Education Week - October 24, 2012 - (Page 4)

4 EDUCATION WEEK n OCTOBER 24, 2012 n NEWS IN BRIEF Accreditation Restored To St. Louis Schools After having been unaccredited for more than five years, the 23,000-student public school system in St. Louis is officially accredited again. The Missouri board of education voted unanimously yesterday to grant the district the status “provisionally accredited.” St. Louis’ schools now meet seven of the fourteen standards required for full accreditation. The district lost accreditation in 2007, after failing to meet standards and experiencing ongoing turmoil in leadership and on the board. The district remains under the control of a special administrative board rather than a local elected board. The state board cited the district’s long-range plan that “provides for improved collection and use of data to drive academic gains,” an improved annual performance rating, a balanced budget, and new leadership as reasons behind the decision. —JACLYN ZUBRZYCKI THIS IS ONLY A DRILL Fifth graders take cover under a table during an earthquake drill at Hilton Head Island Elementary School in South Carolina as part of the “Great Shakeout” last week. Schools across the country took part in the drill to practice and prepare for such emergencies. Jay Karr/The Island Packet/AP Facebook Grant Funds Newark Teacher Plan A tentative contract has been reached for teachers in the Newark public school system, allowing for merit pay bonuses funded mainly through a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a union official said. The contract allows for up to $12,500 in bonuses tied to performance evaluations, said Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso, making it the first in New Jersey to tie the pay of public school teachers partly to how well their students perform. The 37,400-student district has long struggled to improve its schools and has been under state control for years. Its last teachers’ contract expired in 2010. Union members will vote on the contract Oct. 29. —ASSOCIATED PRESS Charter Group Picked In Calif. ‘Trigger’ Vote A group of California parents chose a charter operator partnered with a local university to take over their children’s failing elementary school, marking the nation’s first use of a law empowering parents to drive educational reform. Parents of students at the Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, located about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, voted between two local nonprofits that applied to take over the low-performing school next fall. Voters opted for LaVerne El- ementary Preparatory Academy, which is partnered with the University of La Verne. The balloting was the culmination of an acrimonious, 18-month battle by the Desert Trails Parent Union against the teachers’ union and the Adelanto Elementary school district to revamp the school under California’s landmark “parent trigger” law, which allows parents to force radical change through a petition. —AP Idaho Granted Waiver From NCLB Rules The U.S. Department of Education approved Idaho’s waiver application last week, bringing the list of states that have earned flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act to 35. Illinois’ request for flexibility on federal accountability requirements is pending. Two other states applied in the second round, with Illinois, but Iowa’s application was essentially rejected and California has submitted a request that is not in compliance with the federal rules. Seven other states applied more recently and still await word. Six states have not yet requested a waiver: Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont (request withdrawn), and Wyoming. As part of its waiver application, Idaho is shifting away from “adequate yearly progress,” which was the standard under the nclb law, to a five-star rating system. It grades schools based on student growth and proficiency on state tests, graduation rates, and career- and postsecondary-readiness indicators. —MICHELE McNEIL L.A. District Enters Research Alliance Los Angeles public schools have partnered with the L.A. Education Research Institute to open the district’s vast longitudinal-data system to identify successful practices that the district can expand. The agreement will allow researchers open access to more than a decade of linked student, staff, and school data, including demographics, programs, coursetaking, and student-achievement results from both tests and grades. It will also include school climate information from administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Kyo Yamashiro, the executive director of the research group, said in a statement that its first focus will be on identifying skills and behaviors in students that act as “precursors to algebra success,” as well as “pinpoint pockets of success, where students who start out behind accelerate their progress.” The 670,000-student Los Angeles district is one of a growing number of districts choosing to develop long-term partnerships with research groups to build their own research capacity, rather than waiting for individual researchers to come to them with one-off studies. —SARAH D. SPARKS Ohio Data Scrubbing Driven by ‘Mal-Intent,’ Auditor Says Districts claim confusion over attendance reporting As an investigation into attendance-data tampering in Ohio’s school districts continues, state Auditor David Yost has said that his interviews have led him to believe there was “mal-intent” on the part of some school officials, The Columbus Dispatch reports. The investigation found that school officials in several Ohio districts withdrew and then re-enrolled students with poor attendance records. Those students’ state test scores didn’t count for schools’ performance report cards. Earlier this month, the auditor released an interim report that found “questionable” practices in the Cleveland, Marion County, Columbus, Toledo, and Campbell school districts. The situation in each district was slightly different. While the interim report did not establish malicious intent, Mr. Yost said last week that he thinks there is evidence that at least some of those involved did intentionally tamper with the data. Columbus school officials had initially said they were not aware that any district employees were changing attendance records. After the release of the interim report, they said they were confused by state guidance on when to withdraw students who had been regularly absent. Officials in Toledo made similar claims. The interim report recommends that the state establish independent oversight of districts’ attendance data. The report cites an inherent conflict of interest: Districts are responsible for reporting their data, but also have an interest in making sure their data are presented in the best possible light. The current reporting system allows districts to see a projected report card score when they submit their data, which could then lead them to choose to “scrub” data to improve that score, the report says. To discourage that from happening, the auditor’s report recommends that districts not have access to the projected score. Mr. Yost has also been advocating that the state have access to individual students’ data. The current system, which leaves out student traits like name and age from the identifying student number, aims to protect students’ privacy but can lead to confusion— and, Mr. Yost says, has hampered his investigation. Additional reports are expected from the auditor’s investigation. Some of the schools involved receive financial incentives for improvement or high performance on the tests, according to the interim report, though it does not say which ones. —JACLYN ZUBRZYCKI McClatchy-Tribune contributed to this report. Review Requested In Local Chief’s Firing The Wake County Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit organization focused on monitoring government spending, is calling for the group that accredits the county’s schools to conduct an investigation into the firing of former superintendent Anthony Tata, the Raleigh News & Observer reported last week. The taxpayers association railed

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 24, 2012

Education Week - October 24, 2012
‘Smart Pills’ Promising, Problematic
At S.C. School, Behavior Is One of the Basics
Obama Finding Teacher Support Secure, if Tepid
Focus On: Curriculum: Calif. Laws Shift Gears on Algebra, Textbooks
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
‘Value Added’ Use at Secondary Level Questioned
National Board Seeks to Revive Impact on Profession
Industry & Innovation
Blogs of the Week
Debates Push Fate of NCLB Waivers to Fore
Policy Menu Varies in State School Board Elections
Policy Brief
The Election: Debating Education
Genevieve LaFleur & Scott Poland: Schools Can Be the Difference in Preventing Suicide
Kenneth Wesson: From STEM to ST2REAM: Reassembling Our Disaggregated Curriculum
Top School Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
Erica Frankenberg & Gary Orfield: Diversity or Resegregation? Why Suburban Schools Need a Plan

Education Week - October 24, 2012