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  • Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2011 11:09:55 -0400

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Happy Reading for Today


HERE WE GO . . .
Milwaukee's voucher system, which allows low-income students to attend private 
schools using tax dollars, discriminates based on disability, according to a 
complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin 
Foundation and Disability Rights Wisconsin.

Zero tolerance for Zero Tolerance Coming to your Town
Nearly two decades after a zero-tolerance culture took hold in American 
schools, a growing number of educators and elected leaders are scaling back 
discipline policies that led to lengthy suspensions and ousters for such 
mistakes as carrying toy guns or Advil. This rethinking has come in North 
Carolina and Denver, in Baltimore and Los Angeles ? part of a phenomenon driven 
by high suspension rates, community pressure, legal action and research 
findings. In the Washington region, Fairfax County is considering policy 
changes after a wave of community concern; school leaders in the District and 
Prince George?s, Arlington and Montgomery counties have pursued new ideas, too.

More Money - More Money Winners / Losers
California and Wisconsin each have formed a consortium with other states and 
applied for the full $10.7 million available in a grant competition to create 
English-language-proficiency tests for the states' common-core academic 
standards. Their applications will force the U.S. Department of Education to 
decide if it will split up the money or choose one winner. Each of the two 
consortia has recruited enough states to meet the 15-state minimum required by 
the Education Department to get bonus points in the application-review process. 
California's consortium includes 17 other states; Wisconsin's includes 26 
others. The Education Department hasn't confirmed yet that the California and 
Wisconsin applications were the only ones submitted last Friday, deadline day 
for applicants, but that's believed to be the case by parties who wrote the 

A higher percentage of young Hispanic adults are finishing high school, and the 
number attending a two-year college has nearly doubled over the last decade, 
according to Census data. Yeah, but is anybody getting hired for a job?

EPA Regulators Should Not Hide Behind Children To Push For Costly New 

Fender Music Foundation: Grants
Fender Music Foundation grants are awarded to music academies, schools, local 
music programs and national music programs across America, particularly 
in-school music classes in which the students make music; after-school music 
programs that are not run by a school; and music therapy programs, in which the 
participants make the music. Maximum award: $5,000. Eligibility: established, 
ongoing and sustainable music programs in the United States, which provide 
music instruction for people of any age who would not otherwise have the 
opportunity to make music. Deadline: July 15, 2011.

The right results, obtained the 'wrong' way
The Montgomery County, Maryland school system enrolls 145,000 students, a third 
from low-income families. Eighty-four percent of its students go on to college, 
and 63 percent earn college degrees. Of all black children in America passing 
an Advanced Placement test, 2.5 percent live in the county, more than five 
times the its share of the national black population. The district's teacher 
evaluation system, known as Peer Assistance Review (PAR), has "worked 
beautifully for 11 years," according to The New York Times. Yet Montgomery 
County will not be accepting the $12 million to which it is entitled under Race 
to the Top. Montgomery Superintendent Jerry Weast -- who says his good friend 
Arne Duncan told him the district is "going where the country needs to go" -- 
will not take the grant money because it requires inclusion of students' state 
test results as a measure of teacher quality. "We don't believe the tests are 
reliable," Weast explained. "You don't want to turn your system into a test 
factory." Asked if the state could make an exception for Montgomery because of 
the PAR program's history of success, the U.S. Department of Education told 
Gov. Martin O'Malley that no modifications were allowed. 
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/education/06oneducation.html


The Federal Department of Education Needs to be Redesigned - Starting at the 

The state of the rate
The 2011 edition of Education Week's Diplomas Count finds that the national 
high school graduation rate stands at 71.7 percent for the class of 2008, the 
most recent data available. This is the highest rate since the 1980s, and an 
increase after two consecutive years of decline. However, the report also 
projects 1.2 million students from this year's high school class will fail to 
graduate -- 6,400 students lost each day of the year, or one student every 27 
seconds. While the graduation-rate recovery occurred across all demographic 
groups, rates for those historically underserved remain a concern. Among 
Latinos, 58 percent finished high school with a diploma, while 57 percent of 
African-Americans and 54 percent of Native Americans graduated. On average, 68 
percent of male students earned a diploma compared with 75 percent of female 
students, a gender gap virtually unchanged for years. High school-completion 
rates for minority males consistently fall near or below 50 percent. Suburban 
students graduate in considerably higher numbers than urban ones, 76 percent 
versus 64 percent. Regardless of location, graduation rates in districts 
characterized by poverty or racial or socioeconomic segregation are well below 
the national average, typically 58 to 63 percent. The 2011 edition also found a 
44 percentage-point gap between the highest-performing states -- New Jersey, 
North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin -- and the lowest: the District of 
Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina.

A lot to learn
What if the United States is doing teaching reform all wrong? asks Dana 
Goldstein, in a guest column under Ezra Klein's byline in The Washington Post. 
A new report from the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) 
examines how high-performing countries recruit, prepare, and evaluate teachers, 
and finds policies vastly different from our own, Goldstein says. Prospective 
educators spend a long time preparing for the classroom, and are then given 
significant autonomy in how to teach, with many fewer incentives and 
punishments tied to standardized tests. Finland, for example, requires all 
teachers to hold a master's degree in education and at least an undergraduate 
major in a subject such as math, science, or literature. Shanghai's teacher 
candidates take 90 percent of their college courses in the subject they will 
teach. As in Finland, a new teacher in Shanghai spends the first year of 
employment under the supervision of a mentor teacher, who is relieved of some 
classroom duties to spend more time training the novice. Goldstein writes that 
the NCEE report makes a persuasive case that the standards-and-accountability 
reform movement has teaching policy "exactly backward." To increase the 
prestige of teaching, don't make it easier for elites to do the job for a few 
years and then burn out, Goldstein says. Make it more challenging to earn a 
teaching credential in the first place.
Read more: 
Related: http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/05/building-better-teachers

From their mouth's to the Board of Ed's ears
In its newsletter, eSchool News recently asked its readers: "If you could 
recommend only one idea for school reform, what would it be, and why?" The 
website then published what it felt were the best ideas. In descending order, 
these were: 10) Get disruptive student behavior under control through better 
training for teachers and administrators. 9) Find a better balance between 
flexibility and accountability, so states and districts can adhere to rigorous 
standards without fear of losing funding. 8) End age grading. 7) Teaching 
certificates should not be issued to anyone who cannot score at least 19 on all 
four sections (English, math, reading, science) of the ACT (or similarly on a 
comparable test). 6) Create computer centers, staffed by trained, paid teachers 
in community centers and churches in the poorest neighborhoods. 5) Upgrade or 
place in every school a library media center that functions as a Learning 
Commons, and staff it with a teacher librarian or library media specialist who 
can take learning into the 21st century. 4) Move from "seat time" to learning 
competency as the basis for student promotion. 3) Get every student in America 
online access at school and at home. 2) Let teachers teach; test scores are not 
the goal of education. 1) Require all legislators to teach for one day in an 
elementary classroom.
Read more: 

This is what we do know is bad design

Not encouraging
A new report from MDRC, conducted with the American Institutes of Research, 
finds that two years of intensive professional development (PD) in 
seventh-grade mathematics produced no evidence of improved teacher knowledge or 
student achievement. The PD undertook improvement of teaching skills for 
rational number topics such as fractions, decimals, percent, ratio, and 
proportion, and included over 100 hours of support in summer institutes, 
seminars, and in-school coaching. Schools in 12 participating districts were 
randomly assigned intensive PD activities or only the PD activities normally 
provided by the district. All seventh-grade teachers teaching at least one 
regular seventh-grade mathematics class within the treatment schools were 
offered the intensive PD during the first year of implementation. In six of the 
districts, the intensive PD was provided to eligible seventh-grade teachers in 
the study schools for a second year. Researchers found that the PD was 
implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the dosage received. The 
study found no significant impacts on teachers or scores on a specially 
constructed teacher knowledge test. On average, about 75 percent of teachers in 
both the treatment and the control groups correctly answered test items of 
average difficulty for the test instrument. Students taught by teachers in the 
intensive PD group and students taught by teachers in the control group 
performed similarly on a rational numbers test.
See the report: http://www.mdrc.org/publications/598/overview.html

Is Congress smarter than a 5th-grader?
"How will our future get better if we educate kids about how to remember random 
facts, and how will No Child Left Behind help America's future?" asks Julia 
Skinner-Grant, a fifth-grader at Chevy Chase Elementary School in Montgomery 
County, Maryland. In a guest piece on the Answer Sheet blog in The Washington 
Post, Skinner-Grant, a special ed student, points out that had it been around, 
standardized testing would not have provided Benjamin Franklin with the 
information to save lives, or to experiment with, predict, and discover things 
and concepts we still use today. Moreover, he dropped out of school at 10. "No 
Child Left Behind takes the stress of testing and assumes that the more 
students are prepared for testing, the less anxious they will be. But what this 
actually does is lead students to believe that this test is far more important 
to their future than it actually is," Skinner-Grant says. Teachers, principals, 
and parents spend huge amounts of time prepping students, with the result that 
"the student feels as if they will let all these people down if they don't do 
well on the test and eventually this stress for everybody leads to the student 
becoming so emotional and anxious that they don't even have the ability to 
function properly for the test that they have been worrying about."
Read more:

Screw Bill Gates and the horse he rode in on
A new report from National Council on Teacher Quality, paid for largely by the 
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, offers a roadmap for improving the quality of 
teaching in the nation's second-largest school system, The Los Angeles Times 
reports. The recommendations, which are strongly backed by Mayor Antonio 
Villaraigosa, would revamp teacher hiring, scrapping the guarantee of a job for 
so-called must-place teachers. The newspaper states that principals are under 
pressure to hire from this group, although district rules and state law do not 
always require it. The report recommends that principals be able to hire any 
qualified applicant, including those from outside the district, and that 
displaced teachers lose their right to district employment after a year. The 
report also concluded that teacher evaluations must increase in frequency and 
number: Only 40 percent of tenured teachers and 70 percent of non-tenured 
teachers are evaluated annually. The report further recommends that earning of 
tenure be more demanding and take longer, but that those receiving it get a 
significant pay increase. The report surveyed 247 principals (31 percent of the 
district total) and 1,317 teachers (4.5 percent), while also reviewing data and 
contracts in L.A. Unified and comparison districts. The recommendations include 
changes in state laws and in the teachers' contract.
Read more: 
See the report: http://www.nctq.org/tr3/consulting/losangeles.jsp

Funny how all the newly elected Republican governors in political battleground 
states who have pushed sweeping, controversial changes in education policy have 
seen their approval ratings slide since taking office because they follow Money 

Ohio senators have nixed wording from the state's upcoming spending plans that 
strips public employees of most collective-bargaining rights and mandates merit 
pay for teachers, in a move that may make it easier to repeal a bill enacted 
with similar goals.

Citigroup hacked: data for 200,000 or more US Citibank customers breached
Citigroup Inc. says hackers accessed credit card data for some 200,000 US 
customers. The online security breach was first discovered in May, and reported 
yesterday by the Financial Times (which blocks access via an onerous paywall). 
"The bank said it recently discovered during routine monitoring that account 
information for about 1 percent of customers was viewed." AP, Reuters. As The 
Atlantic notes, the breach may be a lot worse than Citi's letting on. But even 
if the damage was limited to 200,000 users, that's a breach of 1% of all North 
American customer accounts (21 million). Washington Post item here.

WASHINGTON -- Observations from NASA's Voyager spacecraft, humanity's farthest 
deep space sentinels, suggest the edge of our solar system may not be smooth, 
but filled with a turbulent sea of magnetic bubbles. 
While using a new computer model to analyze Voyager data, scientists found the 
sun's distant magnetic field is made up of bubbles approximately 100 million 
miles wide. The bubbles are created when magnetic field lines reorganize. The 
new model suggests the field lines are broken up into self-contained structures 
disconnected from 
the solar magnetic field. The findings are described in the June 9 edition of 
the Astrophysical Journal. 

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