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Racing starts early
The U.S. Department of Education has released the detailed application for the states that are eligible for funding in round two of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.
Try that again
Oregon Chief Education Officer Rudy Crew has ordered 69 school districts to rewrite their academic goals for this school year because they aimed too low.
Signs of renewal
On its 11th school day of the year, Detroit Public Schools logged 90 percent attendance district-wide and exceeded its projected enrollment by 2,000 students — a significant feat for a district that has struggled with declining enrollment and chronic truancy for years, especially in the first month and last weeks of school, when attendance has often dropped to under 50 percent.
Full stop
New Hampshire education officials will approve no more charter schools for the indefinite future, after the state Board of Education adopted a moratorium that affects schools even in the pipeline.
A very good place to start
The New Jersey Department of Education will focus its efforts this year on some of the state’s youngest students as a way to improve performance across grade levels, Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf has announced.
Poor showing
The College Board has released scores for the class of 2012, reporting that only 43 percent of test-takers achieved the SAT College & Career Readiness Benchmark  the same percentage as last year.
Advance screening
Next fall, every entering kindergartner in Oregon will be screened on letter names and sounds, basic counting and addition, and behaviors that lead to school success, such as paying attention and trying hard.
With a Simple Tune, Students Improve In School
Music Makes You Smart:
We can’t wait 50 years
A new report from the Schott Foundation finds that only 52 percent of black male and 58 percent of Latino male ninth-graders graduate from high school in four years, compared with 78 percent of white, non-Latino male ninth-graders. Graduation for black males nationally increased ten percent since 2001-02, with 2010-11 the first year that more than half of ninth-grade black males graduated with a regular diploma four years later. Yet this progress reduced the graduation gap between black males and white, non-Latino males by just three percentage points; at this rate, it will take 50 years for black males to achieve the same graduation rates as white counterparts. Among states with the largest black enrollments, New York (37 percent), Illinois (47 percent), and Florida (47 percent) have the lowest graduation rates for black males. Among states with highest enrollments of Latinos, New York (37 percent), Colorado (46 percent), and Georgia (52 percent) have the lowest graduation rates for Latino males. The report also stresses the need to address a “pushout” and “lockout” crisis in our education system. Blacks and Latinos face disproportionate rates of out-of-school suspensions and do not consistently receive sufficient instruction. Many who remain in schools are locked out of districts where teachers have the training, mentoring, administrative support, supplies, and facilities to provide children with an opportunity to learn.
See the report:
More separate, less equal
In its latest analysis of segregation trends in public schools, the Civil Rights Project has released three new studies showing persistent increases in segregation by race and poverty, dramatically so in the South and West. Nationally, the average black or Latino student now attends school with a substantial majority of children in poverty, double the level of schools that are predominately white and Asian. Latino students attend more intensely segregated and impoverished schools than they have for generations. In spite of declining residential segregation for black families, school segregation remains very high and is increasing most severely in the South. The authors stress that simply sitting next to a white student does not guarantee better educational outcomes for students of color. Instead, resources that include expert teachers and advanced courses — which are consistently linked to predominately white and/or wealthy schools — help foster real educational advantages over minority-segregated settings. The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, has taken no significant action to increase school integration or to help stabilize diverse schools undergoing racial change due to changes in the housing market. Small, positive steps in civil rights enforcement by the current administration have been undermined by its strong drive to expand charter schools, the most segregated sector of schools for African American students.
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Where it all went
A new multi-year analysis from the U.S. Department of Education brings together publicly available information about Recovery Act education grants, examining how much states and districts received, and whether and how the distribution of funds varied by selected characteristics of recipient states and districts, Education Week reports. The analysis finds that the Recovery Act provided an average of $1,396 per pupil for K–12 programs, comparable to 12 percent of states’ combined annual pre-Recovery Act revenues for elementary and secondary education. Funding to individual states ranged from $1,063 to $3,632 per pupil. Differences in per-pupil funding across states grouped by child poverty rate or percentage of students in persistently lowest-achieving schools were no greater than $89. On average, the difference between states with the highest and lowest rates of child poverty was only $14. Recovery Act programs did not target budget shortfalls or emphasize statewide achievement in funding formulas or award criteria. However, states with the largest budget shortfalls and states with the highest student achievement received an average of $143 and $159 (respectively) more per pupil than did states with the smallest budget shortfalls and lowest student achievement levels. In total, 93 percent of all school districts in the nation received Recovery Act funds from at least one program.
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Who works where, and for what hours
A new paper by Marisa Cannata of Vanderbilt University “provides fresh insights into who goes to work in public and private sector schools, and what kinds of conditions they encounter when they get there,” writes Sean Cavanaugh in Education Week. Using data from the federal Schools and Staffing Survey, the author confirms that charter schools in both urban and non-urban areas employ a smaller percentage of teachers with more than three years of experience than do regular public and private schools. Teachers in charters also spend more time per week on the job than non-charter public school peers, and exceed those put in by private school counterparts by an even greater margin. By far, the teachers most likely to have attended elite colleges are those working in private, non-religious schools, with nearly 29 percent having done so. Only 11 percent of charter-school teachers are likely to have attended “highly selective” colleges, and 8.4 percent of traditional public school educators. Public magnet school teachers were more likely than either group of public school teachers to have attended a top-ranked college. Interestingly, teachers in Catholic schools were not nearly as likely to have attended highly selective institutions: only 8 percent. Catholic and regular public schools today are likely to hire educators from a similar pool of individuals trained through teacher-education programs.
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Effecting turnaround
A new report from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse identifies practices that can improve the performance of chronically low-performing schools — a process commonly referred to as “turnaround.” The report recommends that schools signal the need for dramatic change with strong leadership. Schools should make a clear commitment to changes from the status quo, and leaders should signal the magnitude and urgency of that change. A low-performing school that fails to make adequate yearly progress must improve student achievement within a short timeframe — it can’t take years to implement incremental reforms. Chronically low-performing schools should maintain a sharp focus on improving instruction at every step of the reform process. To improve instruction, schools should use data to set goals for instructional improvement, make changes to immediately and directly affect instruction, and continually reassess student learning and instructional practices to refocus goals. Schools should also make visible improvements early in the school turnaround process (quick wins), which can rally staff and overcome resistance and inertia. Finally, school leaders must build a staff committed to the school’s improvement goals and qualified to carry out school improvement. This may require changes in staff: releasing, replacing, or redeploying staff not fully committed to turning around student performance, and bringing in new staff who are committed.
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A new report from the Center on Education Policy finds that after more than a decade of growing reliance on high school exit exams, states are rethinking these assessments. Eight of the 26 states with exit-exam policies have aligned them to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other college- and career-readiness standards, and 10 more states will do so in the near future. Aligning exit exams to more rigorous standards will almost certainly impact the performance of students taking them, and though passing rates on exit exams vary among states, overall these rates tend to be lower for minority and poor students, students with disabilities, and English language learners. Currently, 25 states require high school students to pass an exam to graduate, and a 26th state, Rhode Island, is phasing in an exit requirement for 2014. Twenty-two of these states have adopted the CCSS in English language arts and math. The report also reviews lessons learned from states’ experience implementing exit exams, noting that successful implementation of a new or revised exit exam policy often depends on states’ willingness to phase in policies over several years, provide alternate routes to graduation for students who fail exit exams, adapt policies to meet changing needs, and make a sufficient financial commitment, among other actions.
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The Race gets rural
The seven states that have applied for the latest round of waivers under NCLB represent a large swath of rural America, ensuring that the U.S. Department of Education’s waiver experiment will play out in a diverse set of states with vastly different geographies and student populations, Education Week reports. At least half of schools in Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and West Virginia are considered rural by the National Center for Education Statistics. Alabama also has a high number of rural students, and Hawaii’s state-run district educates students in remote island areas. While rural states largely sat out the Obama administration’s other trademark programs — such as the Race to the Top — the offer of flexibility in exchange for certain policies (such as creating teacher-evaluation systems that incorporate student growth) was far more enticing. Though these third-round states are putting their own spin on accountability, they share common approaches. Generally, these states are using just mathematics and reading in their accountability systems, and are sticking with existing NCLB-specified subgroups versus combining at-risk students into one “super subgroup,” as many earlier applicants had done. They are also generally farther behind in implementing teacher evaluation systems that incorporate student growth.
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