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“We’re going to take a look at what happened [in Newtown] and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support.” — Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican from Virginia and incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
*Least gun-friendly cabinet member, according to the NRA*
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been tapped — along with other cabinet officials — to serve on a White House task force that will examine gun violence, mental health services, and other policies related to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week.
Investors in the gun industry include one group that now stands out conspicuously: public school teachers, via their pension funds.
New report on state teacher-pension policy by the National Council on Teacher Quality finds the structure of teacher pensions in the United States untenable: These systems are not only costly to states, districts, and taxpayers, but retirement benefits are being squeezed and distributed unfairly. The report assesses teacher-pension systems in 50 states and the District of Columbia, detailing the pension-policy landscape, and finds pension systems to be underfunded by $390 billion. Most retirement eligibility rules are burdensome, unfair, and allow teachers to retire relatively young with full benefits. The report recommends that every state offer teachers a flexible and portable defined-contribution pension plan. Formulas for determining benefits should preserve incentives for teachers to continue working until conventional retirement ages. States should ensure that teachers vest no later than the third year of employment; have the option of a lump-sum rollover to a personal retirement account upon termination of employment that includes teacher contributions and accrued interest at a fair rate; have options for withdrawal from either defined-benefit or defined-contribution plans that include funds contributed by the employer; and purchase time for previous teaching experience and leaves of absence.
New research finds that measuring principal effectiveness using student test scores is more difficult than anticipated. The new research from Stanford University proposes and examines three broad approaches in using test scores to evaluate principals, adjusting, in each case, for the background characteristics of students that might affect academic performance: tying principal performance directly to school performance (“school effectiveness”); comparing different principals’ performance at the same school (“relative within-school effectiveness”); or examining growth in student achievement over a principal’s tenure (“school improvement”). In the end, researchers found none of these methods to be satisfactory. The study cautions that it’s important to think about what various measures can and cannot reveal about the specific contribution of a principal, and to recognize that none of these are a clear indicator of principals’ specific contributions to student test-score growth.
New way to gauge socioeconomic status in order to measure how it affects academic achievement.
The U.S. Department of Education is revamping its Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program by having all applicants work to address one of 10 new priorities.
Policymakers must emphasize prevention over remediation. Prevention strategies should be conceived more broadly — for example, giving every student access to a content- and vocabulary-rich curriculum in the early years, or implementing programs and strategies that improve student attendance and academic behaviors. Efforts to close academic preparation gaps should begin as early as possible, be more intensive, and take as long as necessary. Based on the study’s results, policymakers should not assume that rapid catching up is possible if only educators try harder.
A new guide from the American Institutes of Research is designed for state and district leaders, who play a key role in ensuring that ELLs graduate from high school well-prepared for college and careers. The guide summarizes the ELL-relevant information in 34 approved state applications for ESEA waivers, and focuses on implementation of reforms related to ELLs across three principles in waiver requirements: 1) college- and career-ready expectations for all students; 2) differentiated recognition, accountability, and support systems; and 3) effective instruction and leadership. The guide includes requirements for each principle related to ELLs in the flexibility waivers; descriptions of how the plans addressed ELLs; considerations for research-based enhancements to current policy and practice; and examples of state and district innovations for ELLs related to waiver provisions. The gaps in achievement between ELLs and their English-proficient peers continue to be a problem. As growth of the ELL population continues to outpace the growth of the PK–12 population, and ELLs continue to score poorly across content areas, it will be important for states to fully consider ELLs when implementing reform plans.
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