LAEP NewsBlast Week of 4/29/14

April 29, 2014 – In This Issue:
Keeping on-track in Chicago
Helping parents, to help kids
Just what is TFA’s mission?
The coming teacher-prep crackdown
The Bloomberg education legacy
The Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberty Act
The lessons of inBloom
Smoother landing for the digital NAEP

Keeping on-track in Chicago

A new report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research examines dramatic improvements for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students exposed to a targeted approach for reducing course failure in the ninth grade. Much of the work coalesced around an “on-track” indicator, developed by UChicago CCSR and providing a simple quantitative measure of whether ninth-graders making adequate progress to graduation based on credit completion and course failures. Specifically, a student is “on-track” if she has enough credits to be promoted to tenth grade and has earned no more than one semester F in a core course. Between 2007 and 2013, the CPS on-track rate rose 25 percentage points, from 57 to 82 percent, an estimated 6,900 additional students finishing ninth grade each year without significant course failures and with sufficient credits to become sophomores. These improvements occurred across all racial and ethnic groups, among males and females, and across all levels of incoming achievement. Improvements were sustained in tenth and eleventh grade, and followed by a large increase in graduation rates. By reframing the problem of dropping out from something outside the control of educators to one that can be managed through effective school-based strategies, Chicago’s on-track initiative is a case study on using data to build the capacity of educators to manage complex problems and create systems of continuous improvement. More

Helping parents, to help kids

One nonprofit in Tulsa, Oklahoma — the Community Action Project — has flipped the script on preschool, reports Eric Westervelt for NPR. The idea behind its Career Advance program is that to help kids, you often must help their parents. The program strategically links low-income parents — almost all women — with education, career training in nursing and related healthcare fields, and Headstart services for their children. Participants must take a monthly seminar that includes resume-building, basic finances, and workplace etiquette, such as being on time, eye contact, firm handshakes, and basic hygiene. Tulsa organizers believe providing high-quality childcare along with intensive help for parents returning to school might prove the missing link in anti-poverty efforts. The program also includes career coaches, who in a different socioeconomic context could be called life coaches. More than a quarter of the women drop out and never come back, and cash bonuses, coaches, seminars, emergency gas cards, and other expenses cost more than $7,000 per mom per year on top of the $7,500 per child for Headstart. It’ll be a few years before the results are in, but researchers are convinced that getting policymakers and agencies to think about the family all together will save taxpayers big money in the long run. More

Just what is TFA’s mission?

Since the recession, teacher layoffs are more common than shortages, leaving some to ask why Teach for America (TFA) operates in areas where new-teacher need is low, writes Alexandra Hootnick in The Nation. In 2009, some 13,800 candidates applied for just 352 teaching positions in Seattle, yet TFA expanded there anyway. TFA’s growth also increasingly hinges on the country’s charter movement, Hootnick writes. The organization’s data show that a third of its recruits now teach in charters, up from 13 percent in 2007. An additional growth strategy TFA has used is placing recruits in special education and limited-English-proficiency classes, understaffed subjects that should require specialized training, an increase of 15 to 20 percent annually. Meanwhile, the cost of recruiting, training, and supporting corps members, partly subsidized by taxpayers, has more than doubled in the past decade, from $22,000 to $47,000. Informal data that TFA uses to track its teachers’ performance indicate students aren’t making as much progress as they were a few years ago. Hootnick, a former corps member, feels the impact recruits have on low-income students is only the short-term, experiential part of TFA’s longer-term mission, to build a force of leaders who will go on to influential public- and private-sector careers supporting TFA’s education-reform initiatives. More

The coming teacher-prep crackdown

The Obama administration plans to use tens of millions in federal financial aid as leverage to reward teacher-training programs that produce teachers who routinely raise student test scores, and to drive the rest to fold, reports Stephanie Simon for Politico. The administration’s goal is to ensure that every state evaluates its teacher-education programs by several key metrics, such as how many graduates land teaching jobs, how long these teachers stay in the profession, and whether they boost their students’ scores on standardized tests. The administration will then steer financial aid to those programs and their aspiring teachers that score the highest. The rest, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, will need to improve or “go out of business.” Duncan plans to release a draft regulation by summer and enact it within a year. The proposal echoes the administration’s recent bid to crack down on for-profit career-training colleges. Under that regulation, still in draft form, hundreds of degree programs in fields from accounting to culinary arts could be forced to shut down for failing to place enough graduates in well-paying jobs. Duncan noted he expects considerable controversy. While there’s broad agreement that the country’s more than 1,500 teacher-training programs need improvement, classroom teachers, union leaders, education reformers, and professors of education differ sharply in their prescriptions. More

The Bloomberg education legacy

Where New York City students attend school saw dramatic shifts under recent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to enrollment data released by the city’s Independent Budget Office, reports Geoff Decker for Chalkbeat NY. The IBO compared enrollment between 2003 and 2013 for all types of schools serving the city’s 1.3 million school-aged population. Nearly 60,000 students attended a charter last year, a huge leap from 2,400 students ten years ago. This year, charters enrolled close to 70,000 students, and the sector will continue to grow as new charters open and existing charters add on grades. New state laws also ensure that additional charters could open and receive access to facilities under Mayor Bill de Blasio. Catholic schools lost 47,000 students in the same timespan, a reflection of the growing number of families who opt for charters or other new public school options. Jewish schools have supplanted Catholic schools as the predominant private schools in the city, since 2003 adding 20,000 students and last year enrolling 95,000 students. Nine hundred eighty thousand students attended a district school last year, 65,000 fewer than a decade earlier. Overall, the city’s school-aged population fell by 30,000. The IBO also looked at racial and ethnic enrollment. Over 93 percent of charter students are black or Hispanic, compared with 68 percent in traditional district schools and 26 percent in the city’s non-public schools. More

The Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberty Act

Tennessee is the second state to institute a Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act (RVAA), reports Sarah Posner for Al-Jazeera America. The little-known Texas law of 2007, also known as the Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberty Act, requires districts to treat student religious expression equally with nonreligious expression in classroom assignments and in the organization of school clubs. The RVAA is “part of a larger effort to erode existing Establishment Clause protections in public schools,” says Daniel Mach of ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. The Texas RVAA and copycat bills in other states, “are plainly intended to encourage public schools to promote prayer and other religious expression.” Most controversially, the RVAA requires schools to permit student speakers to engage in religious speech throughout the school day and at school-sponsored activities, which critics say could include anything from morning announcements to pep rallies to football games to graduation ceremonies. In addition, critics charge that the Tennessee RVAA could be exploited to teach creationism in public schools, and open the door for anti-gay bullying under the guise of religious freedom. These laws, said the ACLU’s Mach, “may simply be a way for legislators to score cheap political points, but the danger is it encourages public schools to violate the Constitution.” More

The lessons of inBloom

The well-funded student-data nonprofit InBloom has announced it will shutter after sustained protests by parents and privacy advocates that forced districts to drop its services, reports Ariel Bogle in Slate. InBloom hoped to streamline student information online so teachers could track progress and personalize lessons and learning materials. Yet despite millions in seed funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and collaboration with districts in nine states, the company was unable to reassure parents that student information would be safe with a third-party vendor. Protests and lawsuits in several states caused many districts to pull back, but the most significant blow occurred when the New York state budget bill restricted its Education Department’s ability to contract with companies for storing, organizing, or aggregating student information, and demanded inBloom delete all held data. The collapse of inBloom is a blow for the K-12 education-technologies sector generally — a market that, if calibrated carefully, could benefit schools and students. It’s clear legislators on both the federal and state level must strengthen student privacy protections. InBloom’s failure is an object lesson in trust-building and accountability for the next company that will surely take its place. More

Smoother landing for the digital NAEP

The architects of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) are preparing a dramatic expansion of technology-based assessment, relying on a starkly different approach from that for online Common Core exams in the states, reports Sean Cavanaugh for Education Week. The government will rent tablet computers from a private contractor, distribute them to the sample of participating schools, and retrieve those devices after the exam. This strategy was used in NAEP’s earlier, less-ambitious forays into computer-based tests, with the goal of ensuring that the tests were delivered securely, reliably, and consistently. In contrast, a year from now, three dozen states will give Common Core-aligned exams using the eclectic array of computing devices currently in place in schools: desktop and laptop computers and tablets, all with different features and operating systems. Testing officials familiar with the two assessment programs say the contrasting strategies are a reflection of the tests’ very different purposes and needs. The NAEP is given to a much smaller sample of schools and students, designed to produce a nationally representative set of results. By 2020, federal officials want all NAEP tests in all subjects delivered with computing devices. More


No cigar

A key state budget panel has rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest plan to give the K-12 independent study program a makeover and create more opportunities for students to use modern technology as part of their academic day. More

True Blue

Resistance to the Common Core may be spreading in parts of Red State America, but Californians are learning more about the standards and generally like what they’ve heard, according to a new survey. More

For those who can’t stay away

Effective July 1, LAUSD schools will be allowed to hire and pay retired teachers as coaches. More

Mere incompetence

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has reviewed an internal district report on its iPad contract and concluded that criminal charges are not warranted. More


The Los Angeles Unified School District does not need to release names of teachers in connection with performance ratings, according to a tentative court ruling. More

CTA relents

Faced with a ballot initiative on teacher firings that could have placed it in the position of publicly defending child molesters, the California Teachers Assn. agreed to legislation that streamlines the appeals process for teachers. More

Transitional training needed

Ninety-five percent of the first transitional kindergarten teachers in California had previously taught preschool, kindergarten, or 1st grade, but said they could have used more training on how to teach 4-year-olds, according to new research. More


The first loser

Washington state is the first to lose its NCLB waiver. More

Not to be outdone

A new interactive test from the National Assessment of Educational Progress aims to measure how well students do real-life problem-solving. More

Better than ever

North Carolina’s state-funded pre-K program for 4-year-olds has produced better-than-expected positive outcomes for participants, new research says. More

No stopping it

Louisiana’s high-profile school-voucher program will almost certainly continue to expand in its third year, though interest from new participants has dropped. More

On the bandwagon

Oregon has settled on an approach to evaluating teachers based in part on students’ test-score gains.More

Seemed like a good idea at the time

A new law in Washington state ends state-mandated culminating projects as a graduation requirement. More

Proper weight

Mississippi is reworking its rating system for districts and high schools after federal officials demanded the ratings put more weight on high school graduation. More

Sounds reasonable

South Carolina is replacing its high school exit exam with tests considered more useful to students’ future success, with scores that could go on work resumes or college admissions applications. More

No pleasing everyone

A panel of Indiana business and education leaders were booed and jeered by onlookers after overwhelmingly voting in support of new math and English standards to replace the Common Core in state classrooms this fall. More

Getting in on the ACT

Alabama has become the first state in the nation to adopt the ACT suite of K-12 standardized tests.More

AP for all

In Grand Valley High School in Parachute, Colorado, all students take AP classes. More

Medication nation

A new survey finds that 7.5 percent of children aged 6 to 17 are taking some sort of prescription medicine for emotional or behavioral difficulties. More

Another concession from Bobby

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has agreed to adjust a 2012 state law surrounding teachers’ job security and firings after losing a legal battle with an educator facing dismissal. More

It makes her gag

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is sending a letter to the executives of Pearson asking them to remove the gag order that bars teachers and principals from talking publicly about what’s on the exams that Pearson has developed for New York State, including any mistakes educators find. More

Don’t mess with Moskowitz

The office of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has announced it has found space for three charters at the heart of a battle between the new mayor and Eva Moskowitz, leader of a high-performing charter network. More


ASM Materials Education Foundation: Living in a Material World Grants

The ASM Materials Education Foundation “Living in a Material World” grants help teachers bring the real world of materials science into their classrooms and recognize teacher creativity. The purpose of these grants is to enhance awareness of materials science and the role that metals, glasses, ceramics, semiconductors, and polymers play in our modern world, and that material scientists play in society. Maximum award: $500. Eligibility: K-12 teachers. Deadline: May 25, 2014.

Dow Jones News Fund: High School Journalism Teacher of the Year

The DJNF High School Journalism Teacher of the Year program identifies outstanding high school journalism teachers. The winning teacher addresses the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, American Society of News Editors, and college journalism educators. Maximum award: a laptop computer; travel and lodging expenses and a per diem for substitute teacher fees for address and seminar; a quarterly column for the fund’s newspaper, Adviser Update; and attendance at a seminar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla. A senior student at the winning teacher’s school will receive a $1,000 college scholarship to major in news-editorial journalism based on his or her performance in a writing contest held at school. Eligibility: high school journalism teachers with at least three years’ experience who have done exemplary work in the 2013-2014 academic year. Deadline: July 9, 2014.

Public Welfare Foundation: Grants for Organizations that Serve Disadvantaged Communities

The Public Welfare Foundation supports organizations that address human needs in disadvantaged communities, with strong emphasis on organizations that include service, advocacy, and empowerment in their approach: service that remedies specific problems; advocacy that addresses those problems in a systemic way through changes in public policy; and strategies to empower people in need to play leading roles in achieving those policy changes and in remedying specific problems. The foundation provides both general support and project-specific grants. The foundation is currently focusing on criminal and juvenile justice, and workers’ rights. Maximum award: $50,000. Eligibility: public and private entities, including nonprofit organizations and for-profit organizations. Deadline: rolling.

American Academy of Pediatrics: CATCH Resident Funds Grants

2013 CATCH Resident Funds grants will be awarded on a competitive basis for pediatric residents to plan community-based child health initiatives. CATCH Resident Funds projects must include planning activities, but also may include some implementation activities. Maximum award: $3,000. Eligibility: pediatric residents working with their communities. Deadline: July 31, 2014.



“The teacher tapped me on the shoulder and said she had a problem with what I was wearing. I thought it was because of the hat or the leather jacket, and I was like, ‘Well I’ll take those off,’ and she was like, ‘No, it’s the pants.'” — Shafer Rupard, of Cherryville High in North Carolina, who was kicked out of her senior prom for wearing pants.