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[ECP] Educational CyberPlayGround K-12 Newsletter

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Happy Reading for Today


10th Anniversary of 9/11
In just over a month, America will observe the 10th anniversary of September 11th. However, many of today's elementary and secondary school students are too young to remember the day and its meaning. To help educators prepare for the difficult but important task of teaching about 9/11, the Educational CyberPlayGround offers free resources and strategies.
Public School Curriculum for 5th, 8th, and 11th

Effective teacher professional development
A new report from MDRC synthesizes research from two recent studies on teacher professional development, one in reading and one in math, each of which shows the interventions were substantially less effective than had been hoped. The studies were carried out by the American Institutes for Research and MDRC for the U.S. Department of Education, and examined professional development that went beyond the "one-shot" workshop approach to include intensive summer institutes, follow-up group sessions, and coaching of individual teachers. In both studies, the PD had positive effects on some targeted instructional practices, but not on others. Most critically, students of teachers who received training scored no higher on subject-matter achievement tests than students of teachers who did not receive training. Non-experimental analyses conducted as part of these two studies, along with other research, suggest that the theory of change underlying the studies is correct: PD of the type that was delivered is associated with increased teacher knowledge, and teacher knowledge and improved instruction is associated with higher student test scores. But changes in teacher-related variables must be substantial -- considerably larger than they were in these studies -- to move the needle on student achievement even a small amount.

Adult cheating was rampant and why she did it.
During a series of interviews, an (unidentified) teacher described to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook blog how she regularly provided assistance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams to 11th graders at a Philadelphia neighborhood high school. At various times, she gave students definitions for unfamiliar words, discussed reading passages they didn't understand, and commented on writing samples. On a few occasions, she said, she even pointed them to the correct answers on difficult questions. "They'd have a hard time, and I'd break it down for them," the teacher explained. The teacher, who feels she's a good educator, came forward following the publication of a 2009 report that identified dozens of schools across Pennsylvania that had statistically suspicious test results. Though her school was not among those flagged, she claims adult cheating there was "rampant." She blamed the intense pressure from administrators to raise scores at her former school: "It's easy to lose your moral compass when you are constantly being bullied." But she was adamant that she did not care about boosting test scores. Instead, she described her cheating as an act of self-styled subversion, motivated by loyalty to her students. "I wanted them to succeed, because I believe their continued failure on these terrible tests crushes their spirit."

School Reform and Accountability

The brothers Gates
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, praised Bill Gates and compared him to industrialist Andrew Carnegie another educrat. Urban League officials have warned that failure by Congress to prevent default risks putting black and Latino families further behind economically. The Rev. Al Sharpton said advocates need to change the conversation about the debt ceiling and get political leaders to talk more about job creation in minority communities. "The issue is jobs, jobs, jobs, and quality education in our community," Sharpton said, to applause.

K12 Education Management Industry is a Business

Taking assessments deeper
A new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education calls for assessments that measure a broader range of knowledge and skills than current assessments typically measure. These newer assessments would indicate whether students understand challenging content and are able to think critically, solve problems, communicate understanding, and work with peers. According to the brief, state accountability tests exert a strong influence on classroom practice, and can make expectations for student learning concrete, signaling to teachers what kinds of student performance will meet standards. The brief notes that technology can help a shift to assessments that measure deeper learning: Online simulations and other techniques can enable students to think critically and solve problems. Such assessments would also give results almost instantaneously, making them more useful to teachers. The brief recommends that federal policy support the development and implementation of these newer assessments by requiring that assessments measure deeper learning competencies; by supporting professional development for teachers; by ensuring that assessments fairly measure performance of students with disabilities and English learners; and by continuing to support states for the ongoing operational costs of state assessments.

More than 650 organizations intend to apply for 2011 Promise Neighborhood grants.

The summer 2011 issue of the Department?s School Turnaround Newsletter
The newsletter is a resource for states, districts, and schools pursuing school turnaround under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program.

Should autonomy be a catalyst, or a reward?
A new report from Education Sector looks at whether a culture of autonomy in education brings the same rewards that it does in business, as proponents claim. The report concedes that some charter schooling and autonomous school reform can yield innovation in school management, staffing, and instruction in neighborhoods where high-performing schools are rare. But experience also shows that not all schools will take actions that actually improve student learning. So should autonomy be limited to already successful schools, reducing risk that schools will crash and burn as they try to govern themselves, or should districts use autonomy to spur school improvement? Yet using autonomy as a catalyst -- expanding it to schools in need of greater improvements -- requires bringing in outside operators and creating principal support networks to ensure schools make the most of their freedom. In both cases, DCPS has learned that expanding autonomy system-wide requires a substantial shift in the orientation of the central office. The report also looks at "portfolio management" now being implemented in Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and other cities.

Drop Out Rates:  every state has operated under a different definition
As part of his ongoing series on the dropout crisis, Claudio Sanchez of NPR explains that accurate dropout figures are hard to find, since every state has operated under a different definition. In some states, students who leave school aren't dropouts if they enroll in night school or a GED program. Students who get incarcerated aren't often counted, either. In general, it's not in the interest of schools to make an accurate accounting, not just because a high dropout rate makes a school look bad but also because schools are funded based on attendance. Until recently, the U.S. Department of Education maintained that the collection, reporting, and accuracy of dropout data were state responsibilities. Now, however, the Department requires that every year, states count the number of students who enter ninth grade. If they don't graduate in four years, they are dropouts. Still, many states lack a system capable of tracking a student through four years of high school. A few states have now created a common identifier -- a tracking number -- that helps confirm whether a student re-enrolls after transferring to another school in the same state. This common identifier is viewed as the most promising approach yet to gathering accurate dropout data.

Charter movement is getting complacent, unimaginative, and self-interested
As the charter movement passes the 5,000-school and two-decade markers, "This wouldn't be the first ?reform movement' in the history of education to turn into an ideologically rigid, pull-up-the-gangplank-now-that-we're-aboard sort of vested interest," he writes. "But it would still be a great pity." Finn feels the basic justification for chartering rests on two legs: providing quality alternatives for students stuck in bad or ill-fitting schools, and functioning as a kind of R & D center for K-12 education where things can be tried that are harder to do in regular district schools.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for teachers to start out making $60,000 a year, topping out at around $150,000.

Pulling back
A Colorado task force charged with recommending changes to school discipline laws has until October to find an alternative to zero-tolerance policies that have criminalized some classroom behavior problems.

Corporatism in School is a Business
Scholastic will make a partial retreat from corporate and industry-sponsored programs and lesson plans it distributes free to teachers.

Profitters On the rise to privatize education for profit
As of mid-July, at least 30 states had introduced bills that would use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools, most limited to poor or special needs children, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Squeaky wheel
The U.S. Department of Education gave Idaho approval to keep its annual proficiency targets in math and reading the same for a third year in a row after the state's education chief, Tom Luna, told federal officials he planned to defy key parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.


Open Meadows Foundation: Grants for Women and Girls
Open Meadows Foundation is a grant-making organization for projects that are led by and benefit women and girls. It funds projects that reflect the diversity of the community served by the project in both its leadership and organization; promote building community power; promote racial, social, economic and environmental justice; have limited financial access or have encountered obstacles in their search for funding. Maximum Award: $2,000. Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations with an organizational budget no larger than $150,000. Projects must be designed and implemented by women and girls. Deadline: August 15, 2011.

IRA: Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Award
The International Reading Association Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Award honors an outstanding elementary teacher of reading and language arts dedicated to improving teaching and learning through reflective writing about his or her teaching and learning process. Maximum award: $2,500. Eligibility: regular classroom elementary teachers of reading and language arts grades K-6 in a school in which at least 60 percent of the school's students are eligible for free or reduced lunch; must be IRA members. Deadline: November 15, 2011.

Best Buy: Teach @15 Award
The Teach@15 Award program improves classroom learning by helping schools (grades 7-12) meet their technology needs. A teen member (age 13-18) who is a registered member on www.at15.com can nominate his/her school to win a Teach@15 Award. Maximum award: $1,500 in the form of Best Buy Gift Cards. Eligibility: accredited, nonprofit junior or senior public, private, parochial, magnet, and charter high schools in the U.S. serving any grades 7-12.
Deadline: ongoing.

Because It Flew -- Education Activities and Space Shuttle Art Competition
Audience: 4-12 Educators and Students
Contest Deadline: Aug. 5, 2011

Electronic Professional Development Network Courses
Audience: K-12 Educators
Don?t Just Show Me the Numbers; Make Sense of the Information: Sept. 14 - Oct. 18, 2011
Project-Based Inquiry Learning: Sept. 28 - Nov. 1, 2011
Using Robotics to Enhance STEM Learning: Aug. 31 - Oct. 11, 2011
Technology Integration ? Podcasts in the Classroom: Oct. 5 ? Nov. 8, 2011
Technology Integration -- 3-D Visualization: Oct. 12 - Nov. 15, 2011
Technology Integration -- Turn Your Classroom Digital: Nov. 2 - Dec. 13, 2011

Secretary Duncan suggested that starting salaries of around $60,000 and top salaries approaching $150,000 would help change the economics of the profession, while acknowledging the difficulty of finding more funding when governments at every level are wrestling with debt and deficits. ?I am sure some people will immediately say that we can?t afford it without even looking at how to redirect the money we are already spending -- and mis-spending,? he observed. ?To them I say that there is more than one way to mortgage your future. We can?t mortgage our future by under-investing in education.? http://bre.ad/02qull

Because It Flew -- Education Activities and Space Shuttle Art Competition
?Because It Flew? is a free educational program that introduces students in grades 4-12 (ages 9-17) to the impact of the Space Shuttle Program on our planet and people. This engaging and informative project commemorates the 30-year history of the shuttle program. ?Because It Flew? consists of two elements: optional educational activities and the NASA Space Shuttle Art Competition. Four activities engage and introduce students to the history of NASA?s space shuttle missions. Completion of these activities is not a requirement for submitting an entry into the art competition, but they may be used to guide students through the process of creating an entry. The activities can be adapted easily to both formal and informal educational settings. Activities are aligned with national standards and support efforts to integrate science, technology, engineering and math with language arts. The NASA Space Shuttle Art Competitions invites students to create original artwork that symbolizes the impact of NASA?s Space Shuttle Program on our planet and people. Students must also write a 250-word essay explaining their artistic entries. An expert panel of artists will review submissions. The top six entries in two age brackets (9-13 and 14-17) will receive cash prizes, a private tutoring session with an accomplished USA Today graphic artist and a certificate of accomplishment. Entries in the competition are due Aug. 5, 2011.
For more information, visit www.usatodayeducate.com/becauseitflew
If you have any questions about this contest, please contact Jan Brown at janbrown@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Rural Education Resource Center (http://www.ed.gov/rural-education)
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over half of public school districts (56%), nearly one-third of public schools (31%), and almost a quarter of students (23%, or 11.3 million) reside in rural communities. Class sizes are generally small, and overall graduation rates are high in many rural areas. Yet, rural students are less likely than their peers nationwide to access postsecondary education. During a recent webinar, state education officials learned more about how the National 4-H and Cooperative Extension programs can help with the effort to turnaround low-performing schools and end the dropout crisis. The White House ?Champions of Change: Rural America? web site profiles rural leaders, from farmers and ranchers to educators and small business owners, who are helping the country confront the challenges of the 21st century.

This summer, states will begin reporting high school graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year using a more rigorous four-year adjusted cohort, as developed by the nation?s governors in 2005. Since data reporting requirements were first implemented under No Child Left Behind, states have calculated graduation rates using varying methods, creating inconsistent data from one state to the next. The transition to a uniform high graduation rate requires all states to report the number of students who graduate in four years with a standard high school diploma, divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, and accounting for student transfers in and out of school. States may also opt to use an extended-year adjusted cohort, allowing states, districts, and schools to account for students who complete high school in more than four years. In addition, schools must maintain documentation for students who have transferred. States will continue to report graduation rates at the state, district, and school levels, including rates for subgroups of students. The Department anticipates that the more rigorous method will result in lower reported graduation rates, but it will reflect a more accurate calculation of how many U.S. students complete high school.

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