Closing the achievement gap between low and higher income children is not happening even though more children are enrolled in preschool say experts from the National Institute for Early Education at Rutgers. Digging into the data helps explain why.
Open enrollment in Florida is here. Your child can attend any public school anywhere, if there is space. Hernando opened up all 5, 8, 11 and 12th grades so children could switch to a school outside their zoned school. Once those grades were filled, they would open up 10th grades as well as others where demand exists.
It was a big shuffle even though parents had to arrange transportation for their children. Not everyone was satisfied. Five schools were overcrowded and could not accept over 500 students who applied.
Open enrollment may not impact some counties too much. They already have allowed students to transfer. Movement across county lines could increase especially where parents work in one county and live in another. Unfortunately, when students leave a school, they take their state funding with them. As a result, schools with declining enrollments have even more problems providing a quality education.
There are cities that try to organize choice in order to balance the school population. In Minneapolis, for example, all students are enrolled in an area lottery. A child may apply to one of three schools that are relatively nearby. The assignment of students and teachers as well as special programs is planned to allow high quality programs at each school. It is a way to balance socio-economic characteristics to ensure there are advanced classes as well as extra support in every school.
Rural schools do not have much choice. Leon county schools does enroll children from neighboring counties, but those rural schools that remain have problems not only with funding, but also with teacher recruitment. The long term answer may be technology, but that too is in scarce supply.
Remember when Susan Bowles, the kindergarten teacher in Gainesville said “NO” to the kindergarten readiness test? The kids could not reliably use the computer mouse. One thing for sure was that the children just beginning kindergarten were not computer ready!
In my last post, I commented that the conversation about education reform was beginning to shift from the evils of constant testing back to include new approaches to teaching and learning. Who would believe I would find an example moments later.
We can call this topic the ‘learning my way’ approach. A teacher at PK Yonge laboratory school in Gainesville has won an award for incorporating student directed learning strategies in his classroom. How he does it is bound to engage students. The idea came from a Harvard workshop years ago. He now leads them.
The pushback against testing is spreading. The New York Times reports that some minority groups have joined the anti testing movement. This is a significant change from what began as a white middle class movement. Testing is the stick that education reformers like current U.S. DOE Secretary John King and others use to spotlight struggling schools. Without testing, many argue, the plight of these students is ignored.
Now, some black parents and children are joining the Opt Out groups in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Educators cite examples of students who feel labeled as failures and curriculum that is little more than test prep. Warren Simmons, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, sums up the problem. Testing identifies there is a problem but does not tell you what is wrong and how to fix it.
I take heart when I consider the evolving discussion about educational policy. Since the 1990s, we have moved from a focus on basic skills to one on critical thinking and problem solving. We then moved into high gear on testing in order to motivate educators to identify the needs of all students. Even now the conversation is moving toward the appropriate roles of teaching and technology to improve learning. There are also hints about the role of neuroscience in defining appropriate learning strategies.
Eventually we will get to the heart of the matter: time and money. This will become the biggest test of our political will to adapt our educational system to meet the needs of the nation. These discussion too are emerging in the courts.
Does eliminating tenure makes any difference in the quality of the teacher workforce (as judged by achievement test score gains)? The Brookings Institute published an article that sheds some light on the impact prior to 2011. By comparing the departure rate of teachers with lower gain scores to those with higher gain scores, one would expect more lower rated teachers to leave.
What are these anti tenure cases really about? Are reformers convinced the workforce has more than its share of ineffective teachers? Or, are they concerned many teachers prefer to work in traditional schools where they can earn higher salaries and benefits? Thus, charters and private schools struggle to compete for high quality teachers.
There is a general anti union undercurrent, but I am continually surprised how few Floridians seem to know that tenure in Florida is a thing of the past. Why are other states filing law suits?
NPR is doing a series on public education. They are starting with funding equity and adequacy. Florida is in court over this very issue. I liked the historical context that NPR provided e.g. “Education is a public good and paying for it is a public obligation”.
There is an interactive map on the NPR website where you can find how much funding your state or county within the state received in 2013-14. I got an itchy trigger finger and began poking around. Here’s what I found–it was surprising!
Florida’s districts can ask voters to help fund schools through a local referendum. Charters in Indian River want a share. Five charters: Indian River Charter High School, Inc., Imagine Schools at South Vero, North County Charter School, Inc., Sebastian Charter Junior High, Inc., and St. Peter’s Academy, Inc., have filed a lawsuit. In 2012, voters approved a .6 mills increase in property taxes to fund their local public schools. Charters backed the referendum and want a pro-rata share.
Most districts do not and are not required to share funding from a local referendum with charters. Nevertheless, the competition for money goes on. The case was assigned to Administrative Law Judge Cathy M. Sellers.