Tag: portfolio assessment

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Read: Shutdown Edition

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What’s happening today in the dropout nation: In Kansas City, Superintendent John Covington is taking a radical approach to dealing with the urban district’s declining fiscal profile: Shut down half…

Walking into trouble: Kansas City school superintendent John Covington.

What’s happening today in the dropout nation:

  1. In Kansas City, Superintendent John Covington is taking a radical approach to dealing with the urban district’s declining fiscal profile: Shut down half of the city’s 60 traditional public schools, according to the Star. Whether or not this will actually work is a different story. Such efforts have shown little result, either in improving revenues, cutting costs or improving the quality of learning for children. It may be time for Covington to give a call to my fellow A Byte At the Apple co-authors, Rick Hess and Jon Fullerton, about how to revamp the district’s back-office and transportation functions. Oh, and Dave Eggers’ brother, who specializes in revamping government operations.
  2. Covington, who just arrived in K.C. after serving in Pueblo City, Colo., is having a little trouble with the school board president too. Given the reported history of infighting within the district’s board, Covington may have just landed in dysfunction (and may find himself praying for mayoral control) for the next three years.
  3. K.C. isn’t the only district with budget problems.A.P. notes that other districts may need to cut budgets as they run out of federal stimulus funds. This may force many to adapt a Houston/N.Y.C/L.A. Unified solution and do a better job of weeding out laggard teachers before they achieve tenure. Or re-work the traditional system of near-free health benefits for their teachers(which will happen eventually anyway because of the high costs of such benefits). Unless Obama comes up with a second stimulus, as I have also predicted.
  4. Across the state line in Kansas, school districts and their lawyers were told by the state supreme court that their funding lawsuit would not re-opened, according to the Star. The lawsuit resulted in a judgment against the state to fund the suing school districts to the tune of $1 billion; the state has since retreated in order to handle its budget deficits.
  5. Speaking of school leadership, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants to spur reform of how superintendents and administrators are trained, reports eSchool News. As he pointed out, it’s a bit much to require a superintendent to take a course in, say special ed, before assuming his job. Especially if the superintendent has plenty of experience teaching in — and running  — such programs.  Of course, as seen in Indiana (where superintendents are often not recruited from outside the state borders), diversifying the field of potential administrators — including looking at executives with private-sector management experience — may do districts good, especially in addressing the important (but rarely well-managed) transportation, school lunch, human resources and capital maintenance functions.
  6. An example of leadership: New York City schools chieftain Joel Klein declares in the New York Post that laggard teachers must go.
  7. And, about Indiana: State officials there are unveiling a new value-added assessment system under which parents, teachers and school districts can see student progress over time, according to Andy Gammill. As you would expect, suburban districts aren’t too pleased, largely because the assessments show they aren’t doing as good a job improving student learning as most expect.
  8. Meanwhile in L.A. Unified, where the school reform effort has in some ways fizzled amid antics by both L.A. Unified and its AFT local, the state’s parent trigger is getting used, especially by parents in an enclave in the San Fernando Valley whose students attend Mount Gleason Middle School. L.A. Unified officials are afraid that there will parents at marginal schools such as this one who will just pull the proverbial trigger and the AFT local fears that the law will be used by charter school operators in order to gain market share. But, as far as they should be concerned, it’s not about their concerns. Their concerns shouldn’t matter. It’s those of the students and their parents that should matter most. Period. If this leads to the full devolution of L.A. Unified and other systemically failing bureaucracies, so be it. The children haven’t been well-served by them anyway.
  9. Speaking of more parent power and charters:The Washington Post editorial board backs Virginia Gov. bob McDonnell’s charter school expansion plan. And in New York City, the Daily News notes one consequence of the charter school movement’s growing power: Politicaly-connected charters get millions in state dollars, including one supported by state senate leader Malcolm Smith and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Charter advocates need to be as concerned about corruption within their ranks as they are about shenanigans by teachers unions and traditional school districts.
  10. The Mobile Learning Institute offers a video series on new approaches to instruction in this century. Some of the videos (particularly the one on portfolio-based instruction) argue for approaches that are actually tried (and failed). But others, such as the one featuring Green Dot founder Steve Barr discussing the reform efforts at Locke High School, are interesting.

Check out this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, this time on why school reformers should build ties to grassroots activists in order to sustain policy goals. Also read my Labor Watch report on how the collapse of an NEA affiliate may help spur overhauls of traditional teachers compensation.

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