Education Week - August 28, 2013 - (Page 23)

EDUCATION WEEK AUGUST 28, 2013 n n 23 POLICY BRIEF We see this as a way to ensure that our students are benchmarked against some international standards. We see it as ensuring equity across the district.” MICHAEL MEISSEN Plymouth-Canton Community Schools “ work on the standards. Mr. Yocum, the Oakland ISD offi- cial, indicated that the only piece of testimony that really created a stir in schools came from the nationally known education historian Diane Ravitch, who has been critical of the common core. Her opposition carried weight, given her “credibility among politicians as well as educators,” Mr. Yocum said. As he spoke, Mr. Yocum said in a telephone interview, 150 math teachers were going through common-core training in the basement below him. ‘Just Inundated’ The Oakland ISD has developed a curriculum aligned to the standards, Mr. Yocum said, and the interest from other districts around the state in that work continues unabated: “We just get inundated with, ‘When is this going to be up?’ ... and ‘I’m doing a training next week—I’ve got to have this.’ ” One district that is considering the pro-common-core resolution by the school boards’ association is the Plymouth-Canton system, which has about 17,500 students enrolled. Michael Meissen, its superintendent, said he anticipates that the school board will ultimately adopt it. The district has spent $500,000 on an English/language arts curriculum explicitly aligned to the common core, he said, that will be used for the first time in the 2013-14 school year. Mr. Meissen, referring to the standards in his district, said that “the train’s on the tracks and it’s left town.” “We see this as a way to ensure that our students are benchmarked against some interna- tional standards. We see it as ensuring equity across the district,” he said. But a teacher from the Plymouth-Canton district, Stephanie Keiles, criticized the standards during her Aug. 14 testimony before state lawmakers over its treatment of geometry, the Michigan Live news website reported. Playing It Safe Melanie Kurdys, the co-founder of Stop Common Core in Michigan and a former candidate for the Michigan state school board, said that while it was also her understanding that there was no significant pause in common-core implementation, it merely represented districts’ choice of the “least risky strategy.” Districts are making the bet that keeping the common core is still less damaging than dropping it, she said, because of common-core aligned assessments from the Smarter Balanced testing consortium that Michigan is due to administer in the 2014-15 school year. “It is important for us to really make a decision as quickly as we can so they have a clear idea of which way to go,” Ms. Kurdys said. Michigan is a governing member of Smarter Balanced, and its co-chairman, Joseph Martineau, is the executive director in the Michigan education department’s bureau of assessment and accountability. If the Oct. 1 spending freeze remains in place, the state will be barred from purchasing the assessment, Mr. Wotruba noted. Ala. Vouchers Under Legal Fire Alabama’s controversial new tax-credit-scholarship program is under legal challenge. A civil rights advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the program, approved earlier this year, shortchanges students at low-performing schools. In its Aug. 19 suit in federal district court in Montgomery, Ala., the Southern Poverty Law Center argues that the school choice program “discriminates against poor children.” The plaintiffs in the case include eight school-age children. Under the program, any student assigned to a school graded D or F on the state accountability system is eligible for up to 80 percent of the state’s per-pupil spending, about $3,550, to be put toward tuition for a private school or any costs of attending a nonfailing public school. n Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the plan into law after some bitter recriminations in the legislature. But the Montgomery-based pilot, and we will be seeking more sustainable funding in the future,” Superintendent White said. The average cost to the state for an individual student to take a course is projected to be $800, according to the state education department. Under the program, state aid will cover course fees (with some limits) for any student attending a public high school rated C, D, or F under the state accountability system. Students in A or B schools may be eligible if their school does not offer a course equivalent to one approved by the state. Intellectual History Stephen B. Tremaine, the director of Bard Early College in New Orleans, said the classes his school is offering under the state program are face-to-face seminars for juniors and seniors on intellectual history. “Each semester seminar has a question, and students will read across intellectual history,” he said. One topic is, “What does it mean to be human?” The seminars will help students build “the habits of inquiry and habits of mind ... to help them succeed at the highest levels of higher education,” he said. Students will come to the New Orleans campus from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday. The courses are limited to New Orleans students, but the school provides free transportation. Patrick R. Widhalm, the ex- ecutive director of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a state-supported residential high school in Natchitoches, said his institution has long been engaged in offering distance learning. The school, which previously partnered with the state education department to operate the Louisiana Virtual School, is offering 15 online classes through Course Choice, including several Spanish courses, as well as Advanced Placement psychology, calculus, and computer science, Mr. Widhalm said. In fact, some of the same teachers who taught in the Louisiana Virtual School will teach through the new program, he said. One question raised about Course Choice is the state’s ability to ensure quality across so many courses and providers. Mr. White said the state is making that a high priority. “This is the greatest level of accountability that we or any state has ever placed at the course level,” he said. “We are daily monitoring providers, will provide an annual review, and we will be very vigilant about recommending any providers exit from the initiative if they don’t fulfill their mission.” He also said providers went through a rigorous vetting process upfront, akin to how the state authorizes charter schools. Darrell J. Fairburn, the superintendent of the 5,500-student Washington district, about 80 miles north of New Orleans, said early last week that 161 students from his schools had enrolled in Course Choice. The majority will take Spanish 1 and 2, he said, since his district only has one Spanish teacher. Mr. Fairburn said he’s sorry to see the Louisiana Virtual School go, but on the upside, Course Choice won’t cost his district a penny, at least for now. “Louisiana Virtual School was really good,” he said. “You start new, you worry about the quality. Hopefully, those people who have accepted the providers know the quality and will monitor that.” Brigitte T. Nieland, a vice presi- dent at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said she’s confident the state will be a strong accountability watchguard. She sees the program as a welcome addition to the state’s educational choice offerings. “Not only can it help children do everything from ACT prep to high-level math and languages, but also [develop] very technicaloriented skills leading toward industry-based certifications,” she said. Ms. Nieland wants it to catch on. “I hope it becomes so popular that we find a way to sustain it and grow it.” Coverage of more and better learning time is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation at www. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage. > > The CURRICULUM MATTERS blog tracks news and trends on this issue. were to put this kind of energy as a state into public education, into funding our schools, earlychildhood education, ... we’d be in a lot better place than we are now.” “ STEVE MONAGHAN Louisiana Federation of Teachers If we SPLC says the act violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The SPLC focuses on a particular region in Alabama known as the Black Belt. “In a number of Black Belt counties, there are no schools at certain grade levels that are not failing,” the center said in a statement issued regarding the lawsuit. “Because the cost of private schools is prohibitive and because the few public schools in adjacent counties that will take these students are not accessible, many students in the Black Belt cannot escape failing schools.” The suit names Gov. Bentley and state schools Superintendent Tommy Bice as defendants. In an Aug. 19 statement, Gov. Bentley did not comment directly on the lawsuit, but said provisions of the law, which allow schools to apply for exemptions from certain state laws, would create new opportunities for schools and students to succeed. There have been recent legal challenges to school choice programs in other states. In March, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that state’s voucher program. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in February that a voucher program in the state, in Douglas County, was constitutional, but the case could ultimately be considered by the state supreme court. —ANDREW UJIFUSA

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