• Are visits by parents to schools a threat to teaching?
    The resistance to parent observations is not so much a policy as an unexamined taboo. Why are such fine districts reluctant to let interested and involved parents watch the great work they do?
  • NEA Spends $133 Million on Lobbyists
    According to Dropout Nation’s analysis of the National Education Association’s 2010-2011 LM-2 filing, the nation’s largest teachers’ union spent $133 million over the last year on lobbying and contributions to groups with whom they share common goals, writes RiShawn Biddle. Here is a breakdown of some of the biggest beneficiaries:
  • Sumner schools to stop religious activities
    The Sumner County Board of Education settled a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union over teacher-led prayer and other religious activity in public schools. This is the third time in three years that the ACLU has taken a Middle Tennessee school district to court over religion.
  • Is Mandating Online Learning Good Policy?
    An increasing number of advocates for online learning have come out in favor of mandating that states require students take at least one college- or career-prep course online to earn a high school diploma. Digital Learning Now!, a national campaign chaired by former Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise to advance policies to create a high quality digital learning environment for each student–and where I serve as a “Digital Luminary,” is on board as well. But is an online-learning requirement a good idea? For someone who advocates for a transformed student-centric education system powered by digital learning, you might think my quick answer would be an emphatic yes, but I’m not so sure. I’ve never been bullish on mandates. As a general rule, they tend to distort markets and sectors, have unintended consequences down the line at best and immediately at worst, and lock in ways of doing things at the expense of innovation.
  • Students in big-city schools show gains in latest NAEP ‘report card’
    Students in America’s largest cities are making gains in math, in many cases faster than students in the nation as a whole. Reading scores in those large cities – just as in the nation – have largely remained flat for the past two years. Most notably, the gap between national scores and large-city scores is narrowing. That’s the good news in the latest report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), better known as the Nation’s Report Card. The release Wednesday provided detailed scores for students in 21 large cities – a voluntary subset that participates in NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA).
  • City Schools Gain in Reading, Math
    Large urban school districts have made steady progress on national elementary school math and reading exams over the past nine years but continue to score far below national averages, according to federal data released Wednesday. Results of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress show that scores in urban districts rose slightly or remained flat since the exams were last given in 2009—similar to the national performance. But a more promising picture emerges when trend lines are extended back to the early 2000s. Students in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta and Houston posted double-digit gains on several exams since 2002, helping close the chasm between their performance and that of districts nationwide. The Council of Great City Schools, a research and policy group that represents large districts, commissioned a study that found districts making the most progress had stable leadership, high academic goals for students, quality professional development for teachers and data analysis that helped alter teaching. Nationwide, the average math score increased six points to 240 in the period. In eighth-grade math, nine of the 10 districts equaled or surpassed the average national improvement of seven points—only Cleveland didn’t. Still, in most of the 21 urban districts tested this year, 75% of their students did not score “proficient” in math. Proficient means students have a solid grasp of the material. In fourth-grade reading, six urban districts have participated since the exam was first given in 2002 and each posted gains of at least twice the national average of three points. In eighth grade, the national reading score hasn’t budged since 2002, but students in Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles posted gains, while the other cities remained steady.
  • Rep. Tommie Brown wants City of Chattanooga to delay redistricting
    State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said Monday she has asked for the City Council to delay a vote on redistricting expected for next week. She said she and other plaintiffs from a case in the 1980s that changed city government want time to look over the redistricting plans. “I have asked them to back off if they would give us time,” Brown said. But City Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the City Council’s Legal and Legislative Committee, said he saw no reason for a delay and would continue forward with a first reading of the proposed redistricting ordinance next Tuesday.

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