Some of the News Fit to Print
TESTING GROUP SCALES BACK PERFORMANCE ITEMS
A group that is developing tests for half the states in the nation has dramatically reduced the length of its assessment in a bid to balance the desire for a more meaningful and useful exam with concerns about the amount of time spent on testing. The decision by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium reflects months of conversation among its 25 state members and technical experts and carries heavy freight for millions of students, who will be taking it in two years. The group is one of two state consortia crafting tests for the Common Core State Standards with $360 million in federal Race to the Top money. The article is in Education Week.
NEW FIVE-STATE COLLABORATIVE WILL RE-IMAGINE SCHOOL DAY
Select public schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee will significantly expand and redesign their school calendars starting in 2013 in an effort to radically improve learning for tens of thousands of students. The schools are part of a collaborative effort announced today by the five states, the Ford Foundation, and the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) to develop high-quality and sustainable expanded-time schools. The states will use a mix of federal and state funding to cover the cost of adding 300 hours of instruction and enrichment to the school year, and will receive technical assistance from NCTL and capacity building grants from the Ford Foundation, which has committed $3 million a year over the next three years in support of the state efforts.
MORE SCHOOLS CLOSING
School systems around the U.S. are rolling out plans to close underenrolled and underperforming facilities. The efforts are driven by a drop in the school-age population, the Obama administration's push to shut poor-performing schools and competition from charters, the publicly funded schools run by independent groups. During the 2010-11 school year, school districts nationwide closed 1,069 traditional public schools, uprooting nearly 280,000 students, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by the National Center for Education Statistics, the primary federal entity for national school data. The article is in the Wall Street Journal.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
U.S. APPEALS COURT STAYS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION RULING
The ruling that ended Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions was put on hold Friday until the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear an appeal by the state's attorney general.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued an order staying its Nov. 15 ruling that the voter-approved mandate was unconstitutional. The article is in Education Week.
SAYING NO TO COLLEGE
The idea that a college diploma is an all-but-mandatory ticket to a successful career is showing fissures. Feeling squeezed by a sagging job market and mounting student debt, a groundswell of university-age heretics are pledging allegiance to new groups like UnCollege, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick. Risky? Perhaps. But it worked for the founders of Twitter, Tumblr and a little company known as Apple. The article is in The New York Times.
HIGHER EDUCATION NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE?
On the face of it, American higher education is still in rude health. In worldwide rankings more than half of the top 100 universities, and eight of the top ten, are American. The scientific output of American institutions is unparalleled. They produce most of the world’s Nobel laureates and scientific papers. Moreover college graduates, on average, still earn far more and receive better benefits than those who do not have a degree. Nonetheless, there is growing anxiety in America about higher education. A degree has always been considered the key to a good job. But rising fees and increasing student debt, combined with shrinking financial and educational returns, are undermining at least the perception that university is a good investment. The article is in The Economist.