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Last week, NPR revisited Rhode Island’s Central Falls High School. You may remember the school from the controversy that erupted last year after the district proposed to fire all its teachers, a move that both the U.S. Secretary of Education and the President appeared to support. You may also remember that many of those teachers were ultimately retained, after stakeholders agreed to a series of reforms – a “transformation” that was to include a longer school day, more after school tutoring and a tougher evaluation for teachers, among other changes.
But the school has struggled ever since. Last year, just 7 percent of Central Falls’ students tested at grade level in math, and 24 percent did so in reading. Some anticipate this year's test results will be worse.
Why have they continued to struggle, in spite of a plan that included a great many reforms that in some contexts have had success? Some ...
A recent article from eSchoolNews highlights partnerships between schools and education publishers to create customized curriculum—one that caters to specific populations by using targeted materials rather than generic plans and texts—to make students’ educational experience more relevant.
The premise: the collaborating schools and districts work with a publisher (both Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are active participants) to develop affordable, customized curriculum for any subject that also fit state core and Common Core requirements. The electronic content can be delivered via the web, CD, PowerPoint, or other electronic files, and much of it is also available in print. In addition to readings it includes lesson plans, discussion questions, activities, syllabi, and assessment tools. According to a school or district’s preference, Pearson can modify an existing curriculum to meet local needs, or they can develop curriculum from the ground up with the help of administrators and teachers. ...
We have been hearing a lot recently about the importance of teacher evaluation in ensuring high-quality teachers in every classroom. We have been hearing a bit, though it seems to me much less, about the roles of teacher preparation and professional development in ensuring high-quality teachers in every classroom. But until very recently, we haven’t heard much about the role of hiring decisions in ensuring that high-quality teachers are in every classroom.
To me, it seems like kind of a “duh” statement. If you are serious about raising achievement substantially, you need teachers who can hit the ground running. And also, as has been made clear of late, it can be difficult – and costly – to get teachers out of the classroom once they get there.
But in the past, it seems that some districts have not always taken a close look at their new hires. According to a recent EdWeek article, teacher hiring in some districts typically consists of ...
I previously lauded a Slate article by Richard Kahlenberg that pointed out problems with Michelle Rhee’s credo and its lack of emphasis on inequality. However, his latest Edweek article makes some specious claims about the ability of school choice to improve equity in education. ...
The Washington Post recently featured an article by Donna St. George that discusses the trend to reevaluate zero tolerance approaches in school discipline. Zero-tolerance policies enacting severe punishments for offenses related to weapons, drugs, and behavioral issues caught on among schools in the early 1990s—aided by federal legislation through the Gun-Free Schools Act that requires students who bring guns to school be expelled, and intensified after the school shooting at Columbine High School. The article summarizes that “over the years, ‘zero-tolerance’ has described discipline policies that impose automatic consequences for offenses, regardless of context. The term also has come to refer to severe punishments for relatively minor infractions.”
Though this approach is still commonly implemented, there is evidence that it can be ineffectual, misapplied, and even counter-productive, leading a growing number of educators and elected officials to scale back on implementation. A University of Virginia education professor (Dewey Cornell) interviewed for the article claims that suspension and expulsion—common punishments in zero-tolerance policies—do not improve student behavior or ...
Merrow initially selected this high-poverty school for a visit on the basis of its low scores on reading standardized tests. Just 18% of the school’s 4th graders read on grade-level – as he put it, “strong evidence of a failing school.” Yet Principal Jorge Perdomo welcomed Merrow and the Newshour crew, and let them know that PS 1 is actually a great school. And upon observation, Merrow realized: It might be.
According to the segment, the school’s students are enthusiastic and eager to learn, and teachers provide a supportive and nurturing environment – “strong evidence that the school is a success.”
In addition, Merrow found that the school’s first graders were reading “confidently and competently” – both in decoding and in comprehension. So he went to investigate why the school’s fourth graders weren’t doing so well. Some ...
The United Way has long been committed to both improving education and mobilizing the power of communities. In that vein, they recently released several reports on public feelings about education, and one specifically focuses on the role of volunteer mentors in boosting students’ academic achievement.
In conjunction with publishing these findings on mentorship, the United Way is issuing a national call to action. They are seeking to recruit one million volunteers to act as readers, tutors, and mentors for students over the next three years. So far the United Way’s National Women’s Leadership Council, comprising 50,000 leaders in 120 communities, has pledged to recruit 100,000 volunteers.
Some of the goals of this effort outlined in the reports: ...
A couple months ago, I wrote about an NPR series on efforts by Chicago city and public schools to mitigate violence and vulnerability among low-income students. Yesterday, Edweek featured an article about a new Chicago city-initiative—spearheaded by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in a partnership with Comcast—to provide computers and internet services at dramatically-reduced prices for the families of low-income students. The goal is in part to combat the increasing educational achievement gap between students with and without computers – a gap that, if left unaddressed, will only increase and further disadvantage our most vulnerable students. In a press conference announcing the initiative, Emmanuel pointed to a map and showed areas where only 15-45% of households have internet service. ...
The headline reads: Despite successes, charter school takeovers draw protests. The first two story highlights, taken directly from CNN.com (where the story was posted):
Neither is false. But are they related? No.
Mastery’s success – which is undeniable – has no predictive value on whether other charter school operators will have similar success. In fact, as we know from the often-cited CREDO study, the vast majority of charter schools perform no better than their neighborhood schools – and 37% perform worse. Yet in this article (as in countless others), while the author may acknowledge briefly, deep in the article, that not every charter school is successful, she certainly does not draw attention to that fact – or any specifics on charter school movement as a whole.
Instead, under the aforementioned headline and after showcasing the success of Mastery, this article tells the story of Audenried High School in South Philadelphia, which has been identified to be turned into a charter operated by Universal Companies (i.e., not Mastery).
According to the article, Audenried just reopened in 2008 after closing in 2005 because of its failing status, with students taking state standardized tests for the first time since ...
The May 22, 2011, Outlook Section of The Washington Post contained a column titled “5 Myths about fixing America’s schools” by Paul Farhi that is one of the few articles in the mainstream press to focus accurately on public education in the United States. At the Learning First Alliance (LFA), we are well aware that all of us at the local, state, and national level need to be vigilant in our efforts to improve the public school experience for all our students, especially those who live in poverty and/or have physical or emotional disabilities. And, at no time do any of the members of LFA suggest that we should do away with achievement testing; however, based on the depth and length of experience working in and with local public schools, the education leadership of the 17 member organizations of LFA know that easy answers, proposed quick fixes, and punitive use of standardized test data contribute nothing to sustained school improvement. A look at the five myths detailed by Mr. Farhi makes the case for a constructive conversation that is built on the truth around the work we do:
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The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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