Weekly Education News Brief

Brought to you by the Penn State Education Policy Studies Student Association (EPSSA)
Questions or comments, please contact Nnenna Ogbu (
In the news
Kindergarten loans are a sad reality of our time
“Following Tuesday’s news that wealthy parents are being targeted for more money from their kids’ expensive private schools comes a very different, but equally terrifying, tale: Some parents are taking out loans to pay for their children’s educations. That’s been happening for years, you say? Well, yes. Except now the loans are being taken out for high school educations—and even kindergarten. There are even lenders who specialize in “pre-college education loans.”
Tighter security for SAT, ACT in wake of cheating
“Students taking college entrance exams this fall will have to submit photo IDs with their applications — a key security upgrade following a widespread cheating scandal at a number of high schools on New York’s Long Island, a prosecutor and testing officials announced Tuesday. The security change is one of a number of initiatives following the arrest of 20 current or former high school students accused in a cheating scheme. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said some of the students were paid as much as $3,500 to stand in for other students on the SAT exam, a key barometer for many colleges determining admissions.”
2-year college, squeezed, sets 2-tier tuition
“For years now, administrators at the community college here have been inundated with woeful tales from students unable to register for the courses they need. Classes they want for essential job training or to fulfill requirements to transfer to four-year universities fill up within hours. Hundreds of students resort to crying and begging to enroll in a class, lining up at the doors of instructors and academic counselors. Now, though, Santa Monica College is about to try something novel. This summer it will offer some courses for a higher price, so that students who are eager to get into a particular class can do so if they pay more.”
NYC bans Halloween, birthdays, aliens and more on school tests
Students in New York City’s public schools cramming for tests can delete words like birthdays, junk food, Halloween, dinosaur and even dancing from study lists. References to such words have been banned from city-issued tests in an edict issued by the city’s Department of Education for fear the words could “appear biased” or “evoke unpleasant emotions” in students.”
Policy and Politics
Higher education provision stripped from Georgia immigration bill
“Georgia lawmakers on Tuesday stripped a provision that would have barred undocumented immigrants from state colleges, universities and technical schools from a bill making its way through the state Legislature. “
Court upholds dismissal of suit over girl’s rape
“A south Mississippi school district had no constitutional duty to protect a 9-year-old girl from being repeatedly raped by a man who checked her out of school several times without authorization, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.”
A new private school consultant enters the (lucrative) field
“School Choice Group, a school placement company that works with Fortune 100 companies like Starbucks and UBS to find private schools for families when they relocate abroad, is expanding its business to work with individual clients. Its new division — called School Search Solutions — joins the growing, and controversial, ranks of admission consultants who work with families to navigate the opaque and often intimidating private school world.”
Oklahoma judge rules scholarship law unconstitutional
“A 2010 Oklahoma law that authorizes state-funded scholarships for children with certain disabilities to attend private schools is unconstitutional, a Tulsa County judge ruled Tuesday.”
Access to teacher evaluations divides advocates
“As the movement to overhaul teacher evaluation marches onward, an emerging question is splitting the swath of advocates who support the new tools used to gauge teacher performance: Who should get access to the resulting information? As evidenced in recently published opinion pieces, the contours of the debate are rapidly being drawn. Some proponents of using student-achievement data as a component of teacher evaluations, including the philanthropist Bill Gates and Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, nevertheless believe that such information should not be made widely public. Other figures, like New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, champion the broad dissemination of such data.”
Report echoes concern about Hawaii schools reform
“A new report by an education policy think-tank echoes the U.S. Department of Education’s concern about progress by Hawaii schools on promised Race to the Top reforms. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress report was released Monday, a day before four federal officials visit Hawaii to examine the state’s Race to the Top performance. State education officials were warned in December that a $75 million grant could be taken away.”
Educational Leadership
Report suggests new accounting for Texas schools
“Texas should simplify its accounting practices for public schools to make it easier for the average citizen to determine how districts are spending billions in state money every year, a new report funded by three private equity investors suggested Tuesday. The report titled “No Financial Accountability” concludes school districts dutifully follow state rules and provide copious amounts of data in their annual financial statements. But it also shows they lump large expenditures into nebulous categories like “instruction”—which can mean everything from how much teachers are paid to the cost of insuring students in driver’s education.”
School district told to replace web filter blocking pro-gay sites
“Students using the computers at Camdenton High School here in central Missouri have been able to access the Web sites for Exodus International, as well as People Can Change, antigay organizations that counsel men and women on how to become heterosexual. But the students have not been able to access the Web sites of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “
More states retaining struggling 3rd graders
“Some families in Tulsa, Okla., recently received a brochure that surely grabbed their attention. The title? “Will your child pass third grade?”…Oklahoma is one of several states that recently adopted new reading policies that—with limited exceptions—call for 3rd graders to be held back if they flunk a state standardized test.”
Teaching and Learning
Before the law: understanding the Supreme Court case on the Affordable Care Act
“What are the issues at stake in the Supreme Court challenges to President Obama’s health care law? In this lesson, students create a television news segment to inform their school’s community about the questions regarding Affordable Health Care Act that are being considered by the Supreme Court.”
Why college students stop short of a degree
“Aspiring journalist Fruzsina Eordoghdropped out of Loyola University Chicago last spring, just a few classes shy of graduating. Saddled with $50,000 in student loans, she decided that spending more time in class would derail her from pursuing opportunities in the job market.”
Observe teachers of the youngest children too, researchers say
“Teachers should undergo standardized observations well before their students can read, talk, or even walk, according to researchers who discussed the role of observations in improving teacher quality during a panel on Tuesday. Lisa Guersney, director of the Early Education Initiative of the New America Foundation, and Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE PolicyWorks, touted the potential of engaging caretakers and educators working with the infant through five-year-old group in observations and feedback that push towards effective teaching.”
Miami-area high schools stage walkouts for Trayvon Martin
“Walkouts continued Friday morning at 15 schools across Miami-Dade County in protest of the recent killing of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin. Students joined national appeals for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood crime captain who is accused of shooting Martin in Sanford.”
Blogs and Opinions
50-plus banned words on standardized tests
Arne Duncan: Newspapers shouldn’t publish teacher ratings
Weekly Education News Brief
Brought to you by the Penn State Education Policy Studies Student Association (EPSSA)
Questions or comments, please contact Nnenna Ogbu (
In the news
Obama pushes colleges to keep tuition under control
“President Barack Obama, appearing before thousands of cheering students at the University of Michigan, touted his plan on Friday to reward colleges that keep their tuition under control with more federal aid as he makes school affordability a top election-year priority. “
College presidents have problems with Obama’s message on tuition
“College presidents say the White House should not be prescribing how schools save money. They also express bewilderment at the idea that colleges might be punished by the federal government at the same time as many states are cutting support for higher ed.”
Obama wades into issue of raising dropout age
“President Obama’s State of the Union call for every state to require students to stay in school until they turn 18 is Washington’s first direct involvement in an issue that many governors and state legislators have found tough to address.”
Policy and Politics
Some states prodding students to graduate early
“The policies emphasize proficiency over seat time. By giving students the green light to move on if they are ready, the hope is to bypass a senior slump, save families tuition money, and curb districts’ instructional costs.”
Parents, officials decry new Texas school testing
“Parents, school and business leaders—and even an ex-lawmaker who once voted for it—expressed alarm Monday about new, more-rigorous standardized testing for Texas schoolchildren, whose results will represent 15 percent of high school students’ grades in English, history, math and science courses. Supporters say the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test will increase accountability for state public schools and that making the results count toward grades ensures high school students take the tests seriously.”
Governor Brownback’s plan to post teachers’ rankings causes outcry; GOP senator describes plan as ‘toxic’
“Gov. Sam Brownback has formally introduced his 138-page school finance overhaul, and it includes a provision that Brownback officials had not discussed before publicly: a proposal to evaluate teachers, partly based on student achievement, and post their rankings on the Internet.”
Alaska agrees to settle in longtime education quality case
“The state agreed Thursday to settle an eight-year case over education quality.
Plaintiffs in the case claimed the state had failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide an education to schoolchildren.”
Jindal proposes grading early childhood programs
“A plan to rework Louisiana’s uncoordinated system of prekindergarten and early childhood education programs is tucked in the list of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The proposals would grade preschools, streamline governance and yank funding for underperforming programs. “
Georgia lawmakers file charter school amendment
“The state’s highest court ruled in May that the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, created by the legislature in 2008, was unconstitutional because it approved and gave local tax dollars to charter schools over the objection of local school boards. The justices concluded that only local school boards have the power to open public schools, a ruling that some state lawmakers have said will have unintended consequences beyond just charter schools.”
Educational Leadership
States weaken tenure rights for teachers
“America’s public school teachers are seeing their generations-old tenure protections weakened as states seek flexibility to fire teachers who aren’t performing. A few states have essentially nullified tenure protections altogether, according to an analysis being released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality. “
Texting hotline gets attention in suicide-prevention efforts
“Minnesota’s suicide call center is getting as many cell-phone text messages from teens in a day as it used to get phone calls from teens in a month. That’s because Carlton County applied for and received a $1.44 million federal grant to roll out a seven-county texting hotline for suicide prevention.  ‘We looked at recent suicides, and we looked at what kids were doing prior to those suicides,’ said Dave Lee, director of Carlton County’s public health and human services. ‘They were texting people or they were on Facebook.'”
After-school programs’ newest activity: supper
“A few states have offered supper for years as part of a pilot program, but the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which passed late that year, expanded the program, allowing all qualifying after-school programs to take part and get paid by the USDA for the suppers they serve.”
Blogs and Opinions
‘Tim Tebow homeschool law’ gains momentum in Virginia
The big flaws in Obama’s education argument

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