Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:
News & analysis
Test erasures? What test erasures?
The biggest cheating scandal in the D.C. schools began March 28, 2011, with this headline in USA Today: “When test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?” The newspaper revealed that over three years, more than 103 D.C. schools had unusual wrong-to-right erasure rates on annual tests, a possible sign of tampering. Administrators and teachers at some of those schools got big cash bonuses for their students’ improved scores. (Full disclose: My wife, Linda, conceived and edited the USA Today series that exposed the scope of the D.C. erasures.) D.C. school leaders have now released the results of the second independent investigation of the scandal. (We are still waiting for a third probe by the D.C. Inspector General.) Once again we are not told who made those erasures, or why, on the annual D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests. Instead we learn that one teacher at King Elementary School and another at the Langdon Education Campus will probably be dismissed for helping students with their answers on the 2011 test, similar to last year’s finding of illicit help to students at three other schools. (Washington Post)
Bill passed to make kindergarten mandatory in NYC
Kindergarten would become mandatory for all 5-year-olds in New York City under a bill passed this week by state lawmakers. Right now, kids in the city aren’t required to attend school until age six. Most parents enroll their kids anyway, but officials estimate that as many as 3,000 New York City schoolchildren enter first grade each year without having gone to kindergarten. Proponents of the measure tell The New York Times that some kids wind up skipping kindergarten because their parents missed registration deadlines, and are then closed out of neighborhood schools due to lack of space. Mayor Michael Bloomberg backs the bill, which is awaiting action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor hasn’t indicated yet whether he intends to sign the bill into law. (Wall Street Journal)
Community leaders impressed with new CMS superintendent
For the more than 900,000 residents of Mecklenburg County, Heath Morrison is about to become the face of one of their most cherished and controversial institutions. Morrison arrives with a self-proclaimed mission of reviving public trust. The entry plan he unveiled in May dictates a nearly superhuman schedule of visiting schools and meeting people in his first 90 days. Even before he starts work, he has crossed the county for more than a dozen meetings with individuals and groups. Those who have met him give him high marks for knowing the issues, asking smart questions and seeming sincere about follow-up. “His sheer knowledge of the community already is astounding,” says Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who met with Morrison in May. “You can tell he is fully committed to bringing this community together.” (Charlotte Observer)
Sizing up two likely schools chief candidates
Pedro Martinez is a rising star, an accountant turned reform-minded school administrator. William R. Hite Jr. is a career educator who has brought stability to a large, politically tough, predominantly poor district. One of them is likely to be named Philadelphia’s next superintendent, possibly as early as this week. Martinez is in town Monday for a full day of getting-to-know-you sessions with teachers, principals, business and political leaders, and others; Hite has a similar schedule Tuesday. Martinez, 42, is currently deputy superintendent for instruction in the Clark County, Nev., school system. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it’s one of the country’s largest districts and one of its lowest performing. Martinez was brought there as part of a team of reformers last year, and supporters say that despite his short tenure, he’s gotten results, especially in boosting the graduation rate. “We’re going in the right direction, and he was hugely influential in that,” said Amanda Fulkerson, Clark County School District spokeswoman. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Barack Obama: President Obama Reflects on the Impact of Title IX
Coaching my daughter Sasha’s basketball team is one of those times when I just get to be “Dad.” I snag rebounds, run drills, and have a little fun. More importantly, I get to watch Sasha and her teammates improve together, start thinking like a team, and develop self-confidence. Any parent knows there are few things more fulfilling than watching your child discover a passion for something. And as a parent, you’ll do anything to make sure he or she grows up believing she can take that ambition as far as she wants; that your child will embrace that quintessentially American idea that she can go as far as her talents will take her. But it wasn’t so long ago that something like pursuing varsity sports was an unlikely dream for young women in America. Their teams often made do with second-rate facilities, hand-me-down uniforms, and next to no funding. What changed? Well, 40 years ago, committed women from around the country, driven by everyone who said they couldn’t do something, worked with Congress to ban gender discrimination in our public schools. Title IX was the result of their efforts, and this week, we celebrated its 40th anniversary—40 years of ensuring equal education, in and out of the classroom, regardless of gender. (Newsweek)
Diane Ravitch: Will school choice kill public education?
A reader posted a comment that I think is profound. The more that people begin to see education as a consumer choice, the more they will be unwilling to pay for other people’s children. And if they have no children in school, then they have no reason to underwrite other people’s private choices. The basic compact that public education creates is this: The public is responsible for the education of the children of the state, the district, the community. We all benefit when other people’s children are educated. It is our responsibility as citizens to support a high-quality public education, even if we don’t have children in the public schools. But once the concept of private choice becomes dominant, then the sense of communal responsibility is dissolved. Each of us is then given permission to think of what is best for me, not what is best for we. (The Answer Sheet Blog)