Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:
News & analysis
StudentsFirst Spending: National Education Reform Group’s Partial Tax Records Released
The national education reform group StudentsFirst, which has set out to transform U.S. schools by introducing more free-market principles to public education, raised $7.6 million in its first nine months – and spent nearly a quarter of it on advertising – according to partial tax records released on Monday.
Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, launched StudentsFirst in the fall of 2010 with the stated goal of raising $1 billion over five years. Among the reforms it advocates: abolishing teacher tenure; permitting more teachers without formal education training to take charge of classrooms; evaluating teachers in large measure by their students’ growth on standardized tests; and expanding charter schools, which are publicly funded but typically run by private corporations, including for-profit management firms. (Huffington Post)
193 Vocational Programs Fail ‘Gainful Employment’ Test
About 5 percent of vocational programs that are subject to the Education Department’s controversial gainful-employment rule failed to meet the regulation’s three key benchmarks that will eventually be required for them to receive federal student aid, data released by the department today show. The graduates of 193 programs at 93 different institutions, all of them for-profit, are carrying debt-to-income ratios that are too high and have loan-repayment rates that are too low under the benchmarks the Department of Education established in the rule, issued in June 2011. None of those programs will receive any sanctions because the data were released for informational purposes only. Full enforcement of the regulations will be phased in over the next several years. Starting in 2013, the affected vocational programs must meet at least one of three benchmarks in at least three out of four consecutive years in order to remain eligible for federal student aid. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
NJ lawmakers pass teacher tenure bill
A bill to make teacher tenure harder to get and easier to lose was sent to Gov. Christie’s desk on Monday after both chambers of the Legislature approved it unanimously. The Republican Christie administration worked on crafting the bill, and the governor’s spokesman praised the effort, indications that the governor will sign it. For many education reformers, finding ways to remove ineffective teachers is a key to improving schools. The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, says the problem is not as bad as adversaries say. But the union still found reasons to support the bill. Under the bill, a teacher would need at least four years on the job to be granted tenure, up from the current three. And a teacher wouldn’t get it automatically but would also need high marks on evaluations. (New York Post)
State wants say in virtual charter
After missing a key opportunity to review a virtual charter school that would be the first of its kind in North Carolina, the state school board was in court on Monday essentially asking for a mulligan. Whether it gets one could determine the state’s ability to have a guiding hand in a new educational concept that could wreak havoc on the traditional school funding model. Eighty-nine of the state’s 115 local school districts have joined the state’s effort to slow private attempts to tap charter school funding for online programs that could enroll thousands of students, but entail no brick and mortar expense. Such programs have been launched in other states and run by for-profit companies. The virtual schools have drawn sharp criticism for their high public costs and poor educational results. On Monday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Abe Jones heard the state’s appeal of an administrative law judge’s ruling that would allow the state’s first virtual charter school to open in August. The school, to be known as the N.C. Virtual Academy, won local approval from the Cabarrus County school board earlier this year. When the state board balked at reviewing the school’s request for approval, the nonprofit that shepherded the proposal – N.C. Learns – persuaded an administrative law judge that the state had forfeited its right to weigh in. (Charlotte Observer)
Finalist for School District superintendent job ready for change
Pedro Martinez believes more city students ought to be graduating from high school and going to college. He’s for pushing more students to take Advanced Placement classes, and he’s convinced lasting change can’t occur until the Philadelphia School District is on surer financial footing. And he thinks he’s the right person to help make all that happen. “I know there’s going to be skepticism, because I’m not a traditional teacher or principal, but I understand how to transform large urban systems,” Martinez said.
Currently the deputy superintendent in the Clark County, Nev., school system, which includes Las Vegas, Martinez is one of two finalists for the top Philadelphia job. He was in town Monday for 13 hours of meet-and-greets with students, teachers, parents, elected officials, and others. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Learning First Alliance: The Intersection Between the Common Core and School Culture
Communications scholar Marshall McLuhan once said, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” Water shapes a fish’s existence so profoundly — and, swimming right in the middle of it, the fish can’t grasp how water impacts them. In education, a school’s “water” is its culture, that complicated combination of shared values, norms, beliefs, and expectations. It manifests in actions as simple as the way a principal recognizes staff accomplishments, and as complex as the processes staff members use to mediate conflict or the ideas that shape student motivation. School culture is hard to characterize and cultivate, but it’s arguably the defining factor in school change. Shifting culture could prove to be the trickiest — but most essential — piece of today’s most pressing education challenge: implementing the Common Core State Standards. (Education Week – Transforming Learning)