LAEP NewsBlast Week of 5/12/14

May 13, 2014 – In This Issue:
Strengthened access for undocumented immigrants
Republican voters actually like the Common Core
NAEP progress? Nope
Those curious 12th-grade NAEP scores
Yet another test
What teachers think makes them excel
Gritty teachers
A little oversight for the charter sector, please
BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
BRIEFLY NOTED
GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Strengthened access for undocumented immigrants

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have issued a strong warning to districts nationwide that they may not deny enrollment to immigrant students in the country illegally, reports Julia Preston for The New York Times. The Justice and Education Departments jointly issued an update of guidelines published three years ago, reminding districts they “may be in violation of federal law” if they turn students away because the children or their parents lack immigration papers. Officials received 17 complaints in the last three years that led to legal action in districts. There have also been frequent reports that schools were discouraging enrollment by demanding certain documents. The announcement was another in a string of recent moves by the administration to make life easier for immigrants, including those here illegally, while broader legislation stalls in the House of Representatives. Schools can request documents that prove families are district residents, including phone or utility bills and leases, but cannot require proof of legal immigration status or state-issued identity documents, including drivers’ licenses. Schools also cannot require students to present original birth certificates to prove their age, or deny them if they offer foreign ones, and schools cannot require students or parents to provide Social Security numbers. More

Republican voters actually like the Common Core
A new poll shows that supporting or rejecting the Common Core State Standards might not be the political litmus test for Republican candidates it’s been made out to be, reports Allie Bidwell for U.S. News & World Report. A survey that oversampled Republican voters — conducted by Republican pollster John McLaughlin on behalf of the Collaborative for Student Success — found that over 4 in 10 voters had not heard of or read anything about the standards. Those not informed included 32 percent of voters with school-age children, 34 percent of Republican primary voters, and 44 percent of swing voters, undecided about who they’re voting for in November. When participants were given a definition (“a set of standards in math and English that state what a child should know in both subjects by the end of each grade of school they complete”), many who were previously uninformed said they supported the standards. Among Republican voters, 59 percent said they’d support the standards, while 35 percent said they’d oppose them. McLaughlin said the poll was conducted in part because of sentiment that many activists in the Republican Party are strongly opposed to the Common Core, “even though it’s historically been Republicans that support higher education standards.” More

NAEP progress? Nope.

The latest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicate that American high school seniors showed no improvement in math and reading in four years, and achievement gaps between demographic groups have not lessened, reports Amanda Paulson for The Christian Science Monitor. While 12th-grade math scores are at least slightly higher than in 2005 (the earliest scores available for math), reading scores are in fact lower than in 1992, when the reading-score trend line begins. In 2013, 26 percent of America’s 12th-graders scored at or above “proficient” in math, meaning they can do things like determine the measure of an angle in a three-dimensional figure and evaluate an expression with a fractional exponent. Just 3 percent scored “advanced.” In reading, 25 percent of 12th-graders in 2013 scored below basic, and just 37 percent scored at or above proficient. Those scoring at the proficient level could answer questions requiring them to paraphrase an idea from a historical speech and interpret a paragraph in such a speech. While most subgroups improved their scores, there was little change in the achievement gaps between white and black students, white and Hispanic students, or male and female students. More

Those curious 12th-grade NAEP scores
2013 NAEP results for 12th-graders are “woefully stagnant” and haven’t improved since 1992, when reading tests were first administered, writes Jill Barshay for The Hechinger Report. How can there be improvements in fourth and eighth grade scores, but not twelfth? One explanation could be demographics. Today, there are many more minorities in twelfth grade. The Hispanic population, which has typically scored lower, has tripled from 7 percent of high school seniors in 1992 to 20 percent in 2013. The white population, which has traditionally scored higher, has declined from 74 to 58 percent in the same time period. More students are diagnosed with a disability today (11 percent in 2013 versus 5 percent in 1992), and more students are English language learners. Furthermore, the high school graduation rate has jumped from 74 percent to 81 percent; the weakest students used to drop out and were not around in 12th grade to be tested, but now are. Yet when you look at students in the top 75th and 90th percentiles, scores are also flat. High-achieving students aren’t improving, either. Indeed, when you drill down by percentile, it’s the weakest students who are showing modest improvements. If not for their improvements, the national average would have declined. More

Yet another test

A small but growing number of schools and districts are participating in the OECD Test for Schools, a voluntary assessment from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that gauges thinking skills and attitudes of 15-year-olds, reports Alexander Russo for The Harvard Education Letter. Piloted during 2012-13 at 105 U.S. schools of all types, the new test was administered at nearly 300 schools this year. Using complex statistical sampling methods, the test compares results of students from an individual school to those of students in countries taking the OECD’s PISA every three years. For the Test for Schools, students respond to two hours of test questions in reading, mathematics, and science, and answer a 30-minute student questionnaire. The testing requires a half-day of school and is administered by CTB/McGraw Hill. OECD does not provide rankings, but does report results in ranges that schools can (and do) use to rank themselves compared to other countries. Some observers, like Finnish educator and author Pasi Sahlberg, believe this practice is inaccurate: “You cannot really compare a school to a system.” Still, participants say the wealth of information the test results provide is worth the risk that some schools fixate on scores from a single test or limit follow-through to marketing. More

What teachers think makes them excel
A new report from the American Institutes of Research summarizes and discusses an exploratory survey of National and State Teachers of the Year around professional experiences and supports they believe most contributed to their growth and eventual excellence as a teacher. In responses, the experiences and supports that most stood out were high-quality pre-service clinical experiences with effective cooperating teachers; pre-service coursework in their content area; access to mentors and supportive principals; appropriate placements that match training; opportunities for collaboration and reflection; and opportunities for teacher leaders to help less-effective teachers improve. The report’s authors state that the most significant factor they identified was the dual importance to new teachers and experienced teachers alike of creating opportunities for currently or recently practicing teachers to teach, mentor, and coach those new to the profession. Respondents emphasized the importance of having access to effective recently practicing or currently practicing teachers to guide them at the Pre-service and Novice stages, and to a lesser extent at the Career Stage. Among the most important contributors to ongoing growth at the Teacher Leader Stage was the opportunity to provide this same guidance as mentors, supervisors, instructors, or coaches. More

Gritty teachers

A new paper from the University of Pennsylvania examines the predictive validity of personal qualities not typically collected by districts during the teacher-hiring process. Specifically, the authors used a psychological framework to explore how biographical data on grit — defined as a disposition toward perseverance and passion for long-term goals — explains variance in novice teachers’ effectiveness and retention. For the study, researchers collected biographical data from novice teachers in low-income schools. Coders blind to outcomes reviewed teacher résumés and assigned grit scores based on objective evidence of perseverance and passion in college activities and work experience. The authors then used grit scores to predict teacher retention through the academic year, and among those who stayed, effectiveness measured by students’ one-year academic gains. The predictive validity of grit scores was compared to other variables, including college GPA, interviewer ratings of leadership experience, and demographics. The authors conclude that grittier teachers outperformed colleagues and were less likely to leave classrooms mid-year. No other variables in the analysis predicted effectiveness or retention. The authors recommend that administrators consider grit as one factor — among many — in identifying promising new teachers. They offer the method for quantifying grit from biographical data as a practical tool for predicting success in the first few years of teaching. More

A little oversight for the charter sector, please

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform has prepared standards for charter school accountability, devised for New York City but equally applicable for districts nationwide. As the charter sector has expanded, so too have the number and scale of entities that manage and/or provide services to charters, fueled by availability of federal, state, local, and private dollars. There has been no corresponding expansion of oversight and accountability. The paper divides its recommendations into categories of Equitable Access; School Climate; Governance and Transparency; and Facilities. It recommends prohibiting the numerous subtle and exclusionary enrollment practices currently used by charters, such as requiring parents to sign contracts, and instituting an Ombudsman within the Department of Education to investigate claims by parents that children were unfairly barred from particular charters. In addition, charters should post disciplinary policies online, and teaching staffs should be diverse and constituted from both experienced and novice teachers. States should require representative governance, full transparency (for operators, governing boards, and management corporations) and eliminate all sub-contracts for full school management by for-profit entities. Finally, all public schools need safe and secure buildings with space for a full range of program offerings, small spaces for pull-out and one-on-one work with students, and adequate libraries, science labs, and athletic facilities. More

BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA

Cap-and-gown subsidy, among other things

For the first time, California has called on districts to provide graduation attire at no cost to students or their families if required during the diploma ceremony. More

Mission accomplished

With nearly three-quarters of the state’s three million participating students having completed the inaugural field test of new Common Core-aligned assessments, early survey results show a majority of districts were satisfied with both the online testing system itself and training and resources for educators administering the exams. More

Keep it coming

A coalition of seven California school districts — including Los Angeles Unified, Long Beach Unified, and Santa Ana Unified — have asked the federal government to renew a first-of-its-kind exemption to No Child Left Behind rules granted last year. More

Great plan

Despite an improving economy and robust tax collections, the Los Angeles School District will petition the state to allow larger class sizes in some of its most under-performing schools through 2014-15. More

Dear Jerry

Leaders of key technology companies including Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Salesforce.com have written to Governor Jerry Brown, offering to partner with the state to increase computer education in kindergarten to 12th grade schools. More

Obfuscatory

California districts are in the process of drafting plans detailing how they intend to spend state education dollars and so far, most documents are dense with education jargon, acronyms, and legalese, and often don’t provide a clear picture of how districts will use state funds to improve the academic performance of “high-needs” students. More

BRIEFLY NOTED 

Number Three

Former California Board of Education President Ted Mitchell has been confirmed as under secretary of education, the third-highest ranking official at the U.S. Department of Education. More

Please advise

The Department of Education has declared that transgender students are protected under Title IX, but there are questions about how that will work on campuses, and what the legal complications might be. More

Hell freezes over…

The U.S. House of Representatives — in a rare show of bipartisanship — has voted to increase federal funding for charter schools. More

… for a worthy cause?

An examination of schools in 15 charter markets across the United States has exposed nearly $100 million in losses due to fraud, waste, and abuse, according to a new report. More

Vouchers advance

Both the Florida House and Senate have given final approval to a bill that would expand the school voucher program and create new scholarships for special-needs children. More

Mildly enticing

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has introduced the “Career Pathways for Teachers” framework, which comes as a follow up to an announcement he made in February that he would work to increase the base pay for North Carolina teachers to $35,000. More

Ominous trend

Large numbers of U.S. high school students who are bullied take weapons to school, a new study finds. More

Sorry, folks

A federal judge has acknowledged that Florida’s contentious teacher-evaluation law is unfair, but he still ruled that there was no legal reason to overturn it. More

CTU says no-go to Co Co

The Chicago Teachers Union has passed a resolution saying that it opposes the Common Core State Standards. More

Texas gives it a whirl

The Texas Education Agency has submitted a proposed teacher-evaluation system  to the U.S. Department of Education as part of the state’s waiver from the mandates of NCLB. More

If they don’t teach it, it isn’t happening

Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state, is the first to reject new K-12 science standards proposed by national education groups mainly because of global warming components. More

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

NCTM: PreK-6 Classroom Research Grants
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics PreK-6 Classroom Research Grants support and encourage classroom-based research in precollege mathematics education in collaboration with college or university mathematics educators. The research must be a significant collaborative effort involving a college or university mathematics educator (a mathematics education researcher or a teacher of mathematics learning, teaching, or curriculum) and one or more PreK-6 classroom teachers. The proposal may include, but is not restricted to, research on curriculum development and implementation, involvement of at-risk or minority students, students’ thinking about a particular mathematics concept or set of concepts, connection of mathematics to other disciplines, focused learning and teaching of mathematics with embedded use of technology (any acquisition of equipment must support the proposed plan but not be the primary focus of the grant), and innovative assessment or evaluation strategies. Maximum award: $6,000. Eligibility: classroom teachers currently teaching mathematics at the grades PreK-6 level who are current (as of October 15, 2014) NCTM members or who teach in a school that (as of October 15, 2014) has a NCTM PreK-8 school membership. Deadline: November 7, 2014.

NSTA: Wendell G. Mohling Outstanding Aerospace Educator Award
The Wendell G. Mohling Outstanding Aerospace Educator Award recognizes excellence in the field of aerospace education. The recipient of the award will be honored during the Awards Banquet and the Aerospace Educators Luncheon at the annual NSTA Conference. Maximum award: $3,000, and $2,000 in expenses to attend NSTA’s National Conference. Eligibility: educators in informal education settings (e.g., museums, government, science centers). Individuals must be nominated for this award; self-nominations accepted. Deadline: November 30, 2014.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

”Even in a place like North Dakota, where the students aren’t particularly diverse relative to the rest of the country, it’s important for our social fabric, for our sense as a nation, that students are engaging with people who think, talk and act differently than them but can also be just as effective at raising student achievement in the classroom.” — Ulrich Boser, author of a report from the Center for American Progress and the National Education Association that calls attention to the fact that half the students attending public schools are minorities, yet fewer than 1 in 5 of their teachers is nonwhite.