Education Week - April 13, 2016 - (Page 25)

LETTERS to the EDITOR Former Schools Chiefs Counter Criticism Of State-Run 'Opportunity' Districts To the Editor: The recent Education Week Commentary "When 'Opportunity' Is Anything But" (Jan. 27, 2016), which argued against state opportunity school districts, is a hyperbolic warning built on distorting the facts and attacking straw men. In our states, Louisiana and Tennessee, staterun opportunity districts that develop new options for students in chronically low-performing schools have raised student achievement. These states are mentioned, and their progress is discounted, in the Commentary. In New Orleans, where the Recovery School District has been working for more than a decade, academic results are strong. Tulane University recently reported that students in New Orleans schools overseen by the RSD moved "up by 0.2 to 0.4 standard deviations and boosted rates of high school graduation and college entry. We are not aware of any other districts that have made such large improvements in such a short time." In Memphis, where the Achievement School District has been working for three years, there have been both bright spots and challenges. Bright spots include students in ASD schools making double-digit proficiency gains in math and science and growing their achievement faster than the state average, in an era when Tennessee is the fastest-growing state in the nation in student achievement. While ASD students demonstrated strong growth in math and science, improving literacy rates remains a challenge both in the ASD and across districts in Tennessee. But Vanderbilt researchers who recently assessed the new ASD schools concluded that negative judgments-such as those drawn by the Commentary's authors-were premature because of the short time frame that the program had been in place. We don't think opportunity school districts are the answer to every problem. And we wouldn't urge Georgia or Pennsylvania to ignore such complementary actions as funding students more equitably, encouraging serious district-led improvements, and strengthening teacher training and recruitment. But when the lessons learned from Louisiana and Tennessee are embraced, future opportunity school districts can be more successful than these promising ones have already proven to be. Paul Pastorek Public Education Consultant New Orleans, La. Chris Barbic Executive Coach Nashville, Tenn. Paul Pastorek is a former chief state school officer in Louisiana. Chris Barbic is a former superintendent of the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Education Post submitted this letter on behalf of the authors. U.S. Military's Career-Aptitude Testing Raises Student-Privacy Concerns To the Editor: I appreciated your recent article on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB ("Military Eyes Wider Access for Career-Aptitude Test Under ESSA," Feb. 24, 2016). As the only school testing program exempt from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the armed-services test battery deserves much greater scrutiny than it has been getting thus far. I would like to clarify, however, one point. Citing Pentagon data, the article notes that taking the ASVAB was mandatory for students in approximately 1,000 schools during the 2012-13 school year. Shannon Salyer, the national program manager for the ASVAB Career Exploration Program under the U.S. Department of Defense, claims that the testing program is "always voluntary," and that students may be required to sit for this testing, but are not forced to complete it. This is a distinction without a difference. Three hours of a student's day are still consumed by a military-recruiting exercise, and the student has no choice in the matter. It's also important to remember that military recruiters are ordered to try to get as many schools as possible to require ASVAB testing. For example, the U.S. Navy's recruiting manual offers this bit of advice: "Request the school make [ASVAB] testing mandatory or at least publicize it sufficiently in advance to maximize participation." Similar guidance can be found in the U.S. Army trade magazine Recruiter Journal. Scores of high schools in the Lone Star State continue to practice mandatory ASVAB testing. But in Austin, the state capital, the school board passed a policy last fall barring high schools from automatically sending ASVAB scores to recruiters. Hopefully, more communities will follow Texas' lead and make sensible policy changes to better protect student privacy. Diane Wood Texas Coalition to Protect Student Privacy Fort Worth, Texas Organization Takes a Stand Opposing Proposed Report Cards for Parents To the Editor: The Mississippi legislature is considering a proposal, House Bill 4, that is attempting to prescribe criteria to measure and ensure parents' involvement in their children's public education ("Mississippi Lawmaker: Give Parents Grades Along With Their Children," K-12 Parents and the Public blog,, Feb. 19, 2016). The blog post notes that the author of the bill, Rep. Gregory Holloway, a Democrat, has said he hasn't met with any resistance to the plan. Parents for Public Schools, the organization I run, vehemently opposes this bill and its recent amendments. Mississippi HB 4 proposes that parents be graded on their children's in-school behavior as well as what is defined in the bill as "parent involvement." Grades would be based on criteria that include children's tardiness, attendance, homework completion, and preparation for tests and parents' attendance at inperson parent-teacher conferences and maintenance of correspondence with their children's teachers. The parents' grades would be included on their children's report cards. Unfortunately, this type of legislation is developed when parents from diverse families are not intentionally and actively involved in helping to write legislation that would directly impact them. Mississippi HB 4 ignores the real challenges of parents who work multiple jobs and of families in poverty who won't always have the resources, such as money or transportation, to meet the criteria in the bill. There is a lack of evidence to support that the criteria in the bill are an effective means to increase parent involvement or improve a child's academic success. Parents for Public Schools will not support any parent-involvement legislation that lacks a sense of equity and excludes the voice of parents. We oppose Mississippi House Bill 4. Catherine Cushinberry Executive Director Parents for Public Schools Jackson, Miss. 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 president & editOr-in-Chief Virginia B. Edwards exeCutiVe editOr Gregory Chronister managing editOr Kathleen Kennedy Manzo CreatiVe direCtOr Laura Baker assistant managing editOrs Mark W. Bomster, Kevin C. Bushweller, Lesli A. Maxwell, Anthony Rebora, Debra Viadero art direCtOr Gina Tomko COmmentarY editOr Elizabeth Rich seniOr COntributing editOr Karen Diegmueller assOCiate editOrs Sean Cavanagh, Catherine Gewertz, Stephen Sawchuk assistant editOrs Liana Heitin, Alyson Klein, Christina A. 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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 13, 2016

Education Week - April 13, 2016
N.Y. Flip-Flop Affects Policy In Key Areas
Students Help Shape Measures Of ‘Soft Skills’
Kasich’s K-12 Record
Can Latin Build Young Vocabularies?
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: FCC ‘Lifeline’ Effort Expanded to Bridge the Digital Divide
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Study: Tracking Not an Issue For Career-Tech-Education
San Diego Strives to Close Gap In Access to Advanced Courses
High School Coursework Seen Falling Short
Blogs of the Week
Fee-Payer Issue Still Alive, Despite Close Call for Unions
As First Education Secretary, Shirley M. Hufstedler a Pacesetter
ESSA Negotiators Dig Into Regulatory Details
Shield From Deportation Threat To Get Day at High Court
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
JONATHAN LASH: Buildings, Blocks, and Experience
ZOE WEIL: You Are What You Teach
HAROLD O. LEVY: How Should Schools Purchase Technology for the Classroom?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PAUL KIHN: The District Is Dead. Long Live the District.

Education Week - April 13, 2016