Thursday, June 26, 2014

Education Items of Note

Stories on Common Core polling, charter schools, all-day schools, spending on high poverty schools and and an ACLU lawsuit over uneven school experiences for low-income students.
Different day, different polling results on Common Core Rasmussen Reports is saying that a new national telephone poll says that just 34% of American parents (with elementary/secondary students) favor Common Core. 

That’s an 18-point drop from 52% in early November of last year. Forty-seven percent (47%) oppose the imposition of the national standards, compared to 32% in the previous survey. Little changed are the 19% who are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

They also did polling that found htat 54% of American adults think "schools place too much emphasis on standardized testing."

Standard & Poor's has a new report that "extends" the "negative" outlook for the charter school industry.  This from the Washington Post:

Of 214 public charter school ratings done by the agency, 41, or 19 percent, are negative while only 4 — or 2 percent — are positive. Furthermore, it says, funding has not generally “returned to pre-recessionary levels, and some schools are struggling to operate in this “new normal.’”

Speaking of charter schools, here's a great piece from Alan Singer at Huffington Post, "Why Hedge Funds Love Charter Schools."

As a result of this change to the tax code, banks and equity funds that invest in charter schools in underserved areas can take advantage of a very generous tax credit. They are permitted to combine this tax credit with other tax breaks while they also collect interest on any money they lend out. According to one analyst, the credit allows them to double the money they invested in seven years. Another interesting side note is that foreign investors who put a minimum of $500,000 in charter school companies are eligible to purchase immigration visas for themselves and family members under a federal program called EB-5.

The tax credit may also explain why Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg partnered with the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey to promote charter schools, donated a half a million dollars worth of stock to organizations that distribute charter school funding, and opened his own foundation, Startup: Education, to build new charter schools.

All-day school?  In Nashville, it seems to be working.  From The Atlantic:

“I think it’s important to think about all of the things you want to accomplish in a school day, and then make sure that you have the time to accomplish all of those things,” Charlie Friedman, Nashville Classical’s school director, says. “We didn’t start by saying we have to have an extended day, and we didn’t start by saying we have to end at 4:00 p.m.”

When Friedman built the schedule for his school, he knew he wanted to offer recess, physical education, three hours of literacy, hands-on science, and a foreign language every single day.


For most states, 180 days of school adds up to somewhere between approximately 900 and 1200 hours of instruction per year, which is actually relatively high on a global scale. Even Finland, whose test scores consistently top international rankings, doesn’t have compulsory schooling until age seven, and their school day is shorter than a typical American day. 

States like Massachusetts have spearheaded pilot programs for longer school days and have seen strong results. In 2013, D.C. Public Schools implemented extended hours for eight of its struggling schools and saw some of its largest gains in math and reading since 2008. 

Speaking of spending more money, Vox reports on a working paper from researchers at Northwestern and UC-Berkeley. that contends that  "spending more money on educating children in poor districts can dramatically change the trajectory" of their lives. 

On some measures, such as the high school graduation rate, the gains from a 20 percent boost in funding at all levels of education were enough to entirely erase the gap between poor students and students from wealthier families.

Later in life, the poor students' family incomes were on average about 50 percent higher than they would have been without the funding increase.

In what might end up being a note-worthy court case, the ACLU in California has filed a class action lawsuit claiming the state of California is denying students at high-poverty schools "learning time."  From NPR:

The ACLU has spent years filing lawsuits challenging inequities in educational materials and facilities, but this is the first case to address the basic factor of time spent on learning. The class action suit names students at seven schools in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The lawsuit is claiming issues around staff turnover, teacher turnover, scheduling, crime, and trauma.


TechyMom said...

All Day School, with lots of time for recess, eating at a leisurely pace, practice and working at your own pace and subjects other than the 3 Rs. Yes, Please!

Lynn said...


How about all those things in a 6.5 hour school day - with certified teachers paid to provide extra support before or after school to students who need it? (I would not send my early elementary student to a school with a longer day.)

ben said...

@Lynn, Within our existing curriculum structures you can have one or the other not both. I.e. you can add back time for lunch / recess / add in other subjects and extend the day OR have a 6.5 hour day.

For our family, I'd gladly extend the day to have a guaranteed 45 minute lunch hour. I've got one extremely slow eater but even my faster one often brings home a half eaten lunch due to lack of time.

Lynn said...


Is it really the curriculum? I think principals and teachers set the schedules at each elementary school. As an example, at the K-5 STEM school at Boren kindergarten students have only one recess a day. Is that standard across the district?

My children started out in a private school where students in grades K-2 had just 35 minutes for lunch (in the classroom), an hour a day of recess and 100 minutes a day of specialist classes. That left a little over 3 hours a day for reading, writing, math, social studies and science. It was plenty of time.

TechyMom said...

Lynn, it works at private schools because you have homogenous skill levels and small classes. Getting anything done in a class if 30 kids with 4 grade levels of skills takes forever. Just getting that many bodies in from recess or that many minds focused on a new task takes a lot of time. The work is rushed. The transitions are both rushed and a huge waste of time. So, you can have large heterogeneous classes, or a 6.5 hour day, or a relaxed pace, time to eat, and more topics covered.

Also, I think we need to recognize that two parents with full time jobs is the norm, and plan the default system around that reality, just like the current system was planned around the economic realities of a family-farm economy. An opt-out similar to what we do for part time k seems fine in lower grades.

Lynn said...


Class sizes were at least as large as our local public school. You're mostly right about the homogeneity though. Students who were ahead of or behind the curve just weren't served. (Maybe limiting the range of skill levels in a classroom would free up some time for recess, PE, art and music?)

If we had the money to pay for a longer school day, it would be better spent on smaller class sizes and extra support for struggling students. Like high school start times, the length of the elementary school day should be based on children's needs. Providing (paid) after school care for those who need it seems appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Some of it is curriculum. Some of it is space issues. Some of it comes down to time management skills of the teachers. Some Seattle elementary schools spend too much time on transitions because they don't have enough gym space for regular PE times for all the kids and so they have three week rotations with extra specialists coming in at different times. The routine never becomes routune enough and no one ever gets into any kind of groove that allows for smooth transitions. Then you have the MAP testing three times a year and all the chaos that causes to the schedule. Kids like order and routine and to know what is coming next. Teachers also get to decide how much time they want to spend on each subject, so if a teacher wants to spend an hour on Second Step and 30 minutes on free reading and does not feel like teaching grammar at all, that can happen (and then you get a report card with a bunch of asterisks of areas not covered because "there wasn't time to cover that"). I think there is plenty of time in the day and the principal at each school needs to make sure that they aren't expecting the impossible when taking into account all the transitions that have to be made, and they should be holding teachers accountable for covering the curriculum in basic areas.

Gen Ed Mom

dan dempsey said...


Finland's test scores Do NOT continually top international rankings.

Anonymous said...

My first thought is homework. If these all-day schools eliminate the need for homework, it's not surprising that there might be improvements, as you're getting extra instruction instead of extra frustration. And then kids can relax when they leave. It would also remove the 'fairness' factor of homework - that some kids are coming home to a snack and dedicated homework time while others have less than ideal circumstances.

-New Mom

Anonymous said...

Ugh...Second Step. A heavily scripted program disliked by many students and teachers, yet supported by administration. It took away 30 minutes a week that students could have used to keep up with homework, meet with teachers, etc.


Anonymous said...

Second Step is terrible. I was at two schools where I didn't see it do anything but waste time. There are things that DO work (Roots of Empathy is cool).

Gen Ed Mom