Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Currently embattled Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell held his second education reform summit yesterday and you can watch some of the speakers on UStream here. The summit is a bellwether for Virginia's education reform laws and featured influential speakers such as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Baltimore Superintendent S. Dallas Dance. (No Jane Pauley or Pitbull, though, who were at July's National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.) Looking over the Virginia summit's speakers list, it appears that few current public school teachers or administrators were invited to speak (and in fairness, perhaps no one wants to put public employees at risk losing their jobs by advocating educational reform). Gov. McDonnell credited last year's summit for inspiring several of the state's education laws this year, including the Educator Fairness Act (making student testing a part of teacher evaluations and extending the probationary window for public school teachers from 3 to 5 years) and the Strategic Compensation Grant Initiative (grants for performance and for teaching in high-need areas). In July, Gov. McDonnell signed the Teach for America Act (creating a two-year provisional license for participants in Teach For America); the Opportunity Educational Institution Act (school takeover); and A-F School Grading. Read more at the Washington Post.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Strategic Plan (2012-2018):
As to reading, the plan sets the expectation that 90% of Asian-American children and 88% of white children will read at grade level by 2018, alongside the expectation that only 81 % of Hispanic children and 74% of African-American children will do so. As to math, the plan sets the expectation that 92% of Asian-American children and 86% of white children will reach grade level by 2018; in contrast, Florida expects only 80% of Hispanic children and 74% of African-American children to do so. Rather than promote equal educational achievement for all, Florida set alarmingly different goals for children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Florida's scheme sets severely lower expectations for African-American and Hispanic students, instead of marshaling its resources to ensure educational equality.
Complaint at 4. The complaint argues that "Florida's plan will fail an entire generation of students of color, limiting their educational aspirations by their race or national origin." SPLC's complaint, filed jointly with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, is available here.
An Idaho teen with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, lost a federal jury trial last month on his ADA and Section 504 claims against the Boise and Meridian school districts. Matthew Abramowski, now 19, claimed that the districts failed to provide an appropriate education and did not protect him from bullying. Abramowski's school district terminated his IEP when he was in eighth-grade after deciding that he no longer needed services. In 2009, the then-15-year-old set his house on fire, an event that Abramowski's parents say arose from their son's frustruation with isolation and bullying in school. (After pleading guilty to arson, Abramowski was sentenced to six months detention and ten years probation.)
A federal jury deliberated about 6½ hours before finding in favor of the school boards. After the verdict, Abramowski's lawyer, Charlene Quade, said that the applicable law is complicated because 504 is "a discrimination statute, a civil rights statute, and it involves intentional discrimination or discrimination otherwise shown by deliberate indifference." U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Dale presided over the trial in D.A., et al. v. Meridian Joint School District No 2 et al., 1:11-cv-00119-CWD (D. Idaho). Read more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Below, I reprint an op-ed by John Merrow (Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour) that never made it to the mass media, or more accurately, that newspapers declined. This is not an endorsement of the views in the editorial, because I do not know first-hand if the numbers reported are correct or fairly-presented. (Merrow goes through the stats school by school.) I reprint it here because Merrow's editorial illustrates a tragic flaw of the school accountability movement: the blame game. In every system under reform, the first attack is usually upon the people who are the least-powerful (and therefore most vulnerable) in that system--and the scenario in D.C. is no different. In the education system, the people with the least amount of power are the students and teachers. Teachers are easy and visible targets. The invisible victims are the students who are being educated in rigid, teach-to-the-test education accountability systems.