Here’s a quick look at education news making national headlines this week.
Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond writes a commentary for the Washington Post on a new report that compares the U.S. education system to others in the world such as Korea and Finland.
Darling-Hammond, an education adviser to President Barack Obama during his campaign, says the first international Summit on Teaching last week was an opportunity for the U.S. to learn how to approach the teaching profession differently. The report issued during the summit suggests the key to improving student achievement in the U.S. is to raise the status of the teaching profession by getting more highly qualified candidates, giving them more support and more money.
The Hechinger Report has teamed with several news outlets in the nation to analyze standardized test scores in six states and the District of Columbia. This week, the USA Today published a piece on cheating and new ways to look at testing.
At Yale Law School, officials will soon allow law students to check out a dog named Monty for 30 minutes at a time to help relieve stress.
Is Facebook becoming the new medium to debate state legislative proposals? Two Tennessee lawmakers used Facebook to post dueling responses to education proposals, including bills to limit teacher collective bargaining.
And in Connecticut, lawmakers have put the brakes on some education reforms that included increasing graduation rates and changing tenure rules, saying those changes would require an addition $25 million while state programs – including public schools — are already being reduced.
– Kim Melton
New Jersey Education News
More than 100 shut out of Newark school meeting after auditorium fills to capacity
Chants of “Let us in!” rang out among the more than 100 people who turned out for Newark’s monthly school board meeting who were barred from entering Barringer High School’s auditorium.
Security guards at the entrances said the room was over capacity based on fire safety codes. But for the parents, teachers and students pressing the school’s blue metal doors, this was an unacceptable excuse.
“If it’s an open forum, it should be open to the public,” said Lydia Murcado, a Newark teacher whose children attend Catholic schools. “They should at least have speakers out here so we can hear what’s going on inside.”
Instead those waiting by the doors were treated to speakers blasting support for Kris Pernell, a candidate for Newark’s advisory board whose eligibility for the race has come into question based on her residence.
Linda Grahm, one of those waiting at the auditorium’s door, said she was scheduled to speak publicly at the meeting, which has turned into a heated battle between supporters of charter and district schools. Grahm’s 12-year-old daughter attends TEAM academy, one of the charters set to be given district space under a plan to “co-locate” the schools inside traditional public schools.
“If the space is empty, it makes sense,” said Grahm, amidst frustration that she could not get inside to voice her opinion.
At a quarter to 8 p.m., people were still waiting outside demanding entry.
“You know musical chairs? This is like musical doors,” said one person outside trying different doors to enter the school.
More than 1,000 cram into Newark school to debate plan to expand charters into Newark school campuses
They crammed into the close confines of the Barringer High School auditorium, more than 1,000 parents, students and educators strong. Dozens were even turned away from the overflow scene.
This was no ordinary school board meeting in Newark tonight. This was a spirited outcry over a plan to co-locate charter schools with traditional schools in the state’s largest school district.
While tensions simmered with the occasional boiled-over reaction, the debate over a plan that would introduce charter schools into 10 Newark school campuses that officials say are under-utilized was civilly heard.
“We get to the point when we finally have manageable enrollment, and they’re telling us that they’re going to introduce charters,” said Newark Teachers Union president Joseph Del Grosso, who mobilized hundreds of members to attend tonight’s meeting. “You’re telling us you’re using us. That’s what you’re telling the people of Newark — that we’re using you.”
Since the first iteration of the plan was made public last month, parents, students and teachers have criticized it as an unfair encroachment into district school campuses. But charter school advocates said their primary concern is creating more school choice in a district that graduates only half of its students.
“This is about providing high-quality public schools to as many children as possible in Newark,” said Mashea Ashton, chief executive of the Newark Charter School Fund. “I think this is really, hopefully, a cry for action that the status quo can no longer exist in Newark.”
Hours before the meeting, Mayor Cory Booker, who is staking his political future on the success of school reform in Newark, urged calm.
• More than 100 shut out of Newark school meeting after auditorium fills to capacity
• Crowds expected at Newark meeting to debate charters sharing campuses with district schools
• Joan Whitlow: School plan worked on paper, but not with people
“I hope everyone keeps the focus on our kids and through their actions tonight set an example for them on how a public dialogue can elevate and even unite a community and not devolve it into a tortuous state of division,” he said.
By 6 p.m. the auditorium had filled. Charter supporters and district supporters were equally divided through two hours of public remarks.
Leonard Pugliese, representing Newark administrators, said phasing out schools would undermine progress in the city’s schools.
“All of us in here know that smaller learning communities are the way to go,” he said. “The closing of NPS schools makes absolutely no sense.”
Del Grosso received vocal support from the crowd after a speech that referenced Robert Frost and Shakespeare. The biggest point of contention seemed to be whether Del Grosso as NTU president should have 10 minutes to speak as opposed to the allotted three.
Leslie Foster, a parent, said the debate had grown misguided.
“Once again, we are fighting each other and not fighting conditions,” she said. “This fight isn’t about charter schools versus traditional schools. This fight is about why our kids are failing.”
Hydeia Austin, a senior at Malcolm X Shabazz High School, received loud ovations when she said a plan to co-locate the new charter “Spirit Prep” with Shabazz was treating students like “guinea pigs.”
“Didn’t anyone think about the impact this would have on students already enrolled?” she said. “If these new schools want to become part of the Newark community, then they must build their own buildings and not take what is rightfully ours!”
The plan rankled community members when it was first leaked in late February. It called for the co-location of several new and low-performing charter schools inside district school campuses. It also allowed for successful charters such as NorthStar and TEAM to inhabit schools with low enrollment, such as Fifteenth Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. schools.
Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has been a champion of the expansion, saying the schools that will house the new charters have wasted space.
“It simply makes no sense for some Newark Public School buildings to sit half-empty while public charter schools are forced to use their scarce operating dollars to seek and pay for private facilities,” Cerf said in a statement.
Charter schools are hoping to gain access to the district schools for little or no rent.
They are awarded roughly 90 percent of the taxpayer funds that district schools receive and are not allowed to use that money on building their own facilities. Many charters also receive private donations which they can use in any manner.
Cerf also recalled that former Newark superintendents Clifford Janey and Marion Bolden were in favor of the co-location of charter schools and district schools.
“That is why both Dr. Janey and Dr. Bolden allowed co-location of charter schools and why we believe that this policy is a sensible solution to anyone who puts the interests of kids first,” Cerf said.
CaseClosed2: Schools within schools makes absolutely no sense to me. How about getting Newark Public Schools to work by implementing what the best charter schools are doing to achieve student success? There’s no magic bullet involved. Everyone has to do his part to educate every child which includes teachers, students, parents school administrators and the community as a whole. Remember, it still takes a village.