Education Week - February 10, 2016 - (Page 1)

Education Week VOL. 35, NO. 20 * FEBRUARY 10, 2016 AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2016 Editorial Projects in Education * $ 4  BRE AKING NEWS DAILY PARCC Scores Lower On Computer Exams Discrepancy Raises Questions About Fairness Charles Mostoller for Education Week By Benjamin Herold Sophomore Miguel D'Agostino, 17, looks down the hallway before the start of a learningsupport class at Coatesville High School in Coatesville, Pa. Equipping Parents on Spec. Ed. Volunteers Boost Advocacy Skills By Christina A. Samuels A Pennsylvania town roiled by a controversy that led to the resignation of its superintendent three years ago has found an unusual path back to trust between the community and its school district: a volunteer effort that so far has helped support dozens of parents of students who have disabilities. The chain of events began in 2013, when the then-superintendent of the Coatesville Area School District, 40 miles west of Philadelphia, was found to have exchanged dozens of sexist and racist text messages with a district staff member. Meetings held in the wake of that scandal revealed other deep-rooted problems in the 7,000-student school system, including allegations that district officials discriminated against students with disabilities and minority students. Cathy Taschner, an administrator in another district, stepped into the maelstrom when she was hired as Coatesville's permanent superintendent in June 2014. The former superintendent, Richard Como, resigned in September 2013. During a months-long community listening tour, Taschner searched for ways to rebuild ties between the district and the families it serves. Around the same time, Rob Marshall, a Coatesville native who was completing a divinity degree, was looking for ideas to meet a community-service graduation requirement. Taschner and Marshall found in each other likeminded spirits. From their partnership came Citizens Who Seek Educational Equity, or Citizens Who S.E.E., a group of volunteers who serve as advocates for parents of students with disabilities. The volunteers-educational heavy-hitters who include the superintendent of another Pennsylvania district, a retired school psychologist, and a former youth-justice specialist-sit right alongside parents at meetings on their children's individualized education programs, or IEPs, helping to hammer out plans for services and supports for those special education students. The volunteers draft letters as needed, asking for extra testing, school records, or additional meetings to resolve problems. And in an educational area that is filled with oftenbewildering requirements, regulations, and timelines, the volunteers also equip parents with enough knowledge that they can advocate for their own children. "I feel more empowered in getting the school to do PAGE 13 > Students who took the 2014-15 PARCC exams via computer tended to score lower than those who took the exams with paper and pencil-a revelation that prompts questions about the validity of the test results and poses potentially big problems for state and district leaders. Officials from the multistate Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers acknowledged the discrepancies in scores across different formats of its exams in response to questions from Education Week. "It is true that this [pattern exists] on average, but that doesn't mean it occurred in every state, school, and district on every one of the tests," Jeffrey Nellhaus, PARCC's chief of assessment, said in an interview. "There is some evidence that, in part, the [score] differences we're seeing may be explained by students' familiarity with the computer-delivery system," Nellhaus said. In general, the pattern of lower scores for students who took PARCC exams by computer is the most pronounced in English/language arts and middle- and upper-grades math. Hard numbers from across the consortium are not yet available. But the advantage for paper-and-pencil test-takers appears in some cases to be substantial. In December, the Illinois state board of education found that 43 percent of students there who took the PARCC English/language arts exam on paper scored proficient or above, compared with 36 percent of students who took the exam online. The state board has not sought to PAGE 11 > Federal Trade Regulators Target Brain-Training Product Claims By Sarah D. Sparks So-called "brain training" programs designed to help boost students' attention and working memory are coming under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, as some claims have outpaced both the initial hopes and subsequent evidence. Last year, the FTC declared open season on brain-training programs, both those directed at classrooms and for general public use. Last month, it announced a $2 million settlement and $50 million judgement for misleading advertising against Lumos Labs Inc., the creators of Lumosity, a suite of computer- and app-based brain-training programs. A judge found that the company's in-house research did not prove its video games could "improve school, work, and athletic performance" or protect against cognitive impairments caused by attention deficit disorders, traumatic brain injury, pediatric chemotherapy, or adult dementia as its advertisements had claimed. Earlier in the year, the FTC also settled with the Texas-based Focus Education, which inappropriately claimed its Jungle Rangers computer game had "scientifically proven memory- and attentiontraining exercises" that give students "the ability to focus, complete school work, homework, and to stay on task." The Every Student Succeeds Act has PAGE 12 > By Daarel Burnette II There's heated debate nationally over whether K-12 teachers really are in short supply and-if so-what's caused the shortage and how widespread it is. But in a number of states with dwindling supplies of new teachers, overcrowded classrooms, months-long substitute assignments, and droves of teachers quitting midyear, activists on both sides of the issue are seizing the opportunity to push their policy agendas. Those divisions are on stark display in places like Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Washington, where policymakers, including governors and legislators, are floating a variety of approaches to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining teachers. Conservatives and free-market lobbyists, for example, want to completely eliminate or scale back certification requirements, expand their Teach For America corps and other alternative routes into the profession, and allow superintendents to sidestep bargaining agreements to give bonuses to special teachers in hard-to-staff fields like special education, science, and math. Liberals and re-energized teachers' unions want to raise taxes to boost teacher pay and make significant changes to states' teacher-evaluation systems, which they say have gone too far in their reliance on test scores and damaged teacher morale. The slate of legislation aimed at fixing teacher shortages, constructed by blueribbon panels and outlined in governors' annual addresses last month, comes shortly after President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which hands much of the power over to PAGE 18 > Shane Bevel for Education Week In States Hungry for Teachers, Policy Menu Expands Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's teacher of the year, wants to see swift action to bolster the teaching force.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 10, 2016

Education Week - February 10, 2016
Federal Trade Regulators Target Brain-Training Product Claims
In States Hungry for Teachers, Policy Menu Expands
PARCC Scores Lower On Computer Exams
Equipping Parents on Spec. Ed.
News in Brief
Report Roundup
In Chicago, Schools’ Financial Crisis Deepens Divisions
Advocates’ Report Hits States For Overtesting, Other Policies
Blogs of the Week
Digital Directions: Partnership Boosts Data Privacy
Kindergarten: Less Play, More Academics (infographic
‘Proficiency’ Bars on State Tests Are Seen Heading Upward
Views Clash On K-12 Law Rulemaking
Blogs of the Week
Ed. Dept. CIO Grilled By Oversight Panel
State of the States
America’s ‘Edu-Masochism’
I’m Tired of ‘Grit’
Why Small Steps Are Better for Small Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
In Low-Income Schools, Teachers Need Guidance

Education Week - February 10, 2016