[ECP] K12 Newsletters News and Headlines

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  • Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 17:06:57 -0500

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Happy Reading for today.


1) Pay for performance
In a randomized experiment, Harvard economist Roland Fryer paid students in 
Dallas, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and New York City for various 
positive behaviors, TIME magazine reports. Each city had its own model of 
incentives, and results were widely divergent. In New York City, the $1.5 
million paid to 8,320 kids for good test scores did not work in any way that is 
easy to measure. Under Chicago's model, the kids who earned money for grades 
attended class more often and got better grades, but fared no better on 
year-end standardized tests. In Washington, kids improved on standardized 
reading tests and showed modest gains from routine payment for small 
accomplishments like attendance and behavior. But in Dallas, paying 
second-graders to read books significantly boosted reading-comprehension scores 
on standardized tests, and the gains persisted even after rewards had stopped. 
"These are substantial effects, as large as many other interventions that 
people have thought to be successful," says Brian Jacob, a professor of public 
policy and economics at University of Michigan who has studied incentives. If 
incentives are designed wisely, TIME writes, it appears that payments "can 
indeed boost kids' performance as much as or more than many other reforms 
you've heard about before -- and for a fraction of the cost." 

2) The Digest of Education Statistics, 2009, is the 45th in a series of 
publications initiated in 1962. Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation 
of statistical information covering the broad field of American education -- 
from pre-kindergarten through graduate school -- drawn from government and 
private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by 
NCES.The digest contains data on the number of schools, students, and teachers, 
as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, 
technology, and international comparisons.

3) America's lost boys
A new study from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry argues that the 
conditions that contribute to a high representation of African American males 
among incarcerated youth (60 percent) begin early in life, and are often 
exacerbated by experiences in school. The report projects that by 2029, prisons 
will house almost 30,000 of the 600,000 African American four-year-olds now 
living in the country. According to study author Oscar Barbarin, African 
American males come to school with fewer skills than their Caucasian or female 
counterparts at this age, who generally have better developed language, 
literacy, and self-regulation. Boys' limitations are often not properly 
recognized or addressed as they progress though school, and this is can be 
compounded by behavioral issues, as well as by racial segregation within 
schools. Barbarin agrees that programs such as Head Start, Boys and Girls 
Clubs, and state-funded early childhood programs have tried to address these 
issues. However, Barbarin feels that the principle of the "three Xs" -- 
"Expose, Explain, Expand" -- can go a long way toward engaging children and 
encouraging pride by way of a caring, responsible, and ethical philosophy. 
Barbarin writes, "Once the juveniles enter the justice system, the repeat 
offender rate is sixty percent. This research calls for optimism in spite of a 
vicious downward cycle experienced by many young males, which marginalizes them 
at school, at work, at home, and in their communities."
http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Literacy/ see statistics

4) Leading Scholar's U-Turn on School Reform Shakes Up Debate
Diane Ravitch, the education historian who built her intellectual reputation 
battling progressive educators and served in the first Bush administration's 
Education Department, is in the final stages
of an astonishing, slow-motion about-face on almost every stand she once took 
on American schooling.
Once outspoken about the power of standardized testing, charter schools and 
free markets to improve schools, Dr. Ravitch is now caustically critical. She 
underwent an intellectual crisis, she
says, discovering that these strategies, which she now calls faddish trends, 
were undermining public education. She resigned last year from the boards of 
two conservative research groups.
"School reform today is like a freight train, and I'm out on the tracks saying, 
'You're going the wrong way!' " Dr. Ravitch said in an interview.
"Accountability, as written into federal law, was not raising standards but 
dumbing down the schools," she writes. "The effort to upend American public 
education and replace it with something that was market-based began to feel too 
radical for me." But Dr. Ravitch is finding many supporters. She told school 
superintendents at a convention in Phoenix last month that the United States' 
educational policies were ill-conceived, compared with those in nations with 
the best-performing schools.
"Nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for 
teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with 
respect," she said. "They make sure that all their
students study the arts, history, literature, geography, civics, foreign 
languages, the sciences and other subjects. They do this because this is the 
way to ensure good education. We're on the wrong
The superintendents gave Dr. Ravitch a standing ovation. "We totally agreed 
with what she had to say," said Eugene G. White, superintendent of the 
Indianapolis Public Schools. "We were amazed to see that she'd changed her 

5) Idaho ditches state standardized assessments
Because of their cost, Idaho will not administer the Direct Writing Assessment 
or the Direct Math Assessment in the 2010-11 school year, per Superintendent of 
Public Instruction Tom Luna.

6) NSTA: New Science Teacher Academy
The NSTA New Science Teacher Academy Foundation is a professional development 
initiative created to promote quality science teaching, enhance teacher 
confidence and classroom excellence, and improve teacher content knowledge. 
Maximum award: program expenses. Eligibility: middle or high school science 
teachers entering their second or third year of teaching, working a schedule 
with 51 percent of their classes in science. Deadline: May 30, 2010.

7) MetLife Foundation: Partners in Arts Education Program
The MetLife Foundation Partners in Arts Education Program enhances arts 
learning in K-12 public schools by supporting exemplary community school/public 
school partnerships that serve large numbers of public school students during 
the school day; exemplify best practices in creating and sustaining effective 
partnerships; provide pedagogically sound arts education experiences; 
prioritize student learning and achievement; and address national, state, 
and/or local arts education standards. Maximum award: $20,000. Eligibility: 
organizations that are full members in good standing of the National Guild of 
Community Schools of the Arts. Non-member organizations should submit a 
membership application and first-year dues payments at least one week prior to 
submitting an application. Must be located in certain cities -- see application 
guidelines. Deadline: May 26, 2010.

8) Zinn on Zinn
On January 19, historian and activist Howard Zinn gave his final radio 
interview, which Rethinking Schools has published in its entirety. In the 
question-and-answer session, Zinn relates that his experiences as the child of 
immigrants, combined with a great deal of reading, pushed him in an "activist 
direction." He also developed a consciousness that the country is divided into 
rich people and a lot of other people, the vast majority of whom struggle to 
get by. Many are rendered invisible by poverty and immigrant status. Yet even 
in our founding documents, Zinn said, we pretend these disparities don't exist: 
"The preamble of the Constitution begins with the words 'We, the people of the 
United States...,' as if all of the people established the Constitution. But 
that wasn't true because we were a class-divided country before, during, and 
after the revolution. The Constitution was not adopted by 'we, the people.' It 
was adopted by 55 rich white men who met in Philadelphia in 1787." Zinn's 
advice for prospective history teachers is to not be intimidated by "what they 
say you must teach... You have to play a kind of guerilla warfare with the 
establishment in which you try not to be fired."

9) Evaluating the evaluators
Although the Race to the Top competition was presented as objective and 
scientific, based on precise numerical scores, examination by the Economic 
Policy Institute suggests that the selection of Delaware and Tennessee as 
winners was subjective and arbitrary, more a matter of bias or chance than a 
result of these states' superior compliance with reform policies. In the view 
of institute analysts, the Department of Education (ED) should have made 
allowances in its 500-point system for significant errors in judging, "but 
publishing such margins of error would have made it plain that the winning 
states won only by chance." Such judging errors were compounded by the 
"needless complexity" of the design of the metrics themselves -- ED could have 
accomplished an almost identical result with a much simpler system, for 
example, one with only 70 points. Some states that lost in March are 
reapplying, again investing time and expense to redo their applications. 
Experts in these states are likely to spend hours studying the review process 
to exploit the quirks of the rating system. "Such gaming is unlikely to reflect 
an actual improvement in the education policies of applicant states," the 
authors note.

10) Rubber room gets the axe
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City teachers' union have agreed to 
scrap the notorious "rubber rooms" for teachers accused of wrongdoing or 
incompetence, and to speed up hearings for them, The New York Times reports. 
Under the agreement, teachers the city is trying to fire will no longer be sent 
to reassignment centers where they show up every school day, sometimes for 
years, doing no work and drawing full salaries. Instead, these teachers will be 
assigned to administrative work or non-classroom duties in their schools while 
their cases are pending. The centers have been a source of embarrassment for 
both the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers, as 
articles in newspapers and magazines detailed teachers running businesses out 
of them or dozing off for hours on end. The agreement would also shorten the 
time it takes for cases to be resolved by allowing more arbitrators to be hired 
-- 39, up from 23 -- and requiring them to decide cases more quickly. While the 
agreement speeds hearings, it does little to change the lengthy process of 
firing teachers, particularly ineffective ones. Administrators still must spend 
months documenting poor performance before the department can begin hearings, 
which will still last up to two months.

11) High teacher pay no guarantee of anything, really
A Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found a wide disparity between teacher pay and 
student achievement throughout Illinois.

12) Samsung Techwin America: High School Essay Contest
Samsung Techwin America is asking students across America to write an essay on 
the topic of technology as an investment in education. Samsung wants to hear 
what high school students think about the ramifications of spending on 
education technology, as well as alternative ways to invest a school district's 
limited budget.
Maximum award: $1,000. Eligibility: high school students in the United States; 
must have teacher to sponsor student. Deadline: May 28, 2010.

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