Education Week - July 8, 2015 - (Page 9)
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outdated facilities, underfunding, and shortages of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?' "
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
"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."
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
"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
"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."
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
Mr. Skorkowsky said the district
would proceed with its building
plans and cooperate with state officials as the reorganization work
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 | www.edweek.org | 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
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