Archive for the ‘Arne Duncan/US DOE’ Category

Election 2012: Does either presidential candidate offer hope on education?

A shorter version of this guest column ran today on the op-ed education page that I edit for the print AJC.  You are getting the uncut version. This piece by University of Arkansas associate professor Chris Goering reflects the concerns many educators feel about this upcoming presidential election: They don’t think either candidate has it right on education.

In the next two months, I hope to run more pieces on both the election and the charter school amendment vote in Georgia that is attracting national interest and money. If you have something to say on either and want to submit a piece, please email me at mdowney@ajc.com

By Chris Goering

Mr. President: On Education, You Can’t Handle the Truth

In November of 2008 and again in January of 2009, I have never been as proud to be an American as I was when you were elected and then subsequently sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Before those two great days, I had lost a lot of faith in our country and …

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Has special education become the sacred cow of education funding?

In an editorial this week, Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute argue that special education’s insulation from most spending reductions is a mistake.

They maintain that the assurance of funding built into federal education law through the “maintenance of effort” or MOE requirement “handcuffs states and districts by requiring that special-ed spending never decline from one year to the next. In times of plenty, this mandate discourages efforts to make productivity gains; when revenues shrink, it means that special-education spending will consume an ever-growing an ever-growing slice of school budgets.”

I’m sure that special ed advocates will find much to discuss in the editorial, but I found one line surprising: In explaining why U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan backed away from undoing the MOE requirement, Finn and Petrilli blame “the powerful special-education lobby, which refused to accept anything other than expenditures …

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Putting value-added model to the test: Study finds student scores can predict teacher effectiveness

I joined a conference call today with researcher Marcus A. Winters about his new study, “Transforming Tenure: Using Value-Added Modeling to Identify Ineffective Teachers.”

In the study released a few hours ago, Winters examined one of the most controversial approaches to teacher evaluations: Using student test scores to identify how much an individual teacher contributes to a student’s progress over the years.

Known as the value-added model or VAM, this approach appeals to lawmakers. However, educators argue that it’s not reliable because it ignores the many variables involved in a classroom.

A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Winters examined teacher data and VAM scores in Florida and found that a value-added model did predict which teachers were effective in future years in raising student achievement, but cautioned that the model should not be used in isolation to determine a …

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State board charter committee: No fireworks but a few sparks today

I am on deadline for a Sunday piece but dashed downtown to the state Department of Education this morning for the State Board Charter Committee meeting after being told to expect “fireworks” over John Barge’s surprising public statement last week in opposition to the November charter school amendment. The committee is a subcommittee of the state Board of Education.

It wasn’t quite fireworks, but there were a few sparks  The sparsely attended meeting had representatives from two charter schools, Heritage Prep Academy and Ivy Prep, who spoke in favor of their schools.

The charter school reps were there because of Barge’s statement last week: “Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school …

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A charter school mandates pregnancy tests for students suspected of being pregnant. Is that going too far?

Should a public charter school be able to demand that teens undergo pregnancy tests? (AP Images)

Should a public charter school be able to demand that its students undergo pregnancy tests? (AP Images)

UPDATE Wednesday: The school is changing its policy. The Associated Press reports that the school chairman said no one at the school realized there was anything wrong with the policy until the American Civil Liberties Union’s state chapter threatened to sue.

Original post:

A Louisiana charter school is in the news this week for its policy of mandating pregnancy tests for female students if there are any suspicions that the girls are pregnant. And then kicks out anyone who is pregnant.

Dehli Charter School in Dehli, La., has 600 students in grades k-12 and presents its pregnancy policy as an effort to maintain its high standard for student character.

In its policy book, Dehli Charter School states: “The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further …

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Is a longer school year a reform worth considering? Or, is the cost too much and the payoff too little?

While 170 schools around the country have added school days, some Georgia students are returning to shorter schools years, a consequence of budget cuts. (AP Image)

While 170 schools around the country have added school days, some Georgia students are returning to shorter schools years, a consequence of budget cuts. (AP Image)

With some Georgia districts adopting a shorter school year to cope with budget cuts, I thought this New York Times story on the opposite trend was worth sharing.

The National Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research group in Boston, reports that about 170 schools — most of them charters — have extended their calendars to 190 days or longer, according to the Times story.

Here is an excerpt but try to read the full piece in the Times:

A growing group of education advocates is agitating for more time in schools, arguing that low-income children in particular need more time to catch up as schools face increasing pressure to improve student test scores. “It’s not as simple as ‘Oh, if we just went 12 hours every kid would be Einstein,’ ” said Chris Gabrieli, chairman of the Boston group. “On the …

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Under new law, will state send more funds per child to state charter schools than local systems?

A rural school chief sent me this note late Friday:

I am forwarding to you an email from Herb Garrett at the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association that was sent out today to all Georgia superintendents. Herb explains the financial impact of laws already passed regarding charter schools and the differences in funding between those students and the ones attending traditional public schools. Herb clearly quotes GADOE as the source for the financial projections.

Can you find out if this information is accurate? I have the utmost trust and faith in Herb Garrett but I am astonished that our Governor and legislators would clearly gut public education in Georgia to this extent. As a small rural system, we are doing everything we can to stay afloat despite the continuing cuts. But, if the GADOE’s calculations are correct, the Legislature is obviously funding charter schools more favorably than traditional public schools. How can this happen?

Friday evening, I asked DOE …

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The Irreplaceables: Study says schools losing top teachers

I listened to a panel a few weeks ago on whether schools were aware of and keeping their top teachers. I have not had a chance to write up the findings but will soon. In the meantime, here is a new report from The New Teacher Project that addresses the same issue: Whether schools are doing enough to keep their best teachers.

A new study finds that urban schools are systematically neglecting their best teachers, losing tens of thousands every year even as they keep many of their lowest-performing teachers indefinitely—with disastrous consequences for students, schools, and the teaching profession.

The study by TNTP, a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that all students get excellent teachers, documents the real teacher retention crisis in America’s schools: not only a failure to retain enough teachers, but a failure to retain the right teachers.

“The Irreplaceables,” released at an event featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NEA Secretary-Treasurer …

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DOE update on new teacher evaluation system; 50,000 teachers in mix this year

A reader sent me this question:

You may be ahead of me on this, but the second half of the school year just ended and so did the pilot test of the new teacher and principal evaluation systems. The 26 participating Race to the Top districts were asked to pilot test them with 10 percent of their faculties. Results, data and feedback were to be returned to the DOE by the end of May.  I’d sure like to know what they learned. Wonder if Teresa MacCartney and company have the summary report yet?

I asked DOE to respond and ended up in a 40-minute phone conversation Friday afternoon with Teresa MacCartney, deputy superintendent for Race to the Top implementation, and Martha Ann Todd, director of teacher and leader effectiveness.

Here is a brief summary. (I also asked DOE to write an op-ed on the teacher evaluation process and will share if I get it.)

DOE is not done analyzing all the data that came back from the pilot; it is still working on the cumulative teacher and leader …

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Feds: Sub-prime-style lenders burying college students in mountains of debt

Lots of reaction around the country to a damning report released today from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education on the shady tactics and misleading practices of the private student loan market.

According to the bureau, outstanding student loan debt topped $1 trillion in 2011 — $864 billion of federal student debt and approximately $150 billion of private student loan debt.

Among the findings in the report:

•Private student loans are riskier: Used appropriately, private student loans have a role to play in financing higher education. However, compared to federal student loans, private student loans often lack repayment flexibility and other protections when borrowers are struggling to make ends meet. Most private loans have few options for payment modification or forbearance. Federal loans have a fixed interest rate and most private loans have variable rates, making estimates about future debt payments difficult. …

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