Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MA: State may seek “No Child” waiver

Massachusetts may join a growing number of states in revolting against an unpopular provision of a federal education law that has caused thousands of schools nationwide, including more than half the schools in Massachusetts, to be designated as in need of improvement.

The schools, nearly 1,000 in Massachusetts, have repeatedly stumbled in boosting state standardized test scores fast enough to fulfill what many educators consider to be an elusive and unrealistic requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act: that all students, regardless of a learning disability, lack of motivation, or any other academic barrier, will demonstrate proficiency - a solid command of grade-level material - on state exams by 2014.

It is a particularly high bar for Massachusetts, whose statewide standards for student attainment are among the toughest in the country. And the consequences of falling short are serious - including the possibility of the state taking over underperforming schools.

Mitchell Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said in an interview last week that Massachusetts is giving serious consideration to filing for a waiver from the 100 percent proficiency rule, under a new program announced this month by the Obama administration.

“For me, the reason filing a waiver makes sense for Massachusetts is that [the rule] no longer does a good job of differentiating our strongest performers from our weakest performers,’’ Chester said. “We have many schools in the Commonwealth at this point that are failing the federal requirements but are not failing schools.’’

But in a state with a reputation for having some of the highest academic standards in the country, the possibility of abandoning the 100 percent proficiency rule is drawing sharp criticism from some education advocates.

A waiver could thwart state efforts to galvanize more school districts to develop innovative approaches to accelerate student achievement, said Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council and a former state board education chairman.

“The state with the best-performing students in the country shouldn’t need a waiver from a high expectation regulation,’’ Anderson said. “I don’t think Massachusetts should apply for a waiver to reduce expectations on what we expect kids to achieve.’’

The waivers have sparked heated debate in Washington, with many members of Congress arguing that the Obama administration has no legal right to waive the requirement. Administration officials contend that they do, as they deride the George W. Bush-era law for exaggerating the number of potentially failing schools and thereby preventing school districts from devoting their limited resources to the schools actually in greatest need.

More here

Being near a good school is top priority for one in three British homebuyers

More than a third of prospective homebuyers with young children say moving to an area with a good school is their top priority, research shows.

Moving into the catchment area of a good school was the top priority for 37pc of prospective buyers with a child aged 10 or under, according to a study for Santander Mortgages.

Many were willing to pay an extra £12,000 to secure the home – and school – of their choice. The average house price premium for moving to a good catchment area was £5,663. One in four of those with a child aged 11 to 17 named proximity to a good school as a major concern.

Homebuyers in the West Midlands were most concerned about moving into a good catchment area, the survey found, with 26pc citing it as a main priority, double the percentage concerned about the issue the last time they bought a home.

In the North East only 6pc of buyers showed a particular interest in the catchment area the last time they purchased a home, but 16pc of people planning to buy a property in the region now considered it a main priority.

The research suggested that women were much more concerned about moving into a good catchment area than men – they were willing to pay a £7,300 premium, compared with £4,450 for men.

Phil Cliff, a director of Santander Mortgages, said: "People are increasingly concerned about the value of a good education, and in some areas of the country there is a significant amount of competition for places at sought-after schools.

"This has led to many parents trying to move to a particular area deliberately to improve their child's chances of getting into their desired school. Some in-demand property features such as being located within the catchment area of a good school can increase the property value considerably."


School's milk crates fall foul of Britain's health and safety police

For 15 years, a set of disused milk crates had been providing children at an Oxfordshire school with old-fashioned fun. But that was before the health and safety zealots caught sight of them.

Now the 25 crates, which have been used as props for countless games involving ships, cars, dens and castles, have been taken away over fears that pupils could be injured on them.

"In all the time we have had the crates, we have not had a single child hurt themselves," said Anne Bardsley, a teacher at Wychwood Primary school, who described the decision to remove them as "outrageous".

The crates, once donated by a friendly milkman, were seized by Dairy Crest during a routine delivery.

Lyndsey Anderson, from the company, apologised for any distress. "Whilst we understand their disappointment at losing something they had come to view as playground equipment, it remains a fact that milk crates are not toys and current health and safety guidelines require that they should not be used as such," she said.

Mrs Bardsley explained that the pupils were always supervised while playing with the crates and that they helped creative learning. "The children absolutely loved them," she added.


No comments: