Education Week - August 28, 2013 - (Page 22)

22 EDUCATION WEEK AUGUST 28, 2013 n n GOVERNMENT POLITICS & Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate Hearings, budget concerns seen raising local anxieties, but momentum continues By Andrew Ujifusa The high-volume argument in Michigan about whether to stick with the common core appears to have done little to slow the standards’ momentum in most schools and districts, although at least a few officials are taking a cautious approach. Lawmakers this month are holding a series of hearings on the fate of budget language enacted earlier this year freezing Michigan’s financial support for the Common Core State Standards and associated assessments as of Oct. 1. Backers of the common core worry, in particular, about the impact of the freeze on assessments being designed in conjunction with the standards. And opponents have taken heart from the hearings, which have drawn national attention and included many hours of testimony from both supporters and detractors. In practice, however, work on common-core-aligned curricula and professional development hasn’t been greatly troubled, according to many local K-12 officials. “Almost every district in the state is moving ahead, from what I have heard and the people I have talked to,” said Michael Yocum, the director of learning services for the Oakland Intermediate School District, which in turn oversees 28 smaller, local districts and has a total enrollment of about 192,300 full-time-equivalent students. One district superintendent who is taking a relatively cautious path is Carlton Jenkins, head of Saginaw Public Schools, which has about 7,700 students enrolled. The curricula being used in his district this year are, in practice, aligned to the common core, Mr. Jenkins said. But Saginaw schools won’t purchase any new curricula explicitly aligned to the standards, spend additional money to train teachers specifically in the common core, or pay to send school personnel to conferences about the standards, until common core’s standing in Michigan is resolved. “I don’t want to spend any money and find out that I can’t use that,” Mr. Jenkins said. Next Steps Despite heated opposition and calls in many states for the standards to be dropped, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the common core. (One of those states, Minnesota, has adopted the standards for English/ language arts but not for math.) Aside from Michigan, Indiana is also reviewing the common core, having held similar legislative hearings about the standards this summer. Indiana’s state school board ultimately will be asked to reconsider supporting the common core, which it adopted in 2010, the year the standards were released under the aegis of groups representing state governors and schools chiefs. The Michigan House of Representatives’ fourth and final hearing on the common core is slated for Aug. 28, and a joint House and Senate hearing was scheduled for Aug. 27, after Education Week went to press. After that, the legislature could pass a supplemental budget bill addressing the spending freeze one way or another—or it could pass a resolution expressing support or opposition to the common core, said Don Wotruba, the deputy director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, which has drafted a model resolution supporting the standards for districts to consider. Because of the Michigan state board’s continuing support for the common core, Mr. Wotruba said, his members must proceed on the assumption that the standards will remain in place, regardless of political drama in Lansing, the state capital. “Common core is going to be our standards,” he said. Districts are also bolstered in that course of action by support for the standards in the background by K-12 and state business groups, he said. Among 57 ISDs in Michigan, Mr. Yocum said, he has yet to find one that has publicly acknowledged having schools that have suspended Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican, is a strong opponent of the standards. State school board President John C. Austin testified before state lawmakers in favor of the common core. ‘Course Choice’ Venture Gets Started in Louisiana By Erik W. Robelen A new Louisiana program that allows students to shop for publicly funded high school courses is getting started after hitting a roadblock this spring when its original funding mechanism was deemed to violate the state constitution. The initiative, now supported with some $3 million in state aid, is enabling several thousand students to select from a broad swath of courses—whether online, faceto-face, or blended—supplied by a mix of public and private providers. The most popular offerings include Spanish and French, algebra, biology, and ACT preparation, according to the state education department. As of Aug. 21, more than 3,700 students across Louisiana had requested enrollment in about 90 courses offered by 28 providers for the new school year, with the final deadline for open-enrollment ending this week, a spokesman for the state agency said. Experts say the statewide program appears to be unique, even as it combines elements of some existing approaches, such as virtual and charter schools and voucher programs. (See Education Week, Sept. 12, 2012.) Among the state-approved providers to attract significant EXPANDING TERRITORY numbers of applicants so far are the Louisiana School for Math, Sciences, and the Arts; Princeton Review; SmartStart Virtual Academy; and Bard Early College in New Orleans, a high school program operated by Bard College in New York. Others on the approved list include community colleges, the Florida Virtual School, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, and two school districts. ‘Diverse Platform’ “It’s a complex program, and it’s been lost in the media [coverage] sometimes that it is not a virtual school, not an online education program, not a MOOC,” said state schools Superintendent John White in an interview. “It is a much more diverse platform through which providers of a wide variety can create courses and avail students who have a wide variety of needs.” He adds, “The promise of Course Choice is it’s scalable reform, scalable choice.” But the pilot program has drawn considerable criticism, with opponents arguing it’s a misguided experiment that’s an inappropriate use of public dollars and that it lacks adequate safeguards to ensure program quality. “This is much more about advancing Milton Friedmanesque policy than about sound educa- Twenty-eight public and private organizations that won state approval under Louisiana’s Course Choice program had received requests for student enrollment as of last week, from community colleges to private online companies and local school districts. nBard Early College of New Orleans nBossier Parish Community College nFlorida Virtual School nK12 Inc. nLouisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts nLouisiana Public Broadcasting SOURCE: Louisiana Department of Education nmSchool nPelican Chapter, Associated Builders and Contractors nPrinceton Review nRocket Learning Partners, LLC. nSmartStart Virtual Academy nSt. James Parish School District tion policy,” said Steve Monaghan, the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, referring to the free-market economist who promoted private-school vouchers. The union was a party to the lawsuit that successfully challenged the original funding source. “If we were to put this kind of energy as a state into public education, into funding our schools, early-childhood education,” Mr. Monaghan said, “we’d be in a lot better place than we are now.” Mr. Monaghan and others also lament that at the same time the state is launching the new program, it has shut down the Louisiana Virtual School, a statewide program that allowed students to take online courses at a cost of $150 per student, per class. But Mr. White said Course Choice has the same types of offerings as the Louisiana Virtual School, and then some. “It isn’t killing it,” he said of the Louisiana Virtual School. “It’s just significantly expanding on it and doing a hundred other things,” he said. “Everything it does, Course Choice does, and more.” Legal Roadblock The program was established under legislation passed last year. The same measure also expanded statewide a private-school-voucher program. In May, the state su- preme court ruled that the funding source was not permissable under state law because it diverted aid intended for public schools. As conceived, Course Choice was to be financed with a portion of school districts’ combined state and local aid under the Louisiana Minimum Foundation Program. After the ruling, $2 million was tapped from a special state fund drawn from a settlement with oil companies. When that was insufficient to meet all the student demand, the state agency said it would provide $1 million more by discontinuing a statewide test for 2nd graders and trimming “travel and overhead expenses.” “We have cast this year as a iStockphoto/Khalus

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 28, 2013

Education Week - August 28, 2013
Waiver States Under Scrutiny
Common Core: A Puzzle to Public
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Fla. Virtual School Faces Hard Times
Stacked Deck Seen in Growth of PBIS
This Week
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Most Students Aren’t Ready for College, ACT Data Show
For Rural Teachers, Mentoring Support Is Just a Click Away
Philadelphia Gears to Open Schools After Aid Reprieve
Blogs of the Week
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: New Sites Designed to Help Choose Best Ed-Tech Tools
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Museums, Researchers Shifting To Online Science Ed. Outreach
Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate
‘Course Choice’ Venture Gets Started in Louisiana
Policy Brief
PAULA STACEY: The Best Education Diet? Real Food, Prepared Well
LINDA DIAMOND: The Cure for Common-Core Syndrome
CAROL LACH: What Really Matters In Education: Compassion
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES H. NEHRING: Think Education Is Like Medicine? Think Again

Education Week - August 28, 2013