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Articles: Policy & Compliance

At a recent conference that I attended, I learned quite a bit about the development and implementation of online courses in public schools. However, I left the workshop feeling a bit discouraged, even disgusted. Not with regard to online learning; in fact, I am cautiously optimistic that online coursework will benefit students in many different ways. But the more I heard, the more I felt disillusioned.

In the 2008-2009 school year, Adams County (Colo.) School District 50, just north of Denver, did something only previously attempted by the small rural Chugach school system in Alaska. The struggling district with roughly 10,000 students abandoned the conventional concept of grade levels and implemented a standards-based system, which only advances students to the next level when they have mastered certain skills. Three years later, student achievement is lower than ever before, and the superintendent that guided the district through this reform is stepping down.

Arts education is being left out of the national conversation about how to reform schools, according to a report released May 6 by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

The report acknowledges that tight budgets and high-stakes testing has placed arts education on the back burner, but it affirms that there are cost effective models to incorporate the arts across the curriculum that, when done properly, can raise student achievement, attendance rates and behavior.

Failure Is Not an Option is not just the title of a best-selling book; it's a mantra for many high-performing districts. The Mansfield (Texas) Independent School District adopted this motto in 2007 and hasn't looked back.

The district—the second-largest in Texas with over 35,000 students—was far from low-achieving, although it was experiencing rapid change with the addition of over 2,000 students each year. Located outside Dallas, Mansfield has had to add a new school each year for the last 13 years to keep up with enrollment. It currently has 40 schools.

Buzz surrounding the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) program, released late last year, has yet to cease. The report proved that achievement gains of American students were stagnant when compared to students of various foreign countries.

Extensive media coverage of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone's cradle-to-career program over the past several years has served to focus mainstream attention on school reform in a way unprecedented in recent history.

The Obama administration has grand hopes for turning around the nation's lowest-performing schools, in part by allocating $3.5 billion for School Improvement Grants. Unfortunately, there simply aren't enough qualified principals to replace those mandated to be fired under two of the four school improvement models that the federal government says districts must follow to tap into that funding.

In March, U.S. Secretary of education arne Duncan estimated that 82 percent of schools could fail to make adequate yearly Progress in the 2011- 2012 school year. The startling statistic left many wondering whether the problem was with the schools or with the guiding policy of no child Left Behind.

If you were to call the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a monotone recording would answer, "The number you have dialed is unallocated."

The organization has become a ghost town since the Obama administration began phasing out the controversial voucher program, which provides federal funding for low-income D.C. students to attend private schools. The program has seen signs of a revival in the House of Representatives, however.

For Michele Hancock, the recently hired superintendent of the Kenosha (Wis.) Unified School District No. 1, her job is not business as usual. When she took the position last summer, she had a vision to transform the district, including questioning all practices, programs and policies to ensure they meet the needs of all students.

"Readiness" is in. But are educators prepared for the implications?

The push for common core standards—coupled with the distressing numbers of college students who need remedial courses and the dissatisfaction among business leaders with the preparation of high school graduates—has ignited the institutional and political movement to tackle the "readiness problem."

Memphis (Tenn.) City Schools will forfeit its charter after a landmark vote in the city on March 8 mandated the district allow Shelby County—its neighboring suburban district—to regain control of its school system. Memphis, which has been separate from the county, has long been deemed the struggling district, while Shelby County (Tenn.) Schools has been regarded as the successful one.

If you think your district needs further preparation to implement the common core state standards (CCSS), you're not alone. According to a poll conducted by the Leadership and Learning center, an organization providing solutions to districts and school leaders, 96 percent of respondents reported they were unprepared to implement the standards in their district. The poll consisted of 115 thorough responses from district leaders and, while far from scientific, sheds light on some specific concerns facing administrators.

The No Child Left Behind Act dates back to Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, part of that president's ambitious signature policy, the War on Poverty. After a 36-year conflict, however, poverty was officially declared the winner in 2001. As a result, the ESEA was revamped and renamed the No Child left Behind Act by George W. Bush in 2002, and was apparently part of the president's ambitious signature policy, the War on Terror. After nine years of terrorizing schools nationwide, however, the bill is about to be reformed, but even more importantly, renamed.

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