Weekly Roundup 10/10

WeeklyRoundup7After a hiatus from the Weekly Roundup last week because of a planned vacation, we bring you a list of 8 of the top stories from this week in education. Teacher evaluations, charter schools, the push to privatize and reform public education, student assessments, money, and solidarity dominate this week’s picks.

New York has been in the spotlight of education news for some time, and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. We have been wishing for better news for public educators, students, and parents out of the Empire State, but we have been unsuccessful in finding any. In fact, Diane Ravitch points out that the state appears to want to take away districts’ decision-making powers when it comes to keeping or terminating teachers. When school leaders in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley commissioned a study to review the state’s teacher evaluation system, it concluded that “‘it was irreparably flawed.'” Ravitch explains, “the state apparently wants a system that gives many teachers low scores so they can be fired…. The state is trying to take that authority away from schools and districts by creating a mechanical formula. The formula doesn’t work, and no such formula works anywhere in the country.” We see this as one more way education reformers and the government are trying to standardize education, including evaluating teachers who deserve better. Read Diane’s take on the situation in her blog post.

We’ve all heard about how much time is lost to assessing students, but it’s another thing to see the numbers in print and analyze them from a logistical standpoint for each district. In her Answer Sheet blog, Valerie Strauss breaks down the numbers of hours students taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams can expect to be sitting in their chairs. For third grade, 9 ¾ hours; for grades 4-5, 10 hours; for grades 6-8, 10 ¾ hours; for grades 9-12, 11 – 11 ¼ hours. The amount of time spent is in PARCC’s newly released guidance to schools, which also recommends PARCC tests be given to students twice a year, once three-quarters of the way through the school year, and the other near the end of the school year. No matter how you look at it, too much time is being spent on assessing kids instead of teaching them. Read the entire blog post and see how one teacher envisions the testing in his school will go.

It’s no wonder, with all of the time students are losing to assessments, that parents are beginning to push back against the standardized testing. In Florida, parents are hosting webinars explaining how to skip the tests, convincing school boards to eliminated district exams, creating anti-testing networks, and more. Unfortunately, as the parents and their efforts gain steam, a Florida lawmaker says unraveling the testing system would have “significant negative consequences on student learning, education funding, and, ultimately, a graduate’s ability to find a job in today’s global marketplace.” Read the Miami Herald article to see how parents and other lawmakers are combatting this type of thinking.

Charters are just one of the issues causing problems with funding of public education and local school districts. With all of the chatter about charter schools saving money and saving students, this report from EdTraveler takes a long, hard look at charter school funding formulas and the “savings” of enrolling students in charters. The blog post also points out studies that have shown charter schools result in a decrease in student achievement as well as a draining of funds from public education. Read the post in full to get more informed about charters, since they are dominating the news of late.

So, if charter schools are getting funds from public schools, why would they want more money? Peter Greene, one of our favorite education bloggers, explores this issue in a recent post on his Curmudgucation blog. In both New York and Washington, DC, charter schools are suing for more money; both suits were filed by a coalition of charter schools behind the premise of charter parents claiming that charters are underfunded and their students are being denied their constitutional right to “sound basic education.” Read the blog post to see how Peter details the age-old bait and switch of charter schools.

In a week that saw Arne Duncan give more than $40 million to charter schools, we are curious about how Duncan’s policies have affected public schools. Diane Ravitch points to his record and a New York Times article by Motoko Rich that details the ways in which even schools showing “dramatic improvement in recent years are now declared failures.” Rich and Ravitch make no bones about the “destructive force” of Arne Duncan. Both the article and blog post are worth a read.

Jefferson County, Colorado students and school board members have been in the news for the past few weeks, and we’ve been sharing up-to-date information about the fight over the AP US History curriculum on our Facebook page and in our Weekly Roundups. This week, it became clear that the Jefferson Country School Board is going to face an ongoing fight with students, parents, and teachers who continue to unite to fight the radical board policies in school walkout, rallies, protests, and overflowing school board meetings. Now, Governor John Hickenlooper has voiced his opposition to the board’s proposal. The latest Education Votes article about the situation gives a thorough overview of the situation and is an important read during this time of increased civil disobedience in support of public education across the nation.

Another story we’ve been following for some time is the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, teachers’ strike. The strike ended yesterday (Oct. 9), as teachers overwhelmingly voted to approve the tentative agreement between the Reynoldsburg Education Associatoin and the school board. We are encouraged by the way in which teachers, parents, students, and community members joined in solidarity to stand for reduced class sizes. Read the Education Votes article to get the details of the agreement and to see how teachers are planning to move on from the strike.

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