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December 04, 2012 4 min read
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| NEWS | State EdWatch

Jeb Bush Urges Firm Stance on Education Policy

Jeb Bush, whose political aspirations are a favorite source of speculation in Washington, urged attendees at an education conference he organized in the nation’s capital to act as aggressive champions of contentious school policies—regardless of the political fallout.

The Republican and former Florida governor spoke last week at the fifth annual national summit hosted by an advocacy organization he leads, the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

That group is devoted to promoting a schools agenda that closely mirrors the often-divisive one that Bush backed while in office, pieces of which have been emulated in other Republican-led states.

Bush spoke to a packed house, promoting his favored policies in areas such as private school vouchers, test-based accountability, tougher forms of teacher evaluation, and school technology.

The former governor depicted the need to improve the United States’ education system in stark terms, arguing that dismal school performance in too many of the nation’s districts leads to increased crime and squandered economic opportunities, hurts families, and threatens the country’s standing in the world.

Bush repeatedly warned elected officials and others against settling for politically popular education policies.

“There will be pushbacks galore, going forward,” he said. He cited controversial efforts by states to move away from paying teachers based mostly on longevity to systems in which educators are evaluated on student improvement.

Bush praised states that he said are standing firm on strong standards and tests. When test scores are low, opponents vilify the tests, or “kill the messenger,” Bush said, rather than looking inward.

He credited Kentucky officials for creating new tests based on the Common Core State Standards—standards that Bush supports, despite opposition among some conservatives. Test scores in Kentucky have plummeted, but Bush said the state is shining a light on students’ academic weaknesses.

—Sean Cavanagh

| NEWS | BookMarks

Website Tackles Debate on Digital Textbooks

The rise of digital textbooks has fueled considerable discussion in the K-12 community. Now, ProCon.org, a nonprofit organization devoted to gathering reliable information to support both sides of controversial issues, gets in the game with Tablets vs. Textbooks, a newly launched “issue site” that aims to promote “critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship” by laying out reasoning for and against widespread tablet use in schools in a “straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format.”

Statistics and projections cited in the “Background” section of the new site point to reasons why tablets may be the timely choice for schools and districts shopping for instructional materials, including the increased consumption of and familiarity with digital media among young people.

The arguments ProCon.org lists against districtwide or schoolwide tablet plans emphasize the slow-moving nature of K-12 publishing, among several other factors. Implementing a districtwide tablet strategy comes with a serious hurdle: high initial expense. Ongoing technology-access issues—like limited broadband in low-income and rural communities—further the argument against mandatory tablet use in schools.

—Amy Wickner

| NEWS | Marketplace K-12

Former Ore. Students Sue Over Siemens Scholarships

Two former Oregon students are suing the Siemens Foundation for breach of contract, claiming they have yet to receive a $100,000 scholarship after winning the 2010 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, according to a recently filed legal complaint, The Oregonian reports.

The Siemens Foundation “has failed and refused to pay the $50,000 scholarship,” won by each team member, according to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 13 in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The Siemens competition is a premier contest, administered by the College Board and funded by the Siemens Foundation, a nonprofit based in Iselin, N.J.

Akash Krishnan and Matthew Fernandez were juniors at Oregon Episcopal School when they entered the prestigious science competition. Their winning entry, a computerized system with software that would identify emotions in human voices, was announced on Dec. 6, 2010.

Krishnan and Fernandez planned for the winnings to go toward their tuition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, respectively, where the two are currently freshmen, according to the legal complaint.

But the foundation maintains that “the results for the 2010 $100K Siemens Competition Team Winners, Akash Krishnan and Matthew P. Fernandez, are in dispute,” Siemens Vice President of Corporate Affairs Camille Johnston wrote in an email. The foundation would not comment further due to the litigation.

To enter, students must be enrolled in grades 9-12 at a high school, a U.S. Department of Defense school, an overseas American or international school, a foreign school, or home school, according to the competition’s website.

Portland attorney Jan Kitchel, who is representing Krishnan and Fernandez, said he is not aware of any complaint that the young winners were ineligible to qualify for the competition. The students are no longer listed as 2010 winners on the Siemens Foundation website.

—Nikhita Venugopal

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2012 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week


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