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| NEWS | Curriculum Matters
A Republican state legislator who is the main proponent of a House bill that would nullify common-core reading and math standards in Kansas hasn't actually read them.
Therein lies one of the most interesting—and potentially disturbing, at least to some—aspects of the debate around the common standards: To what extent is opposition based on the content of the standards themselves—what they actually expect students to know and do—and to what extent is it based on things that have nothing to do with content, such as the federal government's role in getting states to adopt them?
As Willie Dove told the Lawrence Journal-World: "I do not believe it is within the scope of our federal government to put something together when it comes to education."
There has been a lot of publicity given to those who feel that the federal government's offering of incentives constitutes a violation of laws that bar federal officials from mandating local education decisions.
The standards' creators repeatedly point out that while the U.S. Department of Education has encouraged their adoption, that's a far cry from writing or mandating them.
To be sure, there have been critics who have dived into the content of the standards and come up with judgments about their quality and appropriateness. But those kinds of debates are not the ones getting top billing in the aisles of state legislatures.
| NEWS | Marketplace K-12
A new report places Ronald J. Packard, the former CEO of the for-profit education provider K12 Inc., among the country's "highest-paid government workers."*
Why the asterisk?
"They're not who you think they are," asserts the report, released last week by the Center for Media and Democracy.
Based in Madison, Wis., the advocacy group probes the sway that corporations and "front groups" exert on public policy. Its report plays on the criticism directed at public agencies and employees from those who accuse them of taking advantage of taxpayers. The authors redirect that criticism at heads of private organizations that contract with government agencies, including K12, and reap great financial rewards.
The center says Packard earned more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, and notes that it rolled in as K12 achieved lackluster academic showings in some states. He is sarcastically labeled America's highest-paid "teacher," alongside other corporate officials, such as George Zoley, the chief executive of the private prison company GEO Group ("America's highest-paid corrections officer").
| NEWS | Time and Learning
With the latest round of wintry weather, countless schools again are losing precious instructional time. Many districts have already maxed out on their snow days, and educators and policymakers are grappling with how—or whether—to make up the time.
In Michigan, legislation has been introduced that would allow schools to make up missed days by adding minutes to school days already scheduled. Meanwhile, South Carolina is considering a bill that would allow school boards to forgive up to five days of canceled classes for bad weather. Action on the bill has been delayed, though, because of—you guessed it—more bad weather.
And, in line with a recent trend, a district in New Jersey is seeking an alternative solution for this latest round of snow days, opting for a virtual school day instead.
| NEWS | Politics K-12
The U.S. Department of Education has rejected, at least for now, Arkansas' and Utah's requests for one-year delays in implementing the final phase of their teacher-evaluation systems. The reason: Both states asked federal officials for more than just a delay.
In June, the Education Department set up a fast-track, streamlined process to consider requests from No Child Left Behind Act waiver states to delay by one year, until 2016-17, the requirement that teacher evaluations be tied to personnel decisions.
According to letters sent to Arkansas and Utah in December, both states' requests went outside the parameters of that streamlined process. So now the department will consider the requests as part of its more rigorous, lengthier amendment process. (And neither state has had its request approved via the amendment process either, according to the department's waiver website.)
Utah wants to delay its pilot for its student-growth percentiles and student learning objectives, along with full implementation of its student-growth measure, to the 2016-17 school year. And Arkansas wants to delay the use of its student-growth measure until the 2015-16 school year.
The department has yet to announce its decision on four states that want a teacher-evaluation delay: Maryland, Kansas, Washington, and South Dakota.
| NEWS | State EdWatch
The Indiana Department of Education has released a draft version of new content standards for English/language arts and math that would replace the Common Core State Standards that were adopted by the state in 2010. The drafting of the new standards was required under a law approved last year.
According to what the state school board has said, the new Indiana College and Career Ready Standards "represent Indiana sovereignty, demonstrate high levels of quality, and are aligned with nationally and internationally benchmarked definitions of college and career readiness and postsecondary expectations."
The state's Academic Standards Evaluation Panels, which oversaw the creation of the draft content standards, had 27 members, including English and math teachers, as well as English and math professors and professors at schools of education in the state. They compared the current common-core standards with prior Indiana standards and held them up against aforementioned criteria for state standards.
It's still unclear how much and exactly where the draft standards deviate from the common core—at some level, the difference between the two sets of standards may become very minute or nonexistent. And whatever set of standards the state board ultimately adopts, it will still have to select a state assessment aligned to their standards.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education requires states to have assessments that align to their standards. Even states with NCLB law waivers still have to meet this requirement, but the federal Education Department's peer review guidance process to aid that alignment was recently suspended. That review by outside experts doesn't look at the assessments themselves, but rather at states' plans for reviewing and implementing high-quality assessments as they relate to their standards.
The proposed Indiana standards will be up for review for several weeks, including at three meetings where the public can comment. The Indiana Education Roundtable—which is led by Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, and which includes business leaders and members of the education community—is to vote on the draft standards March 31. Finally, the state school board is to vote on the new standards April 9.
Vol. 33, Issue 22, Page 8