LAEP NewsBlast 8.27.14

Welcome Back to School
I wanted to take a moment to welcome you back to the NewsBlast. We’re excited to be continuing to provide a national platform for education-reform information sharing. As an organization that works directly “on the ground” with teachers, administrators, students, and parents, we’re particularly interested in promoting the intersection of research and practice, and the grassroots work of changing schools and communities.

Please help us advance this mission by sending us blogs about your education-reform experiences, the highs and lows. Share with us information about important things of national significance happening in your community, your district, and your state. And do invite others to become NewsBlast subscribers by visiting LAEP’s website and clicking the “Join our Newsletter” link and selecting the Public Ed NewsBlast.

Best wishes for a successful and fulfilling school year!


August 27, 2014 – In This Issue:

Talking about Mike Brown
On his Practical Theory blog, Principal Chris Lehman of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia writes that when he heard Mike Brown was shot, unarmed, multiple times by a police officer, his thoughts immediately went to stories over the years from students of color about experiences with police. The stories aren’t monolithic, and students of color whose parents are police bring a different lens to these conversations, but overwhelmingly, he’s heard deep distrust and fear. With the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s death, with Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis’s death, and now with Mike Brown’s death, many students of color conclude that American justice — from police to the courts — aren’t there for them. Statistics bear this out. What can educators do? To pretend the issue doesn’t enter the classroom risks complicity in the system that left Brown’s body in the street for hours. Now is a moment to ask hard questions, and Brown’s death reminds us there is no such thing as passive anti-racism. His death — and the police state Ferguson has become since — indicates institutional racism is the norm in this country. We must actively work to do better. Lehman includes a link to resources around talking about Brown’s death. More

The latest EdNext survey
A recent survey from Education Next finds a sharp change in public opinion around the Common Core. Administered to 5,000 respondents in May and June 2014, it finds 53 percent favor the standards, compared with 65 percent in 2013. Opposition has doubled from 13 to 26 percent; those taking no position is unchanged at 21 percent. The survey also found that Americans asked to evaluate teaching quality think, on average, about half the teachers in local schools deserve a grade of A or B, but more than one-fifth deserve a D or F. The average teacher thinks 69 percent of colleagues deserve an A or a B, but admit 5 percent deserve an F, with another 8 percent no better than a D. More than one-fourth of families with school-age children have educated a child in a setting other than a traditional public school. Eighty-seven percent have experience with traditional schools, most relying on them exclusively. Still, 14 percent have used private schools, and 9 percent have enrolled children in charters. Charters attract 15 percent of African Americans with school-age children. Also, the public is less inclined to favor using funds for class-size reduction if they know its cost relative to the cost of teacher pay and the purchase of new books and technologies. More

The latest Ed Week survey
A new survey from the Education Week Research Center of 457 teachers and instructional specialists in K-12 schools examines views on issues related to the Common Core, including familiarity with the standards and aligned assessments; curricular resources; professional development and training; preparedness for the new standards and assessments; and impact on classroom instruction and student learning. While not statistically representative, respondents included diverse teachers and instructional specialists spanning a range of subjects, grade levels, and geographic regions. A majority of respondents report some familiarity with the standards in both ELA and mathematics, but were less familiar with aligned assessments developed by the consortia. Most respondents reported access to high-quality multimedia and other supplementary resources, but fewer than half had high-quality, aligned textbooks. A majority of educators have received some professional development for the Common Core, but eight in 10 want more. Respondents said the most useful forms of training involved collaborative planning time, professional learning communities, structured training opportunities, and job-embedded coaching. Since the Center’s original survey in October 2012, teachers and instructional specialists describing themselves as “very familiar” with the standards in mathematics increased from 18 percent in 2012 to 31 in 2013. More

Why math reforms have failed
In The New York Times Magazine, Elizabeth Green describes how the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published manifestos throughout the 1980s prescribing radical changes in teaching math. These were adopted to excellent results by other countries, notably Japan, but discarded in the U.S. “It wasn’t the first time Americans dreamed up a better way to teach math and then failed to implement it,” Green writes. Such efforts stretch back to the 1800s, the same scenario every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and a return to conventional practice. The trouble starts when teachers are asked to implement innovative ideas without guidance. With unprepared teachers, reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping. This frustrating descent is underway again, Green says, as states adopt the Common Core without good systems for instructing educators. Inadequate implementation leads to the inevitable conclusion: Why try something we’ve failed at a half-dozen times before, only to watch it backfire? Yet math reforms rise again and again, since our traditional way of teaching math simply doesn’t work — as proficiency data for both students and adults attest. Japan could make changes because teachers depended on jugyokenkyu, a set of practices to hone their craft. There, a teacher plans lessons, then teaches in front of an audience of students and other teachers, along with at least one university observer. Observers discuss with the teacher what’s taken place. Of all lessons Japan can offer the United States, the most important might be a belief in patience and the possibility of change. Training teachers in a new way of thinking takes time, and American parents must be patient. More

Reforming like it’s 1983
Many changes roiling American education today can be traced directly back to ideas in the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” writes Sarah Garland in The Christian Science Monitor. The report from the Reagan administration was a scathing appraisal of public education by a commission of leaders from government, business, and education, who spent two years examining American schools and were appalled at what they found. The document set off panic in a once self-satisfied nation, and launched a movement to transform public education. Its effects are still powerful. Its five proposed solutions — improving content, raising standards, overhauling the teaching profession, adding time to the school day and year, and improving leadership and fiscal support – can be seen in the Common Core, in teacher ratings based partly on standardized test scores, and in the rise of charters with longer days and no union contracts. But as these prescriptions become reality, they’re sparking further from those backlash who feel the worst of the report — an overhyped sense of crisis and business-focused mentality — has been embraced, ignoring ideas about empowering teachers, raising expectations for students, and identifying and training better school leaders. Testing was a sub-recommendation in the report, one of eight in a section promoting higher standards and calling for state “standardized tests of achievement” at major transition points to identify need for remediation or advancement, and to identify schools succeeding as much as failing. More

Peer review basically absent
A new article from the American Educational Research Association finds that less than one percent of articles published in top education research journals are replication studies, even though replicating important findings is essential for improving usefulness of research for policymakers and practitioners. The report analyzes the complete publication history of the current 100 education journals with the highest five-year “impact factor” (how often articles are cited in other scholarly work), finding only 0.13 percent of published articles were replications. Contrary to medicine but similar to psychology, nearly 68 percent of replications successfully replicate findings of original studies, 19.5 percent have mixed results (supporting some, but not all, findings), and 13.1 percent fail to replicate any original findings. Replications were significantly less likely to succeed when there was no overlap in authorship between original and replicating articles. Replications conducted by completely new researchers were successful 54 percent of the time; when conducted by original authors in the same publication, 88.7 percent were successful. Replications in a new publication but with at least one author on both original and replicating studies had a 70.6 percent success rate.  Currently, one in 500 education studies are replications, an increase from one in 2,000 in 1990. More

Connecting non-academic factors and achievement
A new report about City Connects, a student-support intervention that addresses non-academic factors limiting academic achievement for children in poverty, evaluates outcomes for 2011-12 in 16 Boston and five Springfield, MA public elementary/K-8 schools, finding the program has a significant and lasting impact on academic achievement. The intervention identifies strengths and needs of every child, and connects each student to tailored prevention, intervention, and enrichment services in the community and school. Students attending City Connects from kindergarten have 50 percent lower odds of dropping out of high school than comparison students. City Connects students outperform peers in middle school, achieving close to proficiency on both English and Math statewide standardized tests (the MCAS). In elementary school, City Connects students scored significantly higher on the Stanford Achievement Test in grades 3, 4, and 5 in reading and math, and after one year of City Connects in Springfield’s “turnaround” elementary schools, the gap between these and other Springfield schools was significantly reduced in grades 3, 4, and 5 for english and math MCAS. The report also notes students in City Connects are more likely to later attend highly selective secondary schools in Boston. The probability of attending an exam school increased with each additional year in City Connects. Students also show decreased likelihood of being chronically absent or kept back. More

An unproductive comparison of charter and traditional schools
A review by the National Education Policy Center of a report on charter school productivity finds the report’s claims “suffer multiple sources of invalidity, rendering the report useless.” The report, from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, uses the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and “revenues received” to conclude charters deliver an additional 17 NAEP points per $1,000 in math and 16 points per $1,000 in reading. The reviewer points out the report inaccurately employs NAEP results by discounting demographic differences highly correlated with performance, i.e., the sector with a higher percentage of poor pupils scores lower. Moreover, the report compares “all revenues” received by “district schools” and “charter schools,” claiming a comparison of expenditures is too complex. Yet traditional schools often fund programs not provided by charter schools (special education, compensatory education, food, transportation, special populations, capital costs, state-mandated instructional activities, physical education). Charter funding in most states and districts is a pass-through from district funding, and districts retain some or all responsibility for provision of services to charter students — a reality the report acknowledges but does not correct for. Taken together, the report’s flaws leave readers with little evidence on which to base any valid conclusions, the reviewer writes. More

Invisible In 2012-2013, more than 6,400 California middle-schoolers dropped out, according to California Department of Education data. MoreThe buck stops with the stateA judge has ruled California is ultimately responsible for seeing that districts provide services to all English language learners not receiving help they need to become proficient in English. More


No kidding

The groundbreaking effort to provide an iPad to every Los Angeles student, teacher, and school administrator was beset by inadequate planning, a lack of transparency, and a flawed bidding process, according to a draft of an internal school district report. More

Straight into Princeton

You hear about the Compton student who graduated from high school at the top of his class last May and starts school this fall at Princeton with a full scholarship? Probably not. More

Trigger lock

The Los Angeles Unified School District has announced it is exempting itself from the state’s parent trigger law, based on a federal waiver. More

Back to the drawing board 

In the wake of the recent defeat of another candidate to the Los Angeles school board, charter advocates are rethinking how to support local candidates. More

Kind of a problem

Los Angeles Unified has told teachers to stop using its new district-wide computer system after days of glitches that have lost records and kept students from starting in their proper classes. MoreChecked out

While absenteeism is usually considered a student matter, in San Francisco, the average teacher misses more school than the average child. More

Maybe they were busy voting

San Francisco teachers have overwhelmingly supported a preliminary strike vote, with 2,238 checking the YES box on the ballot and 16 voting NO. More

A majority endsFor the first time in U.S. history, ethnic and racial minorities are projected to make up the majority of students attending American public schools this fall, ending the white-majority population that has existed from the beginnings of the public education system. MoreNot time to ACTMore students than ever are taking the ACT college admissions test, but student achievement remains flat, as nearly one-third of students are not meeting any college-readiness benchmarks, according to a new report from the testing agency. MoreShake it up

A group billing itself as a “Consumer Reports for school materials” will soon begin posting free online reviews of major textbooks and curricula that purport to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards — an effort, some say, that has the potential to shake up the market. More

One born every minute

According to a recent Gallup report, more U.S. adults agree or strongly agree that online colleges and universities offer high-quality education (37 percent) than did so in 2012 (33 percent) or 2011 (30 percent) when Gallup first introduced the report. More

Hope he had a good vacation, anyway

House Republicans’ plan to sue President Barack Obama for a series of executive actions they argue were an overreach of his legal authority could have ramifications for some of the administration’s signature education initiatives. More

TFA represents

Teach for America has announced that 50 percent of its incoming corps of 5,300 identify as people of color. More

Raising the bar (somewhat)

The South Carolina Board of Education has approved a timeline that calls for the final OK in March for new math and reading benchmarks for South Carolina students. More


Michigan’s big investment in a state-funded preschool program will give thousands of additional children a shot at a better start to their education this coming school year. More

Not good

More than a quarter of Michigan’s charter school authorizers are “at risk” of being suspended because of low academic performance and problems with contract transparency, the Michigan Department of Education has announced. More


Due process

The Kansas National Education Association has filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court asking a judge to declare unconstitutional a new law that strips teachers of a right to a hearing before they are fired. More

Don’t believe the hype

Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga said Nevada public education is in worse shape than statistics indicate. More

Brushed back from the plate

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s effort to derail Louisiana’s use of the Common Core has been halted by a state judge who said the governor’s actions were harmful to parents, teachers, students. More

Piling on

Sixty percent of American adults said they oppose Common Core, according to the results of the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of attitudes toward public education. More

How neighborly

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has reached across the river to endorse a candidate in the race for the Ohio State Board of Education. More

Lousy timing

A judge’s ruling declaring North Carolina’s school-voucher program unconstitutional threw hundreds of families into chaos and struck a blow against the Republican education agenda in North Carolina. More


Dizzy Feet Foundation: Program Grants

The Dizzy Feet Foundation (DFF) makes grants that bolster dance-education programs for children in low-income areas and disadvantaged communities. Through its grant recipients, DFF seeks to give children the experience of dance, to educate them about the many styles of dance, and to expose them to the lifelong benefits of dance. Maximum award: varies. Eligibility: community organizations and other tax-exempt entities in the United States. Deadline: September 4, 2014.More

Carnegie /New York Times: I Love My Librarian Award

The Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award recognizes the accomplishments of exceptional public, school, college, community-college, or university librarians. Maximum award: $5,000, a plaque, and $500 travel stipend to attend an awards reception in New York hosted by The New York Times. Eligibility: school, public, college, or university librarians.  Deadline: September 12, 2014. More


AGI: Connections in My Community

The American Geological Institute is sponsoring a photography contest to celebrate Earth Science Week 2014. The photography theme for this year is “Connections in My Community.” Maximum award: $300, a copy of AGI’s The Geoscience Handbook, and winner’s photograph on the Earth Science Week website. Eligibility: residents of the United States of any age. Deadline: October 14, 2014. More



“In here, we’re not talking about what’s going on out there. But if a child is sad, we have pulled kids aside and done some coloring. Color it out and then have a release.” — Antona Smith, a former educator volunteering at the Ferguson Municipal Public Library, where parents can drop off kids to learn while school in Ferguson remains delayed. More