LAEP NewsBlast Week of 1.22.14

Resolution, of sorts, in Little Rock

A federal judge has given final approval to a legal settlement that allows Arkansas to phase out payments of millions of dollars to three districts for desegregation efforts, ending a court battle lasting three decades, reports Campbell Robertson in The New York Times. The case resonated in a city where President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect nine black students trying to attend Central High School in September 1957. The case can be traced to that time, though its lineage is complicated by different lawsuits, expanding groups of plaintiffs and defendants, and changes in remedies sought. In some form or other, Little Rock has undergone federal desegregation litigation for nearly 60 years. The major parties involved — Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski County districts; the state; and a group representing black students and parents in the districts — had already agreed on the terms of the settlement, a consensus that’s been elusive since the lawsuit was filed in 1982. Under the settlement, the state will continue to pay $65.8 million annually through 2017-18, in addition to resolving other issues that bear on racial balance in the schools, such as permission for formation of a new district and an agreed-upon end to legal challenges to charter schools. More

Unhealthy America

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines the complex issues underlying profound differences in the health of Americans, and recommends that as a nation, we prioritize investment in America’s youngest children, significantly shifting spending and major initiatives to ensure families and communities build a strong foundation in the early years. This includes creating stronger standards for early childhood programs, linking funding to program quality, and guaranteeing access for all low-income children under age 5 by 2025. We also must help parents who struggle to provide healthy, nurturing experiences for their children, and fundamentally change how we revitalize neighborhoods, fully integrating health into community development by supporting and speeding the integration of finance, health, and community development. We must establish incentives and performance measures to spur collaborative approaches to building healthy and resilient communities, and replicate promising, integrated models. And we must take a more health-focused approach to health-care financing and delivery, broadening mindset, mission, and incentives for health professionals and institutions beyond treating illness toward facilitating healthy lives. We must adopt new “vital signs” to assess nonmedical indicators for health, and create incentives tied to reimbursement for health professionals and institutions to address nonmedical factors affecting health. Finally, we must incorporate nonmedical health measures into community health-needs assessments. More

School reform nationally, per StudentsFirst

A new report from StudentsFirst finds the nation as a whole and many states improved education policies this year, but the majority received poor grades in terms of implementing policies the organization feels improve academic growth. StudentsFirst used a rubric for 24 policy objectives and analyzed and scored each state using a 0 to 4 scale, 4 representing the strongest lever for reform. Thirty-eight states improved in at least one policy objective. Nineteen states improved overall, though the top five states remained unchanged from last year’s Report Card. Louisiana, Florida, and Indiana continue to lead the nation, with Rhode Island surpassing the District of Columbia for fourth place. Mississippi passed the most reforms with 10 policy improvements. The nationwide GPA increased from 1.24 to 1.40, and the average GPA for two of three policy pillars –“Elevate the Teaching Profession” and “Empower Parents”– increased. Only “Spend Wisely and Govern Well” declined, primarily because the scoring rubric was tougher with respect to alternative governance. Among states that had a “C-” or better last year, Tennessee showed greatest GPA growth (+.35) and Indiana made the most policy changes (3). Among the bottom 10 states last year, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming registered no movement. More

The community-engagement model in action

In an article in The Stanford Social Innovation Review, consultants Charissa Lin and Christopher Keevil describe working with A+ Schools of Pittsburgh, a local education fund, to strategize inducing greater change in the city’s schools, as well as grassroots organizing to increase impact. From work elsewhere in the country, Lin and Keevil knew that effective grassroots groups don’t see themselves as separate from the community they organize — elevation of community voice is their sole purpose. A+ Schools faced challenges in blending its existing watchdog role with that of grassroots organizer in Pittsburgh’s poorest, predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Other organizations nationally had tackled similar scenarios using a community-engagement model, which is particularly effective in situations where an organization seeks to advocate for a group but is not wholly “of” that group; where change requires engagement and buy-in from diverse constituencies; and where existing leaders and organizations can help mobilize efforts. A+ Schools also decided to take stronger stands, and with backing from multiple constituencies spoke out for racial equity and pushed for educational quality for Pittsburgh’s low-income neighborhoods. A+ Schools used the community- engagement model to present its objectives with greater clarity and purpose, build its base of support across the city, and become a stronger agent of change. More

Cities move on pre-k

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to offer preschool universally to the city’s 4-year-olds is the latest example of mayors and cities taking early-childhood education into their own hands, writes Christina Samuels for Education Week. In 2012, San Antonio residents approved a sales tax to extend preschool to 3,700 4-year-olds, a program that started this school year. The Seattle City Council voted last year for a preschool program to serve 3- and 4-year-olds, and has started a feasibility study. These efforts join older city-run programs in Boston, Denver, and San Francisco. Not every proposal gains traction, however. Memphis, Tennessee placed a sales-tax referendum on the ballot last August that would have paid for 5,000 additional preschool seats, but it failed in November, 60 percent to 40 percent. In Houston, supporters of expanded preschool also tried to put a property-tax increase on the ballot in 2013, but a county judge said the effort did not comply with state law, a ruling upheld by a Texas appeals court. Yet even with setbacks, municipal leaders find themselves able to more nimbly address pre-K needs than state and federal officials. In some cases, cities already have experience with early education since they manage Head Start programs, giving them the know-how and infrastructure to manage their own programs. More

Slow but steady increase in full-day kindergarten

A new analysis from the Child Trends Databank finds that since 1977, the percentage of kindergartners enrolled in full-day rather than half-day programs has more than doubled, increasing from 28 percent of all kindergartners in 1977 to 76 percent of all kindergartners in 2012. Increases were especially steep between 1996 and 1998, and between 2002 and 2006. Black kindergartners are much more likely than other kindergartners to be enrolled in full-day programs. In 2012, 87 percent of black kindergartners were in full days, compared with 68 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander, 74 percent of Hispanic, and 75 percent of white kindergartners. Eighty-five percent of American Indian kindergartners were enrolled in full-day programs. Regionally, kindergartners in the South and Midwest are more likely than those in the West to be enrolled in a full-day program (83 and 80 percent, compared with 64 percent, respectively, in 2012). Kindergartners in the Northeast fell in the middle, at 71 percent in 2012. That said, differences between regions have been decreasing. And demographically, in 2012, kindergarteners in low-income families and those in higher-income families were equally likely to be in full-day programs. The Child Trends website also offers an analysis of preschool and pre-kindergarten, childcare, and school readiness. More

High school sophomores, 10 years on

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education offers a descriptive portrait of 10th-grade participants in a longitudinal study a decade later, when most were 26 years old and had been out of high school for 8 years. In terms of paid employment and postsecondary education, 19 percent reported both working and taking postsecondary courses; 63 percent reported working only; 5 percent reported taking postsecondary courses only; and 13 percent were neither working nor taking post-secondary courses. Levels of education completed as of 2012 were bachelor’s degree or higher (33 percent); associate’s degree (9 percent); undergraduate certificate (10 percent); postsecondary attendance but no credential (32 percent); high school diploma or equivalent (13 percent); and less than high school completion (3 percent). Significantly, of those who began postsecondary education within 3 months of high school completion, 42 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree and another 11 percent had earned a master’s (or higher) by 2012; among those who began postsecondary education 13 or more months following high school completion, 6 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree and another 1 percent had earned a master’s (or higher) by 2012. More

Early College high schools and college-going (update)

A new analysis by the American Institutes for Research finds that Early College high school students are significantly more likely to enroll in college and earn a degree than their peers. Early Colleges partner with colleges and universities to offer high school students the chance to earn an associate’s degree, or up to two years of college credits toward a bachelor’s degree, at little or no cost. The data come from a multi-year study of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative, and indicate that during the study period, 25 percent of Early College students earned a college degree (typically an associate’s degree), as compared with only 5 percent of comparison students. Overall, 81 percent of Early College students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of comparison students. The authors note that students in the study were between two and four years out of high school, so many would not have had time to complete bachelor’s degrees. Early College students were also more likely than comparison students to enroll in two-year colleges and were just as likely to enroll in four-year colleges. Impact generally did not differ by subgroup, and when it differed, it was generally in favor of underrepresented groups. Impact also did not differ significantly by gender, race/ethnicity, family income, first-generation college-going status, or pre-high-school achievement. More

BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
A retreatCalifornia’s longstanding commitment to split facilities costs with districts could be a thing of the past now that Gov. Jerry Brown has reiterated his preference for reducing the state’s role in building and repairing schools. More

Up to schools

Los Angeles Unified School District will put the extra $188 million it’s expected to receive next year toward the needs of disadvantaged children, but Superintendent John Deasy said he wants to leave many decisions to school principals. More

Two birds, one stone

California districts in Redondo Beach and Torrance are temporarily hiring physical-education teachers for elementary schools to give classroom teachers and school leaders more time to collaborate and prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. More

Expanded options

Los Angeles Public Library is teaming up with a private online learning company to debut a program for dropouts to earn an accredited high school diploma, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. More

Sanity prevails

LAUSD officials are negotiating a lower price for thousands of iPads that are part of a $1-billion effort to provide tablets to every student, teacher, and administrator. More

Equity, or at least a step towards it

California education officials have pushed forward sweeping changes to public school funding, approving rules to give more money to needy students — an average of $7,643 per student, plus 20 percent extra per disadvantaged student and additional for students whose schools are at least 55 percent low-income or English-learning, or with at least 55 percent of students in foster care. More

Ambitious?

The union that represents Los Angeles teachers is seeking a 17.6 percent salary increase. More

BRIEFLY NOTED 
Win some, lose someFederal funding for most schools will be largely restored under a giant spending bill unveiled by Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and Head Start will see a $1 billion boost, but a Race to the Top for higher education and $750 million to improve state preschool programs won’t receive funding in the fiscal year ending September 30. More

Strengthening pathways

As part of a White House College Opportunity Summit, the Obama administration has issued a report outlining promising models to improve chances that students from disadvantaged backgrounds will enroll in and complete college. More

By any other name

Hoping to incorporate public input and assuage criticism, Florida education officials have released 98 proposed changes to the Common Core State Standards and christened them the Florida Standards. More

Getting muscular

Minnesota is preparing to step up oversight of the nonprofits, districts, and colleges that monitor the state’s charter schools. More

Another one bites the dust (or withdraws, at any rate)

Alaska has announced its plan to pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and hire a new group, the Assessment & Achievement Institute, to create its English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments. More

Bravo

New York State has one of the nation’s highest increases in funding for prekindergarten programs in its 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to an analysis by the Education Commission of the States. More

The secret’s safe with us

More than 28,000 Omaha Public School students in kindergarten through sixth grade are using a new math program, Go Math!, aligned to the Common Core State Standards, even though Nebraska is one of five states that have not adopted those standards. More

Kindergarten: no time to slack off

New research looks at the effects of focusing on more advanced reading and mathematics content in kindergarten and finds that student performance improves when teachers focus on the more difficult material. More

Always the bridesmaid

For two years in a row, Baltimore-based school-turnaround organization Success for All has earned the top score in the scale-up category of the federal Investing in Innovation contest, only to be passed over, U.S. Department of Education records confirm. More

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

NABT: Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship (BELS) 
The National Association of Biology Teachers Biology Educator Leadership Scholarship (BELS) program was established to encourage and support teachers who want to further their education in the life sciences or life science education. Maximum award: $5000 tuition assistance award, a plaque to be presented at the NABT Professional Development Conference, and one year of complimentary membership to NABT. Eligibility: practicing educators who are also enrolled (or anticipate enrolling) in a graduate program at Masters or Doctoral level, and are NABT members with less than or equal to ten years of teaching experience. Deadline: March 15, 2014.

NABT: BioClub Student Award 
The National Association of Biology Teachers BioClub Student Award recognizes outstanding student members of a NABT BioClub. The award is a great way to recognize that exceptional student who inspires you to be an even better biology teacher. Maximum award: a textbook scholarship from Carolina Biological Supply Company and an award plaque. Eligibility: any graduating senior who is a member of an NABT BioClub chapter and has been accepted to a two- or four-year college/university. Deadline: March 31, 2014.

McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation: Academic Enrichment Grants

The McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation offers Academic Enrichment Grants designed to develop in-class and extra-curricular programs that improve student learning. The foundation considers proposals that foster understanding, deepen students’ knowledge, and provide opportunities to expand awareness of the world around them. Maximum award: $10,000 per year for three years. Eligibility: educators employed by schools or non-profit organizations with the background and experience to complete the project successfully who have direct and regular contact with students in grades pre-k to 12 from low-income households.
Deadline: April 15, 2014.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“We are resurrecting issues with racism and disabilities that we never resolved. For a progressive state like New York to revert to practices that were embedded by the old South is horrifying.” —Dianne Piche, who oversees education initiatives at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, regarding a proposal to allow 2 percent of New York State students with “severe disabilities ineligible for the alternate assessment” to be tested at their instructional ability — not their chronological grade year — up to two full grade levels below a student’s current grade level.