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  • Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2010 13:43:04 -0500

[ECP] Educational CyberPlayGround K-12 Newsletter

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Send your K-12 principal over to China for 2 weeks all expenses paid.
You can nominate your Principal as an Education Ambassador to build a better 
and stronger relationship between the US and China. The Education Ambassadors 
will enjoy all expenses paid trip to China this April.
Read More: http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Teachers/Cultural-Exchange.html

Never mind those who'd do well anywhere
In Raehoke, N.C., 48 seniors are in a fast-track program that earns a high 
school diploma and up to two years of college credit in five years -- 
completely free, reports The New York Times. Most programs like these serve 
affluent, overachieving students as a way to keep them challenged and to give a 
head start on college work, but the SandHoke Early College High School enrolls 
kids whose parents lack college degrees. SandHoke is one of 71 "early-college 
schools" in the state -- where high school students attend college courses -- 
specifically designed to eliminate the divide between high school and college 
for at-risk kids. "Last year, half our early-college high schools had zero 
dropouts, and that's just unprecedented for North Carolina, where only 62 
percent of our high school students graduate after four years," said Tony 
Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project, the nonprofit that 
spearheaded this reform. Significantly, North Carolina's early-college high 
school students are performing slightly better than their college classmates. 
This model is now spreading in California, New York, Texas, and elsewhere, and 
is seen as a promising approach to reducing the high school dropout rate and 
increasing the number of degree holders.
Read more: 

Ramifications for all: reformers, policymakers, educators, and students
In The Harvard Business Review, the headlining breakthrough idea (out of ten) 
for 2010 is that what motivates "knowledge workers" the most is not 
recognition, incentives, interpersonal support, or clear goals. It's a sense of 
progress. "On days when workers have the sense they're making headway in their 
jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles," the 
authors write, "their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is 
at its peak." On the other hand, days when they spin their wheels or encounter 
roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest. 
The article is based on a multiyear study that tracked day-to-day activities, 
emotions, and motivation levels of hundreds of knowledge workers in a wide 
range of settings. So what advice does The Business Review offer to those in 
charge? "Scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, 
being indecisive, or holding up resources. Negative events generally have a 
greater effect on people's emotions, perceptions, and motivation than positive 
ones, and nothing is more demotivating than a setback -- the most prominent 
type of event on knowledge workers' worst days."
Read more: http://hbr.org/2010/01/the-hbr-list-breakthrough-ideas-for-2010/ar/1

Perceptions are real
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the state of California has developed 
new workbooks to help educators make changes in school climate that can help 
close the gap between higher- and lower-performing students. The books includes 
data from state-sponsored school climate surveys conducted last year. "There 
are many factors that go into effective teaching and learning," said California 
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, announcing the 
initiative. "If students feel disconnected from their teachers or unwelcome at 
school, these factors can interfere with learning and contribute to the 
achievement gap." The workbooks include results of voluntary surveys given to 
school employees and students in grades five, seven, nine, and 11. The data 
show a disparity in how students and school employees perceive everything from 
expectations and academic rigor to campus safety and discipline problems. "When 
there is an achievement gap, there is often a safety gap and a 
student-engagement gap," said Greg Austin of the nonprofit WestEd, which helped 
the state Department of Education develop the workbooks. "We are dealing with 
perceptions. But perceptions are real."
Read more: 
See the initiative announcement: http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr10/yr10rel16.asp

Ask, don't tell
A third report based on data from the Retaining Teacher Talent study by 
Learning Point Associates and Public Agenda looks at what educators think about 
current ideas on identifying, recruiting, retaining, compensating, and 
supporting effective teachers. The report suggests that what teachers identify 
as good indicators of effectiveness are not always aligned with what 
policymakers or researchers think. The success of such reforms rests in large 
part on the support of those most directly affected -- teachers. The data 
indicate that issues such as the Race to the Top competition, increased funding 
for the Teacher Incentive Fund program, and the next reauthorization of the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act are not the policy options that seem 
most popular to teachers, who favor class size reduction and addressing student 
discipline. This disconnect suggests that teachers do not have a strong 
influence on these various agendas, which may be problematic when it comes to 
their implementation. The incentives that bring change in teacher behavior will 
ultimately determine success of these policies. Taking teachers' advice on what 
will improve their effectiveness, or working hard to communicate with teachers 
about how policies will improve student learning, or both, will likely give 
these reforms the better chance of success.
See the report: 

Whither Abbott?
A report from the Campaign for Education Equity at Teachers College of Columbia 
University examines impacts of court-mandated school finance reform in New 
Jersey over 30 years and describes the state's new school funding formula, the 
School Finance Reform Act (SFRA) of 2008, and its implications for so-called 
Abbott districts, as well as for other low- and middle-income districts in the 
state. Years of school finance litigation have established a comprehensive 
definition of an adequate education in New Jersey, and adequacy measures for 
poor urban school districts were benchmarked to education spending and programs 
in the state's wealthiest communities and to programs designed to meet the 
special needs of urban students. The SFRA replaced Abbott remedies with a 
single formula applicable to all districts. As intended, low- and middle-wealth 
non-Abbott districts benefit most from the new formula, but New Jersey now 
suffers a recession-driven and structural deficit, which will further hurt 
historically underfunded districts. The report finds that funding disparities 
between Abbott and wealthy suburban districts have reappeared, and concludes, 
"It is unlikely that the state will meet its obligation to fund SFRA fully 
without major dislocations to other parts of the state budget. And the pain 
will be spread across both low- and middle-income school districts, Abbott and 
non-Abbott alike."
See the report: http://www.mdrc.org/announcement_hp_225.html

AP no 'silver bullet'
At a time when the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses 
has reached a record high, the percentage that fail the exams, particularly in 
the South, has also jumped, according to USA TODAY. These findings raise 
questions about whether schools are pushing millions of students into AP 
courses without adequate preparation, and whether schools are training teachers 
to deliver the high-level material. "The standards don't teach themselves," 
says Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University. Advanced Placement is not a 
"silver bullet" that will boost academic success. "You have to build the whole 
system," she says. "You can't just bring in one thing and think that it's going 
to solve everything." Last year, students took 2.9 million exams through the AP 
program. A score of 3 or higher on the point scale of 1 to 5 can earn students 
early college credits, depending on a college's criteria. USA TODAY's analysis 
found that more than 41.5 percent of students earned a failing score of 1 or 2, 
up from 36.5% in 1999. In the South, a census-defined region that spans Texas 
to Delaware, nearly half of all tests -- 48.4 percent -- earned a 1 or 2, up 7 
percentage points from a decade earlier and a significant difference from the 
rest of the country.
Read more: 

The other gap
According to a new report from the Center on Evaluation & Education Policy, a 
convincing body of evidence suggests an "excellence gap" -- an achievement gap 
at the higher levels of academic performance that has been overlooked due to an 
emphasis on gaps among demographic groups at minimum competency levels. The 
economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and historically 
underprivileged minorities represent a smaller proportion of students scoring 
at the highest levels of achievement, and there is a persistent gender gap as 
well, with females performing better in reading and males performing better in 
math. Data show little progress in substantially reducing excellence gaps since 
the passage of NCLB, particularly in reading, although there is also little 
existing evidence to support claims that NCLB-mandated accountability systems 
are increasing excellence gaps. The report recommends that the closing of this 
other gap be made a national priority. Any policy discussions should include 
questions about how it will affect the brightest students, especially those 
from lower-income families, and how it will help other students begin to 
achieve at higher levels. "This attention need not come at the cost of 
addressing minimum competency," the authors write. "Yet continuing to pretend 
that a nearly complete disregard of high achievement is permissible, especially 
among underperforming subgroups, is a formula for a mediocre K-12 education 
system and long-term economic decline."
See the report: http://ceep.indiana.edu/mindthegap/

Expanded choice illusory in Philly
A new study from Research for Action finds that despite dramatically expanded 
high school choices for Philadelphia students in recent years, most district 
pupils still end up in the city's large and failing neighborhood high schools, 
according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Scant information for students and a 
lack of seats in magnet and citywide lottery schools renders choice "an 
illusion" for most, says lead author Eva Gold, and disadvantaged students 
unfamiliar with the system are shortchanged. The selection process "stacks the 
deck" against neighborhood high schools. Because it takes so long for the 
district to finalize acceptances, high school teachers and administrators often 
don't know who will attend in September, leaving them unable to fully prepare 
for their students. Magnet schools are the most selective, with students 
required to meet academic and behavioral criteria, and citywide admission is 
somewhat selective, with students required to meet some criteria but with spots 
filled by lottery. Rejected applicants to either type must attend neighborhood 
schools, which are the largest of the district's 62 high schools. The report 
urges a revamp of the selection process in ways that strengthen neighborhood 
high schools, which must take all comers.
Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/83523387.html
See the report: http://www.researchforaction.org/index.html

College- and career-ready, but for which college or career?
Under a proposal from the Obama administration, No Child Left BehindÂ?s 
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) would be replaced with a different metric, but 
how exactly would this work? AYP is Â?the accountability vehicle at the heartÂ? 
of NCLB, but has been criticized as too rigid, prompting states and districts 
to retool their assessments, instructional plans, and even schedules in order 
to meet its targets. It has also been blamed for a watering down of standards, 
so that fewer schools get sanctioned under NCLB rules. The new metric would 
measure student progress toward readiness for college or a career, but these 
terms are yet to be more specifically defined. While some observers, such as 
Kati Haycock of the Education Trust, praise the general direction of proposed 
changes as a move Â?toward a more nuanced set of decisions that donÂ?t make it 
just pass/fail,Â? others find them overly vague. Â?I donÂ?t know how you 
collect the data thatÂ?s meaningful to say that a school is achieving [the 
equivalent of] AYP, especially when it comes to a career-readiness standard,Â? 
said Mark Bielang, a Michigan superintendent. Â?Different skills apply to 
different careers. It seems a lot more like a portfolio-based [assessment] 
system would be appropriate.Â?
Read more: 


Denver looks to end 'dumping'
Superintendent seeks to end "forced placement" of teachers in the district's 
lowest-performing and highest-poverty schools.
Related: http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_14360487

RttT reviewers still cloaked in secrecy
The Department of Education has now revealed the judges include four lawyers, 
15 former principals, 15 former district or state superintendents and 30 former 
K-12 teachers (with some overlap among the categories). 

A higher bar in L.A.?
Los Angeles school district officials are planning to fire approximately three 
times the number of probationary teachers dismissed annually in recent years.

Perhaps taking entrepreneurship in education too far
In his State of the State address, Nevada's Gov. Jim Gibbons proposed 
Â?Education Gift Certificates,Â? essentially donations that would keep the 
education budget solvent. http://www.fox5vegas.com/news/22509880/detail.html

San Francisco dismantles desegregation measures
For the first time in decades, the cityÂ?s schoolchildren may be automatically 
enrolled in their neighborhood public schools.


American Civic Education Teacher Awards
The American Civic Education Teacher Awards recognize educators annually for 
exemplary work in preparing young people to be informed and engaged citizens. 
Maximum award: trip to Washington, D.C. to take part in an educational program 
that includes attending floor sessions and committee hearings in the U.S. 
Congress, meeting members of Congress and other key officials, and visiting 
historical sites such as the National Archives and the U.S. Supreme Court. 
Eligibility: elementary and secondary teachers of civics, government, and 
related subjects who have demonstrated special expertise in motivating students 
to learn about the Constitution, Congress, and public policy. Deadline: 
February 16, 2010.

Guardian Life Insurance: Girls Going Places Awards
The Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Program rewards the enterprising 
spirits of girls who demonstrate budding entrepreneurship, are taking the first 
steps toward financial independence, and make a difference in their schools and 
communities. Maximum award: three prizes totaling up to $30,000. Eligibility: 
girls between the ages of 12 and 18 as of December 31, 2009, who are enrolled 
in middle school or high school and are a U.S. legal resident. Deadline: 
February 26, 2010.

Civic Ventures: Purpose Prize
The Civic Ventures Purpose Prize recognizes Americans over 60 whose creativity, 
talent, and experience is transforming the way our nation addresses critical 
social problems. Maximum award: $100,000. Eligibility: Americans 60 years old 
by March 1, 2008 and currently working in a leadership capacity in an 
organization or institution (public, private, nonprofit, or for-profit) to 
address a major social problem. Deadline: March 5, 2010. 

American Historical Association: Awards for Teaching of History
The American Historical Association Beveridge Family Teaching Prize recognizes 
excellence and innovation in elementary, middle school, and secondary history 
teaching, including career contributions and specific initiatives. Maximum 
award: $1,500. Eligibility: K-12 teachers in groups. Deadline: March 15, 2010.

Kohl's Corporation: Kohl's Kids Who Care Scholarships
The Kohl's Kids Who Care Program recognizes and rewards young volunteers who 
transform their communities for the better. Maximum award: $10,000 scholarship 
toward post-secondary education. Eligibility: youth 6 to 18 years old, not 
graduated from high school by March 15, 2010. Deadline: March 15, 2010.

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