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  • Heritage Top 10 Education Stories of 2011
  • There was no lack of education news in 2011. From an explosion in school choice options to the Obama Administration’s executive overreach, the top stories included the high and low lights when it came to issues affecting America’s schools.
  • Kingsport City Schools continue progress on state Report Card; officials say work needed in some areas
    Kingsport City Schools continued to show progress with the 2011 Tennessee Report Card released recently, although school officials said some areas obviously need improvement.
  • Charter School Enrollment Surpasses 2 Million | Heartlander Magazine
    “American education doesn’t need incremental improvement; we need breakthrough performance,” Goenner said.
  • American Education in 2030: Vouchers Thrive
    Informed by evidence as of 2011, this essay speculates on the rise of vouchers through 2030 from the perspective of 2040. For this article, a voucher means a scholarship awarded directly to families to pay private school costs.
  • Big Pay Days in Washington D.C. Schools’ Merit System
    Many districts have tried over the last decade to experiment with performance pay systems but have frequently been thwarted by powerful teachers’ unions that negotiated the traditional pay structures. Those that have implemented merit pay have generally offered bonuses of a few thousand dollars, often as an incentive to work in hard-to-staff schools or to work extra hours to improve students’ scores. Several respected studies have found that such payments have scant effect on student achievement; since most good teachers already work hard, before and after class, there are limits to how much more can be coaxed out of them with financial incentives. But Washington is the leader among a handful of large cities that are seeking a more fundamental overhaul of teacher pay.
  • Steve Evangelista on the Numeracy Problem in Teacher Quality
    But I’m convinced that the Standards for Mathematical Practice are doomed to fail in most schools. Why? Because it seems that most teachers and principals don’t understand a simple fact: to teach elementary school math well, you have to know elementary school math really well. And most people simply don’t understand much when it comes to elementary school math.
  • Control Cometh Before the Fall of Education
    The desire to be in charge is as human as pride. Education policy affects every child, and all sides of the debate trumpet kids’ interests as the heart behind their cause. Rather than controlling how others’ children should be taught, those decisions should be removed from the political realm and returned where they belong―with the family. Each parent should be able to choose a school that offers the kind of education they want for their kids. That is the beauty of “school choice.” But its most virtuous effect is on human dignity. School choice is the only means by which society can respect parents’ rights to raise their children. Parents have a natural right to raise their kids according to their values and to shelter them from an overwhelming barrage of bureaucratic mandates and politically sanctioned value systems. Likewise, school choice is the only means of reform which gives harbor to teachers and school administrators from that same hurricane of red tape that keeps so many of them from fully channeling their talents and passions to prepare kids for life.
  • Top 10 Moments of 2011: A School Choice Retrospective
    As the year comes to a close and we look toward creating even more educational options in 2012, let’s take a look back at what many are calling the banner year in school choice to see the top 10 moments in 2011:
  • Prensa Hispana: Don’t Be Satisfied With Any School!
    Being satisfied with any school or only offering your children a mediocre education should not be an option. Knowledge is the best gift that a parent can give, and thanks to non-profit organizations in Arizona, your children can go to some of the best schools in the country without it breaking the bank.
  • Republicans for Monopoly
    One of the best stories of 2011 was how Republicans and Democrats united in more than a dozen states to increase school choice. Then there’s Pennsylvania, where a few Republicans joined the teachers unions to kill modest reforms that would have helped poor students in the state’s worst schools. Republican Governor Tom Corbett campaigned last year on expanding school choice, but he’s been undone by his Republican-controlled legislature and his own diffident leadership. During the spring the House approved a bill increasing tax credits to $200 million from $75 million for businesses that contribute to scholarship organizations. The unions didn’t vigorously oppose the House bill because they wanted to save their ammo for the bigger threat that was looming in the Senate: vouchers. Senate Republicans and Democrats came together in the fall to rebuff the union assault and pass a pilot voucher program that would be phased in over seven years. The vouchers could help up to 70,000 kids escape failing and often dangerous schools. Poor kids in urban school districts like Philadelphia, where most of the state’s failing schools are located, would benefit the most. Only about 70% of Philadelphia students graduate, and fewer than 50% score at or above grade-level. Unions played their usual false tune that vouchers steal money from public schools, though what they really fear is that vouchers would break their monopoly control over public education. Under the voucher bill, public schools would come out ahead financially since they would be educating fewer students while still receiving local property tax revenues for kids in their district who attend private schools on vouchers. Alas, House Speaker Samuel Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai bowed to union pressure and refused to put the Senate bill or even a modified voucher program up for a vote. Instead, on the last night of the legislative session, they rushed out a bill that expanded tax credits for scholarships and increased oversight of charter schools. Rank-and-file members of both parties revolted against the slap-dash packaging and sank the legislation. Pennsylvania’s school choice setback offers a lesson for reform-minded Republican Governors elsewhere who may be tempted to let their legislatures do the heavy-lifting. Big reforms require strong executive leadership and engagement. It’s not enough to cheer from the sidelines.
  • Rhee, former D.C. schools chief, busy lobbying
    “She clearly understands, to a greater degree than other reformers, the struggle for sustained reform that primarily involves a political battle,” says Marc Lampkin, a Republican strategist and co-founder of Ed in ’08, an education advocacy group that was active during the 2008 presidential election.
  • What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success
    Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality. Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.” Finland has no standardized tests. And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: “Real winners do not compete.”
  • School Board Again Denies Charter School Application
    The County School Board on Tuesday again denied an application for a new charter school based out of Memphis. The school administration recommended approval of the request by the New Consortitium of Law and Business and the board vote was 4-2 in favor. But five votes were needed. Tommie Henderson, the applicant, is likely to appeal on to the state board of education.
  • No Magic Solutions
    But when it comes to public education, unfortunately there is no magic spell to turn around decades of failure. As the Parent Trigger movement spreads across the state and even the nation, parents and policymakers must brace for the reality that we are about to embark upon a long journey. There will be ups and downs that none of us can presently predict. I have worked on the inside of the system in a number of high-level positions when the doors are closed and reporters aren’t in the room, and I have seen first-hand how seldom the interests of children trump the interests of powerful adults. The only way to alter that dynamic is to give parents power over the education of their own children.
  • The top 5 underreported education stories of 2011
    With the New Year upon us, pundits are handing out their “best and worst” awards and gossip magazines their “top whatever” lists. Well, on my list, you won’t find Occupy Wall Street or No Child Left Behind drama, but something much more significant to taxpayers, parents, and citizens: the top five underreported education stories of 2011.
  • Finances, Underperformance Top Reasons For Charter School Closures
    “All too often, supporters and opponents of charter schools claim that bad charter schools don’t close,” says Allen. “The truth is charter schools that don’t measure up are closing at a rate of 15 percent. Regrettably, the same can’t be said for traditional public schools.”
    But, underperformance is only one of five main reasons for charter school shut downs, the report found. Other common reasons for closing a charter school include: financial problems, facilities, mismanagement, and district challenges. Financial problems, in fact, are the top reason for the closing of charter schools in the United States, accounting for nearly 42 percent of all charter school closures. For a charter school to be successful, it must first have enough students enrolled, which provides the school with public funding. Charter schools, unlike public schools, receive considerably less funding – 68 percent less – to spend on running its facilities and to pay operating costs. That often puts charters at a distinct financial disadvantage and leads to a high closure rate.
  • States Hit Turbulence in School Overhauls
    The Obama administration is stepping up pressure on states to make good on their commitments under its Race to the Top competition, after all 12 winners either scaled down plans or pushed back timelines to overhaul their public-education systems. Eleven states and the District of Columbia won the competition and then submitted ambitious overhaul agendas with timelines for completion. But all the winners since have applied for—and received—permission from the U.S. Department of Education to alter their plans. The delays and adjustments could give ammunition to critics of Race to the Top and affect future funding for the program, which has come under attack from House Republicans who object to a competition that rewarded states only if they adopted Obama-favored initiatives. Most states are moving forward. Tennessee this year launched a teacher-evaluation system that rates all educators based on test scores. The policy has faced criticism because most teachers work in grades and subjects that aren’t part of standardized testing. Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman acknowledged the policy might need to be tweaked but said he was “thrilled” state officials didn’t wait to launch it. The widespread delays are causing concerns beyond the Education Department. Chiefs for Change, a group of 10 state superintendents who advocate for education overhauls, sent Mr. Duncan a letter in August saying the winners “must be held accountable” for implementing plans on time. Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit group that advocates judging teachers on performance, said she isn’t surprised by the delays. “A lot of the states promised the moon and now, some of them are having trouble delivering,” she said.

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