Wednesday, August 18, 2010


from Education news bulletin of LAEdupreneurs

Tue, Aug 17, 2010 9:44 pm

Schools: Turnarounds and Charter Schools:

Cost of Cyber Charter Schools Going Up as Popularity Increases

NATIONAL--In a couple of weeks, some students will be logging on for the first day of classes—instead of walking into school—as cyber schools take in more area students every year. With each passing school year, cyber charter schools are becoming a bigger business across the state and U.S. The result is an increased cost for school districts, which fund a student's enrollment in the schools. The state reimburses a portion of those costs. Tuscarora School District Business Manager Eric Holtzman said each regular education student that enrolls in cyber charter schools costs the district about $6,668 and special education students can cost around $14,000. About 30 percent of the costs for students that attend cyber schools are reimbursed by the state. 
Holtzman said the total cost paid out by Tuscarora for cyber school students during the 2004-2005 school year was $108,000. This year, the cost is expected to be around $475,000, with roughly 60 students enrolled in six schools. (Education Week – subscription required)

Klein Loses On a Charter: Chancellor's Powers Appear Weakened

NEW YORK--Under political pressure, Chancellor Joel Klein has backed off his vow to allow a charter school to expand inside a public school on the Lower East Side, another indication that the chancellor's powers were weakened when the mayoral-control law was renewed last year. Mr. Klein's retreat means that the 125 fifth- and sixth-graders at Girls Prep Middle School won't start classes on Monday in the P.S. 188 building as planned. Instead, teachers have stopped setting up classrooms and the school's staff and board members—among them Wall Street investors—are scrambling to find private space for the girls. (Wall Street Journal – subscription required)

People: Teachers and Leaders :


Aid helps states escape layoffs, but for how long?

NEW YORK — Cash-strapped states from Maine to Hawaii are tearing up the pink slips — for now — relieved that the $26 billion state aid bill passed by Congress this week has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it might be the last time the federal government comes to the rescue. The legislation is a stopgap for long-term budget problems, letting states put off hard choices at a time of record federal deficits. While appetite for such cash infusions is wearing thin, some analysts say the latest package is essential to preserving the fragile economic recovery. (Wall Street Journal – subscription required)

Tools: Academic Systems and Solutions

New Database Aims To Help Schools Stop Dropouts

MICHIGAN--Michigan is introducing a database that pulls together in one place three dropout indicators referred to as the ABCs: attendance, behavior and classwork. About 70% of students who display problems in one of these areas is in danger of dropping out, according to the state department of education. Previously, grades, attendance and behavior problems were tracked, but not in the same place. The goal is to make it easier for schools to identify students at risk of dropping out — and to do it at a younger age, in middle school or even elementary school. (Detroit Free Press)

States Experiment With Out-of-Classroom Learning: Alternative education programs are on the rise, potentially saving tax dollars. But are they good for the students?

OHIO--At the end of this month, most of Ohio's teenagers will shake off their summertime blues, dust off their book bags, and head back to school. But others might be heading to an internship at a local newspaper or hitting the books for independent study. Some might even stay planted in front of the computer screen. That's thanks to the state's new credit flexibility program, which Ohio is launching for the 2010–11 academic year. The plan puts Ohio on the front lines of a transition away from a century-old paradigm of equating classroom time with learning. But while there's a broad consensus that that measure, the Carnegie Unit, is due for replacement, no such unanimity exists about the design and prospects for plans like Ohio's. While most stakeholders agree that it's theoretically preferable to give students the chance to personalize their education, it remains unclear how effective the alternatives are, how best to assess them, and whether today's teachers are equipped to administer them. (Newsweek)

Schools Are Given a Grade on How Graduates Do

NEW YORK--In most school systems, what happens to students like Ms. Croslen after they obtain their diplomas is of little concern. But the New York City Department of Education acknowledges that despite rising graduation rates, many graduates lack basic skills, and it is trying to do something about it. This year, for the first time, it has sent detailed reports to all of its high schools, telling them just how many of their students who arrived at the city's public colleges needed remedial courses, as well as how many stayed enrolled after their first semester. The reports go beyond the basic measure of a school's success — the percentage of students who earn a diploma — to let educators know whether they have been preparing those students for college or simply churning them out. (New York Times – registration required)

Public Policy: Federal, State and Local

In Texas Speech, Obama Renews His Educational Goals for the Nation

NATIONAL--Stressing that "education is an economic issue," President Obama renewed his call for the United States to produce an additional eight million college graduates by 2020. The president's speech emphasized Tennessee's Cleveland State Community College, which has boosted graduation rates after redesigning its remedial math courses. President Obama also highlighted his administration's work on postsecondary education. Cleveland State is part of the Tennessee Developmental Studies Redesign project. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Let's hear those ideas: In America and Britain governments hope that a partnership with "social entrepreneurs" can solve some of society's most intractable problems

NATIONAL--POLICYMAKERS on both sides of the Atlantic are keen on a new approach to alleviating society's troubles. On July 22nd Barack Obama's administration listed the first 11 investments by its new Social Innovation Fund (SIF). About $50m of public money, more than matched by $74m from philanthropic foundations, will be given to some of America's most successful non-profit organisations, in order to expand their work in health care, in creating jobs and in supporting young people. Although the SIF accounts for a tiny fraction of the federal budget, the fund embodies an approach that the administration plans to spread throughout government. The fund is one of several efforts to promote new partnerships of government, private capital, social entrepreneurs and the public, pushed by the White House's Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (OSICP), which Mr Obama created soon after taking office. These initiatives include another fund, i3 (for "investing in innovation"), in the Department of Education and cash prizes for novel answers to social problems. Three days earlier David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, gave a speech in Liverpool outlining his vision of a "Big Society". At its heart, he sees a similar partnership to Mr Obama's. A Big Society Bank will "help finance social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups through intermediaries", which sounds very like the task of the SIF. (The Economist)

NewSchools Ventures in the News

Many Chicago Charter Schools Run Deficits, Data Shows

CHICAGO--Even as the Obama administration promotes charter schools as a way to help raise the academic performance of the nation's students, half of Chicago's charter schools have been running deficits in recent years, an analysis of financial and budget documents shows, calling into question their financial viability. On Monday, Chicago Public Schools released a bare-bones budget that included a cut of about 6 percent in per-pupil financing for charter schools — to $5,771 from $6,117 per pupil for elementary school students and to $7,213 from $7,647 per pupil for high school students. The cuts are a result of shrinking tax revenue and lagging support from the strapped state government. The city's 71 charter schools, which enrolled 33,000 students last year and expect to enroll another 10,000 in the 2010-11 school year, stand to lose $15 million under the cuts. … Charter operators say that there are other measures besides test scores. This year, a handful of the charter high schools called attention to the fact that almost all their students got into colleges.  Around the Calumet campus of Perspectives Charter School on Chicago's South Side are posters and murals with the motto "College For Certain." To reach that goal, Perspectives has college counselors dedicated to taking students on college tours and helping them navigate the journey from poor South Side neighborhood to leafy college campus. In May, the school celebrated its first graduation, with 70 percent of the class having been accepted to at least one college, the school reported. (New York Times – registration required)

Managing education in America

NATIONAL--… Despite nearly doubling per capita spending on education over the past few decades, American 15-year olds fared dismally in standardized math tests given in 2000, placing 18th out of 27 member countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Six years later, the U.S. had slipped to 25th out of 30. If Americans have been fighting against mediocrity in education since 1983, they are losing the battle. What could turn things around? At a recent event that I organized at the Columbia Business School, Klein opened with his harsh assessment of the situation, and researchers offered some stark options for getting American education back on track. We could find drastically better ways of training teachers or improve our hiring practices so we're bringing aboard better teachers in the first place. Barring these improvements, the only option left is firing low-performing teachers—who have traditionally had lifetime tenure—en masse. … There is a glimmer of hope, though, if we can learn to emulate a handful of small-scale school systems that seem to have had success making great teachers, either by picking stars or creating them. … Uncommon Schools is one of these superstar school systems, and one of its directors, John King, is now the head of K-12 education for New York State. Firing 80% of new teachers isn't possible in rural areas in the state and wouldn't play well in the State Legislature in Albany, either. Despite past failures, King remains optimistic: The U.S. government is giving out billions of dollars to fund education innovation through its Race to the Top fund, and methods of teacher preparation at places like Uncommon are being studied with an eye to integrating them into larger school systems. (Slate)

'Finish strong' to rebuild New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS--… The New Orleans area is a wonderful place to live, and the city is, in many ways, thriving. Families are reuniting, neighborhoods are being restored, and there is a shared sense of pride in the region's resilience. In Mayor Mitch Landrieu, we have a leader who is committed to uniting the city and bringing to government the true character of New Orleans' residents: inclusion, hard work and problem solving. An entrepreneurial movement is surging through the city, led by GNO Inc., Tulane University and Idea Village. Thanks to New Schools for New Orleans, there are dozens of highly effective charter schools, like Akili Academy, and because of a revitalized public school board, the chances are much better that children will receive the education that they deserve. (CNN)

Why did Tyler's test scores tank?

(By Bill Turque, Washington Post education reporter) 
WASHINGTON--One of the more promising stories of the Rhee era was Tyler Elementary in Southeast, where reading and math scores on the DC CAS saw double-digit boosts in 2009 under young first-year principal Terry Dade. A graduate of New Leaders for New Schools, a principal training program favored by Rhee, Dade said in an interview in December that he was determined to keep the momentum going at Tyler, building its reputation as an up and coming school in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. He outlined a series of steps to keep scores rising, including a "boot camp" in which every adult in the building would work with small groups of kids. He engaged an outside firm, the Achievement Network, to administer periodic tests that were supposed to determine more precisely than interim DC BAS assessments where students were weak academically. … But Dade was gone before the end of this last school year; he took a job in the Fairfax County school system to be closer to home. And Tyler's test scores cratered. Reading proficiency dropped from 54 percent to 13 percent; math slid from 49 to 19. (Washington Post – registration required)

Getting a handle on teacher attrition

(By Bill Turque, Washington Post education reporter) 
WASHINGTON--As I looked at all the fresh-faced teachers starting their orientation Wednesday at Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC), I had to wonder how many would still be around in two or three years. If the existing data is any guide, the answer is not that many. DCPS says it doesn't have any readily available numbers. But estimates developed by Mary Levy, who just finished a stint as a budget consultant to the D.C. Council, indicate that the school system has a big problem retaining teachers--even bigger than other urban school systems that struggle with attrition. Using DCPS payroll records between 2001 to 2010, Levy found that an average of 76 percent of DCPS teachers leave after five years or less of service. Of the 971 teachers hired in fiscal year 2002, for example, Levy concludes that 724 were gone by 2007. About a quarter of all new hires last a year or less. "To me, this is really alarming," said Levy, who spent years analyzing school budgets for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Teacher attrition is a slippery and much-debated issue, with various studies placing the five-year departure rate at anywhere from 25 to 50 percent. Getting a clear picture is complicated in part by the profession's demographics, which are dominated by young women who leave the profession to start families and then return. Training programs such as Teach For America, which expect their recruits to stay only for two years, are also a factor. (Washington Post – registration required)

How to Close the Achievement Gap: The world's best schools offer important lessons about what works.

NATIONAL--All over the world, your chances of success in school and life depend more on your family circumstances than on any other factor. By age three, kids with professional parents are already a full year ahead of their poorer peers. They know twice as many words and score 40 points higher on IQ tests. By age 10, the gap is three years. By then, some poor children have not mastered basic reading and math skills, and many never will: this is the age at which failure starts to become irreversible. A few school systems seem to have figured out how to erase these gaps. Finland ensures that every child completes basic education and meets a rigorous standard. One Finnish district official, asked about the number of children who don't complete school in her city, replied, "I can tell you their names if you want." In the United States, KIPP charter schools enroll students from the poorest families and ensure that almost every one of them graduates high school—80 percent make it to college. Singapore narrowed its achievement gap among ethnic minorities from 17 percent to 5 percent over 20 years. (Newsweek)

Inconsistencies in Scores for i3's Early Learning Winners

NATIONAL--Of the winners to receive the most money in last week's Investing in Innovation (i3) awards, three promoted "early learning" as one of their priorities. But an analysis of their scores shows that their stated intentions may not line up with what the U.S. Department of Education was looking for. In fact, the scoring itself raises many questions about the reviewers' understanding of how to evaluate an early learning plan.  Our analysis started with two questions: What types of projects did the U.S. Department of Education officials have in mind when they included early learning as a competitive priority for the i3 competition? And, more importantly, did i3 reviewers receive adequate instructions on how to do the scoring -- and if so, did they follow them? The first question is easy to answer, as the requirements were included in the application. According to the i3 application, reviewers were supposed to give one "competitive priority" point to applicants "that would implement innovative practices, strategies, or programs that are designed to improve educational outcomes for high-need students who are young children (birth through 3rd grade) by enhancing the quality of early learning programs."  … Yet highest-rated applicant – Success for All – discussed only what it is currently doing, not what it would plan to do with i3 funds in the area of early learning. KIPP discussed a somewhat early-learning focused project, but did not address all three of the focus areas. Actually, the only one that talked about future efforts and addressed all three areas was Teach for America. Early Ed Watch reviewed the competitive priority section of each proposal, and here are the scores we would give. (New America Foundation Blog)

CPS board, teacher union impasse must end

CINCINNATI--A coalition of community leaders hopes to use tonight's Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education meeting to encourage the board and the district's teachers union to resolve their differences on a new, three-year labor contract. We support that effort by the Strive Partnership, and urge concerned parents and taxpayers to show up and demand an end to the impasse in negotiations. In particular, they should ask the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers to take a more enlightened approach to teacher accountability - an approach that the previous contract does not sufficiently foster. With a new school year to begin Aug. 18 and no agreement to replace a contract that expired at the beginning of the year, the situation has gone from being merely urgent to flat-out ridiculous. Strive, which represents a range of civic and social groups seeking to help improve educational quality, has expressed concern for some time over the progress - or lack thereof - in contract talks. Last fall, CFT and CPS seemed to be on the same page. Both supported a survey by the New Teacher Project to advance teacher reforms. In an Enquirer guest column, CFT President Julie Sellers called for teachers and the administration to "shed old assumptions" and forge a "radical" new contract. In her column, Superintendent Mary Ronan called it a "tremendous opportunity ... to develop creative strategies." (Cincinnati Enquirer)


Gaps Are Not Inevitable

NATIONAL--Two new Education Trust reports try to hammer home the idea that big gaps in the academic performance in college of minority and white students are not an inevitability. The organization does so by using its College Results Online database to compare the graduation rates of black and Latino students with their white peers at individual institutions, showing widely varying outcomes at colleges and universities with comparably prepared and composed student bodies. (Inside Higher Ed)
Read the report Big Gaps, Small Gaps at

GMU, Towson among 11 schools with no race 'gap' in graduation rate

WASHINGTON--George Mason University and Towson University are among 11 institutions nationwide with little or no disparity in graduation rates between black and Hispanic students and white students, a study has found. Two reports released this week by the nonprofit Education Trust identify several other colleges in the Washington region -- including American University and the University of Maryland Baltimore County -- where black or Hispanic students are as likely to graduate as whites. George Mason and Towson join a more select group, with no graduation "gap" for either minority group. The analysis illustrates that entrenched racial achievement gaps in college completion are not inevitable and that some colleges have managed to overcome them. Nationally, graduation rates run 15 to 20 points lower for black and Hispanic students than for white students. But at Towson, they are nearly identical: The school's graduation rate stands at 67 percent for both white and black students and at 70 percent for Hispanics. (Washington Post – registration required)

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