May 1, 2013

May 1st, 2013

Category: News, Policy and Practice

Local News

The News Journal
Georgetown school using bonds to finance campus swap
The Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences is one step closer to swapping buildings with Delmarva Christian High School thanks to $6.6 million in bonds brokered by the state. The two Georgetown schools are planning the exchange at the start of next school year because the other’s building is better suited to their needs. No taxpayer money is involved in the bonds, which were approved by the Council on Development Finance, part of the state’s Economic Development Office. PNC Bank will handle the financing. “The state is just working as the facilitator in this case,” said a spokesman at EDO. Allen Stafford, Sussex Academy’s director of finance and operations, said his school would lease the building from its foundation, which would pay back the bank. The charter school, which serves students in grades 6-8, plans an expansion. It will add one grade each year until 2017, when it will have students in grades 6-12. As a result, enrollment will more than double, from about 325 to about 750.

Red Clay triples Odyssey of the Mind involvement
First-time Odyssey of the Mind team members in Red Clay test their creativity and problem solving skills in front of the pros. Red Clay has tripled the number of Odyssey of the Mind teams in its district. One team even placed first in the nation and fifth in the world. One of the problems students tackle–“Building a device that will hold up to 700 lbs out of balsam wood,” says Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty. Daugherty says the internationally renowned program is a way to promote academics in after-school activities. “This isn’t tutoring. This is actually taking what you’ve learned and moving it into problem solving activity. So our students have really taken up the cause to be involved with it,” he says.

National News

Press Release
Walton Family Foundation invests $8 million in StudentsFirst
Across the county, millions of students are now empowered with the opportunity to choose strong publicly funded schools of all types – public charter schools, traditional district schools and private schools serving students on publicly funded vouchers and tax credit scholarships. But due to the overly restrictive education policies in many states, too many parents still do not have the chance or the power to choose from great education options for their kids. We want that to change. StudentsFirst, the national advocacy organization founded by former District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is well-positioned to help shape education policies across many states that will give power to more parents to choose among high-quality school options. We announced today an $8 million investment in StudentsFirst over two years to support their continued efforts to support high-quality public policies that will help the far too many students who currently have no opportunity to exercise choice in education. We are motivated to help Michelle Rhee and her team as StudentsFirst expands and intensifies its influence as a major force for reform within American education.

The Washington Post
New 3rd-grade reading requirement goes into effect this fall
As public schools across the country transition to the new Common Core standards, which bring wholesale change to the way math and reading are taught in 45 states and the District, criticism of the approach is emerging from groups as divergent as the tea party and the teachers union. The standards, written by a group of states and embraced by the Obama administration, set common goals for reading, writing and math skills that students should develop from kindergarten through high school graduation. Although classroom curriculum is left to the states, the standards emphasize critical thinking and problem solving and encourage thinking deeply about fewer topics. But as the common core shifts from theory to reality, critics are emerging. State lawmakers are concerned about the cost, which the Fordham Institute estimated could run as high as $12 billion nationally. Progressives fret over new exams, saying that the proliferation of standardized tests is damaging public education. Teachers worry that they haven’t had enough training and lack the resources to competently teach to the new standards. And conservatives say the new standards mean a loss of local control over education and amount to a national curriculum. They’ve begun calling it “Obamacore.”

Indianapolis Star
Lawmakers expand school voucher program, pause Common Core
The Indiana legislature enacted H.B. 1427, which revises the state’s A to F school ratings and pauses its participation in the Common Core by temporarily halting implementation of the standards. House Bill 1003 awaits a final vote and would extend eligibility for vouchers to siblings of those already in the program, students in special education, or those living within the boundaries of a school rated a D or F.

Arizona Daily Sun
Brewer signs bill creating new teacher evaluations
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill that makes it easier to fire some low-performing teachers. House Bill 2500 allows experienced teachers to be placed on probationary status if they received the lowest rating on one yearly performance review. That status allows a school board to fire a teacher with little notice.

The New York Times
NewSchools fund attracts more capital
NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that started out channeling philanthropic donations to charter schools and that now invests in a range of education groups and businesses, is entering into a partnership with a new venture capital fund that could result in millions more in financing. At a time when venture capital interest in education technology companies is growing rapidly, Rethink Education Fund, founded last year to focus on education start-ups, has agreed to give part of its profits to NewSchools, based in Oakland, Calif., so the fund can invest the money in various projects. NewSchools is well known for its financing of charter management organizations, including Aspire Public Schools, KIPP and Rocketship Education, as well as groups like the New Teacher Project, which recruits midcareer professionals into teaching, and Khan Academy, which creates online video lessons.

Education Week
State lawmakers recognize education of ‘Whole Child’
A new Arkansas law will require schools to consider children’s health, safety, engagement, adult support, and intellectual stimulation in their education. Arkansas Gov. Michael Beebe, a Democrat, last week signed Senate Bill 1051, which outlines a plan for Arkansas that aims to provide a whole child education for all of the state’s students. The new law lists ways for educators, parents, and policymakers to meet “the comprehensive needs of Arkansas children at each stage of a child’s development from birth to postsecondary education or career.” And it encourages Arkansas residents to “help create pathways and opportunities to spur systemic cooperation, collaboration, and coordination within and beyond schoolhouse doors and promote a shift from the narrowly defined student achievement and traditional education reform to broader, more comprehensive efforts.”

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