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March 06, 2012 3 min read
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| NEWS | STATE EDWATCH

Calif. Charters Rank On Top and Bottom

California charter schools are more likely than noncharters to be among the states’ top performers, but also more likely to be among the laggards, a new report concludes.

The second annual “Portrait of the Movement,” released by the California Charter Schools Association last month, offers a mixed picture of the sector’s standing, compared with traditional public schools. But the association also sees a number of bright spots, including the relatively strong performance of charters in serving students from poor backgrounds.

The association represents 982 charter schools across the state. It ranks schools on an accountability measure that assesses school performance while filtering out nonschool factors affecting student achievement through a statistical method known as regression-based predictive modeling.

The report finds a “U-shaped” distribution for charter schools, meaning they were more likely both to exceed their predicted performance compared with noncharters, based on student background, and—to a lesser extent—underperform.

It concludes that 14.7 percent of charters were in the top 5 percent of California schools, well above the 4 percent of noncharters in that category. But 12.7 percent of charters showed up in the bottom 5 percent of performance, compared to just 4.2 percent of noncharters.

—Sean Cavanagh

| NEWS | MARKETPLACE K-12

Financial Report: Pearson Going Digital

Pearson, one of the world’s largest textbook publishers, generated one-third of its sales from digital products and services, the company announced in its 2011 financial report last week.

Digital revenues were up 18 percent in 2011, totaling more than $3 billion. Overall, the company’s sales were up 6 percent, reaching $9.3 billion, and its operating profits were up 12 percent, to about $1.5 billion. Earnings per share also increased 12 percent.

Nearly half of Pearson’s business is in North American education, for which sales and profits remained mostly stagnant this year. But the company’s shift to digital can still be seen in its approach to education, where it now offers a wide range of electronic services, beyond its typical bedrock of print textbooks and testing. The company offers learning-management systems for teachers to track students, software that individualizes instruction (through its $230 million purchase of Schoolnet last year), and electronic, interactive textbooks, through a partnership with Apple.

But while Pearson believes its increasingly digital position is the best for its future, the stagnancy in domestic education sales suggests the marketplace isn’t shifting quite as quickly.

A major hindrance in American K-12 curriculum and assessment sales is the sluggish spending at the state and district levels, specifically in advance of the Common Core State Standards, said Will Ethridge, the chief executive of North American education for Pearson.

The opportunities for education publishers are fading as well. The U.S. textbook market is down 9 percent, and money spent on new adoptions of textbooks dropped to $650 million from $800 million the year before, according to the Association of American Publishers.

—Jason Tomassini

| NEWS | LEARNING THE LANGUAGE

Teaching Standards in Central States Vary for English-Learners

As the number of students learning English climbs steadily upward in states like Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas, teachers across the spectrum are in need of resources and training to help them develop instructional strategies and skills to work with English-language learners.

Last week, the Institute for Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, put out a new report that aims to help teachers in seven states in the central part of the United States, where educators may have little to no experience working with English-learners.

The report spells out what K-8 general education teachers are expected to know and be able to do to teach ELLs.

The report—which goes into much more detail about each of the states—was put together by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central, on behalf of the IES.

—Lesli A. Maxwell

A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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