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May 06, 2014 10 min read
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| NEWS | Teacher Beat

Model Ethics Standards for Educators Being Developed by Certification Group

Rules for teachers and other educators vary greatly by state. This extends to misconduct, a topic that’s certainly been in the news in recent months.

Now a group wants to craft a model code of ethics for educators, to better inform states and the field about what best practices in this much-debated area look like.

The (take a deep breath for air) National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, or NASDTEC, announced last month that it has tapped 20 educators from across the states to sit on a task force to develop the model code.

“Each state or jurisdiction has its own laws and rules,” the initiative’s website states. “These disparities diminish the ability of the education profession to establish for itself the baseline behaviors that society can and should expect of professional educators, and indeed what a practitioner can and should expect of him or herself.”

Representatives will include teachers, superintendents, principals, and paraprofessionals. The group will have its first meeting in Baltimore in June and will release the standards within one year.

–Stephen Sawchuk

| NEWS | Marketplace K-12

Schools May Be on Internet Slow Track if Proposed FCC Rules Are Adopted

Questions have arisen about whether schools will have to stand in line for acceptable speeds of Internet access under proposed new rules floated by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The proposed rules would affect “net neutrality,” which refers to the open and free flow of content on the Internet, regardless of where it originates. The new rules would leave an opening for broadband Internet providers like Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable to give preferential treatment to content providers that pay for the privilege of higher-priority service.

Creating a “fast lane” online is seen as a plus for large companies like Apple, Netflix, Google, and YouTube, which could enter into agreements to get speedier service for the content they deliver.

For schools, the issue is more problematic. Unless educational services are offered preferential treatment by providers, “schools could find themselves even further challenged to make use of digital learning tools and services,” Douglas Levin, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, said in an email.

The proposed rules could impact ed-tech companies, too. Larger ones might be well-positioned to pay for fast-lane service, while smaller ones and startups could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, said Amina Fazlullah, the policy director of the Benton Foundation, which works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest.

Levin considered it ironic that the FCC would even consider a decision “with such sweeping potential negative impact on schools,” at the same time it is working on restructuring the E-rate, which allows schools and libraries to buy telecommunications services at discounted prices.

–Michele Molnar

| NEWS | Curriculum Matters

The Common Core’s Role in Standardized Testing

In the various streams of argument that have been mounted against the Common Core State Standards, an increasingly common theme is that the common core is what’s driving the standardized testing that many find objectionable.

But the argument that the common core is responsible for testing, no matter how deeply reviled, is going curiously unchallenged. It’s true that the common-core standards arrive in schools with a set of federally funded assessments. Nearly every state signed on to use those tests initially, but more and more are breaking away to do their own thing.

That said, all but five states have adopted the standards, so they need tests that reflect those new expectations. Whether they use PARCC, Smarter Balanced, or some other test is their call. But they’re bound by No Child Left Behind—or agreements they made with the U.S. Department of Education to get waivers from provisions of that law—to assess how their students are progressing.

Whether the common-core assessments, of any stripe, represent more or less testing depends on where you live and on what test your state uses. But the new standards, unveiled in 2010, did not mandate standardized testing in the schools. Credit for that sea change goes to No Child Left Behind, approved with bipartisan support and inked with Republican President George W. Bush’s signature, in January 2002.

–Catherine Gewertz

| NEWS | State EdWatch

Indiana Finally Approves Standards to Take Place of Common Core

Ending a long policy and political saga, the Indiana state board of education voted April 28 to adopt new standards in English/language arts and math to replace the state’s 2010 adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

The new standards are a hybrid of the common core and prior Indiana academic standards, and analysts have remarked that these new standards are in large part very similar, if not identical, to the common core in many areas.

The previous week, at the state’s education roundtable, Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, who lead the group, both voted in favor of the new standards along with the vast majority of the rest of the members. That vote from the roundtable, a group of state officials and business leaders charged with finding ways to improve student achievement, led to the state board’s vote a week later.

Before the final vote, several people testified to the state board about why they believed it should not adopt the standards. Criticisms focused on the similarity of the new standards to the common core. There were also complaints that the process didn’t really give enough oxygen to common-core opponents, and critiques of the process of developing and considering the new standards.

The next fight for the state is likely to come over picking a new assessment that fits with what will be unique standards. The state’s prior assessment, the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, or ISTEP, is in place for 2014-15, but after that, it’s up in the air. In political terms, the state board’s vote satisfies Gov. Pence, who can now claim to have lived up to his promise about overseeing homegrown standards—indeed, he said after the roundtable’s vote that the state had said “no to the common core,” although that statement, again, is debatable. The state board can claim a resolution to the months of work developing new standards. And common-core supporters can take great satisfaction in the new standards, called the Indiana College and Career Ready Standards.

The move leaves many anti-common-core activists bitter about the similarity of the Indiana standards to the common core. In terms of the policy process, those opponents may have no choice but to fold, at least for now. But a few months ago, one opponent, Heather Crossin of Hoosiers Against Common Core, warned that if the standards, then in draft form, were approved, the group hoped to use the issue against Gov. Pence if he seeks re-election in 2016.

–Andrew Ujifusa

| NEWS | State EdWatch

Arkansas State Chief to Move On, Adding to 2014 List of Transitions

Arkansas Commissioner of Education Tom Kimbrell will be leaving his post July 1 to take over as superintendent of the Bryant school district in the state, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported April 24.

Mr. Kimbrell was appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, in 2009. He’s previously served as a teacher, administrator, and superintendent, so his move represents something of a return to familiar territory.

This year, other state education bosses who have departed or announced their upcoming departures include Tom Luna of Idaho (not seeking re-election); Patricia Wright of Virginia (retiring); Diane DeBacker of Kansas (leaving for an education job in the United Arab Emirates); and Mick Zais of South Carolina (not seeking re-election). In addition, John Barge of Georgia is running for governor as a Republican and not seeking another term as state superintendent.

Meanwhile, Rich Crandall of Wyoming was in that state’s top education spot for less than a year before being replaced last month by Cindy Hill—whom Mr. Crandall had effectively replaced thanks to a state law passed last year that was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

In November, the Council of Chief State School Officers reported that the average tenure of a state education chief was two years and seven months.

–Andrew Ujifusa

| NEWS | Rules for Engagement

Ga. Law Allows Guns in Schools for Those With Prior Authorization

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a sweeping gun bill into law April 23 that, among other provisions, will allow a person with written authorization from a public or private school or higher education institution to carry a gun on school property.

State proposals to lift restrictions on “concealed carry” rights in schools experienced a surge in popularity following the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. An Education Week analysis of more than 450 school-safety-related bills filed in 2013 legislative sessions found 84 proposals related to arming school employees and 73 proposals related to easing gun restrictions in certain areas, including school grounds.

Proposals varied. Some allowed any concealed-carry permit holder to bring a gun onto school grounds or to school events. Other bills required school board approval for selected staff members who wished to carry guns at school. Among those measures that actually passed, according to the Council of State Governments:

• An Alabama law authorizes schools in Franklin County to form volunteer security teams and to detail plans for team members to have access to weapons.

• An Arkansas law allows church-run schools to let concealed weapons be carried on school grounds.

• A Kansas law allows school boards or superintendents to authorize employees with concealed-carry permits to carry weapons on school grounds.

• An Oklahoma law permits some authorized carrying of concealed weapons on private school grounds.

• A South Dakota law allows school boards to arm and train school employees, security-staff members, or volunteers as “school sentinels.”

• A Tennessee law allows staff members to carry guns on school grounds with approval from the school board and the completion of an additional 40-hour training course.

While proponents of such measures say that allowing guns on campus will make schools safer, especially in active-shooter situations, critics have said that only trained police officers—if anyone—should carry guns in schools.

–Evie Blad

| NEWS | Politics K-12

Latest Round of Federal ‘i3' Contest Gives Shot at $135 Million in Grants

Applications are now available for schools and nonprofits that want a shot at the largest awards available from this year’s $135 million federal Investing in Innovation grant contest.

Between 10 and 20 “validation” awards, worth up to $12 million each, are expected to be awarded this year, and a maximum of two “scale up” awards, worth up to $20 million. Applications are available from the U.S. Department of Education, and the deadline to apply is June 24.

The department has already started the process for the smallest, or “development,” awards, worth up to $3 million each.

The i3 competition is one of the Obama administration’s signature education improvement levers. The goal is to find and scale up what they deem the best ideas to improve schools. The largest awards are given to ideas with the strongest evidence base, while the smallest awards go to promising, though more experimental, ideas.

This year’s scale-up category will be worth watching, for two reasons. First, the department for the past two years has not awarded any grants in this largest category. And second, the Baltimore-based school turnaround organization Success for All has had the top-scoring, but passed-over, application during those two rounds. It remains to be seen whether the Education Department will hand out a big award this year—and if Success for All will get it.

–Michele McNeil

A version of this article appeared in the May 07, 2014 edition of Education Week as Blogs


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