Edvoice - Issues

States Loosening 'Seat Time' Requirements

March 5 | Education Week

By Sean Cavanagh

States have established an array of policies in recent years to free schools from having to award academic credits based on "seat time," with the goal of making it easier for struggling students to catch up, exceptional students to race ahead, and students facing geographic and scheduling barriers to take the courses they need.

Thirty-six states have adopted policies that allow districts or schools to provide credits based on students' proving proficiency in a subject, rather than the time they physically spend in a traditional classroom setting, according to the National Governors Association . One state, New Hampshire, has required high schools to assign credits based on competency, rather than seat time, while others have encouraged schools to do that or allowed them to apply for waivers from state policy to do so.

In addition to their desire to increase academic opportunities for students, state policymakers are eager to boost high school graduation rates by re-engaging struggling teenagers through online or alternative courses, and potentially putting them on the path to a two- or four-year college degree or career certification.

Bright Spots Shine in Blended, Online Learning

March 2 | EducationNext

By Michael B. Horn

A month has passed since the first-ever national Digital Learning Day. Given the excitement generated from teachers and others tuning in to the National Town Hall meeting and given today's National Leadership Summit on Online Learning up on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. that iNACOL sponsored, I thought it was worth noting some great examples that weren't highlighted during the day's festivities. To our friends in the field, these examples are familiar, but they remind us that what is so exciting about technology is the power that it holds to move our education system toward a student-centric model of learning where students can move at their own path and pace to boost student outcomes.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Joins Mayors Bloomberg, Villaraigosa and Emanuel for "Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Reform"

March 2 | U.S. Department of Education

City Superintendents will also participate, highlight local efforts to improve education in nation's three largest schools districts: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will join New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel together with their Superintendents, Dennis Walcott, John Deasy and Jean-Claude Brizard, to host a forum titled, "Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Reform." The forum will be held Friday, March 2, from 10 to 11 a.m. EST at American University.

NBC's Andrea Mitchell, host of MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," will moderate the forum and engage the group in a dialogue about education successes and challenges. Duncan and local leaders will discuss a variety of issues including accountability, school management, strengthening the teaching profession, and the importance of school leadership while also highlighting efforts underway to expand access to a high-quality education and improve student outcomes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Collectively, these three school districts serve nearly 2.5 million students, 77% of whom are poor and 88% of whom are minority.

This event will be webcasted live at 10 a.m. EST(7 AM PST). To watch, go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/education-department. Viewers are also invited to join the conversation on Twitter at #EdCities.

S.F. school board drops seniority in layoffs

March 1 | The San Francisco Chronicle

By Jill Tucker

Teacher Kathleen Florita recited from memory a note she received from a student at San Francisco's historically low-performing Everett Middle School.

"Please don't leave like everyone else does," wrote the student.

Florita would have been among the first to get a pink slip this year in what has become an annual ritual of teacher layoffs based on her low seniority.

It appears not this year.

The San Francisco school board set aside seniority rights Tuesday night to save the jobs of 70 low-seniority teachers in 14 low-performing schools. Many of the teachers were brought in just last year to help improve the schools.

The board's decision, on a 5-1 vote, would protect teachers in those schools - even those without seniority - when the district issues layoff notices in March. State law requires that the final decision to deviate from seniority in the layoff process be left to an administrative law judge.

Gov. Jerry Brown changes route, restores bus money next year

February 15 | Capitol Alert

By Kevin Yamamura

Gov. Jerry Brown reversed course this week by restoring $496 million in school bus money in his budget proposal for next fiscal year after facing criticism from education groups.

The decision comes after the governor signed legislation Friday that restored bus funding for the remainder of the current school year after districts lost that money in December's midyear cuts. Brown quietly issued a new education budget plan this week ahead of a Thursday state Senate hearing.

Brown's reversal in 2012-13 comes with some caveats. First, it relies on voters approving his plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy earners, as well as sales taxes by a half cent. It allows districts to spend their bus money on other purposes. And the governor intends to eliminate school transportation earmarks in 2013-14, though districts may receive funding in a new form allowing them to maintain bus service.

Teachers want moratorium on layoffs and a new evaluation system

February 11 | The Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume

Los Angeles teachers have approved a much-watched initiative that calls for a moratorium on layoffs as well as a new teacher-evaluation system.

Organizers of the initiative, which passed with 56% of the vote, immediately hailed the results as suggesting that teachers were willing to accept student test scores as part of a new evaluation system.

"Teachers will now take the lead on ending the destructive cycle of layoffs and developing a rigorous evaluation system based on multiple measures, including the careful use of student test data," according to statement released Saturday by the group Teachers for a New Unionism.

Left behind: 10 states fleeing education law

February 9 | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Thursday declared that 10 states are free from the No Child Left Behind law, allowing them to scrap some of the most rigorous and unpopular mandates in American education. In exchange, the states are promising higher standards and more creative ways to measure what students are learning.

"We can combine greater freedom with greater accountability," Obama said from the White House. Plenty more states are bound to take up him up on the offer.

Digital Learning Day

January 31 | Foundation for Excellence in Education

Wednesday, February 1, 2012, will be the first ever National Digital Learning Day. On this day, teachers, students, parents and supporters will be participating in a nationwide campaign to celebrate effective teachers, policies and practices that empower each and every student to receive a customized education. Through digital learning every student has access to an education path, pace, place that best fits their learning style.

The video below details how the power of digital learning has transformed the lives of students. Please join in celebrating Digital Learning Day. Feel free to share this video to spread the message of Digital Learning, "It's time to take action to ensure every student experiences personalized learning with great teaching."

How to grade a teacher

January 29 | Los Angeles Times

United Teachers Los Angeles and the school district should get behind a teacher-led evaluation system.

By James Encinas, Kyle Hunsberger and Michael Stryer

We're teachers who believe that teacher evaluation, including the use of reliable test data, can be good for students and for teachers. Yes, yes, we know we're not supposed to exist. But we do, and there are a lot more of us.

In February the membership of United Teachers Los Angeles will vote on a teacher-led initiative urging union leaders to negotiate a new teacher evaluation system for L.A. Unified. The vote will allow teachers' voices to be heard above the din of warring political figures.

Although LAUSD and UTLA reached a contract agreement in December that embraced important school reforms, they haven't yet addressed teacher evaluation. Good teaching is enormously complex, and no evaluation system will capture it perfectly. But a substantive teacher-led evaluation system will be far better for students and teachers than what we have now, a system in which virtually all teachers receive merely "satisfactory" ratings from administrators.

A 40-Year Shame

January 19 | City Journal

A lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified School District could shake up how California evaluates teachers.

By Larry Sand

For nearly 40 years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has broken the law--and nobody seemed to notice. Now a group of parents and students are taking the district to court. On November 1, a half-dozen anonymous families working with EdVoice, a reform advocacy group in Sacramento, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the LAUSD, district superintendent John Deasy, and United Teachers Los Angeles.