Education Week - January 16, 2013 - (Page 15)

EDUCATION WEEK BLOGS of the WEEK | NEWS | State EdWatch Michelle Rhee’s Group Grades States, Harshly Santa Claus may have a list that he checks twice, but the start of a new calendar year, and state legislative sessions, means that lists about state education policy proliferate. One getting a lot of chatter in The New York Times and elsewhere is the A-F “report card” on school policy from the Sacramentobased StudentsFirst education advocacy group. Florida and Louisiana, both earned a B-minus, the highest grade awarded, while 11 states managed to “flunk” completely, and 25 states got a D-plus, D, or D-minus. Big states like Illinois, New York, and Texas all received Ds. California got an F, and North Dakota got the lowest gpa of all, a 0.40. StudentsFirst (led by former District of Columbia public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee) wants objective data to be used in teacher evaluations, those evaluations to be used in staffing and tenure decisions, a higher number of and more equitable funding for charter schools, and for governments to “spend wisely” on K-12. Those factors were weighed to determine states’ grades. Lawmakers in states with plans to revamp public schools might find the report card particularly useful. Newspapers in Georgia and Iowa had stories recently highlighting their poor grades from StudentsFirst, which might light a fire under legislators with big plans for 2013. Foes of the controversial Rhee and of her policy preferences were quick to jump into the fray, however. In The New York Times piece, California Chief Deputy Superintendent Richard Zeiger is quoted as saying that StudentsFirst “makes its living by asserting that schools are failing’’ and that he considered the state’s failing grade a —ANDREW UJIFUSA “badge of honor.”  n JANUARY 16, 2013 | NEWS | Rules for Engagement It’s 10 a.m.: Do You Know Where Your Students Are? As with grizzly bears and migratory birds, putting gps trackers on the elusive American high school student (Americanus adolescencus) is all the craze. In attempts to mitigate truancy, more school districts are turning to technology, that they might find where absent students go (salmon fishing?) and lure them back. In Austin, Texas, one of the newest experimenters, schools are seeing progress after installing a gpstracking program that requires consent from both students and parents before initialization. According to the Austin AmericanStatesman, students receive a gps device upon entering the program and must check in with the school multiple times a day. Seventy-five students initially enrolled in the program last year, and early numbers show average attendance increased from 78 percent to 90 percent. classroom resource produced by the Understanding Language team, a group of English-language-learner experts led by Kenji Hakuta, an education professor at Stanford University, to help educators grasp the central role of language in the rigorous Common Core State Standards and to give teachers resources for providing higher levels of instruction and demanding content to ell students. The efforts are underwritten by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Carnegie and Gates help support coverage of business and innovation in Education Week.) The unit—to be piloted in the coming weeks in classrooms in Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; and Denver—is meant for middle school students with at least an intermediate level of English-language proficiency. It’s designed for 7th and 8th grade classes with a mix of native speakers and English-learners, or just ells. A small number of teachers in New York City and Oakland, Calif., tested the unit with Englishlearners in summer school last year. ‘A Potent Lesson’ “This is a good, potent lesson that can be scaffolded in diverse degrees of intensity, depending on the level of support needed for the Englishlearner,” said Aída Walqui, a member of the Understanding Language team and a main author of the unit. “This unit shows students what they are capable of intellectually, and that they can deepen their conceptual [skills], academic skills, and their communication skills at the same time.” Ms. Walqui, the director of teacher professional development for WestEd, a San Francisco-based research group, said targeting the team’s first common-core instructional unit to middle school made sense because both elementary and high school teachers “can see themselves” in how a unit like this could work in their classrooms. More importantly, Ms. Walqui said, the middle school years are a critical transition period for ells. “It’s in this period that the types of texts really start to perceptibly shift” to more complex readings, she said. The team designed a unit around persuasion, in part, to counter misconceptions that persuasive writing appeals only to the emotions, Ms. Walqui said. “Persuasion begins with an argument that appeals first to intellect,” she said. “For students who are beginning to grapple with issues of justice in the world, persuasion would be the perfect anchor for them as they start to see an actual role for themselves in society.” Students will be exposed to divergent perspectives. They will read “The Civil Rights Movement: Fraud, Sham and Hoax,” a speech delivered in 1964 by Alabama Gov. George Wallace, and a speech on race relations written and deliv- ART OF PERSUASION Experts are pilot-testing an English/language arts unit that aims to model how common-core standards can be incorporated into a lesson for 7th and 8th grade classes that include English-learners with an intermediate level of English proficiency. ered by Barbara Jordan, the late congresswoman from Houston. George Bunch, an education professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who advised Ms. Walqui and her co-authors in their efforts, said teaching the unit requires fundamental instructional shifts for ell teachers. One critical one, he said, is that the unit has an “explicit focus on language” at the same time students are engaged with complex texts. Broken into five lessons, the unit’s texts and multimedia materials start with familiar content—television advertising—and 15 In the 4,200-student Northside Texas, district, the mandatory Radio Frequency Identification System has ruffled feathers. The Dallas-based aim Truancy Solutions runs Austin’s program and stands to make up to $1 million annually for demonstrable results, which means there’s good opportunity in gps-locating services. Texas is one of many states that uses attendance to determine funding, so districts are understandably keen to make sure students come to class. Gps tracking isn’t the only method employed to lessen absenteeism, of course. New longitudinal-data systems, used to identify struggling students, make sure to track attendance so that early interventions might be provided. Some districts use truancy officers to hold parents responsible, while other districts try to offer services that attract students to school, such as haircuts. Because teenagers love themselves a haircut. For our part, we suggest that when a student is absent, check for any —ROSS BRENNEMAN nearby parades. >> Experts Roll Out Common-Core Lesson for ELLs CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 n move into less familiar works, such as the Barbara Jordan speech. Each lesson includes activities to draw students into the material. It outlines levels of supports teachers may use to bridge linguistic, cultural, and historical gaps for students who are learning English. Central to the unit is the second lesson, which features Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It starts with interactive activities, such as discussions of photos from the era, to build students’ background knowledge about Lincoln, the Civil War, and the battle fought at Gettysburg, Pa., before they read the 267-word speech. Putting it Together: Analyzing  and Producing Persuasive Text - The Girl Who Silenced the World f or Five Minutes, Severn Suzuki LESSON 5 Persuasion as Text: Organizational, Grammatical, and Lexical Moves - All Together Now, Barbara Jordan LESSON 4 Ethos, Logos, & Pathos in Civil Rights Movement Speeches - I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr. - On the Death of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy - The Civil Rights Movement: Fraud, Sham, and Hoax,  George Wallace LESSON 3 Persuasion in Historical Context - Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln LESSON 2 Advertising in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Persuasive Texts - Can You Live With Dirty Water?  Canadian Television Spot LESSON 1 SOURCE: Understanding Language To see all Education Week blogs, go to “The power of that lesson is that it gives students a fighting chance to understand the speech without taking away their opportunity to engage with the text through close reading,” said Mr. Bunch. In the fifth and final lesson, students view a 1992 speech written and delivered to the United Nations by Severn Suzuki, an 11-year-old Canadian girl. It’s meant to inspire them to write and deliver their own persuasive texts, Ms. Walqui said. Susan Pimentel, a lead author of the English/language arts common standards—which 46 states have adopted—and a member of the Understanding Language team, said the persuasion unit is especially strong in its “range and quality of text.” During a webinar on the unit last month, she called it a “model in what the common core means” by selecting text that is connected by purpose and topic. Charlotte, Chicago, and Denver were named as pilot sites, in part, because they are in different parts of the country and serve a broad cross section of ell students, said Martha Castellón, the teams’ executive director. The team will provide professional development to teachers, and then monitor implementation and collect feedback to hone the lessons. The results will inform forthcoming efforts to develop instructional resources in math and science, as well as in English/language arts, for use by educators nationwide. Scan this tag with your smartphone for a link to “Persuasion Across Time and Space: Analyzing and Producing Complex Texts.” Coverage of “deeper learning” that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, at

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 16, 2013

Education Week - January 16, 2013
Is Education Facing a ‘Tech Bubble’?
Multiple Gauges Best for Teachers
Model Common-Core Unit Piloted for ELL Teachers
Gun Concerns Personal for Duncan
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Fla. Data Link Suspension To Lower Graduation Rates
Anti-Poverty Program Found To Fall Short In Studies
New Science-Standards Draft Incorporates Feedback
With Common Core in Mind, Schools Turn to E-Rate
Survey Tool Aims for Fresh Eye On Parents
Study Dissects Gender Effects In Math Teaching
Funders and N.C. District Team Up To Run Schools
Blogs of the Week
State of the States
N.Y.’s Cuomo Moves Ahead On K-12 Ideas
Crush of Ed. Laws Awaiting Renewal In Congress
Fiscal Realities Dog States
Policy Brief
R. BARKER BAUSELL: Putting Value-Added Evaluation To the (Scientific) Test
GARY HUGGINS: It’s Time for Summer Learning
JEFF CAMP: Let’s Remove Self-Righteousness From the K-12 Debate
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
MIKE ROSE: Giving Cognition a Bad Name

Education Week - January 16, 2013