• The NEA’s Plan: Keep Your ‘Kids’ Captive Longer
    Is it wise for sixteen-year-olds to drop out of high school? The answer is almost always no. But requiring them to remain in school five more years is unlikely to produce good results either, since that just means more time in the same education system that already has failed them. Keeping “kids” in school until they are legally adults may save or create jobs in the field of public education. But that is all it is likely to accomplish. Does the NEA propose that failing 20-year-olds will suddenly become model students because they are sheltered from entering the world of full-time employment just a bit longer?
  • TEA Membership Drops 10 Percent
    The dues-paying membership of the Tennessee Education Association has dropped more than 10 percent since the state legislature limited the union’s power last year. TEA’s rolls have declined from 52,000 to 46,000.
  • Gates, the Bizarro Foundation
    The previous strategy of backing small schools has now been vindicated by the rigorous random-assignment study Gates couldn’t wait for. Meanwhile, as part of their newly embraced top-down strategy, the Gates effort to identify the secret formula for effective teaching has failed to bear fruit. The Gates -operated Measuring Effective Teachers Project failed to identify any rubric of observing teachers or any components of those rubrics that were strongly predictive of gains in student learning. And the Gates-backed “research” supporting the federally-orchestrated Common Core push for national standards and testing has been strikingly lacking in scientific rigor and candor. In short, the Gates Foundation has ditched what rigorous evidence shows worked and is pushing a new strategy completely unsupported by rigorous evidence.
  • Kevin Carey Gets the Facts Wrong
    In The Atlantic Online resident cool-kid Kevin Carey sings the “vouchers-are-all-bad-but-charters-are-all-good” song that is the official anthem of the beltway crowd of education reform hipsters. Kevin Carey only uses single examples to make sweeping generalizations so I’ll simply outperform him by using multiple counter-examples to disprove his universal and unqualified claims.
  • West Va. Schools Audit Prompts Governor to Call for Reform
    An audit of West Virginia K-12 schools revealed lagging student performance despite high spending and an over-regulated, bureaucratic system with limited voter accountability, prompting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) to call for change in his state of the state address this week. Money-saving recommendations include slimming the state’s Department of Education and bringing pay more in line with the private sector, reducing the number of school cooks and their contract length to school days only, stop double-paying bus drivers for extra routes during work hours, tying teacher evaluations in part to student test scores, and expanding online classes and technology.
  • Study: Tennessee Schools Lack Good Science Curriculum
    Video: A Washington, DC based education group gave the Volunteer State a D, saying the science curriculum is severely lacking.
  • Gov. Bentley pushes education reform in next legislative session
    Alabama: In a news release issued Wednesday, Governor Robert Bentley announced a list of proposals to improve the state’s public school system. The plan includes four different proposals, including a new system what will better evaluate teachers in the state…Another proposal is a tax credit for classroom supplies. Also on the table is more flexibility for schools. The School Flexibility Act of 2012 would let schools adopt educational strategies that are currently restricted by state law. In exchange, schools must show better accountability in student performance. In addition, there’s a proposal to open public charter schools in underserved areas in Alabama.
  • Kentucky Teachers Show Little Progress Under Common Core
    A new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality has claimed that the state of Kentucky has failed to show considerable improvements in the two years since it implemented Common Core standards. It wasn’t all gloom for the state, however. It scored higher marks for the preparation of middle school and high school teachers.
  • The False Debate Over School Choice and Equal Opportunity Must End
    Then there is the new twist on an old argument against choice — that it leads to inequality in educational opportunities — that is being advanced in Mississippi by the NAACP’s chapter there and other groups that proposed efforts to expand charter schools will somehow exacerbate inequities for African-American children. From where the NAACP and its allies sit, any effort to revamp the state’s charter school law — which is ranked as one of the most-restrictive in the nation — would only lead to poor and minority kids in the state being denied high-quality education. Why? Because charter schools would divert the state’s already allegedly low levels of funding from traditional districts that serve mostly-black students, while perpetuating segregation of black students from what are perceived to be better-performing suburban schools. As Dropout Nation has noted over the past three years, ivory tower civil rights activists such as the NAACP and Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA — have argued that charter schools perpetuate segregation — and thus make provide unequal educational opportunities to poor and minority kids — because few white students attend them. That argument, partly based on the misguided idea that economic and racial desegregation amounts to some form of school reform strategy and driven in part on a romantic belief that earlier civil rights activists fought hard to end desegregation in order to promote a more-harmonious world, is as much a driver of their opposition to choice as their longstanding ties to the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and school districts (especially in urban locales), that aren’t interested in dealing with new competitors for students. The fact that earlier generations of civil rights activists fought for integration because they knew that they could never get equal resources from districts in an age of Jim Crow segregation, along with the lack of data on — and knowledge about — the role of failed traditional education practices in fostering low quality education for poor and minority kids, never comes to their minds. They also fail to admit that traditional district schools are still largely segregated even now thanks to the Zip Code Education practices they essentially defend as part of opposing the expansion of charters and choice. But there are other reasons why the arguments offered by the NAACP and other charter school foes fail the smell test.
  • Video: Are Smaller Schools Better?
    MDRC social scientist Howard Bloom on a study that shows small schools in New York City raise graduation rates and test scores.
  • Jindal’s Education Moon Shot
    Mr. Jindal wants to create America’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime—all in one legislative session. Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly. Louisiana is already one of 12 states (including Washington, D.C.) that offer school vouchers, but its program benefits fewer than 2,000 students in New Orleans. Governor Jindal would extend eligibility to any low-income student whose school gets a C, D or F grade from state administrators. That’s almost 400,000 students—a bit more than half the statewide population—who could escape failing schools for private or virtual schools, career-based programs or institutions of higher education. Funding for these vouchers (“scholarships” is the poll-tested term) would come not from a new fund, as in New Orleans, but from what the state already spends on public education per capita. So every student leaving a failing school would take about $8,500 (on average) with him, hitting the bureaucracy where it hurts. This is called competition, that crucial quality missing where monopolies reign. Governor would create new regional boards for authorizing charters and offer fast-track authorization to high-performing operators such as KIPP. He’d also give charters the same access to public facilities as traditional public schools. As for tenure, Mr. Jindal would grant it only to teachers who are rated “highly effective” five years in a row, meaning the top 10% of performers. And tenure wouldn’t equal lifetime protection: A tenured teacher who rates in the bottom 10% (“ineffective”) in any year would return to probationary status. Ineffective teachers would receive no pay raise. Louisiana would also ban the “last in, first out” practice under which younger teachers are dismissed first, regardless of performance.
  • Malcom Glenn: For Democrats, Embrace of Options Must Extend Beyond Celebratory Week
    With the conclusion of National School Choice Week cannot come leaders on the left who are now fearful in the months and years ahead to say the same things they were saying just days ago. For so many, it’s a calculus based not on ideology but on politics. So common is the private refrain from Democrats that they support private choice, yet public pressure from special interests scares away any such similarly public proclamations. The onus to change that reality lies in two camps. First is among the many in the reform community who place partisanship over hopes of broadening the coalition. Ideological rigidity cannot stand in the way of best options for kids, and an embrace of a pol from the other side far outweighs thousands more children failing to succeed as a result of unfair circumstances. Second, though, is with Democrats who must shed their fear of reproach from campaign coffers and a largely reform-averse establishment. What may hurt one candidate in an upcoming election will lay the groundwork for a new generation of bipartisanship that gives low-income children access to as many options as possible.
  • Choosing A Grand Experience
    Texas: The Grand Prairie school district is turning itself into a model of public school choice. hy is choice so important in every facet of our lives, except when it comes to educating our youth?
    Grand Prairie ISD, located in Dallas County (between Dallas and Fort Worth), recently launched “The GPISD Experience” where students and parents were given an overview of the District’s Schools of Choice programs, which will launch with the 2012-2013 school year. The new GPISD choice program is simple: it allows parents and students to choose what schools to attend.

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