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-- Education Week Research Center

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-- Education Week

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Collective Bargaining in Education: Negotiating Change in Today's Schools

Edited by Jane Hannaway and Andrew J. Rotherham

Why Newsweek's List of America's 100 Best High Schools Doesn't Make the Grade

By Andrew J. Rotherham
and Sara Mead

A Qualified Teacher
in Every Classroom

Edited by Frederick M. Hess, Andrew J. Rotherham,
and Kate Walsh

America's Teaching Crisis

By Jason Kamras and Andrew J. Rotherham

Rethinking Special Education For A New Century

Edited by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Andrew J. Rotherham
& Charles R. Hokanson, Jr.

Making The Cut: How States Set Passing Scores on Standardized Tests

By Andrew J. Rotherham

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Opinions on Eduwonk reflect the views of the author, Education Sector does not take institutional positions. Outgoing links do not constitute an endorsement.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dropouts getting a lot of attention

Good to see the media took notice—big time!—of yesterday’s dropout report from Education Trust. The organization counted 246 stories across the country! FYI for others seeking to get the media’s attention. Work on salient, timely issues. Dropouts are very much a part of the “news climate” and journalists are sensitive to that. Be bold and name names. And generate state-specific data.

Note to journalists: now that those numbers are out there, don’t let the story disappear. Find kids who have dropped out and ask them why. Find “at-risk” kids who are still in school and ask them why. Look at the “transfer” numbers and try to find those kids at the schools they allegedly moved to. Look at the adult schools. Lots of kids are reported by schools to be attending night school. But, in fact, many of them aren’t. It’s often not possible for privacy reasons to get the school districts to give you rosters of kids who have dropped out. (But those who are in school will lead you to others.) You should, however, be able to get information on the number of kids who transferred to other schools in the district and you should be able to check that out.

Here’s some of the coverage Washington Post,Los Angeles Times,Associated Press

Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University
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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dropouts getting attention

The high school dropout rate is finally getting the attention, and stirring the outrage, that it deserves. A toughly worded report out today from The Education Trust essentially tells most of the states to simply stop the nonsense. Comply with the reporting requirements of NCLB and quit playing with the numbers. “Reporting inaccurate graduation numbers and educators floundering to explain implausible numbers corrodes public confidence in schools and their leadership. Until educators are seen as honest and trustworthy reporters of student outcomes, it will be difficult to persuade the public to invest in improving high school results.” Ed Trust also excoriates the U.S. Department of Education for its utter lack of leadership on the issue, allowing “states to report inaccurate and incomplete data with no consequence.”

The level of cynicism on this issue is shocking. According to the Ed Trust report, 31 states have said that “any” improvement meets the requirements of NCLB and four states have said improving the rate by .1% is adequate. Two other states—New Mexico and South Carolina—are happy with no improvement whatsoever.

The report concludes by quoting a recent well-done series of editorials in The Indianapolis Star: “The first step is to tell the truth.” Indeed, a number of newspapers have abandoned their all too frequent on-the-one-hand on-the-other-hand caution and are doing their own math. The Detroit News just concluded a series that stated flat-out that Michigan is graduating only 77 percent of its students, districts are not reporting their dropouts, and dropouts are adding to the state’s welfare and unemployment rolls and prison population. The Rocky Mountain News and the Los Angeles Times also have done good work on the subject.

A separate report by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children also released this week says that state’s 21.7% dropout rate is unacceptable. We can stipulate that calculating a precise dropout rate is not easy because states have not invested in student-level data and that has allowed them to report for years overly rosy numbers. That was OK , perhaps, when it was possible for a dropout to actually get a job and support themselves. That’s no longer true. Moreover, we now have something called “computers” that make it relatively easy to keep track of the progress of individual students. And we have a law, NCLB, that requires states to report on graduation rates or completion rates or whatever measure of attainment they want to use. But the states just don’t want to do it. They don’t want to spend the money to gather the data, perhaps, but the bottom line is they don’t want to know. And it doesn’t look like the feds plan to do anything about it. Let’s hope journalists keep up the pressure.

By Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University
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No parental demand for charter schools in New York City huh?

Also, School Of Blog says there is cap action in NY...
Posted at 3:17 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Broder And Will On Education...
...in today's Wash. Post. Broder here, Will here. Both must reads...
Posted at 3:15 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Summer Break!
Nothing really to do with Eduwonkery at all, but here's a cool photo of this week's solstice from an Eduwonk friend spending the winter in Antarctica.

Posted at 3:13 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Ray Budde, 82

One of the intellectual godfathers of the charter school movement, Ray Budde, has died. The obit in the New York Times notes that “Dr. Budde, a former assistant professor at the school of education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, first suggested the term "charter" for use in education in the 1970's to describe a novel contracting arrangement designed to support the efforts of innovative teachers within the public school system. He long opposed the later idea that charter schools could be an alternative to public education.”

Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University
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Two perspectives on accountability
Came across two very different journalistic takes on the impact of accountability, on different sides of the country. This piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune focuses on a junior high school principal in National City who pushes, pushes, pushes academic achievement and student as well as teacher accountability. Principal Susan Mitchell requires students getting D and F grades to stay for mandatory study hall and extra tutoring. Remedial math classes have all but disappeared, replaced by algebra and geometry. The article created some traffic on The Education Wonks website, with a teacher writing in to say that “at the California junior high school where I teach, we cannot even require that students stay after school for remedial help. We can however detain them for up to an hour after school for disciplinary reasons.” A teacher from the school featured in the newspaper report also commented here that the changes have been dramatic. “I've personally seen a twenty-fold increase in homework production and quality from students, and that can be directly correlated back to Mrs. Mitchell's after school tutoring program. Changing fifty years of working a certain way, fifty years of slow, grinding progress (if at all) has not been easy for either Mrs. Mitchell or the staff. Parents, who pay us, are only concerned with one thing: their children learning. Granger students are more focused on academics than at any other time in my five years of teaching here.” One is left with the impression that, while the press for performance has made some teachers uncomfortable, it’s making a difference for kids.

The Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch’s Amy McConnell Schaarsmith on Tuesday concluded a beautifully written three-part series that focuses much attention on the lives of fifth graders whose school is facing interventions as a result of several years of poor performance. She shows in great detail the obstacles they face outside the school—the effects of generations of poverty, family disintegration, substance abuse, street violence. The parents of these children want them to succeed and they know what’s at stake if they don’t. And the school is clearly worried. "There's nobody here who can say they left a stone unturned," principal Martin Slomberg says. "I did all I could do. Teachers did all they could do. Students did all they could do."

I was left wondering, though, what has the district done to improve the school? Has the curriculum changed to better fit the standards of the test? I was left with the impression, here, that accountability and testing has done more harm than good and that, no matter how hard the school tries, it won’t be able to counteract the social forces arrayed against it.

Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University
Posted at 5:34 PM | Comments: 0 | Link to this item | Email this post

Transition Watch!
I’m outside Chicago at a symposium on opportunity in higher education, especially in highly selective institutions. It’s a great gathering of very bright, concerned folks who’ve been researching and thinking and writing about these issues for a long time so I thank the sponsors--The Spencer Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Macalester College—for putting it on and inviting me. I'm learning a lot. The luncheon speaker, E.T.S.’s Michael Nettles, in describing the college experience for low-income and minority students at some of these colleges, invoked the T-word (see post below) “The transition from high school to college is tough on a lot of students,” he said, in response to a question. He then noted some things colleges could do to help: “Faculty members taking a personal interest in students—not just in the academic side but the human side,” can make a difference, he said. Helping students more financially, not just with tuition and room and board, but also incidentals. Also, he said, schools could do more to “address the racial climate” because significant numbers of minority students reported in interviews Nettles and his team conducted incidences of discrimination and insensitivity. But he also read from interviews with bright, high achieving students who were utterly shocked at the differences in expectations in college, compared to high school.

Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University
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Monday, June 20, 2005

Ambition and hope and disappointment

The Chronicle of Higher Education last week alerted me to a Census Bureau report showing that not only is overall college enrollment rising, the percentage of college students who are minorities is as well. In the decade ending in 2003, the percentage of college students who are African American rose from 10% to 13%. For Hispanics, the percentage rose even more sharply, from 4% of college students to 10%.

But that does not necessarily mean more minority students are graduating from college. Over the weekend, a detailed article in the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California explored one of the main reasons why: students are taking college-prep courses in high school, getting high grades, and then discovering that they just aren’t prepared academically. The paper reports on summer classes at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles, where college students are taking one last stab at improving their English skills enough to be allowed to stay at the school. Some of the quotes in the story are just heartbreaking. “In high school, I was a 3.8 (grade-point average) student,” one said. “Now that I’m here, it’s embarrassing—there’s so much I just don’t know.”

The story notes that 8 out of 10 first-time freshman enrolled at Dominguez Hills last fall needed remediation in English and 7 in 10 needed remediation in math. Throughout the 23-campus CSU system, only 43% of the entering freshmen were proficient in both classes. Dominguez Hills president James Lyons summed it up: “There’s a disconnect between what they’re doing in high school to earn that GPA, and what is required and expected at the university level.”

--Guestblogger RLC
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LAUSD ups (future!) requirements
Given the above, it was good to see that the Los Angeles Unified School District board of education hung tough and brooked opposition to its plan to require all high school graduates starting with the freshman class of 2012 (!) to take the 15-class sequence required for entry to CSU. But if that requirement is to make a difference for children who are now in first grade, those classes will have to be far more demanding than they are now. The Daily Breeze notes that most LAUSD students taking those classes now still have to take remedial classes when they reach college. This increase in graduation requirements has been going on for 20 years and in the last year has accelerated all across the country. A bill on Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's desk would require a third year of math for graduation, for example. But the point remains. If these requirements are to mean anything, they have to lead to a change in what students are learning, not just in what classes they're taking. And for a change in learning, there has to be a change in teaching and lots of support to go along with the demands.

--Guestblogger RLC
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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel voucher series concludes
The remarkable series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel concluded over the weekend with profiles of three voucher schools that, the paper asserts, illustrate the status of the program. This excerpt is from the final piece and illustrates the evenhandedness and confident analysis that characterized the series throughout.

Fifteen years after its launch, Milwaukee's pioneering private school voucher program is like Bruce Guadalupe School: It is vibrant, growing and sometimes excellent. The program is also like Urban Day School: It is working hard but struggling to make progress in educating the city’s children. And the program is like Harambee School: It has schools where even good intentions and promise have led to troubling, even alarming, results.

…..It brought satisfaction to many parents who like the idea of having private school options, who want religious schools for their children, who want the small classes and intimacy that many of the voucher schools offer. It has shaken up the status quo for all schools in the city. But the warts--in the form of problem schools that parents continue to select, year after year—have persisted. And given the great range in quality among the 115 schools….no one knows whether vouchers will help address the urgent need for a better educated generation of urban school children.

--Guestblogger Richard Lee Colvin
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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Graduation Day in East Palo Alto Update

After seeing the item just below, Deborah Stipek, the dean of the Stanford School of Education, reported on the actual graduation ceremonies for East Palo Alto High School, the charter school Stanford operates. "We had to have it in Memorial Auditorium – the largest venue on campus – because high school graduation is such a big deal for these families and each graduate wanted to bring about 40 relatives!" she wrote in an email. "It was a raucous graduation. I had to leave a little early and could hear the hoots and applause all the way to the parking lot."

--Guestblogger RLC
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