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Articles: Policy & Compliance

"We've got to be willing to do something about test scores and to deal with ineffective teachers who have tenure and are hiding behind the union. It's coming to a head where the public is saying, 'We've had it now,'" declares David Cicarella of the New Haven (Conn.) Public Schools.

Statements like this one have become commonplace among reform-minded school leaders around the country. What makes Cicarella's comments remarkable is that they are not coming from a frustrated superintendent or enterprising principal, but from the president of the city schools' teachers union.

In districts with Hispanic populations, English language learning is a priority, particularly in the elementary grades, which many students enter still speaking Spanish as their primary language. In affiliation with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a private, non-profit organization focused on reducing poverty and discrimination and improving opportunity for Hispanic Americans, about 100 community-based charter schools serve districts like these across the United States.

He's patrolled the streets of Chicago, kept the local trains running on time and become a player in the highest echelons of City Hall. But at age 38, Ron Huberman—born in Israel and raised just outside of Chicago—is facing his most formidable challenge.

A first of its kind, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act has been introduced to set national standards for the practices of controlling disruptive and potentially dangerous students. The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and in the Senate by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) in early December 2009, was in response to two studies revealing hundreds of cases across the nation of the misuse of restraint and seclusion.

A new report by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (TQ Center) highlights efforts across the nation to address a key point in the No Child Left Behind law and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARR A)—the equitable distribution of high-quality teachers across all schools.

An unsettling trend is emerging in urban pockets across the country as some school districts are redrawing their boundary lines. As a result, many municipalities are showing glaring gaps in race, ethnicity and economic status.

In 2000, the Milwaukee (Wis.) Public Schools (MPS) requested proposals for pilot programs for a high school to replace its failing North Division High School. At the time, Kathelyne Dye-Gallagher was a business teacher at Washington High School in Milwaukee. The district’s request ignited her desire to create a stronger system that would guide Milwaukee’s low-income students. In 2003, three smaller schools replaced North Division. Genesis High School of Business, Trade, Technology, Health and Human Services was among them, with Dye-Gallagher as principal.

Jenny, a third-grade girl, commented after receiving the results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, “I cried repeatedly when I heard the news, and so did my mom.” Jenny had failed the high-stakes test necessary for promotion and as a result was required by state rules to repeat third grade. Jenny now considers herself a failure and a loser.

Within the Common Core State Standards Initiative, I facilitated the working group charged with the development of a new generation of English-language arts (ELA) standards that would be fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, and internationally benchmarked. Moreover, these standards would address the realities of the kinds of reading, writing, speaking and listening required for success in college or the workplace.

This article is the result of a collaboration between three superintendents from Ohio and a school district lawyer.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) that is developing core K12 standards in English-language arts and math. The current patchwork of state standards makes it difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate student performance across states and countries. Dissatisfaction with this situation is a major factor driving the effort to develop common, internationally benchmarked standards.

Nelson Smith, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

In December, President-elect Barack Obama selected Chicago’s Dodge Renaissance Academy, a 400-student pre-K8 school, as the backdrop for choosing Arne Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools’ CEO, as the nation’s new secretary of education. Touted as a “turnaround school,” Dodge represented the idea that if change could come to a high-poverty, failing school with low test scores and most students on free or reduced-price lunches, then there was hope for all schools.

Districts wanting to turn around schools without hiring an outside organization are being drawn to the University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which equips principals and other administrators with the skills needed to bring about deep change in low-performing schools and provides them with ongoing support.

Mayoral control of public schools is nothing new. Boston pioneered the practice in 1992, replacing elected school committee members with mayoral appointees. Since then, a dozen urban districts—including Cleveland, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.—have undergone a similar change in school governance that has shifted some or most of the power to mayors, with some cities having mayors make appointments to the school board and others having mayors outright manage the district budget and spearhead large-scale initiatives.

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