Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ed News Roundup

Boy, is there a lot out there.

First up, great news for the students receiving Washington Opportunity Scholarships - their check goes up from $1,000 to $5,000.  From the Times report:

The scholarship is for Washington residents studying at in-state institutions who are majoring in science, technology, engineering, math — often called STEM — and health-care fields, and who meet an income threshold that's considered low- to middle-income — up to $102,200 for a family of four. Its aim is to encourage more students to go into those high-paying, high-demand fields.

It may be especially important to middle-income families, who often don't qualify for financial-aid programs and must rely instead on loans, especially as tuition has risen so dramatically.

Freshmen and sophomore scholarship winners will receive the smaller $1,000 award. Because it's renewable, and can be used for up to five years of college, the value of the scholarship could be as much as $17,000 for a student who receives the award as a freshman and takes a fifth year to graduate.

Most of the scholarship money comes from Microsoft and Boeing, which together have contributed $50 million. The state has contributed $5 million.

Smith said the board decided to boost the scholarship size so that the money would have greater impact. "This is a number that will not only help current students pay for college, but inspire future students to focus on STEM," he said.

I will say that colleges and universities don't love that "fifth year" stuff.  They want all students in and out in four years because of the need for room for incoming students.

Washington Opportunity Scholarship
Who qualifies: Students must be residents of Washington, have at least a 2.75 grade-point average, be majoring or planning to major in science, technology, engineering, math or health care, have family income no more than 125 percent of the median family income and fill out the Federal Application for Free Student Aid.
To apply: The application for new awards will be available on Jan. 7, and the deadline is Feb. 18. Students who currently receive the scholarship must renew by July 15. For more information: www.waopportunityscholarship.org

A good piece in the NY Times about college selection from a former dean of admissions at Johns Hopkins University in Balimore and Dickinson College.

From the NY Times, a report that five states are to lengthen their school year.   Those states are Colorado, Connecticut, Tennessee, Massachusetts and New York.

The school day and year are about to get longer in 10 school districts in five states, where schools will add up to 300 hours to their calendars starting next fall.
In an effort to help underperforming students catch up on standardized tests and give them more opportunities for enrichment activities, 35 schools that enroll about 17,500 students will expand the school day and year in the 2013-14 academic year. Forty more schools that enroll about 20,000 students will also extend classroom and after-school time in the next three years. The effort is being coordinated by state education officials; theNational Center on Time and Learning, a nonprofit research and advocacy group; and the Ford Foundation, which is committing $3 million a year in grants over the next three years. The districts will use state and federal financing to pay for all of the operating costs, including extra teaching time and coordination with nonprofit groups.

One question I have from the wording throughout the article which reflects this is being done for "poor students" and"underperforming students".   I also note that Memphis is creating a special school district that includes the poorest-performing schools.   Will kids, despite the added supports, feel upset at the length of their school day as compared to other kids?  Will there be a stigma to being in a school with a longer school day (keeping in mind that some charters do this but again, charters are a choice)?
Not so much ed news but I came across this page that you might want to bookmark.  It explains the Open Meetings Laws in Washington state. 

From Diane Ravich's column, a story about a ruling in Louisiana over their voucher program.  (Why do we care?  Well, if you read any of the comments about 1240 from various newspapers and/or read comments at the Yes on 1240 Facebook page, it is clear that many voters believe vouchers are next and are very happy about it.)

A Louisiana judge ruled against the state’s new voucher program, agreeing with the plaintiffs that it violated the state constitution by diverting public funds to private schools.
The state will appeal. 

 The attorney for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers explains here why the teachers are suing to block Governor Jindal’s Act 2. 

It’s not because the law is “illegal,” but because it expressly violates the state constitution. It’s not because it spends public money for vouchers but because it takes money expressly reserved for public elementary and secondary schools and gives it to private, religious and online schools, as well as post-secondary institutions, that are clearly not public elementary and secondary schools. 

Yes, it is important to follow the constitution in issues about public education.  I think we might find out ourselves about that in the future.

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