• Innovative Schools Shift Seat-Centered Academics
    While some education reformers focus on performance-based incentives and curriculum changes, others try shifting the very structure of traditional schooling. Students traditionally attend school September to June, five days a week, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a occasional holidays and reduced days. Between homeschool co-ops, online learning, hybrids of different instruction types, and boarding schools, “time-oriented” education takes many alternate forms. Some reduce lesson time, while some expand it.
  • Pricetag to keep Gates work afloat at Memphis City Schools: $46 million
    The work to improve teacher effectiveness that Memphis City Schools is doing with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will cost $46 million a year to sustain when the Gates money dries up in 2014-15. Part of the district’s pitch to Gates was that it intended to pay its highest-performing teachers annual salaries of $90,000 to $100,000 a year, hoping to attract the most talented minds to education and keep them in Memphis City classrooms. Even entry-level teachers were to get about an 8 percent bump over current starting pay. All pay changes are scheduled to start next year. Hamer says the pay changes either won’t start next year or they won’t be as generous if the district can’t come up with other ways to make up efficiencies. The district also stands to lose $78 million a year that the city has traditionally funded. It is not clear if the county will make up the difference once the merger of city and county schools is complete.
  • Huffman no ruling on school funding
    While local officials say they feel like they’re making progress convincing state education officials to make some changes in school funding, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman remained noncommittal Monday. After pushing for more than four years for a change to the school funding model used by the state, local officials were optimistic that this could be the one when something actually changes.
  • House Approves First Education Reform Legislation
    The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the Education and the Workforce Committee’s first piece of education reform legislation. Introduced by Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 2218) passed with strong bipartisan support in a vote of 365 to 54.
  • We need more charter schools
    Catalyzing change in education is especially difficult because of entrenched bureaucracies and the K-12 state monopoly. There is opportunity to use competition to effect change via charter schools. In states like Arizona, Colorado, and Indiana, charter schools are given great leeway in how they operate. Schools should embrace more tension in the system through paying for performance, employing data systems that track how much a child learns from a teacher, measuring teacher quality, giving local administrators the ability to manage staff and finances, and comparing results to the best education systems in the world. There is also room for innovation, such as distance learning, one-on-one computing in the classroom, and software tools. Good tools help make education more interesting and exciting, but ultimately quality of education comes down to quality of the teacher. Without good teachers and high expectations, we will continue to languish behind other OECD countries.
  • Few states examine test erasures
    A survey by USA TODAY of state education agencies found that 20 states and Washington, D.C., did erasure analysis on all pencil-and-paper tests required during the 2010-11 school year under the federal No Child Left Behind education law. That means nearly 45% of the annual reading and math exams this year were scored without analyzing erasures. Some states that don’t do erasure analysis say they don’t have a cheating problem. Others say the cost is a burden. Four states that do not examine erasures give their tests online.
  • Learning To Ask The Right Question
    A new book being published later this month by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana suggests a way. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions proposes a six-step process for teaching students to formulate their own questions and take ownership of their learning. The approach involves six steps. Step 1:
  • Jobs Bill Only Makes Political Sense
    One look at the facts about American education, and his proposal only makes sense if the goals are to energize union support, and perhaps use spending as some easy shorthand to tell voters that the President cares about kids. The basic reality is that over the last several decades governments at all levels have conducted ever-bigger education money bombings with no positive academic impact. According to the Digest of Education Statistics, real per-pupil expenditures rose from $5,671 in 1970-71 to $12,922 in 2007-08 (the latest year with available data). On the federal level, between 1970 and 2010 per-pupil spending rose an astonishing 375 percent. Meanwhile, National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for 17-year-olds – essentially, our schools’ “final products” – were almost completely flat. More money did not buy better results. There is simply no way to look at the data and believe that $30 billion for school staffing will improve education. So it must only be about jobs, and ineffectual jobs at that. That “ineffectual” part is the economic key.
  • Shelby County Commission appoints 7 to unified school board
    None of the seven appointees has served in elected office. Four of them either currently have or soon will have children in public schools, and another (Woods) has children in a private school. On Oct. 1, those seven people appointed to the seats will join the current nine MCS board members and current seven Shelby County Schools board members to create a jumbo 23-member unified county schools board. That board will stay for the duration of the transition, although the seven new seats will be subject to election in August 2012. The SCS and MCS board seats are frozen and go out of existence after the merger takes place in time for the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
  • Teachers Are Evaluated by New Formulas
    ut now, prodded by President Barack Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, at least 26 states have agreed to judge teachers based, in part, on results from their students’ performance on standardized tests. The metric created by Value-Added Research Center, a nonprofit housed at the University of Wisconsin’s education department, is a new kind of report card that attempts to gauge how much of students’ growth on tests is attributable to the teacher. In general, the models use a student’s score on, say, a fourth-grade math test to predict how she or he would perform on the fifth-grade test. Some groups, such as VARC, adjust those raw test scores to control for students’ outside factors, such as income or race. The actual fifth-grade score is then compared with the expected score, which then translates into the measure of the teacher’s added value. The teacher’s overall effectiveness with every student in the classroom is boiled down to one number to rate them from least effective to most effective. For states and school districts, deciding which vendor to use is critical. The metrics differ in substantial ways and those distinctions can have a significant influence on whether a teacher is rated superior or subpar. At Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, principal Gregory Hodge uses the value-added results to alter instruction, move teachers to new classroom assignments and pair weak students with the highest performing teachers. Mr. Hodge said the data for teachers generally aligns with his classroom observations. “It’s confirming what an experienced principal knows,” he said.
  • TEACH/Here prepares for new recruiting season
    Continuing their efforts to place young, committed and aspiring teachers in classrooms across Hamilton County, TEACH/Here will begin hosting informational sessions for interested applicants of next year’s cohort on Monday night. TEACH/Here, a two-year old program is designed to give new teachers all the tools and experience they need before stepping into classrooms for the first time.

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