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Articles: Policy & Compliance

Some schools districts are using enrollment losses and building closures as an opportunity to improve student achievement by shifting kids to better schools.

Record lows in student enrollment and staggering budget cuts have forced some of the nation’s largest districts to close schools, a disruption that has often interfered with classroom instruction.

“Many big urban districts have declining enrollment, as there is exodus to the suburbs and charter schools,” says Ron Zimmer, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, an expert on these trends.

Connecticut, home to some of the wealthiest and most destitute towns in the country, has the nation’s largest student achievement gap, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

This gap is most severe in Bridgeport, Conn., one of the poorest cities in the United States based on the percentage of children living at or below the federal poverty line. In Bridgeport Public Schools, fewer than half of the 21,000 students are proficient in math and reading, according to the Connecticut Department of Education, and the high school graduation rate is 55 percent.

With the Common Core standards comes an increasing focus on literacy across subjects: today, 77 percent of educators believe developing students’ literacy is one of the most important parts of their job, a new survey found.

“It’s much more widely understood today that every educator has a responsibility to improve student literacy, which is the gateway to learning in all disciplines,” says Kent Williamson, director of the National Center for Literacy Education, which conducted the survey of 2,400 educators nationwide.

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

The National Commission on Excellence in Education published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 during the Reagan administration. The report attacked the U.S. education system and called for immediate and extensive reform. Hugely influential, the report inspired much discussion regarding the effectiveness of public schools. Thirty years later, educators from District Administration held an interactive web seminar to debate the influence of the report, as well as what the state of education is today and what the future could hold.

The Common Core’s honeymoon phase is over, and now a growing backlash is emerging as parents, educators and political figures cite concerns ranging from rigor to privacy issues.

Iowa and Indiana are two Midwestern states that are taking radically different approaches to education, with one increasing funding for public education and the other taking it away.

In December 2012, in the case Zeno v Pine Plains Cent School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a New York district was liable under Title VI for student-on-student harassment, upholding a $1 million reduced jury verdict.

A principal’s job is only getting harder, according to the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. A whopping 75 percent of principals feel the job has become too complex, and job satisfaction rates decreased nine percentage points in less than five years, to just 59 percent. And seven in 10 principals say their job responsibilities are very different from what they were five years ago.

The coming Common Core computer-based assessments will mark a major change in testing for districts, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is preparing with a nationwide pilot test to learn how real students react to the new format.

Most districts won’t feel the impact of sequester cuts for another year. But Silver Valley (Calif.) USD is already facing the harsh reality of nearly $500,000 in funding cuts this year alone.

In February, U.S. Rep. George Miller of California introduced the Transforming Education Through Technology Act, a bill designed to help schools, districts and states improve teaching and learning through technology.

In 2014, elementary students in 45 states must know how to type on a computer when the new Common Core State Standards are implemented, but some states are holding on to an old, basic skill—the art of cursive handwriting.

President Barack Obama announced plans to provide universal preschool for American children. Public education has made few changes in the 30 years since the “A Nation at Risk” report was released, laying out the dire conditions of U.S.

Teachers faced with Common Core implementation must shift their instructional methods to align with new models for literacy and mathematics. At Pinellas County Schools in Largo, Fla., administrators are moving to a systemic professional development approach to better support staff during the transition.

As Common Core implementation begins, education publishers are creating products that align with the standards and take advantage of technology that elicits student engagement.

“Technology, used effectively, can help all students meet and exceed the rigorous learning goals embedded in the Common Core by providing access to tools and resources that personalize instruction and creating rich, engaging and relevant learning environments,” according to a statement from the International Society for Technology in Education.

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