Friday, January 23, 2015

N.C. Judge Questions State's Redefinition of Student Progress in Long-Running Equity Suit

In 1997, North Carolina Supreme Court recognized a state constitutional right to "the opportunity to obtain a sound basic education" in a long-running education equity lawsuit, Leandro v. State, 346 N.C. 336, 354 (1997).  The job of monitoring the state's compliance with Leandro fell to N.C. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. Yesterday, Judge Manning questioned whether the state was trying to lessen its responsibility to meet Leandro’s guidelines by redefining student achievement. In March 2014, the North Carolina Board of Education expanded its definition of student readiness to include students who still needed substantial remedial help in the classroom as ready to advance to the next grade. In an earlier order, Judge Manning questioned whether the added level was “academic double speak” that indicated improved student outcomes on paper that were not actually occurring. Yesterday, Deputy State Superintendent for Public Instruction Rebecca Garland explained that the changed definition is in line with higher proficiency requirements and more challenging courses. Nevertheless, Judge Manning concluded the hearing by observing,  “The system is not on track” and “is not producing any substantive gains whatsoever.” Read more at here and here.

January 23, 2015 in Cases, Equity in education, K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Universal Free School Meal Plan Available to States Nationwide this Fall

This fall marks the opening of a nationwide opportunity to provide free breakfasts and lunches to K-12 students under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) plan. The CEP plan has been phased in select areas since the 2011-12 school year, but is available to all states this academic year. An important issue for school districts (and one reason why some districts were cautious about participating in the CEP plan), is how they will show eligibility for Title I funds if they no longer have the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) applications to show income levels. The USDA and the Education Department recognized these concerns in a January 2014 guidance document, noting that local governments (and researchers) use the percentage of “economically disadvantaged students to show a school’s eligibility to receive Title I funds, to allocate funds to selected schools, and to calculate the amount generated for Title I services to eligible private school students.” The ED’s January 2014 guidance suggested a couple of alternatives, including multiplying the number of students identified by direct certification programs school by 1.6 or for a district to rank all of its schools on the percentage of students directly certified through SNAP (or another direct certification measure available annually) in both Community Eligibility and non-Community Eligibility schools. The CEP alternative plan grew out of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to provide free meals in high poverty local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools. The USDA hopes to provide an alternative to the need for local school districts to obtain eligibility data from families through a separate collection or making parents apply for free or reduced price meals. Instead, districts may use "direct certification" data (the percentage of families in a district using needs-based programs -- such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program) to determine the federal cash reimbursement for school lunches provided by the USDA.

July 25, 2014 in K-12, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Complaint Challenges Policing Practices in Wake County, NC Schools Against African-American and Special Needs Students

We have seen reassessments of zero-tolerance policies at the DOJ, as Derek reported recently here,  with the State of Maryland as a standout for creating more sensible protocols to deal with non-violent student misconduct. The fallout from zero tolerance continues, however, as a complaint filed with the DOJ this week against Wake County schools and several North Carolina law enforcement agencies shows. The complaint alleges that the Wake County school system and school resource officers (SROs) violated students' rights under Titles IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under Section 504, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint, filed by the Legal Aid Society on behalf of eight black schoolchildren who were receiving special needs services, alleges that "[t]he Wake County Public School System's over-reliance on unregulated school policing practices, often in response to minor infractions of school rules, results in the routine violation of students’ educational and constitutional rights," particularly "those of students with disabilities and African-American students." The harmful impact of treating minor school infractions as crimes, the Legal Aid points out, is exacerbated in North Carolina because it is "the only state that treats all 16- and 17-year-olds, in every circumstance, as adults when charged with criminal offenses, and then denies them the possibility of returning to the juvenile system regardless of the nature of the offense."

One plaintiff's experience with SROs reads like a criminal procedure law exam issue spotter: T.W., while standing in line for his schedule on the first day of 11th grade, was questioned by an officer about whether T.W. attended the high school. The officer then asked T.W. his name and apparently did not like the way that the student said it. T.W. was immediately placed in handcuffs by two officers. The complaint then describes what followed:

T.W. was then taken to the principal’s office where the SRO searched T.W. and said something to the effect of, “I love to find drugs.” Other than that flippant comment, the SRO offered no information regarding how he had reasonable suspicion to suspect T.W. had drugs in his possession. Nonetheless, the SRO continued the search, making T.W. take off his shoes and hand over his wallet, and then patted him down. The SRO then interrogated T.W. At no point was T.W. read his Miranda rights. Instead, the SRO continuously made statements to T.W., such as: “If you help me, I can help you;” “If you give a tip that leads to arrest, you can get paid;” “When you come to school your rights are forfeited.” During the course of the illegal search, the SRO found a lighter in T.W.’s pocket. The principal suspended T.W. out-of-school for two school days and the SRO finished his attack against T.W. with a citation to adult criminal court for interfering with a police investigation. 

T.W.’s mother filed a grievance with the school regarding the SRO’s mistreatment of her son. However, she realized that her efforts to convince the principal to remedy the situation were futile as he asserted that he had no control over SROs. So, that afternoon she went to the Raleigh Police Department and filed an Internal Affairs complaint against the SRO. Months later she received a form letter with no individualized findings, stating only that the department viewed the SROs actions to be “proper conduct” consistent with Department policies and training. 

After the grievances were filed, the SRO continued to harass T.W. A few weeks after the incident, T.W. missed the school bus. While T.W. was walking to school the SRO pulled up beside him in his patrol car. He pointed a video camera at T.W. and asked T.W. why he was late for school. T.W. explained that he had missed the bus. The SRO said something to the effect of, “You better not have cigarettes or you’ll get in trouble, and you get rid of that lighter.”

Ultimately, T.W. and his mother had to appear in court at least four times as a result of the initial incident at school. ... At one of the court appearances, the SRO testified that the reason he approached T.W. while he was in line to get his schedule was because he looked older than the other kids. The judge responded, “That’s just like walking on the sidewalk while being black.” All charges were subsequently dropped, and the case was dismissed. However, unfortunately, T.W. never finished high school, in part due to the trauma caused by school policing policies and practices in Wake County.

Read the complaint here.

January 30, 2014 in Discipline, K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kansas Bd. of Educ. Concerned as Eight School Districts Apply for Innovative District Status

Eight Kansas school districts have applied for innovative status under the state’s 2013 Coalition of Innovative Districts Act that would exempt them from most state education laws and from Kansas Department of Education regulations. The Innovative Districts Act allows ten percent of the state's school districts to opt out of most state laws if they can show how flexibility will improve student outcomes. The eight districts announced plans to use more college- and career-focused goals instead of state achievement assessments. Critics say that the Act clears the way for districts to replace veteran teachers with unlicensed (and less expensive) ones and are concerned that student outcomes would suffer without consistency in instructors. Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker told the Lawrence Journal World that allowing unlicensed teachers in innovative districts could also expose the state DOE to complaints that students are not being taught by legally-required “highly qualified teachers.” DeBacker says that her agency “might be on the hook for that” even though it will have little say in approving or monitoring the innovation districts’ plans. Second, the Act allows the innovative district to define what is student achievement for five years (until the renewal period), so it may be some time before anyone recognizes whether the innovation program is working. And some of the plans to improve student outcomes give pause. One district plans to offer multiple ways for students to get a high school diploma, including one that would require only two full years of classroom work in core subjects of English, math, science and social studies, followed by career training at community college or technical school, and “a year of on-the-job work experience that would involve only minimal supervision by the district to ensure the training program is meeting academic standards.” There may be nothing wrong with this proposal on its face, but it may be tricky in application when turning students over to unmonitored voc-tech programs and jobs to fulfill public education goals. Cutting out two years of high school instruction may also be troubling if low achieving students are steered into alternative job programs rather than education classes. One district leader indicated that its program may do just that—“we were trying to raise our test scores in the state more than what was best for the kids.” He told the Lawrence Journal World that “students can gain the additional skills and knowledge through job training and work experience as well as they can through classroom instruction.” The Kansas DOE has asked the state attorney general for an opinion of the statute’s constitutionality. State Attorney General Derek Schmidt declined to issue an opinion because the issue is part of pending school finance litigation. Read the story here.

December 17, 2013 in K-12, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

After Paying $2.2 Million, Normandy School District Votes to Stop Paying Tuition and Transportation Costs to Transfer Districts

To avoid running out of money by March, the Normandy School District voted Thursday to stop paying tuition and transportation costs for the hundreds of students who chose to attend a transfer district this year. The district in St. Louis County also voted to layoff 100 employees (including 71 teachers) starting next month and to close an elementary school in December. The district estimates that layoffs and school closure will save more than $3 million. The unaccredited Normandy district is struggling to come up with the money to pay for students who transferred out of the district this school year. It has already paid receiving districts $2.2 million in tuition and transportation this school year for students who transferred out of Normandy under Missouri’s new school transfer law. The district estimates the cost of tuition and transportation for students who transferred will be $13 to $15 million. Riverview Gardens, the other unaccredited district, says that it has enough reserves to get through the school year. Read the story here.

October 29, 2013 in K-12, News, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nevada Investigates ‘Statistically Improbable Test Scores’ in School Cheating Investigation

A Las Vegas elementary school joins those in Atlanta and D.C. in facing an investigation into “statistically improbable test scores,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Last week, the Nevada attorney general’s office subpoenaed the principal and six staff members of Matt Kelly Elementary School, where students’ reading test scores tripled in the last two school years. Kelly Elementary School’s test results have historically hovered between 51 and 24 percent in reading and math proficiency across all grades. That pattern was evident in the 2010-11 school year, when fewer than 25 percent of Kelly Elementary School’s fifth-graders read at grade level. A year later, however, the school’s fifth-grade reading scores soared to to 77 percent, more than tripling the previous year’s scores. In the 2012-13 school year, Kelly’s fifth-grade reading scores held steady at 72 percent proficiency. Clark County School District officials said that the district requested in August 2012 that the Nevada Board of Education review Kelly Elementary’s scores. Kelly Elementary is considered one of seven high-need schools in the school district; all seven have high black populations and poverty. Each of those schools receives $400,000 more a year than other district schools.

October 29, 2013 in K-12, News, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pittsburgh’s Communities Concerned about Plans to Close More Public Schools

In 2013, Pittsburgh Public Schools district rolled out its plan to deal with financial and academic problems in a report called “Envisioning Educational Excellence: A Plan for All of Pittsburgh's Children." Among other things, the plan calls for school closures. But a group of parents and educators called the Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh coalition, are worried that closing more schools will exacerbate the district’s problems, as we've seen in Philadelphia and Chicago this school year. (See Derek and Danielle Holley-Walker's posts about Philadelphia’s Perfect Storm, here and here.) GPS is even more concerned that the Envisioning plan (financed in part by the Gates Foundation), chose ineffective methods to gather community input about the school closures. Community views were solicited primarily through a few one-on-one meetings with selected parents and online surveys and feedback. The problem is that some parents, who are living at or near the poverty line, do not have ready access to the online tools that Envisioning used to gauge community views. Envisioning’s authors may have already decided what the affected communities'   views would be—that closing schools as reform measures is disfavored. One part of the plan is to change “community attitudes” so PPS will learn “how reform-minded urban districts have driven change in … community attitudes, values, and buy-in.” So GPS instead went door-to-door to ask nearly 1,000 parents what they thought about school closures in their communities. The graphic below is a snapshot of the survey results. Read what else the community had to say at Yizercation, What Pittsburghers are Really Saying about School Closures

Graphic courtesy of GPS Pittsburgh/ Yinzercation.

October 25, 2013 in K-12, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tulsa Editorial Regarding Public Funding for Private Schools


The article, “Public School Money Should Only Go to Public Schools,” raises policy concerns regarding the use of school vouchers to supplement tuition for private schools that the authors suggest may lead to a challenge under the Oklahoma state constitution that are relevant.  This article describes the differences in accountability that private schools in Oklahoma enjoy (not having to be graded A-F as public schools) as well as concerns regarding access to private school for students who cannot afford to go there.


October 16, 2013 in Charters and Vouchers, Equity in education, K-12, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Missouri Lawmaker Says School Transfer Law's Loophole Fosters “Educational Larceny”

Derek recently wrote about the financial hits that St. Louis area schools are taking under Missouri’s new transfer law. Under the Missouri scheme, unaccredited school districts have to pay tuition and transportation costs for the 2,600 transferring students who have used the law so far. Recently, however, Missouri lawmakers are realizing that the law has an unanticipated cost—families are taking advantage of the student transfer option to establish residency in unaccredited districts then immediately transferring their children to accredited schools. These “bouncing” transfers can get students into higher-rated suburban schools that would be otherwise unavailable because of residency requirements. Nothing in the Missouri statute stops such “bouncing” transfers or caps the number of transfers that families can have in a school semester. Nor do students have to enroll  or attend an unaccredited shool -- they just have to establish residence in that district. State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal told the St. Louis Beacon yesterday that the law allows families “to just move into an unaccredited district, then turn around right away and transfer elsewhere, [which] amounts to “educational larceny.” Lawmakers are finding it difficult to count how many families are using the loophole because of transience rate in city schools is already high. Sen. Chappelle-Nadal estimates that the unaccredited Normandy High School could run out of money by next March. Read more here.

October 15, 2013 in K-12, News, School Funding, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Teacher Gives a Glimpse into High-Stakes Accountability Testing

TestStandardized tests have cemented their place as measures of students' performance compared with their peers.  These standardarized tests have grown in importance as politicians'  and policymakers' primary yardsticks for student learning, teacher effectiveness, and school accreditation. But assessing these tests' quality and using them to measure educational accountability is complicated, as Professor Daniel Koretz (Harvard Graduate School of Education) explains here. Test contents must be kept secure to maintain their integrity but that security also insulates them from critical examination. These considerations make a teacher's recent account of the 106-question test given to her eleven-year-old students even more troubling as a measure of educational effectiveness.  The teacher notes that a Pittsburgh 7th grader may take between 17 and 21 standard tests in one year, a situation that she fears fosters test fatigue and hopelessness. Here is a bit of what the teacher's letter that was published in the Washington Post:

You stand in front of the class and read a sentence to the children. You are allowed to repeat the sentence only once. Then the students select one of four pictures that they think most reflects what the sentence says. The children look determined; they are ready; you begin. ...

Then you get to the second question. Of 106 questions. The sentence you read says something like, “Luis draws a blank when he is asked to solve a math problem on the board.” The students have four drawings to choose from. In the second drawing, a student is drawing the kind of blank one would see on a paper on which students are directed to “fill in the blanks.” It is a blank. He is drawing it. You start to feel stomach pangs as you look around the room at eleven-year-olds, many of whom come from non-English-speaking families, or families for whom this type of idiomatic expression is not common, and you realize that you have never come across this expression in any of the literature you have taught students over the years. You know it is unlikely that many of these children will recognize the puzzled expression on the face in one of these pictures as the “right” answer....

Question twelve put me over the top.[] The sentence I read to the class said something like “she realized she could store her belongings in the bureau.” “Bureau.” There were four pictures to choose from. One was a building that looked like a public “bureau” of the government to me, but I doubted my students would think of that. One was of a tractor. Scratch that. But I looked at my students whose families speak Spanish at home. And I looked at the burro in picture “C.” Then I looked at the picture of what my family calls a chest-of-drawers. And I thought about how we have never used that word, “bureau,” for a piece of furniture. And I have never heard that word in the homes of my students’ families. And I thought, how crude, how cruel, how ignorant, how disrespectful of these children. What a set-up. Who would do that to kids?

This account is worrying. Many of us, as educators, professionals, or both, sat for long licensing exams, so the number of long standardized tests that children have to endure in a school year gives pause, but the test makers' assumption that students will mishear the prounciation of the word "bureau" for "burro" (and then providing a picture of a burro as an answer choice) feels rigged. Read more here.

October 14, 2013 in K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 4, 2013

More Districts Offer Free School Meals to Students and Must Find New Ways to Count Low-Income Students

School districts around the country are making free school breakfasts and lunches available to all students in a continuing rollout of changes to eligibility requirements by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA eliminated the requirement for family income-eligibility surveys for free and reduced-price meals for the 2013-2014 school year. (No link to the USDA’s website is available because of the federal government shutdown.) In a report released this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Center said that “[m]ore than 2,200 high-poverty schools serving nearly 1 million children in seven states — one in ten children across these states — operated under community eligibility during the 2012-2013 school year.” Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a  “community eligibility option” allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer breakfast and lunch free to all students at no charge. On Wednesday, official from the Dallas Independent School District called the move “a wonderful benefit” as it will help ensure that students are not hungry during the school day and eliminate the paperwork that districts have to complete for meals eligibility. However, eliminating eligibility surveys does have a downside—districts used free- and reduced-price lunch data to Title I aid and measure accountability testing under No Child Left Behind Act for schools that serve low-income students. In a 2002 “Dear Colleague” letter, the ED approved of using school lunch program data to disaggregate student assessment scores, for “student eligibility for supplemental educational services, and under certain circumstances, in prioritizing opportunities for public school choice.” Now that the USDA surveys are no longer required, districts will have to find new ways to identify low-income students for those purposes. The ED offered guidance for districts to gather data in a 2012 policy letter here.

October 4, 2013 in Federal policy, K-12, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Connecticut Investigates Claims that School District Told Staff to "Exit Students from Special Education"


Darien, Connecticut is one of the richest zip codes in the United States, so one might think that its school district would have no problems delivering special education services. But Darien's problems with special education this year—including allegations that the district was told to steer special education students into general classrooms and then defied a FOIA request to cover up the evidence—shows that money does not solve everything. Prompted by a lawsuit filed by parents of special education students, last week the Connecticut’s Department of Education released a report confirming that the district’s delivery of special education services was “inconsistent” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The State Board found that the Darien district’s former special education director, Dr. Deirdre Osypuk, gave staff “directives to exit students from special education.” The state report also confirmed that Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) were changed without notice to parents. The problems appear to have started in when the Darien School District hired Osypuk to be its new special education director in May 2012. More after the jump.

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October 2, 2013 in K-12, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 27, 2013

No Tax Dollar Left Behind: Why Cyber Charters Continue to Thrive Despite Poor Results

In a recent post about the federal indictment of Nicholas Trombetta, the founder of Pennsylvania’s largest cyber school, Derek said that “the incentives for bad behavior, whether it be fraud or just low quality services, appear to run high in cyber schools.” Recently, the media, some school districts, and investors are seeing Derek’s point. The largely uncontrovered evidence is that children in full time virtual schools are more likely to fall behind in reading and math. Cyber student graduation rates are less than half of traditional schools. Industry leader K12 Inc., has been hit with a flurry of lawsuits in 2013 by investors for lying about its financial forecasts and about student outcomes. Apparently, the market is getting skittish about cyber charters. This week a hedge fund manager warned investors away from K12 Inc., telling Reuters that the school is overagressively recruiting students who are unsuited for online learing. But despite growing evidence that cyber charter schools are delivering abysmal academic outcomes, states continue to funnel billions of tax dollars to the nation’s 311 full time cyber schools. This week, Politico explores why the money is still flowing to virtual education as brick-and-mortar schools face austerity measures here and here.  

K12 Commercial
Tearful mom on commercial 

There has never been much proof offered or required that virtual schools are as good as traditional schools, so cyber schools are now going direct to consumers. K12 Inc. is pushing its products to moms on radio and late-night commericals on women-centered cable TV stations such as Lifetime and Oxygen. This commercial in  K12's fall campaign features a tearful mother who says that her son was "stressed out" in 5th grade and that his demeanor changed since starting K12. That ad also has an unidentified person saying, "That student has no way to fall through those cracks at all because the teacher and the parents are working together so hard together that they're going to succeed."

In full disclosure, I have been somewhat skeptical about the premise of full time online education for children. I wonder if most kids, especially kids with learning disabilities or behavior problems, can sit in front of a computer screen all day without social media, Candy Crush Saga, or Grand Theft Auto competing for their attention. I am willing to suspend my disbelief if there is proof that cyber schools work on a large scale, but that evidence has been scant. Evidence justifying skepticism, however, is abundant. Read more after the jump.

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September 27, 2013 in Charters and Vouchers, K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

American Schools in Crisis? Diane Ravitch Says No

RavitchCaptureDiane Ravitch has a new book out this week titled "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools."  Ravitch does not appear to say American schools are excellent, but she argues that they are not in crisis and that the constant assertion that they are in crisis undermining them.  In other words, the tail is wagging the dog in school reform.  She also points out that we label students and schools as failing because we set unrealistic goals for them.  This is not to say that we should set low goals, but that we can't expect students at severe disadvantage to achieve at the levels of privileged kids unless we first address those factors that make students disadvantaged.  Likewise, it is not fair to compare our education system to Finland's--the top performing in the world--because Finland's poverty rate is only 5 percent whereas ours is about 7 or 8 times that rate.

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September 23, 2013 in Equity in education, K-12, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Great Divide: Lifelines for Poor Children

The New York Times is running a series about inequality called The Great Divide. One recent article by James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics, is called Lifelines for Poor Children. Lifelines for Poor Children echoes Derek’s scholarship about the need to invest in early childhood development. Here is an excerpt:

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 10.21.39 PMEveryone knows that education boosts productivity and enlarges opportunities, so it is natural that proposals for reducing inequality emphasize effective education for all. But these proposals are too timid. They ignore a powerful body of research in the economics of human development that tells us which skills matter for producing successful lives. They ignore the role of families in producing the relevant skills They also ignore or play down the critical gap in skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children that emerges long before they enter school.

While education is a great equalizer of opportunity when done right, American policy is going about it all wrong: current programs don’t start early enough, nor do they produce the skills that matter most for personal and societal prosperity.

These established findings should lead to a major reorientation of policies for human development. Because skill begets skill, the opportunity for education should begin at birth — and not depend on the accident of birth.

The family into which a child is born plays a powerful role in determining lifetime opportunities. This is hardly news, but it bears repeating: some kids win the lottery at birth, far too many don’t — and most people have a hard time catching up over the rest of their lives. Children raised in disadvantaged environments are not only much less likely to succeed in school or in society, but they are also much less likely to be healthy adults. A variety of studies show that factors determined before the end of high school contribute to roughly half of lifetime earnings inequality. This is where our blind spot lies: success nominally attributed to the beneficial effects of education, especially graduating from college, is in truth largely a result of factors determined long before children even enter school.

Read more here.

September 18, 2013 in K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

States Mull Relaxing Rules for Homeschoolers


Fifteen-year-old Whitney Hershberger and her two older sisters are homeschooled and receive class credit for working at their family’s business in Iowa. (Photo courtesy: Kevin Schmidt / Quad City Times)
Recent changes to homeschooling regulations in two very different communities show the tricky balance states must make between oversight and freedom. Pennsylvania’s current scheme is being criticized for regulating homeschoolers too closely, requiring dozens of pages of paperwork from homeschooling parents. Some observers, however, such as the head of the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, support oversight to help students get a consistent and sufficient education. A few homeschooled students might need that protection, such as the Virginia student who Derek recently profiled who wanted to attend a local public school—against his family’s wishes. Another homeschooled student told the Altoona Mirror that he did not earn his high school diploma because he refused to give a sermon at his father’s church as a public speaking assignment.


Iowa, in contrast to Pennsylvania, ended most state oversight over homeschooling in this year’s legislative session. Iowa’s education reform bill essentially ended reporting requirements for most home-school parents, requiring only some to submit information upon request by the school superintendent. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier-Journal is examining homeschooling in the state, including the story of 15-year-old Whitney Hershberger, pictured left. Whitney is being homeschooled and receives class credit for working at her family’s business, a situation that may prove controversial in the national wave of testing accountability reform. About 2.3 percent of Iowa’s school children are homeschooled. About two million of the approximately 74 million school-age children in the United States are homeschooled.

Read more about homeschooling in Iowa and Pennsylvania, here and here

September 11, 2013 in K-12, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fla. Governor Skips Own Education Summit for Closed-Door Meeting with GOP Education Strategists

Some invitees to Governor Rick Scott’s Education Accountability Summit are annoyed that he skipped this week’s three-day conference in Clearwater, opting to discuss Florida’s educational future in a closed-door meeting on Thursday with GOP advisors in Miami. Gov. Scott’s office said today that he had “a very productive conversation about education in Florida" with former Gov. Jeb Bush, state Sen. John Thrasher, and state Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand. Given recent controversy over the state’s adoption of Common Core and the resignation of education chairman Tony Bennett earlier this month, Gov. Scott’s decision to not attend his own summit seems curious. Rita Solnet, founder of the advocacy group Parents Across America told the Miami Herald that she believed the summit was a façade. Solnet said, “This is how education reform gets done in Florida. The real decisions have always been made by Jeb Bush." The summit’s attendees discussed ways to make the Common Core standards more appealing for Floridians, including deflecting criticism by renaming the test. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Gary Chartrand suggested substituting the Common Core’s reading lists with materials "align with Florida's values and culture," saying that the lists may be upsetting to parents because they mention topics such as socialism or homosexuality.

August 30, 2013 in K-12, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"Public Servants Should Be Supporting Education": Wake Forest Professor's Open Letter to the North Carolina Gen. Assembly

Wake Forest Professor Alan Brown has published an open letter about education to the Senate President of the North Carolina General Assembly. In the letter, Brown writes of his concerns that the state's education measures will prove to be destructive rather than helpful or efficient. Brown, an English professor, wrote to NC Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger about the education bills that Derek has been covering this summer, including budget cutscharter schoolsand replacing teachers with Teach for America recruits.

The Gen. Assembly's laws on education, voting rights, and abortion sparked "Moral Mondaysprotests at the state house. Brown's letter, published last Sunday in the Greensboro New-Record, is reprinted below:

As a native of Guilford County and a former public school teacher, let me first thank you for your interest in K-12 education in North Carolina. I believe it is important to see our state representatives openly discussing the work of public schools while considering potential improvements.

Sadly, I fear you have set us on a destructive path to privatizing education while cutting many crucial budgetary items that make our schools successful. Instead of collaborating with educators to implement public policy, you and your colleagues seem convinced that ending teacher tenure, eliminating class size caps, cutting teacher assistants, adding armed guards, increasing funding for standardized tests, and encouraging recruitment of teachers with limited preparation will be some sort of saving grace for North Carolina schools. While I cannot possibly speak to each of these policies in such a limited space, I hope to highlight a few that seem the most perilous. 

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August 14, 2013 in K-12, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

California Enacts Nation's First Transgender Rights Law for K-12 Students

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the nation’s first statewide transgender rights law for K-12 students on Monday. The law, called the School Success and Opportunity Act (California Assembly Bill 1266),  requires public schools to allow transgender students to choose which restrooms and locker rooms that they wish to use and to choose whether they want to play boys’ or girls’ sports. The law also allows transgender students ‘‘to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities’’ regardless of their birth gender. A legislative spokesman told the Associated Press that California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has had such a policy similar to the new law for a decade and has reported no problems. Hundreds of other schools in California have also adopted policies protecting transgender students’ rights.


August 13, 2013 in K-12, State law developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Arne Duncan Warns Against Overreacting to Dramatic Drop in Common Core Test Scores

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is cautioning parents and teachers not to panic about the new Common Core test results that are coming. Common Core standards are more rigorous, so big drops in proficiency scores are expected. New York's results came in yesterday, and as predicted, the scores are terrible. Statewide, NY students' proficiency scores dropped by about 30 points compared with last year, resulting in around 31 percent of students in grades 3-8 passing the English Language Arts (ELA)  and math exams, according to the New York State Education Department. The gap for was wider with only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students statewide meeting or exceeding  the proficiency standard on the tests. In a statement today on, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said, "The world has changed, the economy has changed, and what our students need to know has changed. These scores reflect a new baseline and a new beginning.... With the right tools, the right training, and continuous feedback and support, our teachers –the best teaching force in the country — will make sure all our students are prepared for college and career success in the 21st century." See the summary of New York's test results here.


August 7, 2013 in Federal policy, K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)