Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 26)

LETTERS to the EDITOR Common Core Will Improve Cooperation, Collaboration To the Editor: After seeing the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, scores in "Global Test Shows U.S. Stagnating" (Dec. 11, 2013), I was both disheartened and encouraged. It's disheartening to see a country that at one time put men on the moon score below the international average in math and average in science and reading, as measured by the 2012 PISA. This is especially disheartening living in Louisiana where our 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress results show that 77 percent of our 4th graders and 76 percent of our 8th graders are unable to proficiently read at grade level. On the other hand, it is encouraging to see that there are states, such as Massachusetts, that are doing well. Unfortunately, we can't all live in Massachusetts. But what we can do is learn from each other. While the No Child Left Behind Act encouraged individuality among states, it resulted in division and isolation between them. It's time for the United States to be more "united." Students are expected to learn cooperatively and collaboratively; however, our education system has failed to model this way of learning. Although U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan feels that there's much to learn from other countries, there's also much to learn from states in our own backyard. A great lesson I learned from my favorite movie, "The Wizard of Oz," is that if we look within ourselves, we'll realize that we've had the qualities, strengths, and intelligence for which we've searched all along. Somewhere along the path, U.S. education has lost its way. Hopefully, the Common Core State Standards will serve as our yellow brick road to the greatness we've always had. There really is no place like home. Keisha Dubuclet Public Engagement Director Center for Development and Learning Metairie, La. Union Official Flags Chicago Charter Scandals To the Editor: In less than a six-month period, Chicago has been hit with two consecutive charter network scandals. The first, involving the United Neighborhood Organization, the biggest charter operator in Illinois, involved allegations of financial improprieties and nepotism. More recently, the decision to approve two new charter schools run by Concept Schools Inc. has come under fire ("Changes May Be Coming to Charters in New York City, Philadelphia," Charters & Choice blog,, Dec. 27, 2013). One of the hidden culprits in the ongoing saga of charter malfeasance is the Illinois State Charter School Commission, an entity created through a bill signed into law in 2011. The bill mimics language in model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC is known for promoting the right-wing legislative objectives of conservative foundations. The aggressive dismantling and deregulation of publicly funded schools in Chicago is paving the way for future scandals. The lack of accountability and moral hazard represented by the rapid expansion of unaccountable charters has allowed questionable practices to fester. There is a growing need to expose these practices and ensure that tax dollars are being appropriated for the benefit of students and not political cronies. Our city, state, and federal leaders must act now. They should demand an investigation of existing charter networks and call for a moratorium on charter expansion while we To the Editor: When it comes to doing what's right in education, the policies of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan seem to be off the mark. While we applaud Mr. Duncan for stressing the importance of analytical thinking and attempting to have schools address the skill to think scientifically, we are critical of his support of a policy that uses children's test results as a way to demonstrate social equality-one that lacks empirical support. The policy ignores the fact that genuine social inequities emanate from the deleterious effects of poverty. Time and again, it has been shown that, as the poverty gap widens, so too does the decline in standardized test scores for the poor. Mr. Duncan and his administration are calling for an increase in the number of new teachers to replace those who leave early in their careers. They seem to believe that higher salaries will entice new professionals into teaching. This proposed policy avoids the core factor for teacher attrition. Salary is unmistakably not the main reason teachers leave since most, admirably so, commit to the profession to make a positive difference in children's lives. Rather, we would argue that teacher burnout and eventual attrition are due to the punitive audit culture instituted by federal and state agencies that seem to have a perverse obsession with teacher accountability. Accountability is indeed critical for sort out the costs and benefits of charters' unencumbered proliferation. Less than a year after massive school closings and record school budget cuts in Chicago we can ill afford to expand charters at the expense of our neighborhood schools. Jackson Potter Staff Coordinator Chicago Teachers Union Chicago, Ill. Punitive Culture, Not Money, Fueling Teacher Attrition the success of any system. However, accountability methodology has to be rational and scientific. Just as doctors are not rightfully accountable for patients not taking a prescribed medication, scapegoating teachers for poor student performance is devoid of any wisdom. A teacher can be as good as one can be, but if the student does not study and perform on the tests, that teacher should not be held responsible. The implementation of punitive assessment measures cannot eliminate the disparity between the potential benefits that prosperity offers students and the lack of opportunity provided by deprivation. Clearly, Mr. Duncan and his administration need to separate the issues of student learning and teacher effectiveness and develop independent policies for both of these domains. Stephen J. Farenga Professor of Science Education Queens College City University of New York Flushing, N.Y. Daniel Ness Professor of Human Development and Learning and Earth and Marine Sciences Dowling College Oakdale, N.Y. Vishal Shah Associate Professor of Biology Dowling College Oakdale, N.Y. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is Small Beautiful? New York's tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25 charter high school-will continue to produce wide disparities, a quarter-century of research shows. One possible solution comes from Cambridge, Write a letter to the editor! Send to: LETTERS SHOULD BE AS BRIEF AS POSSIBLE, WITH A MAXIMUM LENGTH OF 300 WORDS. Mass., which requires that all parents bid for favored high schools. The small city, however, balances individual student placements against the common good, as the school board actively considers each school's enrollment along lines of race and class. This also ensures that the fulcrum balancing the private versus civic aims of education is weighed in the public square, not hidden behind market choices. Mayor de Blasio in New York could expand the city's Educational Options Program, or Ed. Opt., which diversifies student enrollment in large high schools, mixing young people with varying middle school records. "Our students of color do better because they see more diverse faces and highly motivated students," said Ed Rubinchuk, who runs the revered science Ed. Opt. at Brook- 26 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | lyn's Lincoln High School. The number of schools or programs that sift applicants through tightly woven screens has climbed by 34 percent since 2005 to 390 in total, as shown by Mr. Corcoran, a professor at New York University. In contrast, Ed. Opt. programs, which purposefully integrate schools, shrank in number by a fourth, to just 190 offerings. The first pick among half of all white 8th graders in the city is a school with competitive admissions. We can also learn from Boston and Los Angeles, where superintendents continue to expand seats in mission-driven magnet schools, along with small pilot schools, where principals control their budgets and can fire mediocre teachers thanks to flexible labor contracts. This balances the vitality of market competition, while nudging greater integration of students under one roof. Small schools let loose in unfettered markets reveal the benefits of less bureaucracy, emboldened principals, and close-knit ties among students and teachers. But markets also favor proximity and familiarity over new possibilities for poor families. This leads civic leaders to ignore the soft segregation that results when deepening inequality seems to grow simply from parents' own choices. n midwi/iStockphoto

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014

Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform

Education Week - January 22, 2014