Big districts hire more cops than counselors

School security officers outnumber counselors in some of the nation’s largest school districts, including New York City, Chicago, Miami-Dade County and Houston, reports Matt Barnum for The 74.

Some cities, such as New York City, hire high numbers of both security staff and counselors, the analysis found.

Others, such as  Houston and Los Angeles, don’t have many guards or counselors. Both school districts have their own police force.

Most school security officers have little training in dealing with troubled and special-needs students, reports The 74.

A  school for newcomers


PBS Newshour is airing a two part series on how schools are trying to educate immigrant and refugee students.

Las Americas Newcomer School in Houston enrolls newly arrived students who speak nearly 30 languages.  It takes a year or two to understand the language and the culture, says Principal Marie Moreno.

Can districts and charters get along?

Is Detente Possible?  between school districts and their charters, asks Fordham. The report looks at district-charter collaboration in Boston, Cleveland, Denver, the District of Columbia and Houston.

Using the foreign relations metaphor, Washington, D.C. is the “superpower summit” where “two sectors of similar size and influence are compelled to work together while jealously guarding their own interests.”

“Isolationism” is the theme in Houston: Each sector does its own thing.

Boston is characterized by “protectionism under pressure.”

While collaboration is “limited and often fragile,” districts and charters “now communicate with one another better than in the past, and some even share instructional strategies.”

Laptops in, textbooks out

Students will get laptops rather than textbooks at Houston schools, reports the Houston Chronicle.  All high school students in the district will receive laptops.

All math and social studies materials will be digital this year. Printed science books were scrapped last year. English books will be next. The new model is “electronic text with features like hyperlinks, videos and interactive maps,” reports the Chronicle.

Houston is warehousing science, social studies and math books and switching to digital content.

Houston is warehousing science, social studies and math books and switching to digital content.

 Superintendent Terry Grier hopes to raise stagnant test scores by using savings from not buying books to “fund the technology and online resources that can be updated more easily,” reports the Chronicle.

“It’s called a digital transformation,” Grier said. “And every teacher is to make that transformation.”

“There are so many things wrong with doing this,” writes Darren, a math teacher who blogs at Right on the Left Coast.Books make it easier to read, find things, study and highlight.  Screens are hard on the eyes and “use a color of light that is known to screw up your circadian rhythms. That means that it’s harder to fall and stay asleep if you study near bedtime.”

There are other problems.

Is the infrastructure strong enough to support the laptops?  (How often does the power go out?  How often does the internet go out?  How often does the wireless go out?  Can the district handle all those kids logged on at once?) Do I have stable desks, and carpeting?

How am I, the teacher, supposed to handle a kid who forgot to charge his laptop, and it goes out during the quiz?

How will the district/schools handle those kids who just cannot be trusted on computers?  (Yes, they exist, and sometimes they find a way to access porn sites and send hundreds of pictures to the school secretary’s printer. Just saying.)

“Two years ago our prior superintendent pushed a mandate to give every single kid an iPad,” writes Ellen K, who blogs at The Sum of All Things, in a comment. Results:

-Less focus on writing-both content and the skill.

-Fewer research skills as students resort to plagiarism on an exponential scale.

-Inability to read — especially scary when you consider that young kids are being taught to read on devices over printed material. Five year olds don’t know the phrase “eye strain” but they do know when something hurts. . . .

-The inability of teachers to remove or even control distractions created by devices has resulted in classroom chaos. Fights and events are formulated on social media and it is literally us against them.

Other than that, it’s been great.

 

Districts drop extra pay for master’s

Teachers with master’s degrees aren’t any more effective than their non-degreed colleagues, say researchers. Now North Carolina, Dallas and Houston are cutting extra pay for advanced degrees.

“Effectiveness is more based on results rather than any checklist of things,” said Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles, who implemented a pay-for-performance system in the district, as he did at his previous district in Colorado. “So years of service and the advance degrees are checklist-type things.”

Yet the backlash in North Carolina grew so intense that the state is now looking at reinstating the extra pay for those teaching classes related to the subject in which they have an advanced degree.

Teacher turnover is up sharply in the state’s largest school district, Wake County.

Teachers should be paid based on how hard their jobs are and how well they’re doing them, argues The New Teachers Project in Shortchanged: The Hidden Cost of Lockstep Teacher Pay

Effective teachers should be able to move quickly up the pay scale in the first five years and earn raises for strong classroom performance, the report recommends. In addition, compensation systems should reward “great teachers in high-need schools.”

Does Houston deserve the Broad Prize?

The Houston Independent School District has won the 2013 Broad Prize for Urban Education. Houston also won in 2002.

Achievement gains included a 12-point increase in graduation rates from 2006 to 2009, double the average increase at the 75 urban districts eligible for the prize, reports U.S. News. “The district also slashed the achievement gap between low-income and Hispanic students and their more affluent, white peers.” And more students — especially Hispanics — are taking AP exams.

End. The Broad Prize. Now., writes Andy Smarick. In Houston and San Diego, one of the finalists for the prize, “only 10 percent of African American eighth graders can read proficiently!”

One of the prize’s four goals explains is: “Restore the public’s confidence in our nation’s public schools by highlighting successful urban districts.”

By praising such low performance, the Broad Prize doesn’t do a favor for public education. Instead, it serves to obscure the truth—that the urban district has been an unmitigated failure for 50 years—and to perpetuate a myth—that if we are to care about public education, we must commit ourselves in perpetuity to the district structure.

The Broad Foundation has been trying to fix urban districts rather than looking for alternative ways to educate disadvantaged city kids, writes Smarick. “We must build The Urban School System of the Future, not double down on the failed urban district of the past.”

Stop rewarding districts for getting to average, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.

Houston eyes student grading of teachers

Houston may use student opinion as part of teacher evaluations, reports Fox 26. Student ratings could account for 20 to 30 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, according to a district document sent to teachers.

Effective teachers aren’t always the most popular teachers, warns Houston Federation of Teachers president Gayle Fallon. “Those student surveys will amount to very little more than a popularity contest.”

Student evaluation of teachers is not district policy — or even a staff recommendation — said district spokesman Jason Spencer. Not yet, anyhow.

Career paths for remedial students

A Houston community college is linking low-level remedial students to career paths, while a South Dakota technical college sets different requirements for each job training program, virtually eliminating remedial education.

Need a job? Welding is hot.

Cheating: It’s not just Atlanta schools

Signs of cheating, such as test scores that go up sharply one year and crash the next, can be found in nearly 200 large school districts nationwide, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis.

As Atlanta learned after cheating was uncovered in half its elementary and middle schools last year, falsified test results deny struggling students access to extra help to which they are entitled, and erode confidence in a vital public institution.

. . . In nine districts, scores careened so unpredictably that the odds of such dramatic shifts occurring without an intervention such as tampering were worse than one in 10 billion.In Houston, for instance, test results for entire grades of students jumped two, three or more times the amount expected in one year, the analysis shows. When children moved to a new grade the next year, their scores plummeted — a finding that suggests the gains were not due to learning.

In 33 districts, the odds the tests results were valid were worse than one in a million.

Here’s a map showing districts in which more than 10 percent of schools reported suspicious results.

 

Human tutors beat computers in Houston

Intensive tutoring — two kids to one adult — raised math achievement dramatically in Houston’s Apollo turnaround schools, while computer tutoring helped only modestly, writes Mike Goldstein of MATCH on Larry Cuban’s blog. MATCH helped hire and train the tutors.

Math tutoring for sixth and ninth graders raised achievement by the equivalent of five to nine months of extra schooling, concluded economist Roland Fryer in a study of Apollo’s results after one year.

In other grades, students who were behind took double math or reading, depending on the subject in which they needed help the most. Their classes used Carnegie Math’s  software featuring differentiated instruction based on previous student performance.

Computers are great for helping people learn what they want to learn. They’re not particularly good at getting someone to learn something they do not want to learn. For that, you need very skilled people (teachers and tutors) who can build relationships, use that to generate order and effort from kids, and then turn that effort into learning. A computer needs to start on “third base” — take effort and flip that into learning.

While the schools adopted a “no excuses” model, it was the intensive math tutoring that made the difference, writes Matt Di Carlo of the National Education Policy Center.