Edvoice - Issues

Turning teaching upside-down

October 14 | The Educated Guess

Sal Khan's tutorials can empower students

By John Fensterwald

Witty, brilliant, self-effacing, a seeming agnostic in the education wars over school choice and performance pay, Salman Khan is an unlikely revolutionary. But Khan, the former hedge-fund manager turned online tutor, first for his East Coast nieces and nephews and now for the world, is flipping education upside-down. Many teachers and their unions have been too slow to recognize that.

Khan's 2,800 YouTube tutorials on everything from elementary addition to algebra to calculus and physics, are enabling millions of students to excel on their own time, at their own pace, moving ahead only when, by completing 10 problems in a row, they have mastered one discrete lesson at a time.

With backing from the Gates Foundation and Silicon Valley benefactors like John and Ann Doerr, his nonprofit Khan Academy has taken the next step. Teachers anywhere can freely use the software he has created in their classrooms and monitor every student's progress in real time: which video she last watched, how much time she spent, which problem she was stuck on.

By using technology to guide students through drills and step-by-step basics - with badges and points to make it fun enough for students to stay plugged in - teachers are liberated to do small group tutorials, help students where they're stuck, teach concepts, and do project-based learning.

LAUSD agrees to revise how English learners, blacks are taught

October 11 | The Los Angeles Times

Officials say the accord, which settles a federal civil rights probe, could be a national model. The district is not accused of intentional bias, and deciding how to make changes will be done locally.

By Howard Blume

The Los Angeles Unified School District has agreed to sweeping revisions in the way it teaches students learning English, as well as black youngsters, settling a federal civil rights investigation that examined whether the district was denying the students a quality education.

The settlement closes what was the Obama administration's first civil rights investigation launched by the Department of Education, and officials said Tuesday that it would serve as a model for other school districts around the country.

"What happens in L.A. really does set trends for across the nation. More and more school districts are dealing with this challenge," said Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights.

No changes to Open Enrollment

October 9 | The Educated Guess

Brown vetoes AB 47 for excluding schools

By John Fensterwald

For all its quirks and anomalies, the two-year-old Open Enrollment Act, which gives parents in low-performing schools the chance to transfer their children to a better school in another district, will remain unchanged. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Saturday that would have let a number of schools off the hook.

In his veto message for AB 47, Brown said that the changes would have cut the eligible schools from 1,000 to 150, which would "go too far and would undermine the intent of the original law."

LAUSD pact with administrators union will factor in new teacher evaluations

September 23 | Los Angeles Daily News

By Connie Llanos

Los Angeles Unified administrators have tentatively agreed to a new three-year contract that includes a trial run of a controversial system to evaluate teachers based on their students' test scores.

Associated Administrators had earlier taken legal action to oppose the district's plan for a pilot evaluation system, but now has agreed to test the proposal for one year without consequences to those being evaluated.

Union officials said the probationary period will allow them to study the new system as it is tested with a small percentage of principals and teachers. LAUSD officials will have to negotiate with the administrators again before implementing it districtwide as planned for next school year.

Obama Administration Sets Rules for NCLB Waivers

September 22 | EdWeek Blog

By Alyson Klein

The Obama administration on Thursday afternoon said it will waive the cornerstone requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the 2014 deadline that all students be proficient in math and language arts, and will give states the freedom to set their own student-achievement goals, and design their own interventions for failing schools.

In exchange for this flexibility, the administration will require states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, focus on 15 percent of their most-troubled schools, and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.

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