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  1. At the end of the last House Rules Committee hearing on Common Core repeal, the chair halted testimony late in the evening saying that the next witness (a supporter of the bill) was so important that more committee members should be here to hear her. Well, the heck with that. Supposedly, there’s going to be a Rules Committee hearing tomorrow with no further testimony and a possible vote on the bill. Why the change of tack? The chair now double-negatively says, “I'm not sure that at this point that we haven't heard what everybody possibly has to say." And the bill’s co-sponsor says, "I was ready to vote it out a while ago.” Hmmmm... We shall see. Link (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Back in the real world, the state superintendent has approved an updated academic recovery plan for Youngstown City Schools, which gives more authority to the academic distress commission over the school board. It also limits the number of school board meetings to two per month. How’s that for intestinal fortitude? Oh, and it also sets some very concrete goals for both the short- and the long-term to improve the district’s academic performance. Not exactly the state
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In January, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education (ED) issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter to K–12 schools. The letter calls into question whether minority children are punished more harshly than white children for the same infractions. The letter notes that schools could be guilty of discrimination in one of two ways: If a student is treated differently because of his or her race, or if a neutral policy has a “disparate impact.”

While the first method of determining discrimination is clear and fair, the second method is far more open to interpretation.  The letter explains that “examples of policies that can raise disparate impact concerns include policies that impose mandatory suspension, expulsion, or citation upon any student who commits a specified offense.” What the departments are suggesting here is that zero-tolerance policies, which impose a specific penalty for a specific offense, could have a disparate impact on minority students and may be discriminatory.

The disparate impact analysis forces the DOJ and ED into the murky water of differentiating between strict enforcement of zero-tolerance policies that are necessary to meeting educational goals and selective...

The Carnegie Science Center recently published a multi-faceted look at STEM education in a seventeen-county area encompassing parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The impetus of the study was a perceived "STEM gap"—employers in the region report having difficulty finding individuals with the requisite technical skills to fill vacant positions. Campos Research Strategy conducted in-depth interviews with educators and business leaders, surveyed nearly 1000 parents of school-age children in the region, held “family dialogues,” and conducted an online survey of one hundred middle and high school students. Efforts were made to balance participants among the counties and between rural and urban areas. Despite high hopes for STEM education among business, industry, and education leaders, the study found that parents’ and students’ awareness and understanding of what STEM is and how it might benefit them or their children is low. Awareness of STEM seems highest in urban areas in the region, but parents’ interest in STEM-related fields for their children is lowest in those same places. A majority of parents participating in the study indicated that their underlying attitudes toward education and careers aligned with many STEM fundamentals, but the typical language of STEM education and careers did not...

  • Cheers to the team at KIPP Columbus, whose brand-new school building hosted an open house on October 26. The incredible school building, beautiful wooded grounds in the heart of the city, and motivated staff combine to create a learning environment unparalleled in Columbus. Check out the pictures at the link above and go visit if you can. Great stuff.
  • Jeers to those in the Monroe Local School district—board members and citizens alike—who have spent years blocking a local church group from buying a mothballed high school. Their boundless ire has now attracted the attention of an outside organization objecting to the latest offer on church-state grounds. The delayed sale has already cost the district money it can’t afford to waste with the potential for much more if a court case ensues. What was already a giant mess threatens to turn into a proper train wreck for no good reason, to the further detriment of students.
  • Cheers to the staff of School Choice Ohio, who recently unveiled a nifty online voucher-eligibility tool to give families some initial information about whether their child can participate in one of Ohio’s programs. Voucher-eligibility rules are fairly opaque for many parents, with
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POWER IN A UNION
The American Federation of Teachers will spend a record-breaking $20 million on this year's elections. Across the states, teachers are going door to door to speak out against Republican governors. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the AFT’s biggest target this cycle, alongside Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, the last of whom is probably already planning his own teaching career following a near-certain election defeat.

TEST QUESTIONS
The College Board, owners of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), plan to make public the number of international students who take the SAT each year. It is generally thought that the majority of international test-takers come from China and South Korea and go on to apply to undergraduate programs at U.S. colleges. 

SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE
The Democrats have historically been the party of the teachers’ unions. However, as this election cycle has shown, that may no longer be the case. In California, two Democrats with very different views on education are vying for the position of state superintendent of public education....

  1. One year ago, a teacher testified in front of the House Education Committee – at length and near tears – about his opposition to Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee during a Common Core repeal hearing. The committee chair listened politely and then noted to the witness that TGRG had nothing to do with Common Core. The teacher responded, “Well, I kind of lump all those things together.” Fast forward to November 2014 and a new kind of lumping is going on: Common Core and overall “test-mania”. Here is a report on how some teachers and administrators in Columbus’ suburbs feel about overtesting – not just the new PARCC exams, but every bit of testing they are being asked to do. I personally would urge caution in this lumping because the baby is still in the bath. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. Back in the real world, editors in Columbus opined in praise of KIPP Columbus over the weekend. New school building means new opportunities for more students. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. Speaking of charter schools, Canton College Prep School added three grade levels and doubled its student population in its second year, necessitating a move to a new and larger location,
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ELECTION CRAMMING
With Election Day fast approaching, there’s only so much time to familiarize yourself with the races, candidates, and issues at play. That’s where Education Week’s election guide comes in: A compendium of state and local races, it’s a one-stop shop for all the education-related angles to the midterms, right down to ballot issues and state education races.

WEEKEND READING
The Washington Post’s T. Rees Shapiro has a lovely look at the life of Ruth T. Bedford, a Standard Oil heiress who left a $40 million bequest to her Virginia high school. Bedford, who died in June, led a colorful life that saw her breed thoroughbred racehorses, work with the Red Cross during World War II, and conquer the skies as an early aviatrix. Administrators at her alma mater, the all-girl’s Foxcroft School, were reportedly stunned at the gift.

VOLUNTEERING INFORMATION
Tennessee’s Department of Education has released its annual report card on local schools, and Chalkbeat Tennessee has a good overview. Among their observation, there’s one thing to celebrate: In keeping with the one and only Michael Brickman’s entreaties,...

Joe Portnoy, the king of new media, has been with Fordham for the last four years and is now headed to shake things up at the Department of Education. Arne, now that you have nabbed our new-media manager, we suggest that you take some of our policy advice, too. (See here, here, and here.)

Here are some of our favorite new-media products, thanks to Joe:

A Nation at Risk: 30 years later

Thirty years ago, A Nation at Risk was released to a surprised country. Suddenly, Americans woke up to learn that SAT scores were plummeting and children were learning a lot less than before. Due in large part to this report, education reform today is serious about standards, quality, assessment, accountability, and benchmarking—by school, district, state, and nation. Yet we still have many miles to go before we sleep. Our students still need to learn far more, and our schools need to become far more effective.

Is America Education Coming Apart? A Lunchtime Lecture with Charles Murray

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  1. The board of education of Monroe Local Schools is set to vote Monday on whether or not to sell their long-mothballed high school to a local church. Ahead of that vote, district lawyers assured the board that they would prevail in any church-state court case that might arise, and two more possible buyers have (sort of) emerged. (Middletown Journal-News)
     
  2. The long-simmering efforts to merge the Cardinal and Ledgemont school districts in Geauga County will probably take a decisive turn next week. Despite the assistance of the General Assembly and the governor to smooth the process, despite this week’s report from the County Auditor on the fiscal benefits of a merger, despite the urging of both districts’ superintendents, it will come down to next week’s levy votes in Ledgemont. If one or both fail, it’s hard to see how a merger won’t be absolutely necessary. (Willoughby News-Herald)
     
  3. Two Kent State University professors are leading a project called Making Mathematics Mobile, to develop a website to assist K-12 teachers in locating helpful mobile tools for teaching and learning mathematics, especially those that are properly Common Core-aligned. Call it the Good Mathkeeping Seal of Approval. (Kentwired)
     
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BIG APPLE RETHINKING PRESCHOOL
New York City's preschool program is undergoing a year-long assessment to determine the quality of classroom environments and teacher-student interactions, as well as gauge how citywide expansion is going. Currently, about 50,000 students are served by the pre-K programs, with plans to reach 70,000 children by next year.

PARCC LIFE
Results from a poll by George Washington University's Center on Education Policy shows that schools feel unprepared logistically for the administration of new PARCC and Smarter Balanced exams in the spring. The new assessments, which are aligned to Common Core, will be delivered online, allowing for faster scoring and more accurate data collection. Fordham’s own Aaron Churchill chipped in with a sensational article on PARCC implementation earlier this month.

MICHIGAN CONSIDERING STEM CERTIFICATION
Michigan lawmakers are considering two bills that would allow high school seniors to pursue a STEM certification upon graduation. While specific curriculum is still being decided, both policymakers and STEM experts agree that students need theory and practical application if they want to translate their knowledge to the workforce. For more on...

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