Monday, January 30, 2012

Gov. Jindal Unveils Far Reaching Education Reform Proposals as Nation Marks National School Choice Week

Fresh from his overwhelming re-election victory, Gov. Bobby Jindal has unveiled an audacious education reform agenda that built around an expanded school voucher program, new charter schools, a rigorous teacher evaluation system and a revamped tenure system. With the Louisiana state legislature set to go back into session this coming March, the governor is expected to win broad support for many of the proposed changes.

If so, the voucher program, which is now limited to New Orleans, would go statewide. Low-income families with a child enrolled in a school that has received a C rating or lower could use public dollars to cover the cost of private school tuition.

Jindal also favors using the new “value-added” teacher assessment to deny automatic tenure for teachers that do not received high marks. Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, 50 percent of evaluations for teachers in academic classes will be based on the LEAP and iLEAP test scores, while the other 50 percent will be based more on subjective criteria built around classroom observations to determine how effective instructors are in motivating students. A pilot program that involves nine school districts and one of the charter schools is already underway.

“This is historic change and an important step forward for our education system,” said Brigitte Nieland, vice-president and communications director of the Education and Workforce Development Council for Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). “For the first time, teachers will be evaluated based on how their students perform. This is about transparency and accuracy.”

The state’s teachers unions, Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) and the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), have been critical of the value-added model and object to it being included as part a tenure reform package. They point out that most teachers fall into “non-core” areas they do not involve tests. Union officials are expected to roll out an alternative reform agenda sometime later this week.

“Governor Jindal is to be praised for proposing such a far-reaching school choice and public education reform agenda. Competition is healthy for education,” Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson said, adding, “the labor reforms will make the public education that the government is responsible for more competitive.

Gov. Jindal would also to “fast-track” charter school operators who have a history of success. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, most New Orleans public schools were placed under state control in the Recovery School District (RSD). Charter school operators now run most of the schools in RSD.

“We can’t wait for another generation of students to graduate from high school unprepared for the workforce and higher education — or to dropout before they even get there,” said during an address to the LABI earlier this month. “This applies not only to K-12 education, but to early childhood education as well.”

New Orleans is now recognized as incubator for education reform. The city hosted a celebration last Saturday that marked the opening of National School Choice Week.


Okla. High School Student Catches Teacher Napping…Guess Who Was Suspended?

Students can be punished for sleeping in class, but what happens when a teacher gets caught dozing at his desk? A high school student in Oklahoma City got the answer to that question when he snapped a cell phone picture to prove that his substitute teacher was sleeping on the job.

The first reaction from the school? Suspend the student. The Oklahoma City School District has a strict policy that prohibits students from using “telecommunications devices during the school day.” Apparently, the school is sticking to the letter of the law in this situation.

The identities of the ninth grader at Mustang Mid-High or the slumbering substitute have not been released, but the story has filtered out and the community is responding. Many locals have expressed concerns over the harsh penalty imposed by the school, and some parents wondered if the suspension was appropriate — or a case of the administration trying to intimidate students.

The only official statement from the school district claims that the sleeping teacher will be investigated.

You have to wonder, if the same teacher had a heart attack and a student called 911 with a cell phone, would that student be suspended or lauded for acting quickly?


Free schooling gets expensive in Australia

SCHOOL costs are rising so fast that one in three parents can't afford the $3000 a year needed to send a child to a public primary school.

The cost of preparing a child for the first day of school has become so expensive, more parents are seeking financial assistance from principals and teachers, or turning to charities and second-hand stores for uniforms.

A survey of 12,000 parents shows they can expect to pay up to $514 this year for uniforms, textbooks and stationery for a public primary student, rising to $739 a year in high school.

Parents sending their children to Catholic or private schools face costs as high as $892 in primary and $1355 in high school. Fees, excursions and extracurricular activities are also on the rise.

The Australian Scholarship Group figures show the total cost of high school as high as $4360 a year in the public system, $11,518 at a Catholic school and $24,376 at a private college. Their survey also found one in three families couldn't cope with the cost of their child's education.

Teachers told The Sunday Telegraph many parents struggled to pay a compulsory "book pack" fee of between $10 and $25, depending on the school, to cover exercise books, textbooks and basic school supplies.

Canley Vale Public School principal Cheryl McBride, chairwoman of the NSW Public Schools Principals Forum, said schools were seeing more disadvantaged families each year but principals could help.

"Every principal has a discretionary fund called Student Assistance," Ms McBride said. "It's not a lot of money but it's designed to assist parents who are really struggling with things like uniforms or excursions. No kid should ever miss out on their books."

Tuition fees at NSW public schools were voluntary but wearing the correct school uniform is compulsory.

The Smith Family CEO Dr Lisa O'Brien said the charity was having one of its busiest periods and had launched a Back to School appeal to sponsor an Australian student.


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