Education Policy & Practice

Archive for the ‘States’ Category

I was listening to my local NPR station this morning, as part of my usual routine.  The host, Steve Inskeep, talked about the controversial mass firing of educators a local high school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, effective at the end of the school year.  Apparently, only 7% of juniors scored proficient on the state math assessment.  The high school’s population is majority Hispanic, where more than 30% of students speak English as a second language.

Despite the fact that all teachers were fired, up to 50% can be rehired.  One teacher, who said she’s been at the school for more than 20 years, said that what people don’t seem to realize is that the kids come to school with significant challenges and that poverty is a major culprit – cue the violin.  A senior added that she thought canning the teachers was unfair and that the teachers care and have formed bonds with the students – then she cried.

What is the best remedy?  I don’t think a mass firing is the right thing to do, although I must admit that the impulsive side of me thinks that decision is spot on.  Certainly, whatever the “formula” is at Central Falls High School has unequivocally failed.  I am still trying to comprehend a 7% passing rate on a state math assessment.  I don’t care – really I don’t – about the composition of the student body.  Why? Because whatever the composition, I believe the adults should adjust.

So, you have a significant number of students whose first language isn’t English, then adjust your strategies to address that.  And “oh we have a lot of poor kids.”  So what?  Poor kids are learning in other places.  I am not suggesting that when the rubber meets the road everything will be magical.  But what I am suggesting, is that building level staff, district officials, public administrators, state education officials and state administrators (here and everywhere) need to do what is right for kids.  And what is not right, is allowing (or enabling) a school staff, including the principal, to continue welcoming students to a sinking ship, a burning building, or <insert any other imagery that makes sense to you>.

I think the situation in Central Falls is sad.  I don’t know the intimate details about the context of this situation, so please take my above comments more as general statements about schools in a similar position, and not as an attack or criticism of those precious souls entangled in a situation that not a single one of them created.   Perhaps some students are lazy, disengaged, or otherwise not willing to learn.  Perhaps parents are not parenting.  Maybe teachers have written some of these kids off as failures. Students still deserve a superior education and sincere effort from all those involved.  I hope you see that this is not just an education issue.  The problems we see manifesting themselves in school are only symptomatic of what ails families, communities, and our entire country.

Read more:

Projo.com

Washington Post

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Texas school districts are waiting to hear whether the state will provide special relief for low attendance as a result of the swine flu.  School funding in Texas, like other states, is tied to student daily attendance.  Average Daily Attendance (ADA), according to federal legislation, is the aggregate number of days of attendance of all students during the school year divided by the number of days school is in session during that year.

According to The Dallas Morning News, school districts won’t find out until next year whether the state will help. Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has issued a statement that no decision will be made until he sees whether the flu re-emerges next year.  Some districts could lose up to $2 million.

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stimulus

A recent Education Week article takes a look at how states are considering using millions in federal stimulus aid–aid intended to directly support schools. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has set aside $115 billion in education aid to states, but apparently some states want to tinker with school budgets in order to make up for the state budget shortfall. I can appreciate the states’ dilemma: Governors are constitutionally bound to balance the state budget; in other words, state constitutions generally prohibit governors from taking on debt. States see a massive wave of education funding coming their way. Well, they can’t take that money to directly plug in the state budget gaps. The solution? Slash education budgets my millions of dollars and then use the federal education stimulus aid to make up that difference. That’s good in theory. One of the stipulations of receiving education stimulus aid is that states must continue to finance schools with STATE DOLLARS at 2006 levels.

For states who would seek to exploit any loopholes and/or vague language in the bill, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has put out a warning:

“We’re putting out literally billions of dollars. We’re also holding back billions of dollars. If we see states doing things that don’t make sense and aren’t in the spirit of what this [stimulus aid] is about, they would put themselves in jeopardy of receiving the second set of money.”

Really, people? While I understand the temptation, the fact of the matter is that this portion of stimulus money is to be used for education, not to balance state budgets. Second, is the consequence of misuse of funds as weak as not getting a second round of funding? My guess is that some states might be willing to “suffer” that consequence. The sad part is that our children are the losers in that scenario. The threat of sanctions that restrict education funding may not be enough to prevent actions that states can justify that will allow officials to sleep at night.

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Education Policy & Practice

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