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The skybox-bleachers gap
"The public education your child gets often is only as good as the public 
education you and your community can afford," writes former U.S. Secretary of 
Education Richard W. Riley, in an opinion piece in Education Week. When budget 
cuts put a program, teacher, or even planned building at risk -- depending on 
the wealth of the community -- parents and boosters sometimes financially step 
in. In this way, Riley says, we've been witnessing the "skyboxing" of American 
education: "Like their socioeconomic peers at ballgames, students in education 
skyboxes are buffered from realities most students face by their well-appointed 
educational accommodations... Meanwhile, the vast majority of students sit in 
the equivalent of bleacher seats, or they are stuck behind a pillar, squinting 
to see their teachers in overcrowded classrooms." No amount of boosterism or 
checkbook philanthropy can close the skybox-bleachers gap; more than ever, 
Riley says, we need strong public advocacy to resolve our schools' fiscal woes. 
Riley recently co-chaired a National Commission on Civic Investment in Public 
Education, which called on Americans and community organizations to bolster 
public will in the service of policies and resources that support educational 
opportunities for all young people -- not just their own. When communities work 
together to build public interest in education, "democracy thrives," Riley 

A profile in The American Prospect on Omaha, Nebraska's Learning Community plan 
calls it "our country's most radical experiment in socioeconomic integration." 
Along with most cities, Omaha abandoned court-ordered busing after 1980 -- a 
year that marked the peak of school integration nationally -- with the result 
that African-American and Latino students now attend more segregated schools 
than at any point in the past 20 years, with poverty more concentrated in those 
same schools. But Omaha and 10 nearby districts have formed a "groundbreaking 
arrangement" that links districts financially and encourages students to enroll 
in a neighboring district if their presence will make a school more 
economically diverse. The article concedes the model has not been without its 
problems: "Bitter conflict" attended the creation of the Learning Community, 
and it's unclear how other cities might follow, since the city's reform grew 
from an unusual local law. Yet because Omaha's socioeconomic mix matches that 
of the country overall, because the area is small enough to make inter-district 
transportation possible, and because of its sheer ambition, the project is an 
excellent means to demonstrate how school integration could work. "No one has 
ever done what they're doing," says Jennifer Jellison Holme of the University 
of Texas at Austin. "There are no models. They're literally doing it all for 
the first time in this country."

Portrait of a nation
New federal statistics about thousands of schools and districts indicate that 
students lack equal access to a rigorous education, experienced teachers, early 
education, and school counselors, reports Education Week. Using data from 
72,000 schools in the 7,000 American districts larger than 3,000 students, the 
Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights sought to determine how 
equitable schools are within a district and across states. "[These data] paint 
a portrait of a sad truth in American schools: Fundamental fairness hasn't 
reached whole groups of students," says Russlynn Ali, the department's 
assistant secretary for civil rights. While data are available on individual 
schools and districts and not aggregated by state, the department's own 
analysis indicates educational inequities at the national level. For instance, 
some 3,000 schools serving approximately 500,000 high school students weren't 
offering Algebra II classes last school year, and more than 2 million students 
in 7,300 schools were not offered calculus. At schools with a majority 
African-American student population, teachers were twice as likely to have only 
one or two years of experience, compared with schools within the same district 
that had a majority-white student body. Less than one-fourth of school 
districts reported prekindergarten programs for children from poor families. 
Just 2 percent of students with disabilities were taking at least one Advanced 
Placement class, and while students learning English comprise 6 percent of the 
total high school population, they accounted for 15 percent of the students for 
whom algebra was the highest-level math course taken by the end of high school.

A ProPublica analysis of previously unreleased federal data shows that Florida 
leads the nation in the percentage of high school students enrolled in Advanced 
Placement and advanced math, consistent across rich and poor districts. In 
Kansas, Maryland, and Oklahoma, by contrast, such opportunities are far fewer 
in districts with poorer families. The ProPublica analysis offers the first 
nationwide picture of exactly which advanced courses are being taken at which 
schools and districts. Prior studies and surveys have tracked some of these 
courses, but never using such extensive variables and so many schools, with 
more than three-quarters of all public-school children represented. The 
organization has created an interactive feature on its website that enables 
searching for individual schools to allow comparison with poorer and wealthier 
schools nearby; the feature also shows a school's number of inexperienced 
teachers. The analysis was drawn from a nationwide survey by the Department of 
Education's Office for Civil Rights (see above). ProPublica compared federal 
survey results to poverty levels as measured by percentage of students who 
receive free- or reduced-price lunch. While the ProPublica analysis found a 
link between race and lack of access, poverty was the predominant factor in 
determining what proportion of students in a school or district were enrolled 
in higher-level instruction.

The Florida Formula fallacy
A new analysis of Jeb Bush's PowerPoint presentation to Michigan legislators on 
June 15 by the Think Tank Review at the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) 
finds serious shortcomings. NEPC reviewers state that "Mr. Bush's presentation 
is based on the fallacious claim that a selected set of loosely coupled reforms 
introduced in Florida between 1992 and 2011 caused fourth-grade reading score 
gains. There is reason to doubt the extent of these reported gains, and no 
evidence is provided or available to support the causal linkage." The reviewers 
determine that Bush is relying on a selective misrepresentation of test-score 
data and offers no evidence that the test-score gains were caused by the 
recommended reforms. Other viable explanations, such as a major investment in 
class-size reduction and a statewide reading program, received no or little 
attention from Bush. The presentation ignored less favorable findings, the 
reviewers state, while evidence showing limited or negative effects of the 
proposed strategies was omitted. Finally, Florida's real problems of 
inequitable and inadequate education remained unaddressed, in their view. The 
reviewers note that typically, the NEPC would not review a PowerPoint, but 
since this presentation has been replicated in several different states by a 
prominent national leader, it invites external and independent review. 

Forecast: Grim
A new report from the Center for Education Policy based on a nationally 
representative survey of over 450 districts anticipates that even after 
dramatic budget reductions this year, a vast majority of districts across the 
country will cut deeper into teaching and other core services. The report 
indicates that school districts have been able to cushion the blow of shrinking 
budgets by using economic stimulus money to fill the gaps, but now money from 
ARRA and Education Jobs funds are nearly depleted. The report describes the 
fiscal condition of districts for this past school year and next and the types 
of cuts that are balancing district budgets. The report notes that no district 
is immune from budget reductions or staff cuts: Shrinking education budgets 
continue to affect city, suburban, town, and rural districts. The report also 
finds that cuts have slowed the pace of reform. Sixty-six percent of districts 
with budget shortfalls in 2010-11 responded by either slowing planned reforms 
or postponing or stopping initiatives. More than half of districts anticipating 
shortfalls in 2011-12 will slow, postpone, or stop initiatives. Many other 
districts could slow reforms next year; approximately one-quarter of districts 
have not yet decided how funding decreases will affect reform efforts in 
Related: http://bre.ad/01ef08

States Threaten To Defy 'No Child Left Behind'
A rebellion over No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is afoot, its starting point in 
Idaho, according to NPR. Where many states are asking for emergency relief from 
the law's requirements in order to shield a huge number of decent schools from 
sanctions, Idaho will ignore the law this year. "We're not going to identify 
more schools as 'needs improvement,' because that is not the correct way to 
identify them," says Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna. Technically, U.S. Secretary 
of Education Arne Duncan could punish Idaho in response, but Duncan himself may 
have encouraged its action by proposing waivers since Congress has failed to 
overhaul the law. The secretary perhaps intended a reaction like Kentucky's: 
state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is asking for leniency in exchange 
for introducing new elements to the state plan for evaluating students. 
(Without the waiver, 85 percent of Kentucky's districts will be designated "in 
need of improvement.") Sandy Kress, who helped push NCLB through Congress under 
George W. Bush, worries these efforts will paper over education failures. He 
says a key component of the law is to acknowledge (poor) performance among 
low-income kids, minority students, and the disabled. "No school is let off the 
hook, if those students are falling by the wayside. Why should we compromise on 
that?" Kress asks.
Related: http://bre.ad/07rsoy

Reaping what's been sown
A newly released Georgia investigation shows rampant, systematic cheating on 
test scores in Atlanta's public schools, ending two years of increasing 
skepticism over remarkable improvements touted by school leaders, The New York 
Times reports. The results of the investigation showed the cheating occurred at 
44 schools and involved at least 178 teachers and principals, almost half of 
whom have confessed. A culture of fear, intimidation, and retaliation existed 
in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, according to Gov. Nathan 
Deal. "There will be consequences," he added, which will certainly include 
dismissals. The findings of the investigation will be delivered to district 
attorneys in three counties where cheating most likely took place. At the 
center of the scandal is former Superintendent Beverly Hall, named the 2009 
National Superintendent of the Year and considered one of the nation's best at 
running large, urban districts. She took over the Atlanta district in 1999 with 
broad support; the investigation shows cheating on the state-mandated 
Criterion-Referenced Competency Test began as early as 2001, and that "clear 
and significant" warnings were raised as early as December 2005. Dr. Hall's 
administration punished whistle-blowers, hid or manipulated information, and 
illegally altered documents related to the tests, the investigation found. 
Related: http://bre.ad/0euozt and http://bre.ad/0ac8se

We have seen the future, and it is predictive analysis
Use of analytic tools to predict student performance show great promise for 
K-12 schools, in everything from teacher placement to dropout prevention, 
reports Sarah Sparks in Education Week. Spread of these techniques is hampered 
in schools, however, by a lack of researchers to help districts make sense of 
the data. Predictive analytics include various statistical methods such as data 
mining and modeling to identify factors that predict likelihood of a specific 
result. Standard in the business world, they have been slower to take hold in 
education. "School districts are great at looking annually at things, doing 
summative assessments and looking back, but very few are looking forward," said 
Bill Erlendson, assistant superintendent for San José Unified School District 
in California. The district is modeling high school graduation and 
college-going trends based on 15 years worth of student academic, behavioral, 
social development, and health data, as well as information on school climate 
from teachers, parents, and students. "Considering our economy survives on 
predictive analytics, it's amazing to me that predictive analytics don't drive 
public education," he added. That said, experts in predictive analytics say 
K-12 education may have a long way to go in building the data infrastructure 
and staff capacity to make the tools useful on a broad scale.

But does it rate you as a parent, priest, lawyer, clothes washer, and 
Next month, up to 600 of Washington D.C.'s 4,200 public school educators are 
expected to be fired on the basis of their evaluation under the district's new 
IMPACT system, The New York Times reports. This would be the nation's highest 
rate of dismissal for poor performance. The evaluation system is disliked by 
many unionized teachers, but has become something of a national model. A 
centerpiece of the chancellorship of Michelle Rhee, its admirers say it has 
brought clear teaching standards to a district that lacked them and is 
establishing dismissal as a consequence of ineffective teaching. But some 
educators say it is better at sorting and firing teachers than helping 
struggling ones; they note that the system does not consider socioeconomic 
factors in most cases, and that last year, 35 percent of the teachers in the 
city's wealthiest area were rated "highly effective" compared with 5 percent in 
the poorest. "Teachers have to be parents, priests, lawyers, clothes-washers, 
babysitters, and a bunch of other things" if they work with low-income 
children, said Nathan Saunders of the Washington Teachers Union. "IMPACT takes 
none of those roles into account, so it can penalize you just for teaching in a 
high-needs school." 


He never calls
Rep. John Kline, chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has 
yet to hear back from the U.S. Department of Education regarding a request for 
clarification on potential NCLB waivers.

Oh good, more tests 
To win a grant in the U.S. Department of Education's new Race to the Top 
competition for early-childhood education aid, states will have to develop 
rating systems for their programs, craft appropriate standards and tests for 
young children, and set clear expectations for what teachers should know.

Less may indeed be more
Illinois state test results show that charter schools -- which typically have 
more instructional time -- actually have a lower percentage of students 
exceeding state standards, raising questions about the push for longer school 

Sure to attract more teachers to Detroit
Michigan school districts could more easily fire teachers under a package of 
bills now headed to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk.

So can we say Scott's Pro-Choice?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed five education bills that aim to expand 
charter schools, virtual schools, school vouchers, and a program that allows 
students to transfer out of failing public schools.

Sign of the times
The NEA has affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must 
be considered in the evaluations of schoolteachers around the country.

Making Promises
Up to six communities will get the chance to create a version of the Harlem 
Children's Zone in their own backyards, now that the U.S. Department of 
Education has opened up the very first round of Promise Neighborhood 
implementation grants.


AASA: Educational Administration Scholarships
The American Association of School Administrators' Educational Administration 
Scholarships provide incentive, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding 
graduate students in school administration who intend to make the school 
superintendency a career. Maximum award: $2,500, plus a $500 travel allowance 
to attend AASA's National Conference on Education. Eligibility: members of the 
AASA at the aspiring superintendent rate. Deadline: July 30, 2011.

NCTM: Engaging Students in Learning Mathematics Grants for Grades 6-8 Teachers
The National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics Engaging Students in 
Learning Grants are given to incorporate middle school classroom materials or 
lessons that actively engage students in tasks and experiences to deepen and 
connect their content knowledge. Materials may be in the form of books, visual 
displays, slide shows, videotapes, or other appropriate media. The focus of 
these materials should be on showing the connectivity of mathematics to other 
fields or to the world around us. Materials may not be calculators, computers, 
or related equipment. Proposals must address one or more of the Content 
Standards: number and operations, geometry, measurement, algebra; plan for 
developing and evaluating materials; and the anticipated impact on students' 
learning. Maximum award: $3,000. Eligibility: current (as of October 14, 2011) 
Full Individual or E-Members of NCTM or those teaching at a school with a 
current (as of October 14, 2011) NCTM PreK-8 school membership who teach 
mathematics in grades 6-8 at least 50 percent of the school day. Deadline: 
November 11, 2011.

NSTA/Vernier Software & Technology: Vernier Technology Awards
National Science Teachers Association Vernier Technology Awards recognize the 
innovative use of data collection technology using a computer, graphing 
calculator, or handheld in the science classroom. Maximum award: $1,000 toward 
expenses to attend the NSTA National Conference, $1,000 in cash for the 
teacher, and $1,000 in Vernier products. Eligibility: Teachers of science 
grades K-College. Deadline: November 30, 2011.


"I think this is very isolated. In Baltimore, there's two schools and they 
dealt with it. This (Atlanta) is an easy one to fix, with better test security. 
As always, in any profession, you have a few people who go the wrong way... 
What was different here was this was not an individual or a school -- this was 
clearly systemic. There's never been anything like it, and we hope there never 
is again."
-- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

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