Top Stories 1|27 — 2|3|2014

BY ELIZABETH JANICE |  Charter dollars go to pre-K in NYC….  A suit in L.A. challenges teacher tenure…. A low-key State of the Union…. House hearings on early childhood ed…. How “privatization” works….  How English teachers improve math scores….

Top Stories

Pinch on NYC Charters Begins: Money “Diverted” to Pre-K

New York City’s new schools chancellor announced plans on Friday to shift $210 million in capital funding earmarked for charter schools to pay for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s expansion of pre-kindergarten programs. Javier C. Hernandez of the New York Times reports that Carmen Fariña intends to use that money, along with another $310 million in state funding, to create space for about 2,100 students in new pre-K programs. The money would be spread out over five years. And charter school leaders are worried that further setbacks may come their way. More than a dozen new charter schools are scheduled to open this fall inside traditional school buildings, according to Hernandez, with Fariña pledging to review each case.

NYS Commissioner King Wades into Pre-K Fight

New York State’s Education Commissioner, John King, found himself at the center of another heated political brawl last week after suggesting that providing universal access to pre-K would cost substantially more than what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had proposed. Testifying at a legislative hearing, King said that it will cost roughly $1.6 billion per year to offer free, full-day pre-K to all four-year-olds in the state; the governor has called for spending an average of $300 million per year, the New York Times reports. With this announcement, the New York Post says that “King unexpectedly bolstered Mayor de Blasio’s tax-the-rich plan for expanding pre-K.”

A Court Battle in L.A.:  Teacher Tenure v. Student Rights to a Good Education

Amidst ongoing national debate, a group of California public school students are suing the state over tenure for teachers, which they contend keeps bad educators in the classroom, according to the New York Times. The plaintiffs, who are sponsored by the advocacy group Students Matter, have taken an equity tack, arguing that these laws “put poor and minority children at a higher risk of receiving subpar instruction than their peers.” “The monthlong trial promises to be a closely watched national test case on employment laws for teachers, one of the most contentious debates in education,” writes Jennifer Medina in the Times. “In many large states with urban school districts, including California and New York, efforts to push through such changes in the legislature have repeatedly failed.”

Obama Reiterates Education Promises in State of the Union

President Barack Obama’s fifth State of the Union address was unusually light on new education policies, though the President did touch on early childhood education, ed tech, college access and (of course) Race to the Top. “America does not stand still—and neither will I,” the President vowed. “Obama proposed nothing substantially new for K-12,” writes Education Week reporter Alyson Klein, but “made it clear he plans to use his executive muscle—and the power of the bully pulpit—to get moving on his agenda when he can’t find bipartisan support for his wish list in Congress.” For a full text of the address, click here.


From Capitol Hill

“Fast Facts” on School Choice

In honor of National School Choice Week (January 26-February 1, 2014), the House Committee on Education and the Workforce compiled a list of 10 “fast facts” about school choice. For more about the celebration, featuring more than 3,000 events and activities across the country, click here.


Early Childhood Education Hearings to Begin

U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline(R-Minn.) has announced a full committee hearing to discuss early childhood education and care programs. “We owe it to the American people to examine the strengths and weaknesses of current initiatives before crafting new ones,” said Kline. A live webcast of the hearing, which will take place on February 5, will be posted here.


The Columnists & Editorials

A Tale of Two (Charter) Cities

School choice is vastly different in Detroit, where the educational market is essentially unregulated, and Spokane, where it is tightly harnessed. But things are changing: PRIDE Prep, Washington’s first charter school, will open in Spokane in the fall of 2015. The contrast between these two cities could not be more vivid,” says Robin Lake, Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, writing on the CRPE blog. Analysts are watching to see if Spokane’s charter sector can avoid mistakes that have been made elsewhere.”


The Times Weighs in on De Blasio Education Challenges

According to the New York Times Editorial Board, Mayor Bill de Blasio has “rightly decided to junk the simplistic, deeply unpopular A-through-F grading system that is used to rate schools.” However, that doesn’t mean that the controversial evaluation system that Michael Bloomberg introduced in 2006 should be totally abandoned. “If it is,” the Board writes, “city officials will never know how well students are doing until, on graduation day, they find that too many of them do not have the skills they need to go to college.”


What Drives Success?

Certain of America’s ethnic, religious and national-origin groups—including Indian-, Iranian-, Lebanese- and Chinese-Americans, as well as Mormons—tend to score higher on tests and earn more money than other Americans. But saying this “is enough to provoke a firestorm in America today, and even charges of racism,” write Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, professors at Yale Law School in the New York Times.  “The irony is that the facts actually debunk racial stereotypes.” So, what is it that propels certain groups to be more upwardly mobile than others? Chua and Rubenfeld say that successful groups have members that share a “Triple Package” of traits: a simultaneous feeling of superiority and insecurity, along with the ability to delay present gratification for future gains.


From The Journals & Thinktanks

 Making “Privatization” Work

What does it take for a for-profit enterprise to have an impact in K–12 education and stay afloat? Writer, editor and communications strategist Julie Landry Petersen takes a look at three successful education entrepreneurs—Larry Berger (co-founder of Wireless Generation), Jonathan Harber (co-founder of SchoolNet) and Ron Packard (founder of virtual school operator K12)—to discover what combination of strategies has made their companies successful.


Great English Teachers Improve Math Scores

A new study confirms the lasting impact that good English language arts and math teachers have on student achievement over the short- and long-term. According to research out of Stanford University and the University of Virginia, excellent teachers not only produce higher than expected test scores during the year that they are teaching the students, but their students go on to score better in that subject in future school years. Even more surprising is the crossover effect from English to math: Students of better ELA teachers had higher than expected math scores in later years.

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