Daily News Roundup, August 30, 2013

Perspectives: News You Can Use
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Some of the News Fit to Print

ABOUT K-12

ALL OR NOTHING ON TEACHER ACCOUNTABILITY
Someday, when they write the history of the education-reform movement, future scholars will tug their chins in puzzlement as they ponder today’s obsession with high-stakes teacher evaluations. But not for all the usual reasons that people raise concerns: the worry about whether we’ve got good measures of teacher performance, especially for instructors in subjects other than reading and math; the likelihood that tying achievement to evaluations will spur teaching to the test in ways that warp instruction and curriculum; the futility of trying to “principal-proof” our schools by forcing formulaic, one-size-fits-all evaluation models upon all K–12 campuses; the terrible timingof introducing new evaluation systems at the same time that educators are working to implement the Common Core. No, future historians are far likelier to wonder about the motivation behind the evaluation obsession. Was this a policy designed to identify, and remove, America’s least effective teachers? Or was it a kinder-and-gentler effort to provide critical feedback to instructors so they could improve their craft? If the latter, as some reformers now claim, historians will wonder why we were so insistent on attaching high stakes to these evaluations—determined to “make human-resource decisions” based on the results, as the parlance goes. And if the former, historians will ask: What the heck were they thinking? Did they really believe that teacher evaluations alone would be enough to push bad instructors out of the classroom? The post is from the Fordham Institutes’ Flypaper blog.

HOW MUCH VALUE CAN TEACHERS REALLY ADD TO STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT?
Chris Gilbert blogs in The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet: Teaching is a messy art involving numerous, unpredictable variables and participants, and the learning process spans multiple venues and points in time. A fair evaluation instrument would address this multifaceted reality. The value-added instrument currently utilized in North Carolina and many other states, though, is unfair and inaccurate.

DUNCAN ATTACHES MORE STRINGS TO NCLB WAIVERS
Two years after offering states waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education is expecting states to up the ante on teacher quality if they want another two years of flexibility. Barring a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the current version of the law, this waiver renewal process marks the last opportunity for the Obama administration to put its stamp on the ESEA and shape a future law. To get a two-year extension of their waivers, states must reaffirm their commitment to college- and career-ready standards and tests, and to implementing differentiated accountability systems that focus on closing achievement gaps, according to new state guidance issued today. The article is in Education Week.

FLORIDA VIRTUAL SCHOOL FACES HARD TIMES
The Florida Virtual School—the largest state-sponsored online K-12 school in the country—is facing troubled times, a sign of major policy shifts now reshaping the world of online education. On the heels of new state legislation aimed at containing costs and promoting competition among providers offering individual online courses to students, Florida Virtual School officials expect to see a 20 percent drop in state revenue this school year and announced this month that they have shed one-third of their workforce. The article is in Education Week.

MICHIGAN STUDENTS TO HAVE MANY OPTIONS FOR ONLINE LEARNING
The year will represent the most substantial expansion of online education in Michigan. Five new cyber schools are opening. Many traditional districts are boosting their online offerings. And students in grades 5-12 will be able to take up to two online courses per semester offered by any district or the state's virtual school that will be part of a course catalog maintained by the Michigan Virtual University. The article is in the Detroit Free Press.

ABOUT HIGHER ED

A RESTRAINED RESPONSE, FOR NOW
This growing attention on performance-driven indicators has largely been resisted by traditional institutions of higher education in the past -- sometimes in forceful terms. With the most recent proposal, though, the lobbyists representing many sectors of traditional higher education say they’re not drawing up lobbying strategies just yet. In part, that’s because Obama’s plan is still largely unformulated, at least publicly. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.

WHAT’S A MOOC? LOOK IT UP
MOOC, which stands for massive open online course and is pronounced “mook” can be heard everywhere: in the news and the blogs, at tech conferences and faculty meetings, in legislative hearings and policy proposals. Now, it has been formally enshrined into the English language. Oxford University Press this week inducted “MOOC” into its Oxford Dictionaries Online. The definition: “A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.” The post is from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog.

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