• GOP Support for School-Choice Legislation Lacking in House
    The governor plans to weigh in any day on whether to offer parents broader school choice options for their children next year, but high-ranking House leaders are hinting that idea is not in the cards for 2012. Both the Republican Caucus chairwoman and the Education Committee chairman say they’d rather let the education reforms they passed this year soak in before pushing controversial legislation that would give parents in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga money to help send their children to different public, charter or private schools.
  • Schools merger: who and what
    With approximately one year down and one year to go, The New Tri-State Defender introduces a new feature series on public education. It will include stories on key developments in planning the schools’ merger, in addition to in-depth interviews with members of the SCUSB and TPC respectively. This week, the TSD features a conversation with Chair of the Transition Planning Commission, Barbara Prescott.
  • The NEA’s Nice But Meaningless Plan for Teacher Quality Reform
    The NEA’s recommendations are worth considering. But there are problems.
  • A Disappointing Outcome in Pennsylvania
    Students all across the Keystone State were last night forced to take a giant step backward when it comes to educational options, as the Pennsylvania House of Representatives failed to pass—or even vote on—legislation that would create and expand much-needed educational choices. What did the Pennsylvania legislature have the opportunity to do?
  • Record numbers fail to clear No Child bar
    In the 2010-11 academic year, 48 percent of public schools — a record high — failed to meet the “adequate yearly progress” benchmarks established by the No Child Left Behind act, according to a new study by the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan think tank. In 2006, only 29 percent of U.S. schools missed the targets. The percentage has risen gradually each year, before making the largest jump — 39 percent to 48 percent — between 2010 and 2011.
  • Accountability needed for all public schools
    We recognized virtual schools were a viable option for many students, yet we had to find new ways to conduct oversight. We revoked charters when necessary, but the district also worked closely with schools on corrective action. For generations, traditional public schools have sorely lacked this level of accountability. Many chronically failing public schools have been left open for years and have given generations of students an inadequate education. The Arizona Republic’s recent reporting on Arizona’s virtual charter schools point to shortcomings, but remember: Families pursued these choices because traditional schools weren’t meeting their needs.
  • Reality, Meet Education Policy. Education Policy, Please, Meet Reality!
    If you address it honestly, it’s nearly impossible to deny that federal education meddling has been not just a failure, but a failure with all sorts of bizzaro tendencies. While office holders are wrongly considered our leaders by some — they are, in fact, our employees — you’d hope they’d lead a bit by ignoring short-term political consequences and cutting utterly failed programs. But that would be the triumph of hope over reality; politicians are as self-interested as anyone else, and will generally do only those things that help them keep or gain votes. So what must happen is that the public gets intimately familiar with the sick reality of federal education policy and votes based on it.
  • School Building Sale Still Unresolved
    The countywide school board member who thought about having a set of rules in place to specifically set the terms of selling or transferring school buildings to a separate suburban school district called off the move this week. However, in pulling his resolution off the school board agenda Tuesday, Dec. 13, Martavius Jones said the question could be settled with a lawsuit.
  • School board’s next hire? A firm for director search
    The Rutherford County Board of Education will officially begin its search for a new director of schools in 2012.
  • Two Families, Two Takes on Virtual Schooling
    The number of students in kindergarten through 12th grade enrolled in virtual schools nationwide has grown to 225,000 from 50,000 a decade ago—and 30% year over year since 2001, says Susan Patrick, chief executive of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a nonprofit advocacy group. Some parents choose virtual schooling to accommodate a heavy schedule of extracurricular classes or interests; others feel their children’s needs are better served outside a traditional classroom. Here are two families’ experiences…
    How Classrooms Online Work
    Where it’s offered: Twenty-seven states and Washington, D.C., offer full-time virtual schooling. Florida Virtual School became the first state-funded online school in 1996.
    What children learn: There is no nationwide standardized curriculum for virtual schools, and core subjects and electives vary from state to state. “It’s streaming classes in real time, live chats with teachers, group projects,” says Jeff Kwitowski, spokesman for k12, a network of online school programs serving more than 80,000 students nationwide.
    Who does the teaching: Teachers do the teaching while parents generally act as “learning coaches,” says Todd Hitchcock, senior vice president of online solutions at publishing giant Pearson, which recently purchased Connections Academy, one of the largest virtual school companies. These coaches coax younger students through tough subjects, but they needn’t be accredited or have much knowledge of, say, cosines and Ancient Egypt.
    What students do: Students typically log on to interact with teachers and other kids statewide who are online simultaneously. One teacher is assigned to as many as 60 students. In some programs, a counselor is on call day and night to help with homework, schedules, grade concerns and individual learning plans.
    How grading works: Virtual schools follow the same grading procedures as traditional schools, with testing and a teacher assessing students’ work. Students may not progress to the next level of learning until they master the preceding lesson. Much research about full-time online students has been inconclusive, according to the Keeping Pace with Online K-12 Learning 2011 industry report. But the longer a student remains in a virtual school, the more likely the student is to succeed.
    How the money works: In most cases, children attending a virtual school remain part of their local public school district. That means the school district retains state funding for the child. The state signs a contract with a company to provide virtual curricula. In Wisconsin, for example, state auditors found that virtual charter schools there cost about $6,500 per student annually, in line with national averages, says Susan Patrick, chief executive for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a not-for-profit advocacy group for virtual studies. By contrast, if parents enroll a child in private, parochial, or traditional home schools, the district loses funding.
  • Half Of American Schools Failed Federal Standards
    Nearly half of America’s public schools didn’t meet federal achievement standards this year, marking the largest failure rate since the much-criticized No Child Left Behind Law took effect a decade ago, according to a national report released Thursday. The Center on Education Policy report shows more than 43,000 schools — or 48 percent — did not make “adequate yearly progress” this year. The failure rates range from a low of 11 percent in Wisconsin to a high of 89 percent in Florida.

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