Education Week - September 25, 2013 - (Page 4)

4 EDUCATION WEEK n SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 n NEWS IN BRIEF La. Protests Federal Voucher Challenge Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the Obama administration last week to drop its legal intervention over the state’s private school voucher program, saying the effort was “cynical, immoral, and hypocritical.” Gov. Jindal was significantly stepping up the pressure on the U.S. Department of Justice to withdraw a motion it filed Aug. 22 in a longstanding statewide desegregation case in Louisiana. The federal government is seeking to enjoin the state from issuing vouchers to students who attend public schools still under federal court supervision for desegregation unless the state gets the approval of the court overseeing the relevant desegregation plan. The Justice Department said this month that it is concerned with the voucher program’s effects on racial balance in schools in some of the 34 Louisiana school districts still under court-supervised desegregation plans, and it is seeking to ensure the voucher program is implemented in a way that is consistent with those plans. —MARK WALSH After Hiring Ex-Convict, Charter Can’t Reopen Texas officials last week rejected a Dallas charter school’s appeal to reopen after it failed to run proper criminal background checks on teachers and staff. Children First Academy leaders said at a hearing that they were now complying with state laws. But Robert Duron, a deputy commissioner with the Texas Educa- Text Hearings Fuel Evolution Debate Dozens of experts and activists lined up to testify before the state board of education last week as it mulled approval of new science textbooks for classrooms around Texas. The packed public hearing allowed the board to hear from Texans on 15 high school biology textbooks that have been submitted for board approval. Its members, however, won’t vote on the proposed books until their November meeting. Under a law approved in 2011, school districts can now choose books, electronic readers, and other materials without board approval. Still, most districts have continued using books sanctioned by the board. The process already has sparked an outcry from some conservatives who would like to see evolution and climate change deemphasized in science lessons. But experts say doing so would let ideology trump academic standards. —ASSOCIATED PRESS tion Agency, rejected the plea. His ruling cited the school’s “very troubling” failure to comply sooner. The charter school, which had 900 students last year in Dallas and Houston, has been closed since Sept. 9. Tony Diaz, the lawyer representing Children First Academy, said the school will continue to pursue options “to right what we perceive to be a wrong.” The failure to perform background checks allowed a man convicted of child endangerment to work with children, the state Dressed as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sandra Calderon talks with Nick Savelli prior to a public hearing at the Texas board of education in Austin on proposed new science textbooks. A new law gives school districts freedom to choose instructional materials, with or without board approval. found. Several others who worked at the school had pending charges of serious crimes, including sexual assault of a child, according to state education officials. —McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE Homework a Struggle For Many Parents A new survey finds nearly 50 percent of parents making an almost taboo admission: They struggle to help their children with homework. And many par- RTT States’ Success on Teacher Evaluation Varied GAO report offers insights into implementation of grant program State recipients of Race to the Top grants are having differing degrees of success with what has turned out to be one of the toughest tasks required by the Obama administration’s marquee competitive-grant program: crafting new teacher evaluations that take student performance into account, according to a report released last week by the Government Accountability Office. Sustaining the new evaluation systems is going to be a tall order, nearly all Race to the Top states reported. But overall, the report found, most Race to the Top states are happy with the level of support they’re getting from the U.S. Department of Education. The GAO also found: • By the end of the 2012-13 school year, six of the 12 recipients of a piece of the original $4 billion Race to the Top fund had fully implemented their teacher- and principal-evaluation systems. Those at full implementation are: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. Three of those six met the actual target date specified in their application, while the other three were given extensions so they could improve their systems. • The other six recipients—Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio— are at least partway there, the watchdog for Congress found. • States still piloting evaluation systems are at different stages of the game. For instance, 30 percent of Hawaii’s teachers are using the new system, while just 14 percent of teachers in participating Race to the Top districts in Maryland are involved in the pilot. In addition, officials in eight of the 12 states had a tough time figuring out how to hold teachers in nontested subjects accountable for student growth, and 11 states noted that it’s been tough to address teachers’ concerns about the new systems and the fast pace of change. Carrying on the new evaluation systems after the Race to the Top grants are finished in coming years is going to be difficult, most of the grant winners say. U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, asked for the report last year. —ALYSON KLEIN ents—46.5 percent—simply don’t understand the subject matter. The National Center for Fam- ily Literacy and Google surveyed parents with students in grades 1 through 12 last month about homework issues. The online poll released last week includes responses from roughly 300 parents. Almost a third of parents said their homework frustrations were because “my child doesn’t want my help.” Another 21.9 percent admitted that they were “too busy” to spend time reviewing homework. The Louisville, Ky.-based group is offering parents some guidance to help mitigate their homework frustrations. —KARLA SCOON REID Ed. Sector Merges With Research Group The education policy think tank Education Sector has announced it is merging with the national research powerhouse American Institutes for Research. All eight of EdSector’s staff members will join AIR, and the group’s current lines of research on higher education, teacher quality, high school culture, and educational equity will continue. EdSector is the latest in a string of high-profile research acquisitions by AIR in recent years, including Learning Point Associates in 2010 and the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education a year later. Education Sector—now “EdSec- tor@AIR”—will continue to focus on public policy research, with a “tighter focus” on the research and practice around policy issues, “and not this expansive conversation that EdSector has had around all these topics,” according to Gina Burkhardt, AIR’s executive vice president and education director. —SARAH D. SPARKS Online Course Targets Common Core, ELLs Kenji Hakuta, a Stanford University professor and a co-director of the Understanding Language initiative, will join two of his colleagues to offer a free, online course this fall that will focus on the language demands of the Common Core State Standards. The free series, called Constructive Classroom Conversations—a massive online open course, or MOOC—will be taught by Mr. Hakuta and two Stanford colleagues who are language experts. The MOOC, which will run from Oct. 21 through Dec. 9, will zero in on how educators can promote and support student-to-student academic discourse, especially in classrooms where not all students are proficient in English. The MOOC consists of four ses- sions and is meant for participants who teach or have access to classrooms in which they can gather samples of students’ conversation during lessons. —LESLI A. MAXWELL Feds to Gather Data On Alternative Routes The U.S. Department of Education is preparing to collect information from states on teachers participating in alternative-route programs—and whether they disproportionately teach students Eric Gay/AP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 25, 2013

Education Week - September 25, 2013
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Phila. Seeks Salvation in Lessons From Model School
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Schools Investing in New Measures To Boost Security
For Intellectually Disabled, a ‘Landmark’
States Mull Next Steps on Testing
News in Brief
Report Roundup
New Research Consortium Targets D.C. Schools
Social Studies Framework to Guide Standards
Charters Turn to More-Unified Application Systems
Blogs of the Week
Texas Lesson-Plan Brawl Resonates Beyond State Border
Business Organizations Rally on Common Core
Fiscal Face-Off
How to Improve the Common Core
Silence Is Not Neutrality
What Are We Doing to Support Great Teachers?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
A Pathway for the Future of Education

Education Week - September 25, 2013