Archive for the ‘In The News’ Category

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.


  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?

Chronic Absenteeism in America’s Schools

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

With thanks to Education Week‘s Lovey Cooper, here are the absentee numbers and where they’re the highest, based on research by Johns Hopkins University’s Robert Balfanz and Hedy N. Change, director of Attendance Works:

  • Their analysis, “Preventing Missed Opportunity,” is based on data from the  U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and found that 6.5 million kids were chronically absent from school during the 2013-14 school year. In other words, they missed 15 or more days which translates to 3 or more weeks of school.
  • That number represents some 13% of all students.
  • At least 89% of public schools reported some degree of chronic absenteeism.
  • These absent kids were in just 4% of our nation’s school districts and in 12% of schools, translating to 654 districts in 47 states and D.C.
  • Urban districts have both high rates and large numbers of chronically absent students. These include those in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore.
  • Many poor, rural districts also have high rates and represent a majority of districts reporting rates of 30% or higher.

Concluded Balfanz, “What’s clear from our analysis is that chronic absenteeism follows poverty wherever it is found in significant concentrations.”

And as Chang noted, “All the best instruction in schools does not make a difference if students are not there to benefit from it.”

And that’s a given…




The New SAT: Need-to-Know Changes

Friday, June 17th, 2016

As reported by Nick Anderson, on the retooled SAT, the emphasis is on measuring “core skills taught in school, such as reading charts, analyzing evidence and applying algebra in mathematical problems.” One caveat, though: “It turns out that the new test comes with a degree of score inflation…

Among his other findings:

  1. The “guessing penalty” has been eliminated.
  2. The number of possible answer choices is now 4 instead of 5.
  3. While the old SAT designed in 2005 covered math, critical reading and writing for a total perfect score of 2400, the new one is worth just 1600, as in the old days, and with only two required sections: math and evidence-based reading and writing.

And so…

  • A score of 1200 on the new SAT corresponds to the old 1130.
  • A new SAT score of 1300 equals the old 1230.
  • A new SAT score of 1400 equals the old 1340.
  • A new SAT score of 1500 equals 1460.

However, explains Anderson, “A new 1600 is just as perfect as an old 1600.”

Now, whether you see this as a step in the right direction or not, be advised that college admissions officers are in the know and will factor in the score inflation when looking over the applications of 2017’s high school seniors…

And now you know, too.


Making News in Education Circles

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

A few noteworthy happenings in education:

1. As of December 10, the Every Student Succeed Act replaced the No Child Left Behind Law of 2001.

2. Under ESSA, all those hard-won Arne Duncan/Obama state waivers will be null and void as of August 1, 2016 when ESSA is fully in place for the 2016-17 school year.

3. Senators Alexander (R) and Murray (D), who together led the ESSA effort, will now hold at least 3 major oversight hearings on the law this year with education department officials, teachers, school board members, and state school chiefs.

4. Arne Duncan has now stepped down as U.S. secretary of education, replaced by former New York education chief and very controversial John King, Jr.

5. The Next Generation Science Standards established in 2013 have now been adopted by 26 states; they favor the teaching of a deeper understanding of science principles instead of just rote memorization.

6. In the omnibus federal budget deal passed in December, Title I for our neediest students will get about $14.9 billion, and state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) will rise to $11.9 billion. Head Start will jump to $9.2 billion, and the U.S. Department of Education is now in line for a $1.2 billion increase.

7. The new National Education Technology Plan includes redesigning teacher-prep programs, improving tech-based assessments, and establishing “a robust technology infrastructure.”

8. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will invest about $34 million in initiatives to improve teacher-prep programs’ overall effectiveness.

Headlining Education News

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Virginia’s Fairfax County is home to one of the nation’s largest school districts and some 187,000 students. Like many other districts, however, it too is facing a financial crunch with a potentially maximum shortfall estimated to hit $80 million! That figure assumes that a salary increase for teachers is in the offing, together with a growth in enrollment and an almost $20 million decrease in state funding. Plus, there’s the $46 million the district must spend to cover teacher retirement and health benefits costs, so you see the problem.

The solution being bandied about: Cutting sports and such extracurricular activities as the music and drama programs, yearbook and school newspapers. Oh, yes, also on the table is increasing class size. Says Superintendent Karen Garza, “We’re going to have some very painful decisions to make because funding has not kept up with just the basic demands.”

Headlining Education News

Monday, August 10th, 2015

The Common Core-related online assessments have taken yet another hit. As you may already know, state participation in the PARCC has now dropped from 23 to 11, but now comes word that Connecticut is dropping the SBAC Common Core standardized test for all of its 11th graders. They, instead, will take the SAT, which just happens to be aligned with the Common Core Standards. Indeed, David Coleman who now is the College Board’s president, was an “architect’ of the Common Core. This move becomes an added money maker for the SAT, which now reportedly charges all takers a registration fee of $54.50.

Meanwhile, it looks like, at least so far, that Connecticut students in all other grades will continue with SBAC. Stay tuned.

Making Education News: 6/16/2015

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

1. The federal government shelled out $3.3 billion to launch charter schools over the past 20 years but never monitored how those monies were spent.

2. The Common Core-aligned PARCC assessment will be 90 minutes shorter next year thanks to mounting opposition to lengthy testing.

3. The Educational Testing Service will be handling most of the 4-year, $340 million student assessment contract in Texas now instead of Pearson Education, which has made $468 million over the past 5 years.

4. Both PARCC and SBAC are administering the performance tasks tests separately from the more traditional-looking end-of-year tests which alone take almost 5 hours. The SBAC performance tasks take another 4-1/2 hours; for PARCC they add another 6-1/2 hours.

5. Five non-waiver states–California, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and Washington–will now be giving Common Core-aligned standardized tests. As a result, the federal government is letting them “pause” their school rating systems this year, but they still have to publish their performance scores for all to see.

6. The government is letting New Mexico use results from its teacher-evaluation system toward counting its “effective,” “highly effective,” or “exemplary” teachers as highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

7. California is trying again for a NCLB waiver, so it can free up millions for districts to use to run their own tutoring programs in low-income, low-performing schools.

8. The government has denied the Seattle School District’s request for its own NCLB waiver.

Making Education News: October 21, 2014

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

1. In 2012, 14 states enacted policies either mandating or strongly recommending that students be held back if they can’t read proficiently by third grade.

2. Currently, just 27 states are planning to use the Common Core assessments, either PARCC or SBAC, with the rest either using other assessments or are still undecided.

3. The University of Pittsburgh’s Learning and Research Development Center has been awarded $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education “to test and refine a training model used in manufacturing and health care to see if it works as well to support transitioning to the Common Core Standards.

4. The National Center for Education Statistics says 4th graders are capable of using a computer to type, organize, and write well enough to be assessed but they had trouble using things like the drop-down menus, editing icons, the highlighter tool, among others.

5. Because of ObamaCare, which mandates benefits to all employees who work at least 30 hours a week, an increasing number of districts are turning to private companies for substitute teachers.

6. Google’s Classroom app has officially launched in 42 languages worldwide and is designed “to help take the clutter out of everyday class assignments.”

Education News: October 14, 2014

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

2. A recent Gallup poll found that teachers are the least likely of any professionals to respond positively when asked if they feel their opinions count at work and whether their supervisor creates “an open and trusting environment.”

2. For the first time ever, Latinos, African-American, and Asian students will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in our schools.

3. Several black families sued the Lower Merion, PA school district for acting with racial bias when it disproportionately assigned black students to special ed classes but lost in court as no such evidence was found.

4. The Defense Department has provided law enforcement agencies affiliated with at least 120 schools and colleges with such gear as grenade launchers, rifles, and even mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.

5. A controversial bill in the Pennsylvania legislature would allow teachers and other school employees to carry guns to work.

Making Education News: October 7, 2014

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

1. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has announced that states can delay using test results in teacher-performance ratings for another year. Over the past 4 years, 40 states adopted laws tying teacher evaluations in part on students’ standardized test results.

2. Texas has been granted a one-year NCLB waiver after agreeing to pilot a new statewide teacher and principal evaluation system.

3. Oklahoma will not get an extension of its NCLB waiver because of its vote to scrap the Common Core Standards.

4. Opponents of the Common Core Standards for AP U.S. History in South Carolina say they are anti-American, questioning as they do the honor and bravery of American soldiers and the founding fathers; they don’t even mention Martin Luther King.

5. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has sued the Obama administration for “illegally manipulating federal money to adopt the Common Core Standards by dangling $4.3 billion in grants and policy waivers that encouraged them to adopt the standards and their assessments.”

6. 7 states, including South Carolina, are proposing, not requiring, that schools reward students who take the national citizenship test and score about 60%. 91% of those seeking citizenship get a passing score.

7. A group of 26 organizations have announced a joint effort to improve civic education via the Civics Renewal Network which offers 1,000 free resources for educators.

8. The bulk of the federal $1.4 trillion spending increase is primarily going to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the national debt–not education.

9. Reportedly, with federal, state, and local spending combined, $28,754 is spent on senior citizens with $12,770 spent per child.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

1. Georgia, Delaware, Minnesota, New York, and South Carolina are the latest to receive No Child Left Behind waiver extensions, along with Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

2. Utah was considering voluntarily ditching its NCLB waiver instead of negotiating with the U.S. Department of Education on things like teacher evaluations, standards, and school turnarounds, but is now seeking a waiver extension.

3. Washington is the first state to lose its NCLB waiver, but the Washington Association of School Administrators may sue U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan saying that he does not have the authority to set conditions for waivers, such as the teacher-evaluation requirement, that are beyond the scope of federal education law.

4. Earlier, Oklahoma legislators repealed the Common Core Standards saying the federal government is trying to influence Oklahoma’s education policies; nevertheless, the state is still seeking a one-year NCLB waiver extension.

5. Rhode Island lawmakers have suspended the use of standardized tests as part of a high school diploma until 2017 and approve legislation that limits the frequency of teacher evaluations for most teachers.

6. The NEA’s new president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who began as a school cafeteria lunch lady, is urging teachers nationwide to revolt against “stupid” education reforms and telling politicians to leave teaching to the professionals.

7. The NEA and AFT are trying to forge a new relationship and work together; both organizations are targeting U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and qualifying their support for the Common Core Standards, particularly its implementation.

8. The NEA has now passed a resolution calling for Arne Duncan’s resignation.


Making Education News: September 16, 2014

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

1. $4 million in federal funds, ranging from $142,000 to $250,000, is being awarded to preparatory graduate schools for special education leadership positions.

2. The U.S. Department of Education has decided to evaluate states’ special education systems based on the academic performance of their students with disabilities. Previously, they were graded on compliance indicators.

3. Obama has now signed the Autism CARES Act that includes more than $1 billion in federal funding.

4. The U.S. Department of Education is awarding $28.4 million in grants to 40 states, D.C., and the Virgin Islands to reduce the cost of AP exams for low-income students.

5. The Obama administration will now require states to submit new plans to address the distribution of qualified teachers by April, 2015.

6. The U.S. Department of Education has kicked off a $250 million preschool federal grant competition. Pennsylvania alone could win as much as $20 million.

7. Come November, Missouri voters will vote on weakening tenure laws and tying teacher evaluations to student performance.

8. Two New York parent groups have filed anti-tenure law lawsuits similar to the California case.

9. Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown has filed a lawsuit in New York seeking to overturn New York’s tenure laws and other teacher job protections.

Making Education News: September 9, 2014

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

1. The Philadelphia School District’s “School Redesign Initiative” is inviting teachers, principals, university and community organizations to propose turnaround designs instead of just going with more charters. As many as 10 schools could be transformed in September, 2015.

2. The Philadelphia School District has announced 342 layoffs–most of them noontime aides and special ed classroom aides, plus 8 assistant principals, 3 conflict-resolution specialists, and 15 Head Start classroom assistants.

3. A growing number of districts are banning e-cigarettes, though they’re said to be far safer than tobacco ones.

4.  A Narberth, Pennsylvania teacher, Kathy Morris, has developed the CYA iPhone app to document classroom activities and keep track of the Danielson Framework teacher evaluation components.