Education Week - July 8, 2015 - (Page 9)

BLOGS Richmond, Va., Community Fights to Keep Superintendent | DISTRICT DOSSIER | Before Dana Bedden arrived, many of the schools in Richmond, Va., suffered from crowding, outdated facilities, underfunding, and shortages of technology and other resources. Since taking the post in January 2014, Bedden changed the team in the central office, made staffing changes for teachers and principals, and worked on upgrading facilities. Saying there was a "lack of systems in place," he built a team of people from outside Richmond to look at the challenges with new eyes. Once news spread that Bedden was a finalist for the superintendency in Boston, though, an organized effort to keep him in Richmond began. Donald Cowles, a retired business executive, and about 10 others decided the best way to encourage Bedden to stay was to tell him they didn't want him to leave. Cowles and other community members set up a petition called "rps: Better With Bedden." The catchy title took off, and soon the hashtag #betterwithbedden sparked a conversation on Twitter about how to keep Bedden. The petition, signed by teachers, parents, and community leaders, was presented to Bedden at a school board meeting. Cowles and other community members also got behind Bedden's academic-improvement plan by creating a website and a new petition to support the superintendent's budget. Other influential people also weighed in, asking him to stay, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state Secretary of Education Anne Holton. Bedden said he found out about the massive support system through the news media and his communications staff. A large presence at a school board meeting and the ongoing support helped him see that the overarching public sentiment was to get him to stay. Bedden said he's focused on carrying out the three-year academic-improvement plan. "Any job I walk into, I focus on quality not quantity. Whether it's three years or 30 years, ... I look for, 'Am I making a difference?' " -TIARA BEATTY Laundromats and Playgrounds To Promote Early Literacy | EARLY YEARS | Reading during the rinse cycle? Singing during the spin dry? Why not? asks Too Small to Fail, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, two nonprofits that have made early-childhood education a philanthropic focus. The Coin Laundry Association last month announced that it will ask its members to hang posters and distribute pamphlets that encourage parents to use laundry day as an opportunity to talk, read, and sing to their children. "Too Small to Fail is looking at every possible way to reach children," said Patti Miller, its director. Families who use coin laundries are often lower-income and spend more than an hour there, making laundromats a perfect place to get the message out about the importance of early-literacy efforts, she said. Other local organizations plan to host events tied to the literacy initiative. For example, in Oakland, Calif., the nonprofit Jumpstart plans to kick off its annual Read for the Record campaign in local coin laundries. And the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions will give resources to Arkansas laundromats and hold monthly story-time events with families. Too Small to Fail also will partner with the nonprofit Shane's Inspiration and playground builder Landscape Structures to add signs in English and Spanish urging parents to talk to their children at the playground.  -CHRISTINA A. SAMUELS How Many Valedictorians Are Too Many? | TEACHING NOW | An Ohio district celebrated its high school graduation season this year with 222 valedictorians. That's right. Two hundred and twenty-two valedictorians-or roughly 20 percent of the seniors in the Dublin district's three high schools, according to local media. In contrast, schools in the nearby Columbus district had a total of 61 valedictorians in its 20 high schools. In 2008, Dublin changed the rules so more than one student could be eligible for scholarships linked to the designation. Now, any student with a gpa of 4.1 qualifies. The sheer number of valedictorians this year has caused a mild uproar from the local citizenry, among others. In a letter to The Columbus Dispatch, one reader said that this sort of "coddling" is the problem with the American education system. "Somewhere in Dublin, three students who actually deserve the title are sharing that award with 219 students who do not merit the distinction." Another resident countered that the district did the right thing by not leaving out any of its top students. "If 222 students achieve a 4.0-point average ... but only one 'deserves' the honor, how shall the school system choose just one?" Now, for the most important question: Did all the valedictorians give customary inspiring speeches? Apparently not: According to The Dispatch, ceremonies "might still be going on if Dublin schools had asked all of its valedictorians to speak."  -MAGGIE DeBLASIS New Law Sets Breakup of Clark County District in Motion CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 creating barriers for children. "I think it's important that this work be carefully considered so that it does not have unintended consequences on the classroom and students in the classroom," he said. Mr. Skorkowsky would not say outright that he opposes the plan. But he made clear that he's worried about what a major shakeup in the urban district would mean for its majority population of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and lowincome students. Better Student Outcomes? For example, he said drawing new district lines could create majority-minority districts or districts of a single race or ethnicity. A reorganization could also affect students' ability to attend magnet schools of their choice and could possibly disrupt the district's ability to adhere to a federal desegregation order. Finally, the superintendent said there's little evidence at this early stage that a reorganization or breakup would improve student outcomes. "All the research across the nation does not show that breaking up a school district is going to increase student achievement," he said. "All the research shows that it's what happens in the classrooms, and the schools, that makes a difference." Worried about the financial impli- cations of the proposal, district officials sought guidance from Moody's Investors Service. While Moody's did not downgrade the district's A1 credit rating, the agency said in an analysis that the uncertainty over the law-including the lack of clarity about the number of districts that would eventually emerge from the reorganization and what the nature of the relationships among touted numerous efforts to upgrade Nevada's education system. But efforts to break up the district-one of the fastest growing in the nation- have been attempted at various times since the 1970s. Officials in Henderson, an affluent city of about 257,000 residents, have sought for years to create its own district, and the city council passed a resolution supporting this year's efforts. cern echoes that of the superintendent's: the possibility that residents in lower-income communities will be relegated to schools that won't have the same resources as those in higher-income communities. "It seems like it's going right back to pre-Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka, Kan., and [the Supreme Court] determined that separate is not equal," she said, referring to the " All the research across the nation does not show that breaking up a school district is going to increase student achievement." PAT SKORKOWSKY Superintendent, Clark County, Nev., district those districts and Clark County schools-would be could negatively affect the district's $2.5 billion in outstanding debt and its approximately $4 billion in planned school construction bonds. Mr. Skorkowsky said the district would proceed with its building plans and cooperate with state officials as the reorganization work unfolds. Legislative Push The proposal to break up the state's largest school system was first mentioned this year in Gov. Sandoval's heavily education-focused State ofthe-State speech in January, when he Republican Assemblyman David Gardner, who represents a portion of Las Vegas and who pushed the bill through the Assembly, said research showing that students in smaller districts tended to perform better academically prompted him to act. "I don't really think that the Clark County school district is purposefully hurting our kids," he said. "It's just that when you're representing 320,000 kids in one organization, it's hard to actually have that kind of connection with your kids." State Sen. Pat Spearman, a Democrat whose district includes North Las Vegas, said the bill was pushed through the Senate too hastily without enough debate. Her chief con- landmark school desegregation case. "I think it's setting the same scenario up, and I don't agree with it." Ms. Spearman said the legislature should have waited to see the effects of the education initiatives that passed in this year's session, including sending $25 million a year to underperforming schools in the poorest zip codes. Mr. Gardner said the law includes safeguards against a reorganization that would establish majorityminority districts, or districts that would be disproportionately wealthier than others. The idea, he said, was not to create districts or precincts that must mirror municipal lines but districts that make sense to the committee members. "They'll be looking at where all of our poverty areas [are], where we have racial imbalances, those kinds of things," he said. "We are going to draw up some fair lines." The law also says that the committee must "ensure equity" in the reorganization of the district and also consider the allocation of resources for capital projects, school programs, and students. Additionally, Mr. Gardner said, the advisory committee-a ninemember body that will be comprised of lawmakers from both houses who represent municipalities in Clark County-will consider input from the community. The technical-advisory committee, which will advise the main committee, will include representatives from the state board of education, local governments, the teachers' union, the Urban Chamber of Commerce, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, and a parent or guardian of a Clark County student, he said. Mr. Gardner anticipates that the districts will continue to raise local funds as they do now and forward the money to the Clark County district, which will then distribute them back to the districts or precincts on a per-pupil basis. He acknowledged however, that there is nothing in the new law that precludes a property-rich district or precinct from raising additional money for its local schools. EDUCATION WEEK | July 8, 2015 | | 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - July 8, 2015

Education Week - July 8, 2015
Nev. Moves to Split Clark Co. District
Crazy Quilt of State Responses To Cries of Overtesting
Common Core Trickles Into All States
Advocates Scrutinize Head Start Proposals
Supreme Court To Decide Case On Union Fees
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Ed. School Critic Levine, MIT Partner to Launch Teacher-Prep ‘Lab’
Ariz.’s 20-Year-Old ELL Case May End, But Debate Rages On
Spelling—en Español—Catches On, With Bees in Multiple States
Blogs of the Week
ISTE Conference Examines How Tech Is Reshaping Education
Budgets, Testing Issues Took Legislative Stage
States Struggle With How to Ensure Good Teachers in All Schools
K-12 Issues Fall Within Suite of Recent High Court Rulings
In States, Plenty of Talk But Incremental Action on Early Ed.
Lengthy Floor Debate Looms for U.S. Senate Over ESEA Rewrite
Fresh Entrants in GOP’s Quest For White House
House, Senate Appropriations Bills Would Cut Back Ed. Dept. Funding
What We’ve Learned From a Longer School Day and Year
The Illusion of Closing The Achievement Gap
The ‘Power’ of Adversity
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Scholars: Challenging Racial Injustice Begins With Us

Education Week - July 8, 2015