Friday, May 13, 2011

House Bill Calls for Eliminating 43 Education Programs

The piecemeal assault on the Department of Education has begun. Expect NCLB reauthorization to be taken hostage in the process.

This from Politics K-12:

Forty-three education programs would be scrapped under a bill introduced today by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee that oversees K-12 policy.

Backstory from Politics K-12.

"It's time to trim the fat," Hunter said in a statement. "Today I will introduce legislation that will eliminate—not consolidate, not defund, but eliminate—43 wasteful K-12 education programs. At a time when approximately one-third of American fourth graders can't read, we must concentrate on education initiatives that have a track record of putting the needs of students first."

Among the programs the bill would eliminate are Striving Readers, the Even Start Family Literacy Program, and the National Writing Project...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Education Programs Assail 'U.S. News' Survey

This from NPR:
Amid criticism from education reform advocates who say many teacher preparation programs provide poor training, a national organization is conducting a review of more than 1,000 programs to help aspiring teachers choose from the best. This consumer guide for prospective teachers — conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality — will be published in U.S. News and World Report next year.

But many schools of education say the effort is misguided, and they are threatening to scuttle the project.

Compiling The Stats

Teacher training programs have similar goals, but they vary tremendously. Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality, who is spearheading the effort, points to requirements for middle school biology teachers.

"In some places it means that teacher has to take nine biology courses, and some places it means that teacher has to take one biology course," Walsh says. She says her staff is combing through course syllabuses and entrance requirements and examining the rigor of in-classroom training.

"We want to know how prepared they are to teach reading, the mathematics preparation of elementary teachers. We're looking at whether they're at all selective," Walsh says.

It may sound like another harmless rating system for higher ed, but in the world of education, it can be impossible to get people to agree on standards. And that's exactly what's happening here.

Lynne Weisenbach, vice chancellor of the University of Georgia, says her state's institutions are doing fine. They have already been vetted by a state review board.

"The professional standards commission has high standards, and all of our institutions are accredited" by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Weisenbach says.

She says the U.S. News survey relies too heavily on documents like curriculum contents. Some teachers use materials that may not show up in a syllabus, she says. For that and other reasons, she thinks the survey will be misleading and a waste of time. So the University of Georgia has refused to participate in the U.S. News review of teacher training.

"Given the time and resources we have, we really feel that we're putting them in the right place," she says.

'A Very Strange Metric'

A number of other institutions have similar problems and may not help supply data.

Walsh says this won't stop her. She will get the information through open records requests if she has to. "These are publicly approved programs preparing public school teachers. This is information the public has a right to know," she says.

But Walsh admits that open records requests will not let her peek inside private preparation programs. And even with public programs, filing all those requests will be expensive and will make it tougher to get a complete picture.

Many schools say they feel the U.S. News ratings are just looking at the wrong indicators.

"For example, most of the indicators people are discussing have to do with inputs like the quality of the entrance requirements. That's a very strange metric," says Deborah Ball, the dean of the education school at the University of Michigan. "If I was a person looking for a program, I'd want to know what I'm going to learn while I'm there, not how selective the program is."

Nevertheless, Ball says the University of Michigan will produce the requested data.

People behind the review project say they feel as though teaching programs are reluctant to have outsiders looking in. But they say a view from the outside is just what is needed if teacher prep is ever going to undergo the changes they say are needed...

Hat Tip to Scott.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fayette School Board Could Hire Superintendent Next Month

This from Jim Warren at H-L:
The Fayette County Board of Education could select a new school superintendent before mid-June, according to a tentative schedule worked out Monday afternoon.

The board has said it wants to have a new superintendent in place by July 1 to succeed Stu Silberman, who announced in February that he is stepping down after leading the Fayette schools for seven years.

Board members met for more than two hours Monday with representatives of the search firm, McPherson & Jacobson LLC, to discuss plans for the final phase of the search. Jacobson officials also gave members a summary of comments received during public forums and stakeholder groups late last month seeking input on the qualities being sought in the new superintendent...

[T]he final phase of that process will kick in after May 16, the deadline for superintendent candidates to submit applications.

McPherson & Jacobson will deliver applications to the district central office on May 19. The district's six-member superintendent screening committee would then review the applications, planning to select top candidates on May 25 in consultation with representatives from McPherson & Jacobson.

The names of recommended candidates would go to the school board for discussion on May is expected that they would select three to possibly five finalists in executive session at that meeting. The names would be made public...

Board members plan to bring the finalists to Lexington for interviews with board members, and forums with key groups and members of the general public during June 6-10...

Supreme Court Refuses Appeal of 'Silent' Cheerleader

This from the School Law Blog:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of a Texas high school cheerleader who was dismissed from the squad after she refused to cheer for a basketball player accused of sexually assaulting her.

The cheerleader and her parents had sued the Silsbee Independent School District near Beaumont, Texas, on grounds that officials violated her right to equal protection and her free-speech right not to cheer in symbolic protest.

The case drew headlines after the cheerleader, identified in court papers as H.S., alleged that she was sexually assaulted at a 2008 party by the basketball player and two other young men. A state grand jury declined to indict the three defendants, and the basketball player was permitted to return to the Silsbee High team.

When the player went to the free-throw line during a 2009 game, H.S. silently refused to cheer for him along with her fellow cheerleaders. According to court papers filed by the school district, the cheerleader's refusal caused a disruption in the stands, and officials told her she had to participate in the cheers or else go home. H.S. went home, and she was removed from the cheerleading squad the next day. (She later rejoined the squad.)

A federal district court dismissed the family's claims against the school district and school officials, as well as additional claims filed against the local prosecutor. In a unanimous ruling last September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, affirmed the dismissal.

"In her capacity as a cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which [the school district] could disseminate speech—namely, support for its athletic teams," the 5th Circuit panel said. "Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, [the district] had no duty to promote H.S.'s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily."

The family's Supreme Court appeal in Doe v. Silsbee Independent School District (Case No. 10-1056) was declined without comment from the justices.

What the Survey TELLs

Over at Prichard, Susan Weston has broken down some of the TELL survey results. Just as it should be, it's a good news, bad news story. A huge percentage of Kentucky teachers responded, some would say bravely, to a set of questions on their working conditions. So the results can be seen as representative of the teachers at large.

Here's a good snippet:
and a bad snippet:
Check it out.

Times Expands Value-added Ratings for LA School Teachers

(In Photo: Former Felner buddy, UofL SemiDoctor and Gates guy John Deasy not so keen on value-added now that he's in LA.)

This from the LA Times:

New data include ratings for about 11,500 teachers

School and civic leaders oppose release of data

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday is releasing a major update to its elementary school teacher ratings, underscoring the large disparities throughout the nation's second-largest school district in instructors' abilities to raise student test scores.

The posting — the only publication of such teacher performance data in the nation — contains value-added ratings for about 11,500 third- through fifth-grade teachers, nearly double the number released last August. It also reflects changes in the way the scores were calculated and displayed.

Overall ratings for about 470 schools also are included in the release, which is based on student standardized test scores from the academic years 2003-04 through 2009-10. To obtain the rating of a teacher or school, go to and enter the teacher's or the school's name.

The initial release of teacher ratings last summer generated intense controversy — and some praise — across the country, and this round has already met with some opposition.

The Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent and other civic leaders, in a letter to the newspaper's publisher, recently asked The Times to reconsider publishing the ratings, saying in part that individual teachers' performances should be addressed in private conversations...