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Answer Sheet
Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 08/25/2012

Education news you shouldn’t miss

Some developments this week that are worth knowing about:

• Hispanics now account for nearly one-quarter of the pre-K-through 12th-grade population, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of newly available U.S. Census Bureau data.

The report also says that Hispanics are now the largest minority group on the nation’s four-year college campuses, with more than 2 million 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics now enrolled, for a record 16.5 percent share among all college enrollments.

• President Obama has a slight edge — 49 percent to 44 percent — over Mitt Romney as the leader seen as more likely to strengthen public schools, according to the 2012 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll of American attitudes to public education.


President Obama waves to supporters after a campaign event at Canyon Springs High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday. (Nikki Kahn - THE WASHINGTON POST)
The poll also found that Americans believe the Democratic Party is far more interested in improving public education than are Republicans. The totals: 50 percent for Democrats and 38 percent for Republicans (it doesn’t add up to 100 percent because some respondents said they didn’t know or declined to answer.)

In addition, the poll found that Americans are divided on vouchers, charter schools and evaluation of teachers according to students’ standardized test scores but largely agree that they trust public school teachers. You can read about it here.

• The Chicago, Milwaukee and New York public school districts have ended Teacher Incentive Fund grants that provided federal money to implement performance-based compensation and professional development for educators, Education Week reported.

The grants, made in 2010, would have given the districts a total of $88 million over five years, but none of the three were able to get the teachers unions to agree.

Performance-based compensation for teachers and educators has become a favorite tool of school reformers, though study after study shows that it doesn’t actually work to improve student achievement.

Besides, many of the merit pay plans are based on student standardized test scores, and aside from the fact that such tests weren’t designed to measure the effectiveness of teachers, it remains the case that there aren’t such assessments in most subjects.

• A new report commissioned by the Texas Business and Education Council says that high-performing charter schools in the state run by charter management organizations educate a different population of students than do the traditional public schools. The study was done by Ed Fuller, associate professor in the Education Leadership Department at Penn State University and director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis. It says in part:

This study is a preliminary examination of high-profile/high-performing charter management organizations in Texas. Specifically, the study examined the characteristics of students entering the schools, retention/attrition rates; and the impact of attrition/retention rates on the distribution of students.

Contrary to the profile often portrayed in the media, by some policymakers, and by some charter school proponents (including some charter CEOs), the high-profile/high-enrollment CMOs [charter management organizations] in Texas enrolled groups of students that would arguably be easier to teach and would be more likely to exhibit high levels of achievement and greater growth on state achievement tests. . .

In other words, rather than serving more disadvantaged students, the findings of this study suggest that the high-profile/high-enrollment CMOs actually served a more advantaged clientele relative to comparison schools — especially as compared to schools in the same zip code as the CMO schools. This is often referred to as the “skimming” of more advantaged students from other schools. While CMOs may not intentionally skim, the skimming of students may simply be an artifact of the policies and procedures surrounding entrance into these CMOs.

• More on performance-based pay: An administrative law judge in Florida, taking the side of teachers, declared that a state-approved rule that links teacher performance to compensation is “wholly invalid.”

The rule stemmed from a 2011 education law that includes a number of changes in the state’s education system, including linking standardized test scores of students to teacher evaluation and pay.

The judge said that the state Department of Education and Florida’s Board of Education had violated the correct process to be used in creating such a rule. The rest of the 2011 law was not involved in this ruling.

The bottom line: Teacher evaluation systems with performance-based pay have already been put in place and are likely to be used for the new school year because there is no time to change them.

• The White House spent the past week talking about education. It released a report that says the national student-teacher ratio jumped 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, essentially nullifying gains made since 2000 in lowering class size. President Obama called for states to invest in public education and save teachers’ jobs.

Here are the remarks Obama made during a teacher roundtable on Wednesday in Nevada:

Remarks by the President in Roundtable with Teachers

Canyon Springs High School

North Las Vegas, Nevada

9:36 a.m. PDT

MR. BARRON: I just want to convey the genuine appreciation and sincere thank you on behalf of not only my school but my community, and now generations of the DREAM Act kids — we really appreciate your sincerity and, more than anything, the courage that you’ve had to come out and help us with the —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, when we spoke, Isaac was passionate about it, and I told you I share that passion in making sure every kid is getting a fair shot. All these pieces fit together — good teachers, college access, making sure that every one of our kids, if they’re willing to work hard, then they’ve got a shot.

Now, we can’t do everything for them, and in the end — my sister is a teacher, and she now is out of the classroom. She’s actually at the college — at the University of Hawaii. So she teaches teachers and sort of advises them, and works with them on a curriculum. But I see how hard you guys work and I know that you don’t do it for the money. (Laughter.) You’re doing it because you really, deeply care about these kids.

You guys, I’m sure, recognize that you have them for a limited part of the day, and if they’re not getting reinforced at home, that’s a problem. So my message is always, parents, you guys have to be part of this team. You can’t just drop your kid off and expect —

MS. HENRICKSON: The triangle — my friend says it’s a triangle between the teacher, the parent, and the student. If you don’t have all three, it’s not there.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s exactly right. But you guys need to make — you guys need to have the support and the resources in order to be successful as well. And one of the things that I know that a lot of you guys are concerned about is class size, which is something that’s subject to periodic debate. But I don’t know too many teachers who don’t think that having smaller class size allows you to do a better job. And, Lori, you —

MS. HENRICKSON: Well, I teach science, and it’s such a hands-on activity. If I want to do a hands-on activity, it’s so hard when there’s — if I have 40 kids in that class. Like I have it set up now — I have six groups of six. And I’m thinking, what if I had 38 students? What am I going to do with those kids? Am I going to have enough supplies? That’s one thing. If I have big class sizes, am I going to have enough supplies to make those groups work?

And I think in science — I know it’s probably in every subject, but it’s the meaningful experience, the hands-on, meaningful experiences that those kids need to call upon when they’re tested or in life — that if they don’t have those hands-on experiences, it’s just — it’s so hard for them to — and, yes, but 40 12-year-olds, like holy cow, that’s — your daughter is 13, yes? Your oldest?

THE PRESIDENT: She’s 14.

MS. HENRICKSON: Oh, 14 — OK. But imagine 40 —

THE PRESIDENT: Forty of them.

MS. HENRICKSON: — yes, in one room for 50 minutes and I need to teach them —

THE PRESIDENT: It’s frightening. (Laughter.)

MS. HENRICKSON: Yes. And it’s so — or I do Earth Science, and so we get to do space, and space is so exciting, with the Mars Curiosity —

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

MS. HENRICKSON: — and so many things. And I’m about to do technology and I do — I’ve been following the Mars Curiosity on Twitter, and it’s hilarious. And I want to incorporate those things, and it’s just — when there’s so many kids in that classroom, it’s how do I touch them, how do I get those students to be excited about — as excited as I am? How do I give that to them?

THE PRESIDENT: And then if one of them is stuck, you need to have the one-on-one time.

In terms of that, I was talking to a math teacher in Pennsylvania, in Scranton, and — I think he was middle school — no, it was probably high school, because he was teaching geometry so I suspect it was probably 9th grade or 10th grade. But he was saying his traditional pattern has been that after people do the overall assignment as a group, then he’d give everybody problem sets. And he’d go around the room and when he had 28 kids or 25 kids, then he’d go around three times. And you add an extra five, six, seven kids in the class and then he could only go around twice.

So he was explaining how each class for the entire year he’s touching each one of those kids one less time per class in individualized instruction, which meant that if they got stuck or they got lost it was going to make a difference.

And you’ve seen this, right, Claritssa? Your classes actually have increased since you started teaching.

(Travel pool exits.)

END

9:41 a.m. PDT

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By  |  09:00 AM ET, 08/25/2012

 
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