Education Week - February 5, 2014 - (Page 1)

EDUCATIONWEEK VOL. 33, NO. 20 * FEBRUARY 5, 2014 AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2014 Editorial Projects in Education * $4 BREAKING NEWS DAILY State Votes Could Sway K-12 Policy Campaigns Start in Earnest By Andrew Ujifusa State elections involving three dozen governors and more than 6,000 legislators this year could have major consequences for a variety of education policies, with the Common Core State Standards, school choice, collective bargaining, and early education among the topics most likely to get time in the spotlight and on the stump. In some states, the 2014 elections may prove pivotal for the fate of controversial education measures enacted as a result of Republicans' strong showing in 2010. The GOP took control of 12 additional state legislatures and six more governorships that year. SNOW DAY: Marshall Hahn parks his snowmobile at Warrod High School in northern Minnesota last week. Although the senior had no trouble getting to campus, recent bouts of very cold and snowy weather in many states have kept students out of school, often for days at a time. PAGE 6 DIGITAL DIRECTIONS Unfazed, Houston Embraces 1-to-1 Student Computing Texas District Is Hoping To Avoid Others' Missteps By Benjamin Herold Undeterred by high-profile problems experienced by other large school systems attempting to put digital devices in the hands of their students, the Houston Independent School District began distributing more than 18,000 laptop computers to high schools last month. Officials from the 210,000-student district point to several elements of their plan as reasons for optimism: Unlike the troubled iPad initiative in Los Angeles, for example, Houston will give students laptops instead of digital tablets; rely on "Web 2.0 tools" rather than a pre-loaded digital curriculum; and offer extensive training for students and staff members before the devices are deployed. Instead of paying for the leased devices with bonds, the Houston district will also fund its 1-to-1 program, dubbed PowerUp, with repurposed savings, operating dollars, and grant funds. The Houston initiative is the largest, but not the only, student computing effort in an urban district to take a significant step forward in recent weeks, a sign that districts may be overcoming the skittishness that emerged in the wake of PAGE 11> Teachers' Job Protections Debated As California Trial Gets Underway By Stephen Sawchuk Los Angeles When a teacher fails to meet even basic job duties yet remains in the classroom, is that the fault of byzantine laws governing teacher dismissal-or the failure of administrators to adhere to them? That's just one of the questions that emerged here during the first week of testimony in a sweeping lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court that is challenging key dimensions of teachers' job protections and drawing national notice as a potential harbinger of similar challenges elsewhere. In Vergara v. California, filed in May 2012 on behalf of nine students and their families, the plaintiffs argue that five statutes governing teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority in the Golden State violate students' equal-protection rights by making it too difficult to rid schools of "grossly ineffective" teachers. The suit names Gov. Jerry Brown, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson, and the state education department and school board as defendants. All California pupils are at risk, the plaintiffs contend, but minority students and those living in poverty are in reality the hardest hit. "These statutes work together in a kind of vicious cycle. The system harms students every day," Theodore J. Boutrous, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said during his opening statement. The trial is the latest volley in a nationwide effort to reshape the fundamentals of the teaching profession. All but a handful of states are working to institute teacher-evaluation systems that include consideration of student learning. Efforts to that end have been unsuccessful so far in CaliPAGE 12> Eight-year-old Clara Campbell, right, a plaintiff, rests against her mother while Marcellus A. McRae, front left at the podium, a lawyer in the case, speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles to kick-start the trial in Vergara v. California. The lawsuit may be a harbinger of legal challenges in other states. The list of state elections includes 36 gubernatorial contests and legislative races in all but four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia). There are also seven elections for state PAGE 22> New Tools Gauge Lessons' Fidelity To Common Core By Catherine Gewertz Arlington, Va. The 53 teachers gathered around tables here have been called to a new kind of jury duty. But they won't be deciding whether a fellow citizen is guilty of a crime: Their charge is to pass judgment on stacks of instructional materials. Amid papers and coffee cups, they pore over a 90-page curricular unit on constitutional freedoms. In Socratic rounds of discussion, they explore the high school unit from dozens of angles, looking for fidelity to the common core. How clearly does the unit state its purpose? Does it expect students to read texts that are rich and complex enough? Does it offer sufficient support for students who are struggling? Does it provide good, clear ways to assess how well students are learning as they go along? These teachers are trying to answer one of the most vexing questions in the age of common-core instruction: Which materials fully reflect the new standards for English/language arts and mathematics? They've come to this suburb of the nation's capital from more than 20 states to learn and practice a new rating system for lessons and units that PAGE 14> Nancy Pastor for Education Week Tim Gruber for Education Week 2014 ELECTIONS

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Education Week - February 5, 2014