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| NEWS | College Bound
College and K-12 administrators know they need to work together to move the dial on student achievement, yet a new report shows many acknowledge they are not collaborating effectively.
Hart Research Associates and edBridge Partners conducted a telephone survey last fall of 104 public school district superintendents and 101 leaders of public and private two- and four-year college and university systems, based on a national sample. Working with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the School Superintendents Association, or AASA, the findings were compiled in a recent report, "The Collaborative Imperative."
The survey found that most district superintendents (90 percent) and college system heads (80 percent) say that collaboration between the two sectors is extremely or very important, yet just about a third of respondents in each of those groups say they are actually collaborating extremely or very effectively.
When it comes to priorities for collaboration, 28 percent of district leaders and 22 percent of college leaders say the alignment of K-12 and higher education programs of study is most important, while 18 percent of leaders from districts and 30 percent from colleges feel student services to ease the transition from high school to college should be the focus of their work together. Higher education leaders were more likely to cite budget constraints as a barrier to collaboration, while districts said there were so many challenges facing them that it was difficult to make collaboration a priority.
The report recognizes the barriers of time and resources in building relationships, but offers hope.
"Although not insurmountable, these barriers especially require fresh and innovative thinking about how resources can be marshaled or pooled if we are serious about functioning as a coherent educational system, rather than separate sectors," the report says. "We especially recognize the promise of regional collaboration, organized among schools and colleges who share students and teachers in common and who, therefore, have clear connections to shared outcomes and compelling overlapping interests."
–Caralee J. Adams
| NEWS | Time and Learning
What is the best amount, and best use, of class time? Is it better to have more contact time between students and teachers—or to make sure teachers have lots of time on their own at school to make sure their instruction is tip-top? Where should the balance be struck?
Those are questions raised by a Utah bill that would allow districts to use up to eight class days annually for professional development. A state Senate panel advanced the legislation last week, reports the Daily Herald.
Utah's current funding formula requires schools to meet a 180-day class-time requirement, but the bill would free districts from financial penalty for holding fewer days as long as they were used for professional development.
Sen. Aaron Osmond, the bill's sponsor, argued before the committee that the extra days would help teachers become better at their jobs, according to the Herald.
The Utah Education Association recognized the Republican's attempt at finding a way to give teachers more professional-development opportunities but is concerned that fewer instructional days will not benefit Utah students.
The debate is especially interesting considering that most policy discussions on the use of learning time have been about increasing class time, not reducing it, especially as schools work on common-core implementation. But more instructional time may not be beneficial unless the additional instruction itself is high-quality.
Of course, eight days of professional development may not be a panacea, especially given that so little is known about what constitutes good PD.
| NEWS | Rules for Engagement
A recent site that went viral on the blogging platform Tumblr, called "Selfies With Homeless People," is, well, exactly what it sounds like.
The site's creator is Jason Feifer, who also created "Selfies at Funerals," which is also exactly what it sounds like. Feifer has developed a pretty big following for his ability to curate insensitive social-media content from various corners of the Internet on a website designed to shame the creators. But that concept doesn't seem to stop young people from snapping photos in front of other human beings in an inhumane way.
Educators, enthusiastic about social-emotional learning and developing empathy, have a natural interest in discussing these issues with their students. But that interest grows stronger when students turn inappropriate online activity toward each other. In recent years, states have passed cyberbullying statutes, requiring districts to set policies for addressing online postings that interfere with the learning environment, even if those postings were made outside the school day.
All this gives context to an effort by Maryland's Montgomery County district to form a Cybercivility Task Force. Made up of community members and parents, it will "develop strategies to raise awareness of the need for cybercivility in how students and adults communicate online. It will also guide the creation of tools for schools, parents, and community members that encourage conversations about cybercivility," the district says.
You may remember that Joshua Starr, the district's superintendent, published an open letter to the community after he received death threats on Twitter from students demanding a snow day.
| NEWS | Politics K-12
Deep in a new Government Accountability Office report about the federal Investing in Innovation program is an interesting nugget of information: "The majority of i3 projects use teacher and principal development as one method to achieve goals."
Sixty-two of 92 i3 projects awarded money in 2010 through 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education use teacher and principal professional development as a key strategy, the GAO found in a report released Feb. 7. Of those, half of the projects use professional development as the "primary or sole method underlying their innovations," the report says.
When you look at the sheer dollars, the GAO found that $457 million is being spent on professional development as part of the i3 program. (All told, from 2010 to 2012 the Education Department awarded $937 million in i3 grants.)
The GAO report says one of the first reports evaluating the i3 program and its 2010 first-round awards is due in 2016.
| NEWS | Politics K-12
U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, said he wants to stay in his role in the next Congress. There's been talk that Rep. Kline, who stepped in to take the committee's ranking member slot in the middle of a congressional session, would need a waiver to remain in his post after this Congress. (There are term limits for some congressional leadership posts.)
"I'd like to be chairman again," Kline told Politics K-12. While the process is still a little murky, "I'll be making my case to my colleagues and peers that I ought to be chairman again," he said.
| NEWS | On Special Education
Families are often not told if their children are being secluded or restrained at school, they often have problems getting information about the frequency or duration of such occurrences, and current regulations make it hard to fight such practices, according a majority staff report from the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
The report was released at the same time that the committee's chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, re-introduced a bill that would ban the use of seclusion in schools and severely restrict the use of restraints.
The staff report noted that there are no regulations on their use in schools. The techniques were used 66,000 times in a single school year, according to U.S. Department of Education data for the 2009-10 school year.
–Christina A. Samuels
| NEWS | State Edwatch
One of the major criticisms of states' adoption of the Common Core State Standards is the role of the federal government. Critics argue that the federal government, through Race to the Top grants, essentially strong-armed states, still reeling in the wake of the Great Recession and seeking additional revenue, into adopting the standards, which were seen as good policy by the U.S. Department of Education. The common core was generally understood to be very helpful, if not essential, to states' Race to the Top competitive-grant applications.
But does the rebuke by many states of the Medicaid expansion show that states are not so easily coerced by the federal government—and its money—after all? Can common core's adoption be compared to decisions states faced regarding Medicaid expansion?
Education Week examined states' decisions about common-core adoption during the first two rounds of Race to the Top grants, as well as states' decisions about whether to expand Medicaid through the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. This examination showed that 17 states sought Race to the Top funds in the first two rounds and adopted (or announced plans to adopt) the common core, and also have declined to expand Medicaid following the U.S. Supreme Court's Obamacare ruling in 2012 that gave states discretion on the matter. These states include Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Do these states undercut the argument that state governments can't resist the pull of incentivized Washington money?
There are a few issues and points to make with the comparison:
• Content standards, while an important part of Race to the Top applications, weren't the only factor in obtaining grant money. But the key question for Medicaid expansion has been relatively clear for states: Do you want to expand the program or not?
• State budgets were in considerably worst shape in 2010 (when the first two rounds of Race to the Top grants were issued) than in 2012 and 2013, when states were deciding on Medicaid expansion. At the same time, Medicaid expansion promises states significantly more federal money.
• Obamacare, and by extension Medicaid expansion, is generally much more politically controversial than the common core and Race to the Top.
• Perhaps the true costs of implementing the common core aren't as clear as the costs of expanding Medicaid, although the latter isn't cost-free for states despite the large influx of federal money.
Vol. 33, Issue 21, Pages 14, 25Published in Print: February 19, 2014, as Blogs