Education News October 27th - November 7th

Education Priorities Outlined by Republican Leaders in Congress (Education Week, November 7, 2014) Congressional Republicans have laid out an aggressive education policy agenda which includes overhauling No Child Left Behind and the Higher Education Act as well as prioritizing school choice measures and funding issues. Rep. John Kline is at the head of the House Education and Workforce Committee and has presented two similar proposals to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law. Under both proposals, states would still test students, but they wouldn’t have to set standards for achievement or intervene in schools that aren’t making progress with particular subgroups of students. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is part of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is focused on a bill that would significantly scale back the federal role in K-12 policy and allow states to create their own accountability plans.

Mayor De Blasio Announces New Plan for Struggling NYC Schools (The New York Times, November 3, 2014) NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a new approach to improving the city’s most troubled public schools. The program has designated 94 of the most troubled NYC public schools as Renewal Schools and determined that students at those schools will receive an hour more of instructional time a day, the teachers will be given professional training, and the schools will also be encouraged to provide summer school. The schools will also be given additional resources, including $150 million, which will be spread over two years. The hope is to also turn these schools into Community Schools, which offer mental health services and food for students who need them, in an effort to address the challenges that students may face outside of the classroom.

Teachers Unions Lose Millions in Midterm Election (The Washington Post, November 5, 2014) The nation’s major teachers unions lost up to $60 million in the recent midterm elections in federal, state, and local races. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which spent $20 million on midterm races, blamed their defeat on the GOP’s ability to nationalize many states races saying, “The Republicans successfully made it a referendum on the President.” The union also lost ground with some Democrats who embrace policies that the unions oppose, such as expansion of public charter schools, and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. 

Education News October 6th - 17th

Education News October 6th – 17th

New Teacher Training Model Incorporates Practice (The New York Times, October 10, 2014) A new teacher residency program run by Aspire Public Schools, a charter system with schools in California and Memphis, is pairing prospective teachers with mentors for yearlong apprenticeships. The idea is that teachers, like doctors in residency programs, should practice repeatedly with experienced mentors.  The mentors believe that the most important thing that novice teachers need to master is managing a classroom full of children and once this is achieved, teachers can focus more on student learning. The new programs that are emerging across the country differ greatly from traditional teacher training, which usually favors theory over practice.

Popularity Rises for Year-Round Schooling (Education Weekly, October 7, 2014) Stiles Simmons, the superintendent of a two school district in Michigan, recently shifted to a year-round schedule, with shorter breaks over the course of the year, rather than a long summer break. Mr. Simmons made the switch after he realized summer break was hurting mostly low-income students, who were losing significant amounts of knowledge, particularly in math, and falling further and further behind. According to the latest data from the National Center for EducationStatistics, the number of public year-round schools has increased by 26% over the past few years and continues to grow in popularity. David Hornak, a school principal and advocate of year-round schooling says “I think we’re ripe in America to consider doing something a little bit different. We’ve been working on a model that was established 100 years ago. It’s time for all of us in the United States to look at how and why we’re educating kids, and look at alternatives.”

Schools Respond to Threat of Ebola (The Huffington Post, October 16, 2014) Officials in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools say they are asking every student with a fever about recent travel to Ebola-affected countries and students who have been in those countries, will get additional Health Department screening. Any new students to the district will be given a questionnaire about travel history. John Torre, a school district spokesman said “The point is, while we’re not anticipating any Ebola cases, we believe this does provide an added layer of protection.” The New York City Department of Health issued similar Ebola guidance for schools and advises that any student with a fever who has recently traveled to an area affected by Ebola should immediately visit the school nurse. In Atlanta, two students who had recently been in Liberia were prevented from enrolling in school until they provide proof that they are “free from Ebola.” 

Education News September 15th - 26th

Education News September 15th – 26th

Rising Graduation Rates Questioned in Texas (The New York Times, September 25, 2014) The percentage of Texas students earning their high school diplomas has dramatically increased in recent years. In August, the Texas Education Agency reported that 88 percent of public school students earned their diploma within four years and many districts reported their fourth or fifth straight year of rising graduation rates. However, students’ college and career readiness has not seen the same success, which has sparked questions about what it takes to earn a high school diploma. Mike Morath, a trustee of the Dallas Independent School District, stated “I’ve encountered too many of our students who are functionally illiterate. If your standard for graduation is the standard needed for success in college after graduation, then the graduation rates should be nowhere near where they are. They should be much lower.”

Mathematics Experts Question Computer-based Testing Platforms (Education Week, September 23, 2014) As new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards are being developed, some mathematics experts have shown concern that the computer-based testing platform being used will limit students’ ability to apply their knowledge to open-ended math performance tasks. The new assessments will include complex, multipart word problems and some of the questions will ask students to write their answers in narrative form, using a keyboard. Experts argue that having students write solutions out does not align with the expectations of the common core math standards, which ask students to model mathematics using diagrams, graphs, and flowcharts.

Bill Clinton Discusses Charter Schools (The Huffington Post, September 24, 2014) Former President Bill Clinton recently addressed a group of 100 international philanthropists and businesspeople regarding the review system for charter schools in America. The original bargain of charter schools said that if a charter school was not outperforming the public model, they would not get their charter renewed. President Clinton argued that many states have not established adequate review systems for charter schools and are therefore not upholding the bargain. Even supporters have argued that many charter schools are not sufficiently regulated, and many studies have shown that they are rarely closed for low academic performance.


Education News August 25th – September 5th

45 Pre-K Programs Cancelled or Postponed (The New York Times, September 2, 2014) New York City officials announced that nine private programs that were to offer free, city-financed prekindergarten this year will not open because of safety concerns and 36 programs will not be ready for the first day of school. Offering free, full day prekindergarten was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature campaign proposal and a lot is riding on the success of the program. Over 50,000 children have been signed up for the programs and the city plans to add 20,000 more seats next year. The 45 cancelled or postponed programs make up only a small percentage of the roughly 1,100 sites that are scheduled to open.

Parents and Students Boycott One Newark Plan (The Huffington Post, September 4, 2014) In Newark, New Jersey, a new system is in place that gives students the option of attending a school other than the one in their local neighborhood and has also expanded charter schools in the district. The plan, called One Newark, is currently being investigated by the US Department of Education after claims that it has a negative impact on minority students. Protests and petitions have been ongoing since the reorganization was announced and a group of parents and students boycotted the first day of school on Thursday, September 4th.

2014-2015 Academic Year Brings Common Core Testing (Education Week, September 3, 2014) During the 2014-2015 academic year, nearly every state must have assessments in place to reflect the Common Core State Standards or other “college and career ready” standards. There are still questions about how well the tests will measure the standards and drops in proficiency are expected if the new tests are tougher than previous ones. There are some inconsistencies, as some states have moved to choose new tests after deciding against shared assessments or reversing their Common Core adoptions. A national uneasiness has also formed, due to the time and money that are spent on standardized testing and the decisions based on it.