Home » Newswire Weekly » Newswire: June 18, 2013

Newswire: June 18, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 24

POORLY PREPARED. Only 11 percent of our nation’s elementary school teacher prep programs are providing “adequate content preparation for teachers in the subjects they will teach,” according to a report released today by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). Of the over 2,400 teacher prep programs across the country evaluated, only 23 percent are doing enough to provide teacher candidates with concrete classroom management strategies to improve classroom behavior problems. None of the 1,130 higher ed institutions in the 50 states and DC earned top billing. As the Washington Post pointed out, only Furman, Lipscomb, Ohio State and Vanderbilt received a ‘four-star’ rating. The report has surely sent shockwaves through the majority of America’s education schools. Take the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, earning only 1.5 stars in this detailed analysis, but considered 7th best in elementary teacher education in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings.

NCTQ uncovered that three out of four elementary teacher programs are not teaching research-based, proven reading instruction. So it’s no wonder that less than 40 percent of our nation’s elementary school students can read at grade level!

POOR STATE POLICY. Maryland’s teacher preparation policy earned a D+, with only the University of Maryland earning a “three-star” rating for both of its undergraduate programs for elementary and secondary education. Coupled with the 7th weakest charter school law in the country, it’s hard to believe anyone would be crazy enough to try and start a school in the Old Line State. The founders of Frederick Classical Charter School (FCCS) have found that out the hard way. Under Maryland law, charter schools can’t make their own personnel decisions. Teachers and principals are typically placed by school districts and must remain covered by the district’s collective bargaining agreement. For Frederick Classical Charter, this has become a major problem. In an open letter, Tom Neumark, president of FCCS and longtime advocate for teacher reform, told the Maryland House of Delegates, “A lot of what is taught in education schools is trendy pedagogy that tends to not work very well… Anything you could do to improve our law to allow Maryland’s charters to function more like real charter schools do would be greatly appreciated. Charter schools will be a part of the solution in this area, if you will let us…”

POOR PERFORMANCE. June is busting out all over apparently, with bad news, that is. On top of ominous news regarding teacher prep and bad state policies comes news of another bad international ranking. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, we are the fourth biggest spenders with little to show for it. US college grad rates are declining and the impact on our national productivity as well as international standing is huge. How we spend money the Council says, is part of the problem, but so is the quality of our programs. All the more reason to hasten the pace of reforms that can solve the problems….

GREAT SOLUTIONS. Across the country states and communities are doing things to arrest the decline of poor programs, policies and performance:

Indiana. Imagine a K-12 issue where equity wasn’t the problem and all traditional students were equal to the same amount of money for education purposes. Such “back pack” funding would go a long way to ensure that money be spent to educate, and not to prop up buildings and fixed contracts that don’t work for kids. The Council on Foreign Relations report suggests inequity is part of the problem, a problem that is solved for some kids in states like Indiana, which takes its role seriously in providing equitable choices for kids, just not enough to cover the entire state – yet. According to School Choice Indiana, 9,000 Hoosiers last year “participated in [the opportunity scholarship] program statewide, allowing those children to experience an educational environment that is best suited to them. A list of qualifying private schools will be available at the meeting.” “We are thrilled that now more low- and middle-income families have the opportunity to choose a school that meets their child’s unique learning needs,” said Lindsey Brown, Executive Director of School Choice Indiana. “We expect more local families to take advantage of these programs in the 2013-2014 school year and we look forward to providing them with more information on their options.”

Louisiana. And if Diane Ravitch’s week wasn’t bad enough (Parent Revolution launched its http://truthinedreform.org/ to rebut the big hairy ones that are coming from her troops daily), out comes news from Governor Bobby Jindal, who just signed into law a parent trigger bill that would allow parents to shift control from the state’s Recovery School District to the local district if a school has received a “D” or “F” grade for five consecutive years and has a petition signed by a majority of parents in the school from the past two years.

Tennessee. The VOICE for Public Charter Choice campaign is on in the Volunteer State. The Tennessee Charter Schools Association has launched this public information effort to help inform woefully under-informed lawmakers about how charter schools do indeed make a difference for kids in and out of those schools, and to raise visibility among parents, who according to polls say they support them but are still relatively unaware of the finer details. Join the effort, and learn more here.

NOT-SO-SUNNY SESAME STREET. Just when you thought it was safe… meet Alex, the first Muppet to have a dad in jail. The Today Show reported yesterday that Sesame Street introduced this new character since the show is known for “helping kids open up about all sorts of serious subjects, from hunger and divorce to military deployment.” Today reported that one out of 28 children in the US has a parent in jail. (In fact, thoughtful reflection on having a parent in jail helped a MN second grader win first place in an essay contest.) There is such a strong correlation between schools and prisons that prison management companies are looking at fourth grade test scores to plan for future growth. Incarceration rates are a real problem in the US, but it’s not surprising given the dire state of our schools. It’s time to focus on the “great solutions” rather then letting “Alex” become a household name. No offense Alex – you’re cute and all, and represent a huge population of US kids – but if our lawmakers got their priorities straight, we wouldn’t have you hanging out on Sesame Street.