Education Week - February 18, 2015 - (Page 8)

BLOGS Florida, Illinois Issue Warnings About Testing Opt-Outs | CURRICULUM MATTERS | Don't even think about it. That's what Illinois and Florida are saying to school districts, teachers, and parents who are planning to opt out of statemandated standardized tests. In a stern letter issued by state schools chief Christopher Koch and the Illinois state board of education, reports the Chicago Tribune, Koch warns districts that they risk losing hundreds of millions in state and federal funding if they don't administer the parcc exam in all schools. "If any district does not test, [the state board] will withhold its Title I funds (for impoverished schools)," says the letter. It also explains that federal officials could withhold money from the state as well. Chicago recently announced that it would give parcc in only about 10 percent of its schools, citing concerns about technological readiness, among other things. While the state officials' letter is clearly, though tacitly, aimed at Chicago, it's also clear that it was intended to create second thoughts in any district considering a similar move. In Florida, too, Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote a letter saying that students must take the state's standardized test, and that districts and teachers could face punishments if they encourage or allow them to skip it. -CATHERINE GEWERTZ Virtual Preschool: Yes, That's Now a Real Option | DIGITAL EDUCATION | Now an option for parents of young children: a "virtual" preschool with digital learning materials, activity guides, learning analytics, and "homeroom teachers," all accessible online through your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Really. This is not satire. "We call it a virtual school, because we deliver the curriculum and the content and everything else through online tools," said Dan Yang, the founder of vinci Education, which has headquarters in Ottawa, Canada; North Andover, Mass.; and Hong Kong. "To be honest, we haven't had anybody who has said, 'That's a bad idea.' " But early-childhood-education experts offer a different take. "Honestly, my first reaction is this preys on anxious parents with money to burn," said Lisa Guernsey, the director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank. Here's how the virtual preschool is supposed to work: Parents sign up for a subscription service ranging from $80 to $645 annually. Packages include weekly electronic delivery of digital books, songs, and games, as well as an activity guide for parents. Children are expected to use the digital learning games about 30 minutes per week, and parents are expected to do about 30 minutes worth of activities per week with their child, along with daily reading with them. The company tracks the child's work. Guernsey said the opportunity to connect with teachers is "probably the most appealing part" of vinci Education's virtual preschool offering, but she questioned what that would actually look like in practice. It's a $1.7 Billion Testing Market, But a $600 Billion Ed. System | MARKETPLACE K-12 | Standardized testing is quite the piñata these days, and one of the sticks being wielded most often to batter the assessment industry is its sheer size-$1.7 billion a year by one oft-cited estimate. The author of that figure, Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, recently objected to what he sees as the constant misuse of his calculation, arguing that the dollar total isn't nearly as daunting. Chingos, as he explained in a recent blog post, came up -BENJAMIN HEROLD with the estimate of what states spend on testing in 2012 as part of a report in which he looked at the size of states' contracts with assessment vendors. Doing that brought him to a $669 million testing total, and then he reached the $1.7 billion figure based on a projection of costs that were not in his initial calculation. Teachers' unions and others have used the nearly $2 billion-per-year amount that states collectively spend to argue that K-12 policymakers' priorities are askew. But what the testing critics often overlook, Chingos says, is that spending on testing is just a fraction of the overall amount spent on K-12: nearly $600 billion annually. Thus, abandoning annual testing would be "penny-wise and pound-foolish," he contends. Teachers Draw Lots to Keep Jobs After District Cuts Position | TEACHING NOW | A somewhat surreal story out of Kanawha Country, W.Va.: Five first-year teachers gathered recently in a district office to pick numbers from a plastic cube-to see which one of them would be laid off, according to The Charleston Gazette. This grim spectacle arose because a high school in the district had recently had to cut the position of a veteran art teacher for budgetary reasons. Under the state's reduction-in-force laws governing schools, the district was required to bump a junior teacher to create a new position for the more experienced educator. So the first-year teachers at the drawing were basically just unlucky: They had all been hired on the exact same day and had positions that the art teacher could move into. The job-lottery process may sound torturous enough, but in this case it was particularly ugly. The drawing reportedly had to be redone three times over two days because of logistical snafus. Then, a new vacancy was suddenly found for the displaced art teacher. -SEAN CAVANAGH -ANTHONY REBORA Dallas Dance Alisha Fredriksson Sal Khan Join Your Community Playground eduFILM LAUNCHedu Goldie Hawn 8 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 18, 2015 | CAS HOLMAN DAVID WEAVER

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 18, 2015

Schools Weighing Access To Social Media Passwords
Education Week - February 18, 2015
Measles Outbreak Cues Action On Vaccine Rules
States Shedding Power To Adopt Class Materials
Those Opposing Restraint and Seclusion Gain New Traction With State Legislatures
New Venture to Evaluate Technology
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Global Skills Study Finds U.S. Millennials Trailing
Broad Foundation Puts Urban Schools Prize On Hold Indefinitely
Blogs of the Week
FCC Plan for ‘Net Neutrality’ Addresses Schools’ Needs
Calif. Districts Seeking $1 Billion To Fund Testing Mandate
Obama, Congress Set to Clash On FY16 Budget
GOP in Driver’s Seat as Congress Tackles NCLB Rewrite
NCLB-Waiver Renewal Gears Up; Duncan Holds Weakened Hand
Blogs of the Week
State of the States
FRANK D. LoMONTE: Don’t Silence Young (Female) Journalists
KAREN HAWLEY MILES: Why Annual State Testing Makes Cents
JANE HIRSCHI: ‘Hands in the Dirt’ Learning
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
GILLIAN McGOLDRICK: When Morality and Law Trump School Tradition

Education Week - February 18, 2015