Education News for 05-07-2013

Local Education News

  • Urban League might lose Head Start grant (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Two nonprofit groups have been offered federal Head Start grants to serve needy preschool children in central Ohio, but not the Columbus Urban League…Read more...

  • Argument over access (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Parents who are unhappy with the Champion School District's refusal to provide access for their special-needs son to attend Central Elementary School have filed a complaint with the Department of Justice…Read more...


  • Bus money (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • Since 2005, Ohioans have enjoyed a 21 percent reduction in individual income tax rates. The Ohio House has proposed an additional 7 percent…Read more...

  • Hospital study is timely for parents (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Probably every parent wishes at some point that he or she could just bubble-wrap their little one. But guarding kids so closely for fear of injury…Read more...

  • Another blow to city schools (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Thursday’s records seizures at 20 Columbus high schools by the state auditor ought to prove convincing to those who have blindly defended…Read more...

Poll: Americans feel good about teachers

The 44th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll on public schools has some interesting findings. The very first question the poll asks

Going back 10 years to 2002, we combined the responses that include discipline concerns, such as fighting, gang violence, and drugs. In 2002, these were the biggest problems identified by 39% of Americans. Today, just 10 years later, only 14% of Americans mentioned concerns about fighting, drugs, and poor discipline. This year, as in the last few years, lack of funding was by far the most common single response Americans cited as the biggest challenge facing schools in their communities. Parents were even more unified that lack of funding was the No. 1 challenge facing schools.

A further question explored sentiment to improving urban schools

Ninety-seven percent believe it’s very or somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools, indicating a strong continuing commitment, and almost two of three Americans said they would be willing to pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of the nation’s urban schools. However, there was a clear difference of opinion between Republicans (41% in favor) versus Democrats (80% in favor) on the taxation question.

It's hard to get 97% of Americans to agree on pretty much anything, so to have that, and 2 out of 3 citizens wanting to increase taxes to address it, one might be forgiven for thinking we're talking about apple pie not urban education. A tip of the hat must also be given for recognition that our education system is unequal

On teacher evaluations, there is a significant divide

Americans are evenly divided on whether states should require that teacher evaluations include how well a teacher’s students perform on standardized tests, and this finding is consistent across all demographic groups. Clearly, American opinion on this doesn’t match the massive effort under way in many states and school districts to do so. Of the 52% who favor including students’ performance on standardized tests in teacher evaluations, almost half said this should constitute between one-third and two-thirds of the teacher’s evaluation.

Considering that people have only heard from one side of the debate on this, and have yet to see the consequences of these corporate education reform policies, this is likely to be a high water mark.

On the subject of teachers, few professions garner as much trust as teachers

Remaining constant over a series of years, 71% of Americans have trust in teachers, despite constant efforts to tear them down by corporate education reformers and their billionaire and media supporters .

You can read the entire survey at this link. We'll close out with words from teacher of the year, Rebecc Mieliwocki.

What a wonderful shot in the arm this year’s survey results are for the American schoolteacher. The core truth is that Americans are confident in their child’s teachers and proud of our educational system.

They see the best educators as caring, attentive, and demanding professionals. They want us to have the freedom to create relevant, rigorous, and engaging lessons for students and to have our effectiveness measured fairly through both classroom observations and student scores on standardized tests.

Americans want teachers held to high standards from the moment we enter a preparation program to our last day in the classroom, and they want us to improve how we prepare young people for the rigors of college and their careers. These are all good things. Just like teachers themselves, Americans want to see schools and the teaching profession elevated and strengthened.

The great news is that kids are learning more than ever before from teachers who are better trained than at any time in history. Walk into most classrooms in America, and you’ll see tremendous things happening. Yet, the persistent negative messages about public schools and teachers remain. If we hope to attract the best and the brightest into the profession and keep them there, we’ve got to put an end to this.

Teacher testing law is disgraceful and must be repealed

With the release of the state report card data, it was possible to calculate which school buildings fall into the lowest performing 10%, and thereby qualify their teachers to have to retake the PRAXIS test, a provision inserted into the state budget.

Plunderbund published the list of teachers who would be affected by this. We're not going to publish that list. We believe the existence of such a list, and this policy, is one of the most disgraceful pieces of anti-teacher legislation passed by the general assembly. Punishing and shaming teachers who work in some of the most disadvantaged schools in the state will have no positive impact on performance.

Indeed, such a policy may cause both staff retention and recruitment problems. What quality educator would want to move to a distrcit where their efforts would be rewarded by being unfairly shamed?

If one looks at the list of school buildings affected, a simple pattern emerges. Urban and charter schools dominate the list. We have already begun to discuss why charter schools are under serving their students, and the inclusion of urban schools is explained by a smart op-ed on Ohio.com notes

Most suburban districts do well, and large city schools are struggling, the overall trends driven by family income, parental involvement and the degree of stability at home.

What's not mentioned is how Ohio's unconstitutional school funding system severely damages urban education. Neither is the notion of poor quality teaching in these schools mentioned, and for good reason.

Cincinnati public schools, Columbus City public schools, and Toledo public schools to name just 3 of the big 8 are showing widespread improvements - putting to bed the lie that the problems lie with "bad teachers" who must be shamed into taking remedial examinations.

What should not go unnoticed however is the cost of this disgraceful legislation. Over $2 million in testing fees will be subtracted from already anemic education budgets. That money will be siphoned away and put into the back pocket of testing company ETS.

It is in ways and means like this, that public education is eroded from within and public dollars become private profits.

This law must be repealed. It is unfair, unjust, unfounded in its goal, and subtracts much needed dollars away from the classroom, that could genuinely be used to improve struggling schools and reward those teachers who work hard every day to improve them.

School 'reforms' are doomed to failure

Another great piece from Thomas M. Stephens

The governor and legislators' micromanagement reveals (once more) their cluelessness about how to improve public schools; after mandating this bad joke, they assigned its operation to the State Board of Education.

This would be fine and dandy, if it were based on any reasonable chance of success. Instead, it's a Hail Mary, a desperate move by self- appointed "reformers" who have helped bring urban schools to their knees and who now call for more charter schools as replacements. Soon both teachers and their students' parents will be labeled failures.

There are no secrets as to why many urban schools need help, or how to improve them. For the most part, achievement tests are measures of the socioeconomic status of students and their families. The urban poor face inequalities, often at conception, and too many persist into adulthood. Sure, good public schools can help, but the metrics now being used give a false picture of their efforts.

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Two Sides of the School Staffing Coin

An interesting panel discussion titled Two Sides of the School Staffing Coin: Innovative Models and Class Size Reduction Policies"

Featured presenters:
Matthew Chingos, Fellow, Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution
Julie Kowal, Senior Consultant, Public Impact

Featured panelists:
Michael Hansen, Research Associate, Education Policy Center at the Urban Institute
Donna Harris-Aikens, Director of Education Policy and Practice Department, National Education Association

Moderated by:
Raegen Miller, Associate Director for Education Research, Center for American Progress