• ‘Unions’ empower parents to push for reform
    School parent groups are no longer just about holding the next bake-sale fundraiser. They’re about education reform. “Parents have a different incentive structure than anyone else,” said Ben Austin, Parent Revolution’s executive director. “They’re the only ones who really care about kids.” It’s a compelling argument for many parents.
  • Video: Do Education Schools Fail Teachers?
    This panel for Higher Education Today discusses failures and bright spots of teaching education. A broad body of research has demonstrated that traditional teaching requirements like licensing, certification, education majors, and education graduate work does not notably increase teaching quality. This casts grave doubt on the practice of nearly all states and schools to require some form of teaching education for practicing teachers. Furthermore, research has begun also to demonstrate that schools of education badly inflate grades and provide weak courses of instruction. What, then, should lawmakers, school boards, administrators, and potential teachers do to ensure teaching quality?
  • Flexibility on Tutoring Pleases Districts, Worries Industry
    The U.S. Department of Education’s plan to grant states broad flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act will free up as much as $800 million in money school districts now must set aside for tutoring students, but may mark a significant financial blow to an education industry that has grown up around serving low-performing schools. Somewhere in the middle of this policy debate, an estimated 600,000 students nationwide, at least this school year, are taking advantage of free tutoring from providers of their choice because they go to schools that have failed to hit their academic goals under the law for at least two years in a row. As states seeking waivers from provisions of the NCLB law work to design their own accountability systems, they will be free to craft interventions for 15 percent of their lowest-performing schools—leaving the role of tutoring as a big question mark.
  • 4 Memphis city schools could join new Achievement School District
    Frayser will likely become part of the new state Achievement School District, an experiment in Tennessee to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools. Of the five schools set for the new achievement district, four are in Memphis: Frayser, Hamilton and Northside high schools and Raleigh-Egypt Middle. The fifth is Howard School of Academic Technology in Chattanooga. Under a waiver the state Department of Education is writing, the achievement district could grow almost immediately to 85 schools — 5 percent of the roughly 1,700 public schools in the state. The schools in the district would be overseen by their own superintendent and can be converted to charter schools, taken over by the state or managed by a combination of state and local control. Except in the case of joint control, the students and the tax dollars that support them would belong to the achievement district.
  • Child advocacy ‘personal’ for Stand for Children director Kenya Bradshaw
    Stand For Children’s donor-based state budget has grown from $325,000 in 2009 to $1.2 million today, a reflection of the work it sees in Tennessee, where much of the boldest work in school reform is unfolding.According to Winters, the two will be on the same side this coming session fighting against school vouchers, which allows students to take public school funding to private schools. Bradshaw said Stand has yet to take a position on vouchers.
  • Metro ID cards will let parents track students’ behavior
    Metro Nashville schools are…moving to student ID cards with bar codes for the lunch line and library and a magnetized strip on the back to swipe for city bus fare. Officials say the new ID cards will make hallways safer by creating an easy way to identify students who don’t belong. The system also will let parents log online to learn what foods their children buy at lunch and allow city officials to see how students use city buses.
    Hurricane Katrina wiped out resistance from politicians and unions and improbably made the Big Easy a national laboratory of educational reform. Four out of five kids in New Orleans attend independent public charters. The schools under Mr. White’s supervision are open to all students no matter where they live. “In other cities, charter schools exist in spite of the system,” Mr. White says. “Here charter schools are the system.” The results are encouraging. Five years ago, 23% of children scored at or above “basic” on state tests; now 48% do. Before Katrina, 62% attended failing schools; less than a fifth do today. The gap between city kids and the rest of the state is narrowing. But New Orleans schools still have a ways to go. A state report this week based on scores, graduation rates and attendance records said the majority of the city’s schools merited a D grade or worse. Enter Mr. White, a sort of reform superintendent 2.0., to try to take New Orleans to the next level. Predecessors Paul Vallas and Paul Pastorek shook up the schools, in the way the charismatic Michelle Rhee did in Washington, D.C. Mr. White spent five years working for another trailblazer, Joel Klein in New York. As deputy superintendent, Mr. White weeded out bad schools and nurtured the charter school zone in Harlem. His task here is to hold and build on the gains so far. By 2013, New Orleans plans to have the country’s first “all charter” school system. For generations, money was thrown at urban school systems; regulations were strengthened; school boards were empowered. Unions won tenure and other great benefits for their teachers. All of these efforts came from the top down. None improved outcomes for minority students.


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