Some of the News Fit to Print
FEDERAL OVERSIGHT TAKES AIM AT WAIVER COMPLIANCE
In the wake of the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to place three states on “high-risk status” for problems with their No Child Left Behind Act waivers, it’s clear that the federal push to grant states sweeping flexibility in school accountability will be fraught with stumbles. Implementing teacher evaluations tied to student growth is a significant sticking point for many waiver states, including Kansas, Oregon, and Washington—which were formally warned by federal officials Aug. 15 that they might lose their waivers if they don’t get new evaluations back on track. The article is in Education Week.
DISPUTES CONTINUE OVER L.A. TEACHER EVALUATIONS
United Teachers Los Angeles has filed a labor complaint against the school district, alleging that teacher-evaluation guidelines issued by the state violate formal agreements between the two parties, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. It's the latest wrinkle in a longstanding disagreement between district and union over how to evaluate teachers in the nation's second-largest school district. The post is from Education Week’s Teacher Beat blog.
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OBAMA ON FOR-PROFITS
The Obama administration has had no shortage of spats (and some out-and-out warfare) with the for-profit sector of higher education. But typically administration officials outside the Oval Office have been the ones directly expressing views on the sector. On Friday, however, in a question-and-answer session at the State University of New York at Binghamton, a doctoral student at (nonprofit) Syracuse University asked the president about the sector and for-profit colleges that the student called "predatory." The president responded with some language that didn't go over well with officials in for-profit higher education. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
RISING DEBT ENGULFS COLLEGES AS WELL AS STUDENTS
President Obama took aim last week at rising levels of student borrowing, but two graduate students in sociology say the real culprit for growing college debt is Wall Street. In a report posted last week on the Web site of the Scholars Strategy Network, Charlie Eaton and Jacob Habinek, doctoral candidates at the University of California at Berkeley, assert that the expanding burden of tuition debt is “partly driven by the indebtedness universities have taken on.” Public research universities have passed along their own debt to students by raising tuition and fees by an average of 56 percent from 2002 to 2010, say the authors, who work in the branch of sociology known as financialization. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
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ENJOYING WHITE HOUSE ATTENTION
Advocates of disruptive college business models and carrot-and-stick accountability measures were excited Thursday to hear President Obama back their work in his effort to curb the rising cost of college. The president, in a speech on college costs, praised a new public-private partnership between the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Silicon Valley start-up, name-checked a performance-based college funding formula in Tennessee and praised programs that award degrees to students based on how well they test rather than how much time they spend in a classroom. All of this, Obama said, could help “shake up the current system, create better incentives for colleges to do more with less and deliver better value for students and their families.” The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
OBAMA PLAN DRAWS MIXED REVIEWS
President Obama continues his three-campus "college cost" bus tour on Friday, promoting his plans to make college more affordable through a mix of carrots and sticks. The heart of the proposals is a controversial plan to rate colleges based on measures of access, affordability, and student outcomes, and to allocate aid based on those ratings. Under the plan, students attending higher-rated institutions could obtain larger Pell Grants and more-affordable loans. The Obama administration and its supporters say the ratings would empower consumers with fresh information and would pressure colleges to keep costs down. But skeptics worried about the unintended consequences of the president's plan, predicting that colleges would seek to improve their ratings by turning away at-risk students or by dumbing down their standards. They urged the administration to use caution in choosing the measures it will use to judge colleges. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
THE COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON GOOD
Charles Blow writes in The New York Times: The Obama administration strongly supports the Common Core, and the American Federation of Teachers endorses it. The president of the United Federation of Teachers says that most teachers agree it should be implemented. And, according to CoreStandards.org, “45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activities have adopted the Common Core State Standards.” This seemed like a sure thing. The problem is that, in some states, Common Core testing has been implemented before teachers, or the public for that matter, have been instructed in how to teach students using the new standards. This means that, when students score poorly on the more rigorous Common Core-based tests, it threatens to cause a backlash among parents, who increasingly see testing as the problem, not the solution.
DEAL ORDERS REVIEW OF COMMON CORE
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has ordered a sweeping review of the Common Core State Standards and asked the state board to "formally un-adopt" a part of the program that includes sample English test selections that infuriated some parents. Deal also asked the board to develop a new social studies curriculum that emphasizes, among other aspects, civic and fiscal responsibility. The article is in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Some of the News Fit to Print
POLLS REACH DIFFERENT CONCLUSIONS ON TEACHER EVALUATIONS TIED TO SCORES
So just what does the public make of the recent move to tie student test scores to teacher evaluation? You won't get a straightforward answer from a bunch of polls that all dropped just this week, which found rather disparate responses to the question. The first poll, released by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, reported that 53 percent of parents polled said changes in students' statewide test scores should be used either "a great deal" or "quite a bit" in teachers' evaluations compared with 20 percent who said "only a little" or "not at all." But the PDK/Gallup poll, released yesterday, had a different response. It found that 58 percent of adults surveyed opposed state requirements that teacher evaluations "include how well a teacher's students perform on standardized tests," an increase from the last time it asked the question. The post is from Education Week’s Teacher Beat blog.
PETITION DRIVE TO PULL MAINE OUT OF COMMON CORE
AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Equal Rights Center announced Wednesday that it will launch a citizens’ petition campaign to repeal Maine’s reliance on a set of education standards used in 45 states. The ballot question, which would go to a November 2014 referendum if petitioners gather enough valid signatures, is the first of its kind in the country. Heidi Sampson, a member of the state Board of Education and the Maine Charter School Commission, co-founded a group called No Common Core Maine, which is partnering with the Maine Equal Rights Center on the initiative. Opponents of Common Core characterize it as part of an attempt to nationalize public education and an erosion of local control. The article is in the Bangor Daily News.
DEVELOPING GRIT IN THE CLASSROOM
In his much-referenced book How Children Succeed, author Paul Tough draws on dozens of studies that point to perseverance, "grit," and other non-cognitive skills as critical factors in students' success. At the same time, researchers like James Heckman of the University of Chicago have demonstrated that living in poverty can affect children's development of these skills. Education Week Teacher asked educators: What role do you think traits like grit play in academic achievement? What steps are you taking in your classroom this year to help high-needs students to build such non-cognitive skills? What steps do you think administrators should take? Policymakers?
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OBAMA PLAN AIMS TO LOWER COST OF COLLEGE
President Obama announced a set of ambitious proposals on Thursday aimed at making colleges more accountable and affordable by rating them and ultimately linking those ratings to financial aid. A draft of the proposal, obtained by The New York Times and likely to cause some consternation among colleges, shows a plan to rate colleges before the 2015 school year based on measures like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend. The ratings would compare colleges against their peer institutions. If the plan can win Congressional approval, the idea is to base federal financial aid to students attending the colleges partly on those rankings. “All the things we’re measuring are important for students choosing a college,” a senior administration official said. “It’s important to us that colleges offer good value for their tuition dollars, and that higher education offer families a degree of security so students aren’t left with debt they can’t pay back.”
Amid a national debate about how the federal financial aid system could be improved, a new study shows that an increased amount of need-based aid with no strings attached can have positive, long-term effects for low-income students. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
STUDENTS NOT PREPARED FOR RIGOR OF COLLEGE, ACT DATA SHOW
The report released today by the Iowa City, Iowa-based organization found just 39% of test-takers in the class of 2013 met three or more of the ACT college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading, science, and math. Nearly one-third did not meet any. View the new ACT report on college readiness. The article is in Education Week.
MOST AMERICANS UNAWARE OF COMMON CORE
Nearly two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, and among those who have, fewer than half believe the new, more rigorous academic goals in English/language arts and mathematics adopted by all but four states so far will make the United States more competitive in the world, according to a new poll from Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup. The article is in Education Week.
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OBAMA TO OFFER PLANS TO EASE BURDEN OF PAYING FOR COLLEGE
WASHINGTON — President Obama will offer a series of proposals this week aimed at making college more affordable by reshaping the way Americans pay for higher education, he said in an e-mail to supporters on Tuesday. In the message, Mr. Obama promised to take action to confront the financial challenges facing an increasing number of students and their families. The average tuition at four-year colleges has tripled over the past three decades, and students who take out loans are left, on average, with $26,000 in debt, he said. The article is in The New York Times.
UDACITY CEO FIRES BACK AT CRITICS
After a summer of unexpected setbacks and amid a growing chorus of doubt, Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun on Tuesday dismissed the idea that his company's model for high-quality, low-cost education isn't working. Speaking to Information Week, Thrun said the MOOC provider has almost "found the magic formula" for how to produce and run its online courses. Udacity hit a major snag last month after disappointing results led one of its two university partners, San Jose State University, to pause its partnership. According to a leaked report, students enrolled in the $150 classes provided by Udacity performed much worse than their peers in traditional courses -- especially in remedial math. Thrun maintains the data was published "in an incomplete form, with a very strong bias," and that results from summer courses will show that more than half of the students passed their courses. Thrun said the numbers should provide an incentive for San Jose State to resume the partnership in 2014.This information is from Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes.