School bullying report makes recommendations to address issue, support victims

School bullying does not directly cause more students to skip school, but challenges to the underlying social and emotional complexities exist, new research shows, the Huffington Post reports. According to a report released Friday by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, victims of bullying are often, as a result of social and emotional hurdles, distanced from learning, disadvantaged academically and more likely to fall behind in school attendance. Although the researchers did not find a strong direct correlation between victimization and truancy, the study is limited in its quantitative analysis of just 6th graders within a single suburban Denver school district.

“Parents and schools across the country worry about the devastating harm bullying can cause, and we share this concern for our nation’s children,” OJJDP Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski said in a statement Friday. “This new study highlights the impact of bullying and recommends effective anti-bullying strategies that schools can implement to keep students safe.”

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The Pre-K underground

Everyone knows that getting into private preschool in New York City can be absurdly cutthroat and wildly expensive, but getting into public pre-K is not any easier, reports the New York Times. For the current school year, there were 28,817 applicants for 19,834 slots in the city’s public pre-K programs. Those numbers do not tell the entire story. The school on our street had 432 applicants—for 36 seats. With 12 children fighting for each slot, lots of families shared our predicament. For parents like us, options are limited. Private pre-K can run more than $30,000 a year at the fanciest schools. Depending on the neighborhood, spaces with community-based organizations—private preschools that partner with the state and accept state subsidies but handle their own applications—can be as elusive as public pre-K spots. If home schooling is daunting, and if not schooling feels wrong, the only other choice, it seems, is to join the many parents who have taken matters into their own hands and formed co-ops…

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Opinion: Ignoring the need for lesson plans

Maybe Bruce Friedrich raised the lesson-plan issue because he was so out of sync with the recent college graduates who were the other Teach for America instructors at his Baltimore high school, says Jay Mathews, columnist for the Washington Post. He was 40. He had switched to education after first running a homeless shelter and then working for animal rights. He thought it was odd that despite the forward-looking reputation of the Baltimore district and Teach for America, beginning teachers had to construct their lessons from scratch, as they have done for centuries. They were shown samples of the state tests their students would have to take. They were told where they might find good material. But as rookies, they had little idea which of a million possible options would work…

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Texting while driving ban: For Missouri students, debate isn’t academic

The text was about something innocuous: A request to go to the county fair. It set off a highway pileup that took two lives, injured dozens and left two school buses and a pickup truck in a crumpled heap, the Huffington Post reports. As the nation debates a federal recommendation to eliminate cellphone use in cars, the high school band students from St. James who were involved in the wreck last year have already done it themselves. After losing one of their classmates, many of the teens made a vow: Using a cellphone behind the wheel is something they just won’t do. The young man who was on the other end of the pivotal text exchange, who says he didn’t know his friend was driving, is still haunted by the catastrophic result of what began as a simple message about their plans…

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10 years of assessing students with scientific exactitude

In the last decade, we have emerged from the Education Stone Age. No longer must we rely on primitive tools like teachers and principals to assess children’s academic progress, the New York Times reports. Thanks to the best education minds in Washington, Albany and Lower Manhattan, we now have finely calibrated state tests aligned with the highest academic standards. What follows is a look back at New York’s long march to a new age of accountability:  DECEMBER 2002 The state’s education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, reports to the state Regents: “Students are learning more than ever. Student achievement has improved in relation to the standards over recent years and continues to do so.”

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Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings

iNACOL acknowledges that states need to do a better job overseeing online schools.

More schoolchildren than ever are taking their classes online, using technology to avoid long commutes to school, add courses they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take—and save their school districts money.

But as states pour money into virtual classrooms, with an estimated 200,000 virtual K-12 students in 40 states from Washington to Wisconsin, educators are raising questions about virtual learning. States are taking halting steps to increase oversight, but regulation isn’t moving nearly as fast as the virtual school boom.

The virtual learning debate pits traditional education backers, including teachers’ unions, against lawmakers tempted by the promise of cheaper online schools and school-choice advocates who believe private companies will apply cutting-edge technology to education.

Is online education as good as face-to-face teaching?

Virtual learning companies tout a 2009 research review conducted for the U.S. Department of Education that showed K-12 students did as well or better in online learning conditions as in a traditional classroom.

But critics say most studies, including many in that 2009 review, used results from students taking only some—but not all—of their courses online. They also point out wide gaps in state oversight to ensure students, and not their parents or tutors, are actually completing tests and coursework.

For more news on virtual learning, see:

How to start a successful virtual learning program

Annual report reveals online learning’s rapid rise

More states look to online learning for students

Virtual learning acquisitions shake up marketplace

iNACOL updates its online teaching standards

Still, virtual learning at the K-12 level is booming. For example, one of the nation’s largest for-profit online education providers, Virginia-based K12 Inc., saw its earnings more than double in the first quarter of this year, fueled in large part by a 42-percent enrollment spike.

“Online learning is the future of American education. Precisely because it’s so transforming, it’s threatening to the established institutions,” said Terry Moe, a political scientist at Stanford University who studies the online school boom.

The conflict has boiled over in Colorado, which expects to spend $85 million this year educating some 14,200 students online. The state’s online school industry is growing by double digits a year, bankrolled by a state government that pays private companies to teach students as young as kindergarten entirely via computer with limited oversight.

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Nine states win early education grants

The goal of the grants is to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten.

Nine states have won a collective $500 million from the federal government to help make pre-kindergarten and other early learning programs more accessible and better capable of narrowing the achievement gap between those who start kindergarten without any formal schooling and those who do.

California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington state were announced as winners at the White House on Dec. 16.

“Nothing is more important than getting our babies off to a good start,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The money to aid the nation’s youngest learners is part of the administration’s cornerstone education initiative—the “Race to the Top” grant competition. It has states competing for federal dollars to create programs intended to make schools more effective in exchange for education initiatives it favors. Last year, it handed out $4 billion in similar grants focused on K-12 education.

The goal of this competition is to get more children from birth to age 5 ready for kindergarten. Thirty-five states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, applied for the chance to win between about $50 million to $100 million apiece in prize money.

The winnings are to help build statewide systems that affect all early learning programs, including child care, Head Start centers, and public or private preschools.

For more news on early learning programs, see:

Report highlights importance of early childhood education

University researchers aim to improve early learning in STEM

States slash early childhood programs as budgets bleed

Billions are spent annually in America on early education programs, but the quality and availability of those programs varies greatly. Roughly half of all 3-year-olds and about a quarter of 4-year-olds do not attend preschool, said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Kids who attend high-quality early education programs have been shown to do better in school, be less likely to spend time in prison later, and make more money as adults. But children from low-income families who start kindergarten without any schooling are estimated to start school 18 months behind their peers, a gap that is extremely difficult to overcome.

Sharon Lynn Kagan, co-director of the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia University, said during a conference call with reporters that the contest has helped jumpstart what she describes as one of the most exciting times in early education in 40 years.

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Educators share views on SIS, LMS solutions

Teachers and school leaders sometimes disagreed on how easy it is to use data in the classroom effectively.

State education leaders, district leaders, and teachers disagree on the effectiveness of student information systems (SIS) and learning management systems (LMS) they use to capture data to improve instruction, a new survey reveals.

During a Dec. 13 webinar hosted by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), experts from analyst group Gartner Inc., the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), and CoSN discussed current attitudes toward LMS and SIS software use in schools.

The panelists also discussed how creating online communities of practice can help school district leaders better learn how to integrate data into instruction, and they shared some key advice for teachers and school district leaders.

The Gartner-AASA-CoSN initiative, called Closing the Gap: Turning SIS/LMS Data into Action, will produce reports and case studies on various aspects of SIS and LMS software use in schools. The partnership also aims to:

  • Give school and district leaders a broader understanding of current LMS and SIS capabilities, and inform them about teachers’ needs for meaningful data and how to integrate data into classroom instruction.
  • Help educators and school leaders better select, procure, and implement SIS and LMS solutions.
  • Empower school leaders and teachers to analyze student performance and work together on how better to support and motivate students.

Ivy Anderson, a managing partner in Gartner’s State and Local Government Consulting practice, said the reports are intended to help school districts and state education departments gain a more complete understanding of the current state of SIS and LMS solutions, how those solutions provide data, and how those data are used in the classroom. The reports also will help school leaders become more fully engaged in a dialog about how to implement best practices in data use.

“We believe that assessment and curriculum professionals and leadership will be able to learn from the practices, especially from those districts that demonstrate they’re using [data] effectively,” Anderson said.

Anderson previewed the results from a survey planned for release in February, in which 574 school and district leaders provided feedback on their SIS and LMS systems, practices, and the intersection of data and instruction. More than 1,000 teachers, 80 percent of whom are already active SIS or LMS software users, also were interviewed about their experiences using SIS and LMS solutions in the classroom and what barriers they encountered as they tried to use data to inform classroom instruction.

“The findings from each role indicate that the education community disagrees on the effectiveness of SIS/LMS solutions and the training in place to encourage their usage,” Anderson said.

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Watch: rEDesignMyEdu Twitter campaign seeks K-12 ideas from young people

While lawmakers seek to make sweeping changes to public education at the national and state levels, some University of Michigan students are looking to reshape K-12 education from the bottom up, the Huffington Post reports. Campus group rEDesign seeks input from students on how best to fix a broken system in which a wide achievement gap remains, and students — both privileged and underserved–struggle to be succeed academically and be globally competitive.

“The only demographic who haven’t been engaged to systemically transform the education system is young people,” the group writes on DoSomething.org. In a new campaign, rEDesign wants college students to submit ideas on how best to redesign public education in the U.S…

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What research exposed about market-based ed reform in 2011

If 2010 was the year of the bombshell in research in the three “major areas” of market-based education reform–charter schools, performance pay, and value-added in evaluations–then 2011 was the year of the slow, sustained march, says Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, for the Washington Post. Last year, the landmark Race to the Top program was accompanied by a set of extremely consequential research reports, ranging from the policy-related importance of the first experimental study of teacher-level performance pay (the POINT program in Nashville) and the preliminary report of the $45 million Measures of Effective Teaching project, to the political controversy of the Los Angeles Times’ release of teachers’ scores from their commissioned analysis of Los Angeles testing data…

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