At NY school, a movement reborn with liberty and no testing for all

On a recent Wednesday morning at the Brooklyn Free School, a class was in session. Ten students, ranging in age from about 12 to 16, sat around a table having a heated debate about chemistry. And superpowers, the Huffington Post reports.

“Those elements don’t really go together,” said one boy in a hoodie and glasses. “Or I don’t think they go together.”

“But that would make it a good power,” another boy piped in. “Cause they’re all so different. It’d be awesome to get all those elements together in one guy.”

“Maybe,” The boy in the hoodie replied. “Let’s say maybe.”

This was Chemistry: The Gathering, a class where students were creating an “elemental” version of the popular card game, “Magic: The Gathering,” involving different characters with specific chemical powers. Its curriculum was approved by the students themselves, just like all of the classes at Brooklyn Free School, a completely democratic K-12 private school occupying four floors of a quaint brownstone in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn…

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New Hampshire parents could face criminal charges for kids playing hooky

When students play hooky in Rochester, N.H., their parents could be the ones getting a tarnished permanent record, the Huffington Post reports. Rochester police have announced that beginning Jan. 1, parents could face criminal charges or hefty fines of up to $1,000 if their children are chronically late or absent from school. The city will also offer a “diversion program” if parents do not want to pay the fine or take the case to court. The district and police department will be issuing the first summons to parents of children who have missed 15 days or more.

“If we get to the point where we don’t have to charge anyone, that would be our ultimate goal — that these parents are just getting their kids to school and that these kids are getting an education,” Rochester Police Capt. Paul Toussaint told WGME.

The Foster’s Daily Democrat reports that in just the first two and a half months of school, 531 of the district’s 4,000 students have been absent 5 to 9.5 days. Another 108 have missed 10 to 14.5 days and 88 were absent more than 15 times…

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Op-Ed: For students, ‘zip code does not define destiny’

As the founder and Executive Director of KIPP Delta Public Schools—a network of four college-preparatory public charter schools in Helena and Blytheville, Arkansas—I have dedicated my career to preparing some of the most underserved students in Arkansas for college and the world beyond, says a contributor to Takepart.com. Ten years after opening our doors to 65 fifth graders in 2002, we now serve over 1,150 students in Pre K-12. Critical to our growth and success is the enduring belief that zip code does not define destiny. Our students have consistently invalidated statistics suggesting those living in lower income communities are somehow less capable. Rather, 90 percent college and military persistence rates from our first three graduating classes suggest quite the opposite. With this background in mind, there is one topic I would like to discuss in greater detail: the importance of educational choice within rural communities…

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More bad news for Ala. tuition plan; parents irate

The board that oversees Alabama’s prepaid college tuition program got more bad news about the plan’s financial outlook Wednesday, and the board’s chairman got an earful of outrage from frustrated parents who can’t plan for their children’s education, the Associated Press reports. Actuary Dan Sherman said the board’s liabilities will exceed its assets by $605 million if it keeps paying full tuition, and it should run out of money in fall 2015. He said if it keeps paying full tuition for more than 10,000 students currently enrolled in college, the board will need to close the program down in about a year if it wants to have enough left to refund the money participants paid to join. The board is paying full tuition while the Alabama Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of a law that would allow it to pay reduced tuition at 2010 levels and remain operating…

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House to vote on increasing advanced-degree visas

A House vote to offer permanent residency to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in science and math from U.S. colleges and universities is setting the stage for a bigger battle next year on how to redesign the nation’s flawed immigration system, the Associated Press reports. House Republicans, with the help of a minority of Democrats, are expected to prevail Friday in passing the STEM Jobs Act, which would provide up to 55,000 green cards a year to those earning masters and doctoral degrees from U.S. schools in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But the bill is unlikely to go anywhere this year in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Obama White House has come out against it, saying it “does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the president’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.” The House voted on a similar STEM Act in September, but it fell short under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority…

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Reports highlight need for data mobility

Momentum for transferable student data is growing.

Educational data must follow students as they cross state lines, and policy makers must be equipped with the tools needed to ensure that teachers, students, and parents have access to this important information, according to two reports released by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC).

One such tool is an open-source system that lets educators pull and use data from a range of existing sources, created with support from the Dell Foundation. Another is an interstate data exchange system being used by four states.

The DQC defines student data as more than test scores—it includes attendance, course-taking, teacher information, and financial information. Data also includes any information that stakeholders need to make decisions, and that often means more than state data. Of equal importance are prekindergarten data and data from post-secondary education and the workforce.

The most useful student data include longitudinal data that follow individual students over time and across systems and sectors; actionable data that are user-friendly; and contextual data that are robust, comparable, and presented as part of a bigger picture.

“The 21st-century reality is that education does not happen in state silos,” said DQC Executive Director Aimee Guidera during a Nov. 28 panel discussion to review the reports. “Our teachers and students are mobile, but too often their data stop at the state border. It’s vital that policy makers find common-sense solutions to ensure accurate, comparable information for all education stakeholders, and states cannot do that without sharing limited and appropriate data across state lines.”

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Grants to fight hunger

More than 16 million children live in food insecure homes, not always sure where their next meal will come from. That’s why YSA and Sodexo Foundation are calling on young people to “take hunger personally” and join the fight to end childhood hunger. Sodexo Foundation Youth Grants of $500 grants are available for youth-led service projects that bring together young people, families, Sodexo employees and other community members to address childhood hunger. U.S. young people, ages 5-25, are eligible to apply. Projects will take place on or around Global Youth Service Day, April 26-28, 2013.

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$10K in classroom products and a call with Santa

Skype continues to support the use of technology to further education experiences through our Skype in the classroom program. Now, educators have a chance to win $10,000 in Microsoft products and a Skype call with Santa Claus this holiday season!

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Prizes for space program spinoffs

Students should create videos, 3-4 minutes in length, demonstrating their understanding of what everyday items are “spinoffs” from space program creations. Note: Deadline applies to registration deadline.

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Jeb Bush, with cash and clout, pushes contentious school reforms

As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush convenes a star-studded policy summit this week in Washington, D.C., he is widely regarded as one of the most influential education reformers in the nation. But a close examination raises questions about the depth and durability of the gains that schools in Florida saw under his leadership, Reuters reports.

After the dramatic jump of the Bush years, Florida test scores edged up in 2009 and then dropped, with low-income students falling further behind. State data show huge numbers of high school graduates still needing remedial help in math and reading. And some of the policies Bush now pushes, such as vouchers and mandatory online classes, have no clear links to the test-score bump in Florida.

Bush has been particularly vigorous about promoting online education, urging states to adopt policies written with input from companies that stand to profit from expanded cyber-schooling. Many of those companies also donate to Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which has raised $19 million in recent years to promote his agenda nationwide…

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