• FreedomWorks Launches Campaign to Pass Governor Jindal’s Education Reform Package in Louisiana
    FreedomWorks and its network of 15,000 volunteer activists in the state of Louisiana launched a grassroots campaign this week to support Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform package.
  • The Birth of a Mexican Education Reform Movement?
    Compounding the problem is that a majority of Mexicans don’t realize or appreciate the severity of their country’s educational crisis. According to the director of the film, Mexicans think highly of their school system and believe that their children are getting a quality education. What’s behind the poor state of the Mexican public school system?
  • Charting the K-12 Productivity Implosion
    The vast expansion of the teaching workforce is entirely overshadowed however by the truly mind-boggling expansion of the non-teacher workforce. Take special note of the ratios of teachers to non-teachers:
  • ABCTE Teachers Outgain the Competition
    An analysis of Florida test score data from Georgia State Economist Tim R. Sass provides encouraging news for supporters of alternative teacher certification. Sass performs an analysis of student learning gains by certification route, and finds that alternatively certified teachers have similar academic gains to traditionally certified teachers. This is similar to the findings previous certification studies. Sass however found better than average results for ABCTE:
  • Wisconsin Assembly Approves Special Needs Vouchers
    Wisconsin’s State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 110, which would allow disabled students to take up to $13,376 in state funding to a public out-of district, private, or charter school. Because Assembly Democrats used a blocking procedure, the proposal must receive another vote before going to the state Senate.
  • Obama, GOP governors share many views on education
    A funny thing is happening between President Barack Obama and many Republican governors when it comes to improving America’s schools: They are mostly getting along. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, another Republican, introduced Obama in September at the White House before the president announced that states could be freed from stringent rules under the No Child Left Behind law if they met certain conditions. “In today’s political world, where you can’t get Republicans and Democrats to agree on anything hardly in Washington, I think that’s one area where you have a lot of Republican governors that would say we don’t agree with everything the president wants to do on education, but there are a lot of things we do,” Haslam said in a phone interview. Not all Republican governors are pleased with Obama’s education policies. Some, like many Republicans in Congress, view Obama’s efforts on education as federal overreach. Former GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for example, refused to have his state compete in the Race to the Top competition, saying it “smacks of a federal takeover of public schools.” After the president’s speech to governors, in which Obama urged them to invest more state resources in education, South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley told reporters the meeting was “interesting and somewhat frustrating.” “My takeaway was here was a president who was saying we could be doing more on education, and here is a president that said give more money to education, but this is also a president that is not untying any of the strings that come with the federal mandates,” Haley said.
  • Can Parents Take Over Schools?
    If your child’s school is lousy, would you want the option to band together with other parents and take it over? That’s the idea behind “parent trigger” legislation that enables parents in low-performing schools to vote to change the governance of their children’s school — and remove teachers and the principal if they want to. But so far parents have yet to make a trigger vote stick. Parent Revolution is trying to change the way districts make education policy decisions, i.e., by school officials making deals with union leaders to the exclusion of parents. Trigger legislation is exposing the hypocrisy of the teachers’ unions, which fight furiously in Washington for legislation that would allow teachers at a particular school to vote to unionize using secret ballots and a 51% majority while vehemently opposing the same kind of empowerment for parents. And it shows that much of their rhetoric about empowering low-income parents is a sham. The Fordham Institute who is more bullish on parental empowerment than most in the education world, has suggested that a supermajority or two-thirds benchmark makes more sense as a way to ensure there is a core consensus at a school.
  • What Teacher Preparation Programs Teach About K-12 Assessment
    The assessment knowledge that most initial certification programs see as necessary for teacher candidates and the assessment knowledge that district and state personnel see as necessary for teachers are simply not the same. In too many programs, what assessment coursework is required centers only on the classroom, preparing teacher candidates to develop and use assessment data to improve their students’ performance in an insular environment. Important as this type of preparation may be, it short-changes teacher candidates because it does not simulate the environment in which they will work. Those candidates who are hired from programs with this highly circumscribed introduction to the three assessment domains will probably find themselves confronting data presentations that use terms and concepts to which they have never been exposed, some as early as their very first faculty meeting. Today’s schools demand teachers who can comfortably understand and utilize – both individually and collaboratively – a full range of classroom and standardized data, whether it relates to their own students or all students in their school. Preparing them for anything less is unfair to teacher candidates as well as to the many students they plan to teach.
  • Public will be able to see Tennessee teachers’ ratings
    The job review scores of thousands of Tennessee teachers will be made available to the public, starting this summer. Requests for the data in Tennessee will have to be filed through the state Department of Education. “As is our current procedure, we will assess each open-records request that we receive,” said Kelli Gauthier, department spokeswoman. “The analysis we do will be with our lawyers to determine what the law requires us to provide.” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says schools must share the teacher-effectiveness information. Tennessee is collecting this data for the first time this year. By the midway point in the year, Memphis City Schools’ principals were so far behind in observing teachers, the union threatened to file complaints and potentially have all the data thrown out.
  • Knox school board denies proposed charter school location
    If officials with the Knoxville Charter Academy are unable to find another location for their proposed school by April 1, they may find themselves starting from scratch. At its Wednesday meeting, the Knox County school board denied the charter school’s location at 205 Bridgewater Road, a vacant church property in West Knoxville. “I just have a lot of reservations about putting another school in West Knoxville” said board member Kim Sepesi, who represents the 7th District.
  • Schools shouldn’t fine tardy students or their parents
    Fining families is a dreadfully draconian solution. I know that local jurisdictions are trying their best to hold parents accountable, but this is overreach. Besides, is there a real cause-and-effect relationship here? Does being late to school a lot mean that a kid is going to flunk out or become a social deviant? If not, then why impose such an unreasonable monetary penalty for a non-criminal offense? Levying fines doesn’t guarantee that systems will get the results they want. In the case of the $250 tickets in Los Angeles, it had the opposite outcome. Children stayed home or became more hostile toward the school system.
  • Who won millions in Walton Foundation grants in 2011
    Here is a breakdown on how the foundation spent money on education-related initiatives in 2011, and, after that, a list of all 2011 grantees.
  • Teacher Evaluations Pose Test for States
    Efforts to revamp public education are increasingly focused on evaluating teachers using student test scores, but school districts nationwide are only beginning to deal with the practical challenges of implementing those changes. Only an estimated 30% of classroom teachers in the U.S. work in grades or subjects covered by state standardized tests. Currently, most states test students only in math and reading in third through eighth grades and once in high school, as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Few states test students in other core subjects, such as science and social studies, and for many other subjects there is no testing at all. Tennessee rolled out a system this year that ties most teacher evaluations, even those in subjects like music and gym, to schoolwide math and reading scores. In Memphis, the system is being refined, with music, drama and dance teachers creating their own “portfolios” to prove students have progressed under their tutelage.”No system is perfect,” said Kevin Huffman, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, “but the question is whether the one we have now is better and more fair than the previous one. And the answer is, indisputably, yes.” Memphis music teacher Jeff Chipman is part of a small group of teachers piloting the new assessment based on student portfolios, and he acknowledges the district’s challenges. “We are about teaching kids to perform and experience art, and that cannot be measured with a pencil-and-paper test,” he said. “We want to be evaluated on how we help kids grow, but we don’t want to turn the arts program into a testing machine.”

  • Clients Not Conscripts
    Oregon: It’s a cliché, but still true: incentives always matter. Under HB 3681, students are now customers, and school districts have to satisfy them. All students will be better off next year as a result.
  • Oregon’s Open Enrollment Law Puts Parents and Children First
    [Hooray for Oregon!]The 2012-2013 school year will be the first year that the new statewide open enrollment law takes effect. The new law (HB 3681) allows Oregon parents to enroll their kids in any Oregon public school district, as long as the receiving district is accepting transfers. This will stop local districts from holding students captive to their local school, as currently often happens throughout the state.

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