Florida teacher faces fines for helping kids register to vote

The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School’s student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida’s new and controversial election law. Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot…

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English learners far behind under English-only methods

The end of the school day in Patty Sanchez’s kindergarten class at Geddes Elementary School is not so different from other kindergarten classes around the state. Children gather on a rug as Sanchez holds up a storybook about a coyote and a turtle and reads out loud, according to the Hechinger Report. What’s different is that Sanchez is reading in Spanish. Nearly all of the children in the room are Hispanic, and many are English-language learners. The few who are new to Spanish are expected to follow along with the story, too, and respond in Spanish to Sanchez’s questions…

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President Barack Obama expected to make an announcement about college affordability

In his second presidential appearance in Colorado in a month, White House officials have confirmed that President Barack Obama will discuss student loans and make an announcement about college affordability on Auraria’s campus at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, the Huffington Post reports. While the president will spend tonight attending two fundraisers at the Pepsi Center, approximately 700 lined up for tickets on the Auraria campus to see President Obama Wednesday according to a Denver Post report. All 4,000 of the tickets being given out to college students were taken by 11 a.m. and several roads downtown are due to be closed Wednesday because of the event…

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Virtual learning acquisitions shake up marketplace

Experts say virtual learning's rapid growth is attracting notice.

As K-12 virtual learning expands across the nation, two of the nation’s largest ed-tech providers have jumped into the virtual learning market with significant acquisitions they hope will boost their offerings and help them appeal to a wider set of students and teachers.

But the moves also come as a new report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado argues that K-12 virtual learning needs stronger government oversight.

Education publishing giant Pearson announced last month that it will acquire Connections Education for $400 million in cash. Connections Education’s Connections Academy business operates online schools in 21 states, with more than 40,000 students.

And Texas-based Cambium Learning Group, an educational company based in Nebraska that primarily focuses on serving at-risk and special student populations, is acquiring Class.com, a virtual learning solution provider that serves students and adult learners, for roughly $4.5 million in cash.

Connections Education’s revenue grew more than 30 percent each year for the past three years, and Pearson said it expects the acquisition to boost its earnings moving forward as it gives the company another foothold in the virtual learning marketplace.

Class.com delivers online courses for grades 7-12 and offers accredited instruction through Lincoln National Academy, an online high school. In a press release about the deal, Cambium executives said they were pleased to add Class.com to their offerings and that the acquisition would help Cambium expand its reach in the marketplace.

“The innovative, online courses offered by Class.com will allow us to expand further into the high school market and, in addition, address market fragmentation as more at-risk students either attend virtual charter schools or take online courses,” said Ron Klausner, Cambium’s CEO.

In a Getting Smart blog post analyzing what the Pearson-Connections acquisition means for the virtual learning marketplace, Tom Vander Ark commented that the transaction is good for all parties involved.

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Business leaders inject themselves in school reform

It’s hard to think of a profession other than teaching about which everybody thinks they are an expert, the Washington Post reports. It’s often said that is so because just about everybody in the United States has gone to school at some point in their lives . It’s also true that just about everybody has gone to a doctor, yet medical professionals aren’t deluged with advice from businesspeople and hedge fund managers and insurance executives about how to diagnose and treat illnesses. Whatever the reasons, here’s an example of business folks issuing a declaration of sorts detailing exactly how they want Congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind, even down to the way that teachers ought to be evaluated…

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Opinion: Teachers unions should applaud merit pay initiatives

Why are teachers unions afraid or performance evaluations and merit based pay? None of the arguments offered in opposition commercial and literature holds water and many of the comments made about what Ohio Issue 2 (Senate Bill 5) will do are even correct, says Tara Dodrill for Yahoo! News. All of the unsafe working conditions and inability to negotiate on classroom size and related issues are false and really do not even deserve to be discussed anymore. Anyone who has actually bothered to read the bill already understands the scope and limitations of the pending fiscally responsible legislation. Performance evaluations, merit pay and annual bonuses awarded based on academic progress at the best thing which could happen to teachers…

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Why a school district rejected $2.5 million federal grant

In these troubled economic times, it would take a lot for a school district to turn down a gift of $2.5 million. But that’s just what the Oregon City School District has done, the Washington Post reports. The 8,100-student district was part of a group of school systems and a non-profit organization that applied to the federal government for a federal grant through the “Teacher Incentive Fund.” That fund awards money to districts that agree to implement performance-based compensation systems in high-needs schools for teachers and principals that include the use of standardized test scores and merit pay…

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In college, working hard to learn high school material

In June, Desiree Smith was graduated from Murry Bergtraum High. Her grades were in the 90s, she said, and she had passed the four state Regents exams. Since enrolling last month at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Ms. Smith, 19, has come to realize that graduating from a New York City public high school is not the same as learning, the New York Times reports. She failed all three placement tests for LaGuardia and is now taking remediation in reading, writing and math. So are Nikita Thomas, of Bedford Stuyvesant Prep; Sade Washington, of the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem; Stacey Sumulong, of Queens Vocational and Technical; Lucrecia Woolford of John Adams High; and Juan Rodriguez of Grover Cleveland High. “Passing the Regents don’t mean nothing,” Ms. Thomas said. “The main focus in high school is to get you to graduate; it makes the school look good. They get you in and get you out.”

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Study raises questions about virtual schools

As an increasing number of cash-strapped states turn to virtual schools—where computers replace classmates and students learn via the internet—a new study is raising questions about their quality and oversight, the Washington Post reports. In research to be released Tuesday, scholars Kevin G. Welner and Gene V. Glass at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado assert that full-time virtual schools are largely unregulated. Once used by home-schoolers, child actors and others in need of a flexible way to learn outside a classroom, virtual schools have grown in popularity in the past several years. Cyber-schools generally operate as charters, outside the traditional system but funded with taxpayer dollars…

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At elite schools, easing up a bit on homework

It was the kind of memo that high school students would dream of getting, if they dreamed in memos, the New York Times reports. Lisa Waller, director of the high school at Dalton, a famously rigorous private school on the Upper East Side, sent a letter to parents this summer announcing that tests and papers would be staggered to make sure students did not become overloaded. January midterms would be pushed back two weeks so students would not have to study during vacation. Across town at the Trinity School, another of Manhattan’s elite academies, the administration has formed a task force to examine workload, and the upper school, grades 9 to 12, has been trying ways to coordinate test-taking with papers, labs and other projects…

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