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Articles: Reform

New York City’s expansive charter school network may be in trouble. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who takes office this month, says he plans to charge charters rent for using space in school buildings and to stop new charters from opening. De Blasio says he will focus instead on improving traditional public schools, but the details of his plan for charters remain unclear.

Diane Ravitch, once a top supporter of testing and school choice, is now leading the fight against those policies.

Diane Ravitch is outspoken in her criticisms of education in this country. Her latest book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Knopf, 2013), pulls no punches in its arguments against testing, the charter school movement, and federally driven mandates.

Twenty-one students graduated in 2013 from the Peabody Learning Academy in Peabody, Mass., a Simon Youth Academy alternative high school located inside a shopping mall.

Students attending alternative high schools located in shopping malls nationwide are succeeding academically, with an average graduation rate of 90 percent in the nontraditional setting.

Until recently, only rural districts hoping to save money on busing geographically spread-out students had cut the school week down to four days. But now, while some districts are leaning toward year-round schedules, some are actually shortening the week as budgets continue to drop and state officials allow scheduling flexibility.

High school students in Fairfax County, Va., may soon get to hit the snooze button, as the district partners with sleep specialists to delay school start times in hopes of raising academic achievement and improving student health.

“Sleep is absolutely critical to learning,” says Fairfax County Public Schools board member Sandy Evans. “Our adolescent students simply aren’t getting enough sleep for their physical, mental, or academic health.”

Even before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the city and the state had been the focus of school reform. The Recovery School District project aimed to turn around underperforming schools on a grand scale. But Katrina gave officials a reason to wipe the slate clean in poverty stricken New Orleans. Hope Against Hope (Bloomsbury Press, 2013), by Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr, examines those reform efforts from the perspective of the teachers and families they affected.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre interacts with Knox County elementary school students.

Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.

Jack Martin took the helm of Detroit Public Schools in July as the district’s new emergency manager, with goals of getting the academically and financially troubled district back on track. Three days after his appointment, Detroit filed for bankruptcy.

It is the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, with roots in the decline of the auto industry and racial tensions that drove residents out to the suburbs.

Education Commissioner Terry Holiday says Kentucky students have made gains in college career readiness.

Terry Holliday knows something about what makes a school district work. Having come up through the ranks, from band director and assistant principal to principal, superintendent, and, in 2009, to Kentucky’s commissioner of education, Holliday has seen first-hand how schools and districts can get on track for success. He spoke to District Administration about what Kentucky has done to turn around low-performing schools.

With his position as Bridgeport (Conn.) Public School superintendent in jeopardy, Paul Vallas’ fate will be decided by the state Supreme Court in September, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers ruled.

In early July, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ordered that Vallas leave office immediately, after ruling that the national education reform figure is not properly certified for the position in the state. Later that month, the Supreme Court approved Vallas to stay on the job during the appeal process. 

The role of high school is shifting, in part given President Obama’s recent push to redesign the education system to ensure that American students are enrolling in college and keeping up with the skills that a global economy demands.

MOOCs require new skills from teachers and students

Andover (Mass.) Public Schools student can take MOOCs on biology, social justice, and Greek mythology.

K12 educators and administrators are beginning to experiment with the “massive open online courses”—better known as MOOCs—that have taken the higher education world by storm. In the name of academic experimentation and democratization, hundreds of colleges and universities are offering these courses free to anyone with an internet connection. Many of the courses attract thousands of participants.

A judge has ordered Bridgeport (Conn.) schools superintendent Paul Vallas removed from office, ruling that the national education reform figure is not properly certified for the position.

 St. Louis Superintendent Kelvin Adams reads to Gateway Elementary School students.

St. Louis Public Schools, the largest district in Missouri, was struggling to stay afloat in 2007, with $40 million dollars of debt and low test scores. In March of that year, the state school board revoked the district’s accreditation for not meeting state standards and took control.