Education Week - June 4, 2014 - Cover1

Education WEEk
VOL. 33, NO. 33 * JUNE 4, 2014
Moore Middle
School students
Yesli Betancourt,
left, and Tekira
Barkley share a
moment at the
Aquarium's Ocean
Voyager exhibit.
The school in
Ga., is one of the
schools using
money through
Innovation Fund,
part of the state's
$400 million
Race to the Top
federal grant.
NEA Aims
To Revive
Push Comes as Membership
In Union Has Dropped
By Stephen Sawchuk
The nation's largest teachers' union
is attempting to revive a fundamental
labor principle: organizing.
With its membership down by more
than 230,000 members over the past
three years, the National Education
Association is imploring local affiliates
to better engage current and potential
members. It has launched a Center for
Organizing to provide tools and training,
has put millions of dollars behind
local affiliates' plans, and is pushing
regional support staff to lead the
Georgia Battles to Beat Race to Top Head Winds
Despite Setbacks Along the Way, Grant-Funded Initiatives Taking Root
By Alyson Klein
Nearly four years after Georgia pulled into the
Race to the Top winner's circle, the state still has
a rocky climb to the education redesign summit
initially envisioned in its application for a share
of the federal grant jackpot.
The state's Race to the Top odyssey has been
riddled with obstacles. They include fiscal woes,
leadership turnover, resistance to the common
standards and aligned tests that were a part of its
plan, and enough setbacks for its teacher-evaluation
system to make Georgia the only winner to
have part of its grant put on hold.
But there have also been plenty of high points.
The state has forged a nationally envied longitudinal-data
system, created a set of strong instructional
materials to help districts move toward
tougher standards, and launched a homegrown
competitive-grant program that's helped jumpstart
promising initiatives across the state. (See
related story, Page 20.)
"It's been an odd journey, really," said Kent Edwards,
the superintendent of the nearly 5,000-student
Carrollton city school system, one of the 26
districts-out of 180 statewide-taking part in
Georgia's Race to the Top efforts. "While it's fallen
short in terms of reaching its initial objectives, we
would not be as far as we are-or as self-reflective
as we are-if we had not been a Race to the Top
He and other superintendents say that even the
piece of the program that has bedeviled the state
the most-educator evaluations-has ultimately
been a major benefit.
"We're going to have something that will be
really useful going forward, no matter what happens
when Race to the Top is over," said J. Alvin
PAGE 20>
Not since the 1970s, when its teachers
helped win public-sector collective
bargaining laws across the country,
has organizing been such a priority
for the 3 million-member nEa. What's
more, the union is promoting membership
as an avenue to better teaching
and learning conditions, rather
than relying on traditional recruitment
"I can stand here until you sign a
PAGE 13>
Spending Hikes
Found to Benefit
Poor Students
Software Use Fuels
Student-Login Chaos
By Benjamin Herold
In classrooms across the country, teachers
hoping to use a dizzying array of educational
software programs are hitting a
frustratingly mundane speed bump.
"Kids can't remember their usernames
and passwords," said Kecia Ray,
the executive director of learning technology
for the 81,000-student Metro
Nashville school system, which has
approved more than 500 different software
programs for purchase by schools.
"As much as you would like to tattoo it
on their arm, you can't."
The result, say both educators and
ed-tech vendors, is extensive loss of
precious instructional time. The rapidly
expanding universe of online
educational resources, and all the
usernames and passwords associated
PAGE 16>
Bringing Competency-Based Learning to Life
By Samantha Stainburn
Manchester, N.H.
Nearly a decade ago, New Hampshire
became the first state to mandate that
high schools award credit for mastery of
material, rather than having students
complete a certain number of hours of
classes. Now, one of the architects of the
policy shift is back on the case, this time
to help turn that idea for upending the
Carnegie unit-and rethinking education-into
a reality statewide.
Entrepreneur Fred Bramante, a former
chairman of the New Hampshire
board of education and long an ambassador
for competency-based learning, has a
new initiative he hopes will help schools
institutionalize real-world learning opportunities
for students.
Through the program, called 10,000
Mentors, Mr. Bramante and the organization
he launched in 2013, the National
Center for Competency-Based Learning,
are offering to identify, recruit, and
train local mentors for free for any New
Hampshire school district that asks for
its assistance.
The program name signifies the number
of connections Mr. Bramante hopes to
make for schools across the state in five
The doctors, lawyers, software develPAGE
Fred Bramante, a
former chairman of
the New Hampshire
board of education,
is trying to help
real-world learning
at schools across
the state.
By Holly Yettick
In districts that substantially increased
their spending as the result of
court-ordered changes in school finance,
low-income children were significantly
more likely to graduate from high
school, earn livable wages, and avoid
poverty in adulthood.
So concludes a working paper published
last month by the National
Bureau of Economic Research, or
nbEr, a private, nonpartisan research
organization with headquarters in
Cambridge, Mass.
The provocative results provide new
fodder for long-running debates over
whether more education spending
translates into improved outcomes for
children. They also delve into thorny
methodological questions over how to
best estimate the way in which statelevel
school finance reforms have affected
district-level spending.
Between 1971 and 2010, the authors
write, supreme courts in 28 states responded
to large gaps between richer
and poorer school districts by reforming
PAGE 12>
Joeff Davis for Education Week
Andrea Morales for Education Week

Education Week - June 4, 2014

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Education Week - June 4, 2014 - Cover1
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Education Week - June 4, 2014 - Contents
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