Weekly Roundup 8/29/14

Weekly Roundup2As students and teachers begin to settle back into the school routine, the education news this week has been anything but routine. From a governor filing a lawsuit against the Common Core, to a parent group convincing a Florida school board to opt out of all high-stakes, standardized testing, the news of the week has been interesting, to say the least. We will bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly of education-related news stories that grab our attention each week, in our Weekly Roundup. This week’s 8 articles are listed below, in no particular order.
*FYI – Newsletter subscribers have the advantage of receiving our top news picks sooner than they will appear in the Weekly Roundup.*

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, “accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards,” according to a report from NBC San Diego. This is an interesting scenario, as some are pegging the move as politically-driven given Jindal’s likely 2016 presidential bid. The filing follows Jindal’s botched attempt to repeal the Common Core education standards in his state. Read the full story at NBC San Diego.

Everyone is talking about how much classroom instruction is being eaten away by testing, but Valerie Strauss, who covers education for The Washington Post and runs The Answer Sheet blog, has gone one step further by publishing the 2014-2015 standardized testing schedule for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Florida has been a hotbed of standardized testing since Jeb Bush was at the helm as governor more than 10 years ago, but this year looks to be especially taxing on educators and students as of a statute goes into effect requiring end-of-course exams for every subject, including music and phys ed and kindergarten. If this schedule doesn’t prove just how out of control the testing craze in America has become, we don’t know what does. See the published schedule for yourself, if you have the stomach for it.

The Lee County School Board in Fort Myers, Florida, made history Wednesday, Aug. 27 by becoming the first in Florida to opt out of Common Core testing. In fact, the Lee Schools have opted out of “all statewide, standardized tests.” With a decision of 3-2, the board received boisterous cheers and applause from the auditorium full of opt-out supporters wearing red in a sign of solidarity. Superintendent Nancy Graham responded: “This will hurt children. There is no way around it.” She was met with boos. Had we been there, we would have booed, too. Read the article and watch the video of the moment the decision was made.

The news out of Florida isn’t all good. In 2011, the Florida legislature approved a statute to go into effect this school year “requiring that school districts develop and/or administer seven or more end-of-course assessments to all students.” The statute did not exclude kindergarten. The result is that six year olds will take seven potentially high-stakes tests, and in Florida, the results of end-of-course exams do affect teachers’ pay and evaluations. Read the full Washington Post article.

In an article/book review, Sara Mosle gives an in-depth analysis of what teachers in America need in order to be better teachers, and she arrives at a conclusion that should not surprise many of those in the profession: time to collaborate with peers and mentors to hone their craft. She discusses the hours that teachers spend putting together lessons, grading papers, calling parents, attending meetings, and everything else that entails being a teacher. She calls out the author of Building a Better Teacher, Elizabeth Green (co-founder of Gotham Schools, a news web site originally devoted to covering NYC schools that recently has expanded to other cities and been renamed Chalkbeat) for her exploration of the idea that teaching is not a “mystical talent” but a set of best practices acquired through hands-on coaching, self-scrutiny, and collaboration by saying that “her account suggests that implementing this vision may entail a bigger transformation than she quite realizes.” The article is thought provoking and at times maddening; we recommend you read the entire Atlantic article to the end.

In a recent post, the blogger at WagTheDog posed a question, “Common Core: Growing Pains or Growing Awareness?” and points to a recent survey that indicates teacher support for the Common Core has sharply declined. Common Core supporters almost all seem to think teachers are bucking the Common Core because it is something new that requires change and more work, but the blogger points out four well-documented reasons for the drop off in teacher support. We couldn’t agree with the blogger more, and we encourage you to read his post and check out the links within it.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is no friend of public education, and Colleen Flaherty discusses exactly how Walker’s $1.6 billion cuts to public education are affecting students as they enter schools after summer break this year. Spanish teacher John Havlicek has 20 years of experience teaching in Wisconsin public schools and explains how Walker’s cuts are affecting the students in his school. Havlicek’s first-hand account details just how devastating the cuts are, especially in his school, where approximately 50% of students receive free or reduced lunch. Read the Education Votes/NEA article to see how governors like Walker are hurting not just the education system, but the students that it is supposed to serve.

The New York State Education Department released a report highlighting the results of the state’s 2014 Common Core State Standards-aligned exams…but interestingly, the data reported makes it difficult to really interpret the results. Carol Burris summarizes some key findings for The Washington Post. Read the full story here.

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