California, Bay Area School Districts Scramble to Hire Teachers

Nationwide, school districts can't find enough teachers to fill their classrooms. And the teacher shortage has hit California particularly hard. Between 2008 and 2012, the state lost 82,000 school jobs to budget cuts, according to the Labor Department. Now, with declining enrollment in teacher credential programs and increased state funding for new hires, local districts are struggling to fill open teaching positions. How is the teacher shortage affecting your classroom or school?

State Schools Chief on His New Blueprint for California Schools

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson joins us to talk about his new road map for educating California's kids. The four-year plan is an updated version of his 2011 blueprint, and focuses on teacher shortages and hastens the state's move toward Common Core standards.

PBS NewsHour

Initial Common Core scores higher than expected but goals unfulfilled

LOS ANGELES — Results for some of the states that participated in Common Core-aligned testing for the first time this spring are out, with overall scores higher than expected though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing.

Full or preliminary scores have been released for Connecticut, Idaho, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. They all participated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two groups of states awarded $330 million by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop exams to test students on the Common Core state standards in math and English language arts.

Scores in four other states that developed their own exams tied to the standards have been released. The second testing group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is still setting benchmarks for each performance level and has not released any results.

Even when all the results are available, it will not be possible to compare student performance across a majority of states, one of Common Core’s fundamental goals.

What began as an effort to increase transparency and allow parents and school leaders to assess performance nationwide has largely unraveled, chiefly because states are dropping out of the two testing groups and creating their own exams.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told state leaders in 2010 that the new tests would “help put an end to the insidious practice of establishing 50 different goal posts for educational success.”

“In the years ahead, a child in Mississippi will be measured against the same standard of success as a child in Massachusetts,” Duncan said.

Massachusetts and Mississippi students did take the PARCC exam this year. But Mississippi’s Board of Education has voted to withdraw from the consortium for all future exams.

“The whole idea of Common Core was to bring students and schools under a common definition of what success is,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And Common Core is not going to have that. One of its fundamental arguments has been knocked out from under it.”

No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education law, requires states to test students each year in math and reading in grades three to eight and again in high school. Congress has been debating ways to overhaul the law. The House and Senate have approved differing versions this summer that would maintain the testing requirement but let states decide how to use the results.

The Common Core-aligned tests fulfill the federal requirement, yet are significantly different from the exam that students are accustomed to taking.

Rather than paper-and-pencil multiple choice tests, the new exams are designed to be taken by tablet or computer. Instead of being given a selection of answers to choose, students must show how they got their answer. Answer correctly and get a more difficult question. Answer incorrectly, get an easier one.

Field tests administered last year indicated that a majority of students would not score as proficient in math and reading on the tests. So this summer, states have braced for the results, meeting with parents and principals to explain why the results will be different.

At Los Angeles Unified School District, Cynthia Lim, executive director of the Office of Data and Accountability, said the preliminary results received by the nation’s second largest district are “lower than what people are used to seeing.” District officials are consulting with school leaders about how to explain to parents and students that new test results should not be compared with old ones.

“I think we are getting richer information about student learning,” she said.

Overall, the statewide scores that have been released are not as stark as first predicted, though they do show that vast numbers of students do not qualify as proficient in math or reading.

In Idaho, nearly 50 percent or more of students tested were proficient or above in English language arts. The results were lower for math: less than 40 percent were proficient in five grade levels. In Washington, about half of students across the state earned proficient scores. In Vermont, English proficiency scores hovered below 60 percent and dipped to as low as 37 percent in math.

States using the Smarter Balanced tests are using the same cut scores but different descriptors. What is “below basic” in one state might be “slightly unprepared” in another.

Initially, Duncan said the department would ask the two consortia to collaborate and make results comparable. But while the Smarter Balanced test has four achievement levels, the PARCC exam will have five.

When the testing groups were created, PARCC was a coalition of 26 states and Smarter Balanced 31; some states belonged to both. This year, 11 states and the District of Columbia took PARCC exams. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Ohio have since decided to withdraw from the exams. Eighteen states participated in the Smarter Balanced test this year. Of those, three states have since decided to abandon one or all of the grade level tests.

“It’s always disappointing to have a state drop out,” said Kelli Gauthier, a spokeswoman for Smarter Balanced. “But we feel really confident in the group that we have.”

Sarah Potter, comtstrmunications coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the frequent changes in which test will be given and what students will be tested on has frustrated teachers and parents. The state participated in Smarter Balanced this spring but lawmakers have appropriated $7 million to develop a new state-based assessment plan.

“We are losing that that state-to-state comparability after this year, unfortunately,” Potter said. “But our Legislature has said we should have Missouri standards so that is the route we are taking.”

Aside from the defections, the exams have also experienced from technical glitches and an opt-out movement that surfaced this spring. Results in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota were hit with widespread technical problems; Nevada counted last year’s scores a total loss.

In Oregon, slightly more than 95 percent of students took the exam, just making the federal requirement for participation. For black and special education students, as well as some districts, the requirement was not met, meaning the state could potentially lose federal funds.

Most states have not been able to release test scores before the start of classes, a delay that was expected in the exam’s first year, but nonetheless frustrating for some teachers and parents.

“From a high school senior’s perspective, it’s gotta be really tough,” said Renata Witte, president of the New Mexico PTA. “You want to get those college applications in and you need this information to complete them.”

The post Initial Common Core scores higher than expected but goals unfulfilled appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

In reforming New Orleans, have charter schools left some students out?


Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

JUDY WOODRUFF: That brings us, appropriately, to our look at what’s happened to New Orleans’ schools over the course of the past decade and the big changes that they have undergone.

It’s a story we have reported on closely throughout.

Tonight, John Tulenko of Education Week, which produces stories for the NewsHour, has our report.

JOHN TULENKO: As you can see, in parts of New Orleans, life seems to be getting back to normal 10 years after Katrina. But many folks are wondering about the public schools. For the last 10 years, they have been engaged in what some have called the most ambitious experiment ever in public education. And whether or not it’s working depends on whom you ask.

WOMAN: I do see improvement in the kids and in the schools.

JOHN TULENKO: Is it working?

MAN: No.

WOMAN: The charter system has done tremendously well for the local kids here.

WOMAN: It’s working for those who have their money, their hand in the cookie jar.

MAN: I think they are better than they were 10 years ago.

JOHN TULENKO: Ten years ago, New Orleans’ public schools were headed for rock bottom. Fewer than a third of eighth graders could pass a reading test. And corruption was so deep, the FBI had set up an office inside the school administration building.

Patrick Dobard, who oversees the schools today, remembers those days.

PATRICK DOBARD, Superintendent, Recovery School District: Orleans Parish School Board at that time, unfortunately, it was really academically and in some instances morally and financially bankrupt.

And then Katrina came. When you have a catastrophe like that, it is an opportunity to start anew, because a lot of the institutional barriers, both real and perceived, were literally and figuratively, unfortunately, washed away.

JOHN TULENKO: Seizing the moment, the state took control of the city’s failing schools. Pink slips were sent to all 5,000 teachers and the state set out to remake New Orleans as a city where nearly all the schools would be independently run charters. Local school officials were no longer in charge.

MAN: I will know you’re ready because your eyes will be just on me. Thank you so much.

JOHN TULENKO: Some charters split up the boys and girls. Others focused on the arts. Most introduced uniforms and strict rules, and all were to be held accountable for results.

PATRICK DOBARD: And then you have a five-year contract. And if you don’t meet the terms of that contract, we have the ability to not allow you to continue in existence.

JOHN TULENKO: Charters were new and different. And it took some getting used to for parents like Cheryl Griffin.

CHERYL GRIFFIN, Parent: The first time I came to a meeting here, I’m going to tell you the truth, I was like, what kind of crap is this bojangle? What are they doing? I am not going to be a part of this. And so when I really got it, when I see that Summer got it this way, I said well, that’s the process. The process is to get it. She loves it.

MICHAEL FRANKLIN, Parent: Definitely, the environment is safe. Definitely, the teachers — I mean, they have excellent teachers. They have more things for kids to do.

JOHN TULENKO: Michael Franklin is another parent the charters won over.

MICHAEL FRANKLIN: With the charter school systems, there’s more creative thinking. I think there’s more creative exploration as far as helping kids and ways to get kids to meet their — to achieve their potential.

JOHN TULENKO: New schools were opening every year and the results were promising.

MAN: We went up in every grade in every subject. Congratulations.


JOHN TULENKO: Today, graduation rates have climbed from 54 percent to 73 percent. Test scores are substantially higher, and more students are enrolling in college.

For some, New Orleans has become a model of urban school reform.

PATRICK DOBARD: When I think about, nationally, people looking at it, it makes me realize how big this is, because what we’re doing is extremely different and progressive, but it’s also, in my mind, like the fundamental things we should be doing across this nation regardless.

JOHN TULENKO: But there is another side to this story. Some say charter schools, operating with little oversight, have succeeded by bending the rules in their favor.

WOMAN: So, your shoes cannot have gray on them. Must be all white or all black.

JOHN TULENKO: Critics point in particular to school discipline codes, which charters write themselves.

ASHANA BIGARD, Parent: The rules — like, a lot of the schools have rules called like willful disobedience, right, which is subjective. It’s anything I want it to be.

JOHN TULENKO: For 10 years, Ashana Bigard has been helping parents navigate the schools here. Her daughters attended local charter schools.

ASHANA BIGARD: So willful disobedience could be anything from you not tracking the teacher with your eyes to being perceived as coughing too much in the classroom.

JOHN TULENKO: The punishment for that is what?

ASHANA BIGARD: A lot of times, suspension.

MAN: If you’re meeting these expectations, you’re going to be stepping out of this room, and you might not come back to this room.

ANTONIO TRAVIS, New Orleans: They wasn’t interested in trying to help a problem child. I would say that. They wasn’t interested in trying to — in seeing what your issue was at home or why you are coming to school and why you’re having a bad day. It was five days and go home.

JOHN TULENKO: Antonio Travis says five-day suspensions for minor infractions were the norm at his charter school.

Did you see the students in your class start to disappear?

ANTONIO TRAVIS: Yes, most definitely. From numerous amounts of suspensions, parents would just get tired of it and just take them out of school.

JOHN TULENKO: Just two years ago, some charters were suspending 40 percent or more of their students.

ASHANA BIGARD: They want to have great test scores. If you’re a low tester and I really want to get you out of my school, one of the tools that I have seen used is suspension.

JOHN TULENKO: While some charge students were being pushed out, others claim their kids couldn’t even get a foot in the door.

SUE BORDELON, Parent: The first time we went and applied at a charter after Katrina, what I heard was, oh, we can’t — we can’t accommodate him.

JOHN TULENKO: Sue Bordelon’s son, Clarke, has autism.

SUE BORDELON: And this was repeated over and over at every charter school we went to.

JOHN TULENKO: Parents of students with disabilities took their claims to court and won stricter oversight and regulation.

But even before the lawsuit, state officials had begun to reassert control over charter schools, starting with a new centralized system for admissions.

PATRICK DOBARD: Within our central enrollment system, it’s agnostic and doesn’t know whether or not the kid has a disability. So, schools, once you get a kid in a school, the child is assigned to the school, you have to serve that kid.

JOHN TULENKO: The approach to discipline is also changing. Any expulsions must now be approved by the state.

But what about suspensions?

ASHANA BIGARD: Oh, they can suspend as much as they want. And if you’re 14 or 15, 16 and you’re on suspension every two weeks, every two weeks, after awhile, you’re not going to come back to school.

JOHN TULENKO: Charters point to declining suspension rates as evidence they’re not pushing students out. To keep kids in school and address behavior, some are bringing in more counselors. It’s a start, but there’s hard work ahead.

PATRICK DOBARD: I think the next 10 to 15 years is literally around mental health interventions that we could put in place. Like, do we need more than school psychologists? Maybe we need psychiatrists.

Those are the things that traditionally haven’t been, like, the main focus of schools, but we have to look at that.

JOHN TULENKO: The difficult work of school reform has also made New Orleans look within.

PATRICK DOBARD: We have to have like a federalist type of oversight. Government has to play a role and make sure that all students are being served well.

But then, within that framework, we want to be able to give like individual rights to charters, much like states’ rights. That’s in essence what we’re building.

JOHN TULENKO: Whether charters schools can deliver on their promise to provide quality education to all students here remains to be seen.

In New Orleans, I’m John Tulenko of Education Week, reporting for the PBS NewsHour.

The post In reforming New Orleans, have charter schools left some students out? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Study finds higher expulsion rates for black students in South

A new report shows that blacks made up 55 percent of students suspended in certain Southern school districts, even though
         they made up 24 percent of the students in these schools. Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

A new report shows that blacks made up 55 percent of students suspended in certain Southern school districts, even though they made up 24 percent of the students in these schools. Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

Black students are suspended and expelled at significantly higher rates than white children in 13 Southern states, according to a new analysis of federal data.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, 1.2 million black students were suspended from public schools. More than half of those suspensions took place in the states covered by a new report from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

The report includes suspension and expulsion rates for black students in most school districts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Although, black students were only 24 percent of the students in these Southern school districts, they were 55 percent of students suspended and 50 percent of students expelled.

Within the 13 states, Louisiana and Mississippi expelled the highest proportion of black students. Black students comprised 74 percent of suspensions from public schools in Mississippi, which was the highest proportion among the states.

“This was a phenomenon that persisted by size and locale” said Shaun Harper, associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania and the executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education who co-authored the analysis.

Harper said implicit biases in school discipline trends leads to the disproportionate rates at which black students are disciplined.

“Teachers and school leaders, like the rest of us, consume media that consistently criminalizes black people,” said Harper.

In a 2002 study done by the Equity Project at Indiana University, researchers found that white students were more frequently disciplined for objective offenses like “smoking, vandalism, leaving without permission, and obscene language.” On the other hand, black students were more likely to be disciplined for more subjective reasons, such as “disrespect, excessive noise, threat, and loitering.”

Research clearly shows, Harper said, students who are suspended and expelled are more likely to end up in criminal justice than their peers who are not disciplined in school. The Washington Post reported on a 2011 study done in Texas that showed 23 percent of students who were suspended even once were later involved with the juvenile justice system. Just 2 percent of students with no school disciplinary records ever came in contact with the system.

“That makes this incredibly consequential for the future of young people’s lives,” said Harper.

In a recent Education Next poll, only 19 percent of people said they support instituting school district policies to even out suspension and expulsion rates across racial groups. One fundamental goal of the University of Pennsylvania report is to raise the nation’s consciousness about how enormous of an issue disproportionate discipline is, especially for black children.

PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post Study finds higher expulsion rates for black students in South appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Opening the doors to more low-income students reshapes a university


Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we wrap up our week-long series, Rethinking College: Closing the Graduation Gap, by visiting with a university president who says the nation’s public research universities are failing to meet the needs of low-income students.

Hari Sreenivasan reports.

MICHAEL CROW, President, Arizona State University: We doubled our number of graduates, we went from 9,000 graduates to 20,000 graduates.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In the rarefied world of higher education, where exclusive schools cater to only the very best students, Michael Crow is blazing a new path. He’s an anti-elitist.

graduation-gapMICHAEL CROW: So, it goes back to our admission standards. If you have better than a B average overall, then you’re admitted.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As the president of Arizona State University, Crow has dramatically increased the student population to 84,000 students, making it the largest university in America.

Under Crow, the number of low-income students has soared, enrollment of blacks and Latinos has doubled, and ASU has accomplished this despite the largest funding cuts from any state legislature in the country.

MICHAEL CROW: The specific freshman year experience…

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Crow’s mantra is this: A public university should be judged by not who it turns down, but who it admits.

MICHAEL CROW: Public research universities have become increasingly exclusive and increasingly expensive. They began believing that they needed to emulate the private universities or replicate them.

And so we’re saying it’s time to innovate, it’s time to develop a new kind of American university.

It’s all about attitude.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As ASU, that means breaking down traditional academic departments. The school has slashed millions of dollars in administrative costs by merging academic departments and eliminating support staff, cuts that help fund low-income students and encourage cross-disciplinary learning.

MICHAEL CROW: We have 15 or 16 new transdisciplinary schools, a School of Earth and Space Exploration, the country’s first School of Sustainability, a School of Social Transformation. We have a School of Transborder Studies.

We have a new range of new ways that we’re approaching problems. We have built this building again to break down disciplines. We blow up departments. So, this building is called Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building Number Four.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You’re getting the pictures from Mars and these students are taking a look at it working with NASA’s JPL.

MAN: Absolutely. Kristen is working out some lunar data sets.

MAN: We have the Lunar Orbiter, which is managed here.

MICHAEL CROW: And then also in here are people doing robots and drones and new ways of looking at things. And they’re all mixed up. We don’t have, like this is chemical engineering and this is chemistry. We don’t care about any of that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What Crow says he does care about is making the university accessible to low-income families.

By expanding the student population from 55,000 to 84,000, the university is able to use money from full-paying students to recruit more who need financial aid.

How did you increase access, especially to low-income communities?

MICHAEL CROW: Talent is not a function of your parents’ income. Talent is a function of your ability, your drive as an individual. We have gone out and found that talent wherever it is. We have built tools. We have a new tool that we’re just about to launch called me3.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Crow hopes the me3 tool will entice high school students from poor communities by giving them a virtual career identity.

FREDERICK COREY, Arizona State University: So, this is the me3 tool. For each major, we have a description of exactly what’s involved in the major in terms of career outlook, job outlook.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Frederick Corey, who oversees the student adviser program, says online technologies can get students in the door and keep them there.

FREDERICK COREY: Course withdrawal is one of the biggest expenses we can face. Every day, we’re looking at this. If I’m doing a big sweeping look, I can see what percentage of students in each college are off-track.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Student records are used to predict success.

FREDERICK COREY: You have to take the courses that are diagnostic of success. If you go off-track twice, you have to pick a new major.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s exactly what happened to freshman Robert Hammerschmidt, who ultimately switched major from actuarial science to computer engineering after receiving several online alerts.

ROBERT HAMMERSCHMIDT, Student, Arizona State University: I actually did get multiple e-mails. They did make it clear that this might not be exactly right for you, because this is a critical course. I admit I was a little bit sad at first.

FREDERICK COREY: Sometimes, it’s a process of grieving. You come to terms with the fact that now I need to give up that identity and work with somebody as I shape a new identity.

MICHAEL CROW: And so these are the lab floors. And we need to do a lot more to empower those individuals to be more successful. We need to do a lot more to embrace this notion of how technology can be our friend. We’re trying to find a way in which their learning experience can be enhanced sufficiently by technology that it can be empowered, faster, deeper, better, broader.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But the push for technology-enhanced teaching and a larger student body has led some to question the quality of learning at ASU.

KEITH LAW, Professor, Merced College: I don’t think that this is a model for a new American university, for those American universities that still like to maintain their prestige.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Keith Law is a professor of Merced College in California. He says ASU’s quick expansion and particularly their massive online curriculum could damage the university’s status.

KEITH LAW: I think Arizona State University is risking slipping into becoming a diploma mill that grants graduation and grants diplomas to students without really guaranteeing them an excellent education. And I think that’s going to erode the value of their degrees down the road.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Despite critic, Crow sees innovation and online technologies as reshaping the entire university system.

KEITH LAW: Technology allows both faculty and students to move through courses at a higher rapidity, move through them as you have mastered them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What would that mean for technologies?

MICHAEL CROW: When they say, well, here’s a basic concept in psychology, that’s — you might be an engineering major and you’re not going to take the full psychology course, but you may want that concept in psychology, .25 credits, that kind of thing.

HARI SREENIVASAN: ASU’s new model is likely to be watched closely, as America’s colleges face growing enrollment from less traditional students.

In Phoenix, I’m Hari Sreenivasan for the PBS NewsHour.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post Opening the doors to more low-income students reshapes a university appeared first on PBS NewsHour.