Veteran superintendent brings turnaround model to schools nationwide

Under the new program, consultants help district staff who often “know what they need to do, but don’t know how to do it,” said Judy Zimny, vice president of Voyager Education Services.

Can turnaround results in one troubled school district be replicated in another? A new partnership between an education intervention provider and veteran superintendent Paul Vallas aims to find out by bringing Vallas’ proven reform model to more schools.

Through the Vallas Turnaround System, teams of educational consultants provide staff training and planning support to chronically underperforming schools. The program launched this summer in Indianapolis Public Schools.

Voyager Education Services, a division of Cambium Learning Group that focuses on academic interventions, announced in June an exclusive partnership with The Vallas Group Inc.…Read More

Virtual foreign exchange program will give students global skills

A Michigan district’s virtual exchange program allows Chinese students to take American classes online, and vice versa.

Today’s students need to prepare for a globalized world, business leaders often say—but sending students abroad is usually too expensive for cash-strapped schools or parents. One Michigan school district is taking a unique approach to this challenge by establishing a virtual foreign exchange program so that students can take classes from teachers in other countries.

This fall, Oxford Community Schools will launch a virtual exchange program that allows American and Chinese students to take online classes taught by teachers on the other side of the globe.

The classes will be hosted by Oxford Virtual Academy, a school without walls within the district that already supports more than 500 full-time students and more than 250 part-time students.…Read More

Same-sex classes popular as more public schools split up boys and girls

An estimated 500 public schools across the country now offer some all-boy and all-girl classrooms.

Robin Gilbert didn’t set out to confront gender stereotypes when she split up the boys and girls at her elementary school in rural southwestern Idaho.

But that’s exactly what happened, with her Middleton Heights Elementary now among dozens of public schools nationwide being targeted by the American Civil Liberties Union in a bitter struggle over whether single-sex education should be continued. Under pressure, same-sex classes have been dropped at schools from Missouri to Louisiana.

“It doesn’t frustrate me,” Gilbert said of the criticism, “but it makes the work harder.”…Read More

District ‘Race to the Top’ rules spur mixed reaction

School groups criticized RTT-D for creating 'winners' and 'losers.'

Proposed guidelines for school districts to vie for $400 million in new federal grants have elicited mixed reaction from education groups—from concern among ed-tech groups over how “personalized learning” will be defined, to arguments that the grants will exclude smaller districts from competing.

With an eye toward expanding the Obama administration’s signature “Race to the Top” (RTT) competition to the district level, the federal Education Department (ED) recently issued a draft outlining competition guidelines and invited responses from stakeholders.

RTT, which previously targeted only states, has triggered a flurry of education reforms as states scrambled to win billions in funds. Now, the creation of the Race to the Top-District Program (RTT-D) gives individual school districts a shot at winning a slice of $400 million in grants.…Read More

Computerized searches help identify non-resident students

VerifyResidence.com runs computerized searches to confirm the residency information that parents provide to schools.

“Boundary hoppers”—parents who falsify their residency so their children can attend a particular school—can strain already cash-strapped districts. But short of sending the assistant principal to knock on students’ doors, how can administrators pinpoint wrongfully enrolled students? A new technology-based solution claims it can help.

The online service VerifyResidence.com runs computerized searches to confirm the residency information that parents provide to schools, potentially saving districts time and money, its creator says.

When large numbers of students attend illegally, schools feel practical budget pressures as they are forced to support more students than expected. The problem involves not only concern about tax dollars, but also the fact that “schools really need accurate contact [information], because they plan growth and feeder patterns based on that,” said Sonja Trainor, a senior staff attorney with the National School Boards Association’s General Counsel.…Read More