Gay Start for Spellings, Merit Pay for Feds, Gorilla vs. Governator, Snow Days in Boston (Best of the Week)

Education Secretary Criticizes PBS Show With Gay Couples (LA Times). What a strange and short-sighted thing for newly-approved Secretary Spellings to start out with -- almost as strange as outgoing Secretary Paige waving goodbye with a plea for…more arts education: Putting Arts Education Front and Center (Education Week). Doesn’t Spellings have anything better to do? Bush bans payola to journalists (The New York Times). See also: PBS's 'Buster' Gets An Education (Washington Post), Education secretary blasts children's show (USAT). What crazy idea is next? Merit pay for USDE officials? Don’t laugh. It’s apparently already happening over at the Department of Homeland Security: Civil Service System on Way Out at DHS (Washington Post).

Expect governor to be taught a political lesson (San Francisco Chronicle). Looking over the political landscape in California, the Education Intelligence Agency expects the Governator to lose when going up against the CTA: “Previous governors have tried hostility (Deukmejian), appeasement (Davis), or situational bouncing between the two (Wilson). Not one could really claim a major victory. You can count major CTA political defeats on one hand. There is zero possibility that Arnold will get his plan as stated through the Democratic-dominated legislature. But if he places an understandable reform plan on the statewide ballot, all bets are off.”

As at least a few big-city mayors have learned, sometimes it’s not all about making big policy announcements but rather about little things like snow days:
School closings test parents, Payzant (Boston Globe), Wrong call on classes (Boston Globe). And while we’re on the subject: Snow way! Why don't kids offer to shovel our driveways anymore? (Boston Herald). Others praise Payzant: Lessons in consistency (Fort Wayne Sentinel).

NCLB Here To Stay, Where Next on High Schools?, Early Childhood Rumblings, (Washington DC)

At least one key Republican lawmaker – Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), the head of the House Education Reform Subcommittee – confirms yet again that NCLB will remain in effect: Castle: School reforms on slate (News Journal). “If anyone thinks it's going away, they're wrong. No Child Left Behind is here to stay.” Indeed: No Child Left Behind is here to stay (Fort Worth Star Telegram).

Meanwhile, things remain relatively quiet on the NCLB expansion front, in large part due to the lack of a clear plan for moving forward on the broader issue of high school reform:
No ... Teenager Left Behind? (Time Magazine), Oppose expansion of federal education law (DesMoines Register), Calls for Revamping High Schools Intensify (Education Week), High schools beef up requirements (The Kansas City Star), and Opinion: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: Fix it first (St. Louis Today). At least one state is going the opposite direction, however: IN officials back off new diploma requirements Indianapolis Star.

While not as broadly publicized, early childhood education remains a hot issue in the states and to some extent in DC:
Dodd, other Democratic senators introduce bills on jobs, education ... (Newsday), Common Ground on Preschool (New Democrats), The Scientific Teaching of Reading (Education Week), School Readiness Starts at Home, National Report Says (STATELINE.ORG), Early childhood efforts should be focused, governors' panel says (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Kids need an earlier start (Chicago Tribune), Expansion of early education urged (News Observer), District won't restore kindergarten teachers' aides (Pittsburg Tribune), Teachers of Kindergartners Adapt to Full Days (Education Week). Also: Pre-K at public schools (Palm Beach Post), Parents, read to your babies (North County Times), and To do: Pass out cigars, call preschool (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Bush Plan Worries the Voc. Ed. Community Education Week
Education a Priority for Some Freshmen in Congress Education Week
Spellings Announces New Education Department Chief of Staff USDE

Missouri Races Downwards, No Go for North Dakota, (NCLB News)

Rather than trying to get out of NCLB altogether, Missouri has recently taken the surprising– and seemingly unallowable – step of lowering its AYP requirements for 2005: Missouri lowers testing goals (Kansas City Star January 22). Missouri scales back student testing goals (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Lower MAP standards 'more realistic,' district official says (Columbia Daily Tribune). Can they do that? If they can, won't everyone do the same?

On the HQT hotseat, North Dakota has apparently lost out on its bid to retain existing provisions, which requires only a degree in elementary education and was deemed insufficient during an earlier USDE monitoring visit:
State must comply with federal education ruling (Bismarck Tribune), Federal officials give no ground on teacher standard ruling (Grand Forks Herald).

All this despite the involvement of powerful US Senator Byron Dorgan: Dorgan pushes for teacher standard to be accepted (Times Record). For more background, see: Dakota to appeal NCLB status (Freeport Journal Standard), N.D., Utah Dispute Federal Findings on Teacher Quality (Education Week), Federal Education Officials to Visit State (Bismarck Tribune), State officials confident ruling will be reversed (Bismarck Tribune).

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia board of education has loosened some of its requirements for special education and ELL teachers:
Education board votes to loosen some teaching standards (Philadelphia Inquirer). Thus far, no public response from the USDE, which is reportedly visiting all 50 states on monitoring visits. And not everyone is having a hard time with the HQT requirement: Most Bay County teachers already meet No Child Left Behind ..(The Bay City Times), No Educator Left Behind: Graduate Degrees (Education World).

Elsewhere in the world of teacher training/recruitment/retention/compensation: Pughsley plan would transfer teachers (News 14 Charlotte), City principal finds teacher by turning to private sector (Chicago Tribune),
UC boss emphasizes science, math needs (San Diego Union-Tribune), Racial Equity Requires Teaching Elementary School Teachers More Mathematics, Can't understand your teacher? (Arizona Republic), Absolute union power hurts ... (Providence Journal). And, on The West Wing, an independent-minded Democratic presidential candidate proposes an end to tenure for teachers: The West Wing (Television Without Pity).

Meanwhile, at least one voice in VA comes out against the state’s NCLB escape efforts: Don't abandon ''No Child Left Behind'' (Virginian Pilot). In Washington, DC, an education group’s challenge against the law was blocked: Challenge dismissed (UPI). School board members are rallying against NCLB: Federal Relations Network Conference to Rally Support for NCLB ...(U.S. Newswire). Some districts are considering suing the Feds: Princeton, Putnan County schools consider suing over No Child Left ... (LaSalle News Tribune). Others are finding it too costly: Suing too expensive (Northern Illinois News Tribune).

Best of the Rest:
Few expected to leave unacceptable schools Houston Chronicle
Test-Prep Firms Bribing Students Just To Show Up New York Sun
Options for Kids in Failing Schools New York Post
School districts scramble to meet new law standards News Journal
In Pa., racial gap in scores shrinks Philadelphia Inquirer
Test-score gaps persist despite academic gains Des Moines Register
43 Schools On Warning List Hartford Courant
Left behind? Fort Worth Star Telegram
Options for Kids in Failing Schools New York Post
District may join push for English San Jose Mercury News
Frequently Asked Questions about Assessment and Testing
Association of American Publishers
More Measured Approaches in Standards-Based Reform ETS via the Gadfly
Pilot test gets lukewarm reception Union Leader
Using Small Schools to District’s Benefit Education World
Mesa, Arizona: Reading First "Dramatically" Improves Students' Reading Skills
Social studies getting squeezed Chicago Sun-Times

‘Bye, ‘Bye Bersin, Teachers Union Pro and Con, and Choice of All Kinds (Urban Education)

No snow days in San Diego, but after years of conflict Alan Bersin is out: School board votes to end Bersin contract in June (San Diego Union-Tribune). For more, see: Trustee suggests exit time for Bersin (The San Diego Union-Tribune), Bersin on the brink (The San Diego Union-Tribune). More SDUSD news: School charter proposals outlined (San Diego Union Tribune), Where Latinos live (San Diego Union Tribune).

Lots on choice, charters, and vouchers:

Choice may allow a racial backslide St. Petersburg Times
Most students get first-choice school St. Paul Times
Eugene's choice system spurs concerns about fairness Oregon Register Guard
Magnet school proves too attractive

The charter fallacy Baltimore Sun
Charter schools urged to do more than beat low-scoring neighbors Boston Globe
School board is asked to approve 3 charter applications Baltimore Sun
New Texas Policy Cracks Down on Charters Education Week
City students on waiting list to enter charter schools Asbury Park Press
Weeding out bad charters Dallas News
Report Faults Charter School LA Times
Unneeded codes burden charters Indianapolis Star

Education in the 'ownership' era Washington Times
Student Vouchers Invite Government Involvement Education NewsAnti Voucher Argument - Part 1 Texas Journal

Best of the Rest:

Seattle District Scrambles to Save Foundation Funds Education Week
The small school secrets of success Mitchell County Press
Starting A New School No Small Task Hartford Courant
Schools cut suspensions by half Durham Herald Sun
Detroit school board votes to let Burnley's contract lapse
Detroit Free Press
Fla. Board Seeks Social-Promotion Ban in All Grades
Holding back students? Orlando Sentinel
Change to student retention policy faces hurdles Miami Herald
Site-Based Management in Edmonton: An Evolving Idea Education Week
An Edmonton Journey Education Week
Reform Plan Would Give More Control to Schools on Spending LA Times
Dearborn schools launch 24-hour online tutoring Detroit Free Press

Growing up gangster Dallas Morning News
City principal finds teacher by turning to private sector Baltimore Sun
Strapped schools find ways to cut costs St. Paul Pioneer Press
Disabled thrive in transitional class Dallas News
Survey: Many DPS teachers unhappy Rocky Mountain News
Judge orders Arizona to properly fund English program
Arizona Republic
Saavedra wants focus on teaching, not testing Houston Chronicle
Controversy over 'zero tolerance' Philadelphia Inquirer

Closing Criteria Unveiled, New Schools OKd (Chicago, IL)

Chicago officials just announced their new school closings criteria – but not the list of schools to be closed – developed after an extensive outreach process that apparently included over 35 public meetings, 750 individual participants, various surveys, and 20 high-level meetings with stakeholder groups to figure out how to determine which schools should go through "rebirth."

After all that, the new school closing criteria are more clearly defined but substantively not all that different from the ones used three years ago when Arne Duncan announced that he was closing Dodge, Williams, and Terrell and kicked off the whole “Renaissance/rebirth” idea that eventually morphed into Renaissance 2010.

In fact, while CPS has recently ratcheted up to 40 percent its requirements to keep off probation and match more closely with NCLB, the requirements announced today -- average 25 percent ITBS/ISAT for elementary schools -- are actually more lenient in some ways than they were three years ago, when they were 17 percent ISAT/20 percent ITBS. The new cutoff for high schools is 10 percent on the PSAE over the past four years.

Roughly 20 elementary schools don't meet the academic criteria, and roughly the same number of high schools. There are 60 schools that have been on probation for five years or more, and 23 that have failed to meet NCLB requirements for five years.

But the criteria aren't all strictly academic. CTU “partnership” schools are exempted from being closed for at least another year, as are schools with relatively new principals and those that have only been on probation for a year. CPS also won't close schools if that would displace students for two years in a row. Schools that are making steady gains are exempted, no matter how low their scores are.

Perhaps most importantly, however, many of the lowest-performing schools in the city are going to be exempted because there’s no viable option nearby -- a CPS requirement for closing a school that may be one of its most questionable considerations. Limiting closings to communities with other options nearby means that communities like those identified in the recent IFF report with many low-performing schools but no better-performing school with space to take students are once again left out of the process. They won't have any schools closed, and they're as a result much less likely to get a new school under Renaissance 2010.

Despite the convenience to parents and CPS of sticking to options within walking distance, wouldn't some parents be willing to put their children on a bus if it meant going to a substantially better school? Obviously, they would. These communities should be targeted for transformation, not bypassed: Chicago plan lacks "strategic" view (This Week In Education).

What’s really different here is that the criteria are being announced publicly, relatively early in the school year, and somewhat separately from the list of schools that meet the criteria (which someone could theoretically deduce on their own if they had the time). The benefit is that this gives schools and parents more time to prepare, but the obvious downside is that the schools whose closings will be announced next week, while relatively few, won’t have 2005 test scores to prove themselves, and will function as lame ducks from now until June. Schools to be closed are being notified prior to the Tuesday announcement.

Even more of a question is whether closing schools really works at all. CPS is resting its justification for closing what will ultimately be as many as 60 schools on the rebirth of just two schools, Dodge and Williams. Last year, 10 schools were closed in June for low enrollment, a factor that is not included in this year's criteria. No additional schools will be closed for the rest of the year, according to CPS, including the 23 schools in NCLB 'restructuring.'

In the meantime, CPS announced that it was approving 12 out of the roughly 90 proposals it received this fall for new schools:
12 Renaissance 2010 schools OKd over sharp objections (Chicago Sun-Times).

What’s interesting to note here is that so much of the public protest against Ren-10 seems to have dissipated. CTU objections are now narrowly focused on the sky-is-falling charter schools/privatization/voucher argument: “Privatization of Chicago schools will lead to less accountability to parents, higher staff turn over in the classroom and take us down the slippery slope to school vouchers,” states a recent press release from CTU president Marilyn Stewart. Hmm.

In fact, some of those who are privately most upset about the announcement of the 12 new schools are those front-runner proposals that did not get approved. This includes two established charter operators who didn’t get the nod at Arai, as well as a widely-praised proposal for a new school at Lucy Flower that has been delayed but may still go through. There are some rumblings that the supply of quality proposals could drop. To be fair, however, there’s no clear pattern to the approvals, in that the Board went with a mix of both TAC first choices and CPS/CHSRI favorites.

Best of the Rest:
36 kindergartners, 1 frazzled teacher Chicago Tribune
Social studies getting squeezed Chicago Sun-Times
Update: 29 kids allege abuse Chicago Tribune
Mouth-taping accusations Chicago Tribune
Girl testifies in trial of gym coach Chicago Tribune
Online pen pal program enhances childrens' literacy
The Washington Post
Kids need an earlier start Chicago Tribune
Watchdog rips school repair decisions Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago school lunch prices double Washington Times
School lunches to get pricier Chicago Daily Southtown
Local high school grads see greener pastures ... Chicago Daily Herald
Schools up meal prices Chicago Tribune
School repair budget in a fix Chicago Tribune
Consultants in CPS Teach and Learn
How the CPS payroll system works Teach and Learn
School building projects on hold Chicago Tribune

Unintended Consequences, Bribing Kids, Naming Schools, Disconnected Youth (New York City)

They never learn Barron's via the Gadfly
Windfall to NYC schools US News via the NewsBlast
Real School Pests; School Funding Gotham Gazette
New York Tops Advanced Placement Tests New York Times
Fewer New York Schools Are Cited for Poor Performance New York Times
Test-Prep Firms Bribing Students Just To Show Up New York Sun
Options for Kids in Failing Schools New York Post
Big Buildings, Small Schools JFF
First Principals City Limits
Rep. Weiner Gives Bloomberg a 'D' on Education Reform New York Sun
Pataki Proposes Bonus to Colleges Whose Students Finish on Time New York Times
Name That School New York Sun
Good news for city schools could be bad for parochial system New York Daily News
Open University City Limits
Disconnected Youth City Limits
Brooklyn Teacher Charged in Attack on Her Principal NYT
Former School Administrator Charged With Stealing Education Week
Teachers just miss $130M lottery jackpot NorthJersey.com

More Action for Boys (New and Notable)

Helicopter Parents, Homework Lawsuit, Sweet Cigarettes, Bus Hijack (School Life)


Maybe the HQT Requirement Isn't So Weak After All (NCLB News)

For three years now, it's seemed like the highly qualified teacher requirements have been pretty weak, what with basic skills tests, credit for PD and years on the job, and the infamous HOUSSE requirements. But apparently not just anyone can teach at a public school anymore -- not even a highly-connected college graduate who wants to teach at a Washington, DC charter school:

Jenna left behind (Philadelphia Enquirer) via Education At The Brink

In this light, it seems that maybe her Inaugural finger-wagging was a confused plea meant to signal "I really need a job" rather than the many other explanations that have been given for the gesture: "Hook 'em, horns," "I love Satan," "My father is a cuckold," and "Bull----."


Battle Lessons, Universities Step Up, NEA Gets Over NCLB (sort of), and More (Best of the Week)

Battle Lessons (New Yorker). Figuring out how to get practical advice and quick answers to front-line teachers and principals may not be all that different from how two enterprising Army officers did it in Iraq. Or has someone already done this? Get it while it’s still online.

Universities Team Up With Urban Districts to Run Local Schools (Education Week). After decades of providing little more than advice and research and the occasional teacher training school, more and more prestigious universities are finally stepping up to the plate and actually running local schools. Now if only more – any? – elite elementary or secondary schools would do the same.

“Closing the racial gap begins with good ideas” (NEA Today). Better late than never, the NEA gets on the achievement-gap bandwagon, despite its many objections to NCLB. Is the NEA changing its stripes? (Gadfly).

A Child Held Behind (New York Times). No, it’s not about NCLB; it’s about whether or not it’s fair to hold students back if they don’t pass grade-level tests, as Chicago and New York among others do. Not much new here, and as usual for articles on this topic it largely ignores the benefits of student retention and instead focuses on the plight of one particularly hapless child. Can’t we do better than this -- or at least pledge to print no more “left behind” headlines? (Let’s see how long I can keep to that.)

Gates Foundation withholding grant from local schools (Seattle Times). Now this is something you don’t see every day, but probably should see more often – except of course when it comes to holding back any of my (thus far imaginary) foundation money.

Cambridge schools aim at rival (Boston Globe via School News Monitor). Concerned that a new charter school will attract parents, Cambridge takes out an ad trying to inform (scare) parents away.

Paige and Williams Pull a Rather, Lautenberg Holds Up Spellings, and Real Money (Washington DC)

Hard as it may be to believe, outgoing Secty Paige continued to defend his payments to disgraced pundit Armstrong Williams last week: “Paige defends hiring of commentator as necessary outreach” (Washington Post). Williams defending himself, ridiculously, on Crossfire? Not so hard to believe.

However, as a sign that Congress at least was taking this seriously (and/or making hay with an easy hit on GWB), it came out this week that Senator Frank Lautenburg (D-NJ) had put a “hold” on the nomination of Margaret Spellings in order to get the White House’s attention, which apparently worked: Senator lifts secret hold on nominee (Seattle Post Intelligencer), Education nominee agrees to check tactics (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Senate OKs new chiefs of Ag, Education (USA Today). Happily, this ensures that Education Week’s profile of Spellings is still relevant: Spellings' Resume Brings New Twist to Secretary Post.

Even more relevant, the final numbers are out on federal education spending, and not all of them are pretty – especially in light of continuing deficits at the state level: Final Education Appropriations for Fiscal 2005 (Education Week), Pork Out (Eduwonk), Billion-dollar Deficits Greet Several States (Stateline.org). Now, tell me again how anyone’s going to pay for meaningful high school reform or universal preschool?

Getting Out of NCLB - Why Bother? Plus, Liberals for NCLB (NCLB News)

While the NEA may seem to be moving away from its efforts to overturn NCLB (see Best of the Week), yet another drizzle of likely ill-fated efforts to bypass NCLB are coming down in places like VA and CT:

Va. Educators Seek 'No Child' Waiver (Washington Post)
School chiefs seek waiver from No Child Left Behind (The Free Lance-Star)
State schools snub No Child Left Behind Act on two fronts (Virginian Pilot)
State Seeks To Limit Student Testing (Hartford Courant)
State seeks exemption from federal school law (Boston Globe)
Officials: Va. shouldn't duck school standards (Hampton Roads Daily Press)
Dakota to appeal NCLB status (Freeport Journal Standard)

At the same time, there's no shortage of creative ideas about avoiding NCLB and how to justify doing so:

Four More Years—of Resistance (Rethinking Schools)
Getting out of "No Child Left Behind" (KXMA)
Try changing an unjust law ... by breaking it (Tucson Citizen)

Meanwhile: Colo. District Opts Out of NAEP, Despite Aid Forfeiture (Education Week).

I’m still not at all sure it’s worth the effort to get out of NCLB, given the weakness of some of its key provisions, poor implementation assistance/enforcement from the USDE, and creative avoidance at the state and local levels:

NCLB's transfer provisions stymied, GAO report says Education Week
Education board votes to loosen some teaching standards Philadelphia Inquirer
Alabama Teachers Rank High among Highly Qualified WHNT
Under pressure, teachers become 'highly qualified' MLive.com
Complaint Ends Confusion about Highly Qualified Special Ed Teachers WrightsLaw
‘Supplemental Services’: A Provider Responds Education Week
More Montana schools meeting federal standards Billings Gazette

Still, at least some good folks seem to be working on making the law work:

Focus is on struggling schools The Miami Herald
Planning, Seminars Lay Ground for NCLB Education World
No Educator Left Behind: Pre-School Help Education World
District responds to low No Child Left Behind scores Great Falls Tribune
Coffee schools staff, students work hard to meet federal ... Tullahoma.net
Schools working to close minority achievement gap Muskegon Chronicle

And not everyone – not even every liberal – is set against NCLB or focusing on student achievement, including Mother Jones and former Urban League CEO Hugh Price:

No Hysteria Left Behind MoJo via Eduwonk
Winning Hearts and Minds Education Week

Social Promotion, the New SAT, Books for Kids, and Testing Troubles (New and Notable)

Social promotion and student retention aren’t just the focus of the NY Times story (see Best of the Week). In addition:

Third-Grade Repeat Rate Improves The Ledger
New York City: The Politics of Promotion NY Times
Florida Board to urge end of all 'social promotions' ... Sun-Sentinel.com
Board wants to end social promotion St. Petersburg Times
An Evaluation of Florida’s Program to End Social Promotion The Gadfly

Then there's the new SAT:

Opinion: Seven Reasons NOT to Fear the New SAT Washington Post
Analogies are to SATs what babies are to bathwater Boston Globe
Scorers of New SAT Get Ready for Essays Washington Post

A new tool from the Education Trust reveals college graduation rates:

Web site helps out in choice of college Des Moines Register
College Results Online SJ Mercury

Books for kids:

Children's book awards Christian Science Monitor
Henkes, Kadohata Win Children's Literature Medals NPR (audio)

Last but not least, this week brings what seems like more than the usual number of descriptions of flaws in state and national testing systems, in the NCLB definition of adequate progress, and the impact of testing on schools:

Meaning of 'Proficient' Varies for Schools Across Country New York Times
School Testing Results Vary Ledger
When Assessment Defies Best Practice ASCD SmartBrief
Schools to test students who have English as second language Boston Globe
Testing Errors in Standardized Tests National Board on Education Testing
Testing Tots Rethinking Schools
TN's grading system tracks student progress The Tennessean
Measuring Literacy in a World Gone Digital New York Times
Testing Companies Mine for Gold Rethinking Schools
Don't Continue Pointless Exercise Carolina Journal
Testing, salaries drive $1.9 billion schools budget TimesCommunity.com
Low Test Scores Could Cost Schools Orlando Sentinel
Social studies get short shrift Kansas City Star

More students, more chances to fail Grand Rapids Press
Subgroups pull PLV schools into 'not met' NCLB categories Papillion Times
Leaving Lots of Children Behind San Diego Union-Tribune
Report: 9 of 10 schools will fail Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Chiefs Issue NCLB Update Education Week

What I don't get about the whole anti-testing "thing" is as follows: It's not like standardized tests are going away anytime soon, from what I can tell (sorry, portfoliophiles). There'll always be tests, there'll always be teachers. And there'll probably never be a perfect assessment and accountability system for education, but then again there isn't such a thing for finance, medicine, etc. It would cost too much, and might not be attainable.

Last but not least, many of those most commonly thought to oppose tests, namely classroom teachers, use them on a daily and weekly basis in their classrooms -- rarely valid, reliable, or without bias. I'm just not clear on whether testing opponents can justify vocabulary quizzes and unit tests, much less boiling down a student's work to a letter grade, or explain what they would do if they didn't "have" to give tests and grades.

Helping Teachers, Paying Teachers, Small &/or Charter Schools, and More (Urban Education)

First, a few interesting pieces on recruting, retaining, and supporting classroom teachers:

The Buddy System Teacher Magazine
Boston envisions veteran teachers evaluating rookies Boston Globe
CMS puts cost on recruiting Charlotte Observer
Phila. District Cleans House To Improve Teacher Hiring
Schools tap Kelly Services for teacher temps The Detroit News

Next: Is merit pay on the way?

Teachers Wary on Risk, Rewards of Merit Pay Education Week
Working with the enemy New York Times
Opinion: Pay teachers for their performance SF Gate

Then, more about the pros and cons (mostly cons) of small schools:

Schools Within Schools Education News
Is big always bad? Providence Journal
In Push for Small Schools, Other Schools Suffer NY Times

And, more than you ever wanted to read in a week about charter schools:

Charter Schools, Unbound Christian Science Monitor
Charter bill could bring 35 schools Indianapolis Star
Grades for city's charter schools are a wild mix Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Texas targets chronically underachieving charters The Dallas Morning News
Opinion: State universities should be sponsors of charter schools SJ Mercury
Texas to get tough with charter schools San Antonio Express
Charter schools under-enrolled, waiting lists exaggerated
Citizens for Public Schools
Do charter schools cut it? Yes New York Daily News
Do charter schools cut it? No New York Daily News

Plus, some good background on choice in general:

What do parents value when choosing a school? via the PEN NewsBlast
At Magnet Schools, Getting In Is 1st Test LA Times

The best of the rest:

Los Angeles: Early Intervention NY Times
Preventing Early Reading Failure and its Devastating Downward Spiral
National Center for Learning Disabilities
The Split Over Bilingual Education Los Angeles Times
Lots of rhetoric, little money for schools Boston Globe
Five Cities Receive Grants To Tackle Dropout Problem
Intermediaries in School Reform PDF via PEN NewsBlast

The Orange Room, Stripping, Facebook.com, Colleges Sell Sex, Recess Before Lunch (School Life)

The Big Reveal, Tutoring, Deseg, Pensions, and More (Chicago IL)

This week saw the big reveal of 18 “new” Renaissance 2010 schools for Chicago, but not the announcement of what is rumored to be 5-10 school closings:

Renaissance 2010 roundtable Chicago Public Radio (audio)
In Chicago Public Schools, every student counts Chicago Sun-Times
'Historic day': City plans to open 18 new schools Chicago Sun-Times
University plans to lead second charter school to success U of C Chronicle
Waiting for the other shoe to drop This Week In Education

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times weighs in on the showdown between CPS and the USDE about NCLB tutoring, which I couldn’t agree with more:

For kids' sake, work it out Chicago Sun-Times
The tutoring they deserve Chicago Journal

The best of the rest:

Forums set on school transfers Chicago Tribune
Minority students await midyear transfer approval Chicago Sun-Times
Teachers may have to repay pensions Chicago Tribune
Trading Places Teacher Magazine
Illinois Superintendents Weigh in on Hot Topics Illinois State University
Mapping the long trail of working class history Chicago Tribune
Blagojevich pledges to not raise income taxes Star Newspapers
Black-white graduation gap at U. of I. Chicago Sun-Times
Homeless man blended in at school Chicago Tribune


Waiting for the Other Shoe To Drop (Chicago IL)

The Board is today announcing a slate of 18 "new" schools to be created under Renaissance 2010, but leaving the announcement of which schools will be closed until next week. Reactions so far have been mixed, but there are a few minor surprises and notable exceptions that might be of interest:

There are at least two instances where the Board is over-riding the advisory committees:

Under Renaissance 2010, the Board created 10 transitional advisory committees to review proposals and make nonbiding recommendations to the Board.

Haugan Middle School, 3729 W. Leland, a brand new school built to relieve overcrowding, will be a charter school serving grades six through eight and run by ASPIRA, which currently runs the Mirta Ramirez Charter School. ASPIRA won out over another proposal submitted by one of Chicago's area instructional officers, according to the Sun-Times -- overriding the advisory committee's first choice.

Mid-South Scholastic, 3200 S. Calumet Ave., formerly the Douglas School, the school would reopen as a middle school and be run by the current assistant principal at nearby Pershing Magnet School. The Sun-Times reports that the successful Pershing Elementary School be "demagnetized" to make room for a new neighborhood school affiliated with nearby Douglas, and that the choice of Mid-South Scholastic was not the top choice of the advisory committee there: Pershing school could lose magnet status under plan.

In other situations earlier this year, the Board also overrode the community, approving a new Navy program at Senn High School: CPS Flexes Its Muscle Over Senn (This Week In Education)

In several other situations, however, the Board is following the wishes of the advisory committees (so far):

At Lucy Flower, which currently houses Al Raby, the Board is holding off in order to give the advisory committee more time to decide what to do. Previously, it had appeared that a new school based on the successful Umoja program at Manley high school would win approval, but community concerns and premature declarations from the Board slowed the process. 5 charter schools near approval Chicago Tribune

According to one insider, some advisory committees have been unfamiliar with, or even resistant to, the notion of creating a charter school. In some cases, at least, those submitting proposals only had one or two opportunities to talk directly with the advisory committees between November and today's announcement.

Choices about the new Lindblom and the fourth Little Village school have also been delayed.

The Board made surprise choices in a few situations:

Uplift, 900 W. Wilson Ave., a performance school serving middle grades, will be housed at Arai school. Uplift includes several current Arai teachers. This proposal won out over CICS and Perspectives.

The process has not been without its problems, or its critics:

School panels 'screwed up' with closed meetings: official Chicago Sun-Times
City's assault on union jobs shortchanges community Chicago Sun Times

John Ayers, executive director of Leadership for Quality Education, long an advocate for charter schools, has resigned. The University of Chicago's Tim Knowles, head of the Center for Urban School Improvement and one of the architects of the ill-fated "Mid-South" proposal last year, was originally slated to run the New Schools Fund that will oversee part of the Renaissance 2010 process but has since been given a smaller role.

There are a few "new" faces in the crowd:

Erie House, 2510 W. Cortez St., one of Chicago’s top community groups with a strong track record in early childhood education, would run a charter schools serving kindergarten through fifth grade students in Humboldt Pak and West Town.

Galapagos, 849 N. Leamington, is a proposal led by Michael Lane, a former Lutheran school principal and current charter school teacher at the LEARN Charter School. The school would serve kindergarten through eighth grade students in the Austin area.

Legacy, 3333 W. Arthington, would be a charter pre-K-8 school serving North Lawndale students, sponsored by the law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal.

Tarkington School of Excellence, 3330 W. 71 St., also built to relieve overcrowding, will be a performance school serving pre-k –8th grade students. This is the school that attracted the most proposals. The design team chosen to run the school also works with Dodge Renaissance Academy and the Chicago Academy of Urban School Leadership.

Four of the seven new charters will be operated by existing charter schools in the system:

Chicago International- South Shore, 7850 S. Chappel, will be a charter school serving K-8 students. It will be run by Chicago International, which already runs seven charter schools. Former Sate Board of Education Superintendent Micahel Bakalis is part of the school leadership.

Seven of the 18 being announced today are charter schools, and the rest are a mix of neighborhood and "performance" schools. Clamor for charter schools unaffected by low test scores Chicago Sun-Times

Many of these "new" schools were actually in the works well before Ren-10 was started.

These include 3 new high schools at Little Village, 3126 S. Kostner, a brand new school built to relieve overcrowding:
§ Infinity School, would focus on math, science, and technology
§ Greater Lawndale/Little Village School for Social Justice
§ Multicultural Art School would focus on the arts

College-credit high school for Little Village advances Chicago Tribune

By previous agreement, Donoghue School, 707 E. 37th St., would be a new charter grade school serving students from pre-kindergarten through eighth and run by the University of Chicago. U of C currently runs North Kenwood Oakland Charter School.

In November, the Board of Education approved three new small high schools to open in the fall of 2005 at the current DuSable High School, 4934 S. Wabash, including two performance high schools, one focused on medicine and the other on leadership, as well as a charter high school run by the same organization that currently operates the Betty Shabazz charter elementary school on the South Side.

According to the Board, 16 of the newly approved schools serve under-performing neighborhoods, and six serve overcrowded neighborhoods.

At least one school being announced will not open until 2006:

In addition to these 18 schools for next fall, CPS is also recommending a charter school at Hartigan, 8 W. Root St., to open in the fall of 2006 when the surrounding neighborhoods begin repopulating. It would be run by Lighthouse Academy, which is based in Massachusetts and runs charter schools in New York and Indiana.

City drafts its teams to launch 18 schools Chicago Tribune

School closing announcements are being delayed until next week:

Once scheduled for this week, the contentious announcement of which schools will be closed due to persistently low performance and/or under-enrollment are now being delayed until next week's Board meeting. Insiders predict that the number will be small, closer to 5 schools than 10, and that many will be high schools.

Closed schools not all being re-opened:

At least one of the 10 schools closed last spring, Suder Elementary, is not on the list of schools being re-opened next fall. Previously, Board officials had indicated an interest in starting a new Montessori-style school there, and created an advisory committee to oversee the process. However, only two proposals were submitted for the site.

Back in the fall, there were 59 Renaissance 2010 proposals, as well as 19 charter school proposals: New Ren-10 School Proposals (This Week In Education)


The Tutoring They Deserve (Update)

Seems like I'm not the only one who thinks that Chicago's NCLB tutoring program may not be quite as good as it should be, whether CPS is running the show or the private providers are in charge:

"Tutoring program gets low grades" (Chicago Sun-Times)

As the article reveals, there are some problems all around, and lots of underlying tensions, as well as many successes that won't get reported.

Since the kids, the instructors, and the sites are basically all the same regardless of who is nominally running the program, it really boils down in my mind to coverage, class size, and quality control.

The Board's program emphasizes coverage -- getting the tutoring out to as many kids as possible, largely by creating somewhat larger class sizes, and while they don't take any profit out of it I still don't think that's the way to go.

See post below for more on this.

PS -- I'm told that the private providers don't offer class sizes that are half the size of the CPS tutoring program. Sorry about that. However, they are substantially smaller classes than the CPS goal of 15 kids per class.


Piling On Against Pundits (Washington DC)

For some reason I’m neither surprised nor that worked up about the news that the Bush Administration paid a B-list pundit to shill for NCLB – even now, as Secretary Paige issues his non-denial denial and the questions keep coming:
Education Chief Defends Payments to Pundit Washington Post
Senators seek review of Williams' education deal Washington Times
President criticizes Education Dept.'s payout to Armstrong USAT

But clearly I’m the only one who isn't that interested:
No Pundit Left Behind New York Times
Space For Sale Newsweek
Fodder for Reform's Cynics, and a Blot on Bipartisanship New York Times
How to lose friends and alienate teachers Mojo via Eduwonk
The Latest $600 Hammer The Education Intelligence Agency
The Conservative Marketing Machine AlterNet
Will: Ed Department's public relations moves lack common sense
The Union Leader

It was wrong, obviously, and exceptionally poor timing in terms of the new Congress, the new Secretary, and plans to expand NCLB. But it’s nothing new, given last year’s revelations that the Bushies were putting out fake news on health and education issues, and rating education reporters. And it obviously didn’t have much effect, given the generally uphill battle that NCLB has faced in the press and among the public.

Why the apparent overreaction? A slow news week, in large part. Opportunism among Bush/NCLB opponents, to be sure. Exquisite coordination with the 3rd anniversary of the law’s establishment creates an easy hook. And the story hits a nerve: major media sensitivity in the Dan Rather/Jayson Blair age to any suggestion that they’re not doing their job reporting the news.

And yet, Williams was no more a journalist than former Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson. Pundits on both sides of the issues operate in a journalistic gray area, the hired guns of the Third Estate. This also makes everyone a little squeamish, as it should:
Case Shines Harsh Light on 'Pundit Industry'
Leave the payola pundits behind Chicago Tribune

There may be other things more worth watching than this. For example, the trend towards earmarks in K-12 education seems deeply worrisome. Just five years ago, such things were extremely limited in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills. Now they’re everywhere, hampering efforts in K12 nearly as much as they already do in higher education. And then of course there are the other education bills coming down the pike:
Education earmarks clog budget bill Washington Times
Project Draws Federal Money, Despite Doubts Education Week
2005: The Year Ahead Progressive Policy Institute

It's not all bad news in Washington. We can all look ahead to all of the festivities next week surrounding the Inauguration. I wonder what Secretary-nominee Spellings will wear?:
Education Gala Part of Presidential Inaugural Week Education Week.
Spellings Promises a Bipartisan Approach

High School Hysteria, What Tutoring Was Meant to Be (NCLB News)

There are too many articles this week about the Bush Administration plan to expand NCLB into high schools:

Bush Urges Rigorous High School Testing New York Times
High Schools in Need of Testing, Bush Says LA Times
Del. education chief rips extra testing The News Journal

To my mind, the NCLB expansion plan seems designed for two purposes only: to make it appear as if GWB has a second-term education agenda, and to distract folks from focusing on/attacking the existing NCLB, which has only just started to take hold.

Speaking of which, there are three interesting overviews of NCLB at its third birthday:
Revisiting Statewide Educational Accountability Under NCLB CCSSO
Target Attendance and Graduation Rates And How Rates Are Calculated ECS
NCLB Flunks On Third Anniversary FairTest

In the meantime, federal officials are still hoping to work out an agreement with the Chicago public schools, the city's main NCLB tutoring provider. Regardless of who holds the purse strings, tutoring was never meant to be the watered-down after school program that it has become.

Chicago students don’t get the tutoring they deserve Chicago Journal
'Intense' tutoring program approved Crookston Daily Times
More city students seek free tutoring New York Daily News
Why Not Also Quantify Private Tutors’ Outcomes? Education Week

The best of the rest:
N.D., Utah Dispute Federal Findings on Teacher Quality
Only few opt to pull kids out of subpar schools (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
North Carolina to review rigor of state tests The Charlotte Observer
Reconstitution is no model SF Gate
55 Schools Fail To Meet No Child Progress Goals Jackson Clarion Ledger
109 school districts fail to make federal progress Detroit News
Feds flunk 30 Detroit-area school districts DetNews.com
In Our Schools: What makes a highly qualified teacher? Grand Fork Herald
A failing British school's remarkable turnaround The Guardian (London)
No child left behind -- but mine San Francisco Chronicle
Springs district forgoes test, cash Denver Post

Small Black Boys Schools? (Urban Education)

The full impact of small/charter/themed schools initiatives are only now being considered in the press, even as interest in this approach grows nationwide:

In Push for Small Schools, Other Schools Suffer New York Times
Making small schools work Cleveland Plain Dealer
Clamor for charter schools unaffected by low test scores Sun Times
Private firms consulted for District's Small Schools project
The choices made: Do they really matter? Boston Globe
CPS to study charter schools' effect Cincinnati Enquirer
Rearranging the Furniture - Again Assorted Stuff

What happens to the rest of the system if everyone's focused on small schools, for example? Are there enough motivated principals and teachers to make the new schools work? Do you have to close schools to open new ones, and do they have to be in the same building that was closed?

In the meantime, there's a spate of articles about how boys fare in education, long overshadowed by the plight of girls. Why not a small/themed/charter school for boys while we're at it? Some already are:

Give Boys a Fair Shake in Public Schools Detroit News
Helping Boys Become Better Readers Education World
School Segregates To Boost Achievement Washington Post

The best of the rest:
"Cart teachers" a sign of jammed schools Seattle Times
Why some kids can triumph over life's hard knocks TIME
Some Math Practices Help Minority Pupils Education Week
A Question of Management Assorted Stuff
Ethics Issues Snare School Leaders
Uniform Effects?
When Tests' Cheaters Are the Teachers CSM
Miracles Through Malfeasance Texas Journal
Program targets older immigrant students Houston Chronicle
Consistency is goal of school reform Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ren-10 Lists Almost Out (Chicago IL)

It's not going to be easy. Board officials have been meeting furiously for the past month and more to see if they could put together slates of new schools and to-be-closed schools ahead of the late-January board meeting, and now it looks like Tuesday is the day. Send me the lists if you have them:

School panels 'screwed up' with closed meetings: official Chicago Sun-Times
Clamor for charter schools unaffected by low test scores Sun Times

In the meantime, CPS is still trying to work out a way to keep its NCLB tutoring operation running at least through the rest of the school year. A meeting later this month will determine what happens.

CPS students don’t get the tutoring they deserve Chicago Journal
'Intense' tutoring program approved Crookston Daily Times
More city students seek free tutoring New York Daily News
Why Not Also Quantify Private Tutors’ Outcomes? Education Week
Assessing Tutoring Will Fall To Parents Tampa Tribune

The best of the rest:
Out of the school budget loop Tribune
As many as 30 Catholic schools to close in 2005Chicago Sun-Times
Learning Languages No Longer a Foreign Concept Chicago Tribune
Round Lake schools go from rags to recognition Chicago Tribune
Number of `master teachers' on the rise in Chicago schools Chicago Tribune
Schools report good gun news Chicago Tribune
District U-46 is off `watch' list Chicago Tribune
Lessons from life Chicago Tribune
A tough initiation: Teach first, learn to be teacher later Chicago Tribune
Districts find ways to ease transfer woes for students Chicago Tribune