More kids, more elders

“The United States faces a staggering demographic challenge over the next two decades,” writes Matthew Ladner on redefinED.

It will hit first in Florida. “The state will need to find a way to educate far more than one million additional students each year by 2030.” At the same time, Florida’s elderly population will more than double between 2010 and 2030, from 3.4 million to almost 7.8 million people 65 and older.

Building more schools and providing more care for the elderly will put a heavy burden on working-age Floridians.

Kindergarten demographics

Of 3.5 million kindergartners in 2010-11, 25 percent came from families living below the poverty level, according to a demographic snapshot from a U.S. Education Department study.

Fifty-three percent were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 13 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Asian, 4 percent were two or more races, 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

. . . Eighty-four percent lived in homes where English is the primary language.

Economic, racial and ethnic achievement gaps are evident even at the start of kindergarten, researchers say. They’ll track a cohort of children through 2016, when they should be finishing fifth grade.

In a few years, kindergartners could be taking ACT’s “next generation” career and college readiness tests, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The tests are supposed to help teachers identify students’ learning needs, not identify future doctors, lawyers, butchers and bakers.

How reformers can’t stop alienating teachers

Education reformers are alienating teachers needlessly, writes Roxanna Elden, a Miami teacher and author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, who’s guest-blogging for Rick Hess. She lists Five School Reform Sound Bites That Hurt Teacher Buy-In.

“There is a growing assumption that education reformers are anti-teacher and teachers are anti-reform,” Elden writes. She thinks “most reformers became reformers for the same reasons that most teachers became teachers: a hope that we can provide a higher quality education to a greater number of children in a fairer and more equal way.”

But she wishes reformers would stop saying things like “We know what works.”

Teachers . . .  recognize this claim as an exaggeration used to introduce short-term fixes that in many cases don’t work. We also know that teaching is complex. Even in the same room, a successful lesson from first period might bomb after lunch. Likewise, instructional strategies may work for teachers who use them by choice, but lose their benefit when special-ops teams of non-teachers are deployed to mandate them throughout the district. In most cases, this approach leads to dog-and-pony shows that let observers walk away thinking their mandates “work” as advertised. At worst, it damages instruction by taking away teachers’ autonomy to make judgment calls about what really does work in our own classrooms. On the other hand, teachers are happy to hear about what has worked well for other teachers–as long as it is presented as such, not oversold by the same presenter who pushed a contradictory foolproof formula last year… using many of the same Power Point slides.

Also on her list of teacher-alienating sound bites:  “Demographics don’t determine destiny! (You lazy racist!),” “Measurable results,” “If grocery stores were run like public schools…” and “We need transformational change!”


Similar schools, similar results

Most California schools perform about as well as expected over a three-year period when student characteristics are factored in, concludes a new similar schools measure developed by the California Charter Schools Association.  From California Watch:

Using a complex regression analysis, the measure takes a number of characteristics of the school’s student population into account. These include the socioeconomic background of the student body, the average education level of their parents, the number of students with disabilities, the percentage of English language learners, and the racial and ethnic makeup of the students.

Researchers say the measure is more accurate than the state’s “similar schools” ranking, which don’t include small schools and fluctuates from year to year.

Seventy-eight percent of schools performed within 5 percent of their predicted level on state tests, according to the CCSA’s analysis. Nearly 10 were just below and 10 percent just above the prediction.  That left only 2 percent of schools far below their level, and 1.6 percent far above.

California charter schools are four times more likely to be among the top 5 percent of schools that exceed their predicted test scores – and twice as likely to be among the bottom 5 percent across the state, said Samantha Olivieri,  CCSA’s accountability manager.