A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that in districts that substantially increased education spending as the result of court orders, low-income children were significantly more likely to graduate from high school, earn livable wages, and avoid poverty in adulthood, reports Holly Yettick for Education Week. Between 1971 and 2010, supreme courts in 28 states responded to large gaps between richer and poorer districts by reforming school-finance systems. Although the changes had limited consequences for higher-income children, for low-income students who spent all 12 years of school in districts that increased spending by 20 percent, graduation rates rose 23 percentage points. Estimates are based on an analysis of 15,000 children born between 1955 and 1985, and account for a host of other potential explanations, such as desegregation, War on Poverty programs, and demographic changes. The paper’s analysis also found that low-income children who were exposed to a 20 percent spending increase for their entire school careers attained nearly a full year of additional education after high school, and between the ages of 25 and 45 were 20 percent less likely to fall into poverty during any given year. Their individual wages were 25 percent higher than they would have been without the changes, and their family incomes were 52 percent higher. More
Supporting boys of color
The task force for the presidential My Brother’s Keeper initiative has issued a preliminary report and blueprint for action by government, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith, and community partners to support boys of color. The report identifies milestones that are especially predictive of later success: a healthy start and entering school ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating high school ready for college and career; completing post-secondary education or training; successfully entering the workforce; and keeping on track and getting second chances. The report recommends actively recruiting mentors for youth and improving the quality of mentoring programs, and supporting locally driven efforts that address the educational, physical, social, and emotional needs of young people. It urges eliminating suspensions and expulsions in preschool, and universal early health and developmental screenings. It recommends an initiative to increase joint and independent reading time outside of school, and promoting alternative discipline practices to help teachers teach. It urges expanding access to Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and dual enrollment options in high school, and improving youth summer employment. Finally, it calls for addressing racial and ethnic bias within the juvenile and criminal justice systems and removing unnecessary barriers to successful reentry and employment, as well as improving data collection and transparency so as to make the status of boys and young men of color more visible. More
NOLA: All charter, all the time
New Orleans’s Recovery School District has permanently shuttered its last five traditional public schools, reports Lyndsey Layton for The Washington Post. With the start of next school year, the Recovery School District will be the first in the country made up completely of public charter schools, a grand experiment in urban education. The creation of the country’s first all-charter school system has improved education for many children in New Orleans, but has also severed ties to a community institution, the neighborhood school, and amplified concerns about racial equality and loss of parental control. An all-charter district signals the dismantling of the central school bureaucracy and a shift of power to dozens of independent operators, who will assume authority to hire and fire teachers and administrators, maintain buildings, run buses, and provide services to special-needs students. Of the Recovery School District’s 600 employees, 510 will lose their jobs. All 33,000 students in the district must apply for a seat at one of the 58 charters, relying on a computerized lottery to determine placement. Opinion surveys show support for charters but unease about the shuttering of all traditional schools, with just 41 percent of New Orleans residents backing the idea in a poll. The changes also have stirred racial tensions and claims of disenfranchisement. More
Shifts and clashes in Newark
Despite Ras Baraka’s recent mayoral win and a flurry of sit-ins, walk-outs, protests, and pickets, the transformation of Newark, New Jersey’s school system into a showcase of neoliberal education ideas is unlikely to stop anytime soon, writes Owen Davis in The Nation. Newark has undergone a dizzying cycle of school reform that rivals post-Katrina New Orleans’s transformation into a laboratory for market-based reforms. And since Newark’s system has been under state control since 1995, Baraka’s entrée presents more questions than answers. Two events, both in 2010, ushered in the present era: Chris Christie’s rise to governor, and Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to reform the district. Then-mayor Corey Booker established the non-profit Foundation for Newark’s Future (FNF) to distribute the billionaire’s gift and matching donations, and the state selected Cami Anderson, a hard-driving former New York superintendent, to oversee the schools. Anderson swiftly introduced a dramatic reorganization plan, One Newark, that hinged on shutting down traditional schools and turning them over to charter operators. Forty percent of Newark’s charters have opened in the last four years, amid community protest and upheaval. Newark Teachers Union President Joe Del Grosso has suggested that Anderson’s departure is imminent, but the superintendent has made no indication One Newark will change course. Baraka has vowed to better involve the community in school governance. More
Policy protests and strange bedfellows
With tensions running high over academic benchmarks, standardized testing, and performance evaluations for educators, unlikely coalitions of the left and right are increasingly pushing back against new changes in education policy, writes Motoko Rich in The New York Times. Some have Tea Party Republicans and teachers unions on the same side. In Oklahoma, teachers unions gave strong support to a bill, sponsored by Republicans, that would overturn a law requiring third graders to be held back on the basis of one standardized test. In New Jersey, a bill to slow down introduction of the Common Core and use of test scores in teacher evaluations passed with rare unanimous support. And in New York, grass-roots opposition on the left and right to testing and the Common Core led legislators to delay the consequences of standardized tests for students. These unlikely partnerships mirror the alliances that formed to introduce the contentious policies in the first place. Centrist Democrats — including those in the Obama administration — lined up with moderate Republicans and business leaders to promote the new standards, teacher evaluations, and updated standardized tests. The unexpected alliances appeal to teachers and parents, at least in part, because many felt shut out of the process and were looking for partners. But as in any marriage of opposites, fissures may emerge after the initial passion fades. More
Those luddite Finns
With little education technology in the classroom, Finnish students have repeatedly outperformed American students on international tests, writes Caitlin Emma for Politico.com. The country uses innovative teaching strategies in the classroom — just generally without incorporating technology. Finnish students, even those in the most modern schools, aren’t playing the latest learning games in the classroom. Even upper secondary students who receive laptops from their school leave their computers at home unless instructed otherwise — which doesn’t happen often. According to the latest PISA results and a study conducted by the European Commission, there’s roughly one computer per five Finnish students in schools. In the U.S., that ratio is almost one to one (but the breakdown across individual rural, urban, and suburban districts depends on a district’s financial resources). At grade eight, Finnish students’ reported use of school computers is the lowest in the European Union, with only 27 percent saying they use computers at least once a week. That said, Finland is also due for a new set of education standards, and part of that effort means likely boosting the role of technology in the classroom. Perhaps ironically, Finland hopes to become more economically competitive, pinning hopes on its students to become future technological innovators. More
Teacher performance laws, across the country
An increasing number of states are mandating that teacher performance be considered in employment decisions, including tenure and layoffs, according to a 50-state policy review of teacher-tenure laws by the Education Commission of the States. Three states — Florida, Kansas, and North Carolina — have attempted to eliminate tenure or are phasing it out. Florida and Idaho fit this category in 2011, but Idaho voters have since repealed that state’s law eliminating tenure. Sixteen states require the results of teacher performance evaluations be used in decisions about tenure or non-probationary status, versus 10 in 2011. Seven states have laws returning tenured or non-probationary teachers to probationary status if they receive ineffective ratings. Arizona and Louisiana have joined this group since 2011, and Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, and Tennessee already had such laws. Eleven states require districts to consider performance in deciding which teachers to lay off when declining enrollments or economic factors necessitate reductions in force. Georgia, Louisiana, and Maine are the most recent states making performance a primary consideration. In addition, Washington added this requirement in law effective 2015-16. Ten states explicitly prohibit the use of tenure or seniority as a primary factor in making lay-off decisions: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia. In 2012, only five states had such prohibitions in law. More
BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that high-poverty schools in California are denying students the learning time they need to succeed. More
But what are the strings?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are donating $120 million to public schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. More
They’ve got some splaining to do
The California districts that won a special reprieve from portions of NCLB are falling short on several key pieces of their waiver agreement, and, in some areas, made major changes to their plan without first getting permission from the U.S. Department of Education. More
A step forward
A challenge to California’s ban on bilingual education in public schools has taken a step forward after the state Senate approved a measure aimed at overturning key sections of the law. More
California employed 804 school librarians in 2012-13, which translates to one certified school librarian for every 7,784 students in 2012-13, the lowest per-student ratio of any state in the country. More
The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation has committed to giving $200,000 to the School Fuel program, which provides universal breakfast to nearly half a million students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. More
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese has ruled that the Alabama Accountability Act, the school choice law passed by the Legislature in 2013, is unconstitutional. More
Evaluating the evaluators
Since 2010, at least 36 states have adopted laws requiring principals to undergo regular assessments and increasing the rigor of those reviews, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.More
Dysfunction and discord in Boston’s public schools pose serious threats to what has mostly been a steady and sustained record of academic progress in the 55,000-student district, concludes a new external review commissioned by the school system. More
When D.C. is compared to states, it has the highest percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K programs as well as the highest spending per child. More
Performance pay prevails
Dallas school board members have approved a plan by Superintendent Mike Miles that will tie all teachers’ raises to classroom evaluation results. More
A healthy decision
All Indianapolis Public Schools students will get a free breakfast, lunch, and snack of fresh fruit or vegetable starting this fall and continuing for the next four years under a federal program the School Board has voted to join. More
The National Association of Secondary School Principals and the MetLife Foundation Breakthrough Schools program highlights high-achieving middle or high schools, or schools that are making dramatic improvements in student achievement, whose best practices and outstanding results can inform other schools as they further their own improvement efforts. Maximum award: $5,000. Eligibility: high-achieving K-12 schools with 40% or more students eligible for free and reduced priced meals. Deadline: June 30, 2014.
The Entomological Society of America’s President’s Prizes for Outstanding Achievement in Primary and Secondary Education recognize educators who have gone beyond the traditional teaching methods by using insects as educational tools. Maximum award: $400 to the winner’s school to purchase teaching materials required to expand the use of insects in the teaching curriculum; $400 to the winner for expenses associated with travel required to present a paper or poster on the use of insects in primary or secondary educational programs at a peer professional venue of their choosing; gratis registration to attend ESA’s annual meeting; and an $800 award to the winner for expenses associated with travel, hotel arrangements, and all other costs associated with attending the annual meeting. Eligibility: primary teachers (grades K-6) and secondary teachers (grades 7-12). Deadline: July 1, 2014.
P. Buckley Moss Foundation Education Grants aid and support teachers who wish to establish an effective learning tool using the arts in teaching children with learning disabilities and other special needs. Maximum award: $1,000. Eligibility: new or evolving programs that integrate the arts into educational programming. Deadline: September 30, 2014.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“The second-grade and first-grade curriculum has now been pushed down into kindergarten. If we push it down into pre-k, then children lose their childhood.” — Regina Gallagher, head of early childhood programs at the Goddard Riverside Community Center in New York City, arguing that young kids need time to play.