We are sorry for the sporadic posting of the daily readings lately. Pinboard, which we use for posting links, has been having internal “issues.”  Thanks for visiting.

  • K12 Inc. Statement on New York Times Article The article did not state that in 2010 K12-managed online schools nationwide made 80% of overall AYP targets (academic + participation), nor did it mention academic assessments showing positive student academic growth. And the article ignored data that shows the longer students are enrolled in K12-managed online schools, the better they perform on state assessment tests. In fact, recent analyses by an independent firm found that, in some K12-managed schools, the overwhelming majority of the new students came in behind grade level requiring more than one year of academic growth during the year to be proficient on state tests. Online schools are a challenging and rigorous model that requires commitment from all involved. They are not for every child, but are a good option for some, especially for students whose needs were not met in traditional brick-and-mortar schools.
  • One out of Four Ain’t Bad?
    But even if you accept that few in Washington are willing to boot themselves out of schools—and few are—it’s still critical to explore whether or not the things you’d have them do would be of net benefit.
  • Checker’s Case for World Government (and Common Core)
    The Euro is not in trouble because some people “hope the Euro crashes.”  It’s in trouble because it is a centralized institution that does not fit the diversity of its members. Similarly, national standards will fail because it is not possible to have a centrally determined set of meaningful standards that can accommodate the legitimate diversity of needs, goals, and values of all of our nation’s school children.
  • ASD Head, MCS Discuss Reforms
    The head of the state run Achievement School District that will run a set of low-performing schools across the state is beginning specific discussions with Memphis City Schools officials about decisions to come after the new year. ASD superintendent Chris Barbic said decisions about which of the state’s low-performing schools are run directly by the state and which are run collaboratively with school districts should start being made and announced by the first week in February. The Memphis City Schools system has 69 of the 85 schools in the bottom 5 percent.
  • Online Yet?
    The long-awaited NYT story on online learning is here at last. Focuses a lot on K12 Inc.* There will be plenty of back and forth but a couple of quick reactions.  First, while this story takes  a pretty strong point of view (too strong in places in my view) that shouldn’t obscure that quality in the online space is quite mixed and there is something of a bubble around virtual and ed tech more generally.  But – context alert! – quality is very mixed in all sectors of public education.
  • Hamilton County’s teachers union targets school boards
    The leader of Hamilton County’s teachers union wants only those who have worked in the education field to serve on state and local school boards. That’s among several ideas pitched by Sandy Hughes, president of the Hamilton County Education Association, for the upcoming state legislative session. She’s also hoping the Tennessee General Assembly will put the brakes on some of last year’s education reform measures.
  • From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model
    Dr. Sahlberg puts high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story — which, as it happens, has become a personal success story of sorts, part of an American obsession with all things Finnish when it comes to schools. Take last week. On Monday, Dr. Sahlberg was the keynote speaker at an education conference in Chicago. On Tuesday, he had to return to Helsinki for an Independence Day party held by Finland’s president — a coveted invitation to an event that much of the country watches on television.
  • Online Schools Score Better on Wall Street Than in Classrooms
    Another way K12 maximizes its income is to establish schools in poor districts, which receive larger subsidies in some states. The company administers one of K12’s newest schools from Union County, Tenn., a mountainous Appalachian enclave where nearly a quarter of the residents live in poverty. The Tennessee Virtual Academy is technically part of the local school district, which receives more per pupil from the state than most other districts in Tennessee. But of the school’s 1,800 pupils, few are actually from Union County. Out of the state money, the Union County schools will get an administrative fee of about $400,000. K12 stands to collect almost $10 million to staff and manage the school. Dozens of other Tennessee counties, however, lost state financing when some of their students elected to go to the virtual school.
  • It’s Not Just The Education System That’s Been Dumbed Down
    What’s wrong with the NY Times article, “Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools”? Let me count the ways:
  • Studies: Positive Outcomes for Dual Enrollment Students
    Despite its increasing popularity, very little research has been carried out on dual enrollment – a plan where high school students take college classes for credit. The National Center for Postsecondary Research has tried to fill that gap by publishing two major studies on the program. Essentially, the two new National Center for Postsecondary Research studies have found that participation in dual enrollment has strong positive effects on college enrollment and completion, but these effects are driven hugely by where students takes dual enrollment classes and what classes they take.
  • Take Lessons From DC Charters
    THERE WERE two, seemingly unrelated, announcements about education in the District last week. The first was the unveiling of a new rating system for public charter schools in which a number of schools were identified as being in the top tier for student performance. The second was the release of national test data that made clear the formidable challenges facing the city’s public schools even as reform has brought progress. What struck us was how the experience of some of the city’s best-performing charters — those with high-poverty student populations — should inform efforts to eliminate the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white peers.
  • Indiana school voucher advocates pleased with progress
    Advocates for private school vouchers say Indiana’s program — hailed as the nation’s largest — is meeting expectations in its first year. School Choice Indiana says that among the students who have received vouchers, 85 percent qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch and 53 percent are minorities. Sixty-nine percent of voucher recipients are from metropolitan areas, including Evansville, while 16 percent are classified as being from suburbia and 15 percent from rural areas.
  • Federal review finds safety violations at Head Start centers
    A machete knife left near an outdoor play area. Household chemicals accessible to preschoolers. Widespread failures to conduct criminal background checks of employees. These violations and others were found at Head Start centers across the country, according to a report released Tuesday by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. All told, according to the review:
    » Twenty-one of 24 grantees did not comply fully with federal Head Start or state requirements to conduct criminal and other background checks;
    » Nearly 90 percent of the facilities had toxic chemicals such as markers labeled “keep out of reach of children” and cleaning supplies accessible to children;
    » More than 70 percent had open or broken gates leading to parking lots, streets or unsupervised areas and inadequate or broken fences;
    » More than half had playground equipment that was not in good repair with problems such as protruding bolts, broken climbing apparatuses and elevated platforms without protective guards.
  • U.S. school excuses challenged
    Many Americans, including me, are skeptical of efforts to portray our public schools as failures compared to the rest of the world. The late Gerald W. Bracey, my favorite contrarian education expert, exposed exaggerations, false assumptions and deceptive graphics that made us look worse than we were. But a new book edited by Marc S. Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, offers convincing evidence that we are running out of excuses. The book, “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems,” is so unsettling I am devoting two columns to it.
  • Metro schools, state officials reach agreement on federal grants management
    Metro Nashville Public Schools has entered into a memorandum of understanding on grant management with the Tennessee Department of Education, an agreement reached after the state labeled the district a “high-risk grantee” for federal funds in 2008. The Metro school board is set to review the agreement at Tuesday’s board meeting. Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and Director of Schools Jesse Register have already signed the document. “This agreement validates the work we are doing through MNPS Achieves,” Register said in a statement, referencing the name of his education reform agenda. “We are well on our way to transforming this district into one of academic and operational excellence.”
  • The Global Search for Education: Dreams
    How is this reform to be achieved? Both Pasi Sahlberg and Stephen Spahn believe in personalized learning. More specifically, Pasi believes in creating a socially inspiring, safe learning community; schools that must be pupil friendly; schools that must allow more personalized learning paths. Keeping in mind the tremendous changes in learning that will continue to be made possible by the internet, social networks, and technology, Sahlberg describes his 4 themes for change in his book as:
  • Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students
    The study, Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students, found that algebra-ready students in schools offering online Algebra I scored higher on an algebra test and were more likely to participate in an advanced mathematics course sequence in high school, compared to algebra-ready students in schools that did not offer the online course. The study also found no evidence of negative effects on non-algebra-ready students attending schools where online Algebra I was offered to algebra-ready students. This combination of findings demonstrates that offering an online Algebra I course is an effective way to broaden access to this course.
  • Teacher Suspended For Writing “Stupid” On Students Forehead
    A middle school teacher in Overton County is on administrative leave after he allegedly wrote the word “Stupid” on a student’s forehead. Overton County Director of Schools Matt Eldridge confirmed Monday that first year middle school teacher, Alex Boles was suspended indefinitely after using permanent marker to write on a child’s forehead.

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