Onion: Public schools try 6-day year

Nation’s Underfunded Public Education System To Experiment With Shortened 6-Day School Year, reports The Onion.

WASHINGTON—Faced with shrinking tax revenues and decreased public spending, the Department of Education announced Friday the 2012-2013 academic year would need to be radically shortened from 180 days to six. “The first day, of course, will be spent learning names, handing out textbooks, assigning lockers, and so forth, but on day two, we’ll hit the ground running, covering all of history by lunch and hopefully squeezing in the entire language-arts curriculum before the final bell rings,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, adding that any student caught misbehaving would be given three seconds of detention after class. “That will leave the rest of the week free for an intensive program of math and science designed to help American children develop the skills they would already have if they lived in just about any other industrialized nation.”

Duncan acknowledged not much would get done on day six, as students tend to be distracted on the last day of school, and they would in any event be worn out from the previous day’s homecoming, talent show, SATs, winter semiformal, prom, finals, and commencement exercises.

It’s satire.

Investors fund pre-k in Utah

People talk about preschool as an investment. In a Utah school district south of Salt Lake City, investors will spend $7 million over eight years to expand an early-childhood program, reports Education Week. If fewer children require special education, the district will ask the state to share the savings, which will be used to pay back the loan with 5 percent interest.

This fall, Goldman Sachs and the investor J.B. Pritzker will pay for the expansion of an early-childhood program in the 67,000-student Granite district through a social-impact bond, also known as a pay-for-success loan. Social-impact bonds are loans that seek to achieve a positive social outcome, and reduce future costs, by investing in prevention and intervention programs in the public sector.

Utah gives schools $2,600 per year for each student who requires special education. “Many students are placed in special education simply because they trailed their peers academically upon entering elementary school,” experts say.

If there are no savings — a Utah State group will decide — then the investors will lose their money.

Poll: Public resists spending on schools, teachers

The public is becoming “more resistant to rising school expenditures and to raising teacher salaries,” according to Education Next‘s annual poll. However, “the public is also becoming increasingly skeptical of such reform proposals as performance pay and school vouchers.”

Half the sample was told the current per-pupil spending in their district before being asked if they favored more, less or the same funding; the other half wasn’t provided any information.

Among respondents not told actual spending levels, only 53 percent support higher funding, down 10 percentage points from the 63 percent who were supportive a year ago. Information about current spending decreases support for higher levels of spending. Among those told how much local schools currently spend, support for spending increases was 43 percent, the same as a year previously.

The average person estimated their local district spends ”$6,680 per pupil, hardly more than 50 percent of the average actual expenditure level of $12,637 per pupil in the districts where respondents live.”

 In 2013, 55 percent of respondents not informed of current pay levels favor increases in teacher pay, down from 64 percent taking that position a year ago. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of those informed of salary levels favor an increase, virtually the same as the 36 percent taking that position in 2012. Once again, we cannot attribute the change to better knowledge of actual salary levels, as average estimates of salary levels remain essentially unchanged at $36,428, about $20,000 below actual average salaries in the states where respondents live.

Support for performance pay remains at 49 percent, but “opposition to basing teacher salaries in part on student progress has grown from 27 percent to 39 percent over the past two years.”

Opposition to vouchers for all students increased from 29 percent in 2012 to 37 percent this year.

Fewer people were neutral about charter schools: support moved up from 43 to 51 percent, while opposition increased from 16 to 26 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support Common Core standards in their state,though opposition is growing, the survey found.

Tech college funding tied to earnings

Texas technical colleges, which specialize in job training, will be funded based on graduates’ earnings rather than enrollment, starting Sept. 1. The “value-added accountability funding formula” analyzes the difference between graduates’ income five years after graduating and the minimum wage.

NC ends tenure, master’s degree pay hike

North Carolina teachers won’t get a raise if they earn a master’s degree, under legislation signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican. The bill also eliminates tenure and freezes pay for the fifth time in sixth years.

North Carolina is believed to be the first state to eliminate the automatic pay bump for earning an advanced degree.

North Carolina teachers are pursuing jobs in South Carolina, says union leader Charles Smith. ”A six-year teacher is still getting paid the same as a first-year teacher.”

Enrollment is projected to grow rapidly in North Carolina with an added 800,000 students by 2030, notes Matthew Ladner on Jay Greene’s blog. Legislators have expanded school choice options for low- and moderate-income students and special-needs children, but per-pupil funding may not enough to “spur new private school supply,” writes Ladner.

Colleges hire 75% more administrators

Massachusetts colleges and universities hired 75 percent more administrators in the last 25 years, three times the rate of enrollment growth. Officials say they need to provide more student services and cope with more federal regulations.

All 11 million community college students and 1,200 community college presidents should demand equitable funding for community colleges, which serve the neediest students, writes a professor. If protest doesn’t work, litigate.

Advocates call for ‘supports-based reform’

Instead of “top-down standards” and “punitive high-stakes testing,” we need “supports-based reform,” according to the Education Declaration to Rebuild America. Public schools are turning into “uncreative, joyless institutions,” the declaration states. “Educators are being stripped of their dignity and autonomy, leading many to leave the profession.”

By focusing solely on the achievement gap, we have neglected the opportunity gap that creates it, and have allowed the resegregation of our schools and communities by class and race.

. .. What’s needed is a supports-based reform agenda that provides every student with the opportunities and resources needed to achieve high standards and succeed . . .

Signers include education historian Diane Ravitch, writer Jonathan Kozol, Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel.

Ed Week summarizes:   ”They reiterated their call for more funding (and more equitably distributed), more early education, better teacher training, high-quality diagnostic tests, more-effective discipline, and parent engagement.”

The declaration was organized by the Education Opportunity Network, which is affiliated with the Institute for America’s Future, and by the Opportunity to Learn Campaign, funded by the Schott Foundation.

(I’ve learned from the opponents of education reform that philanthropy is “corporate,” sinister and self-interested, so I’m surprised to see the campaign taking foundation money. No, I’m not. That was sarcasm.)

Dump 12th grade to fund preschool

Years ago, when he was making a documentary called The Promise of Preschool, John Merrow talked to a Georgian who said he’d like to get rid of 12th grade and “spend the money on free, universal, high-quality preschool,” writes John Merrow of Learning Matters TV. He wonders: Why not?

States with exit exams generally peg them to a 10th grade level, which ought to tell you something about official expectations.  Across the nation, savvy (and bored) kids are enrolling in college courses while still in high school–if their system allows.  You may recall our profile of one Texas school district on the Mexican border where many students have a substantial number of college credits under their belt when they graduate high school. Some actually receive their Associates Degrees from the local community college the same day they pick up their high school diplomas!

I conclude from that story, and from the tales from students in other school districts, that a ‘business as usual’ senior year is a waste of time. Thousands of motivated kids refuse to accept that state of affairs and so enroll in college, and that’s commendable, but why not raise the bar in high school and shorten the time?  If some students need a twelfth year, fine. But why bore hundreds of thousands of our youth?

Merrow guesses eliminating 12th grade would free up $6,400 for every four-year-old.

But every four-year-old doesn’t need preschool. Those who do — the kid whose single mom can’t read well enough to get through Goodnight Moon — need intensive, expensive early education. And they won’t be ready for college after 11th grade.

If reform fails . . .

If education reform fails, what will happen? Two Washington Post op-eds preview the future, writes Eduwonk.

Michael Gerson lauds the spread of choice and increasing chances that it could happen at scale.  On the same page Eugene Robinson announces that Atlanta shows the folly of incentives linked to testing.

Both show what’s likely if reform efforts collapse, writes Eduwonk.  ”

It’s not a return to the old days of benign neglect where the money flowed pretty freely and consequences were scarce.”

 Instead, he predicts more choice, less accountability and limited funding.

Choice without accountability is not

the “formula for widespread improvement,” he writes.

Enrollment falls at California community colleges

California’s community colleges have cut as much as 20 percent of courses since 2008, driving enrollment to its lowest point in two decades, concludes a new report.  Enrollment fell from 2.9 million students in 2008-09 to 2.4 million students in 2011-12.

Encouraging wait-listed students to take online courses is a “massively bad idea,” writes a community college professor. Poorly prepared students can’t handle MOOCs.