Chicago schools order book on Iran out of some classes

The Chicago Public Schools ignited a controversy this week by ordering that “Persepolis,” a critically acclaimed graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran at the time of the Islamic revolution, be removed from some classrooms, Reuters reports. CPS Chief Executive Barbara Byrd-Bennett said on Friday that the district was not banning the book, by Marjane Satrapi, but had decided that it was “not appropriate for general use” in the seventh grade curriculum.

“If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms,” Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. She said the book had “powerful images of torture” and that the district was considering whether the book should be included in the curriculum of eighth through 10th grades…

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Apple’s iPad to fall behind Android as tablet war grows

Shipments of tablets running Google Inc’s Android will overtake the iPad this year for the first time, research house IDC predicted on Tuesday, as Apple Inc cedes more mobile market share to hard-charging rivals around the globe, Reuters reports. A growing variety of smaller and cheaper Android tablets from Google to Amazon.com Inc will catch on this year with more consumers and chip away at Apple’s dominance since the first iPad launched in 2010, International Data Corp said. iPad and iPhone shipments are expected to keep growing at enviable rates, but arch-rival Samsung Electronics and others have hurt Apple with a combination of savvy marketing, greater variety and rapid technology adoption. On Thursday, Samsung takes the wraps off the fourth generation of its flagship Galaxy, the smartphone that helped the South Korean giant knock the iPhone off its top ranking for part of last year…

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U.S. probes racial disparities in Seattle school discipline

The Education Department is investigating whether Seattle’s public school district discriminates against black students by subjecting them to tougher and more frequent discipline than white students, agency and district officials said, Reuters reports. The inquiry, launched in May 2012, is focusing in part on the district’s own statistics showing that African-American high school students are suspended or expelled more than three times as often as other students, school officials said on Wednesday. In middle school, the racial disparity is greater, with blacks 3 1/2 times more likely to be disciplined than other students, according to district data shared with Reuters. More than a quarter of all black middle school pupils have received short-term suspensions in any given year since at least the 2006-07 academic year, compared with 7.4 percent or less annually for white students, the data shows…

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K-12 student database jazzes tech startups, spooks parents

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares, Reuters reports. But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address, and sometimes Social Security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school—even homework completion.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.…Read More

Teacher standoff stokes debate over standardized tests

A boycott by Seattle teachers of a widely used standardized test has attracted national attention and given new momentum to a growing protest movement that seeks to limit standardized testing in U.S. public schools, Reuters reports. The revolt by Seattle public school teachers, joining educators and students elsewhere, comes at a time of bitter political wrangling over how best to reinvigorate a $525 billion public school system that leaves American children lagging their counterparts in countries like Finland and South Korea. Standardized tests have played an ever-more prominent role in public schools over the past decade. Yearly testing in reading and math for elementary school students required by former President George W. Bush’s 2002 landmark testing law, known as “No Child Left Behind,” exposed stark achievement gaps in many schools, mainly along racial and economic lines, and spurred interventions to help struggling kids. Sandy Kress, a former advisor to Bush on the law and lobbyist for Pearson, a company that publishes academic tests, said focusing too much on test scores alone will, in the end, cheat students out of the kind of quality education that sometimes can’t be measured by standardized tests…

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Actor Steven Seagal to lead Arizona school arms-training event

Controversial Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, who styles himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” has enlisted action film star Steven Seagal to lead a training exercise for members of his armed volunteer posse on how to respond to a school shooting, Reuters reports. The training event will involve six instructors leading 40 armed volunteers through a simulated shooting on Saturday, with teenagers acting as students, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Seagal will lead the training run, focusing on various aspects of shooting scene management, including “entry room tactics and hand-to-hand tactics,” according to Arpaio’s office. Arpaio, known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, dispatched members of his volunteer posse to patrol schools last month in the wake of the gun rampage that killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school in December…

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U.S. states, local governments plead for new ‘No Child Left Behind’

U.S. state and local officials again called on Congress to pass renewed “No Child Left Behind” education legislation, writing in a letter on Tuesday that it must become “a top priority for every member of the House and Senate,” Reuters reports. Nearly a year ago – on Feb. 6, 2012 – the same groups, including the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National School Boards Association, made a similar plea to re-authorize the federal education funding law. No Child Left Behind tied funding to students’ performance on standardized tests, and penalized schools for “failing” – measures that educators and lawmakers, including current Education Secretary Arne Duncan, have said were too restrictive…

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USDA to announce new healthy school snack rules

After more than a year’s delay, American schools will soon see new U.S. government rules targeting the kinds of snacks sold to students, a move nutritionists say could play an important role in fighting childhood obesity, Reuters reports. Anxious schools have waited more than a year to find out how sales of potato chips, candy bars, sodas and similar treats to students will be restricted. These rules on food sold outside traditional cafeteria meals are a key part of the first major overhaul on school food in more than three decades. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently told Reuters that the rules on what snacks may be offered in vending machines, school stores and the like, originally due in late 2011, are expected to be finished in the early part of this year…

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New York City’s schools could lose 2,500 teachers by next year

New York City’s public schools over two years will lose $724 million in state aid and as many as 2,500 teachers through attrition, because of a labor union conflict over a teacher evaluation system, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday, Reuters reports. The schools lost $250 million of that total earlier this month after the city and United Federation of Teachers failed to agree on a way to evaluate teacher performance. City schools would lose that same baseline funding amount in the state’s coming fiscal year, which begins April 1, plus another $224 million under the state budget proposed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last week, Bloomberg said at a joint legislative hearing. State legislators passed a law in 2010 that tied state aid to teacher evaluations. About 99 percent of the state’s school districts have implemented some kind of evaluation plan, Cuomo has said…

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Los Angeles teachers agree to student test scores in evaluations

Teachers in Los Angeles have agreed to have test scores factored into performance evaluations in the nation’s second-largest school district, their union said on Saturday in a concession to a growing national movement to revamp teacher appraisals, Reuters reports. United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement that 66 percent of the nearly 17,000 members who cast ballots had voted in favor of the new agreement on evaluations. The union has more than 30,000 members in a district second in size only to New York. The question of how best to evaluate teachers – and how districts can remove failing ones – has sparked clashes across the country between school officials and teachers’ unions. One such disagreement was behind last year’s seven-day teacher strike in Chicago…

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