose reauthorization has been stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, states are struggling to meet their ambitious Race to the Top goals as they look for ways to cut spending. I [Time magazine] sat down with the former head of the Chicago school system to talk about these issues…
  • Tennessee requires students to take Personal Finance class
    Starting this school year, the state has joined Missouri, Utah and Virginia in requiring Personal Finance class, a nine-week course that must be completed by every student who receives a high school diploma. The course covers all facet of money: how to make it, spend it and save it.
  • 7 Tips for Choosing the Best School for Your Child
    The second most important decision you will make as a parent — apart from deciding to have the kid in the first place — is deciding which school for them to enroll in. Peg Tyre…has a new book to help parents evaluate both schools and teachers so they can find the right place for their child. Fittingly, it’s called The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve. Tyre spoke to TIME about which questions you should ask when you’re evaluating a school — whether your child is starting pre-K or switching schools in the middle of fourth grade — and why math is key in every grade.
  • Virtual Education Targets Rise of Autism
    For some students with autism, online education can be the right fit, taking away the sensory overload and social stigma that can occur in a brick-and-mortar school and allowing them to pursue subjects they’re passionate about, above and beyond what they’d get in the classroom.
    For students who aren’t as high-functioning, lacking language and motor skills, more-traditional online classes often aren’t an option.
  • Metro’s Virtual School has 135-plus openings
    Metro Nashville Public Schools has openings for 135 full-time and several part-time students in its online high school. The Virtual School offers classes in all core subjects; Advanced Placement courses in English, English literature, biology, macroeconomics, psychology, U.S. history and statistics; and other areas of study. Complete information is on the Virtual School website, www.vlearn.mnps.org. There are some ground rules:
  • Shelby County, Memphis school boards unanimously OK merger deal
    The boards for Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools each met and voted unanimously to approve the settlement agreement that calls for the boards to unite by Oct. 1. The MCS board also made its five appointments to the 21-member Norris-Todd transition commission.
  • Education columnist Andrew Rotherham writing about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s criticisms of Texas
    Why is Arne Duncan messing with Texas? I asked the Secretary of Education about this a few hours after he injected himself into the presidential-election scrum. “Far too few of their high school graduates are actually prepared to go on to college,” Duncan said in the TV interview . . . telling Hunt that he feels “very, very badly for the children there.” When I asked Duncan about this dire assessment in an interview . . . the former head of the Chicago school system was light on specifics: “Texas has challenges. The record speaks for itself. Lots of other states have challenges too. But there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done in Texas and a lot of children who need a chance to get a great education.” But what about the fact, I responded, that on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Texas’ fourth- and eighth-graders substantially outperformed their peers in Chicago in reading and math? “I would have to look at all the details, but there are real challenges in Texas. And like every other state, they should be addressed openly and honestly as in Illinois, as in Chicago, and everywhere else.” Confused? Me too, and I do this for a living. Overall, Texas students scored right around the national averages in reading and math on the NAEP. So why is Duncan dissing the Lone Star State? Its minority students outperform minority students in Chicago, albeit by smaller margins. And with a high school graduation rate of about 73%, Texas may be slightly below the national average, but it’s doing a lot better than Chicago, which only graduates about 56% of its students.

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