In the Times Today
The editorial, titled Education: Congress Needs a Clear Plan, Not a Blank Check, refers to the $23B Congress had planned to send to states for emergency public school aid. Arne Duncan says that 100,000 to 300,000 education jobs are at risk (includes support staff). The choice is keep teachers or increase class sizes. The Democrats are sponsoring this measure in both house of Congress and the Republican response is that throwing more money at a problem without seeing results from previous money spent isn't the answer. Ground zero is California with a $19B budget deficit. Their school budget ends summer school, music and art classes, bus routes, days in the school years and teachers.
The Times seems to feel that there aren't going to be that many teachers laid off (maybe not in Washington state but what about elsewhere?). They rightly point out this will increase the national debt. I would give credit to Democrats for taking this up in a doubtful election year.
Oddly, they point to the recently ratified teachers' contract in D.C. as needed accountability for money spent. To me, it's not linked because while accountability for dollars is important, if the economy is bad, it's bad. Teachers will be laid off whether or not there is accountability.
And help me out here because I don't get this:
In Seattle schools teachers at Hawthorne Elementary, West Seattle Elementary and Cleveland High have agreed to be evaluated under a new system that holds them accountable for meeting student academic growth goals. In exchange, the teachers are eligible for extra compensation.
Did I miss something? Those schools "agreed" to be evaluated? I thought they were told they were part of the grant. Also, the teachers are eligible for extra compensation? I checked the district info sheet on each school and I don't see anything about extra compensation.
The article was about the Everett School district's efforts to raise their graduation rate. Seven years ago, their graduation rate was 53% and now it has risen to nearly 84%. The national rate is about 75%. So what did they do?
In Everett, success coordinators such as Engnes are just one part of the district's effort. Over the past seven years, Everett has closely tracked every student's grades and absences, overhauled boring classes, offered free summer makeup classes, and taken dozens of other steps to motivate, push and nag more students into leaving high school with a diploma in hand.
The district also raised its graduation requirements during those years, adding a third year of math. Some worried that would raise the number of dropouts, but it hasn't.
They also analyzed data and found that half of the kids had just one failing class and most were coming to school every day. That's not a lot to tackle to keep a kid from dropping out.
And there you have it. The hard, one-on-one work of tracking each and every student and making it personal. "We're watching you, we want to help you, what are you having trouble with?"
What was the boring class?
One of the classes that 30 percent of students failed was a former graduation requirement called Infotech, a technology-skills class. The problem was that many students knew the material before they started.
"They were just so bored silly by the class that they weren't coming," Edwards said.
This one makes sense. It's not that the teacher was boring or even the subject matter. It was just too low level for a large group of students.
It started programs in elementary and middle schools to get students thinking about what classes they would need to prepare for careers, and offered a free summer program for students who needed to make up credits.
Not long ago, students who didn't earn a diploma after their senior year had to come back and ask to be re-enrolled if they wanted to continue for a fifth year. Now, the district automatically signs them up, sends them a schedule, and calls them in August to remind them they're expected in the fall.
Good idea. How can you get students to graduate if they can't make up classes in the summer?
They do a couple of other things that the jury (at least in the comments section) seems to be out on.
For example, it grants half a credit for a failed class in language arts, math or science if students later pass the state's 10th-grade exams, formerly known as the WASL, in those subjects. Some educators say that passing a test can't replace all students would learn in a semester.