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Education

From KQED

Oakland Teachers and Parents Rally for New Contract, Better Pay

Parents and teachers from Oakland Unified School District held a march on Tuesday demanding an increase in teacher pay and a reduction in class size. During the contract negotiations, some teachers have adopted a labor tactic known as "work-to-rule": working only the hours stipulated in their contract, and nothing more. We'll discuss the ongoing dispute and the impact of the "work-to-rule" practice on classrooms.

Moving Beyond Standardized Tests

Citing the need to adjust to new Common Core standards, the California Board of Education decided earlier this month to suspend the use of standardized test scores as its main measurement of school performance. This comes as teachers, parents and students nationwide protest against the overuse of tests. We talk with NPR education blogger Anya Kamenetz about the perils of overusing test scores and other methods of measuring school and teacher quality.

PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour names 18 fellows for inaugural student reporting academy

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab participants and newly named fellows,

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab participants and newly named fellows, top row: Ben Root, Alex Trevin and Chloe Golan; Bottom row: Isabel Evans and Erykah Williams.

This summer, 18 talented young storytellers from 11 states will convene in the nation’s capital with a common objective: to help build the future of public media.

The middle and high school fellows are participants in the first Student Reporting Labs Academy in Washington, D.C. They’ll work alongside public media mentors to produce original digital content and sharpen their journalism and production skills. They will also help program leaders develop strategies to engage young people with the news and current affairs and ensure that diverse youth voices are active in the conversations about critical issues facing the nation.

These young journalists have reported on the challenges of keeping schools safe, how political advertising reaches young people and service projects at their own schools, all of which have contributed to the NewsHour’s broadcast and digital platforms this year.

Here is the list of this year’s fellows:

Georgie Abbey, Royal Oak High School
Annie Collick, Royal Oak High School
Isabel Evans, Philip’s Academy Charter School
John Fabella, Maui Waena Intermediate School
Chloe Golan, Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High
Evan Gulock, Royal Oak High School
Alexander Lischak, Trumbull Career & Technical
Alex Maxwell, Judge Memorial Catholic High School
Sydney Payne, Carlsbad High School
Keenan Penn II, Fraser High School
Alizah Rizvi, Philip’s Academy Charter School
Ben Root, Stephen F. Austin High School
Jakira Smith, Free Spirit Media and Simeon Career Academy
Giel Marie Tolentino, Maui High School
Alex Trevino, Stephen F. Austin High School
Nicholas Weiss, Cedar Crest High School
Zoe Whitney, Maui High School
Erykah Williams, Vista PEAK Preparatory

To learn more about the students and to watch their submission videos, please visit the official SRL Academy Tumblr.

Student Reporting Labs is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the public media initiative, “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen,” which is helping communities improve education opportunities for all students and build the next generation of skilled graduates. Student Reporting Labs is also funded by National Science Foundation.

The post PBS NewsHour names 18 fellows for inaugural student reporting academy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Thousands of students opt out of Common Core tests in protest

TAKOMA PARK, MD - MAY 16:  Student Allison Ramirez asks for help as her class goes over fractions in a fourth grade math
         class at Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, MD on May 16, 2013.  Montgomery County Fourth and Fifth grade math
         teachers are training themselves to teach students in a new style of learning math to prepare them for newer, more rigorous
         education standards under Common Core.  (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A classroom in Takoma Park, MD prepared for more rigorous education standards for math under Common Core in 2013. Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance. Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance.

This “opt-out” movement remains scattered but is growing fast in some parts of the country. Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams. Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about standardized testing.

Resistance could be costly: If fewer than 95 percent of a district’s students participate in tests aligned with Common Core standards, federal money could be withheld, although the U.S. Department of Education said that hasn’t happened.

“It is a theoretical club administrators have used to coerce participation, but a club that is increasingly seen as a hollow threat,” said Bob Schaeffer with the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which seeks to limit standardized testing.

And so the movement grows: This week in New York, tens of thousands of students sat out the first day of tests, with some districts reporting more than half of students opting out of the English test. Preliminary reports suggest an overall increase in opt-outs compared to last year, when about 49,000 students did not take English tests and about 67,000 skipped math tests, compared to about 1.1 million students who did take the tests in New York.

Considerable resistance also has been reported in Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania, and more is likely as many states administer the tests in public schools for the first time this spring.

The defiance dismays people who believe holding schools accountable for all their students’ continuing improvement is key to solving education problems.

Assessing every student each year “gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations,” U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said in an emailed statement.

Opposition runs across the political spectrum.

Some Republicans and Tea Party activists focus on the Common Core standards themselves, calling them a federal intrusion by President Barack Obama, even though they were developed by the National Governors Association and each state’s education leaders in the wake of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program.

The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt Common Core standards through the federal grant program known as Race to the Top, and most have, but each state is free to develop its own tests.

In California, home to the nation’s largest public school system and Democratic political leaders who strongly endorse Common Core standards, there have been no reports of widespread protests to the exams – perhaps because state officials have decided not to hold schools accountable for the first year’s results.

But in deep-blue New York, resistance has been encouraged by the unions in response to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to make the test results count more in teacher evaluations.

In Rockville Centre on Long Island, Superintendent William H. Johnson said 60 percent of his district’s third-through-eighth graders opted out. In the Buffalo suburb of West Seneca, nearly 70 percent didn’t take the state exam, Superintendent Mark Crawford said.

“That tells me parents are deeply concerned about the use of the standardized tests their children are taking,” Crawford said. “If the opt-outs are great enough, at what point does somebody say this is absurd?”

Nearly 15 percent of high school juniors in New Jersey opted out this year, while fewer than 5 percent of students in grades three through eight refused the tests, state education officials said. One reason: Juniors may be focusing instead on the SAT and AP tests that could determine their college futures.

Much of the criticism focuses on the sheer number of tests now being applied in public schools: From pre-kindergarten through grade 12, students take an average of 113 standardized tests, according to a survey by the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban districts.

Of these, only 17 are mandated by the federal government, but the backlash that began when No Child Left Behind started to hold teachers, schools and districts strictly accountable for their students’ progress has only grown stronger since “Common Core” gave the criticism a common rallying cry.

“There is a widespread sentiment among parents, students, teachers, administrators and local elected officials that enough is enough, that government mandated testing has taken over our schools,” Schaeffer said.

Teachers now devote 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks, including preparing students, proctoring, and reviewing the results of standardized tests, the National Education Association says.

The pressure to improve results year after year can be demoralizing and even criminalizing, say critics who point to the Atlanta test-cheating scandal, which led to the convictions 35 educators charged with altering exams to boost scores.

“It seems like overkill,” said Meredith Barber, a psychologist from the Philadelphia suburb of Penn Valley who excused her daughter from this year’s tests. Close to 200 of her schoolmates also opted out in the Lower Merion School District, up from a dozen last year.

“I’m sure we can figure out a way to assess schools rather than stressing out children and teachers and really making it unpleasant for teachers to teach,” said Barber, whose 10-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, will be in the cafeteria researching Edwardian history and the TV show “Downton Abbey” during the two weeks schools have set aside for the tests.

Utah and California allow parents to refuse testing for any reason, while Arkansas and Texas prohibit opting out, according to a report by the Education Commission of the States. Most states are like Georgia, where no specific law clarifies the question, and lawmakers in some of these states want protect the right to opt out.

Florida has another solution: Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill strictly limiting testing to 45 hours each school year.

In Congress, meanwhile, lawmakers appear ready to give states more flexibility: A Senate committee approved a bipartisan update of No Child Left Behind this week that would let each state determine how much weight to give the tests when evaluating school performance.

Contributors include Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, New Jersey; and Christine Armario in Los Angeles.

The post Thousands of students opt out of Common Core tests in protest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

#IWishMyTeacherKnew offers insight into minds of students

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In an effort to learn more about her third grade students, Colorado-based teacher Kyle Schwartz prompted them to tell her what “I wish my teacher knew.”

Last week, Schwartz posted several of these responses on Twitter. Other teachers across the country soon followed suit, encouraging their students to answer the same question. When ABC News reported about it on Thursday, the project gained national attention.

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Schwartz teaches in a school district that serves several low-income students. She said responses offered her insight into some of the obstacles her students face at home, and reasons behind some of their challenges in the classroom.

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Schwartz told ABC News that 92 percent of her class qualify for free and reduced lunch. That’s a reality for 21 million children across the country.

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Private college scholarships less likely to go to poorest students

Malachi Zeitner, who received a scholarship for caddying. (Photo: Western Golf Association)

Malachi Zeitner, who received a scholarship for caddying. (Photo: Western Golf Association)

Yes, Malachi Zeitner has heard the joking references to Caddyshack, the comedy cult film with Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield about a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who more or less blackmails his way into a college scholarship from the country club where he caddies.

Zeitner doesn’t mind. Raised by his grandparents in Sioux City, Iowa, after his mother left and his father died, he’s enjoying a full ride to Miami University of Ohio on his way to dental school, thanks to a real-life scholarship he got for caddying at a golf club in the summers.

The Chick Evans Scholarship of the Western Golf Association, named for a onetime caddie who became the first man to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur golf tournaments in the same year, covers the full tuition and housing costs of 850 caddies nationwide who have financial need and earn good grades.

It’s part of an estimated $16.1 billion in college scholarships made available by golf associations, Rotary Clubs, businesses and other private sources, according to the College Board—an amount almost twice as high as all the college grant money given by the 50 states combined. Among students who receive a private scholarship, the average award is $3,400, the U.S. Department of Education reports.

But what Caddyshack groundskeeper Carl Spackler might call Zeitner’s “Cinderella story, outta nowhere” is less common than you might expect.

That’s because federal data show that poor families that need the private scholarships the most are less likely to get them than higher-income ones.

Related: How the class divide is widened by gaps in counseling kids for college

Nearly 13 percent of students from families that make more than $106,000 a year get private scholarships, compared with about 9 percent of those whose families earn less than $30,000, according to data collected by the Education Department. White students also have higher odds of getting private scholarships than black or Hispanic students.

Wealthier students have far more ways to find out about the private scholarships, experts say, including from their parents, who are more likely to have gone to college themselves. Nearly 14 percent of students whose parents went to college get private scholarships, the Education Department figures show, compared to less than 9 percent of those whose parents never went to college.

“The same patterns of inequity are repeating themselves,” said Amy Weinstein, executive director of the National Scholarship Providers Association. “We have major inequity issues—who’s in the club, who gets the information.”

Related: Colleges that pledged to help poor families have been doing the opposite

Malachi Zeitner, who received a scholarship for caddying. (Photo: Western Golf Association)

Malachi Zeitner, who received a scholarship for caddying. (Photo: Western Golf Association)

While two-thirds of parents with incomes of $75,000 or more could name scholarships as potential sources of financial aid, only one in four with incomes under $25,000 a year could, according to a survey by the Harris polling company for the loan company Sallie Mae; white parents were also more likely than black or Hispanic parents to know about them. Conducted in 2003, the most recent year in which these questions were asked, the survey found “vast inequalities” in knowledge about financial aid based on race and income.

That information divide is also fueled by big disparities in college counselor caseloads between inner-city public and suburban or private schools. Wealthier students are more likely to go to private or well-funded suburban high schools with knowledgeable college counselors, or to be able to afford to hire private college consultants. Students at private and suburban schools were significantly more likely to have spoken with a college counselor than those at urban schools, according to a survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, or NACAC.

Joe Schmidt sees that disparity in his roles as both a director of the Western Golf Association, which awards the Chick Evans scholarships, and president of St. Patrick High School in Chicago. High-achieving low-income students in large nearby public magnet schools, Schmidt said, don’t get as much private scholarship money as the graduates of his Catholic school, which has an enrollment of 700.

Related: Catholic colleges tell poor students: Go somewhere else

“What tells me that they don’t get the information is that their scholarship awards are far less than at the private schools that have far fewer students and seem to be more aware that that money is out there,” Schmidt said.

The NACAC survey found that private school counselors spend much more time providing information about scholarships than their counterparts at public schools with larger proportions of students who need the money.

Low-income and first-generation students at those schools, in particular, “are not knowledgeable enough about what’s available for them,” the results suggest, said Nicole Ifill, an analyst at the education research firm RTI International who co-authored the NACAC report.

A single college counselor in a public high school handles 471 students, on average, according to the American School Counselor Association, nearly double the caseload the association recommends, and almost five times the ratio in private schools. In the same survey, private school counselors said they spent much more time than public school ones providing information about scholarships.

Related: The financial aid policy that shuts out millions

“Families with experience going to college, they would know how to find that money,” said Max Espinoza, senior vice president at Scholarship America, a nonprofit organization that supports private scholarships. “First-generation students don’t always know it’s out there.”

As for Zeitner, he learned about the caddie scholarship from an uncle who’s a golf pro. But he has seen classmates who seemed not to know that private scholarships existed, or how to get one.

“You have to put yourself out there and say, ‘Hey, I’m a worthy candidate,’” he said.

Because they come from so many sources, there’s been little comprehensive research into private scholarships. The Department of Education breakdown of the number of private scholarship recipients by income isn’t actually published anywhere; it was calculated at the request of The Hechinger Report.

Malachi Zeitner, who received a scholarship for caddying. (Photo: Western Golf Association)

Malachi Zeitner, who received a scholarship for caddying. (Photo: Western Golf Association)

But private scholarships have grown to represent 13 percent of all direct grants given to American college students, the College Board says.

“Private aid helps students who slip through the cracks of other aid programs,” Espinoza said. “It can really make a difference. There is money out there.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

The post Private college scholarships less likely to go to poorest students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.