• Disagreement Runs Deep Over School Vouchers
    State Rep. Bill Dunn‘s HB388, which would provide scholarships and school choice for low-income students in the state’s four largest counties, was the focus of considerable discussion in the House Education Subcommittee.Dunn’s bill, called the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act, would give low-income students vouchers — or scholarships as they are called — to attend another school in their district. The opportunity would apply only in the state’s four largest counties — Davidson, Shelby, Knox and Hamilton. “One reason is I am tired of watching as poor children across our state are continually denied high-quality education because of the behemoth administrative bureaucracy that does more to perpetuate the system than to educate children,” Whalum told the subcommittee. “I assure you the parents I represent would jump at the chance to allow the kids to just have a chance, just have an opportunity at a quality education.”
  • NCES Releases Report on Student Victimization in U.S. Schools
    In the 2008–09 school year, about 3.9 percent of students ages 12 through 18 reported that they were victims of a crime at school according to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics. Data are collected on student criminal victimization through its sponsorship of the School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, administered by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. The survey collects student reports of the presence of gangs and weapons and the availability of drugs and alcohol at school, traditional and electronic bullying, and fear and avoidance behaviors of crime victims and nonvictims at school. Other findings include:
    • About 2.8 percent of students ages 12 through 18 reported being victims of theft, 1.4 percent of students reported a violent victimization, and 0.3 percent of students reported a serious violent victimization.
    • A larger percentage of males were victims of any crime at school (4.6 percent) than were females (3.2 percent).
    • Higher percentages of students who reported any criminal victimization at school reported they were also the targets of traditional (63.5 percent) and electronic (19.8 percent) bullying than were student nonvictims (26.6 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively).
    • The percentage of student victims of violent crimes who reported being afraid of attack or harm at school (22.7 percent) was higher than that of student nonvictims of violent crime (3.9 percent).
  • Education report card: Flat reading scores are ‘deeply disappointing’
    The NAEP scores also highlight achievement gaps for minority and low-income students, which have been slow to narrow. There was no change in the black-white achievement gap in either reading or math between 2009 and 2011, although there was a small improvement in the Hispanic-white gap for both eighth-grade reading (where the 22-point gap was two points smaller than in 2009) and eighth-grade math (where the gap narrowed three points, to 23).
  • Educator not always voucher advocate
    School voucher advocate Michelle Rhee says she doesn’t buy claims that using tax money to send children to private schools will worsen the experience for students who remain in low-performing schools. Rhee once opposed vouchers but changed her stance she became chancellor of the Washington public school system in 2007.
  • Study: Public school teachers aren’t underpaid
    Despite Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s consistent calls for increased teacher salaries, a new study says that most public school teachers aren’t actually being underpaid. The new research from The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute suggests a majority of public school teachers are making more than they likely would in the private sector.
  • Review the Charter Research, Don’t Pick the Outlier
    Julian Betts and Emily Tang at the University of California at San Diego have a new systematic review of the research on charter schools.  They look at more than 30 studies that meet minimal criteria for research quality.  They find that charters have statistically significant positive effects on math and reading achievement in elementary grades and on math in middle school.  There are no significant effects for reading in middle school or for high school student achievement.  The size of the effects are modest, ranging between 2% and 6% of a standard deviation. It’s important to step back and review an entire literature, rather than focus on a single study.
  • Make Sure Not to Be Born in Michigan when Poor and Black
    If you want to learn how to read anyway, you need to stay away from Michigan, that is to say Detroit, if you are concerned about being born a poor Black child in the next life. The 2011 NAEP says to stay away from Iowa, Maine and DC for good measure. On the other end of the scale: MA, NJ, DE, MD and FL are looking relatively good. Low-income Black children in Massachusetts reads a mere 2.5 grade levels ahead of their peers in Michigan on a 4th grade test.
  • The 2011 NAEP Guide Where Not to be Reincarnated as a Poor Child
    The chart on the right presents scores for Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible students on the 2011 NAEP 4th grade reading test. Memo to self: remember not to come back as a poor kid in Alaska or DC in the next life. Ten points roughly equals a grade level worth of progress. Low-income kids in Alaska and DC are reading almost as poorly as 1st graders in Massachusetts, which is to say, not much all.
    Florida hit a wall in terms of improvement (more on that later), DC saw nice math gains but not much progress in reading, Arizona finally started to move the needle a bit, and it is not entirely isolated to Hispanic children. The 2009-2011 scores are pretty “meh” so far, and this biggest story I am finding is something big and positive going on with Maryland’s reading scores: 8 point gain for FRL kids between 2009 and 2011, and a nothing to sneeze at five point gain among middle and high income students.
  • New NAEP, Same Results: Math Up, Reading Mostly Flat
    Overall, achieving proficiency in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as “the nation’s report card,” remains an elusive goal for the majority of American students. Only about one-third reached that level or higher in reading and 8th grade math, the 2011 data show. At grade 4 math, meanwhile, the figure was slightly higher, at 40 percent.
  • Study: Public School Teachers ‘Highly’ Overpaid
    Public school teachers make one-and-a-half times the salary and benefits of comparable professionals, a discrepancy that amounts to “overcharging” U.S. taxpayers $120 billion each year, according to a new study.
  • Developing the best teachers
    Options to ease the projected shortfall include revamping teacher salaries: paying for test results instead of degrees or years of service. Reducing the number of nonteaching staff also is being discussed. As discussions about how to merge the two systems continue toward the 2013 deadline, getting the best teachers into the classroom and compensating them accordingly should be on the agenda.
  • Tennessee Schools In Bottom 10 For Reading, Math
    A new report shows Tennessee schools are losing some ground among other states. According to 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Tennessee dropped one to seven places in the national ranking, putting the state in the bottom ten for reading and math among fourth and eighth grade levels.
  • Fight builds over school vouchers
    Critics of a bill that would mandate school voucher programs in Tennessee’s four largest public school systems charged Tuesday that the proposal amounts to a government-funded “bailout” for private schools. “Private doesn’t equate with exclusive,” McDonald said. To make her point, she outlined a 13-year-old privately funded scholarship program for Catholic schools in Memphis which allowed the diocese to reopen eight schools to serve poor inner-city Memphis. “I’m tired … of watching poor children across our state being continually denied a quality education because behemoth administrative bureaucracies that do more to perpetuate” failure, he told the committee.
  • Ignoring Red Herrings
    We have developed a system that pays little attention to students and their achievement but that supports any adult who has found a job in schools.  This policy does not look good by historical evidence on student outcomes.  But it is common to defend this basic lack of management by throwing in red herrings whenever any policy change is suggested. Policy by red herring seldom leads to good policy. It certainly does not when considering teacher policy.
  • Zip Code Shouldn’t Equal Destiny
    In short, we must end zip code education, both in communities and throughout states.
  • Voucher backers: Tennessee education reforms fall short
    On Tuesday, the House Education Committee held hearings on the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act proposed by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville. The bill is opposed by Davidson and Shelby counties’ school boards, the state teachers union and some private schools. Metro Nashville Schools Director Jesse Register said Dunn’s bill sends a message that lawmakers aren’t confident in their own education reforms. Instead, they should give new teacher evaluations, more charter schools, and teacher incentive pay in low-performing schools a chance to work, he said.
  • Math Scores Continue to Improve
    Elementary-school students notched the highest scores ever on national math exams this year, continuing a 20-year trend of improvement, but reading scores remained lackluster, according to data released Tuesday. Results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that eighth-graders’ reading scores rose slightly from 2009 but fourth-grade scores didn’t budge. Schoolchildren have shown minimal progress in reading since the current exam, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, was first given in 1992. One-third of students posted scores high enough this year to be considered “proficient” or higher in reading. About 40% did so in math, the data showed. The federal government administered the biennial math and reading exams, commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card, between January and March to a representative sample of public- and private-school students. About 422,000 fourth-graders and 343,000 eighth-graders sat for the tests. U.S. fourth-graders scored 241 points out of 500 on the math exam, one point higher than in 2009 and 28 points higher than 1990. Eighth-graders scored 284 points, one point more than in 2009 and 21 points more than 1990, the first time the current math test was given. By contrast, fourth-grade reading has been stuck at 221 since 2007 and has jumped only four points since 1992, the first year the current reading exam was administered. The eighth-grade score was 265, one point higher than in 2009 and five points higher than 1992. For both grade levels and on both exams, the average score equated to a “basic” level of achievement. The average fourth-grader, for example, could perform simple computation with whole numbers but might not understand fractions and decimals. The average eighth-grader could identify themes in text, but might not be able to identify character’s motivations. The scores also revealed continued and wide gaps between the performance of white and Asian students and their African-American and Hispanic counterparts. Those gaps persist at every grade level on every exam.
  • Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers
    AEI: We conclude that public-school teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year. Teacher compensation could therefore be reduced with only minor effects on recruitment and retention. Alternatively, teachers who are more effective at raising student achievement might be hired at comparable cost.
  • TN House committee discusses school voucher options
    A plan to change education in Tennessee has lawmakers taking sides. At issue are vouchers, school choice and what the state should do to better improve student performance. Lawmakers seem really split on the issue of school vouchers and whether they might possibly improve performance by expanding parents’ options.

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