Thursday, August 15, 2013

Northwest Education News

A couple of NW education stories of interest.

First up, look who is leaving after one whole year as head of Oregon's public education system - Rudy Crew.  No real surprise there.  From Ed Week:

So, how have things turned out? There are a few answers to that, and good variety among them. First, there's Rudy Crew. He's no longer on the job, having resigned July 1 to take over as president of Medgar Evers College in New York City. One of his biggest legacies seems to be a sour one: the expenses he racked up while serving as the state's K-12 czar, including a $1,118 taxpayer-funded trip to California to honor a former colleague, and a four-hour course he taught at the University of Southern California that resulted in a $552 bill to the Oregon public.

On the policy front, Crew sought $150 million for four key initiatives, including preschool reading and regional centers for teacher professional development, Betsy Hammond at The Oregonian notes, but lawmakers were unimpressed and gave him only a fraction of the cash he wanted.

What about school funding in general? It's a major headache—as Betsy Miller-Jones, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, told me in an interview last week, up to 40 percent of districts have been on four-day weeks to cope with budget cuts, with "huge class sizes" persisting to boot. Lawmakers this year tried to resolve both K-12 finance and pension issues at the same time, with a mixed result. They boosted education funding over the 2013-15 biennium by $1 billion, with a twist. Of that amount, $800 million is purely new revenue for public schools, but changes to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), including less-generous cost-of-living adjustments for both current and past employees and an elimination of certain tax breaks, gives districts fiscal relief amounting to an additional $200 million.

And about those class-size numbers: Lawmakers also approved a bill that would require a new study of student-to-teacher ratios, in response to concerns about class sizes reaching the mid-30s

Oregon has issues getting its school fully funded and concerns over rising class sizes?  Sounds very familiar.  As well, bringing in a big name who is supposed to have the magic touch and turn things around?  In the end, they all leave.  

And guess who's in trouble with the feds over the NCLB waiver?  Among several, Washington State and serves as a heads up for at least one thing the Legislature will be tackling in January. Again from Ed Week:

Kansas, Oregon, and Washington have been placed on "high-risk" status and given one more year to get their teacher-evaluation systems on track. Specifically, each of these states is struggling with incorporating student growth into teacher ratings. 

This is the first enforcement action federal officials have taken since the initial waivers were issued early last year. Forty states plus the District of Columbia (and a group of eight California districts) have waivers from provisions of the NCLB law, including that 100 percent of students be proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

In letters sent to the states yesterday, the Education Department spelled out more conditions they must meet during the coming school year to keep their waivers. Mostly, federal officials want to see evidence that these states are trying to meet their teacher-evaluation deadlines. If these conditions are not met, then the ultimate penalty for each state is losing its waiver and being forced back under NCLB as written. 

The Obama administration's NCLB waivers—an answer to the failure of Congress to rewrite the law—require that states implement teacher-evaluation systems that incorporate student growth as a significant factor, all on an aggressive federal timeline. States must get their systems approved by the department during the first year of their waivers.

Though each of the three states has failed to meet these requirements, Education Department letters show each state is in a different situation.

Washington State is likely facing the heaviest lift. While its teacher-evaluation system is in state law, that law also leaves it up to individual districts to decide whether to include test scores in teacher ratings. Federal requirements don't allow school districts to have such discretion, so Washington will have to secure a change in state law—which likely won't be an easy task given how controversial teacher-evaluation debates are in statehouses across the country. Nevertheless, the Education Department's letter says the state has "committed" to changing the law. 

Nathan Olson, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Education, noted that schools' chief Randy Dorn is an elected official, and a former legislator. He has "great relationships with current legislators, but there are 147 in our state. So we honestly don't know how tough it will be to change the law." Olson said they're committed to changing the law when the legislature meets again in January.


mirmac1 said...

More signs all is not happy in reformy land

mirmac1 said...

"The standards, which were written by a panel of experts convened by governors and state superintendents, focus on critical thinking and analysis rather than memorization and formulas."

Reading this story, I'm reminded of my consternation when I hear people, who should know better, say the Common Core IS the curriculum. Why are they not standards, that teachers may have exercise their experience and discretion to design curricula around?

I dunno. I'm just a working stiff who thinks it's a freakin' waste of time and attention that benefits the merchandisers.

Anonymous said...

My child's elementary school teacher lead for Common Core told me that Common Core is the State-mandated curriculum. She lost all credibility with me at that point.


Melissa Westbrook said...

CHM, don't hold that against your child's teacher. She may be in the dark as much as any other person because teachers really have not received the professional development that they should have. (Maybe she did but I believe this is not being rolled out in the best way to achieve any degree of success.)

mirmac1 said...

I have heard a number of teachers say that, and like you I thought that was bizarre. But much like EDM and R/W Workshop are drummed into teachers' heads, I think the CCS thing is as well.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's not blame anyone outside of the JSCEE for misusing the word "curriculum". It has been redefined six times in four years by the District leadership.