Archive for the ‘In The News’ Category

from “The Michigan Experiment,” by Mark Binelli

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

123rf-education-21508154With thanks to Mark Binelli’s “The Michigan Experiment,” some excerpts of note:

  • “A major victim of the city’s [Detroit] insolvency was its public school system, which had been under state control since 2012. (Six different state-appointed emergency managers have run the district since then.) Plummeting enrollment, legacy costs and financial mismanagement had left the school system with a projected deficit of $10 million. The state’s solution was to ‘charterize’ the entire district: void the teacher’s union contract, fire all employees and turn over control of the schools to a private, for-profit charter operator.”
  • “Michigan’s aggressively free-market approach to schools has resulted in one of the most deregulated educational environments in the country, a laboratory in which consumer choice and a shifting landscape of supply and demand (and profit motive, in the case of many charters) were pitched as ways to improve life in the classroom for the state’s 1.5 million public-school students. But a Brookings Institutions analysis done this year of national test scores ranked Michigan last among all states when it came to improvements in student proficiency. And a 2016 analysis by the Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan education policy and research organization, found that 70 percent of Michigan charters were in the bottom half of the state’s rankings. Michigan has the most for-profit charter schools in the country and some of the least state oversight. Even staunch charter advocates have blanched at the Michigan model.”
  • “…It’s important to understand that what happened to Michigan’s schools isn’t solely, or even primarily, an education story. Today in Michigan, hundreds of nonprofit public charters have become potential financial assets to outside entities, inevitably complicating their broader social missions.”
  • According to the 2016 Education Trust-Midwest report: “In little more than a decade, Michigan has gone from a fairly average state in elementary reading and math achievement to the bottom 10 states. It’s a devastating fall. Indeed, new national assessment data suggest Michigan is witnessing systemic decline across the K-12 spectrum. White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income–it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live…”

Take Note: Kids Hit the Social Media Pause Button

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Fotosearch Smartphone k5512459A survey of 5,000 students conducted by Charlotte Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, certainly meets my good news standard. It turns out that many kids are now saying enough is enough when it comes to Facebook and its similarly fetching social media clones.

For starters, more than 60% of respondents think many of their peers present a “fake version” of themselves, though, a whopping 85% said they’ve done no such thing.

Regardless and more importantly, though, the survey also showed that such sites take a toll on kids’ well-being, and they’re taking note. That’s because…

  • 57% said they’d received abusive comments online; and
  • 56% admitted to being all but addicted to FB and the like.

It’s no wonder then that:

  • 66% of school children said they’d be happier had social media never been invented; and
  • 71% said they’d taken a temporary break to “escape” it.

Here, hear!

Some But Not All Hopeful Signs for 2017

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

A recent New Year’s poll conducted by Associated Press-Times Square Alliance made some fascinating discoveries. Among them:Fotosearch cop hat k2064916

  • Just 18% said things got better for the country in 2016; 33% said things got worse; and 47% said nothing had changed since 2015.
  • 55% believe things will be better for them in 2017–a 12-point improvement from 2016.

Bottom line: Despite all the hysteria and hypothetical scenarios of disastrous outcomes being bandied about on the airwaves, the Internet, and in print about when Mr. Trump moves into the White House, a majority of Americans are hopeful about the way forward in 2017.

As for what happened that didn’t particularly matter according to the poll, 50% indicated Muhammad Ali’s death, 43% said the approval of recreational marijuana use in 4 states, and 40% said Fidel Castro’s death. Take from that what you will.

What did affect respondents in some significant way? For 51% of them, it was news stories about those who’d died at the hands of police officers and/or about ambush attacks on police in three states.

Meanwhile, a recent national Pew survey of 8,000 police officers found that:

  • “93 percent of officers say they’ve grown more concerned about their safety.
  •  76 percent are more now reluctant to use force when necessary.
  •  75 percent believe interactions between police and blacks have become more tense.
  • 72 percent say they’re more reluctant to stop and question suspicious-looking people.
  •  67 percent report being verbally abused.”

It’s the law of unintended consequences and worthy of attention.

Pennsylvania Changes Course on Grading School Performance

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

This just out: Called “The Future Ready PA Index,” state education officials have proposed a whole new school accountability system that will eventually go into effect and impact the commonwealth’s 500 school districts. It will replace the School Performance Profile in place since 2013, where up to 90% of a school’s score–every traditional public school, brick-and-mortar and cyber charters, and career & technology centers–is based on student performance on standardized math, reading, science, and English. In other words some 1.7 million students.

With the new grading system, based on input by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and others, school performance based on student test performance will stay in force but won’t carry as much weight. It will also…

  • Place greater emphasis on all students’ academic growth;
  • Credit schools for offering AP and other challenging courses;
  • Reward career awareness programs;
  • Allow local reading assessments for 3rd graders and math assessments for 7th graders.

Now we wait and see…

Common Core’s Shaky Success: Quotes to Consider

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

With thanks to Naomi Nix and her article, “Student Test Scores Are on the Rise. Does That Mean Common Core is Working,” a few quoted differences of opinion:

  • The trend in our state and across the country is clear: Higher standards are translating into meaningful and measurable progress for our students. As we enter a new era in education policy, obviously ushered in by the new federal law, our focus should not be on starting from scratch but rather on building on the hard work of students and educators that has taken place over the last few years.” ~ Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware
  • Critics of the Common Core will continue to push states to get rid of the standards. But their push has less and less credibility as scores go up and students see more and more success. And it’s probably not a coincidence that the one state so far where scores have gone down–Indiana–is a state that dropped Common Core and has since changed its standards and tests multiple times. It’s time for these critics to accept that under the standards, students are making progress.” ~ Scott Sargrad & Coleton Whitaker, Center for American Progress
  • Answering the question, “Are this year’s test results a cause for celebration?: “We need to have a little more patience until we can get some other data to do these analyses. I think it’s a little shortsighted… You just set yourself up for, when the data don’t look great, for people to torpedo the policies.” ~ Morgan Polikoff, University of Southern California
  • from the Brookings Institute: “Implementation of the Common Core State Standards has resulted in not more than a single point in either direction on fourth-graders’ reading scores and eighth-graders’ math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress [the nation’s report card] over a period of six years.”
  • “If student test scores rise at a modest rate, they are more likely to reflect actual learning gains, but if there is a rapid increase, it can indicate that the scores have been artificially inflated. Generally speaking, test scores can become inflated in a number of ways. Some research suggests that when high stakes are attached to a student assessment, teachers tailor their instruction to emphasize concepts of types of questions most likely to appear on the exam. Teachers can also coach students by teaching test-taking tricks…” ~ Daniel Koretz, Harvard University
  • The students who are in the third grade have basically had their entire K-12 career under Common Core. Those are the students who are showing the strongest improvement. ” ~ Scott Sargrad, Center for American Progress

Does Equalizing Access to Effective Teachers Affect the Achievement Gap?

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Tenure makes firing ineffective teachers expensive and difficult and has sparked controversy for years now, particularly since Vergara v. California started making its way through the courts in May, 2012. Back then, nine public school students took tenure to to task for protecting ineffective teachers at their expense and blaming it for school inequity. Their bottom line: Poor and minority children get stuck with the worst teachers.

The Superior Court asserted that “every child has the constitutional right to learn from effective teachers and have an equal opportunity to succeed in school.” But in 2013, the California Teachers Association and the California  Federation of Teachers added their voices to the State’s and appealed that decision. Ultimately, on April 14, 2016, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal ruled against the nine students, and on August 22, 2016, the California Supreme Court declined to review the case–a win for

So are poor and minority kids really in classrooms with the worst teachers? A team of researchers at Mathematica Policy Research decided to find out by studying  students’ standardized test scores over five years in 26 school districts across the country and found… (more…)

Scholastic’s Survey of Teachers’ Classroom Spending

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

The education publishing company Scholastic surveyed 3,694 teachers (including 76 school librarians) and 1,027 principals this past summer and found that a majority feel their students, both low- and high-poverty, face barriers to learning outside of the classroom. To help make a difference, the surveyed teachers:

  • On average, spent $530 of their own money on classroom items.
  • On average, spent $672 in high-poverty schools

Moreover,

  • 70% indicated they’d bought food and snacks for their students.
  • 65% purchased cleaning supplies.
  • 26% bought clothing for their students.
  • 56% purchased classroom books.

Plus, on average, the surveyed principals spent $683 for classroom or student supplies over the past year, with those in high-poverty schools averaging $1,014.  79% indicated they’d bought food and snacks for students.

Another interesting finding: While most teachers have classroom libraries, 31% have fewer than 50 books. Those in elementary schools have, on average, 362 books; middle school teachers average 189 books, and those at the high school level have just 93.

And so it goes…

 

George Will on Academia

Monday, November 28th, 2016

In a USA Today commentary, George Will wrote, “… Campuses create ‘safe spaces’ where students can shelter from discombobulating thoughts and receive spiritual balm for the trauma of microaggressions. Yet the presidential election came without trigger warnings?” He continues to note that on November 7, whether elated or despondent, most “normal” folks got back to the business of their lives, but not so many college students, too traumatized to get on with their studies on campuses that are no longer bastions of free thought and dialogue among those with opposing views. No, not at all.

As Will notes:

  • A Yale professor made the day’s exam optional for students distraught by the election’s result.
  • A University of Colorado student wrote “free speech matters” on 680 posters that warned about politically incorrect speech.
  • Catholic DePaul University decried an “Unborn Lives Matter” poster as bigotry.
  • Bowdoin College offered counseling services to students “traumatized by the cultural appropriation committed by a sombrero-and-tequila party.”
  • Some Oberlin College students suffered breakdowns because schoolwork interfered with their political activism.
  • Cal State University, Los Angeles, provided “healing spaces” to help students handle a speech made 3 months earlier.

And on and on it goes , with esteemed professors (more…)

Pre-K For All Is No Cure-All

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

fotosearch-kindergarteners-paa186000022So is universal pre-school the great equalizer politicians claim, the silver bullet that ensures academic success for at-risk children? That certainly has been the hope and the justification for schooling our youngest learners and spending a whole lot of money in the process.

Indeed, as reported by Lilliam Mongeau for Education Week, “The 42 states with public preschool programs and the District of Columbia spent $6.2 billion to serve 1.4 million 3- and 4-year-olds in the 2014-15 school year.” And that bears repeating: In just one school year, taxpayers shelled out some $6.2 billion on pre-K education alone.

So, how much bang are we getting for our bucks? Certainly not nearly as much as Obama and his Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. would have us believe.

As pointed out in an article by Esther J. Cepeda, a 2013 study of 3,000 Tennessee children randomly assigned to either attend pre-K or not, found that, short-term, those attending were more prepared for kindergarten, had better work skills, and enjoyed more positive attitudes toward school than the non-attenders. However, 2015 data showed that…

  1. By year’s end, their first grade teachers rated them as possessing “weaker work skills, less prepared for and more negative about school.”
  2. Moreover, at the end of both 2nd and 3rd grade, they did not perform as well on academic tests as those who never attended pre-K.

Concludes Cepeda, “Maybe for the youngsters in question, two extra years of high-stakes education and testing cast school as a drag to be endured rather than experienced happily.”

A better bet, she suggests: effective anti-poverty programs and parenting classes for their moms and dads. Oh, yes, a whole lot less screen time, too. Maybe throw in more book reading and family time, as well.

Kids Are Smarter Than We Think

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Fotosearch Test Taking 26734All along, the powers that be have said American kids come in either above or below the all-mighty grade level mark when it comes to academic performance–but not apparently on it. Really. Meanwhile, it was also determined that just 5% to 15% of our students scored in at that “above” range. Yikes, right?!

But then Johns Hopkins researchers recently went to work analyzing performance results in three key states to definitively answer the question: “How many students perform above grade level?” and targeted three states:

  1. Florida because it opted out of the Common Core State Standards adopted by most states in one form or another.
  2. Wisconsin because it adopted the Common Core but not its related SBAC  online assessment’s adaptive features, which is known there as the Badger Exam.
  3. California because it went all in for the Common Core and its related SBAC online assessment.

And here’s what they discovered:

  • In Wisconsin,  32% of 3rd graders and 45% of 8th graders scored 1+ years above grade level in English/Language Arts. When it came to math, 38% of 3rd graders and 26% of 8th graders did so. Plus, more than 33% of the 8th graders scored at or above the 11th grade proficiency level.
  • As for performance on the SBAC in California, 21% of 3rd graders and 37% of 8th graders scored 1+ years above grade level in English/Language Arts; 19% of 3rd graders and 34% of 8th graders did so in math.
  • And in Florida that has not relied whatsoever on the Common Core, 30% of 3rd graders and 42% of 8th graders scored 1+ years above grade level; 36% of 3rd graders and 38% of 7th graders did so in math. Eighth grade scores were not available.

The researchers’ conclusion: Our kids are far better off academically than that previous 5% to 15% figure.

Another interesting take-away: California, with its Common Core curriculum and related standardized test, by no means outdid the other two states…

Education Week Takes on Virtual Charter Schools

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

The special report, “Rewarding Failure,” starts off by saying, “With growing evidence that the nation’s cyber charter schools are plagued by serious academic and management problems, Education Week conducted a months-long investigation into what is happening in this niche sector of K-12 schooling…” and found that:

  • “Collectively, online charters receive more than a billion dollars in taxpayer money each year.”
  • “Online charters serve more than 200,00 students across 26 states; many are run by for-profit companies.”
  • “Stanford researchers say cyber charters have an ‘overwhelmingly negative impact’ on student learning.”

All on its own, highly touted K12 Inc. has:

  1. Hired 321 lobbyists over 14 years;
  2. Incurred lobbying expenditures of $10,585,177 since 2000;
  3. Donated $2,124,002 to candidates, party committees, PACs, and ballot measures.

Not far behind in spending your money is Connections Education which:

  1. Hired 212 lobbyists over 13 years;
  2. Incurred lobbying expenditures of $3,784,818 since 2002;
  3. Donated $62,500 to candidates, party committees, PACs, and ballot measures.

The report goes on to say that, despite their poor academic results, “Online charter advocates counter that the schools provide a safe haven for students who would not otherwise succeed in regular public schools and offer flexibility that some students and parents want. They argue that cyber charters should not be evaluated by the same measures as regular public schools.”

What measures one would wonder then, even as your tax dollars continue down the charter school drain…

Parents Across America Speaks Out about Education Technology

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Parents Across America, a non-profit boasting 44 chapters in 25 states, has taken a stand about the education technology that is changing the face of American education. Along with the flawed Common Core Standards, our children are now subjected to countless hours of classroom screen time, along with too many standardized online assessments, all coupled with increased data collection.

Unfortunately, it seems that many parents applaud all of this, believing not only that it benefits their children but that the test-based, “concrete” information they receive about their kids’ academic performance is valid.

Parents Across America knows better. Yes, the organization agrees that technology has its place, but asserts that it has no place before third grade and is against 1-to-1 devices before high school. It also quite simply espouses more vigilance when it comes to ed tech and how it’s used in our classrooms. Another of their concerns is (more…)

Education Data Collecting Keystroke by Keystroke

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

data-cloudOkay, all you education data fans, here’s the latest, and it makes me wonder if you’ll still be applauding  after reading all about it. Thanks to an Education Week piece by Sarah Sparks titled, “Hunt Is On for Clues to Students’ Test-Taking Strategies: Studies to Yield Further Picture of Learning Process,” we’re offered an eye-opening update on what’s going on behind the scenes as our children take mandated online standardized tests.

As she explains, “… Researchers on some of the leading national and international assessments work to pull more data about students’ learning strategies and skills from summative tests.” Apparently, what they’ve gathered so far is insufficient when it comes to knowing what’s going on in kids’ heads during testing. The concern: “We miss out on measuring the struggle a student has when she tries to overcome a misconception in learning science concepts or the anxiety a student feels when he’s trying to solve a problem…”

The solution: “process data, aka interaction, telemetry, clickstream, or logfile data, etc. As Sparks explains, these are the traces a student leaves behind while making (more…)

News Alert: Federal Aid Application Online Now

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka FAFSA and representing a large part of college financing, kicked off on October 1 instead of the usual January 1 this year. That gives students a head start on seeking the financing they need, but there’s one caveat: Those loans are on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t delay! Don’t rush through it, though, as that’s how mistakes are made.

Officials suggest getting the application in right away and definitely no later than early November–and that includes students still unsure about their college choices. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 10 institutions can be added at a later time.

Meanwhile:

  1. A specific Federal School Code for each college is required; click here for a complete list, along with a FAFSA worksheet.
  2. An FSA ID for both the student and parent; for information and to sign up, click here.
  3. Also required is information on any child support payments, current bank account statements, and investment accounts.
  4. For the 2017-18 school year, the 2015 tax return is to be used.
  5. For many families, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will transfer the income tax information to the FAFSA for you.

So get going, completing the application as soon as possible and definitely before mid-November. It should only take about one hour or so in all, and you’re done!

 

Child-Health Concerns Survey

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

With thanks to a recent C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital survey of our greatest child-health concerns, here are the top 5 out of 10 by race/ethnicity:

White Adults:

  1. Obesity
  2. Bullying
  3. Drug Abuse
  4. Internet Safety
  5. Stress

Black Adults:

  1. Bullying
  2. Racial Inequities
  3. School Violence
  4. Drug Abuse
  5. Internet Safety

Hispanic Adults:

  1. Bullying
  2. Obesity
  3. Drug Abuse
  4. Internet Safety
  5. Stress

Differing world views? Differing priorities? How about you?