LAEP NewsBlast Week of 2/19/14

A bellwether election year

State elections involving three dozen governors and more than 6,000 legislators this year could have major consequences for education policies, with the Common Core, school choice, collective bargaining, and early education likely to get attention, writes Andrew Ujifusa for Education Week. In some states, 2014 may prove pivotal for controversial education measures enacted as a result of the 2010 election, when the GOP took control of 12 additional state legislatures and six more governorships. For example, since 2011, nine states have adopted A-F school accountability systems. The 2014 elections will also test voter response to, and the durability of, changes in public-employee collective-bargaining power that GOP leaders such as Gov. Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and Gov. Rick Snyder (Michigan) championed. But the chance to push back on those signature accomplishments, combined with a desire to restore funding and services, could invigorate races and provide openings for traditional education leaders. The trickiest education issue for state officials in 2014 could be what to do and say about the Common Core, particularly for Republicans in tough primary elections. GOP candidates in those races have little to gain from vigorously defending the standards with voters in the Republican base who fear that the Common Core amounts to federal encroachment. More

Testing pushback 
Testing season begins soon in U.S. public schools, but a pushback is mounting against federal regulations, writes Lyndsey Layton in The Washington Post. NCLB stipulates that every state annually test every student in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading, reporting scores publicly. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are teaching math and reading differently because of the Common Core, but aligned exams won’t be available until next year. Most states will dust off their old tests and hope for the best. Because tests will be out-of-sync with instruction, federal officials are permitting suspension of accountability decisions. In D.C. and 36 states, students will field-test questions for the new exams, and these students are excused from older tests. But the Obama administration will not back down from requiring every state to test every student in certain grades. California plans to give field tests with sample questions from the new exam, but because a field test does not reliably measure student achievement, California will not score the tests, and results will not be publicly reported. The state will use last year’s scores for accountability, essentially maintaining the status quo for this transition year. The federal government has not resolved the issue with California. More

College-prep revolt

A standards rebellion is sweeping the country, promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike, writes Stephanie Simon for Politico.com. The backlash stems in part from the Common Core, but is also pushback against the idea that all students must be ready for college, regardless of intentions. Manufacturing associations, trade groups, and farm lobbies have bolstered this anger, arguing universal college prep is elitist, demeans blue-collar workers, and is cutting off a labor pipeline. The counterargument: blue-collar workers need strong academic skills to turn entry-level jobs into meaningful careers. In response, the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have lately talked up vocational education, but have noted, pointedly, that such classes must not substitute for college preparation. Not every child must get a four-year degree, they say, but all must have college-level skills to succeed at their chosen path. The fast-moving economy will otherwise leave them behind in low-wage, dead-end jobs. The risk is also significant that low-income and minority students, as well as those with disabilities, will be disproportionately pushed into vocational tracks, as once was common. However, the backlash has grown so strong that states are now revising their rollouts. New York has announced it won’t expect students to meet new college-ready benchmarks until 2022; Louisiana is aiming for 2025. More

For dual-enrollment to work

A new report from the Education Commission of the States offers 13 state-level policy components to increase student participation and success in dual-enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take postsecondary courses for college and high school credit simultaneously, and are currently offered in every state and the District of Columbia. The report stresses that all eligible students must be allowed to participate, with laws unequivocal on this point; eligibility must be based on demonstrated ability, not bureaucratic procedures or non-cognitive factors; and caps on maximum number of courses must not be overly restrictive. Students should earn both secondary and postsecondary credit for successful completion; all students and parents should be annually offered program information; and counseling must be available to students and parents before and during program participation. Responsibility for tuition should not fall to parents, and districts and postsecondary institutions should be fully funded or reimbursed for participating students. Courses and instructors must meet the same level of rigor as those for traditional students at partner postsecondary institutions; instructors must receive appropriate support and evaluation; districts and institutions must publicly report outcomes; and programs should be evaluated based on available data. Finally, postsecondary institutions must accept dual-enrollment credit as transfer credit, provided measures of quality are ensured. More

Districts and colleges: better together
In an effort to shore up perceptions of education as a continuum from kindergarten through college, a new report from Edbridge, based on a survey of district superintendents and university and college chancellors, presidents, and deans, finds that only one in three district administrators and college leaders say they collaborate effectively together. This despite the fact that 90 percent of superintendents and 80 percent of college presidents, chancellors, and deans agree their collaboration is extremely or very important. Priorities for collaboration differ, with district leaders seeking improvements in teacher training, development, and delivery of curricula, and alignment of curricula between K-12 and colleges. College leaders value alignment of curricula, but also seek to ease student transitions and reduce need for remediation. Both groups doubt whether their counterparts value collaboration. The report recommends significant shifts in how educators work together as professionals and who coordinates this work; how institutions define roles and responsibilities and allocate resources; and how the results of collective efforts are evaluated. Changes are required in policies and governance structures that promote a view of students as “mine” or “yours,” distinct in schools or colleges, rather than “ours” in a comprehensive and newly envisioned educational system. More

Student-centered learning for underserved students

A new set of case studies from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education looks at four schools in Northern California in which traditionally underserved students are achieving above state and district averages through use of student-centered practices, either the Linked Learning or Envision Schools model. Linked Learning integrates rigorous academics with career-based learning and real-world workplace experiences. Envision Schools is a small charter network that creates personalized learning environments for students to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. These student-centered environments emphasize supportive relationships between students and teachers in academic environments that are challenging, relevant, collaborative, student-directed, and connected to real-life situations. Students are assessed on mastery of knowledge and skills and have multiple opportunities to demonstrate that mastery. Educators are supported in creating a student-centered learning environment through opportunities for reflection, collaboration, and leadership. Student-centered practices are more often found in schools that serve affluent and middle-class students than those in low-income communities; student-centered learning environments are one way the country can effectively address the opportunity gap. The case studies use quantitative data to track achievement, and extensive observations, surveys, and interviews to document practices. A cross-case analysis, policy brief, and practitioner’s tool will be published in the spring. More

All eyes on North Carolina

Teacher salaries are losing ground fast in North Carolina, reports Dave DeWitt for NPR. In an effort to give more control to local districts, the state legislature passed sweeping changes to public education, many of which affected teachers directly. No state has seen a more dramatic decrease in teacher-salary rankings in the past 10 years, and other changes in public education are unprecedented, making North Carolina closely watched by education policymakers across the country. The Republican-controlled General Assembly ended teacher tenure, halted a salary bump for master’s degrees, and eliminated a cap on class size. Tenure has been replaced by a merit-based system that awards long-term contracts to the top 25 percent of teachers, and shorter contracts to everyone else. Because North Carolina is a right-to-work state, teachers are prohibited from collective bargaining or going on strike. But they have fought back — marching on the state capitol and staging a walk-in before the school day. They have also put pressure on Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory first defended the budget cuts and changes, but has since sounded more conciliatory. McCrory and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly are discussing ways to give teachers a small raise next year. Some teachers are also suing the state. More

How state teacher policies stack up
In the latest State Teacher Policy Yearbook from the National Council on Teacher Quality, most states received their highest grades to date. Since 2009, 37 states have improved by at least one full grade level because of significant reform, particularly in teacher evaluation and related teacher-effectiveness policies. Florida is at the top with a B+, up from a B in 2011. Louisiana, Rhode Island, and Tennessee earned Bs, and 10 other states earned B-. Two states have improved overall grades by two full levels since 2009: Michigan earned a B- in 2013, up from a D- in 2009, and Rhode Island improved its overall grade from a D in 2009 to a B in 2013. Since the last Yearbook, New Jersey, Louisiana, Connecticut, Maine, and Virginia made the most significant grade increases. At the same time, grades for a few states haven’t budged; these states are increasingly out of step with reform trends across the nation. Montana has consistently earned an F in the Yearbook. Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont earned a D- in 2013, and Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming earned Ds. Several states have remained flat since 2009: Alabama (C-), Alaska (D), California (D+), Iowa (D), Montana (F), Nebraska (D-), New Mexico (D+), South Carolina (C-) and Texas (C-). More

BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
System failureLos Angeles school officials have failed for now in their efforts to fully access a digital curriculum the school system purchased in June from Pearson for use on district iPads. More

Fully enriching

An Oakland middle school has extended its day to 5 p.m. — a nine-hour day — allowing all 375 students to take courses in self-confidence, robotics, music, and more. More

Arts drain

The LAUSD has lost about 200 full-time arts-teacher positions since 2010-2011, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Education. More

Charter-friendly

California led the country in opening new charter schools this fiscal year, adding 104 campuses and 48,000 students, according to a new report. More

Easier being green

Armed with the guidelines for a new energy-efficiency program, districts across California are beginning to access millions of dollars that will allow them to retrofit or build facilities that not only save money in the long run, but also create higher-quality learning environments for students. More

BRIEFLY NOTED 
Continued growth spurtAccording to estimates from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, about 600 new charter schools opened in 2013-14, serving an additional 288,000 students, bringing the total number of charters in the country to about 6,400 serving 2.5 million students. More

Hold your horses

Under pressure from unions, parents, and state lawmakers, New York’s Board of Regents has agreed to slow down implementation of the Common Core. More

Soup to nuts

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan for education targets the start and the finish of a child’s path through school, including a pledge to eventually provide access to preschool for every child in Connecticut, and a $134 million investment in the regional university and community college system. More

Broken promises

An education advocacy group is suing the state of New York for more than $1 billion in promised school funding, saying the state had failed to live up to its responsibility to offer students a “sound basic education” due to budget cuts. More

A lot to ask

Some districts in Kentucky report “unfunded mandates” from the state have put them under financial strain. More

Cramming

Students at some Nevada public schools will be forced into year-round schedules starting this fall as a result of crowding at those campuses. More

He gave them a Head Start

Dr. Robert E. Cooke, a pediatrician who helped Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson create major initiatives to benefit children, including Head Start, died on Feb. 2 at his home on Martha’s Vineyard at 93. More

No, really?

Large numbers of low-income children who begin formal schooling with many disadvantages — poor medical care, homelessness, an uneducated mother, for example — not only struggle with schoolwork but hurt the achievement of other children in their classrooms, according to a new study. More

Passing the torch

Geoffrey Canada will step down as chief executive of the Harlem Children’s Zone. More

UPCOMING EVENTS

The 2014 Community Schools Forum will have a theme of “Community Schools: Engines of Opportunity” and will take place in Cincinnati from April 9-11, 2014. More

The California School Health Centers Association invites you to join hundreds of school officials,
educators, community school partners, and children’s health stakeholders in downtown Oakland March 6-7 for Advancing School Health in a Time of Reform. Learn more!

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams

The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program is dedicated to supporting and encouraging invention, and seeks to inspire students and rising inventors. InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors that receive grants to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. Each InvenTeam chooses its own problem to solve. Maximum award: $10,000. Eligibility: high school science, mathematics, and technology teachers at public, private, and vocational schools and their students. Deadline: February 28, 2014.

NEH: Summer Seminars and Institutes

National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes support faculty-development programs in the humanities for school teachers and for college and university teachers, and may be as short as two weeks or as long as five weeks. The Seminars and Institutes extend and deepen knowledge and understanding of the humanities by focusing on significant topics and texts; contribute to the intellectual vitality and professional development of participants; build communities of inquiry and provide models of civility and excellent scholarship and teaching; and link teaching and research in the humanities. Maximum award: $150,000 for seminars; $200,000 for institutes. Eligibility: U.S. non-profit organizations with IRS tax-exempt status, state and local governmental agencies, and federally recognized Indian tribal governments. Deadline: March 4, 2014.

Google: Doodle4Google

One talented young artist will see his or her artwork on the Google homepage and receive a college scholarship and a Google for Education technology grant for his or her school. Students should create their doodles based on the theme “If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place…” Maximum award: $30,000 college scholarship; $50,000 Google for Education technology grant for his or her school. Eligibility: students grades K-12. Deadline: March 20, 2014.

Writers in the Schools: Sarah Mook Memorial Poetry Contest

The Sarah Mook Memorial Poetry Contest acknowledges, encourages, and rewards the efforts of student poets. Maximum award: $100. Eligibility: students K-12. Deadline: March 31, 2014.

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are among the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science and recognize highly qualified teachers for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession. Maximum award: $10,000; a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C. to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities; a citation signed by the President of the United States. Eligibility: U.S. citizens teaching grades K-6 in a public or private school with 5 years experience teaching math or science. Nomination deadline: April 1, 2014.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“By making children less disruptive, ADHD medication could decrease the attention that they receive in the average classroom and reduce the probability that the child receives other needed services.” — a new review of existing research on Adderall and student outcomes.