Education Week - March 30, 2016 - (Page 22)

Study of Louisiana's Narrowing Achievement Gap Is Valuable To the Editor: As reported in an Education Week news blog, the Education Research Alliance at Tulane University and the Education Reform Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas have released a new study ("Student Test-Score Performance Fell in Louisiana Voucher Program, Study Finds," Charters and Choice blog,, Feb. 23, 2016). As a Democrat, the president of the Louisiana Federation for Children, and a former state senator who voted in favor of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which the study evaluates, I welcome such studies. However, in looking at the resulting findings, it is important that we understand the conditions in which the program operated in 2012 and acknowledge the challenges and the improvements it has seen since then. The study's authors speculate on four potential explanations for the large negative effects that their program evaluation found: misalignment of private school curriculum to the Louisiana State Standards; differences between serving scholarship students with achievement gaps and traditional private school students; success of other education developments, especially in New Orleans; and the overall quality of private schools willing to participate in the program. Indeed, several of the low-performing schools have been forced out of the program since its development of a robust accountability system. Recently, the Louisiana Department of Education released its 2015 report on nonpublic school choice within the state, which includes academic data for all students in 3rd through 8th grades participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program. The report provides data that indicate scholarship students are making academic progress and are closing the achievement gap with the statewide student average by almost half over the last five years, from 32 percentage points in 2011 to 18 percentage points in 2015. Are we satisfied? No. But this is progress, and we welcome scrutiny in order to better serve those served by the scholarship program. Our goal is that Louisiana's most at-risk students continue to have access to quality educational options. Ann Duplessis President Louisiana Federation for Children Baton Rouge, La. Schoolhouse Diversity Offers Broad Benefits to All Students To the Editor: I applaud Education Week for keeping the essential issue of increasing teacher diversity-particularly ensuring more black men are leading classrooms-in the spotlight. I read "Black Male Teachers a Rarity" (Feb. 17, 2016) with much agreement. However, the statement that "America's K-12 schools have never been more diverse" struck me as potentially misleading to readers and worth clearing up. Your article is correct in stating that, as a whole, America's K-12 education system has never educated more nonwhite students, who now outnumber white students. Our schools are more homogeneous and racially segregated from one another, however, than they were in the 1970s. As outlined in a recent report from the Century Foundation, this economic and racial separation is a tremendous loss for our children and for the future of our society. Children who learn in schools with peers of mixed socioeconomic and racial backgrounds "experience academic, cognitive, and social benefits that are not available to students in racially isolated, highpoverty environments," to quote the report. Beyond that, in a country rocked by racial tensions, we should doubly embrace diverse schools because research shows that when students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds learn together side by side, prejudice and stereotyping among those students diminishes, according to the National Coalition on School Diversity. I encourage readers to delve into the Century Foundation's report, which explores 91 school districts and charter schools across the country that actively promote socioeconomic and racial integration. If America's schools are truly to get to a point of being called "never more diverse," inclusion, integration, and diversity must exist from the bottom to the top of the schoolhouse. Katelyn Silva Providence, R.I. The author was formerly a communications officer at a publicly funded charter school system in Rhode Island. ONLINE iStockphoto LETTERS to the EDITOR COMMENTARY Chiefs for Change CEO Michael Magee's recent Commentary on education leadership's "diversity crisis" has evoked both strong support and opposition from commenters. Read the essay to add your voice to the conversation. Reader Asks If a Democratic President Would Advocate for Public Education To the Editor: After following the education news and political campaigns of the last few years, I would argue that Democrats at both the state and national levels continue to disappoint teachers and parents on K-12 education policies. At the state level, you have governors such as Dannel Malloy in Connecticut and Andrew Cuomo in New York who have supported the use of high-stakes standardized tests in the evaluation of school and teacher effectiveness in the past. These anti-publiceducation policies espoused by the tristate governors would have public school advocates wondering whether Democrats today vary significantly from Republicans of the past few decades, concerning their positions on public education. Likewise, at the national level, we have President Barack Obama and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who have continued what I would consider the anti-publiceducation policies of the former George W. Bush administration. Needless to say, public school educators and parents across the nation are in a quandary concerning their support of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as neither Democratic presidential candidate has yet to articulate or espouse whether she or he will be staunch advocates of public education. If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders should be elected president, educators and parents will know her or his K-12 education positions in short order with the appointment of a new U.S. secretary of education. Despite the fact that both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have given their early endorsement to Hillary Clinton for president, there is no guarantee that she would dramatically deviate from the K-12 positions of her predecessor, Barack Obama, and it would remain to be seen whether, for a second time, the unions will have wasted their early presidential endorsements. The question that remains is whether future Democratic elected leaders will continue to govern as former Republican leaders have with regard to public education in the United States. OPINION BLOGS Teachers: Are you looking for apps or other technology to help teach global education? Jennifer Williams, co-founder of Calliope Global, details eight tools for the job in a guest post for Global Learning. Is bad parenting a greater risk factor for student misbehavior than other influences, like poverty? Walt Gardner explores the issue in a Reality Check blog post. | WEB COMMENT | " Get rid of one of the most ubiquitous words in education: strategies. This word distances teachers from students, presupposes that a 'fix' is in the works, and exemplifies the industrial machine-age mindset by assuming that the right tool will do the right job. " - TMarkham, responding to the Finding Common Ground blog post "Should These 10 Educational Words Be Banished?" Joseph A. Ricciotti Fairfield, Conn. The author is a retired educator. | CONNECT | 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 22 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 30, 2016 | edweekcomm @EdweekComm google+ go/instagram

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 30, 2016

Education Week - March 30, 2016
State Boards Feel New Need To Flex Muscles
Distress Call Issued On K-12 Facilities
Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?
Sanders Gets Educators’ Attention Despite Limited Specifics on K-12
Table of Contents
DAVID GAMBERG: What Makes a School?
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Common Core: Is Its Achievement Impact Starting To Dissipate?
ACT’s New 10th Grade Test Provides Competition for PSAT
N.C. Law Restricts Transgender Student Restroom Access
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Group Probes Ed-Tech Pricing, Buying
Home Schooling Gains Popularity With Military Families
Blogs of the Week
‘Teach to Lead’ Projects Face Uphill Climb at State Level
Hearing Weighs Student-Data Privacy Concerns
High Court Weighing Birth-Control Mandate
ESSA Rule Negotiators Grapple With Issues of Flexibility, Equity
ROBERT EVANS: Principals, Get Your Irish On
PATRICK O’CONNOR: Why Good Teachers Don’t Have to ‘Like’ Teaching
JONATHAN ECKERT: Finding Joy in Teaching
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - March 30, 2016