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Afternoon Announcements: July 8, 2011

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July 08, 2011 05:24 pm

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Education Week reports on a new education reform bill introduced yesterday by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) that will provide states and districts with “unprecedented leeway” to move around federal money. The bill is the latest in a series of bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. However, the measure is already being decried by Representative George Miller (D-CA), the top Democrat on the committee, as a “backdoor” way to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education and an attack on students’ civil rights.

Education Week also reports that recent federal investments in teacher residency programs are “illuminating both promising developments and growing pains for the schools of education implementing the more hands-on approach to training.”

Nashville Public Radio covers an interview with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, who says he’d like for Congress to work out a “new solution” that replaces the No Child Left Behind program. “The federal government setting the bar high for us is good,” he says. “In the end, I think states should be able to say ‘Here’s what we think. Let us grade ourselves. Now that you’ve raised the bar for us, let us do that.’ And the states that set the bar the highest, that grade themselves the hardest, are going to do the best.”

The Los Angeles Times reports about a “bizarre game of musical chairs,” in which nearly 1,000 Los Angeles teachers – who are guaranteed jobs somewhere in the school system – have been hunting for a school that wants them. The challenge for these teachers is overcoming the “stigma” that they are “undesirable castoffs,” because they previously worked at low-performing schools that are being restructured. L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy warned principals, in an internal memo, to start hiring teachers who are entitled to positions while also tacitly acknowledging concerns about the quality of some of these teachers. “We must all work together to ensure that teachers who do not belong in our district are dealt with through the disciplinary and dismissal process,” Deasy wrote. “In the future, he vowed to ensure “poor performers” are not moved from school to school.

Writing for the Huffington Post, former Intel CEO Craig Barrett accuses state educational systems of “cooking their books” and “lying to kids and parents” about their educational standards. He says states are setting the proficiency bar “far too low” and “creating a dishonestly rosy picture of American schools.” By doing so, he writes, “states are torpedoing the future of America’s students and American business.” Barrett says the solution starts with establishing realistic and challenging proficiency standards. He challenges governors to “stiffen their backs, fight against complacency and raise and create uniform standards” while standing firm when the initial reports may reveal their students are not meeting the new, but more honest, standards.

The Chicago Tribune reports that high school juniors in Illinois will no longer be tested on writing skills during the state’s standardized tests every spring, “eliminating the last Illinois writing exam and shaving about $2.4 million amid budgetary shortfalls.” Barbara Kato, director of the Chicago Area Writing Project, says that good teachers, good schools, good principals don’t need a test,” but “the problem is, without the test, the focus on writing as a whole ends up taking a back seat.”

In a guest column for the Washington Post‘s Answer Sheet, Shelley Wright, a high school English, science and technology teacher writes about how her classroom will be different next year. In the past, she says, her classroom was “teacher-centered” with her students facing the front of the classroom listening to her talk. Next year her classroom will be composed of four larger round tables to facilitate student conversation. “My students will be looking at each other, not just me,” she writes. “And we will actually have room to work on projects.” She also expects to be less reliant on textbooks and use technology more. “Last year, in my biology class, we constructed our own text on a wiki,” she writes. “It was interactive and included students notes and pictures. I love this because we can tailor our text to specifically meet the needs of my students, and my students can contribute to it. It contains my voice and theirs, not just what a publisher deems important.”

Ms. Wright isn’t the only person moving away from textbooks. Gizmag reports that the South Korean ministry of education has announced that it will digitize all textbooks which are in use in Korean schools and completely phase out printed materials by 2015. South Korea’s plan will involve the creation of a cloud computing network in order to allow students to access digital textbooks that can store their homework so it can be accessed via any internet-connected device, including tablets, smartphones, PCs and smart TVs. The plan also includes introducing more online classes from 2013 so that students who are sick or unable to attend school due to weather conditions will be able to participate in virtual classes.

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