Teaching Young Students to Write by Hand Before Moving on to Keyboarding Can Help Improve Reading Fluency as Well

By Brooke MacKenzie - Rep: July 15, 2019

Technology is an undeniable fact of everyday life and can support students’ learning. But there are limits to that: Completely replacing handwriting instruction with keyboarding instruction in elementary school can be detrimental to students’ literacy acquisition. Why are handwriting and letter formation so important?

Research has demonstrated a correlation between letter-naming and letter-writing fluency, and a relationship between letter-naming fluency and successful reading development. There’s a strong connection between the hand and the neural circuitry of the brain—as students learn to better write the critical features of letters, they also learn to recognize them more fluently. This recognition of letters leads to greater letter-writing fluency, which leads to greater overall reading development...

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CDE Releases “California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities”

July 15, 2019

On July 3, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the release of the much-anticipated “California Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities.” The guide will help with identifying, assessing, supporting, and reclassifying English learners with disabilities.

“This resource will benefit the teachers and other professionals involved in the education of more than 220,000 identified English learner students with disabilities,” said Thurmond. “In California, we serve all students. Identifying what each child needs and addressing those needs is essential so that all students can reach their full potential.”

The guide came about from Assembly Bill 2785 in 2016. It added “Education Code” 56305, requiring the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop guidance to local educational agencies on identifying English learners as individuals with exceptional needs...

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More Equity Needed in Access, Enrollment, Success for Computer Science Education

July 15, 2019

Computer science jobs pay well yet access to, enrollment and success in computer science courses in California schools varies by gender, race/ethnicity, income and geography, a new report said.

"Computer Science in California Schools: An Analysis of Access, Enrollment and Equity" was released in mid-June by the Computer Science for California coalition, the Sacramento County Office of Education and Oakland's Kapor Center, which advocates for diversity.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2018 for jobs in computer and information technology ranged from $53,470 for computer support specialists to $118,370 for computer and information research scientists. Median pay for U.S. workers was $38,640 in May 2018...

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Millions of Kids Take Standardized Tests Simply to Help Testing Companies Make Better Tests. (Really.)

By Valerie Strauss - Rep: June 12, 2019

Millions of U.S. students take standardized tests every year with the sole goal of helping testing companies make better tests.

They are called “field tests,” and students take them at different times of year – often in spring and early summer – to test questions so that companies can determine whether they are constructed well enough to use on future exams. New York is completing its field tests this week.

Kids don’t get a grade but take them anyway, sometimes without their parents’ knowledge.

(If this sounds to you as though students are being used as guinea pigs for testing companies, well...)...

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Stanford Research Study

Schools That Received State Funds to Expand Career Training Programs Saw Lower Dropout Rates

By Carrie Spector - Rep: June 3, 2019

For decades, high school students who weren’t considered “college material” were steered onto a vocational track with limited academic requirements, which may have helped them develop job skills but left them unprepared if they wanted to continue their education.

That’s beginning to change as high schools move toward a new model known as career pathways, which combine a technical education with college-prep coursework while linking students with local employers for real-world experience.

A new study by a Stanford education researcher shows that this approach pays off...

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Early-Morning High School Classes Clash with Teenage Biology – But Change is Hard

By Danielle Dreilinger - Rep: June 3, 2019

The name of the study said it all: “Sleepmore in Seattle: Later School Start times Are Associated with More Sleep and Better Performance in High School Students.” In 2016–17, Seattle Public Schools pushed back high-school start times by 55 minutes, from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. And just like that, students slept an average of 34 more minutes per night and their grades went up 4.5 percent, researchers found.

It was yet another entry in a long bibliography of studies showing the benefits of a later start time for teenagers (including “Rise and Shine” by Jennifer Heissel and Samuel Norris, in this issue). This growing body of evidence is in line with broad expert consensus that early school days are in conflict with adolescents’ biological sleep patterns and need for 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. In 2017, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine officially recommended that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m....

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Five Things to Know about California’s New Health Ed Framework for Schools

By Abby Hamblin, San Diego Union Tribune - Rep: May 20, 2019

A new health education framework approved this month by the California State Board of Education offers guidance on sex education that the board’s president says reflects how “life has become more exponentially more complex.”

The “2019 Health Education Curriculum Framework for California Public Schools” was approved on May 8 despite what the Sacramento Bee described as “large protests.” The California Department of Education says the framework – which is optional for school districts – is “designed to make classrooms more inclusive and help students access the knowledge and skills necessary to grow into healthy adults.”...

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Nine Strategies for Getting More Students to Talk

By Rosie Reid, co-winner of 2019 California Teacher of the Year - Rep: May 7, 2019

While it is possible to learn by listening, I’ve found that oral participation leads to greater gains in student literacy and engagement. English language learners in particular benefit from ample talk time, but they are not the only ones.

Yet I’ve also found that without careful planning, a few students do most of the talking while the majority of the class remains silent. My students all have ideas, but only some of them share those ideas on a regular basis. Adding wait time after I ask a question helps more students get into the conversation, but still the more confident students are more likely to raise their hands...

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Researchers Develop Interventions to Reduce Disparities in School Discipline, Improve Students’ Relationships with Their Teachers

By Melissa De Witte - April 19, 2019

Brief exercises that address middle school students’ worries about belonging can help black and Latino boys develop better relationships with teachers and sharply reduce their risk of receiving discipline citations years into the future, Stanford University psychologists find.

Their research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that guided exercises in two or more 25-minute class sessions early in sixth or seventh grade reduced teacher reports of discipline issues – such as for disrespect, defiance or insubordination – among black and Latino boys by 57 percent over two years in one study. In a second study, the reduction for black boys was 65 percent from sixth grade through 12th grade...

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Helping Students Overcome Test Anxiety

By Youki Terada - April 4, 2019

A rapid heartbeat. Sweaty palms. Clouded thoughts. For many students, the biggest obstacle to passing a test isn’t what they know, but the anxiety they feel.

Stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on a student’s ability to concentrate on tests, leading to poor performance and, ultimately, fewer opportunities to succeed in school. A new study highlights an effective solution: Guide students to view stress differently – as a boost instead of a burden. Simple 10-minute writing exercises given just before a test helped students see stress as “a beneficial and energizing force” that could help them...

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Anti-Semitic Fliers Posted at High School Following Backlash Over Nazi Salute at Student Party

By Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times - March 23, 2019

Anti-Semitic fliers with Nazi symbols were posted around Newport Harbor High School (in Orange County) over the weekend of March 9-10, roughly a week after a viral photo showed students posed in a Nazi salute while gathered around a swastika formed by disposable red plastic beer cups during a house party.

Police received a call from school official Sunday reporting that at least 10 fliers, each 8 by 11 inches – some bearing swastikas – had been put up around the Newport Beach campus. Authorities think the fliers were plastered around the campus late Saturday or early Sunday. Police are investigating...

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The Math All Around Us

A Math Teacher Considers How to Make Real-World Connections During Field Trips, Projects

By Alessandra King - March 23, 2019

The math team at my school never lets an activity or event — from morning assemblies to field trips — pass without highlighting important or interesting mathematical connections. Few if any of these events were intended to serve the math curriculum, but we find ways to make it work.

Morning assemblies, for example, can be a good time for a continuing program of quick creativity boosters. There are many possible themes: Important Historical Problems and Their Current Applications, Logic Puzzles and Riddles, and Counterintuitive Problems...

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Researchers Find Disproportionate Assignments

Low-Income Students Encounter a Special Education Mismatch

By Grace Tatter - March 9, 2019

Low-income students are disproportionately assigned to special education, according to a new report from the Century Foundation by researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, and SRI International. 

Experts and educators have long documented how students of color are disproportionately sent to special education to their detriment, isolated in classrooms with teachers who have less expertise in important subject-matter material like math, English, and science. Last summer, the Trump administration delayed regulations the Obama administration had proposed to curb discriminatory special education assignments, stating that “racial disparities in the identification, placement, or discipline of children with disabilities are not necessarily evidence of, or primarily caused by, discrimination.”...

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A Valuable but Difficult-to-Master Skill

Teaching Students to Paraphrase

By Jennifer Davis Bowman - March 9, 2019

When discussing text in the classroom, it’s tough for students to shift from utilizing an author’s words (copying) to accepting the challenge to express that author’s idea in their own words (paraphrasing).

But teaching effective paraphrasing is necessary because the use of paraphrasing facilitates important literacy skills: It encourages repeated reading, develops note-taking habits as students track quotes and outline text details, and expands vocabulary as they consider appropriate ways to describe the original text. The skill may seem daunting to students because it takes time to find the appropriate words to reshape a sentence, but that is time well spent...

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Study: Homework Is Too Focused on Rote Learning

February 24, 2019

On February 13, the Center for American Progress released a new report that takes a first-of-its-kind look at homework assignment quality. Specifically, the study examines how homework v assignment align with Common Core State Standards, and whether they require students to demonstrate the full depth of knowledge required of the content standards. In reviewing a snapshot of homework samples collected using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), the authors of the report find:

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“The Biggest Lesson of My First Year Teaching”

Veteran Teacher Shares How She Learned the Value of Prioritizing Relationships

By Cindy Bourdo - February 24, 2019

“Overwhelming” is the word that best describes my first year of teaching. I wasn’t prepared for the multitude of things on my plate. I didn’t have a handle on classroom management, and I left each day feeling exhausted and defeated.

My time was spent learning new curriculum, developing personalized learning techniques, modifying lessons, and analyzing data. I knew this was important work, but I also knew that something was not working. I felt a disconnect in my classroom and knew I could do better.

I looked around and saw that there were some teachers who seemed to just take everything in stride and really enjoyed what they were doing. Their classrooms ran smoothly, and their students looked happy. To figure out what they were doing that set them apart, I made an effort to study three teachers during my first year...

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Is It Time to Rethink the Way We Do School?

Bringing the Science of Learning Into Classrooms

By Heather Riley and Youki Terada - February 9, 2019

New research sheds light on the effects that childhood experiences - both good and bad - have on the developing brain. But are schools keeping up?

“The 20th-century education system was never designed with the knowledge of the developing brain,” says Pamela Cantor, MD, who is part of a cross-disciplinary team of experts studying the science of learning and development. “So when we think about the fact that learning is a brain function and we have an education system that didn’t have access to this critical knowledge, the question becomes: Do we have the will to create an education system that’s informed by it?”

Contrary to the long-held belief that brain maturation is largely complete by the age of 6, we now know that our brains are malleable and continue to change dramatically well into our 20s. This has profound implications for learning throughout the school-age years...

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SBE Approves New K-12 California Arts Standards

February 9, 2019

On February 4, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond praised the recent adoption of new California Arts standards by the State Board of Education, stating it is a critical step in enhancing creativity in students and preparing students for California’s  “creative economy.” The last update to the state’s arts standards was in 2001.

“This was long overdue. Creativity and appreciation for the arts is important for all students to have a well-rounded education, exposing them to new ideas and perspectives. Arts education boosts school attendance, academic achievement, and college attendance rates; improves school climate; and promotes higher self-esteem and social-emotional development.” Thurmond said. “In addition, proficiency in the technology related to creative work is becoming an important skill for students as they progress into college and career.”...

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Social and Emotional Learning in Science Class

By Sarah Kesty - January 26, 2019

You assign a group activity in your science classroom and within minutes, this scene unfolds: In each group of four students, two are talking to each other and semi-engaging in the task, one is entirely disengaged and is instead bending and reshaping a paperclip, and one is hurriedly completing the activity all alone, half-heartedly asking her peers to pass her the materials she needs. Sound familiar?

In science lessons, engineering activities can provide a great opportunity for students to collaborate and grow social and emotional skills in low-stakes, high-engagement environments. The creative, problem-solving nature of engineering encourages students to work together, try new ideas, and learn from their mistakes...

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Revising the Traditional Parent-Teacher Conference Allows Middle School Students to Develop Leadership and Organizational Skills

By Brooke Markle - January 26, 2019

As educators, one of the most important life skills we teach students is independence. In middle school, we foster gradual responsibility. We also encourage students to take a more active role in their own learning and to develop the tools needed to self-advocate.

Providing students with the ability to have open discussions with their parents about their successes and struggles puts these skills into practice in a collaborative, supportive way...

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CDE Launches Updated 2018 School Dashboard with More Information, Parent-Friendly Upgrades

December 15, 2018

On December 6, 5he California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) launched the second version of the California School Dashboard, a website that gives parents, students, and educators access to valuable school and district data.

The 2018 Dashboard includes two new metrics for evaluating school and district performance and a new, user-friendly look that makes complex data easier to understand. The Dashboard is now fully accessible on smart phones and tablets, is easier to navigate, and has improved graphics. The new Dashboard also has the most current data available, including 2018 test scores and graduation rates...

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CDE Announces 2018 Rates for High School Graduation, Suspension and Chronic Absenteeism

November 30, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 19 that the high school graduation rates for 2018 remain near an all-time high. Among students who started high school in 2014, 83 percent graduated with their class in 2018, an increase from 82.7 percent from the year before. The state's graduation rate has increased substantially since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate.

“Our graduation rates continue to rise, reflecting the passion and dedication by educators over the past eight years to transform our education system with a more equitable funding system, higher academic standards and more emphasis on career technical education,” Torlakson said. “Still, much work needs to be done to make certain all students graduate and to close the continuing achievement gaps between student groups...

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Teaching Students to Disagree Productively

November 30, 2018
By Brittany R. Collins

On a cool October morning, energy buzzed in a third-grade classroom in western Massachusetts. Students sat on the rug, raising their hands and grinning from ear to ear. As I entered at the back of the room, I was struck to hear the words “I disagree!” coming from the carpet. Could it be that all of this excitement was coexisting with - or even coming from - debate?

I hung my coat and settled in to observe this science lesson in action. “Disagreement is great!” the teacher exclaimed before reminding students of a prior discussion about how to share and use dissenting opinions as a tool for problem-solving...

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One Teacher’s Suggestions for Creating a More Diverse Classroom Library

November 15, 2018
By Meredith Kimi Lewis

The library is the physical and metaphorical center of my classroom. It is a reading world adorned with a carpet, comfy chairs, a lamp, and bins of neatly organized books. When I remember my own childhood, I picture a colorful tapestry woven by the hundreds of worlds I visited through the pages of books.

Imagine my surprise when one of my students commented about what I thought was a magical space, “I’m tired of reading about white kids.”

She followed this with a reminder that I, her teacher, am also not white. I was taken aback. More than 60 percent of my students are individuals of color. My library featured white characters almost exclusively. What schema was I helping to create for my students? I decided to make a change...

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SBE Approves First Instructional Materials Based on Next Generation Science Standards

November 15, 2018

On November 8, the State Board of Education (SBE) voted to approve the first-ever instructional materials which incorporate California’s groundbreaking Next Generation Science Standards for grades K-8.

“California is the first state in the nation to adopt a science framework and approve instructional materials based on the Next Generation Science Standards,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “I am excited about the new standards, which train students to act like scientists by posing questions and developing their own experiments. In addition, they emphasize climate change and environmental literacy, along with engineering and strategies to support girls and young women in science...

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California's History-Social Science Framework Wins American Historical Association Prize

November 1, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on October 17 that the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California History-Social Science Project (University of California, Davis) have won the American Historical Association's Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for distinguished K–12 history teaching. The two organizations collaborated to create the groundbreaking History­-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which was approved by the State Board of Education in 2016 and published last year.

"California is leading the way in helping our students recognize the diversity of our great state and nation," Torlakson said. "Thanks to the partnership between the California Department of Education and the California History-Social Science project, California students will learn from the latest research and have a deeper understanding of the important contributions and challenges faced by many individuals and ethnic groups that have sometimes been overlooked. These include every major ethnic group, as well as members of the LGBT community and people with disabilities.”...

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U.S. Department of Education Releases New Study, Accompanying Toolkit on Ed Tech for English Learners

November 1, 2018

On October 22, the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of the National Study on English Learners and Digital Resources. The study provides the first national look at how districts and educators use educational technology to instruct English learner students - the fastest-growing student population in the country.

Today’s students are entering classrooms that have seen rapid adoption of digital technologies in instruction. With these new technologies, teachers of English learner (EL) students, whether they are general education teachers or specialists in EL student instruction, have exciting new tools to support learning...

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Focus, Emotion Regulation, and Goal Setting are Social and Emotional Learning Skills That Teachers Can Address During Recess and PE

October 3, 2018
By Maurice J. Elias

I’d like to offer up four social and emotional learning (SEL) skills that can be built up during physical education class or recess. Outdoor physical activities are an ideal time to develop SEL. Some of this is done in the moment, while at other times it involves instruction and preparation. For example, you may call students’ attention to certain actions during their participation and observations during play, and follow this up by facilitating a class discussion around their observations.


Sometimes students are concerned only about what they will do when it’s their turn-for example, when the ball will next come to them. In a group game that has a ball, you can assist students with attending to the small things involved. This builds their appreciation of all the moving pieces that are critical to team - and individual - success...

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CDE Releases Last Spring’s CAASPP Test Results, Several Subgroups Show Modest Improvement

October 3, 2018

On October 2, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that 2018 scores for the online California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English Language Arts and mathematics increased further from the gains students made in 2017.

Statewide, in all tested grades, 49.88 percent of students met or exceeded the English Language Arts/Literacy standards, a 1.32 percentage point increase from 2017 and a 5.88 percentage point increase from 2015. In mathematics, 38.65 percent of students met or exceeded standards, a 1.09 percentage point increase from 2017 and a 5.65 percentage point increase from 2015.

This is the fourth year of the computer-based tests, which use California’s challenging academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, as they will need to do in college and 21st century careers...

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Does Teacher Diversity Matter in Student Learning?
Research Shows Students Benefit When Teachers Share Their Race or Gender. Yet Most Teachers are White Women

September 20, 2018
By Claire Cain Miller

As students have returned to school, they have been greeted by teachers who, more likely than not, are white women. That means many students will be continuing to see teachers who are a different gender than they are, and a different skin color.

Does it matter? Yes, according to a significant body of research: Students tend to benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students...

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SBE Adopts State’s First-Ever Computer Science Standards for Schools

September 20, 2018

On September 6, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved California’s first-ever computer science standards - learning expectations that will help each student reach their creative potential in our digitally connected world.

“As a forward-leaning state and home to Silicon Valley, California’s new standards will not only enable students to understand how their digital world works but will encourage critical thinking and discussion about the broader ethical and social implications and questions related to the growing capabilities of technology,” said State Board member Trish Williams, who serves as the Board’s computer science liaison...

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Greeting Each Student at the Door Benefits Students, Teacher

September 20, 2018
By Youki Terada

A widely cited 2007 study claimed that teachers greeting students at the classroom door led to a 27 percentage point increase in academic engagement. The problem? It included just three students.

Now a new, much larger and more credible study - comprising 203 students in 10 classrooms - validates that claim: Greeting students at the door sets a positive tone and can increase engagement and reduce disruptive behavior. Spending a few moments welcoming students promotes a sense of belonging, giving them social and emotional support that helps them feel invested in their learning...

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Almost 10,000 Schools Report 30% of Students are Chronically Absent

September 6, 2018

There are almost 10,000 public schools across the United States - or 11 percent of the total - at which chronic student absence rates affect 30 percent or more of their students, a new analysis shows.

The problem is almost as challenging at another 10,000 schools where 20-to-29 percent of the students are chronically absent. At such high levels, all students in the classroom are affected when teachers have to deal with the churn of sporadic attendance...

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September is Attendance Awareness Month
CDE Urges Schools, Families to Combat Chronic Absenteeism

September 6, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in recognition of September as Attendance Awareness Month, said school districts, public agencies, community groups, students, and their families must work together to combat chronic absenteeism.

“Students aren’t learning if they are not in class. Cohesive partnerships, intervention strategies, and solid support services create attendance teams that are armed with the necessary tools to identify and help students struggling with attendance problems,” said Torlakson. “By combining resources and working together, school attendance administrators, parents, and community organizations can build systems to reduce chronic absenteeism rates that are positive and effective, not negative and punitive.”...

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Latest Healthy Kids Survey Reports Decline in Teenage Use of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs

August 22, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on August 20 that alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use continues to decline among middle and high school students, and improvements have occurred in indicators of pupil engagement, school climate, and mental health among high school students, according to the 2015-17 Biennial State California Healthy Kids Survey.

The survey assesses how well schools are meeting students’ needs for school safety, drug and alcohol prevention, mental health, and other factors that influence learning and positive development...

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California High School Graduation Rates Dip 1.1 Percent Under New Methodology

August 7, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced California’s high school graduation rates on July 26 under a new methodology that was adopted in response to a federal audit.

As part of this new methodology, three significant changes were implemented for calculating 2017 high school graduation rates: (1) Students who receive an adult education high school diploma are no longer considered regular high school graduates, and (2) students who pass the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) are no longer considered regular high school graduates, and (3) students who transfer to adult education programs or a community college will remain in the denominator for the cohort calculation...

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Using Person-First Language at School Focuses on Who Students Are as Individuals

August 7, 2018
By Michelle Foley, Cristina Santamaria Graff

As educators strive to be inclusive of all children, one way to begin is to actively use person-first language, a form of linguistic etiquette in which we describe a trait or diagnosis as something a person has rather than as who they are-e.g., “a person with diabetes,” not “a diabetic.” This is a way to honor and welcome students with different abilities. Indeed, how we discuss and describe our students profoundly impacts their sense of inclusion in the classroom.

To begin using person-first language, we should initially try to understand its purpose and meaning. At its core, person-first language seeks to acknowledge the inherent and equal value of every individual, before attaching any other descriptors or identities the person may view as secondary or not intrinsic. Communicating using person-first language begins with empathy...

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The Perilous Future of Internet Access for Students of Color

July 17, 2018
By Amir Nasr

As teachers increasingly integrate internet-based programs into both lesson plans and homework, the internet has become an essential tool for students. With such vast amounts of information available online - articles, videos, other imaginative mediums - children are able to do homework and develop interests not only with the help of, but also because of an internet connection.

But while that tool can - and does - bring so much opportunity to students whose families can afford it, millions of American families are unable to buy internet at home. Studies, including one by the Department of Education in April, show that black and Hispanic Americans make up a much larger percentage of people without internet than white Americans. And yet, instead of working to bridge this divide, the nation’s top telecommunications regulator - the Federal Communications Commission - has recently threatened to gut Lifeline, the only program in existence that addresses the affordability of communications services...

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When Teachers Think Differently About Themselves as Math Learners, Students Benefit

July 17, 2018
By Krysten Crawford

Like a lot of students, many elementary school teachers dread math class. But, according to a new study from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education, when teachers reexamine how they were taught math and their perceptions of their ability, student test scores and attitudes about math dramatically improve.

The research, published in July in the peer-reviewed journal Education Sciences, found that fifth-grade teachers who took an online class designed to give them a different approach to mathematics teaching and learning achieved significantly higher test results for their students compared with a control group of teachers in the same schools who did not take the class...

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Stanford Study Examines Where Boys, Girls Do Better in Math, English

June 29, 2018
By Krysten Crawford

A review of test scores from 10,000 school districts finds that gender gaps in math and English vary with community wealth and racial diversity.

When Stanford Professor Sean Reardon and his research team set out to take an unprecedented look at how elementary school girls and boys compare in academic achievement, they expected to find similar stereotype-driven patterns across all 10,000 U.S. school districts: boys consistently outperforming girls in math and girls steadily surpassing boys in reading and writing by a wide margin...

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Bringing a Therapy Dog to Elementary School

June 14, 2018
By Shari Feeny

When you walk down a hall in my school, you may encounter our therapy dog, Boomer. There were originally reservations in our district about having a therapy dog, but now Boomer is one of the most sought after staff members for his ability to enhance many components of social and emotional learning (SEL).

I’m in my 25th year in education, and I believe in the necessity of teaching social and emotional skills - they really do help students thrive academically.

I’ve seen Boomer stop a child’s tears in record time, help a school-phobic kindergartner walk into school with enthusiasm, reset an anxious student’s day, ease test-taking tension, and bring smiles and laughter to everyone he encounters...

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Recognizing and Alleviating Math Anxiety Among Elementary Students

June 14, 2018
By Gina Picha

Math anxiety is much more than a dislike for the subject - it’s a real problem for students, one that blocks the brain’s working memory and starts a self-perpetuating cycle of math avoidance, low achievement, and fear. This form of anxiety manifests as early as kindergarten, and nearly half of elementary school children experience it.

Signs and Symptoms

Avoidance: Math anxiety and math avoidance go hand in hand. Do you have students who seem to grasp at any reason to leave the classroom during math instruction? This could be more than just a student trying to get out of work. Students with high levels of math anxiety tend to avoid mathematics at all costs...

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Want to Make School Great Again? Fund Arts Education.

June 14, 2018
By Richard A. Greenwald

The dollars don’t lie.

We live in an era that devalues the arts (fine, performing and music) in our schools.

Sure, we recognize the entertainment value of tv, film, music and live events, but - in gutting art education funding as supposedly frivolous - we have decided that art itself, as something to teach and pass on to the next generation, is worth less than a “real” education and the ever-present state tests and Common Core...

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CDE Launches Initiative to Expand Teaching World Languages

June 14, 2018

On May 30, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced, “Global California 2030,” a bold initiative to vastly expand the teaching and learning of world languages and the number of students proficient in more than one language over the next 12 years.

The initiative aims to better prepare California students for the 21st century economy, broaden their perspective and understanding of the world, and strengthen the diversity of backgrounds and languages that make California’s culture and economy vibrant and dynamic.

“The mission of Global California 2030 is to equip our students with the world language skills to succeed in the global economy and to fully engage with the diverse mixture of cultures and languages found in California and throughout the world,” Torlakson said. “We are setting high goals and dreaming big to help our students and our state.”...

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Safety Recommendations for Hot Weather Summer Training by Student Athletes

June 1, 2018
(The following article was written by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) for EdCal, published by the Association of California School Administrators.)

Today, more than 90 percent of California high schools begin their fall semester in August. Athletic practices are occurring all summer and fall when it can be hot and humid in many parts of California. Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS) is preventable, but there are still tragic occurrences each year of “near-misses” with emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heat illness during practice or competition is the leading preventable cause of death among U.S. high school athletes. With our wide and diverse climate zones from cool coastal beaches to mountains, valleys and deserts, it is imperative that education and training of administrators, coaches, parents and students play a vital role in this preventable illness. Assembly Bill 2800 would authorize heat illness training to be fulfilled through entities offering free online or other types of training courses. The California Interscholastic Federation, through the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), offers a free online class that would fulfill this new proposed requirement. Upon successfully passing the class, the coaches are issued a certificate and added to a statewide data base that allows for school and school district verification of completion, identical to the free CIF NFHS Concussion program...

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“OMG this is WRONG!”
Retired English Teacher Marks Basic Grammatical Mistakes in White House Letter, Mails It Back

June 1, 2018

A teacher in Georgia responded the only way she knew how after receiving a letter from President Donald Trump filled with grammar mistakes: covering the paper with ink and yellow highlighted corrections.

Yvonne Mason, a teacher now living in Atlanta (who taught in Greenville, South Carolina for 17 years) took a picture of a letter Trump sent her regarding school safety and gun violence and posted it on Facebook -- marking it up as if it were a student's work. (See link below.)...

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The Case for Holding Students Accountable
Extrinsic Motivation Gets Kids to Work Harder, Learn More

June 1, 2018
By Adam Tyner and Michael J. Petrilli, Education Next

Sometimes it seems as if we’ve tried everything in our efforts to reform public education, yet nothing has worked to boost student achievement at scale. And despite all of our reform attempts, we have ignored one of the most promising catalysts for student success.

What is this magical, elusive factor?

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Study Finds Learning a Second Language Benefits Integrated Use of Sight and Hearing to Make Sense of Speech

By Erin Karter May 18, 2018

Learning a second language can change the way our senses work together to interpret speech, according to a new Northwestern University study.

In the study, published during April in the journal Brain Sciences, researchers found that bilingual people are better at integrating sight and hearing to make sense of speech...   

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Public Comment Period Open for New Health Education Framework

May 3, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on May 1 that the public comment period is now open for the Health Education Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. It presents an approach to health education that focuses on students learning skills and practicing behaviors that will lead to a lifetime of good health.

“Students who are healthy do better in school, attend more days of classes and are ready to learn,” said Torlakson. “This new framework is another example of how California is leading the way for comprehensive health education for all students.”...

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Ideas for Assessing Reading Skills of Young Dual Language Learners

May 3, 2018

By Janie T. Carnock, New America Foundation

Inadequate data on young dual language learners (DLLs) hampers efforts to support these children in early care and education (ECE). This blog series has explored gaps that exist in tracking the enrollment of DLLs and rating the quality of services for these learners. Finally, as this post will address, there is also a lack of meaningful assessment data to validly capture the full range of DLLs’ development in ECE.

Age-appropriate testing of students’ proficiencies can serve many purposes in ECE, including formative assessment for instruction, screening for special needs, or program-wide research or evaluations. State policy leaders are increasingly focused on student outcomes through more standardized assessment data, collected and aggregated at the systems level, to inform decision-making and the allocation of ECE resources...  

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Report: Lax Diploma Requirements Leave Many High School Graduates Ill-Prepared for College and Career

May 3, 2018

Millions of students each year are graduating from America’s high schools unready to enter the workforce or continue their studies in pursuit of a postsecondary credential. A new report from the Center for American Progress, released on April 2, finds that lax state high school graduation requirements are in part responsible for this glut of ill-prepared students.

The report examines how states are doing in preparing their students for admission to their local public university system and if state graduation requirements are preparing students with a high school diploma to meet key college- and career-readiness benchmarks. The report also includes six policy recommendations to narrow preparation gaps...

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GAO Report Shows Students of Color Suffer Harsher Discipline for Lesser Offenses

April 21, 2018

Congressmen Bobby Scott, ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Jerrold Nadler, ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, have released the Government Accountability Office report “Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys, and Students with Disabilities.”

Both Congressmen requested that the GAO investigate disparities in discipline policies and practices applied to students of color, boys and students with disabilities.

“The Government Accountability Office has conducted first-of-its-kind analysis of national data which dispels claims that racially disproportionate rates of discipline are based solely on income. The analysis shows that students of color suffer harsher discipline for lesser offenses than their white peers and that racial bias is a driver of discipline disparities,” Scott said. “This report underscores the need to combat these gross disparities by strengthening, not rescinding, the 2014 Discipline Guidance Package, which recommends specific strategies to reduce the disparities without jeopardizing school safety.”...

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Researcher Makes a Case for Bringing Mobile Devices into the Classroom, Rather than Banning Them

April 7, 2018

What happens when a high school teacher decides to welcome cell phones into the classroom instead of banning them?

That was part of a yearlong experiment that Antero Garcia, now an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education(GSE), undertook several years ago while he was teaching ninth-grade English at South Central High School in Los Angeles.

Seeing how much his students relied on their smartphones to connect with each other, he began exploring ways to incorporate these and other devices into his teaching. He shares his experience in a new book, Good Reception: Teens, Teachers and Mobile Media in a Los Angeles High School...

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Embrace Multilingual Education - Children Will Benefit

April 7, 2018

By Viorica Marian

By the end of 2018, Google Assistant will support more than 30 languages. This shows the importance the private sector places on multilingual communication. Unfortunately, the U.S. education system lags behind in reflecting the value of a multilingual society.

Fifty years after the walkout by Latino students in Los Angeles protesting the lack of bilingual education, dual language learning remains inaccessible to many American children. This is despite the fact that one in four children in the U.S. speaks Spanish, a number that continues to grow

At the same time, 80 percent of adults in a nationwide survey agreed that children in the United States should learn a second language fluently before they finish high school...

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New Survey of Secondary Teachers Reveals Many Feel Unprepared to Teach their EL Students, and Lack Resources

April 7, 2018

In their recently released study, published on April 3, researchers Lucrecia Santibañez of Claremont Graduate University and Patricia Gándara of the UCLA Civil Rights Project, analyze data from a survey distributed among secondary teachers in a large urban school district  in order to examine how well prepared the teachers feel to teach English Learners. According to the report’s abstract:

“Across the nation, nearly all teachers can expect to have English Learner students in their classrooms. The challenges of teaching English Learners are particularly acute in the nation’s secondary schools. There is evidence suggesting that the preparation to teachers ELs is generally weak for all school levels, but more so for secondary school teachers...

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Survey: Educators Overwhelmingly Reject Arming Teachers, Support Commonsense Solutions to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools

March 23, 2018

Educators overwhelmingly reject proposals to arm teachers and other school personnel, according to a new poll commissioned by the National Education Association. NEA members support a range of commonsense solutions to address the issue of school shootings in the United States, but arming teachers is not one of them. NEA surveyed 1000 members nationwide from March 1 – 5, 2018.

The new NEA national member survey comes on the heels of a proposal by the Trump administration to arm teachers. Trump has appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to lead a Federal Commission on School Safety to study the issue...

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Nearly 150 Civil Rights and Education Groups to DeVos: Leave Discipline Guidance in Place

March 23, 2018

On March 22, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 145 local, state, and national civil and human rights and education groups sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos opposing any changes to or rescission of the 2014 school discipline guidance developed and released jointly by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice.

The letter comes after DeVos’ testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee where members of Congress questioned her commitment to the civil rights of children of color. The guidance describes schools’ obligations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to administer discipline in a nondiscriminatory manner...

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CDE Issues Guidance on Possible Student Walkouts

March 9, 2018

(Editor’s note: On March 2, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following guidance regarding possible student walkouts in response to recent school shooting incidents.)

School shootings are devastating for victims, survivors, and communities and increase fear for students, parents, and educators throughout the nation. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, 2018, as well as all victims of school shootings.

Some students may wish to show solidarity with the Florida victims by planning and taking part in walkouts on March 14, 2018. I applaud these students’ empathy and civic engagement and support the right of all students to exercise their First Amendment rights...

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“Teacher Stress is at an All-Time High... Stress Interferes with Quality Instruction in Several Ways”

March 9, 2018

(Editor’s note: Gun control, mental health, violence prevention, and the Second Amendment surged to the front lines of passionate national debate about what can or should happen in response to the Florida school massacre that left 17 dead. Patricia Jennings is an associate professor with the University of Virginia (UVA)’s Curry School of Education. She is an expert with extensive research on the effects of stress on teachers. In the following interview, Jennings answers questions from UVA Today writer Jane Kelly regarding teachers, stress at school and arming educators.)

Q. What does your research reveal about the level of stress in the teaching profession? 

A. Teacher stress is at an all-time high. Nearly 50 percent of teachers report high daily stress during the school year. This stress is caused by dwindling school budgets that impact their resources and salaries, growing numbers of students coming to school with challenging educational and behavioral problems, demanding parents and unsupportive administrations. On top of this, measures that apply untested and questionable accountability measures and reduce teacher autonomy and instructional creativity have resulted in dramatic reductions in job satisfaction and an increase in teacher burnout and turnover...

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PPIC: School Districts Face Challenges Implementing New K-12 Science Standards

March 9, 2018

Successful implementation of the state’s new K-12 science standards will likely call for revised high school graduation requirements and a stronger science focus in the early grades, according to a new report released on March 7 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The report identifies major challenges districts have encountered since the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013. It draws on a survey of unified and high school districts conducted at the end of the 2016-17 school year. It offers recommendations on how state and local policymakers can help districts implement California’s stronger science standards...

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CDE Announces New Social Emotional Learning Guidelines

February 24, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on February 20 that the California Department of Education (CDE) has released new guiding principles for teaching social and emotional skills, a tool to help educators ensure students have the skills they need for success in school, careers, and in the community.

“Educators know, and the science confirms that learning is not only cognitive, but also social and emotional,” said Torlakson. “These principles are a part of a concentrated effort to improve teaching and learning of social and emotional skills by recognizing that students’ connection to what they are learning is a critical component of a quality education.”

The planning team, consisting of 35 educators throughout California, was created in the fall of 2016 as part of the Collaborating States Initiative, a multi-state learning community convened by the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning...

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U.S. Dept. of Education Launches New English Learner Website

February 10, 2018

On January 29, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new interactive web page dedicated to data on English Learner students (ELs). The site uses colorful maps, bar graphs and charts to provide a clearer understanding of America's diverse ELs population in a “data story” format based on data from the Common Core of Data (CCD).The data story shows nearly every state has at least one school district where the EL population has increased by more than 50% since the 2010 school year and answers three main questions - Who are ELs? Where are ELs? And what languages do ELs speak?

The Data Story Includes...

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New Report Concludes Rural Student Population Left “Out of the Loop” By Schools

January 29, 2018

Nearly 20 percent of the country’s students are enrolled in rural schools, yet are not provided the same focus in national policy or research as students in urban and suburban school districts. “Out of the Loop,” a new report from the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA), Center for Public Education (CPE), finds that poverty, isolation and inequities are exacerbated for rural students by the lack of attention to the unique needs of this considerable student population.

While not equally distributed across the country, CPE’s analysis notes, approximately one-half of school districts, one-third of schools, and one-fifth of all students in the United States are in rural areas. Inadequate funding, lower literacy rates, and less access to advanced courses such as AP and STEM classes impact rural students’ achievement, creating significant barriers to their success...

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Friends’ Genes May Help Friends Stay in School, New Stanford Research Study Finds

By Brooke Donald - Rep: January 29, 2018

A new study by Assistant Professor Ben Domingue of the Stanford Graduate School of Education finds that the DNA of your peers may influence your own educational attainment.

While there’s scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you’ll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

“We examined whether the genes of your peer groups influenced your height, weight or educational attainment. We didn’t find a correlation to height or weight, but did find a small one with how far you go in school,” says Ben Domingue, assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and first author of the new paper, published online Jan. 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...

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Thoughtful Classroom Assignment Can Enhance Outcomes

New Research Shows Teachers’ Physical Proximity Boosts Collaboration with Colleagues

By Laura Jimenez - Rep: January 15, 2018

Innovative new schools across the country are experimenting with building designs to increase student learning and teacher collaboration. But the majority of instructors in the United States teach in a more traditional setting – the “egg crate” design, consisting of long hallways lined with self-contained classrooms. In a new article for Education Next, James Spillane of Northwestern University and Matthew Shirrell of George Washington University report that even within the limitations of traditional school building design, thoughtful classroom assignments can promote beneficial teacher interactions. Teachers are far more likely to speak with one another about their practice when they are assigned to nearby classrooms.

In each year from 2010 through 2013, Spillane and Shirrell surveyed all instructional staff from 14 elementary schools comprising one Midwestern suburban school district about their work-related interactions, school perceptions, and background information...

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Researcher Recommends Ways to Improve Remedial Education

By Laura Jimenez - Rep: January 15, 2018

In December, during a hearing before California lawmakers on the need to reform remedial education – the system that aims to ready underprepared students for college-level work – a student testified that because his test scores required him to take one year’s worth of remedial education, he would have to scramble to figure out how to pay another year’s rent, school fees, and transportation. While he completed his remedial coursework and went on to college-level work, he wanted a better system for his younger brother.

Remedial education held real promise at its origin. It served as an on-ramp to college for students who were underprepared in the subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics. In the present day, however, remedial education often acts as an exit ramp, derailing many students in need of additional academic support from ever enrolling in college courses or completing their undergraduate degree...

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California School Dashboard Launches, Offering Multiple Measures to Check School and District Performance

December 18, 2017

On December 7, the California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) announced the launch of the fall 2017 California School Dashboard, a web site that provides valuable information on multiple topics regarding school and student performance in an easy-to-understand report card format.

The information, which includes test scores, graduation rates, and college and career readiness, is aimed at helping all students succeed. The launch follows a pilot version released in March.

The release of the Dashboard occurs at the same time California launches its new Statewide System of Support for Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools, which provides assistance for all districts, but has special targeted support for districts that face significant challenges in lifting the performance of struggling student groups...

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Students’ Early Test Scores Don’t Predict Academic Growth Over Time, Study Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: December 18, 2017

A new analysis of data from all public school districts in the United States indicates that poverty does not determine the effectiveness of a school.

For years, parents and policymakers have looked to test scores to gauge the effectiveness of school districts and teachers. New research from Stanford Graduate School of Education by Professor Sean Reardon provides a different measure: students’ academic progress over a period of years.

Reardon examined test scores for students in third through eighth grade at 11,000 school districts across the country. Third-grade test scores, he found – whether they were higher or lower than the national average – did not correlate to students’ academic growth through elementary and middle school. In fact, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced those where students enjoyed greater access to learning opportunities in early childhood...

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Heated Political Rhetoric Spills Over into Classroom, Increasing Stress and Undermining Learning

By John McDonald - Rep: December 4, 2017

Amid the first months of a Trump administration characterized by highly charged and divisive political rhetoric, a new national survey of public high school teachers finds heightened levels of student stress and anxiety and concerns for their own well-being or that of their family members, according to a new study published by the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access. Teachers in the survey also report a rise in polarization and incivility in classrooms, as well as an increased reliance by students on unreliable and unsubstantiated information. Teachers also report hostile environments for racial and religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.

“Hate speech and acts of intimidation are not new to U.S. schools, but it’s disconcerting that numerous teachers are telling us that the level of animus they are seeing is ‘unprecedented’ in their careers,” says John Rogers, a professor of education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and the lead researcher for the study...

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High-Stakes Exams Can Put Female Students at a Disadvantage, Researcher Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: December 4, 2017

A new study suggests that women are more heavily influenced than men by test anxiety, and points to ways to help close the gender gap.

Research has long shown that women who enter college intending to pursue a career in science abandon that path more frequently than their male peers, with many citing poor grades and large gateway classes as reasons for their declining interest. To what extent do these women fall behind because of the way science is taught and tested?

A new study of students in introductory biology courses finds that women overall performed worse than men on high-stakes exams but better on other types of assessments, such as lab work and written assignments. The study also shows that the anxiety of taking an exam has a more significant impact on women’s grades than it does for men...

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SBE Approves Inclusive History/Social Science Textbooks

December 4, 2017

The State Board of Education voted during its meeting on November 8-9 to approve instructional materials for grades K-8 that teach California’s groundbreaking History/Social-Science Curriculum Framework.

“I am proud California continues to lead the nation by teaching history-social science that is inclusive and recognizes the diversity of our great state and nation,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “Students will benefit enormously.”

The instructional materials are intended to give students a broader, deeper, and more accurate understanding of history and the social sciences, provide them with current research, and equip them with the critical thinking and research skills to make up their own minds about controversial issues...

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CDE: Student Suspensions, Expulsions Decline for Fifth Consecutive Year

November 13, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 1 that the number of students suspended and expelled in California public schools has declined for the fifth year in a row, showing that efforts by educators to improve attendance by using more engaging instruction and effective discipline are making significant progress.

From the 2011–12 school year to 2016–17, suspensions declined by a remarkable 46 percent, meaning there were 327,857 fewer suspensions in 2016–17 than in 2011–12. (See Table 1).

Similarly, expulsions decreased by 42 percent, dropping from about 9,800 to 5,700, a difference of about 4,100 students. (See Table 3).

The figures come from data collected by the California Department of Education (CDE) and are the most detailed and comprehensive statistics in the nation...

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California Students Lose 840,656 Days of Instruction Due to Suspensions, According to UCLA Research Study

October 30, 2017

A research study released on October 23 shows that the overuse of suspensions in California schools resulted in an estimated 840,656 days of lost instruction during the 2014-2015 academic year, or approximately 13 days for every 100 students enrolled. The is the first California study to quantify days of missed instruction due to suspension, rather than suspension rates.

The report, “Lost Instruction: The Disparate Impact of the School Discipline Gap in California,” estimates instructional days lost for each school district in the state and for California as a whole. Data on the number of days lost for every school district in California is available here. The report was written by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, and Dr. Amir Whitaker, a researcher at the Center. Both Losen and Whitaker have experience as educators and civil rights lawyers...

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Commentary: End the High-Stakes Testing Sham

(Editor’s note: The following opinion piece was published by U.S. News & World Report on September 15.)


By Daniel Koretz, Opinion Contributor

Fall is here, and kids are back in school. If you are a parent, you know what this means: testing, testing and more testing. Not just end-of-the-year tests used for accountability, but tests all year long to "prepare" for them. And time spent taking tests is just the tip of the iceberg: In many schools, preparation for these tests eats up far more time than testing does. In fact, in some schools, test prep is the curriculum.

This has been the way American schools have been run for years. We’ve been promised that this boring and stressful regimen will improve schools, lead kids to learn more and close the gap between low-achieving and high-achieving students.

It hasn’t. This approach has been a failure. It has produced only limited improvements, and these are far outweighed by the damage it has done...

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New CAASPP Test Results Show Little Change in Academic Performance

October 2, 2017

On September 27, the California Department of Education released the 2017 scores for the online California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English language arts and mathematics remained steady and retained the strong gains students made in 2016.

This is the third year of the computer-based tests, which use California’s challenging academic standards and ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, just as they will need to do in college and 21st century careers.

Torlakson said he was pleased that students maintained the progress they have made since the initial year of testing and urged students, teachers, and parents to continue to aim high...

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Ed Trust–West, CTA Respond to CAASPP Test Results

October 2, 2017

Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, an advocacy group based in Oakland, said:

"The California Department of Education has released new state test results, providing a snapshot of how schools and districts are doing. This marked the third year of the Smarter Balanced assessments and the seventh year since the state adopted the Common Core standards. Across the board, improvement has slowed – in some places to a trickle. Fewer than half of all students met standards in English language arts – and in fifth grade English language arts, scores even declined. Math scores show minimal improvement over last year, but progress has slowed and achievement gaps across ethnic groups persist. Three-fourths of Latino students are not meeting standards in math, and more than two-thirds of African American students are not meeting standards in ELA or math. Even more troublingly, gaps for English learners appear to be widening in both math and English language arts...

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Collaboration Offers Path to Keeping Low-Income Students and Students of Color in STEM Classes

September 18, 2017

Nationally, only about 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in STEM end up graduating with a STEM degree. Students of color, those from low-income backgrounds, and those who are first-generation college students complete degrees at even lower rates, despite their increasing representation in higher education.

To target these challenges, a project at California State University had campuses redesign introductory math and science courses and implement a summer bridge program and a first-year experience, tying all three interventions together to create a seamless experience for students.

Campuses that successfully collaborated and integrated the interventions saw improvements in STEM retention and overall retention, as well as improvements in affective outcomes such as engagement and sense of belonging, according to a new study from USC Rossier...

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September Birthday May Mean Edge in School

By Julie Deardorff, Northwestern University - Rep: September 18, 2017

Children who start school at an older age do better than their younger classmates, an advantage that extends through college, according to a new working paper co-authored by Northwestern University economist David Figlio, National Public Radio (NPR) reported.

“Many parents already delay enrolling their children in school, believing they’ll do better if they’re a bit older,” Figlio told NPR reporter John Ydstie. “It’s sort of ‘academic redshirting,’” he said, referring to recruits in college athletics who are held out of games for a year.

Using Florida birth and education data, researchers compared the performance of August- and September-born children in the same families...

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California K-12 Curriculum Becomes More Historically Accurate with Help from UC Davis

By Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis - Rep: September 5, 2017

For generations, it was a rite of passage for 9-year-olds from San Diego to Eureka to craft popsicle-stick and sugar-cube models of a specific California mission. But, the fourth-grade “mission project” is disappearing from many classrooms, as the curriculum that students learn moves into a more accurate history reflecting all cultures.

UC Davis and the California History-Social Science Framework

Nancy McTygue, executive director of the California History-Social Science Project, co-chaired the Instructional Quality Commission’s History-Social Science committee with former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig. They were joined by Beth Slutsky and Shennan Hutton, who both serve as CHSSP coordinators, in writing the original framework. They edited drafts from a team of writers across the state, and responded to thousands of individual public comments on the draft. The framework was adopted in 2016...

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Transforming High School Through Self-Directed Learning

By Kerry McDonald, Education Next - Rep: September 5, 2017

Running an innovative, technology-inspired after school program for city kids near Boston wasn’t enough for Alec Resnick. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and entrepreneur knew that to make a sustained impact in the learning lives of young people he needed more connection than a few hours each week. His goal was simple: blur the lines between schooling and learning by putting young people in charge of their education, with facilitators and resources available to guide and assist. In 2016, he and his team won a grant to do just that.

Resnick’s non-profit, sprout & co., in collaboration with the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, won a $10 million cash grant from XQ Super School Project, an organization focused on transforming high school education, whose board of directors is led by Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Steve Jobs. The plan was for Resnick and his team, with encouragement from local mayor, Joseph Curtatone, to create a new public (non-charter) high school in this city just outside of Boston...

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CDE Postpones Release of CAASPP Statewide Test Results

September 5, 2017

The California Department of Education (CDE) abruptly announced on August 25 that the release of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test results for 2017 – originally scheduled for August 29 – would be postponed, so the CDE could “address a recently identified data issue.”

The problem, according to some news reports, involves special education students whose test scores were identified with a different district than the district in which they had taken the test. The glitch was spotted when the CDE sent the test results to districts (as a “preview period” to prepare for the public release of the test results), and districts started calling the CDE with questions and concerns.

A rescheduled release date – not yet identified, but probably during the first two weeks of September – is expected to be announced soon.

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State PTA Applauds New Guidelines to Improve Services for Students with Dyslexia

September 5, 2017

New guidelines were released by the California Department of Education in late August to assist teachers and parents in identifying students with dyslexia and to plan, provide, evaluate and improve education services. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin and is characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

California State PTA President Dianna MacDonald said, “California State PTA is pleased State Superintendent Torlakson has released groundbreaking guidelines to assist an estimated 20 percent of the general population representing more than 1 million students in California public schools with this challenging learning disability.

“I know firsthand how critically important early detection, planning and improving education services is to our students through California. I am dyslexic. I understand the struggles – but also the successes – that can be realized with strong public-school and family support."...

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Solar Eclipse Provides Excellent Opportunity to for Hands-On Lessons in the Classroom

By Carrie Spector - Rep: August 21, 2017

August 21st marks the first time in nearly a century that a total solar eclipse will span the entire United States.

“For most of us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Jonathan Osborne, Kamalachari Professor of Science Education at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education (GSE). “For young children, it’s also a great stimulus to their curiosity.”

The event, Osborne said, prompts many kids to question why the universe works the way it does: Are the moon and the sun really the same size? Why isn’t everyone on Earth seeing this at the same time? How can we predict so accurately when it’s going to happen?

“Questions like this drive science,” said Osborne, whose research includes investigating how to help students use evidence to argue scientific concepts...

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CSU to Drop Algebra Requirement for Non-Science, Math Majors in 2018

By Emily DeRuy, San Jose Mercury News - Rep: August 7, 2017

If you’re one of those students who dreads math – especially algebra – you’ll soon get a bit of a break at the California State University system.

For years, intermediate algebra had been a prerequisite for the system’s general math classes, meaning even students who weren’t majoring in math or science related fields had to complete the course before they could complete their math requirement. Beginning in the fall of 2018, students whose majors aren’t math or science heavy will be able to fulfill their math requirements without slogging through intermediate algebra first – part of a larger effort to increase graduation rates.

“What that means for students is they have more choices,” said Christine Mallon, CSU’s associate vice chancellor for academic programs and faculty development...

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SBE Approves “English Learner Roadmap” to Help More than 1.4 Million California Students

July 24, 2017

On July 12, the State Board of Education approved an “English Learner Roadmap” to help California’s more than 1,000 local school districts welcome, understand, and educate the diverse population of students who are learning English.

California has about 1.4 million students – one of every four public school students statewide – classified as English Learners. The Roadmap is the first new language policy adopted in nearly 20 years, removes outdated barriers to bilingual and multilingual instruction, and will help schools meet updated state and federal education laws and requirements.

State Board President Michael W. Kirst said passage of the roadmap marks both an end and a beginning. "With this vote, the state puts regressive policies in our past and embarks on a new, inclusive path toward ensuring California’s promise of college and career readiness for all students is fulfilled."...

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Study: Academic Motivation Suffers When Economic Mobility Seems Out of Reach

By Hilary Hurd Anyaso - Rep: July 24, 2017

New studies from Northwestern University show that high school and college students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds are much less motivated to overcome academic hardships when they have doubts about the likelihood of people from their backgrounds achieving upward mobility.

The new studies extend previous research demonstrating that low-SES students who see education as a viable path to upward mobility are more inclined to succeed in their educational pursuits despite the numerous academic barriers facing students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Prior research has shown that students from low-SES backgrounds are motivated to persist during difficult academic experiences when they feel school can concretely contribute to future socioeconomic success,” said Alexander Browman, lead author of the studies and a recent Ph.D. graduate in psychology from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern...

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Self-Affirmation Plays Role in Academic Success for Minority Students, Stanford Scholars Find

By Milenko Martinovich - Rep: July 24, 2017

Having minority middle school students write a series of self-affirmation exercises focusing on core values improved the odds that the students would pursue college tracks in school, according to Stanford scholars.

The study, which recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that after completing the self-affirmation exercises, Latino students were more likely to enter a college readiness track than a remedial one near the transition to high school and African American students were more likely to enroll in college seven to nine years later.

“Once students feel affirmed, a whole series of forces in the environment exist to help propel them forward: teachers noticing their potential more, giving them more challenging work, directing them to advanced courses,” said J. Parker Goyer, the study’s lead author and post-doctoral scholar at Stanford...

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Teaching in a Portable Classroom? Here are Technology Tips to Help Make the Best of It

July 10, 2017

Every day in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of teachers go to work in portable classrooms. These teachers and their students face challenges such as limited space and difficult access to bathrooms. With less-than-ideal acoustic design and all sorts of outside noise leaking in, students in portables can also have difficulty hearing everything the teacher says. Teachers, meanwhile, sometimes find themselves disconnected from the rest of the school. Here, a principal and a district director of technology share their solutions for making sure that every student in every type of classroom has equal access to quality education.

Aaron Duff, Principal of Freewater Elementary School

Freewater serves a diverse range of students in grades four and five. We have a total of 290 students, and we have high expectations for each and every one of them. We’ve received the state “excellence” award twice in the last four years...

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Are Today’s Students Prepared to Enter the Tech Industry?

By Maya Beasley - Rep: July 10, 2017

Half of the highest-paying jobs for college graduates are in technology, but – despite the high pay – employers struggle to fill these and other positions. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2013, there were 262,981 blacks, Hispanics, and Indian Americans ages 45 years and younger with bachelor’s or advanced degrees in computer and mathematical sciences or electrical engineering – three of several fields closely associated with high-tech jobs. They represented 18.8 percent of degree holders.

Yet, Silicon Valley’s tech workforce in 2015 was only 2.2 percent black or African American, 4.7 percent Hispanic, and 0.1 percent American Indian or Alaska Native. While the technology sector is booming, American tech graduates – especially people of color – frequently remain unemployed or shift to occupations unrelated to their degrees. As discussed in an earlier report, putting aside hiring failures and hostile environments at tech companies, there remains a widening gap between job requirements and the skills that universities provide their students, especially people of color...

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Summer Learning Happens at Home

New Research Suggests It’s Family Involvement, Not Camps or Trips, That Keeps Kids Primed for Learning All Summer

By Leah Shafer - Rep: July 10, 2017

Where’s the best place for summer learning? (Hint: Don’t look far.)

As the achievement gap has widened over the past quarter century, educators have increasingly focused on summer pastimes as both a key factor and a solution. Higher-income children are more likely to fill their days with outdoorsy camps, music and coding classes, and travel. Making those experiences more accessible to and commonplace for all children, the theory goes, can help ensure that low-income kids keep learning at the same rate.

But time spent at home, reading independently or talking about books and stories with parents, seems to have a greater influence on children’s academic growth than summer camps or vacations, new research suggests...

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Researchers Find Project-Based Learning Units Triggered Better Student Outcomes in Social Studies Classes

By Anne-Lise Halvorsen, Nell K. Duke - Rep: July 10, 2017

Social studies is often neglected in the U.S. primary grades, and although literacy typically gets lots of attention at this age, informational reading and writing often do not. As researchers long focused on social studies and informational reading and writing education in the early elementary grades, we were frustrated by this pattern of neglect, and troubled that it is even worse in high-poverty school settings. We channeled our frustration into the development of four project-based learning (PBL) units for second grade that focus on social studies and informational reading and writing. We aimed for these units to engage children in learning that was meaningful to them, was challenging, and had connections to their lives beyond school...

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Part-Day Absences, Skipped Classes Add Up — More Than It Seems, Stanford Researchers Say

By Carrie Spector - Rep: June 19, 2017

When it comes to studying absenteeism, almost all research has focused on students who miss a full day of school, not a class here and there. But skipped classes are responsible for a startling number of unexcused absences among middle- and high-school students, according to a recent study in the journal AERA Open.

“Part-day absenteeism in secondary school is extremely prevalent,” said Jing Liu, a Ph.D. candidate in economics of education at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and co-author of the report. “In fact, it explains more classes missed by students than full-day absenteeism does.”

Liu and Camille Whitney, MA/PhD ’15, tracked class-by-class attendance for more than 50,000 middle and high school students in an urban district over five years...

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Site Features Updated Information, Navigation and Design

U.S. Dept. of Education Launches New IDEA Website

June 19, 2017

On June 1, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new website dedicated to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos directed the Department to expedite the development of a new, updated and more robust site specific to the IDEA after the Department's Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 (Legacy) site experienced a prolonged outage in February due to technical issues.

"The launch of this new and improved site is a big win for children with disabilities, their families and the entire IDEA community," said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. "It is incumbent upon the government to provide accessible and accurate information to our citizens. That’s why one of my first actions as Secretary was to order the Department to fix and revitalize its woefully outdated IDEA site so that parents, educators and service providers could readily access the resources they need...

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Community Schools Can be Important Part of Improving Schools Under ESSA

June 19, 2017

Community schools can be a successful strategy for improving schools under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), according to a report released on June 5 by the National Education Policy Center and the Learning Policy Institute. The report, Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement, reveals that community schools, an increasingly popular school improvement strategy, are strongly supported by research evidence, as required by ESSA. The report was released at an event organized by the Coalition for Community Schools.

Community schools are schools that partner with community agencies and local government to provide an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, and youth and community development. They provide expanded learning time and opportunities, engage families actively, and emphasize collaborative practices...

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Researcher: Standardized Tests Emphasize Skills That Teach Students to be “Critics” Rather than Lifelong Book Lovers

By Carrie Spector - Rep: June 5, 2017

As a public high school English teacher in Chicago years ago, Sarah Levine often felt ambivalent about the way she taught literature in the classroom.

She wanted her students to develop a lifelong love of reading – to feel moved by what they read, to explore fundamental questions about the human experience. But she found herself focusing more on the “clinical” or technical aspects of literature, like analyzing the effects of a particular motif or how a character is developed – skills that were likely to be tested on statewide exams at the end of the year.

“There’s room for that, but I’d go back and forth about how much time I should be spending on it,” said Levine, now an assistant professor of education at Stanford who researches the way high school students learn literary interpretation and writing, particularly in high-poverty urban areas...

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“You Have to Read Slowly In Order to be a Writer”

Good Books, Like Teachers, Acknowledge Children’s Lives, says Author Jacqueline Woodson

By Barbara Wilcox - Rep: June 5, 2017

In her National Book Award-winning verse autobiography, Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson writes that she was a slow reader, an exasperating student who sometimes missed the point of a teacher’s lesson. Yet by age 7, Woodson knew that she wanted to be a writer.

Those two facts seem contradictory but in fact anchor her writing practice, Woodson told educators, students and fans during the Cubberley Lecture on May 23 at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE).

“You have to read slowly in order to be a writer,” she said. “You learn to listen to the silences and to the unsaid things.”...

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Guide Allows Educators to ‘Look Inside’ Top Research-Based Programs on Social and Emotional Learning

May 22, 2017

As interest in social and emotional learning (SEL) continues to grow, a new guide to 25 evidence-based programs offers detailed information about curricular content and programmatic features that practitioners can use to make informed choices about what to use to develop key skills and competencies such as self-control, attention and goal-setting; empathy; relationship building and conflict resolution; flexible mindsets; and character.

Aimed at elementary schools and out-of-school-time (OST) providers, the unique guide provides practitioners with the breadth and depth that enables them to compare what is taught, and how, across programs. Importantly, it also explains how the SEL programs can be adapted to out-of-school-time settings, such as afterschool and summer programs...

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California Students Did Better in Second Year

Analyzing the Standardized Tests Results

By Linda Strean, PPIC - Rep: May 8, 2017

California’s public school students did much better the second year they took new standardized tests, and the state is catching up to others that use the same Smarter Balanced tests. Public Policy of California researchers Iwunze Ugo and Laura Hill take a close look at the test results in a new report, Student Achievement and Growth on California’s K–12 Assessments, which Ugo presented at a Sacramento briefing in late April.

The researchers used two years of results to assess early implementation of two major statewide reforms – the Common Core curriculum and the new finance system that targets additional funding toward low-income students, English Learners, and foster youth. The PPIC report looks in depth at the test results for English Learners and economically disadvantaged students and finds that achievement gaps are not closing...

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Summer Kindergarten Transition Program Shows Lasting Positive Impact on Student Attendance, Literacy Skills

April 24, 2017

A new five-year retrospective evaluation study found that students who participated in an Early Kindergarten Transition (EKT) program showed higher attendance rates and higher early literacy skills when compared to their non-participating peers. What’s more, these trends continued over time, in kindergarten and later grades.

The targeted intervention, offered in 14 Title I elementary schools in Oregon’s Portland Public Schools system, is designed to help families with students who may struggle with the transition to kindergarten. These are primarily children who have not had a structured preschool experience, have a primary language other than English, or have had attendance or behavior issues while enrolled in Head Start...

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CDE Reports Record High School Graduation Rate, and Seventh Consecutive Year of an Increase

April 24, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported on April 11 that California’s graduation rate increased for the seventh year in a row and is now at a record high for the class of 2016, with the biggest increases during that period taking place among English learners and African American and Latino students.

Among the cohort of students who started high school in 2012-13, 83.2 percent graduated with their class in 2016, up 0.9 percent from the year before. This increase means that 4,917 more students received their high school diploma last year than the year before.

The state’s graduation rate has increased 8.5 percentage points since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate...

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Report Finds California Lags Behind Many States in Offering Full-Day Kindergarten

April 10, 2017


Compelling research shows that attending high-quality, full-day preschool and kindergarten is associated with improved outcomes for students. These outcomes include greater school readiness in a number of areas including language development, higher academic performance in math and reading, and less likelihood of being retained in later elementary grades.

This EdSource report looks at the status of recent efforts in California to provide more children with access to full-day preschool and kindergarten. The report documents the following:

--Even though full-day kindergarten is not mandatory in California, school districts have made significant progress during the past two decades in offering full-day classes. Yet today only 70.5 percent of schools serving kindergarten-age children are offering full-day programs. California lags behind many other states that offer full-day programs to a larger proportion of their kindergarten students...

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California School Dashboard Debuts, Drawing Praise from Some, Calls for Improvement from Others

March 27, 2017

The California Department of Education (CDE) rolled out the state’s new website for school evaluation on March 15. The new system, which replaces the old Academic Performance Index (retired three years ago), involves a boarder range of measures, presented in a color-coded format. In a press release, the CDE said:

The State Board of Education (SBE) and the California Department of Education (CDE) today unveiled the California School Dashboard, a new Web site that provides parents, educators, and the public with important information they can use to evaluate schools and school districts in an easy-to-understand report card format.

The California School Dashboard is a critical piece of California’s new school accountability and continuous improvement system. The state’s former accountability system – the Academic Performance Index (API) – relied exclusively on standardized tests and gave schools a single score. That system was suspended three years ago...

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Ready or Not? Stanford Researchers Weigh in on Kindergarten Preparedness

By Carrie Spector - Rep: March 13, 2017

It’s that time of year for families of preschoolers: kindergarten enrollment. This milestone can be fraught with uncertainty for parents who question whether their child is prepared – socially, academically or otherwise.

What does being ready for kindergarten look like? Researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) have investigated this issue from all angles, offering strategies for parents and teachers to help make the transition a smooth one.

Clear expectations

First, it’s wise for parents to get a handle on what exactly will be expected of children in their particular classroom...

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Report on Deeper Learning

More Students Accessing Learning Opportunities, but Many Say They Are Not Challenged in Math Work

March 13, 2017

A new analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that more students are accessing deeper learning opportunities under the Common Core State Standards, with an increasing number of students engaging in the types of activities that prepare them for college. For instance, about 61 percent of 12th grade students now summarize their reading passages at least once a week, compared with 55 percent in 2009.

However, many students still report not feeling challenged in school. In surveys, almost one-third of 4th graders nationwide said that their math work is “too easy,” and nearly 20 percent of high school seniors said that they don’t feel like they are learning in math class.

“The science of learning tells us that rigor helps people learn, and students need challenging, complex curricula,” said Ulrich Boser, CAP Senior Fellow and author of a new book on the science of learning called Learn Better...

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CDE Reports Continued Progress by California Students on Advanced Placement Exams

February 27, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that annual Advanced Placement® (AP) results released on February 22 show that the number of California public high school graduates taking and demonstrating success in AP courses continues to climb.

California placed fifth in the nation in the percentage (28.5 percent) of graduates who scored at least a 3 out of 5 on an AP Exam during high school – an increase of nearly eight percentage points since 2006 (20.6 percent).

"I applaud and congratulate these outstanding students, their schools and families,” Torlakson said. “It’s important to recognize that more students are taking very rigorous, college-level courses and more of them are succeeding.”...

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Torlakson Urges Eligible Students to Apply for California Dream Act Before March 2 Deadline

February 27, 2017

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) announced that applications for the California Dream Act are down significantly and urged all eligible students to apply for the program, which allows undocumented students to receive state financial aid for college.

“Please apply right away. The California Dream Act is the key to success in college and 21st century careers. It would be a shame if fear or confusion keeps students from applying for financial aid that they have earned and they deserve,” Torlakson said.

The application deadline is March 2. As of Friday, CSAC had received about 20,000 applications, down from more than 34,000 applications from the prior year. The California Dream Act is unrelated to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program...

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Fred Korematsu Lessons: The Price of an Executive Order, 75 Years Later

By Stan Yogi - February 13, 2017


(Editor’s note: Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 was marked in California and several other states as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, established by the California legislature in 2010 to commemorate the ACLU of Northern California’s client who was interned during World War II. Korematsu Day was also marked by the search engine Google, which featured an image of Korematsu as the day’s “Google Doodle,” prompting stories about Korematsu on news websites sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, NPR, NBC, and other outlets... probably the most public recognition that Korematsu Day has received today. EdBrief offers the following appreciation of Korematsu by Stan Yogi, who wrote the following remarks for the blog maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.)

Fred Korematsu is one of my heroes. As a young man, he defied the government’s World War II orders forcing Japanese Americans from the west coast into camps. The ACLU of Northern California represented Fred all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which, in an infamous decision, accepted the government’s contention of “military necessity” to imprison an ethnic group.

At the time, many Japanese Americans, including Fred’s family, criticized him for challenging the government, leaving him an outsider in his own community...

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Trained Vocalists Offer Tips

Singing the National Anthem at Public Events is Anything But Easy, Even for Experienced Singers

February 13, 2017

For more than 30 years, Wayne Messmer has been wowing crowds with his signature rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Northwestern University and in most of the major athletic arenas in Chicago.

But that doesn’t mean it’s gotten any easier.

Messmer and Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music opera singers Frank Laucerica and Kaileigh Riess recently discussed on camera the challenges of singing the national anthem, even for the most practiced of pros. They count the ways things can go terribly wrong, and the video includes excerpts of the very best and worst performances of one of America’s most cherished and challenging songs...

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Pre-K Participation Should Be Followed by K-3 Classrooms That Are Well-Aligned

By Aaron Loewenberg - Rep: January 30, 2017

There is little disagreement over the fact that quality pre-K is an effective means of preparing children for kindergarten. In fact, dozens of studies have been published showing marked improvements in academic and social skills among children who attend pre-K. Disagreements usually arise over how to ensure these initial positive effects persist over time as students leave pre-K, kindergarten, and then continue their academic career.

A recent report published by the Department of Education offers promising examples of programs around the country working to sustain pre-K gains by aligning standards, curriculum, and instructional practices from pre-kindergarten through third grade (referred to as PreK-3rd, or P-3, alignment).

The idea of PreK-3rd alignment is a simple, yet important one – to more likely sustain children’s gains made in pre-K, pre-K should be followed by kindergarten through third grade classrooms that are well-aligned so that each year’s content builds on the previous year’s...

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U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities

January 16, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education released three new sets of guidance on December 28 to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. These guidance documents clarify the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of educational institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn.

The guidance includes a parent and educator resource guide; a Dear Colleague letter (DCL) and question and answer document on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools; and a DCL and question and answer documents on the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools.

“These guidance documents share information with our full school communities – educators, parents, and students – about important educational rights, including school obligations to identify, evaluate, and serve students with disabilities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, the Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights...

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SBE Approves Final Elements of the New Accountability System, the California School Dashboard

January 16, 2017

On January 11, the State Board of Education (SBE) took the final steps in approving a landmark Accountability and Improvement System that will provide a wealth of new information to help parents, educators, and the publi evaluate schools and districts, identify strengths and weaknesses, and provide targeted assistance.

The SBE’s action, taken at a regular meeting in Sacramento, paves the way for the new system, called the California School Dashboard, to be unveiled to the public in late February or March. Next year several changes will be made to strengthen and improve the Dashboard for the 2017-18 school year when it will be fully operational.

“This completes the final pieces of a groundbreaking system to help the public better understand what is going on in our schools,” said California State Board of Education President Mike Kirst. “I look forward to the launch of the California School Dashboard later this year, but this is just the beginning. We plan to make significant improvements in future years.”...

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Stanford Researchers Say School Kids Can Do Safe and Simple Biological Experiments Over the Internet

By Andrew Myers - Rep: December 19, 2016

For as long as biology has been a cornerstone of scientific education, laboratory instruction for students has begun with an introduction to the wonders of one-celled creatures under a microscope. The students learn the form and function of the various cell parts – the flagella, the organelles, the membranes, etc. – and dutifully catalog what they see. They observe passively, never interacting with the cells.

Now, researchers at Stanford University have brought together bioengineers and educators to develop an Internet-enabled biological laboratory that allows students to truly interact with living cells in real-time, potentially reshaping how students learn about biology.

This interactive Biology Cloud Lab, as the researchers have dubbed their prototype, could one day empower millions of students to learn in new and more imaginative ways. The team, led by Ingmar Riedel-Kruse, an assistant professor of bioengineering, and Paulo Blikstein, assistant professor of education, published its work in Nature Biotechnology...

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Alarmingly Few Students Interested in Teaching Math or Science

Interest in STEM Majors High, Readiness Low among ACT-Tested 2016 High School Graduates

December 5, 2016

Many 2016 high school graduates are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors and careers, but few of those students are well prepared to succeed in first-year college STEM courses. These findings come from the latest edition of ACT’s annual STEM report, The Condition of STEM 2016, which was released November 16...

While around half (48 percent) of the nearly 2.1 million 2016 U.S. high school graduates who took the ACT® test had an interest in STEM majors or careers, only 26 percent of those graduates met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in STEM. The benchmark is an indicator of whether a student is well prepared for first-year courses such as calculus, biology, chemistry and physics, which are typically required for a college STEM-related major. These findings are virtually unchanged from last year...

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Stanford Researchers Find Students Have Trouble Judging Credibility of Information Online

December 5, 2016

Education scholars say youth are duped by sponsored content and don’t always recognize political bias of social messages.

When it comes to evaluating information that flows across social channels or pops up in a Google search, young and otherwise digital-savvy students can easily be duped, finds a new report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The report, released this week by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), shows a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet, the authors said. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from...

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Stanford Graduate School of Education Launches Free Platform for Sharing Performance Assessments

By Ralph Rogers
Rep: November 21, 2016

While assessment in the United States has focused largely on “bubbling in” answers on multiple-choice tests, educators are searching for better, more authentic, and higher quality assessment tools that measure the complex thinking necessary for success in our modern world. Scaling up performance assessment requires high-quality tools and content.

With this in mind, two research and practice centers at Stanford Graduate School of Education recently launched the Performance Assessment Resource Bank (PARB) – an online resource for K-12 teachers, administrators, and policy makers.

The new website – by Understanding Language-Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (UL-SCALE) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) – is designed to serve as a platform for sharing high-quality performance assessments and resources curated from educators and organizations nationwide...

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Teacher Race and School Discipline

Are Students Suspended Less Often When They Have a Teacher of the Same Race?

By Constance A. Lindsay and Cassandra M. D. Hart for Education Next
Rep: November 7, 2016

Across the United States, black and Latino students are far more likely than their white classmates to be removed from school as punishment. These disparities have led to widespread concern about a potential “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which detentions, suspensions, and expulsions ultimately lead to the overrepresentation of people of color in the nation’s prisons.

Breaking the pipeline is an explicit federal priority, and on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton pledged $2 billion to help schools add counselors and reduce suspensions. “This is not just an education issue, this is a civil rights issue, and we cannot ignore it any longer,” she told a Harlem audience in February 2016.

But while much has been said about the potential negative effects of exclusionary school punishment, little is known about what policymakers can do to address it...

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SBE Approves New Science Framework

November 7, 2016

The State Board of Education (SBE), meeting in Sacramento on November 2 and 3, voted to approve a new Science Framework for California’s public schools that will dramatically upgrade and modernize science instruction.

“Science education is undergoing a renaissance that began with the adoption of California’s Next Generation Science Standards in 2013 and advances today with a Science Framework that will guide teaching,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who began his career as a high school science teacher in the 1970s.

“This framework will help our students become the scientists and technology leaders of the future as well as citizens who are knowledgeable and understanding of the natural world and the environment,” Torlakson said. “It will also help produce the well-educated, innovative workers needed by all of our employers, but especially our high-tech companies, which are some of the most advanced companies humankind has ever seen.”...

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Time for a Closer Look at Apprenticeships in American High Schools

By Mary Alice McCarthy - Rep: October 10, 2016

In a welcome bit of good news, America's high school graduation rate has steadily increased, hitting a record high of 82 percent in 2014. Given the grim employment and earnings prospects for high school dropouts, getting more students to the finish line is truly cause for celebration.

The good news continues if we look at what those graduates are doing right after they leave high school: about 70 percent are enrolling in college the following fall. But this is where the story starts to change. If past trends hold, just over half of those entering their freshman year will earn a college degree in six years. And the earning and employment prospects for those who end up with “some college but no degree” not be much better than for those who never bothered to go. And those without a college degree will find few other options for acquiring valuable postsecondary skills and credentials, leaving them acutely vulnerable to economic downturns and changing job requirements...

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School’s Discipline of Student for Off-Campus Sexual Harassment Proper under First Amendment

October 10, 2016

In C.R. v. Eugene School District 4J (9th Cir., Sept. 1, 2016) __ F.3d__ [2016 U.S.App. LEXIS 16202], the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered an issue of first impression: Whether a school may discipline a student for off-campus sexual harassment without violating the student’s First Amendment free speech rights. Based on the facts, the Ninth Circuit held that disciplining a student for off-campus sexual harassment of fellow students did not violate the student’s free speech rights.

To date, judicial opinions considering issues at the intersection of off-campus conduct and student free speech rights have centered on electronic communications and student expression on the Internet and social media outlets. In C.R., the student’s speech occurred in person, as school was letting out, and only a few hundred feet from the school's property line. Following an investigation, the student was issued a two day out-of-school suspension for his sexually suggestive joking directed at two younger students walking home from school. The student subsequently challenged the suspension on First Amendment and due process grounds...

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New LAO Report: Improving Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in California

September 26, 2016


(Editor’s Note: On September 21, the Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report titled “Improving Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in California.” The report’s Executive Summary is reprinted below; at the end, there is a link to the full report.)


Most Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) Experience Language Delays. California currently serves about 14,000 DHH students a year. Because DHH students cannot respond to spoken language as easily as their hearing peers, they often lag behind in developing important language, social, and cognitive skills. These developmental delays lead to academic challenges, with DHH students as a group performing far behind other student groups on statewide assessments of reading/writing and math.

A Variety of DHH Educational Programs Exist, but Some Students Have More Options Than Others. Several types of DHH educational programs operate in California, with programs varying by classroom setting and instructional approach. Regarding setting, some programs serve DHH students in mainstream classrooms, whereas others serve them in special classrooms consisting either solely of other DHH students or broader groups of students with disabilities...

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Ready for Kindergarten? Gap Between Rich and Poor Narrows, Stanford Study Finds

By Miriam Wasserman - Rep: September 12, 2016

On the first day of kindergarten, poor children are already behind.

But the distance they need to cover to start school on par with richer kids has shortened – in spite of widening economic inequality – according to surprising new research co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Sean Reardon.

The study, conducted with Stanford GSE alumna Ximena Portilla, compared the achievement gaps between high- and lower-income children entering kindergarten in 1998 and 2010 using the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS). It was published Aug. 26 in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association...

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Half of All Chronically Absent Students Live in Just 4% of U.S. School Districts

September 12, 2016

Nine out of 10 U.S. school districts experience some level of chronic absenteeism among students, but half of the nation’s chronically absent students are concentrated in just 4 percent of its districts, according to a new analysis of federal data.

Preventing Missed Opportunity, released on September 6 by Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center, underscores how this often overlooked factor is dragging down achievement in communities everywhere – from sprawling suburban places where absenteeism can fester in the shadow of academic achievement to small rural communities where geography complicates getting to school. Disadvantaged urban neighborhoods are particularly hard hit, according to this study of the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

"What’s clear from our analysis is that chronic absenteeism follows poverty wherever it is found in significant concentrations," said Balfanz, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who leads the Everyone Graduates Center...

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Voluntary Summer Learning Programs for Elementary Students Benefit those with High Levels of Attendance, Study Shows

September 12, 2016

Elementary school students with high levels of attendance in voluntary summer learning programs – defined as at least 20 days of a five- to six-week program – experienced benefits in math and reading, according to new RAND Corporation findings from the largest research study ever conducted on summer learning.

The $50 million National Summer Learning Project, funded by The Wallace Foundation since 2011, seeks to find out whether and how voluntary summer programs can help low-income students succeed in school. Summer is a time when low-income students lose ground relative to their wealthier peers, but it also holds promise as a time to improve outcomes for them by providing additional opportunities for academics and enrichment.

Until this study, little research had been conducted about the effectiveness of voluntary summer learning programs led by urban districts and offered to large numbers of low-income students...

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CAASPP Test Results Show Uptick of Student Scores over Last Year – and an Ongoing Achievement Gap

August 29, 2016

California students made progress in the second year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) online tests, with the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards increasing at almost all levels, according to test results released by the California Department of Education (CDE) last week.

Nearly half the students tested met or exceeded standards in English language arts, and nearly four in ten met or exceeded standards in mathematics. The online CAASP tests, based on California’s academic standards, ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson framed the testing results in positive terms, saying:

“The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work, and patience of California’s teachers, parents, school employees, and administrators are paying off. Together we are making progress towards upgrading our education system to prepare all students for careers and college in the 21st century.”...

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Stuttering Still Causes Back-to-School Woes

August 22, 2016

Back-to-School season is upon us. For some, there is great excitement and anticipation for the new school year. But for others, there is great anxiety-especially for children who stutter and their parents.

When teachers hear a child begin to stutter, the immediate reaction is one of concern mixed with a host of urgent questions.

Should a teacher tell the child who stutters to "slow down and relax?" Should they complete their words? Should they expect the same quality and quantity of work from this student?

The nonprofit Stuttering Foundation answers these and many other questions in its brochure, 8 Tips for Teachers – available now in both English and Spanish...

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Study: Youth Cyberbullying Most Common among Current or Former Friends and Dating Partners

August 22, 2016

Youth cyberbullying is dramatically more likely to occur between current or former friends and dating partners than between students who were never friends or in a romantic relationship, suggests a new study being presented this week at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in Seattle.

“A common concern regarding cyberbullying is that strangers can attack someone, but here we see evidence that there are significant risks associated with close connections,” said Diane Felmlee, the lead author of the study and a professor of sociology at The Pennsylvania State University. “The large magnitude of the effects of close relationships on the likelihood of cyberbullying, even after controlling for many other factors, was particularly surprising.”

The study found that the likelihood of cyberbullying – which the study authors also refer to as cyber aggression, defined as electronic or online behavior intended to harm another person psychologically or damage his or her reputation – was approximately seven times greater between current or former friends and dating partners than between young people who had neither been friends nor had dated...

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Achieve, NSBA Announce Partnership to Support School Boards in Reducing Unnecessary Testing

August 8, 2016

Across the country, educators, parents, and students are expressing concerns about the amount of testing in schools. To address these concerns, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Achieve are partnering to support school board members and their districts to take stock of their assessments and move toward more coherent and streamlined assessment systems.

To support districts in driving toward the minimum testing necessary to serve essential diagnostic, instructional, and accountability purposes, Achieve created the Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts. Released in June 2014, the tool is designed for district leaders’ use in taking stock of the array of assessments administered from a student perspective, and has been used by districts to catalyze real changes in testing practice. School districts that have used the tool have succeeded in engaging multiple stakeholders in productive conversations and reducing testing redundancies...

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Blue-Collar Training in High School Leaves Women Behind

July 25, 2016

What’s the best way to prepare high schoolers for jobs in the 21st century? Education leaders and the general public have been debating this question with more heat in recent years, clashing over whether to focus on college preparation or vocational training, especially training linked to blue-collar jobs.

The way the pendulum swings may have profound consequences for young women, according to new Cornell University research published online June 29 and which will appear in the August print issue of the American Sociological Review. Blue-collar training without a strong college-preparatory focus leads to blue-collar jobs for men but penalizes women in the labor market, says lead author April Sutton, a Frank H.T. Rhodes Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cornell Population Center.

“This has been a real blind spot in the public discussion: the assumption that men and women would equally benefit from high school training for local blue-collar jobs,” Sutton said...

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Children Can Help Parents Make Energy-Saving Decisions at Home, Study Suggests

By Rosemary Mena-Worth - Rep: July 25, 2016

Adults get most of the credit for structuring and managing the world around us, but researchers are finding that children can play a much bigger role than often imagined.

Using rigorous research designs, behavioral theory and approaches borrowed from public health, a team of Stanford researchers recently measured the effects of a youth energy-behavior program on Girl Scout participants and their families.

The results, published recently in Nature Energy, show that educating the girls about energy-saving behaviors led to positive changes in both the girls and their households.

The participants belonged to 30 Girl Scout troops from the Northern California council. Each of the troops took part in Girls Learning Environment and Energy (GLEE), a five-part program developed at Stanford that focuses educating the girls on energy use through either a home-energy or a food-and-transportation lens...

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SBE Approves History–Social Science Framework

July 25, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on July 14 that the State Board of Education voted to approve the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which will update and upgrade history and social science instruction in California.

Torlakson said "This document will improve the teaching and learning of history and social science. It will give our students access to the latest historical research and help them learn about the diversity of our state and the contributions of people and groups who may not have received the appropriate recognition in the past."

The Framework provides guidance to teachers, administrators, and publishers for the teaching of history and social science. It includes more than 20 detailed classroom examples that show teachers how they can integrate their instruction to build students’ history–social science knowledge and skills, literacy skills, and English language development...

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What a Decade of Education Research Tells Us about Technology in the Hands of Underserved Students

By Molly B. Zielezinski, for EdSurge - Rep: July 6, 2016

Despite all the celebratory rhetoric around our nation’s declining dropout rates, during a given year, nearly 20 percent of students expected to graduate do not. Furthermore, according to John Hopkins and Civic Enterprises, “unacceptably low levels of minority, low-income, English Language Learners, and special education students are graduating from high school.” This is true for 29 percent of African American students, 25 percent of Hispanic students, 39 percent of students who have limited English proficiency, and 27 percent of low income students (as shown on Ed.gov).

Hardware can’t fill this digital divide – especially when K-12 schools in low-income neighborhoods are only using it for remediation purposes. In the last three years, U.S. schools have begun seeing an unprecedented level of new hardware and software in their classrooms. But how can we use this massive influx of technology to support our nations’ underserved students?...

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Transitional Kindergarten More Developmentally Appropriate When Classrooms Are Not Combined, Study Finds

July 6, 2016

With transitional kindergarten now fully implemented in California, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has published a new report examining program features, including teacher qualifications, classroom structure and instructional content. Three-quarters of transitional kindergarten classrooms are standalone classrooms serving only transitional kindergarten students; 24 percent are combined with traditional kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten grew out of California’s Kindergarten Readiness Act, passed in 2010. Historically, the state required children to be 5 by Dec. 2nd to enroll in kindergarten. When the new law moved the cutoff to Sept. 1, transitional kindergarten was created for children who turned 5 between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2. The program was phased in over three school years, ending in 2014-2015.

The study, conducted during the final year of the rollout, is based on teacher surveys and/or observations of 240 classrooms representative of transitional kindergarten in California...

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Strategies for Connecting Students and Families

Bridging the Gap between Math in the Classroom and at Home

By Leah Shafer - Rep: June 13, 2016

The idea of “learning math” often conjures the image of a student hunched over his desk, solving problems using a set formula he copied down from his teacher. Math, we tend to think, is a strict set of algorithms, practices, and rules – all emanating from inside the classroom. New resources from the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP), though, paint a different picture entirely – elevating the role of the family as a source of math knowledge.

In its latest initiative, HFRP is focusing on the idea that children’s knowledge of math is “broad and deep,” developing anywhere, anytime, and even starting at birth. Families are instrumental to their children’s success in mathematics, as they can help children recognize and use mathematical thinking in everyday activities.

But today’s math assignments can be confounding for parents who learned math in a pre-Common Core era, or in a different country – or who still harbor math anxiety from their own days at school, or never fully learned to connect the dots between everyday actions and math lessons...

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Specific Interventions Can Boost Success of First Generation Minority Students in College

Rep: June 13, 2016

Simple exercises to help incoming students understand the challenges that they would face in college substantially improved the success achieved by first generation and minority students, according to a new study from researchers affiliated with Stanford Graduate School of Education and other institutions.

The results add to the evidence that well designed psychological interventions could help close persistent achievement gaps occurring in higher education institutions nationwide. Students who are from lower income backgrounds, under-represented minority groups or families with no previous college graduates typically do worse than other students at the same schools. This gap can be attributed, in part, to negative stereotypes that may trouble such students about how members of their groups have historically been less successful in college than others.

The findings from the study, which were published in the May 31 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the interventions narrowed the difference not only in academic achievement in college but also in terms of students’ involvement in campus life and building relationships with classmates, faculty and administrators...

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New Research Report Shows U.S. Schools Facing Crisis in Student Attendance

June 13, 2016

The release of the first-ever national compilation of data on how many public school students are missing so much school they are academically at risk shows the country is facing a crisis of chronic absence that’s keeping millions of kids from learning.

The new report, 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection: A First Look, released on June 7 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, found that more than 6.5 million students (13%) missed 15 or more days of school (nearly a month of school) during the 2013-14 academic year.

Among high schools, three million students (18%) were chronically absent. Among elementary and middle schools, chronic absence affected a greater number, 3.5 million students, but at a slightly lower rate (11%). Because the data is broken out by school level and not individual grades, the report could not validate the high levels of chronic absence that other state and local analyses have shown specifically for vulnerable students in kindergarten and 1st grade...

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Stanford Study Shows How Digital Math Games Can Teach More than Rote Skills

May 31, 2016

Third-graders who played a novel video math game for 30 minutes a week measurably improved their ability to reason through open-ended math problems, finds a recent study by researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The study by Holly Pope and Charmaine Mangram, both doctoral candidates in Curriculm Studies and Teacher Education, suggests that math-oriented computer games can help students improve their underlying math proficiency – their ability to think through problems, rather than simply speed up their performance of rote arithmetic.

Educators have long argued that math curricula need to put a higher emphasis on math proficiency and “numbers sense,” which becomes crucial when students begin learning algebra and other areas of higher mathematics...

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CDE Reports New Record High School Graduation Rate and Sixth Consecutive Year of an Increase

May 31, 2016

On May 17, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported California’s cohort graduation rate climbed for the sixth year in a row in 2015 to a record high, with the biggest jump taking place among English Learners and migrant students.

Among students who started high school in 2011–12, 82.3 percent graduated with their class in 2015, up 1.3 percentage points from the year before. This increase means that 2,900 more students received their high school diploma last year than the year before. The state’s graduation rate has increased substantially since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate.

The graduation rate of almost every student subgroup calculated by the California Department of Education (CDE) also rose in 2015. The rate of increase among English Learners was 4 percentage points – three times the statewide rate, while the rate of increase among African Americans was 2.6 percentage points – double the statewide rate...

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Survey Shows Educators, Parents, Students Want Balanced Approach to Assessment in ESSA Landscape

May 16, 2016

As the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers states and districts new flexibility around accountability and assessment requirements, a new Gallup report commissioned by the not-for-profit Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) reveals educators, parents and students want a balanced approach to K-12 testing, utilizing a variety of academic assessments with a strong preference for those that improve teaching and learning.

The new report – Make Assessment Work for All Students: Multiple Measures Matter – includes findings from a survey of more than 4,200 students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents. The study is a follow-up to NWEA’s 2014 (Make Assessment Matter: Students and Educators Want Tests that Support Learning) and 2012 (For Every Child, Multiple Measures) surveys on assessment...

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Achievement Gap, Local Education Inequities Documented in New Stanford Data Set

By Jonathan Rabinovitz - Rep: May 16, 2016

Almost every school district enrolling large numbers of low-income students has an average academic performance significantly below the national grade-level average, according to Stanford Graduate School of Education research based on a massive new data set recently created from more than 200 million test scores.

The research also revealed that nearly all U.S. school districts with substantial minority populations have large achievement gaps between their white and black and white and Hispanic students.

The data, which were made available online April 29, provide the most detailed account yet of academic disparities nationwide. They comprise reading and math test results of some 40 million 3rd to 8th grade students during 2009-13 in every public school district in the country, along with information about socioeconomic status, school district characteristics, and racial and economic segregation...

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California Alliance for Arts Education Lays Out Strategies to Improve Literacy, Math Skills at Low-Income Schools

May 2, 2016

The California Alliance for Arts Education has provided a new online resource to support arts integration programs at low-income schools. The website, launched in February, guides Title 1 school leaders through a rigorous process to plan and evaluate arts strategies that can help achieve the goals of the Title I program.

Arts programs can help schools achieve the aims of Title I by facilitating student engagement and learning, strengthening parent involvement, and improving school climate and school wide behavior, according to the website live at http://www.title1arts.org.

Yet, up until recently, there was no procedure to do this and zero California Title I schools – out of approximately 6,000 Title I schools – that were officially using Title I funds to support arts education strategies. Despite a substantial body of research demonstrating that arts education increases student achievement, there has been a lack of clarity whether or not arts strategies are permissible within federally funded Title 1 programs...

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San Diego Study Shows More Students Poised to Fulfill UC, CSU Requirements, But More May Fail to Graduate

May 2, 2016

A high school graduation requirement that makes college preparatory courses mandatory for all students is likely to help many students but damage the prospects of others, according to a report released on April 27 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

An analysis of the San Diego Unified School District’s class of 2016 – the district’s first class required to complete college prep coursework – shows that roughly 10 percent more students may become eligible to apply to the University of California (UC) or the California State University (CSU) because they have completed the classes with a grade of C or higher. And students with the lowest likelihood of completing the requirement have shown the greatest increases in course completion, earning grades of at least a D.

But 16 percent more San Diego students may fail to graduate from high school because of the requirements. Overall, about 27 percent of students are unlikely to get diplomas because they were unable to both complete the college prep courses and meet the grade point average requirement of a cumulative 2.0. English Learners, Latino and African American students, and those with special needs are particularly at risk...

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Researchers Dispel Common Belief That Students Should Not Use Their Fingers to Learn Mathematics

April 18, 2016

New evidence on how the brain functions when we think about mathematics could change the way mathematics is taught in K-12 and higher education classrooms. As described in the new paper released on April 11, “Seeing As Understanding: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning,” supporting the use of visual mathematics and developing finger discrimination in students is vital for brain development and future mathematics success.

“Our brains use visual pathways when we are learning math – our brains actually “see” a representation of fingers when we solve problems, whether or not we are actually using our fingers at the time, so training people on ways to perceive and represent their own fingers results in higher math achievement,” said co-author Dr. Jo Boaler, professor of mathematics education at Stanford Graduate School of Education and the co-founder of youcubed, a Stanford University center that provides research-based resources for teaching and learning mathematics. “Schools do not know about this important brain research and many schools even ban students from using fingers in classrooms...

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U.S. Department of Education Releases Resources on Improving School Climate

April 18, 2016

On March 31, the U.S. Department of Education released new school climate surveys and a quick guide on making school climate improvements to help foster and sustain safe and supportive environments that are conducive to learning for all students.

The ED School Climate Surveys (surveys) and the Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements will enable states, local school districts, and individual schools to collect and act on reliable, nationally-validated school climate data in real-time. These new free and adaptable resources will enable educators, administrators, and school system leaders to understand and create environments where every child can be successful.

“All students deserve schools that work to ensure safe and supportive school climates in which they can reach their full potential,” said James Cole Jr., General Counsel, Delegated the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education...

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With Spring Testing Underway, Educators and Civil Rights Groups Launch a “Testing Bill of Rights” Drive

April 4, 2016

With the spring testing season underway in schools across the United States, educators, civil rights, and education groups have launched a Testing Bill of Rights at TestBetter.org. The “Testing Bill of Rights” articulates a middle ground on assessments so that tests are used in support of instruction, not the other way around.

The Center for American Progress in partnership with National PTA; the New York Urban League; the National Association of Secondary School Principals, or NASSP; Higher Achievement New York, or HANY; Educators 4 Excellence, or E4E; and America Achieves is launching the Testing Bill of Rights. This effort aims to help move towards better, fairer, and fewer tests and to make testing more useful and less burdensome for parents, students and educators. It arrives at an opportune moment for states and school districts to revisit their approaches to testing, as many parents and students have felt real frustration with tests in recent years. At the same time, the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, preserves annual tests but also greatly reduces the stakes of state tests for schools and teachers...

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Torlakson Announces Start of Annual CAASPP Testing

April 4, 2016

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on March 30 that students have begun taking the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), the state’s computer-based, online assessments given in grades three through eight and eleven.

2016 marks the second year more than 3 million California students will take part in CAASPP, which was designed to gauge their progress toward the learning goals set for California students. Districts and schools select their individual testing dates.

The CAASPP asks students to demonstrate the kinds of abilities they will need to do well in college and the 21st century workplace – including analytical writing, critical thinking, and problem solving.

“Because CAASPP tests are given statewide, they provide an opportunity to gauge students’ skills against the same academic standards in the same way, measuring millions with one common yardstick,” Torlakson said...

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Districts Urged to Document PE Instructional Minutes

April 4, 2016

In the wake of numerous lawsuits initiated by the unincorporated association Cal200 alleging districts’ noncompliance with required instructional minutes of physical education (PE), the California School Boards Association has updated BP/AR 6142.7 – Physical Education and Activity to clarify legal requirements and encourage districts to carefully document the number of instructional minutes provided.

State law requires the adopted course of study for all students at an elementary school (either grades 1-6 or 1-8) to include PE instruction for at least 200 minutes each 10 school days, exclusive of recesses and the lunch period. Students in grades 7-12 are required to attend PE courses for at least 400 minutes each 10 school days, unless they are excused or exempted as allowed by law. The law does not provide any exemption for special circumstances. Strict adherence to these requirements is therefore important to protect the district from litigation...

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LAO: Assessing the Governor’s Zero-Textbook-Cost Proposal for Community College Students

March 21, 2016


Governor Proposes $5 Million (One Time) for Creating “Zero-Textbook-Cost Degrees” at the California Community Colleges (CCC). Zero-textbook-cost degrees allow students to complete a degree entirely by taking courses that use only free instructional materials, called open educational resources (OER). Under the Governor’s proposal, community colleges would compete for grants up to $500,000 each to offer a zero-textbook-cost associate degree, certificate, or credential program. The CCC Chancellor’s Office could use up to 5 percent for program administration and technical assistance.

Zero-Textbook-Cost Degrees at CCC a Reasonable Next Step. The state already has funded efforts to select, compile, and make available free, open textbooks for 50 high-enrollment courses that are common to the three public higher education segments. In addition, the state has funded an incentive grant program to encourage faculty to adopt these textbooks and other OER for individual courses. We believe developing OER degree pathways at the community colleges is a reasonable next step...

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Tracing Links between Musical Training and Executive Function – and Bolstering the Case for Music in Schools

By Leah Shafer - Rep: March 21, 2016

If educators want to develop critical, creative thinkers who can set and accomplish their own goals – and who can use those skills to strengthen their math and reading skills – they may want to take another look inside the music room.

For a child to play an instrument, she needs to stick to her goals, pay sustained attention, and be flexible enough to switch back and forth between tempos and styles. These habits draw heavily on executive function (EF) skills, cognitive processes that include problem-solving, goal setting, and flexible thinking. A number of studies have found that EF skills contribute hugely to students’ success in math and reading.

But music doesn’t just require EF skills; it may be a pathway to building them. That’s according to findings by developmental psychologist Nadine Gaab, whose work shows that people who play a musical instrument regularly have higher executive function skills than non-musicians – a significant finding for educators...

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Strategies to Improve Low-Performing Schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Chelsea Straus and Tiffany D. Miller - Rep: March 7, 2016

Almost six years ago, Terry Grier, former superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, or HISD, faced a challenge that district leaders across the country confront each year: how to dramatically improve student achievement in the lowest-performing schools. Texas state law offered Grier four options to turn around nine low-performing secondary schools in the Houston school district: allow a charter management organization to reopen the schools; implement programmatic changes; close the schools entirely; or reconstitute the schools. Wanting to demonstrate that it is possible to improve failing schools within the constraints of the traditional public school system, Grier chose the final option.

In a recent interview, Grier said he immediately realized that he could not undertake a school improvement initiative alone. He shared his concerns with a friend who recommended that he reach out to renowned economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr., who is the youngest African American professor to receive tenure at Harvard – at the age of 30 – and is also a MacArthur Fellowship, or “Genius Grant,” recipient. For Fryer, the work of providing all children the chance to obtain an excellent education is personal...

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Calculating High School Graduation Rates

By Paul Warren, Public Policy Institute of California - Rep: February 22, 2016

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was recently signed into law by President Obama, aims to offer states more flexibility in designing K–12 accountability programs than they had under No Child Left Behind. But one of ESSA’s lesser known provisions – a requirement that states identify and assist high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent – might force California to revise the way it deals with graduation rates at alternative high schools. Currently, the California Department of Education (CDE) excludes students attending most of the 640 alternative high schools across the state from its graduation rate calculations. Alternative schools – also known as district continuation schools, county community schools, and district and charter alternative "schools of choice” – are designed to help dropouts, students with behavior problems, pregnant or parenting teens, and truants. About 75 percent of the students at alternative high schools are juniors and seniors, according to CDE data.

ESSA requires states to calculate "cohort” graduation rates – which involve tracking students from 9th through 12th grade. The cohort graduation rate means something different at alternative schools than it does for regular schools. Students often transfer to alternative schools because they are struggling in school...

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Researcher Says Schools Need to Integrate Computers in All Subjects and All Classes

By Uri Wilensky - Rep: February 22, 2016

In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said schools need to offer every student hands-on computer science classes to be better prepared for the workforce.

President Obama is right: the next generation of learners will require a high level of fluency with modes of thinking in which computers act as interactive partners.

The question is: how best to make sure they acquire that thinking? Are computing classes the only way to do this?

More computer classes

There is widespread agreement that computing should play a more prominent role throughout our education system. For this reason, there have been more concerted efforts to increase computing classes in the K-12 grade levels...

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Shielding a Few Students from Stereotypes Benefits Everyone’s Grades, Stanford Research Shows

By Clifton B. Parker - February 8, 2016

Sharing a classroom with students who are protected from negative stereotypes about their group can boost all students' grades, new Stanford research shows.

The study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Joseph Powers, a Stanford psychology graduate student and lead author on the paper, said the research showed that sharing a classroom with a few students who are protected from negative stereotypes can help the entire class perform better grade-wise.

"Changing the psychological processes of just a few individuals can transform the larger group in ways that benefit everyone," said Powers, who was joined in the research by Stanford psychology Professor Geoffrey Cohen. Both are at Stanford Graduate School of Education...

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Stanford Study Suggests Courses in Ethnic Studies Foster Gains in Attendance, Improved Academic Performance

By Brooke Donald - Rep: January 25, 2016

A high school ethnic studies course examining the role of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience boosted attendance and academic performance of students at risk of dropping out, a new study by scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education found.

The study looked at ethnic studies classes piloted in several San Francisco high schools and compared academic outcomes for students encouraged to enroll in the course with similar students who did not take it.

The researchers found that students not only made gains in attendance and grades, they also increased the number of course credits they earned to graduate...

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CDE Announces Decline in Suspensions and Expulsions for Third Year in a Row

January 25, 2016

On January 13, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced a 13.9 percent decline in the number of students expelled during the 2014-15 academic year and a 12.8 percent decrease in the number of students suspended compared to the year before. This marks the third year in a row of significant declines in both areas.

Since 2011-12, when the California Department of Education (CDE) began collecting and reporting detailed data, suspensions have declined by 33.6 percent and expulsions have dropped 40.4 percent.

The latest figures reflect innovative efforts by the CDE and school districts to provide a variety of alternative programs and options to schools, teachers, and students that reduce suspensions and expulsions and keep more children in school...

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Stanford Researcher Recommends “Cultivating a Growth Mindset” in Mathematics

By Clifton B. Parker - Rep: January 11, 2016

For many students, math class is the subject of nightmares. Many who enthusiastically show off their counting skills in pre-school years later consider math class the most loathed hour of the school day. The problem, according to a Stanford education professor, is a matter of mindset.

"All children are different in their mathematical thinking, strengths and interests," said Jo Boaler, a professor of mathematics education at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Boaler has studied how students learn math, to identify why so many students end up hating or fearing math, and, too often, underachieve. She has followed thousands of students through middle and high schools to ascertain exactly how they learn and what are the most effective ways they reach their potential...

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Harvard Researchers Find Movement Can Be Important Learning Tool for Children with Disabilities

By Jill Anderson and Iman Rastegari - Rep: January 11, 2016

At first glance the five- and six-year-olds practicing dance on a Saturday afternoon in Portia Abernathy’s Adaptive Dance class at the Boston Ballet seem to just be having a good time. But, although having fun is the primary goal of the class, there is a lot more going on than just recreation.

“It’s a joyful, fun, and engaging experience,” Abernathy says, never losing the smile from her face. But, through the arm and leg movements, marching, and tapping of their hands, these children with Down syndrome are doing more than just having fun. In fact, Abernathy, Ed.M.’11, C.A.S.’12, a longtime special education teacher who first began using movement in her public school classroom, sees dance as an important learning tool for children with disabilities.

“Within 10 weeks and over the year, there is a lot of growth and progression for younger students, who learn to skip, jump, hop, or even to sustain attention like waiting to take turns,” says Abernathy, senior manager of education and inclusion at Boston Ballet’s Adaptive Dance Program...

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“Scaffolded” Summer Reading Programs Can Help Lower SES Students Sustain Reading Comprehension

By Marilyn Sherman - Rep: January 11, 2016

During summer vacation, children in lower socioeconomic status (SES) families typically lose ground to their higher-SES peers in reading comprehension. An experiment by associate professor Jonathan Guryan of Northwestern University and his fellow researchers found that a scaffolded summer reading program could shrink that gap.

Scaffolding is an instructional technique of providing experiences to help children understand what they read. The research study, involving 824 third-grade children in 14 elementary schools, used a scaffolded summer reading intervention called READS for Summer Learning to try to boost children’s reading comprehension and access to books at home. Teachers gave comprehension lessons in the spring, families attended a literacy event, and students received lessons, books and comprehension activities during the summer.

The researchers randomly assigned students to one of four conditions, using varying degrees of support. They found that most effective treatment offered the most support. It provided books matched to children’s reading level and interest, along with oral reading and teacher instruction in comprehension at the end of the school year...

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Climate Change Inaccurately Portrayed in Science Textbooks, Stanford Research Shows

By Clifton Parker - December 10, 2015

Major California science textbooks may be misrepresenting the science behind climate change as much weaker than it actually is, new Stanford research shows.

In doing so, the textbooks more closely reflect the public debate about climate change rather than the scientific reality, according to the paper, which was published in the Environmental Education Research journal.

"We found that through language choices, the text portrayed climate change as uncertain along several lines, such as whether climate change was happening, whether humans were causing it and what the effects will be," said K.C. Busch, a doctoral candidate in science education at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

Busch is co-author of the article with Diego Román PhD ’14, assistant professor of education at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, who started work on the study while a doctoral student at Stanford GSE...

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California School Suspensions Decline, Driven by Fewer Punishments for Disruption, Defiance

December 10, 2015

California school districts are making solid progress toward reforming discipline practices and reducing out-of-school suspensions, according to a study released on November 23 by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

The study, Closing the School Discipline Gap in California: Signs of Progress, examines suspension trends over a three-year period (2011-2014) on a statewide and individual school district basis. The report is the first to analyze the relationship between suspensions and achievement on California’s Academic Performance Index. This relationship was examined for only two academic years, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, because the API was discontinued in 2013. Researchers found that in both years and for each student subgroup, higher student achievement was related to lower suspension rates. For Black students, the correlation was the strongest...

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Why Death Should be Discussed in School – And How Teachers Should Handle It

By Kelly Michelson - December 10, 2015

How do you explain to hundreds of grade school children that a beloved kindergarten teacher with breast cancer is dying? A friend recently asked me for advice as this was happening at her child’s school. Both she and the school leadership felt lost. While the situation was tragic, I was glad they wanted to have the conversation. I was glad they were reaching out for help.

My friend’s request reminded me of when one of my son’s kindergarten classmates died of brain cancer. At the time, I asked my son if the teachers talked about his classmate’s death. He told me that the kids started to talk about it, but the teacher discouraged their conversation. I felt disappointment and concern. I thought teachers would appreciate the importance of allowing children to ask questions and express their feelings. While I talked with my son about his classmate, not all children have someone at home to whom they can turn.

As a physician who cares for families of dying children regularly, I am used to having these conversations, but I know most people are not. They may not know how to go about it or know what is appropriate to say, especially with children...

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Study of California Districts Highlights Successful Strategies for Improving High School Graduation Rate

November 30, 2015

In 2007, three high schools in Stockton were labeled “dropout factories” in a Johns Hopkins University study. The Stockton Unified School District responded by developing several small high schools as alternatives to its large, comprehensive schools. It offered a special program for students to make up missed credits, mixing online and small-group instruction. And it beefed up its data system to allow early identification and intervention for students with academic and attendance problems. Between the 2009-10 and 2012-13 school years, Stockton’s graduation rate jumped from 66.1 percent to 83.1 percent – one of the largest improvements in California.

Stockton’s strategies are typical of California districts that were most successful in pushing up their graduation rates over that period, according to a new study by researchers at American Institutes of Research (AIR) and the California Dropout Research Project (CDRP), based at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study’s authors identified the ten districts in California with the largest increases in high school completion rate and interviewed administrators at five of the districts to see what policies and programs they believed were the key to success...

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CDE Announces Physical Fitness Test Results Show Students Mostly Holding Steady

November 30, 2015

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 20 that the percentage of students who met the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) performance standards in all six areas declined slightly but mostly remained stable this year, according to the results of the 2014-15 Physical Fitness Test.

More than 1.3 million students in grades five (455,897), seven (439,476), and nine (441,730) took the FITNESSGRAM® during the 2014-15 school year (Table 1) – a series of six separate tests that measure aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength, and flexibility.

In all three grades the percentage of students who performed all six tests at the highest level decreased compared to the last two years. Overall, approximately 26.4 percent of students in grade five, 32.5 percent of students in grade seven, and 37.6 percent of students in grade nine scored at the highest levels, called the HFZ...

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Did the Common Core Assessments Cause the Decline in NAEP Scores?

By Thomas J. Kane - Rep: November 12, 2015

When the NAEP scores were released last week, math achievement had fallen by 1.3 points in fourth grade and 2.4 points in eighth grade. It was the first time that math achievement had fallen in either fourth grade or eighth grade scores since 1990. Given the controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exams aligned to them, many commentators have been asking two questions:

  1. Did the states taking the PARCC or SBAC assessments underperform other states with similar prior achievement?
  2. Could PARCC/SBAC participation explain the decline?

The answer to the first question, regarding whether the PARCC/SBAC participants had a larger decline than expected, is a tentative “yes.” The states which administered the PARCC or SBAC tests scored lower in 2015 relative to states with similar 2013 scores...

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CDE Announces Next Step in Implementing New Approach to Teaching English Learners

November 12, 2015

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 5 that California has taken the next step in implementing a new approach to teaching English learners.

On November 4, the State Board of Education (SBE) voted to approve instructional materials for kindergarten through grade eight that are aligned to the California Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in Science, History-Social Studies and Technical Subjects, that were based on the Common Core, and the California English Language Development Standards.

California is the first state to integrate English language arts/literacy (ELA) and English Language Development (ELD), which helps English learners by making their language development a core part of the curriculum and not a separate, isolated part of the school day...

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The Hidden Value of Curriculum Reform

Do States and Districts Receive the Most Bang for Their Curriculum Buck?

By Ulrich Boser, Matthew M. Chingos, Chelsea Straus - Rep: October 29, 2015

Curriculum plays an important role in how students are taught, and there is a strong body of evidence that shows that putting a high-quality curriculum in the hands of teachers can have significant positive impacts on student achievement. Furthermore, curriculum reform is typically inexpensive, and some of the highest-quality elementary school math curricula cost only around $36 per student. In short, curriculum reform is a low-cost, high-return educational investment.

To promote curriculum reform – and make better use of education dollars – this report provides new insight on how curricula are selected in every state across the country and examines the costs of those curricula. Throughout this report, the authors use “curriculum” to refer to the instructional materials such as textbooks, workbooks, and software used by teachers...

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Education Department Releases Resource Guide on Supporting Undocumented High School Students

October 29, 2015

In an effort to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education released a resource guide on October 20 to help educators, school leaders and community organizations better support undocumented youth, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

“Our nation’s public schools should be welcoming, safe, and supportive places where all students, regardless of their zip code or where they were born, are given the opportunity to succeed. We know undocumented youth face unique challenges and we also know that educators and other caring adults in schools and colleges can play a major role in helping all students, including undocumented students, to achieve at the highest levels,” said John King, senior advisor delegated the duties of deputy secretary of education. “This guide provides actionable information and resources that educators and school and campus leaders can use to help improve outcomes for high school and college students.”...

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Language Literacy in Kindergarten Important for Success in Learning English

October 29, 2015

English learners are more likely to become proficient English speakers if they enter kindergarten with a strong initial grasp of academic language literacy, either in their primary language or in English, a new analysis from Oregon State University has found.

“This study shows that building literacy skills, in English or the child’s native language, prior to kindergarten can be helpful,” said Karen Thompson, an assistant professor of cultural and linguistic diversity in OSU’s College of Education. “Having those academic language skills – the kind of language used in school to retell a story or explain a math problem – is likely going to set them on a path to success.”

The new study, published recently in the journal Educational Policy, is part of an emerging body of research examining the role that language reclassification plays in a student’s education...

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Obama Administration Launches Cross-Sector Initiative to Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism in Schools

October 15, 2015

On October 7, the Obama Administration launched an initiative to eliminate chronic absenteeism in schools, titled Every Student, Every Day. Led by the White House, U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ), the Administration is announcing new steps to combat chronic absenteeism and calling on states and local communities across the country to join in taking immediate action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year (2015-16).

Every Student, Every Day is focused on the estimated 5 to 7.5 million students who are chronically absent each year. Defined as missing at least 10 percent (approximately 18 days) of school days in a school year, chronic absenteeism puts students at heightened risk of falling behind and dropping out of school. Together, communities can address and eliminate chronic absenteeism, and ultimately boost student success and strengthen our nation's workforce and our future prosperity...

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Research Suggests Quality of Homework Can Impact Student Achievement, Motivation, Health

By Clifton B. Parker - Rep: October 15, 2015

The quality of a homework assignment is important to student achievement, says Stanford Graduate School of Education senior lecturer Denise Pope.

But the devil is in the details, according to Pope, who recently published a book.

"The quality of the homework assignment and whether or not students find it meaningful can have a significant impact on student achievement, homework completion, motivation and physical health," Pope said in a recent interview.

She suggests that teachers think about the purpose of each assignment and she offers professional development and tools on how to create assignments that are relevant and engaging for the student – or "doable," as she puts it – without the help of others...

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Most Say Districts Lack Clear Definition of College/Career Readiness

Teachers Say Critical Thinking Skills, Not Test Scores, Are Best Indicators of Readiness for College, Career

October 1, 2015

Teachers say that developing critical thinking skills, rather than scoring at a proficient level on standardized tests aligned with the Common Core, is the most important way to assess whether students are prepared for success in college and the workplace, according to an online survey by EdSource in partnership with the California Teachers Association.

California teachers also believe it is important for students to graduate from high school with the ability to complete college, vocational or certificate courses without first having to take remedial classes.

The survey of 1,000 teachers, carried out by the polling firm GBA Strategies, is the first of its kind to probe teacher attitudes and preparedness regarding college and career readiness, which is a principal goal of all major education reforms being implemented in California, including the Common Core State Standards. Teachers were randomly selected to participate in the poll...

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English Learner Tool Kit Released by U.S. Dept. of Education

October 1, 2015

On September 21, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) announced the completion of the English Learner (EL) Tool Kit to support states, districts and schools in meeting their legal obligations to ELs and ensuring access to quality education.

"Our work is motivated by the belief that all students – regardless of race, gender, income, disability, and English learner status – need and deserve a world-class education," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "This toolkit – along with the guidance we released in January – can serve as a critical resource for educators in their work with English learners to help ensure that all students have a chance to succeed in school, careers and life.”

The EL Tool Kit is a companion to the English Learner Guidance released jointly by ED and DOJ in January, 2015, and consists of 10 chapters, each chapter aligned to one of the 10 sections of the guidance. Each chapter contains easy-to-use tools and resources relevant to the topic of the chapter...

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California Transitions to New Standards, New Online Tests

Initial Release of State’s CAASPP Results Indicate There’s Still Plenty of Room for Improvement

September 17, 2015

On September 10, the California Department of Education finally rolled out the results of last spring’s statewide standardized testing – when students across the state took a new set of exams online, for the first time. The new online tests are also based on a new (and more demanding) set of academic standards (the Common Core) designed to get students thinking at a deeper level about the material they study at school.

Most teachers and administrators seem to agree that the state’s new standardized tests – the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) – ask more from students than the now-retired Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) standardized tests did in years past. And as many teacher and administrators had expected, the CAASPP results indicated that there is still plenty of room for improvement as schools adjust to the more demanding standards and exams.

“The results show our starting point as a state, a window into where California students are in meeting tougher academic standards that emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical writing,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said...

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Intel Drops Sponsorship of Prominent Competition for High School Science Students

By Quentin Hardy - September 17, 2015

(Editor’s note: On September 9, the New York Times carried a story announcing that Intel was discontinuing its support of the Science Talent Search, which has been a well-known competition for high school students for decades. A brief portion of that story appears below.)

Intel, the world’s largest maker of semiconductors, is dropping its longtime support of the most prestigious science and mathematics competition for American high school students.

The contest, called the Science Talent Search, brings 40 finalists to Washington for meetings with leaders in government and industry and counts among its past competitors eight Nobel Prize winners, along with chief executives, university professors and award-winning scientists.

Over the years, the award for work in so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – has made national headlines and been an important indicator of America’s educational competitiveness and national priorities. When it was started as an essay competition in 1942, its first topic was “How science can help win the war.” The male winner, or “Top Boy,” went on to develop an artificial kidney. The “Top Girl” became an ophthalmologist. A single winner was first named in 1949...

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Study: Encouraging Students to Make Decisions about Data Collected During Lab Courses Improves Critical Thinking Skills

By Bjorn Carey - Rep: September 3, 2015

Introductory lab courses are ubiquitous in science education, but there has been little evidence of how or whether they contribute to learning. They are often seen as primarily "cookbook" exercises in which students simply follow instructions to confirm results given in their textbooks, while learning little.

In a study published on August 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from Stanford and the University of British Columbia show that guiding students to autonomous, iterative decision-making while carrying out common physics lab course experiments can significantly improve students' critical thinking skills.

In the multi-year, ongoing study, the researchers followed first-year students in co-author Douglas Bonn's introductory physics lab course at the University of British Columbia. They first established what students were, and were not, learning following the conventional instructional approach, and then systematically modified the instructions of some lab experiments to change how students think about data and their implications...

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ACT Report Finds More Students Graduating High School College-Ready

September 3, 2015

According to ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015 Report released earlier this week, a growing proportion of high school students are graduating from high school college-ready. The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) in its analysis of the report found that while overall scores remained flat, more students scored high enough to reach the ACT college-ready benchmarks in each of the test’s four subject areas- English, reading, math, and science. The report also shows that even though college-readiness rates remain low, they have been trending higher as more states require all students to take the college entrance exam.

Overall test scores have remained between 20.9 and 21.1 for over a decade, with the exception of 2007 when the overall score reached 21.2. However, a closer look at the overall results show that white, black, and Hispanic students all saw increases in their scores over the past year. Other key highlights from the ACT Report include:

  1. Twenty-eight percent of 2015 high school graduates were college-ready in all four ACT subject tests (English, reading, math, and science), which is two percentage points higher than in 2014 and five percentage points increase since 2009...

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Cancellation of CAHSEE Causing College Admission Snafu for Some Students

August 20, 2015

On August 13, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called the University of California and California State University systems and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities to ask for their assistance in helping students who are being denied entrance into college solely because they have not passed the state high school exit exam.

"No student's dream of a college education should be delayed because of an anomaly," Torlakson said. "That's why I am working closely with college administrators and the Legislature to remedy the situation and help these students stay on track for college."

The California Department of Education is working with the Legislature to pass legislation that would suspend the exit exam requirement for the next three years because the exam does not reflect the new state academic standards being taught in schools. Senate Bill 172 has been making its way through the legislative process all year, and if it is approved and signed, students can then get a diploma without passing the exit exam...

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How the Common Core Will Help the United States Bring up Its Grade on Mathematics Education

By Max Marchitello and Catherine Brown - Rep: August 20, 2015

The Washington state technology industry is booming. The state is home to giant tech corporations such as Microsoft and Amazon, and it has the highest concentration of software companies in the country. This prosperity is expected to continue and estimated to increase the state’s science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, economy 24 percent by 2018.

A similar trend is expected nationwide. Today, 20 percent of all jobs across the country require a high level of knowledge in a STEM field. Experts predict that these fields will be among the country’s highest-growth industries in the years to come.

Less well known is that knowledge of STEM fields is important not only for highly educated workers, but also for those without a college degree. According to the Brookings Institution, “Half of all STEM jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree, and these jobs pay $53,000, on average, a wage 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements.”...

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Civil Rights Groups File Complaint Alleging Discrimination in PE Access at California Schools

August 20, 2015

A coalition of civil rights and community health groups in California has filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging discriminatory practices in access to physical education.

The City Project, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and other groups said Friday disparities continue to exist in access to physical education in public schools based on race and ethnicity throughout the state.

"Too often these ethnic and racial disparities have a devastating impact on the long-term health and welfare of our children," Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, said in a statement.

California education code requires schools to provide elementary students at least 200 minutes of PE for each 10 days of school. That requirement increases to 400 minutes for each 10 days in middle and high school...

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Just Breathe: Simple Changes Can Reduce Student Stress and Improve Learning, say Stanford Researchers

By Brooke Donald - Rep: August 6, 2015

Busy days, long nights. That’s how many middle- and high- school students might describe their schedules. Whether jobs, sports, extracurricular activities or academics is eating their time and occupying their minds, the pressure to do it all and do it all well is affecting teens up and down the economic and social spectrum.

Many teens, surveys show, end up suffering from little sleep, engaging in unhealthy behaviors like taking "study drugs," and experiencing overwhelming anxiety that extends to college and beyond. This results in less learning, not more, say Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) researchers who have worked for more than a dozen years in high-achieving schools and now have a new book outlining ways in which schools, teachers and parents can create healthier and more enriching learning environments...

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Why Can Palo Alto Grade-Schoolers Read Mandarin Better than High School Students in AP Chinese?

By Joyce Gemperlein - Rep: June 11, 2015

Stanford Graduate School of Education researchers found that 4th and 5th graders in a Palo Alto, Calif., Mandarin immersion program attained a level of linguistic competency comparable with that of nearby high school students completing the 4th and 5th level Advanced Placement Mandarin courses.

Some of those Ohlone Elementary School immersion students even outperformed the teenagers in reading. Perhaps most startling, there was little difference in achievement between the heritage learners at Ohlone and their classmates who had no previous exposure to Mandarin.

Those findings and more are detailed in the Spring 2015 issue of Foreign Language Annals from a research project led by Stanford GSE’s Amado Padilla. It is the first study to compare exiting elementary immersion students – in any language – with high school students studying the same language, he said...

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Educators Provide Four-Lesson Mini-Unit to help Students Learn about Events in Ferguson, Missouri

June 11, 2015

Travis Bristol, a research and policy fellow at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and Claude Goldenberg, professor of education at Stanford, have created a curriculum that supports teaching about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old young Black man, and the protests and civil unrest that followed in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. The mini-unit, comprised of four lessons, is presented on the website of Edutopia.

The two scholars note that the events in the St. Louis suburb, as well as the more recent death of a young Black man in Baltimore while in police custody, present schools with a challenge that they need not shy away from. “We believe that the classroom is an important arena to address these events,” they write. “Not only are most students aware of and concerned about them – especially those who live with the same realities – but addressing this trend gives our society one more tool to further change, and helps America's children learn ways to be engaged and responsible citizens.”...

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Judge Rules Abstinence-Only Sex Education Course Violated State Law

May 28, 2015

A Fresno County Superior Court judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought against the Clovis Unified School District was justified because the District’s sex education curriculum was out of compliance with California state law. The suit, American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. Clovis Unified School District, was brought on behalf of parents, physicians and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network by the ACLU of California and pro bono counsel, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.

In the first-ever ruling on California’s 2003 sex education law, Judge Donald S. Black created a legal precedent that California students have a right to sex education that is complete, medically accurate, and free of bias. This historic ruling is the first to find that abstinence-only-until marriage instruction is unlawful on the grounds of medical accuracy and bias...

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California Department of Public Health Launches New Bike-Safety Curriculum

May 28, 2015

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a new bike safety program during the first week of May, the California Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Curriculum for Grades 4 and 5. This release coincided with National Bike to School Day. The free curriculum for schools will be the first of its kind in California and was jointly developed y CDPH, the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

“We want to encourage California students to walk and bike to school so they can be more physically active, but we want them to do it safely,” said Dr. Karen Smith, director of CDPH and state health officer. “This curriculum motivates kids while teaching safe walking and bicycling behaviors. It’s a fun way to get the entire family to be more active outdoors in their community.”...

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“Nation’s Report Card 2014”

No Change in 8th-graders’ Performance in U.S. History, Geography, Civics since 2010

May 7, 2015

The overall academic performance of eighth-graders in U.S. history, geography and civics has remained unchanged since 2010, according to The Nation’s Report Card: 2014 U.S. History, Geography, and Civics, though Hispanic students have made gains in U.S. history and geography. Compared with the first U.S. history assessment in 1994 and first civics assessment in 1998, overall average scores are higher — but in 2014, 3 percent or less scored at the Advanced level in any of the three subjects. Geography is the only subject of the three in which there has not been a change in overall scores since its first assessment in 1994.

The results, released on April 29, are from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card. NAEP reports performance using average scores and percentages of students performing at or above three achievement levels: BasicProficient and Advanced. The Basic level denotes partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for grade-appropriate work; Proficient denotes solid academic performance; and Advanced represents superior work...

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California 6th Nationally in Advanced Placement Exam Scores

May 7, 2015

Earning the state a sixth-place national ranking for the second year running, California's Class of 2014 kept the momentum going in the percentage of students taking and performing well on Advanced Placement® (AP) exams, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on April 27.

According to the College Board's "AP Cohort Data: Graduating Class of 2014" report, 29.1 percent of California's 2014 graduates earned a score of three or higher on an end-of-course AP exam taken during their high school career. This represents a 2.1 percentage point increase from 2013 and is 7.5 percentage points above the national average. The state has experienced an 11.3 percentage point growth in AP performance over the past decade.

Nationally, 21.6 percent of high school graduates in the Class of 2014 scored at least a three on the five-level AP exam. Students who get at least a three can earn college credit...

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CDE Reports Record High Graduation Rate

May 7, 2015

On April 28, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson reported California's cohort graduation rate climbed for the fifth year in a row in 2014 to a record high, with the biggest jump taking place among English learners.

Among students who started high school in 2010-11, 80.8 percent graduated with their class in 2014, up 0.4 of a percentage point from the year before (Table 1). The California graduation rate has increased substantially since the class of 2010 posted a 74.7 percent rate.

The graduation rates of most student groups also rose in 2014. The graduation rate among English learners increased 2.2 percentage points from the year before and is now at 65.3 percent. For Hispanic or Latino students, the rate is 76.4 percent, up 0.7 of a percentage point from the year before. However, for African American students, the rate is 68.1 percent, unchanged from the year before (Table 2)...

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CORE Districts Submit Three Year No Child Left Behind Waiver Extension Request

April 9, 2015

Six* districts participating in CORE Districts, a partnership of 10 districts working together to improve student learning and close achievement gaps, have submitted a joint request to the U.S. Department of Education to extend their waiver of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) rules and approval of the School Quality Improvement System for federal school accountability purposes. The districts requesting an additional three-year extension of the waiver are: Fresno Unified, Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, and Santa Ana Unified.

CORE's School Quality Improvement System is a collaborative approach to school improvement focused on preparing all students for success through a focus on academic achievement, building students' social-emotional skills, and fostering a positive culture and climate in schools. Multiple measures of longitudinal growth and achievement in these areas are measured through a School Quality Improvement Index...

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NSBA’s Center for Public Education Releases White Paper on Mastering Literacy

April 9, 2015

Third grade is a critical point in every child’s education. Those who do not learn to read proficiently by the end of third grade face “daunting hurdles to success in school and beyond.”

That’s one of the important messages of “Learning to Read, Reading to Learn: Why Third Grade is a Pivotal Year for Mastering Literacy,” a white paper recently released by NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE).

Too many students are still struggling with literacy by the end of third grade – and are at risk of future failure in school and in adult life, the CPE report warns. The good news, however, is that school boards have a number of opportunities to turn things around for these children...

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High School Graduation Rates for Minority Students Improve Faster than Rest of Nation

March 26, 2015

Graduation rates for black and Hispanic students increased by nearly 4 percentage points from 2011 to 2013, outpacing the growth for all students in the nation, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, released on March 16.

What’s more, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas narrowed over that time, the data show.

“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said...

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Special Education Task Force Calls for “One Integrated System” for Students with Disabilities

March 12, 2015

A Statewide Special Education Task Force is calling for one integrated system of public education that ensures students with disabilities receive effective services, learn in classrooms that are guided by rigorous standards alongside their general education peers, and are equipped to make their own way as adults. Its report, “One System, Reforming Education to Serve All Students,” includes recommendations that transform California’s education policies and practices from early learning to special education financing.

The Task Force was formed in 2013 to study the causes of the state’s poor outcomes for students with disabilities. It was prompted by Michael Kirst, President of the State Board of Education, and Linda Darling Hammond, Chair of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and includes stakeholders from throughout California...

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Students Begin Taking Online State Exam, Marking New Era of Student Assessment

March 12, 2015

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson greeted a new era of student testing in California on Tuesday (March 10), as some 3 million California students began taking online exams in English language arts/literacy and mathematics based on the state’s more challenging academic standards.

Students in grades three through eight and eleven can now begin taking the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in the first statewide administration of new tests to replace the paper-based, multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The new tests allow students to demonstrate their ability to write analytically, think critically, and solve problems along with their knowledge of facts...

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School Recess Boosts Student Well-Being, Study Finds

March 12, 2015

A high-quality recess program can help students feel more engaged, safer and positive about the school day, according to recently published Stanford research.

In fact, recess can yield numerous benefits to an elementary school's overall climate, said Milbrey McLaughlin, the David Jacks Professor of Education and Public Policy, Emerita, founding director of Stanford's John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, and a co-author of the article, which appeared in the Journal of School Health.

"Positive school climate has been linked to a host of favorable student outcomes, from attendance to achievement," the study noted"...

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Study: High School Graduation Rate Hits Record High

February 26, 2015

U.S. students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, released on February 12. The nation's high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.

"America's students have achieved another record-setting milestone," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we're seeing promising gains, including for students of color. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families."...

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CDE Advisory Says Requiring Parent Service ‘Volunteer Hours’ is Illegal under Educational Code

February 12, 2015

Questions have arisen recently as to whether school districts or schools, including charter schools, can require parents to do work as a condition of allowing their child to enroll or otherwise receive an educational benefit or service at a school.

In a new advisory, the California Department of Education addresses parent service hours and pupil fees. The CDE cites the California Education Code, Section 49011 (b)(4), which “bars school districts and schools from requiring ‘volunteer hours’ or payment of a fee in lieu of performing volunteer hours as a condition of admission, enrollment, continued enrollment, sibling preference, attendance, participation in educational activities or receipt of credit or privileges related to educational activities.” In addition, “a fee waiver policy shall not make a fee permissible...

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UCLA Civil Rights Project Releases New Book on “Closing the School Discipline Gap”

February 12, 2015

A new book, Closing the School Discipline Gap, from The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project (CRP/CCRR) looks at disciplinary policies and practices in school that result in disparities, and provides remedies that may be enacted at federal, state, and district levels.

Educators remove over 3.45 million students from school annually for disciplinary reasons, despite strong evidence that school suspension policies are harmful to students. The research presented in this volume demonstrates that disciplinary policies and practices that schools control directly exacerbate today's profound inequities in educational opportunity and outcomes. Part I explores how suspensions flow along the lines of race, gender, and disability status. Part II examines potential remedies that show great promise, including a district-wide approach in Cleveland, Ohio, aimed at social and emotional learning strategies...

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CDE Reports Significant Drops in Suspensions and Expulsions for Second Year in a Row

January 29, 2015

On January 14, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced a 20 percent drop in the number of students expelled in 2013-14 and a 15.2 decline in the number of students suspended. This marks the second year in a row of declines in both areas.

The new figures come at a time when the California Department of Education (CDE) is working with districts around the state to implement innovative programs that reduce suspensions and expulsions, including some known as “restorative justice.”

“These numbers show that the work of the department, districts, teachers, parents, and students around the state is paying off by keeping more students in school and learning,” said Torlakson...

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Survey of Kids, Parents Provides Insight into What Makes Children Frequent Readers

January 12, 2015

On January 8, Scholastic – the global children’s publishing, education and media company – released results from the fifth edition of the Kids & Family Reading Report, a biannual national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents exploring their attitudes and behaviors around reading books for fun. Key findings reveal predictors of reading frequency, the importance of reading aloud to children at various ages, how frequently children have opportunities to read for pleasure at school and much more. For the first time, this year’s survey also includes data from parents of children ages 0–5 to shed a light on the role parents play in children’s literacy development before they enter school.

Powerful Predictors of Reading Frequency

Frequent readers – defined as children who read books for fun 5–7 days a week – differ substantially in a number of ways from infrequent readers – those who read books for fun less than one day a week...

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New Project by CTA, Stanford Enriches Instruction, Teacher and Student Learning On New Standards

December 11, 2014

In an innovative example of California’s teachers leading efforts to transform their profession and improve student learning, CTA members, including National Board Certified teachers, are teaming up with Stanford University experts for a three-year project driven by a corps of veteran classroom leaders. The main goal is to provide professional learning opportunities and expertise to educators statewide to enrich instruction and foster deeper student learning with the new academic standards.

Breaking new ground for CTA, the Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC) project involves 160 accomplished teachers and 24 education leaders and administrators who are creating professional development strategies and materials to support their colleagues in learning about and implementing the new Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards...

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Federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights Clarifies Requirements for Offering Single-Sex Classes

December 11, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released guidance on December 1 for K-12 schools that offer or want to offer single-sex classes.

In response to numerous inquiries about the legality of single-sex classes, OCR issued guidance that charts a path for schools on how they can provide boys-only or girls-only instruction while remaining in compliance with civil rights laws.

“As we receive increasing inquiries about single-sex offerings we want to be clear what federal law allows: Protect civil rights and promote achievement,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights...

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Secretary Duncan, Attorney General Holder Issue Guidance on Educating Incarcerated Youth

December 11, 2014

On December 8, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a press release announcing a Correctional Education Guidance Package aimed at helping states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America’s estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day.

The guidance package which builds on recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report released in May includes:

  1. A set of Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings that identifies promising practices for improving education programs in juvenile justice facilities, as well as areas in which Federal legal obligations apply...

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Adult Education Consortia Continue to Grow

December 11, 2014

K-12 adult education leaders are continuing to strengthen their collaboration with community colleges as they develop regional adult education consortia across the state. At the same time, ongoing funding remains a significant concern.

Seventy adult education regional consortia have been formed following the approval of last year’s Assembly Bill 86, which provided more than $25 million in grant funds for planning and implementation of the regional consortia. All 72 community college districts and more than 300 school districts are participating in the consortia, which are designed to improve the delivery of services to adult learners...

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Nearly 6 Out of 10 Children Participate in Extracurricular Activities, Census Bureau Reports

December 11, 2014

Fifty-seven percent of children between 6 and 17 years old participate in at least one after-school extracurricular activity, according to a new report released on December 9 by the U.S. Census Bureau. The report found that children were more likely to participate in sports (35 percent) than clubs or lessons like music, dance and language (both around 29 percent).

A Child’s Day: Living Arrangements, Nativity, and Family Transitions: 2011 uses statistics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine aspects of a child’s well-being, examining their participation in extracurricular activities, and how participation related to a child’s living arrangements, parental nativity status and household or economic transitions...

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CDE Announces Guidance on New Science Standards

November 19, 2014

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the state is one step closer to implementing the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) as the State Board of Education adopted a new plan on November 13.

"This plan lays out what the state, districts, and the community can do to ensure that the exciting new science standards are implemented smoothly," said Torlakson. "These standards will provide all students with a deeper understanding of science so they are better prepared for college and careers, including jobs in the high-technology fields," said Torlakson...

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Latest Physical Fitness Test Results Indicate Improvement in California Students’ Performance

November 13, 2014

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 6 that the percentage of students who met the Healthy Fitness Zone performance standards in all six areas continued to climb this year, according to the results of the 2013-14 Physical Fitness Test.

"It's encouraging to see our students becoming more fit and healthy," said Torlakson. "Students have to be healthy and alert to succeed in the classroom, in college, and in their careers, but also to lead a more fulfilling life. That's why it is so important that all of us – teachers, parents and community leaders – teach our children the importance of eating right, and exercising regularly and following healthy lifestyles ourselves so we can serve as role models."...

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Education Trust Report Examines How School Disengagement Leads to High Drop Out Rate

November 13, 2014

Nationwide, roughly 500,000 students drop out of high school each year. These students are disproportionately students of color, low-income – and male. Though graduation rates among such students are rising – often as a result of significant efforts from both educators and community groups – many students of color and low-income students continue to achieve far below their potential and gradually disengage from school. The Education Trust’s latest paper, “Butterflies in the Hallway,” digs underneath the numbers to describe in searing detail the often-gradual process of school disengagement.

“Butterflies” details the true story of Cornelius, based entirely on interviews with him and notes from his school file. While this is the story of one student, his journey bears similarity to other tales – echoing from the national statistics and experiences of young people across the country...

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Educators May Be Able to Affect Teen Cliquishness

Study Examines Why Cliques Thrive in Some High Schools More Than in Others

November 13, 2014

Go to almost any American high school and the elements of teen social networks become quickly apparent: the cliques, the pecking orders, and the varying degrees of self-segregation by race, age, gender, and social status.

For years, sociologists have identified seemingly universal human instincts that spur this kind of sorting. These include the desires for familiarity and certainty; for control and dominance; and for security and support.

But as ubiquitous as those instincts are, students in some schools form more cliquish, hierarchical, and segregated, social structures than in others. What accounts for the variation?...

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UCLA Civil Rights Project Releases Education Tool That Guides Districts on Using LCFF

October 30, 2014

At an education forum held recently by the UCLA Civil Rights Project (CRP), a new educational guide was unveiled that helps California schools, districts and teachers target the best ways to implement the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), so that it narrows the achievement gaps between California’s English Learners (ELs) and all other students. Seizing the Opportunity by CRP Co-director Patricia Gándara with Maria Estela Zárate, a faculty at CSU Fullerton, recommends research-based practices that innovate and reshape ways for addressing the educational needs of ELs.

The new guidance explains that funding under LCFF, which became law in 2013, should be “spent carefully on interventions that are supported by solid research.”...

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Report Compares Reading Skills in Different Areas

Students Are “Good Readers of Literature,” But Performance Dips When Reading Nonfiction

October 30, 2014

A new report released on October 15 by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE), examines the key role of informational reading in preparing students for college, the workplace, and day-to-day life. While U.S. students overall are good readers of literature, CPE’s analysis shows that their performance drops dramatically when tasked with reading non-literary texts.

“It is important that all students receive a world-class public education that prepares them for what lies beyond the K-12 system, be it college or career,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA‘s Executive Director. “This means providing a firm foundation in the full range of critical reading skills, including the ability to comprehend and analyze complex informational texts.”...

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New Report Finds Linked Learning Boosts Underserved Students’ Education Through Creative Use of Time

October 16, 2014

Used in conjunction with the rigorous Common Core standards, initiatives that creatively use time to accomplish ambitious academic and professional goals – such as Linked Learning – are transformative in helping students achieve positive education outcomes, a report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the Alliance for Excellent Education finds.

“Programs such as Linked Learning that help prepare students for the rigors of college and careers are making a big difference in increasing high school performance and graduation rates, especially for African American and Hispanic students,” said Tiffany Miller, Associate Director of School Improvement at CAP. “The Linked Learning approach requires students and educators to perform several tasks that do not neatly fit within the confines of a traditional school schedule and day. Through the California districts that employ Linked Learning, we can see how districts and schools are using learning time more strategically.”...

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Experimental Study Shows Major Benefits for Students Who Attend Live Theater

October 16, 2014

Culturally enriching activities, including field trips to the theater, enhance literary knowledge, tolerance, and empathy. A new experimental study published in Education Next examines the impact on students of attending high-quality theater productions of either Hamlet or A Christmas Carol. The researchers find that viewing the productions leads to enhanced knowledge of the plot, increased vocabulary, greater tolerance, and improved ability to read the emotions of others.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas constructed a randomized field trial, the gold standard of research, by offering school groups in grades 7 through 12 free theater tickets to one of the performances. A total of 49 school groups with 670 students completed the application process. Applicant groups were organized into 24 matched groups based on similarity in terms of grade level, demographics, and whether they comprised a drama, English, or other type of class...

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CDE Releases 2013-14 California High School Exit Exam Results, Pass Rate Matches Last Year

October 2, 2014

On September 19, the California Department of Education released the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) results, and the pass rate for the Class of 2014 was 95.5 percent – matching the record high passage rate from last year.

"I am pleased California's high school students continue to pass this graduation exam at record rates," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. "Dedicated educators have worked hard in difficult times to prepare students for college and careers, but we must keep striving for even higher levels of achievement so all students have the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to be successful."...

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Poll Finds Politicization, Misinformation about Common Core is Widespread among Parents

October 2, 2014

Although the Common Core State Standards were developed in tandem with educators and experts – and adopted by more than 40 states and the District of Columbia – misinformation about the standards is widespread among parents, a new poll from the Center for American Progress finds. Two new reports issued by the Center for American Progress reveal that although decades of research and teacher input informed the development of the standards, public interest and opinion of the Common Core has reacted strongly to the politicization of the standards.

“The Common Core State Standards outline a set of skills rooted in project-based learning, problem solving, and higher expectations to ensure that students receive a quality education and have the knowledge and skills to succeed after high school,” said Carmel Martin, the Executive Vice President of Policy at CAP...

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Report Examines High School Graduates Who Don’t Go On To College, Finds They Took Less Rigorous Courses

October 2, 2014

In a new report, The Path Least Taken: A Quest to Learn More About High School Graduates Who don’t Go on to College, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA), Center for Public Education (CPE) shifts the discussion about college and career readiness from graduates who go to college after high school, toward non college-goers. CPE’s analysis shows the non-college-going group to be much smaller than previously thought – only 21 percent of high school graduates don’t proceed to a two- or four- year college by age 20 and by age 26 that percentage reduces to 12.

“We must expand our conversations about college and career readiness,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA‘s Executive Director. “Both non college-going and college-going students require access to a rigorous education and student supports to be truly prepared for future success after high school.”...

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California Awarded $10.7 million Grant to Help Low-Income Students Take Advanced Placement Tests

September 4, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education announced on August 12 that it has awarded the California Department of Education a $10.7 million grant as part of its efforts to boost college-and career readiness for historically underserved students.

California's funding will help defray the costs of low-income students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

“We know that when students of all backgrounds are held to high expectations they excel. High school instruction needs to become more rigorous to foster college and career-readiness, and provide multiple pathways to success in order to prepare students for the 21st century global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan...

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UCLA Study

Tablet Computers, Combined With Interventions, Improve Communication for Autistic Children

By Kathy Wyer - Rep: July 21, 2014

In a three year study examining how different approaches to intervention can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learn to become better communicators, UCLA education and health sciences professor Connie Kasari, along with researchers at Vanderbilt University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, have found that communication for minimally verbal children can be greatly improved through interventions that are combined with the use of iPad computer tablets.

The trial involved an underserved population of 61 minimally verbal five to eight year old children with ASD. All children were treated with an intervention that combined a social communication intervention developed at UCLA with a spoken language intervention developed at Vanderbilt University...

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State Board of Education Adopts First English Framework Based on Common Core

July 21, 2014

California’s State Board of Education adopted the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools (Framework) on July 9.This is the first time in the nation that a state has adopted dual guidelines in one publication for both English language arts and English language development.

The Framework provides teachers guidance to teach the standards, which describe the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at each grade level. The Framework covers the implementation of the California Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, as well as the new California English Language Development Standards...

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More than 3.1 Million Students Took Part

California Concludes 12-Week Online “Test of Test” – And Come Next Spring, the Test Will Be For Real

Association of California School Administrators - Rep: July 7, 2014

The Smarter Balanced Field Test has concluded, capping 12 weeks of piloting new computer-based assessments that will be fully operational next year. More than 3.1 million California students took part in the tryout of the new assessments.

“Thanks to this trial run, California’s students and schools are headed into our new assessments next year with confidence about what they can expect,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “The field test gave us an opportunity to measure the quality of test items, determine our technological readiness, and experience a whole new way of testing...

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CDE Releases Blueprint to Improve Teaching of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

July 7, 2014

For California to maintain its leadership in high-tech innovation, the state must emphasize helping students become literate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said on June 30 as his STEM Task Force issued a report titled INNOVATE: A Blueprint for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in California Public Education.

"California is in a new era of education where getting students ready for college and career means acknowledging the needs of tomorrow's workforce," Torlakson said. "The new Blueprint for STEM will help us chart that course for the future and meet that demand."...

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Report Recommends Nine Steps to Smooth Transition to Common Core Standards

July 7, 2014

A new report released on June 25 by the Center for American Progress outlines a set of nine recommendations to effectively implement the Common Core State Standards and assessments. The report identifies examples of states and districts who are employing promising and effective practices to implement the Common Core, but also stresses that more work remains to ensure a smooth transition.

Noteworthy among the recommendations included in the report is a proposal encouraging states to follow a gradual three-year plan to incorporate high-stakes consequences for teachers based on test results. This gradual, step-by-step approach affords teachers additional time to acclimate to the new standards and assessments...

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“Filtering Hurts Poor Children The Most”

Over-Filtering of Internet in Schools and Libraries Harms Education, New Report Finds

June 19, 2014

Schools and libraries nationwide are routinely filtering internet content far more than what the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires, according to “Fencing Out Knowledge,” a report released on June 11 by the American Library Association (ALA). CIPA requires public libraries and K-12 schools to employ internet filtering software to receive certain federal funding.

“Over-filtering blocks access to legitimate educational resources, and consequently reduces access to information and learning opportunities for students,” said Barbara Stripling, ALA president. For example, some school districts block access to websites containing information about foreign countries, such as China and Iran...

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Hundreds of California Organizations Sign Statement Supporting Common Core

June 11, 2014

More than 300 diverse organizations have signed on in support of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments, according to Children Now, a nonprofit focused on improving children’s health and education policy in California.

Children Now coordinated the statement to show that California will stay on track to implement the English language arts and mathematics standards and new, correlated assessments that will help students prepare for higher education and careers.  In a short time, the organization was able to gather signatures from leading education, business, civil rights, parent, community, and ethnic-based groups across the state that range from the California Parent Teacher Association to the United Way and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group...

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Researchers Embrace “Paperless” Approach

Stanford/UC Santa Cruz Study Examines How Reclassification Affects English Language Learners

By Pamela Levine - Rep: June 11, 2014

(Editor’s note: This story was written for the spring 2014 issue of the GSE-IT newsletter, Digital Initiatives.)

After two years of conducting interviews and collecting and hand-coding paper-and-pencil survey data, Stanford professor of education Claude Goldenberg and UC Santa Cruz faculty associate research scientist Peggy Estrada have embraced a digital and paperless approach to field research. Their longitudinal study examines the process of reclassifying English language learners to fluent English proficient status in California and the academic and course-taking outcomes of either reclassifying to fluent English proficient or remaining in EL status...

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New Paper Highlights Lessons from High School Transfer Students on Differences among Schools

May 29, 2014

Tuning into voices of students who transfer from low-performing to high-performing high schools, “The View from the Lighthouse” – released May 28 by The Education Trust – sheds light on key differences among schools. Full of lessons for educators, this piece is intended to help spark conversations in schools working to change outlooks and outcomes for students, particularly those struggling the most.

“School environments and educators powerfully impact students,” said Ed Trust Director of Research Christina Theokas. “These stories show how students’ learning and perceptions of themselves as learners are shaped by their educational environments...

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Online Courses in Community Colleges See Major Growth — But Student Success Rates Lag

May 29, 2014

Online course enrollment in California's Community Colleges (CCC) has grown remarkably in the last 10 years, with nearly 20 percent of the students who took courses for credit taking at least one online in 2012. However, students are less likely to complete an online course than a traditional course, and they are less likely to complete an online course with a passing grade. These are among the key findings of a report released on May 14 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). It is based on longitudinal student and course level data from all 112 community colleges.

Online course enrollment at CCC—the nation's largest postsecondary system—has increased by almost 1 million since 2002...

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New Online Resource Helps School Districts Prepare High School Students for College Success

By Andrew Myers - May 15, 2014

As greater numbers of students strive for a college degree, districts are struggling with how to prepare them for the challenges ahead – to build the critical attitudes, aptitudes and skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

To address this problem, education researchers from Stanford Graduate School of Education, Brown University and the University of Chicago have released a “College Readiness Indicator Systems (CRIS) Resource Series.” The series is a free suite of educational products designed to help school districts use data to identify students and the supports they need to graduate high school and have success in college...

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Report Finds Poor and Minority Students More Likely to be Taught by Ineffective Teachers

May 1, 2014

On April 11, the Center for American Progress released a new report that finds that poor and minority students are more likely to be taught by a teacher rated ineffective and less likely to be taught by one who is exemplary.

“We’ve known for a while that poor and minority students attending U.S. public schools are more likely to be taught by underqualified or brand-new teachers,” said Jenny DeMonte, co-author of the report and Associate Director for Education Research at the Center for American Progress (CAP). “Our new report takes this idea a step further. Using new evaluation data, we found that these same children are also more likely to be taught by a teacher rated ineffective.”...

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California’s High School Graduation Rate Inches Up to 80 Percent, While Dropout Rate Dips

May 1, 2014

For the fourth year in a row, California's graduation rate inched upward, as the dropout rate fell, particularly for students of color, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on April 28.

More than eight out of 10 students statewide, or 80.2 percent, who started high school in 2009-10 graduated with their class in 2013. That is up 1.3 percentage points from the year before. Graduation rates among African-American and Hispanic students climbed faster than the statewide average, although the rates remained lower overall. Among African-American students, 67.9 percent graduated with their class in 2013, up 1.9 percentage points from the year before...

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Low-Income Students Lag Behind National Average

GradNation Report Confirms 80 Percent High School Graduation Rate, Highest in U.S. History

May 1, 2014

For the first time in U.S. history the nation’s high school graduation rate rose above 80 percent, according to the 2014 Building a GradNation report released on April 28 by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

With high school graduation rates moving in the right direction, the U.S. remains on track to meet the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Since 2006, the overall average graduation rate has increased from 73 percent to 81 percent as measured by 2012 Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates (AFGR) recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education...

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Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Releases Updated Student Success Scorecard for All 112 Colleges

April 17, 2014

On April 15, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office released the first annual update of the Student Success Scorecard that details student outcomes at all 112 colleges, with statewide improvements shown in remedial education completion rates and several other categories tracked by the online accountability tool.

The scorecard results show increased rates of students successfully completing remedial math, English and English as a Second Language. The rate of students persisting past the first year of their education increased as did the rate of students who completed 30 units, a key momentum point that bodes well for a student ultimately earning a certificate, degree or transferring...

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With Statewide Testing Underway, ACSA Seeks Insights, Comments on Smarter Balanced Assessments

April 3, 2014

With field testing of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition’s Common Core-aligned instrument under way, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) is inviting local educational agencies to comment on their implementation experiences.

The SBAC 2014 Field Test in math and English language arts is essentially a “test of the test.” In order to learn from this experience, ACSA believes the more information that can be shared depicting the local perspective, the better equipped the state will be to address issues for a successful, full implementation in the 2014-15 school year...

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Two-Language Instruction Best for English-Language Learners, Stanford Research Suggests

By Andrew Myers - April 3, 2014

Like a growing number of school systems across the country, San Francisco Unified School District is tasked with educating increasing rolls of students for whom English is not their first language. In the United States, the school-aged population has grown a modest 10 percent in the last three decades, while the number of children speaking a language other than English at home has soared by 140 percent.

Against this backdrop, researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and San Francisco Unified School District are examining student performance in various types of English language learning programs...

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Survey Finds Financial Literacy Lagging in Schools, With Few Courses Offered on Personal Finance

April 3, 2014

A new survey from the Council for Economic Education (CEE) finds that a majority of the public school students in the United States still are not exposed to economics or personal finance education despite the lessons of the recent recession.

Previous research has demonstrated that students from states with required financial education courses are more likely to save, less likely to max out their credit cards or make late credit card payments, more likely to pay off credit cards each month and less likely to be compulsive buyers...

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Federal Department of Education Quietly Approves California Testing Waiver

March 21, 2014

After several months of consideration, the U.S. Department of Education quietly granted a testing waiver sought by the California Department of Education, which gives California a one-year exemption from certain testing requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act as the state transitions from the old STAR testing system (based on academic standards that California has retired) to a new, online assessment system (based on the recently adopted Common Core academic standards). California argued that little could be gained by testing students on content and standards that are no longer being utilized in most California classrooms.

Assistant Secretary Deborah S. Delisle sent a letter announcing the federal approval of California's testing waiver...

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New Online Assessments Pushed Back By One Week

March 21, 2014

On March 14, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium – which has created the new online assessments that are replacing the old paper-and-pencil STAR tests – decided to postpone the start of testing by one week. Testing under the new system will now start on March 25, and continue through much of the remainder of the academic year, with some school districts opting to begin testing in April rather than March.

“There was nothing that was broken, there was nothing that’s wrong,” said Smarter Balanced director Jacqueline King. “We need a couple more days to run through all of that so that we can make absolutely certain that we’ve done all the quality control and due diligence that we can do.”...

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PPIC Study Finds Reclassified English Learners, When Well Prepared, “Often Do As Well As Native English Speakers”

March 6, 2014

An analysis of newly available FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and Cal Grant application data from the California Student Aid Commission released on February 25 by The Education Trust—West finds that while the number of California high school seniors who complete FAFSA and Cal Grant applications is up from last year, there are still too many students across the state who are not applying for financial aid.

The new data reveal that the number of high school seniors who completed FAFSA and Cal Grant applications rose from 2012 to 2013, from 54 percent to 61 percent and from 50 percent to 58 percent respectively...

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PPIC Study Finds Reclassified English Learners, When Well Prepared, “Often Do As Well As Native English Speakers”

February 20, 2014

Former English Learner students who have improved their facility with English to such a degree that they have been reclassified by their school districts as fluent in the English language are among the best performing students in the state. Because these Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) students have much better academic outcomes than English Learner (EL) students, policymakers conjecture that reclassifying ELs more quickly might help close the state’s persistent achievement gap between EL and non-EL or English only (EO) students. To substantiate this conjecture – and noting that the standards for reclassification currently vary greatly among school districts – policymakers are interested in assessing whether districts with more rigorous reclassification standards have systematically lower reclassification rates, but also better student outcomes, than districts with less rigorous standards...

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New Policy Brief Finds Small Class Size Really Does Benefit Less-Advantaged Students

February 20, 2014

In an education world dominated by standards and test-based accountability, some policymakers have mistakenly argued that class size does not matter – and even that large classes might actually be beneficial. Debunking this myth in her newly-released policy brief Does Class Size Matter?, Northwestern University associate professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach explains that class size does indeed matter and that small class size actually enables students to learn more and teachers to teach better. The report is published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), which is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder...

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Input Sought on Draft Civic Ed Blueprint

February 20, 2014

The California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning is rolling out its draft recommendations for improving civic learning in California’s K-12 schools. 

Meetings have been scheduled across the state to gather input as the task force prepares a blueprint to address five key areas of civic learning: curriculum and instructional practices; resources; professional learning; student assessment and school accountability; and community and business partnerships.

Meetings will be held:
• March 8, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Sheraton Hotel, LAX.
• March 20, 9-11 a.m. Larry E. Reider Education Center, Bakersfield...

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"Student Defiance" Cited Less Frequently

Survey Finds Fewer Students Suspended, Expelled, But Some Racial Disparities Linger

February 10, 2014

The number of students being suspended or expelled in California declined sharply during the last school year as more schools and districts put into place measures designed to keep young people in the classroom and learning, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on January 29.

Across the state, the total number of expulsions decreased by 12.3 percent, from 9,758 in 2011-12 to 8,562 in 2012-13. The total number of suspensions — either in-school or out of school — dropped 14.1 percent, from 709,596 in 2011-12 to 609,471 in 2012-13.

“Educators across California work hard to keep students in school and learning,” Torlakson said...

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Survey Finds Preferred Learning Style Varies By Gender, Ethnicity, Income Level

February 10, 2014

For a majority of Americans, hands-on training is the hands-down winner when it comes to learning something new in an educational environment.

According to data released last month in the 2014 Learning in America Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College, 52% of Americans listed active participation through hands-on training as the best learning method. In the telephone survey of 1,011 adults, visual demonstrations shown by an instructor finished second (28%), followed by reading from a text book (23%), using the Internet (19%), collaborating with fellow students (17%), learning by teaching others (16%), listening to a lecture (16%), and watching videos (15%)...

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New GED Test Rolls Out As New Year Begins

January 8, 2014

The highly anticipated revamp of the GED testing program launched on January 2, with the release of the new test. GED Testing Service, developer of the new test, says that adult learners have already embraced the new program. More than 26,000 students have either registered for the test or signed up for MyGED between November 30 and January 1.

“This is a momentous day for adult education, and most importantly for adult learners who need the new 2014 GED program to be ready for jobs that will support them and their families,” said Randy Trask, president of GED Testing Service. “In states such as Florida, Colorado, New Mexico — and several others — almost 80% of all jobs now require education and training beyond a high school/GED credential...

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Modeling Scientific Practice in High School Biology: Creating a Next Generation Instructional Resource

December 17, 2013

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Cindy Passmore, professor of science education at the UC Davis School of Education, Julia Gouvea, a researcher in the School of Education, Arthur Beauchamp, director of the Sacramento Area Science Project, and Rick Grosberg, founding director of the Coastal and Marine Sciences Research Institute, are leading a three-year $1.963 million effort to design an online resource of curriculum and embedded professional development to support high school biology teachers in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Ultimately, the project could result in a national model for high school biology instruction...

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CDE Expands Field Tests of New Online Exams, Seeks Federal Waiver to Avoid "Double Testing"

December 5, 2013

State officials are expanding an upcoming field test of modern, computer-based assessments so that hundreds of thousands of students may test in both math and English-language arts, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Nov. 21.

California is also applying for a "double testing" waiver from the federal government, which would allow students to avoid wasting valuable learning time by taking both the field test and a separate end-of-year state test. Assembly Bill 484, which Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., signed into law last month, ended most of the California Standards Tests and other assessments that had comprised the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting program (STAR) for the past 15 years...

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CDE Partnering with California State PTA to Provide Common Core Resources to Parents

December 5, 2013

California Department of Education officials are working with the California State PTA to get information on the Common Core State Standards into the hands of parents across California, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Nov. 19.
As part of this effort, the organizations are distributing the Parents’ Guide to Student Success—a series of resources designed to help parents understand what their children will be learning at each grade level in English-language arts and mathematics.

The guides are available in English and Spanish on the CDE Common Core State Standards Web site, as well as on California State PTA site...

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State Board of Education Adopts First Math Framework Aligned with Common Core

November 14, 2013

California’s State Board of Education last week approved the new Mathematics Framework for California Public Schoolswhich provides instructional guidance for teachers and administrators. The Framework provides grade-level explanations and examples of the standards for mathematics practice and content, integrating mathematical thinking and conceptual understanding with procedural skills and application.

"The new Framework gives educators important new guidance and resources to teach students step-by-step the mathematics knowledge and skills they need to graduate ready for college and careers," Torlakson said...

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Benefits of “Traditional” vs. “Integrated” Approach Debated

Next Generation Science Standards Finally Approved by SBE

November 14, 2013

California's move to modern new science standards took another step forward last Wednesday as the State Board of Education finally approved a preferred model for middle grade learning progressions.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) bring science instruction up to date, reflecting a new understanding of not only knowledge and skills, but of how students learn best. NGSS emphasizes a deeper focus on understanding the cross-cutting concepts within and across scientific disciplines. These new standards integrate engineering practices with science practices to help students understand the workings of science and the natural world...

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TSS and ACSA Offer Common Core Strategy Workshop for History/Social Science

October 31, 2013

Total School Solutions and the Association of California School Administrators are offering a half-day workshop in Southern California designed to help educators improve their knowledge of the Common Core Standards and increase their ability to teach them in your history/social science class.  Discover how you can better support the teachers in your school or district who are beginning this transition.  Learn about analysis tools for primary and secondary sources and ways to easily implement them into secondary World History and US History classes. This presentation will discuss questioning strategies, thesis writing, document analysis, author’s point of view, and comparison skills. Take away strategies that will make teaching tomorrow easier...

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Survey Finds California Students Make Slight Gains in Physical Fitness in Two Areas, Hold Steady in Others

October 31, 2013

California school kids made slight gains this year in two of the most important indicators of health and physical fitness, and held relatively steady overall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Oct. 24.

About 1.34 million fifth, seventh, and ninth graders took the FITNESSGRAM® this year (Table 1), nearly 94 percent of students enrolled in those grades in public schools statewide. Students in grades five and seven improved in aerobic capacity and body composition, two of the six areas that are assessed annually and considered among the most important gauges of health. Students in grade nine showed improvement in aerobic capacity, but dipped a tenth of a percentage point in body composition (Table 2)...

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National Governors Association Report Describes Five Policy Actions That Promote Early Literacy

October 17, 2013

Improving early literacy is essential to increasing high school graduation rates allowing students to be successful in postsecondary education and ensuring the prosperity of all Americans, according to a report released on October 1 by the National Governors Association (NGA).

Education standards in the United States are rising to meet the need of a highly literate, knowledgeable and skilled workforce. Unfortunately, only one-third of America’s fourth-graders are reading proficiently, a critical benchmark of success through graduation and beyond...

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Study Examines How Student Assessments Can Support Teacher Learning, Enhance Academic Progress

By Linda Darling-Hammond and Beverly Falk - Rep: October 17, 2013

As the internationally benchmarked Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, are adopted in states across the country, educators are seeking ways to support an increasingly diverse student population to meet these more demanding expectations. The likelihood that students will achieve the aims of the standards will be substantially shaped by how well teachers teach these challenging academic skills in ways that support a wide range of learners. Teachers’ understanding of the standards and their grasp of how to teach them will also influence whether the new assessments provide useful insights, rather than harmful side effects, particularly for those students who have historically been least-well-served by their schools...

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Stagnant 2013 SAT Results Suggest Only 43 Percent of Test Takers Are “College-Ready”

October 3, 2013

New data released by the College Board  on Sept. 26 reveals that only 43 percent of SAT® takers in the class of 2013 graduated from high school academically prepared for the rigors of college-level course work. This number has remained virtually unchanged during the last five years.

"While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action," said College Board President David Coleman. "We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers. Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity. The College Board will do everything it can to make sure students have access to opportunity, including rigorous course work."...

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Students from Rural Regions and Minorities Benefit Most

Field Trips to Art Museums Improve Critical Thinking, Promote Historical Empathy, and Increase Tolerance

October 3, 2013

In recent years, cultural institutions have experienced sharp declines in the number of school tours attending their exhibits. More than half of schools throughout the country eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11 according to an American Association of School Administrators survey. A new, first-of-its-kind study, currently available at www.educationnext.org, shows that students who attend school field trips to art museums show improved critical thinking skills, display stronger historical empathy, and become more tolerant. Benefits are particularly large for students from rural areas and from high-poverty schools.

The 2011 opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Northwest Arkansas created the opportunity for the study...

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SBE Adopts Next Generation Science Standards

September 5, 2013

New science standards designed to prepare students to thrive in a changing economy were approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education (SBE).

“The adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in California mark a crucial step in making sure our students are prepared to succeed after they leave our classrooms,” Torlakson said. “Scientific information and technology have changed remarkably since the last time California updated its science standards, and how and what we teach have to change with them.”...

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CDE Sends Out $622 Million to Help School Districts Implement Common Core Standards

September 5, 2013

Schools opened for the year receiving $622 million in new state funding to support the shift to the Common Core academic standards, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Tuesday.

School districts can decide for themselves how to use their share of the funds to train teachers, buy new materials, and purchase technology to help schools adapt to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which are designed to provide all students with the deeper learning, critical thinking, and other skills they need to prepare for college and a career...

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California Receives Nearly $11 Million to Cover Fees Charged to Low-Income Students for Taking AP Tests

September 5, 2013

On August 27, the U.S. Department of Education announced the award of more than $28.8 million in grants to 42 states to cover a portion of the fees charged to low-income students for taking advanced placement (AP) tests. Some $10.7 million will be coming to California.

Based on the anticipated number of test-takers and other factors, the grants under the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program are expected to be sufficient to pay all but $10 of the cost of each advanced placement exam taken by low-income students. States may opt to require students to pay a portion of the costs...

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New API, AYP and CAHSEE Numbers a Mixed Bag

By Jeff Hudson - August 29, 2013

The California Department of Education released a new batch of numbers ranking schools and school districts in terms of the 2013 Growth Academic Performance Index (API), 2013 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and the 2012-13 California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) on Thursday.

The new figures – based largely on standardized tests completed by students last spring – included a small decline in Academic Performance Index numbers as compared with the previous year – a dip widely viewed as reflecting the billions of dollars in budget cuts and deferrals in state funding for K-12 education during the past few years as a result of the state budget crisis, which resulted in a reduction in the number of teachers and an increase in class size in most California school districts...

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CDE Releases Two Publications to Help Transition to Common Core State Standards

August 29, 2013

With schools beginning the year deeply engaged in the transition to the Common Core State Standards, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Monday (Aug. 26) that the California Department of Education has released two publications to help schools and students.

CDE Press, the publishing arm of the California Department of Education, is now offering print versions of the California Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy) and California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CA CCSSM). Previously, the documents were available only online – the online versions can be read at no cost...

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New Common Core Resource Introduced for Teachers, Correlating Standards with Financial Literacy Lessons

July 25, 2013

The Council for Economic Education (CEE) has introduced a Common Core Alignment Tool, a resource to help educators meet the Common Core State Standards while teaching financial and economic literacy. Over 400 CEE lessons, designed for K-12 students at varying grades and competency levels, have been aligned with these Standards giving teachers access to a content-rich pool of classroom resources.  This easy-to-use online tool will be a helpful resource to teachers as they incorporate the Common Core into their lesson planning for the first time.

CEE’s Financial Fitness for Life curriculum, free online resource EconEdLink, and lessons like Teaching Economics Using Children’s Literature, use simulations, games and discussions to give students an applied, hands-on experience...

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New Funds Boost California Arts Council Through Enhanced Support of Arts Education Programs

July 25, 2013

The California Arts Council recently became the recipient of $2 million in savings from the 2013 State Assembly operating budget. The funds, directed to support arts and arts education programs in California communities, will help enhance local creative economies, fund effective arts learning programs, and support the growth of the state’s creative workforce.

“This investment in the arts shows that Speaker Pérez and a supportive Governor recognize the importance of the arts to our State’s economy and the needs of our creative workforce,” said Wylie Aitken, Chair of the California Arts Council, on July 15. “This is a positive first step to gain support for measures that will increase California’s arts funding and investment in future budgets.”...

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Title IX Guidance Updated to Better Support Pregnant and Parenting Students' Academic Success

July 11, 2013

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on June 25 that the Department of Education has issued a Dear Colleague letter and accompanying pamphlet on supporting the academic success of pregnant and parenting students under Title IX. This pamphlet updates and expands upon the pamphlet on this topic issued in 1991.

The pamphlet, which was sent to school districts as well as colleges and universities across the country, provides information on school retention problems associated with young mothers and fathers and the requirements related to these issues contained in the Department's regulation implementing Title IX...

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Science Educators Urge Swift Approval of Next Generation Science Standards by SBE

By Jeff Hudson - July 11, 2013

Advocates of science education gathered at UC Davis on Monday morning to urge approval of the new Next Generation Science Standards, which the State Board of Education will begin to consider this week in Sacramento.

The Next Generation Science Standards put a greater emphasis on hands-on student participation, said Phil Lafontaine, director of the California Department of Education's Professional Learning Support Division. "What we've learned in the last 20 years is that children learn science better when they do science." He added that this will be the first time California has updated science standards for K-12 students in about 15 years...

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Teacher Collaboration, Professional Communities Improve Many Elementary School Students’ Math Scores

June 20, 2013

Many elementary students’ math performance improves when their teachers collaborate, work in professional learning communities or do both, yet most students don’t spend all of their elementary school years in these settings, a new study by UNC Charlotte researchers shows. The U.S. Department of Education funded the study, which the journal Sociology of Education recently published.

As school districts work to improve math scores and narrow racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps, many schools may have overlooked the impact of teacher collaboration and professional community on student success...

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Educators Encouraged to Take an Early Look at New, Online Smarter Balanced Practice Tests

June 20, 2013

The California Department of Education is encouraging students, educators, and parents to try out the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests launched recently to familiarize themselves and the public with the new generation of computer-based assessments students will take starting in the 2014-15 school year.

“These practice tests give teachers, students, and parents a glimpse into understanding the skills and abilities our children will need to do well on test day and in preparation for college and career,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson...

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San Marcos Uses Communication, Common Curriculum and Collaboration Time to Narrow Achievement Gap

By Jeff Hudson - June 6, 2013

The San Marcos Unified School District (in San Diego County) has posted year-on-year improvements in the state’s Academic Performance Index rankings, from a score of 786 in 2007 to 871 in the 2012 Base API.

And San Marcos Unified got high marks for achieving strong academic results, and graduating high numbers of college-eligible Latino, African-American and low-income students in this spring’s ranking by The Education Trust—West. San Marcos finished in third place among California districts in the April 2013 ranking (with Baldwin Park Unified coming in first, and Clovis Unified and Los Alamitos Unified tied for second)...

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As Expected, Nine CORE Districts Resubmit Revised NCLB Waiver Request

June 6, 2013

On May 28, the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) resubmitted the School Quality Improvement System to the U.S. Department of Education as a waiver from No Child Left Behind accountability rules.

"The School Quality Improvement System radically reorients our work so that student success in multiple dimensions is at the center of every decision we make and every action we take," said Michael Hanson, Superintendent of Fresno Unified School District and president of the CORE Board of Directors. "Districts committed to participating in our system are driven by a commitment to collaborate and hold themselves and each other accountable for preparing all students for successful futures."...

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Study Finds Many High-Achieving Students “Stressed Out”

Researcher Urges Students, Parents to Consider Academic Workload When Signing Up for AP Classes

By Brooke Donald - May 23, 2013

Every May students nationwide take Advanced Placement exams in what is widely viewed as a big step toward enhancing their chances of being admitted to a top-ranked college.

But do AP courses – often considered the gold standard of secondary education – improve learning at high schools, and how do they influence students' college paths?

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, examined those questions in a new research paper that reviews more than 20 studies on AP courses.

While the findings aren't black and white, they suggest that educators, parents and students should think carefully about such classes...

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Research Conducted in Central California Districts

Study Gives Computers to Low-Income Students, Finds Limited Impact on Educational Outcomes

May 23, 2013

A new study by researchers Robert Fairlie and Jonathan Robinson of UC Santa Cruz, published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggests that simply putting computers in the hands of low-income students doesn’t necessarily improve educational outcomes.

“Our results indicate that computer ownership alone is unlikely to have much of an impact on short-term schooling outcomes for low-income children,” report Fairlie and Robinson in a new study of a large-scale randomized computer give-away experiment involving a little over 1,100 students in 15 schools (including middle schools and high schools) in California’s Central Valley...

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SBE Adopts Timeline to Provide New Common Core Math Materials by Fall 2014

May 9, 2013

California will begin its review of instructional materials based on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics this year to provide students with new print and digital materials by the fall of 2014, under a timeline approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education.

The Board approved an accelerated timeline for the review and adoption of new materials to assist schools in the transition to the new standards, which are designed to help students learn step-by-step the skills they need for college and a career.

“Today’s action keeps the remodeling of California’s education system on track to prepare students for the challenges of a constantly changing world and the jobs of the 21st century,” Torlakson said...

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Setting National Standards for English Learners is Formidable Task, Likely to Take Years to Develop

May 9, 2013

Arriving at a national definition of "English language learner" is a formidable task, best undertaken in a years-long process, a University of California, Davis, expert argued on May 1 at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Francisco.

According to Jamal Abedi, a professor of education at UC Davis who focuses on educational and psychological assessments, states use such a wide variety of criteria to evaluate English learners that devising common standards is complex.

He presented his paper, "Toward a Common Definition of English Language Learners: Issues and Options," at the conference...

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Torlakson Establishes Two New Areas for Recognizing Exemplary Schools

May 9, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson recognized 19 public schools last Friday (May 3), which are also 2013 Distinguished Schools, with two new state Exemplary Program Awards for their successful and innovative efforts to promote either the arts or physical activity and nutrition.

“If we want our students to succeed inside and outside the classroom, they need an education that takes the ‘whole child’ into account,” Torlakson said. “Encouraging creativity and good nutrition and physical activity are just some of the ways these schools are working to accomplish exactly that.”...

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Legislator: “Students of Color Disproportionately Suspended”

CDE Releases First Detailed Data on Student Suspension and Expulsion Rates

April 25, 2013

About one California student in 20 was suspended from school and one in 1,000 was expelled in the 2011-12 school year, according to data released for the first time using the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on April 19.

The data show a total of 366,629 students suspended and 9,553 students expelled among the more than six million public school students in California, a suspension rate of 5.7 percent, and an expulsion rate of 0.1 percent...

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Torlakson Announces Public Comment Period Open on New Common Core Math Framework

April 25, 2013

California is moving one step closer to implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics with the release on April 18 of the draft Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve for public comment, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

"This draft Math Framework is an important step on California's path toward the Common Core State Standards, which provide a practical way to prepare children for the challenges of a constantly changing world by learning step-by-step the practical skills they need for career and college," Torlakson said...

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Digital Text Firm Makes Splash with Product That Tells Instructors If Students Are Doing Assigned Reading

April 11, 2013

Silicon Valley startup CourseSmart, which specializes in digital textbooks, landed a lot of publicity this week in the form of splashy write-ups in national publications.

The company – which markets a product that can funnel information back to instructors, telling them how many pages of an e-text students have read, and how many minutes they have spent on their reading -- found itself featured on page one of the New York Times national edition on Tuesday, with an article headlined “Teacher Knows if You’ve Done the E-Reading,”...

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Proposed Next Generation Science Standards Released for Final Public Comment Period

April 11, 2013

New education standards that reflect the major advances in science over the past 15 years are one step closer to completion with the launch of a final public comment period before they go to the State Board of Education for adoption, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Tuesday.

Torlakson was referring to the latest draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), released on Tuesday by Achieve, Inc, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC. The NGSS were developed through a collaborative, state-level process of which California was one of the national leaders...

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Writing Instruction in the Age of Accountability

April 11, 2013

Most educators agree that writing is an essential skill for student success in school and in the pursuit of college and career. So the stakes are high for writing teachers. Unfortunately, often a lack of preparation and suffocating narrow policies of what and how to teach writing hamstring English teachers’ ability to prepare their students to master this critical skill, according to Juliet Wahleithner, a Ph.D. student in the UC Davis School of Education.

Wahleithner, whose expertise is in the teaching of writing and pre-service teacher preparation, will present a study that took a deep look at two writing teachers and the strategies they used to navigate a system and set of policies to teach writing to their students...

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Study Shows High-Achieving, Low-Income Students Typically Do Not Apply to Best Colleges

April 11, 2013

According to a study released by Hoover Institution fellow and Stanford University professor of economics Caroline M. Hoxby and Harvard University’s Christopher Avery, high-achieving, low-income students typically do not apply to the nation’s best colleges. In the study, featured in a March 16, 2013, New York Times story by David Leonhardt, Hoxby and Avery analyzed every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year. Using that data, they discovered that only 34 percent of the highest-scoring seniors in the bottom quartile of income distribution attended one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges. By comparison, 78 percent of high-achieving students from the highest-income quartile attended such a school...

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Two Reports Find Racial Disparities in School Suspensions, Provide Discipline Alternatives

April 11, 2013

On Monday, the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project released two first-of-their-kind reports that shed light on the growing use of punitive disciplinary measures and provide research-based alternatives. The reports were presented at a Congressional briefing by researchers with responses from the legislative staffers and civil and disability rights advocates on Capitol Hill. 

The first report, “Out of School & Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools,” written by Daniel J. Losen and Tia Elena Martinez...

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Torlakson Announces Continued Improvement in California’s High School Graduation Rate

April 11, 2013

Graduation rates among California’s public school students are climbing and dropout rates are falling, with the biggest gains being made among African-American and Hispanic students, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Tuesday.

Overall, nearly eight out of 10 students, or 78.5 percent, who started high school in 2008-09 graduated with their class in 2012. That is up 1.4 percentage points from the year before. Among African-American students, 65.7 percent graduated with their class in 2012, up 2.9 percentage points from the year before...

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Spanish Version of Common Core Standards Now Available

March 28, 2013

As California moves toward full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, a separate effort underway to translate the English-language arts standards into Spanish has now been completed, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Tuesday.

Common Core en Español” is a joint effort between the San Diego County Office of Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, and California Department of Education.

“At its heart, Common Core is about ensuring that all children—no matter where they come from or where they live,” Torlakson said...

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Budget Cuts Have Diminished Music, Drama, Visual Arts

State PTA Chief Says Finding Arts Education in California Schools is Like Reading “Where’s Waldo?”

By Carol Kocivar - Rep: March 28, 2013

Last week, I took my smartphone out at a formal legislative meeting in Sacramento and invited folks to listen to the “sound of music” in California public schools.

After a few moments of people straining to hear, I flipped my phone on again.

All they heard was the “sound of silence.”


That was the point.

In too many schools, too many children don’t have music education. They also don’t have quality visual arts or dance or drama...

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Feds Release New School-Level Graduation Rate Data to Better Inform Parents, District Leaders

March 14, 2013

Today the U.S. Department of Education released provisional school-level graduation rates for 2010-11 – the first school year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure for reporting high school graduates. The data release furthers the Department's efforts to provide transparent information to parents and students about their schools and ensure all schools are preparing students for college and careers.

Previously, the variety of methods states used to report high school graduation rates made comparisons among states unreliable. While the new measure is not comparable to previously reported rates, it provides a more accurate snapshot of high school graduation and can inform schools' efforts to improve going forward...

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SBE Shifts Weight on Eighth-Grade Math in API, Looks Toward Future Changes Under Common Core

By Jeff Hudson - March 14, 2013

The State Board of Education voted on Wednesday to remove penalties in terms of API scoring for eight-grade students who take a math course lower than algebra, with several SBE members insisting that they were not reducing expectations for students’ academic performance.

“I’m concerned by the assertion (by some) that we are ‘dumbing down’ what we are doing (with student testing),” said recently appointed SBE member Sue Burr. “That simply is not accurate.”...

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Effort to Help Prepare Students to Meet Common Core and Career Readiness Standards

California Joins National Partnership to Teach Students 21st Century Skills

March 14, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Monday that the California Department of Education has joined the national Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) network of 18 states, designed to teach every student real-world skills to meet the needs of a competitive global economy.

“California is part of a growing national movement to teach students the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need for college and careers,” said Torlakson. “Forging a partnership with P21 provides California with additional tools and resources to implement the Common Core State Standards and our newly revised Career Technical Education Standards. This partnership underscores our commitment to prepare every student for the challenges of a changing world.”...

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SBE Approves Anchor Standards, Completing California’s Common Core Adoption

March 14, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised the State Board of Education’s approval on Wednesday of staff-recommended anchor standards for English-language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects (ELA and Literacy). This completes California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that spell out clearly the broad skills students need to succeed in college and careers.

“The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for ELA and Literacy set out the broad educational goals of the Common Core, giving students, teachers, and parents a tool that complements the standards for specific subjects and grade levels,” Torlakson said...

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Annual Tests to be Overhauled Over Two Years

More Than 1,100 California Schools Taking Part in Pilot Testing of Computer-Based Assessments

February 28, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on February 20 that more than 1,100 schools across California will be participating in computer-based pilot testing being coordinated by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The pilot test is a key milestone in the effort to overhaul the state's testing system over the next two years.

"It's gratifying to see so many schools accept the challenge of taking part in this pilot test, which is an important step toward our goal of creating a testing system that measures how ready our students are for the challenges of a changing world," Torlakson said...

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New Pathways for Students to Get Degrees with Guarantees

Community College, CSU Leaders Discuss 557 Streamlined Associate Degrees for Transfer

February 28, 2013

Speaking in Sacramento with student journalists from colleges up and down the state on Feb. 20, leaders from the California Community Colleges and California State University on Wednesday announced that 557 streamlined Associate Degrees for Transfer are now available at community colleges, and CSU is welcoming the transfer students in greater numbers.

Erik Skinner, deputy chancellor of California Community Colleges, and Ephraim Smith, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for CSU, briefed representatives of college news organizations on the considerable progress that both systems have made in building transfer degree pathways for community college students...

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Feds Clarify Schools' Obligation to Provide Equal Opportunity to Students with Disabilities during Extracurricular Athletics

January 31, 2013

On January 25, the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued guidance clarifying school districts' existing legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities. In addition to explaining those legal obligations, the guidance urges school districts to work with community organizations to increase athletic opportunities for students with disabilities, such as opportunities outside of the existing extracurricular athletic program.

Students with disabilities have the right, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, to an equal opportunity to participate in their schools' extracurricular activities...

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Schools Encouraged to Take a Moment to Remember Civil Liberties Pioneer Fred Korematsu

January 31, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is encouraging all Californians to take a moment to observe the third annual "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution," as well as participate in the Korematsu Day events throughout California.

"History offers us many lessons, among them the cost of war and racism, and the strength it takes to achieve justice," said Torlakson. "Korematsu Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on all this and more."

Korematsu Day was officially observed on Wednesday, January 30, 2013. Fred T. Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, on that same day in 1919...

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Challenging Lingering Stereotypes of Gender, Ethnicity

Researcher Draws on Background as Phone Installer to Make Computer Science Accessible to More Students

By Joanie Harmon - January 18, 2013

Jane Margolis, one of the driving forces behind the Into the Loop Alliance – which brings several agencies together to serve students in Los Angeles -- speaks from personal experience about her commitment to making computer science accessible for all students, particularly students of color in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

Margolis says that her earlier experiences as a telephone installer for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph (PT&T) in the 1970s taught her about the inequities that existed in technology fields...

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Move Allows Progress Toward Common Core Implementation

State Board of Education Adopts Changes to Math Standards, Including Algebra Requirement

January 18, 2013

The State Board of Education voted on Wednesday to modify the California Additions to the adopted Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM).

The Board’s action will help the state continue its progress toward implementing the Common Core State Standards, and provides options for accelerating to higher mathematics in middle school while maintaining the requirement that all students pass Algebra I before graduating from high school.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who was required under Senate Bill 1200 to propose modifications that include basing Algebra I on the Common Core State Standards, praised the Board’s action...

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Recommends Suspension of Some Testing to Prepare for Common Core

Torlakson Proposes New Statewide Testing System

January 10, 2013

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson hosted a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a set of recommendations to state lawmakers that would shift the focus of standardized testing in California and require students to think more critically, solve more problems, and show a greater depth of knowledge — key tenants of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In a report to the Governor and Legislature, Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, Torlakson made a dozen recommendations that would fundamentally change the state’s student assessment system...

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First Participants Selected for New Pilot Program Linking Academics and Career Readiness

January 10, 2012

Twenty participants throughout California will be the first to take part in a new state program designed to help students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in careers and college, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on January 4.

Legislation (AB 790) by former Assembly Member Warren Furutani approved last year called for the establishment of these Linked Learning pilot programs. The participants selected by the California Department of Education in conjunction with outside partners include school districts, county offices of education, and several regional consortia of education agencies...

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Action Briefs Outlining Common Core Implementation Available for School Leaders, Counselors

January 10, 2012

A series of action briefs outlining the role of school counselors, secondary school leaders, and elementary school leaders in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been released by the nonpartisan, nonprofit education advocacy group Achieve, in partnership with College Summit, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP).

"The action briefs provide school leaders a deeper understanding of the CCSS and spell out the leaders' critical role in implementation...

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Second Public Draft of Next Generation Science Standards Now Available for Review

January 10, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Tuesday that the second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is now available for public review and comment until January 29, 2013.

NGSS is a new set of voluntary, rigorous, internationally benchmarked science standards. The new draft can be found at Next Generation Science Standards, where viewers may leave public comments.

“California is an economic powerhouse whose engine runs in part on our leadership in science and technology,” said Torlakson...

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Report on Teacher Preparation Recommends Bar-Like Exam and Demonstration of Teaching Competency

December 13, 2012

All future teachers should be required to meet a universal and rigorous bar that gauges mastery of subject-matter knowledge, much like the bar exam lawyers must take before they can enter the legal profession, and demonstrates competency in how to teach, the American Federation of Teachers said in a report on boosting the standards for teacher preparation, which was released on December 2.

"Raising the Bar — Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession," issued by the AFT Teacher Preparation Task Force, urged a move toward a systemic approach to preparing teachers and a more rigorous threshold to ensure that every teacher is ready to teach...

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Nearly 140 California Schools Participating

College Board, Google and DonorsChoose.org Expand Access to AP® STEM courses in 800 Public Schools

December 13, 2012

On December 4, The College Board formally announced the AP® STEM Access program – a program created to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented minority and female high school students who participate in Advanced Placement Program® courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. A $5 million grant from Google as part of its Global Impact Awards to DonorsChoose.org will make it possible for this program to invite over 800 public high schools across the country to start new AP math and science courses and to encourage traditionally underrepresented minority (black/African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native) and female students who demonstrate strong academic potential to enroll and explore these areas of study and related careers...

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LAO Releases Recommendations on Restructuring California's Adult Education System

December 13, 2012

(Editor’s note: The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released a report on Dec. 5 assessing Adult Education programs in California, and recommending a number of changes. The executive summary of the report is reproduced here; click on the link at the end of the executive summary to read the entire report.)

Executive Summary

Adult Education Serves Multiple Purposes. The core mission of adult education is to provide adults with the basic knowledge and skills they need to participate in civic life and the workforce. Adult education serves undereducated and under skilled state residents who have educational objectives such as learning to speak English; passing the oral and written exams for U.S. citizenship; earning a high school diploma; receiving job training; and obtaining proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics to succeed in collegiate coursework...

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States Report New High School Graduation Rates Using More Accurate, Common Measure

November 29, 2012

On Nov. 26, The U.S. Department of Education released data detailing state four-year high school graduation rates in 2010-11 – the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure. The varying methods formerly used by states to report graduation rates made comparisons between states unreliable, while the new, common metric can be used by states, districts and schools to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide.

The new, uniform rate calculation is not comparable in absolute terms to previously reported rates. Therefore, while 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot...

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California School Kids' Physical Fitness Test Results for 2012 Hold Steady

November 29, 2012

Physical fitness scores for California's school kids are holding steady, with about 31 percent of students posting healthy scores in all six of the tested areas for the second year in a row, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on November 16.

The 2012 Physical Fitness Test was administered to approximately 1.3 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders, representing more than 93 percent of the total number of students enrolled in those grades in California public schools (Table 1). The state tracked the same groups of students — or "cohorts" — through the physical fitness tests in grades five, seven, and nine, which showed marked improvements in physical fitness over the years (Tables 6 and 7)...

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SBE Approves New Standards for English Language Development, Aligned to Common Core Standards

November 15, 2012

The State Board of Education formally adopted new English Language Development Standards on November 7 – standards that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and designed to help English learners build critical knowledge and skills.

“These new standards will help California's English learners make academic progress as they also develop their skills in English,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “The teachers, researchers and scholars who helped develop these new standards have done incredible work that will help every child receive a world-class education and graduate ready to contribute to the future of our state.”...

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Torlakson Hails SBE's Approval of Instructional Materials Aligned to Common Core State Standards

November 15, 2012

Providing a crucial bridge for schools as they shift to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the State Board of Education (SBE) approved the first supplemental instructional materials, aligned to the new standards, on Nov. 7.

“Approval of these materials gives schools another new tool as they work to bring the new Common Core standards to life in California's classrooms, providing a practical way to prepare children for the challenges of a constantly changing world,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “These materials—and those that will follow—focus on the key knowledge and skills students need for college and a career.”...

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"Shape of the Nation" Report Reveals State Loopholes Stalling Progress of Physical Education Programs

November 15, 2012

The 2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA, released November 13 by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association, finds that while 74.5 percent of states mandate physical education in elementary through high school, most still fail to require a specific amount of instructional time and nearly half allow exemptions, waivers and/or substitutions. These "loopholes" reduce the effectiveness of policy efforts to ensure the quality of physical education currently taught in the nation's schools...

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Basketball Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Serve as School STEM Ambassador

November 1, 2012

Basketball legend and New York Times best-selling author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will help lead efforts to boost after school STEM learning opportunities for California's kids, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on October 15 at the California STEM Summit in San Diego.

Education in STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—is widely considered to be one of the keys to California's economic future. It is a major cornerstone of Torlakson's Blueprint for Great Schools and the focus of a task force he created in the spring...

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Only 79 Schools Manage to Exit PI

API Finds Majority of Schools Meeting State Targets – But 858 Schools Go Into PI Year One Under AYP

By Jeff Hudson - October 18, 2012

If you put it in a nutshell, the latest batch of numbers from the California Department of Education show California’s schools gaining ground academically as measured by the state – but doing poorly as evaluated under the harsher and much-criticized federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

The CDE’s press release last week trumpeted the good news under the state’s accountability system:

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced on Oct. 11 that for the first time a majority of California's public schools met or surpassed the statewide target for academic achievement on the 2012 Academic Performance Index (API)...

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Academic Decathlon Seeking More High Schools to Participate in Annual Competition

October 18, 2012

The California Academic Decathlon Board met recently in the Sacramento offices of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) to undertake a discussion on expanding its competition both nationally and internationally.

ACSA Assistant Executive Director Joseph Jones is currently the president of the United States Academic Decathlon Board. He noted California has an outstanding state program.

“We are thrilled with the success of the decathlon here in California, as well as throughout the United States,” Jones said...

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Collaboration, Investment Help in Disadvantaged Communities

Study: Current School Turnaround Policies 'More Likely to Cause Upheaval Than to Help'

October 4, 2012

A new report, “Democratic School Turnarounds: Pursuing Equity and Learning from Evidence,” by Tina Trujillo at the University of California, Berkeley and Michelle Renée of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, suggests that government agencies and policy-makers, including the U.S. Department of Education, would be wise to look at educational research as they guide school turnarounds. Evidence shows that top-down, punitive efforts that are currently in vogue are ineffective and counterproductive. A collaborative, community-driven approach combined with significant, sustained financial investment and a focus on teaching and learning has been proven to be the better path to school improvement...

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Latinos Now Account for Largest Share of SAT Scores in California, Torlakson Notes

October 4, 2012

SAT® results released September 24 by The College Board show that for the first time, Latino students in California public schools represented a larger percentage of SAT test-takers than any other ethnic group.

Reflecting the state’s growing diversity, nearly 70 percent of California’s public school test-takers in the Class of 2012 were minority students, and of those, 36 percent—or 69,832 students—were Latino. This compares to 29 percent—or 56,590 test-takers—who were white; 22 percent—or 42,121 test-takers—who were Asian; and 7 percent—or 13,101 test-takers—who were African American...

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Romney Cool Toward New Common Core Standards in Remarks at Education Forum

October 4, 2012

Dozens of states are in the process of implementing the new Common Core curriculum standards, were strongly promoted by governors (from both the Democratic and Republican parties)

But Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, was decidedly cool when the topic of the Common Core standards came up during NBC’s “Education Nation Summit,” a forum held in New York last week.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked Romney, “Governor, what do you make of ‘Common Core’?”...

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Number of Students Proficient in Math Nearly Doubles

CSU Survey Finds English, Math Proficiency Continues to Increase for State's 11th-Graders

September 20, 2012

California State University announced last Thursday that its Early Assessment Program (EAP) testing results for 2012 show the number of eleventh graders ready for college level English and math continues to increase since the voluntary test was launched in 2006. Nearly 39,000 more students are demonstrating proficiency in English than when EAP testing was first instituted while the number of high school juniors who are ready for college level math has nearly doubled in that same time span...

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Computer-Based Design Used to Assess Student Writing

NAEP Finds More than Three-Quarters of 8th and 12th-Graders Perform At or Above the "Basic" Level

September 20, 2012

For the first time in its history, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has used computers to assess students’ writing, with national samples of 8th- and 12th-grade students. Results from NAEP — also known as The Nation’s Report Card — showed that more than 75 percent of students at grades 8 and 12 performed at or above the Basic achievement level, meaning that they have at least partial mastery of the knowledge and skills needed to communicate clearly in writing. But only about a quarter of the 8th and 12th graders wrote at or above the Proficient level, which means they demonstrate solid academic performance...

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Online Professional Learning Community Includes New Features to Inform and Inspire Adult Educators

September 20, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education has re-launched its first-ever online, professional learning community for adult educators called the “Literacy Information and Communication System” (LINCS). The site provides adult educators with access to resources; on-demand, web-based professional development opportunities, including online courses and targeted face-to-face trainings; and a connected network of practitioners, called a “community of practice.” LINCS also offers specialized tools, including the ability for educators across the country to engage in real-time discussions...

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Study Finds Push for Eighth Grade Algebra Yielding Mixed Results in Terms of Student Achievement

September 6, 2012

A new study authored by UC Davis professors Paul Heckman and Jamal Abedi, along with Jian-Hua Liang of the California Department of Education (Ed.D. from UC Davis, 2009) examines California’s push for students to take algebra as eighth-graders – a policy pushed hard by Arnold Schwarzenegger during his term as Governor. The study finds that the percentage of students who go on to take more advanced math courses as high school students is not as high as the backers of eighth-grade algebra had hoped.

The percentage of California eighth graders taking algebra has steadily risen, from 32% in 2003 to 59% in 2011...

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Torlakson Notes Progress Despite School Budget Cuts

2012 STAR Results Reflect Gradual, Ongoing Rise in English and Math Scores

September 6, 2012

The 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results marked the ninth straight year California students improved their performance on annual statewide mathematics and English-language arts exams, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on August 31.

Approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2012 STAR program (taking tests last spring), with 57 percent scoring proficient or above in English-language arts and 51 percent scoring at proficient or above in mathematics...

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Ninety-five Percent Meet Graduation Requirement

High School Exit Exam Results Show Slight Gain

August 23, 2012

The percentage of students from the Class of 2012 meeting the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) graduation requirement increased slightly over last year to 95 percent, marking the sixth straight year of improving performance, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced this week.

“When 95 percent of California students are hitting the mark — despite the tremendous challenges we face and the work we still have to do — there’s an awful lot going right in our public schools,” Torlakson said...

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Fed Chief Outlines Tips for Classroom Teachers

Bernanke Says Financial Education in Public Schools Plays Vital Role in Future Economic Health of Nation

August 9, 2012

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke stressed the importance of financial education during his remarks at a Teacher Town Hall Meeting, held at the Federal Reserve Board’s offices in the nation’s capital on Tuesday.

“As an educator myself, I understand the profound effect that good teachers and a quality education have on the lives of our young people,” Bernanke said. (He has taught at Stanford, Princeton, New York University and George Washington University.)...

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New State-by-State College Attainment Numbers Show Progress toward 2020 Goal

July 19, 2012

In remarks delivered at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association in Williamsburg, Va., on July 13, federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised governors for increasing college completion but also challenged states to maintain support for higher education while urging colleges and universities to hold down tuition.

"Every capable, hard-working, and responsible student should be able to afford to go to college. That's not a Democratic dream or a Republican one. It's the American Dream," Duncan said...

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Obama Administration Reaches Agreements with Four Districts to Increase Athletic Opportunities for Girls

July 19, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education announced on July 2 that its Office for Civil Rights has reached agreement with four school districts to ensure that equal athletic opportunities are provided for thousands of girls. The four districts include the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, N.C., the Houston Independent School District, in Houston, Texas, the Columbus City Schools in Columbus, Ohio, and the Deer Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, Ariz.

These four agreements are the first resolutions of the 12 complaints filed by the National Women’s Law Center...

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Many Students Not Engaged in Rigorous Learning Activities

California Students Say Schoolwork Is Too Easy

July 19, 2012

The Center for American Progress released a new state-by-state analysis of student surveys that looks at the rigor of school work and how much students are engaged in an education that will prepare them for college and the modern workplace.

The report found, for instance, that in California, 42 percent of fourth-graders say that their math work is often or always too easy. Also, 29 percent of eighth-graders report that they read less than five pages either in school or at home...

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Torlakson Announces More Than 10,000 Students Earn New State Seal of Bi-literacy

July 19, 2012

More than 10,000 graduating high school students across California have earned the first state recognition in the nation for achieving proficiency in multiple languages, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on July 5.

The “State Seal of Bi-literacy” was established per Assembly Bill 815 (Brownley) to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more languages in addition to English. It takes the form of a gold seal affixed to the high school diplomas of qualified students. School district participation in the program is voluntary...

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Summer Learning Programs for Kids Face Cutbacks, Even While Operating at Peak or Above-Peak Capacity

June 28, 2012

Summer learning programs for kids are facing growing enrollment and tighter budgets, according to a new survey released on June 21 by the Afterschool Alliance.

Nearly a fifth (17 percent) of summer programs reported reducing their services last summer due to budget pressures, while more than half (54 percent) said they expect increased enrollment this summer.

The results are part of the Afterschool Alliance's ongoing Uncertain Times survey project, gauging the effect of budget pressures and the economy on out-of-school-time programs...

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High School Students Not Prepared for College Work

New Report Suggests California Needs a New Way to Measure College and Career Readiness

June 28, 2012

California’s public schools have some of the strongest content standards in the country. Yet many students who have come through the state’s school system are failing placement examinations when they get to California colleges. Instead of taking college-level English courses, they are shunted off into remedial classes.

When a group of high school educators met with their local universities to address the problem, they found a surprising explanation. The students had excelled at what they were taught. But what they were taught had very little to do with what those students would need when they entered college...

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Students Struggle to Explain Their Experiments

The Nation's Report Card Releases Results from Innovative, Expanded Science Assessment

June 28, 2012

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released a study on June 19 measuring how well students apply their understanding of science in real-life contexts. The Nation's Report Card Science in Action: Hands-On and Interactive Computer Tasks from the 2009 Science Assessment marks the first time that both tasks were included as part of the NAEP science assessment.

Today's results reveal that America's fourth, eighth, and 12th graders can conduct science investigations using limited data sets, but many students lack the ability to explain results...

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Torlakson Notes Gains Among English Learners Taking California English Language Development Test

June 14, 2012

On May 30, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released the results of the 2011–12 California English Language Development Test (CELDT) that show gains among English learners, with an increasing percentage becoming proficient in their new language.

“We want every English learner to become proficient while making progress in all academic subjects,” Torlakson said. “These results show our students are making important strides toward English language fluency, which will help them tremendously as they work toward their educational goals.”...

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Torlakson Creates Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Task Force

May 31, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has created a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Task Force to look at how to improve learning and engage more students in scientific and technical fields, widely considered a key to the state’s economic future.

“California has always led the way in science and technology — and our future success depends on fostering an interest in these fields among our students,” Torlakson said. “Our classrooms are filled with the leaders of tomorrow, and we need to give them every opportunity to reach their potential.”...

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Workshops for Site, District Leaders Set for May 16-17

Mastery. . . Not Mystery: Addressing Race, Culture, and Equity Issues in Education

May 10, 2012

This workshop is designed to help K-12 educators develop systematic responses to address the diverse levels of student need in cross-cultural and multicultural settings in order to embed a culture of social justice and equity in schools and districts. As diverse and conflicting perspectives are examined, those in attendance will experience the complexity of views and perceptions of multicultural populations coexisting in a pluralistic society.

Attendees will learn how to provide visionary leadership in educational reform with respect to creating more equitable school sites...

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Parents Encouraged to Plan Activities That Help Prevent Children's "Summer Reading Loss"

May 10, 2012

To help California parents prevent their children from falling prey to “summer learning loss” during the summer vacation months, the statewide “Summer Matters” Campaign has released two Summer Learning Checklists to assist parents in avoiding summer learning loss and supporting their children’s education over summer break.

A vast body of research shows that when children are not engaged in summer learning and enrichment activities they suffer “summer learning loss” – a loss in academic skills and knowledge during the summer months that can set them back academically when the school year begins...

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Torlakson Urges Districts to Step Up Security

Images of Standardized Tests Turn Up on Social Networking Sites, Raising Concerns

May 3, 2012

The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers reported last week that “hundreds of photos of standardized tests have begun to appear on social-networking sites in California, raising concerns about test security and cheating by students.”

In an April 28 story, education reporter Howard Blume of the LA Times wrote:

In the worst-case scenario, the photos could lead to invalidating test scores for entire schools or prevent the state from using certain tests. For now, officials have warned school districts to heighten test security and investigate breaches...

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Torlakson Picks Patrick Traynor as Director of CDE's Assessment Development and Administration Division

May 3, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Tuesday that Patrick Traynor, Ph.D., will serve as Director of the California Department of Education’s Assessment Development and Administration Division, which manages all statewide assessments.

“Dr. Traynor comes to this important position with the right combination of experience and skill, as well as a history of working on behalf of California’s kids,” said Torlakson. “His background as a teacher and a researcher will be invaluable as we align our student assessment system with the new Common Core State Standards, a significant step toward preparing students for success in college and career.”...

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UCLA Releases Three Studies Examining Why Fewer Latino, Black Community College Students Move Up

April 19, 2012

Researchers with the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA have released a trio of reports examining why California’s community colleges are seeing a comparatively low percentage of Latino and black students transferring on to four-year colleges and universities.

The three studies, which were released recently by the research group in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, shed light on the faulty mechanisms underlying California’s poor record of transfer and make sweeping recommendations on what must be done to help more students of color earn college degrees...

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Report Estimates More than 400,000 Students Suspended, Removed from State’s Schools in 2009-10

April 19, 2012

A new report (released on April 10) by UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project, Suspended Education in California’s Public Schools, estimates that more than 400,000 students were suspended and removed from classrooms at least one time during the 2009-10 school year in California – enough to fill every seat in all the professional baseball and football stadiums in the state.

The California Department of Education reports over 750,000 total suspensions for the same year. These two estimates are consistent because many students were suspended two, three or even more times that year...

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Students Failing CAHSEE on First Try Less Likely to Graduate

Audit for Latino Legislative Caucus Finds High Drop Out Rate Among Latino, African American Students

April 4, 2012

At the request of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the California State Auditor conducted extensive research into the new reporting of high school graduation and dropout data by the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). The report, “High School Graduation and Dropout Data: California's New Database May Enable the State to Better Serve Its High School Students Who Are at Risk of Dropping Out,” was released March 16.

“Finally, we have a comprehensive report verifying exactly where we stand in terms of graduation rates and dropout rates,” said Assemblyman Jose Solorio...

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Poll Shows Support for Improving Science Education

April 4, 2012

A poll released March 30 shows voters are virtually unanimous — 97% — in believing that improving the quality of science education is important to the United States' ability to compete globally. Moreover, making sure American students receive a world-class education in math and science ranked second only to fixing the nation's financial health as a strategy for improving America's economic competitiveness with other countries.

Speaking at the National Science Teachers Association Annual Conference in Indianapolis, Dr. Stephen Pruitt, Achieve's Vice President of Content, Research and Development, discussed the survey results...

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CDE Presents Plan to Implement Common Core State Standards to Governor, Legislature

March 22, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Tuesday that the “Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Systems Implementation Plan for California” has been presented by the California Department of Education to the executive and legislative branches of state government.

“After months of planning and collaborating with our implementation partners, we have presented the Governor and State Legislature with a living document to guide California’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards,” said Torlakso...

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CST, CMA Results Should Be Available in Days, Not Months

Torlakson, Kirst Applaud Testing Changes

March 8, 2012

On Wednesday, the State Board of Education approved several changes to the state’s agreement with Educational Testing Service regarding the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program. The move was hailed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

Torlakson said, “In keeping with the Governor’s State of the State address, the steps we are taking today will significantly reduce the time it takes to provide test scores to districts and schools...

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M.I.N.D. Institute Researchers Examine "Educational Interventions for Students with Autism" in New Book

March 8, 2012

The new book “Educational Interventions for Students with Autism” offers educators a vital resource for understanding and working with autistic students. Written by nationally acclaimed experts in the field and published in collaboration with the world-renowned UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, the book aims to deepen educators' appreciation of the challenges surrounding autism in a classroom setting and the current best practices in education for autism.

To best meet the practical needs of teachers, school administrators, and parents, the book includes integrative summaries throughout, with recommendations for real-world classroom use...

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Report Finds Students Benefit From High School Rigor, But Student Access to Advanced Programs Unequal

March 8, 2012

The National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education released a new report on Wednesday, "Is high school tough enough?" finding that U.S. students benefit from a rigorous high school curriculum, but access and equality to advanced programs continue to plague many schools.

The report reviews the research behind effective curricular strategies for promoting high school rigor in the U.S. and focuses on strategies commonly used by school districts to strengthen the high school curriculum: Advanced Placement (AP) courses, high-level math courses, dual enrollment programs, and early college high schools...

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Three Events in March

Institutes Focus on Closing the Achievement Gap for Latinos, African Americans, and Students with Disabilities

February 23, 2012

Total Schools Solutions (TSS) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) are presenting three one-day institutes during March designed to help school districts develop and implement strategies to close the achievement gap for specific groups of students.

These institutes follow the successful and well-attended institute titled Closing the Achievement Gap for Latino Students and English Learners, held on January 28 in Ontario. That seminar drew some 240 attendees, who heard presentations from representatives of select school districts, the Fresno County Office of Education, and California State University Fresno, sharing specific strategies that have improved student performance in their program...

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Torlakson Unveils Career Readiness Initiative to Lower Dropout Rate, Prepare Students for Careers

February 23, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled his Career Readiness Initiative on February 14. The initiative is designed to help lower dropout rates and provide graduates with the career readiness skills needed to pursue further education and training, be prepared to enter the workforce, and help the state rebound from its economic recession.

The multi-faceted initiative is aimed at integrating career technical education (CTE) into today's high school curriculum and helping link students with California business and industry...

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Deadline to Apply is March 1

Experts Sought for Panel Revising K-12 English Language Development Standards

February 9, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson sent a letter Monday seeking experts to serve on a panel that will revise English Language Development standards for California students.

In his letter, Torlakson wrote:

The California Department of Education (CDE) is pleased to announce that it is recruiting a panel of experts for the revision of the English Language Development Standards for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve...

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Upcoming Conferences Will Help Districts Plan Transition to Common Core Standards

January 26, 2012

The Common Core Standards are coming. But jumping to the new standards may undo current Program Improvement work and inadvertently have a negative impact on student achievement.

Total School Solutions (TSS) is partnering with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) to present workshops in four different locations to help educators prepare.

“Mapping the Most Strategic Road to Common Core Grade-by-Grade and Year-by-Year” is the title of the workshop, which is aimed at site and district leadership teams...

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Several Schools Now Named in Honor of Civil Rights Pioneer

Torlakson Urges Public to Observe Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties on January 30

January 26, 2012

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is encouraging all Californians to observe the annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution on Korematsu's birthday, Monday, January 30, 2012.

“It's critical for Californians to know the story of Fred Korematsu: his fight against racism and wrongful internment and his devotion to righting a great wrong,” said Torlakson. “That's why I urge everyone to take a moment to study this case, so that we may never repeat the shameful moments of our nation's past.”...

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Torlakson Launches New Task Force to Recommend Ways to Strengthen California's Teacher Corps

January 26, 2012

Carrying out a central element of his Blueprint for Great Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on January 20 the creation of an Educator Excellence Task Force to recommend ways to strengthen California's teacher corps.

The task force will be a joint effort between the California Department of Education and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. It will be co-chaired by two nationally recognized education leaders: Stanford University's Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser of Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest district in California. The full membership of the task force will be announced soon...

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CDE Releases Publication to Help Schools Transition to Common Core State Standards

January 12, 2012

With California schools preparing to move to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that will redefine what students learn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced in late December the publication of a new book to help teachers and administrators make the transition.

The new hard-copy publication, A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Six in California Public Schools: Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, provides information for educators on curriculum planning and professional development in the new standards, which were formally adopted last year...

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Contest Aims to Help High School Students, Families to Better Calculate the Rising Cost of College

January 12, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education has launched the College Net Price Calculator Student Video Challenge in an effort to broaden public awareness of tools on the Department’s website that help parents and students research the cost of a college degree.

Net price calculators give families a better sense of how much they would actually pay to attend a particular institution by factoring in which grants and scholarship aid students may be eligible for.

“Having a college degree has never been more important. And getting one has never been more expensive,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan...

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Fewer States Requiring High School Exit Exams, More States Favoring College-and-Career Readiness Test

December 15, 2011

For the first time in six years, the number of states requiring students to pass high school exit exams to earn a diploma has gone down, according to the tenth annual report on high school exams and other assessments by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), released on December 8, 2011.

But at the same time, more than half the states are preparing for new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards and more than one-fourth are offering college and career readiness assessments, the report finds...

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Organizations Emphasize Alignment of P-3 Education, Report Recommends Best Practices for Improving Early Learning

December 15, 2011

Several of the nation’s leading education organizations joined together on December 7, 2011 to support alignment of preschool through third grade (P-3) education. The Pre-K Coalition — comprised of the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) — released a brief titled The Importance of Aligning Pre-K through 3rd Grade, which details best practices and recommendations for improving early learning. 

According to the brief, a comprehensive P-3 approach is critical to ensure that children develop a solid foundation in literacy, math, and social-emotional skills...

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McGraw-Hill Education to Cut 550 Jobs as Company Contemplates Digital Products

December 15, 2011

McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. announced on December 7, 2011 that the company will cut about 550 jobs from its textbook unit as it proceeds to split into two companies.

The company said in September that it will split into McGraw-Hill Financial and McGraw-Hill Education. The move followed a yearlong review of the company’s business.

New York-based McGraw-Hill suggested that it expects more job cuts in advance of the company’s separation, saying it will look to “realign administrative support for a leaner overall cost structure.”...

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New "Hybrid" Charter Will Operate 12 Hours a Day, Seven Days a Week

December 15, 2011

In a move that authorizes an unusual education model, the Los Angeles Unified School District has authorized a charter high school, affiliated with the USC Rossier School of Education, which will run up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week and year-round to serve students at risk of dropping out due to work and family responsibilities.

USC Hybrid High was granted its charter on December 6, 2011 by the Los Angeles Unified School District, paving the way for the charter school to open near the USC University Park campus in September...

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Less Than One-Third of Students Post "Healthy" Score in All Six Areas of Latest State Physical Fitness Test

December 1, 2011

With only 31 percent of students posting healthy scores in all six areas of the latest Physical Fitness Test, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson joined retired NBA all-star Bill Walton on Wednesday in urging schools across California to take part in the Team California for Healthy Kids campaign.

“Today's results are clear: when only 31 percent of children are physically fit, that's a public health challenge we can't wait to address,” Torlakson said. “That's where our Team California for Healthy Kids campaign can make a world of difference, by helping make healthy choices the easy choices, at school and beyond.”...

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Harvard Study Links Many Academic Setbacks to Middle School Transition, Rather than High School

December 1, 2011

While policymakers and researchers alike have focused on improving students’ transition into high school, a new study of Florida schools suggests the critical transition problem may happen years before, when students enter middle school.

The studyRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, part of the Program on Education Policy and Governance Working Papers Series at Harvard University, found that students moving from grade 5 into middle school show a “sharp drop” in math and language arts achievement in the transition year that plagues them as far out as 10th grade, even risking thwarting their ability to graduate high school and go on to college. Students who make a school transition in 6th grade are absent more often than those who remain in one school through 8th grade, and they are more likely to drop out of school by 10th grade...

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Issue Brief Suggests Publishing Teacher Ratings by Name Ultimately Hinders Education Reform

November 17, 2011

A new issue brief released this week by the Center for American Progress concludes that publishing teacher-performance ratings by name will undermine efforts to improve public schools. The paper documents the harmful impacts resulting from the public release of this information and outlines ways in which teacher-performance data can be better used to responsibly serve the public interest.

The brief examines controversial situations across the country, including a high-profile case in Los Angeles, where teacher-performance ratings, known as “value-added estimates,” were released to the public by newspapers. Publishing these records led to a fierce debate about whether or not it was appropriate to make this kind of personnel information available to the public...

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Reading Skills Boosted By Pre-K Education, Helping Students Reach Higher Reading Level By Third Grade

November 17, 2011

Students who attend Pre-K and a half-day kindergarten program have significantly higher reading levels by the third grade than students who only attend full-day kindergarten, according to a report released recently by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education.

The report, “Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten,” at http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Starting-Out-Right-Pre-K-and-Kindergarten/Starting-Out-Right-Pre-K-and-Kindergarten-full-report.html evaluated the early childhood education approaches that have the greatest impact on student achievement. The report focused on third grade reading scores, as students who are proficient readers by that point in school are apt to be more successful in future grades...

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NAEP Shows Highest Mathematics Scores to Date; Reading Performance Is Mixed, 4th Grade Scores Flat

November 3, 2011

The nation’s fourth and eighth graders continued their steady upward trend in mathematics achievement in 2011, posting the highest scores to date on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card.,” released on Tuesday.

In reading, however, the picture was mixed: the average score for fourth graders was unchanged from 2009, while the average score for eighth graders continued to rise.

At grade 4, the average mathematics score was 1 point higher than in 2009 and 28 points higher than in 1990. At grade 8, it was 1 point higher than in 2009 and 21 points higher than in 1990...

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Torlakson Reviews California NAEP Results

November 3, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction offered these comments on California’s results in the 2011 “Nation’s Report Card,” released on Tuesday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Torlakson noted that the average scores of California students tested on the 2011 NAEP were statistically unchanged from 2009, but higher than in 2005 or 2007 in both subjects, continuing a long-term trend of progress. Average scores for California as well as the nation continue to place at the Basic achievement level, which denotes partial mastery of fundamental skills, although California’s average scores were lower than the national average. (NAEP scores fall into four categories: Advanced, Proficient, Basic, and below Basic.)...

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Study in San Diego Unified Finds Diagnostic Tests, Timely Feedback Result in Big Math Gains

October 20, 2011

Participation in a math testing program that gives teachers timely, detailed feedback on individual students can result in strong achievement gains, according to a study released on October 11 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

A mandatory testing program recently used in the San Diego Unified School District — the state’s second largest — made use of tests that are freely available to middle and high school math teachers in California through the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project, a joint program of the California State University and University of California. Using data from fall 2001 to spring 2007, the PPIC study found that gains for students were large — enough to move a student originally at the 50th percentile in math to the 57th percentile a year later...

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Agreement Revamps Programs for ELs, African Americans

Education Department Announces Resolution of Civil Rights Investigation of LA Unified

October 20, 2011

On October 11, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the resolution of the first proactive civil rights enforcement action taken by the Department of Education under the Obama Administration.

Under the agreement, the district will revamp its entire program for English Learners and accelerate its efforts focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap for African-American students. The district will also increase its focus on college- and career-ready curricula and programs, and ensure access to needed supports, including effective teachers, to accelerate student progress...

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High School Test Scores Often Fail to Sustain Gains Achieved in Earlier Grades in California, and Other States

October 6, 2011

While high school scores on state English language arts and math tests have risen since 2002 in most states, new data show smaller proportions of states making gains in high school compared with 4th and 8th grades. The data, published on Wednesday in the Center on Education Policy’s new report, also show a lack of progress and widening gaps at the advanced level in many states.

CEP’s report, State Test Score Trends Through 2008-09, Part 5: Progress Lags in High School, Especially for Advanced Achievers, is based on state test results from 40 states and the District of Columbia...

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Torlakson Announces New Interactive Web Tools for Online Education Programs and Schools

October 6, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Monday unveiled a new interactive California Directory of Online Schools and Programs.  The Directory is designed to help people make more informed decisions about online educational options for students in grades K-12 throughout the state.

“The Internet has made a world of educational options available to students across California,” said Torlakson. “Online learning is expanding rapidly. To help parents make informed decisions about the best online options for their children, we are offering our new California Directory of Online Schools and Programs.”...

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Obama Administration Proposes Changes to Teacher Preparation Programs, Including Fewer Regulations

October 6, 2011

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced its strategy to ensure teachers are ready to enter the classroom by proposing a series of initiatives to reward the best teacher preparation programs, improve the quality at schools of education, and remove burdensome regulations. These reforms are part of the Obama Administration's effort to support educators and make government programs work better for teachers and students.

“Too many future teachers graduate from prep programs unprepared for success in the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan...

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California High School Juniors Show Marked Improvement in Math Skills

September 29, 2011

California's high school juniors have made marked increases in their level of proficiency in both math and English based on a cumulative review of Early Assessment Program (EAP) testing results, the California State University announced recently.

With six years (2006-2011) of complete testing data available, analysis of results led to key findings including:

  1. A 10 percentage-point increase in the number of students who have completed Algebra II or higher (a requirement to take the EAP), as well as an increase in the pool of proficient students...

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California to Help Develop New National Science Standards

September 29, 2011

California has been chosen as one of 20 states to lead a nationwide effort to develop the next generation of science standards for public schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced last week.

“From our universities to our laboratories, California has always led the way in science and technology, so it's only fitting that we help craft the next generation of science lessons for students,” Torlakson said. “Having a hand in shaping these standards will give other states the benefit of our success as a technology leader, and give California's education system and our own students a leg up in preparing for their futures in a science and tech-savvy world.”...

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Fresno County District's API Rises Over 100 Points to 815

Conference Examines Sanger Unified's Academic Gains

September 22, 2011

Around 185 educators, coming from 35 school districts up and down California, gathered in Vallejo on Wednesday for a conference examining how the Sanger Unified School District has achieved significantly higher test scores and made impressive gains in the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) during the past few years.

Titled “Leading the Learning,” the conference was sponsored by the Association of California School Administrators and Total School Solutions...

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State, Federal Accountability Systems Offer Divergent Views

More Schools Reaching 800 API Threshold, Even As 913 Schools, 95 LEAS Go Into Program Improvement

September 8, 2011

The California Department of Education released a big batch of accountability statistics last week.  As judged by the California’s standards, the state’s schools are making progress, with a record 49 percent of California schools met or exceeded the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) target. But when viewed through the lens of federal standards under the much criticized Adequate Yearly Progress portion of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, some 913 campuses were newly identified as “failing,” and could be assigned to Program Improvement status...

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Nearly 95 Percent Pass CAHSEE, Most as Sophomores

Latest Exit Exam Results Show California High Schools Chipping Away at Achievement Gap

August 25, 2011

Nearly 95 percent of students from the Class of 2011met the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) requirement, and tests administered over the last school year also showed improvement among the state’s African American and Hispanic students, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Wednesday.

“It is heartening to see that our students continue to learn and achieve despite the painful toll that budget cuts are taking on our schools,” Torlakson said...

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Latest STAR Results Show Gradual Improvement Statewide, But Stubborn Achievement Gap Lingers

August 18, 2011

California's students continue to make gradual improvement in their performance across the board on the annual round of state tests – in spite of recent budget cuts – with a larger proportion than ever scoring proficient or higher on the 2011 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program exams in English–language arts, mathematics, science, and history–social science, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Tuesday.

Approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2011 STAR program, with 54 percent scoring proficient or above in English-language arts...

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Torlakson: California Still "Has Some Work To Do"

Annual ACT Report Indicates College & Career Readiness Improving Among High School Graduates

August 18, 2011

College and career readiness continues to increase among ACT-tested U.S. high school graduates, according to ACT’s yearly report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011, released Wednesday.

The findings also suggest, however, that much improvement is still needed to ensure that all students are ready for success when they graduate from high school.

After reviewing the ACT report, California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson noted that...

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Among Students Who Started High School in 2006

Statewide Graduation Rate Inches Up to 74.4 Percent – While 18.2 Percent of High School Students Drop Out

August 18, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced last week that nearly three out of four California students who started high school in 2006 graduated with their class in 2010, with slightly more than 18 percent dropping out rather than completing their K–12 educations.

The graduation and dropout rates continue to show a significant achievement gap between students who are Hispanic, African American, or English learners and their peers. The 74.4 percent statewide graduation rate and 18.2 percent statewide dropout rate — as well as rates calculated for counties, districts, and schools across California — were for the first time based on four-year cohort information collected about individual students...

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Coaches, Parents Urged to Take Precautions

Pediatricians Recommend New, Updated Guidelines to Prevent Heat Illness, Injury in Young Athletes

August 11, 2011

As student athletes start physical conditioning for fall sports, pediatricians are offering advice for the athletes, parents, and adults who are running practice on hot days: Use some common sense and appropriate measures to keep the kids out of danger.

In a revised policy statement, “Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents,” published in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 8), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends youth sports programs implement comprehensive strategies to safeguard against heat illness...

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Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Recommended

Brief Says Gaps in Math Skills Can Be Foreseen – Gaps Develop in Early Grades, Tend to Persist Over Time

July 28, 2011

Dramatic gaps in fundamental math skills exist among California's student populations as early as the 2nd grade and there is research showing that these gaps can be foreseen among even younger children, according to a new issue brief by EdSource. More troubling, EdSource finds that the gaps that have emerged by second grade tend to persist over time.

The brief, California's Math Pipeline: Success Begins Early, was released last week by the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet) at a meeting of the First 5 Association of California. It identifies key policies that could ensure that more California students have the necessary early foundations to move into advanced math curriculum that begins with algebra...

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Report Recommends New Framework for K-12 Science Education, Calls for Shift in the Way Science is Taught

July 28, 2011

A report released last week by the National Research Council presents a new framework for K-12 science education that identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school.  The framework is intended to serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, to replace those issued more than a decade ago.  The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering; all three are independent, nongovernmental organizations.

The committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the U.S.  The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics...

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UC Berkeley Studies Conclude, LA Students More Likely to Stick With Their Charter Schools than Teachers

July 21, 2011

Teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District’s charter schools are up to three times more likely to leave their school at year’s end compared with their peers in other LAUSD schools, according to a University of California, Berkeley report released Tuesday.

The study tracked teacher movement within the nation’s second largest school district over a seven-year period. The results were set to be released during a seminar at the district’s downtown headquarters along with a second UC Berkeley study that looked at trends in student loyalty to their schools...

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Supporters Maintain Programs Are More Than Cost Effective

Study Finds Adult Ed Classes Reduce Poverty, Serve as "Part of the Solution" to Promote Economic Recovery

By Jeff Hudson - July 14, 2011

Pressed hard by deep budget cuts and program reductions in many California school districts, administrators who run Adult Ed programs are stressing the argument that serving adult students produces numerous long-term benefits for the economy and society at large, and urging that the remaining adult ed programs should be preserved, not dismantled.

“Adult education programs have been severely cut back in many districts, and eliminated almost entirely in others,” said Mike Wada, who just finished his term as president of the California Council for Adult Education, which represents nearly 3,000 Adult Ed professionals statewide...

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Settlement Could Have Implications for Other Districts

Federal Authorities Reach Agreement with Tehachapi Unified, Resolving Student Harassment Investigation

July 7, 2011

The federal Departments of Justice and Education announced an agreement last Friday with the Tehachapi Unified School District in Tehachapi, Calif., resolving an investigation into the harassment of a middle school student based on his nonconformity with gender stereotypes. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 each prohibit harassment based on sex, including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes and sexual harassment.

In September 2010, Jacobsen Middle School student Seth Walsh committed suicide at the age of 13. In October 2010, the Department of Education received a complaint...

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New Report Shows Hispanic-White Achievement Gap Largely Unchanged Over Last Two Decades

June 29, 2011

A new report on the Hispanic achievement gap by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds there is a continuing achievement gap between test scores for Hispanic/Latino students as compared to test scores for their white classmates.

The report finds that mathematics and reading scores for Hispanic students have increased over time, but the gap between Hispanic students and their white counterparts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress has not changed since the 1990s, according to the comprehensive report by NCES. Over the same period, the gap between non-limited English proficient Hispanic students and their white peers narrowed...

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TSS/ACSA to Hold Another Session in September in Vallejo

Sanger Team Shares Strategies for Improving Test Scores, Moving Schools Out of Program Improvement

June 23, 2011

Around 300 educators from around California gathered this week for a two-day institute held on Monday and Tuesday at the Hilton Ontario Airport Hotel in Ontario, sponsored by Total School Solutions (TSS) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

The institute was titled “Leading the Learning: District-wide Systems to Accelerate Achievement, K-12 Focus on the Sanger Unified School District.”

The Sanger Unified School District lies in the middle of California’s Central Valley...

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UC Berkeley Studies Conclude, LA Students More Likely to Stick With Their Charter Schools than Teachers

July 21, 2011

Teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District’s charter schools are up to three times more likely to leave their school at year’s end compared with their peers in other LAUSD schools, according to a University of California, Berkeley report released Tuesday.

The study tracked teacher movement within the nation’s second largest school district over a seven-year period. The results were set to be released during a seminar at the district’s downtown headquarters along with a second UC Berkeley study that looked at trends in student loyalty to their schools...

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Eighth-Graders Make Modest Progress in U.S. History, But Proficiency Remains Low on Nation’s Report Card

June 23, 2011

Eighth-graders earned the highest U.S. history scores to date in the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress survey, according to results released last week. Still, only 17 percent scored at or above the Proficient level. Performance on the U.S. History 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at Grades 4, 8, and 12 has shown some overall improvement since 1994. However, the only progress since 2006 was at grade eight, with significant improvement of Black and Hispanic eighth grade scores over these years. Performance by fourth and twelfth graders remained unchanged compared to 2006...

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"Making Summer Count"

Investment in Vacation Learning Programs Can Help Stop the "Summer Slide," Close Achievement Gap

June 23, 2011

The loss of knowledge and educational skills during the summer months is cumulative over the course of a student's career and further widens the achievement gap between low- and upper-income students, according to “Making Summer Count,” a RAND Corporation study issued last week.

The study confirms that students who attend summer programs can diminish the educational loss and do better in school than peers who do not attend the same programs...

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State to Pull Out of PARCC, Go with SMARTER Balanced

Torlakson, Kirst Announce California's Role in New Multistate Consortium to Develop Assessments

June 16, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst announced last Thursday that California will join the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium as a governing state.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in student testing and accountability,” Torlakson said. “By working together, we've put California where it belongs—poised to play a leadership role.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity for California to step up as a leader in assessment design and provide much more timely information to teachers, parents, and students,” Kirst said...

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Students' Right to Form Gay-Straight Alliance Groups at School Upheld by Federal "Dear Colleague" Letter

June 16, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter on Tuesday to school districts around the country reinforcing students’ legal right under the federal Equal Access Act to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs). Under the Equal Access Act, schools are required to treat extracurricular clubs equally. Increasingly, school districts across the country have been refusing to allow students to form GSAs.

In recent months, the American Civil Liberties Union has contacted school districts in New Mexico and Texas on behalf of students attempting to form GSAs in their schools and had originally met with resistance from school officials. Both districts were ultimately directed by their school boards to allow the GSAs to form...

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CDE Statistics for 2010-11 Show Hispanic/Latino Enrollment Rises to 51.4 Percent of Students Statewide

June 2, 2011

The California Department of Education last week posted 2010-11 enrollment data on the CDE’s DataQuest Internet reporting site at http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/.

The enrollment data collected for the current academic year shows that the largest subgroup of California students is that of Hispanic or Latino students at 51.4 percent statewide. That figure constitutes a 1.05 percent increase from the percentage of enrollment from a Hispanic/Latino background during the previous year.

The figures for 2010-11 also show 26.63 percent of students statewide coming from a white (not Hispanic) background...

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New Brief Examines 8th Grade Algebra Issue

June 2, 2011

California education policy has long reflected the aspiration that more 8th graders take and succeed in Algebra I. California’s 1997 Algebra I standards, and the corresponding California Standards Test (CST), set a high bar for 8th grade by including content such as quadratic equations that many states don’t emphasize until high school.

Over time, various actions by the State Board of Education have put pressure on schools to place more 9th graders in the course. In response to these pressures and to ensure equal early access to a college-preparatory curriculum, some California schools currently place all 8th graders in Algebra I. Others take a more nuanced approach to course placement...

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CSU Piloting $49 Biology Text in Digital Format

May 26, 2011

Students taking biology at three California State University campuses will be able to purchase a high quality, interactive, multimedia and digital text with unlimited printing rights and no expiration date for just $49.

As part of a three-year partnership with Nature Publishing Group (NPG), publisher of the world’s leading scientific journal Nature,  CSU faculty guided and advised the development of NPG’s Principles of Biology – the first in a series of interactive "born digital" textbooks.  The text will be incorporated into courses for students at the Los Angeles, Northridge and Chico campuses starting in the 2011/2012 academic year...

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Poor Attendance Thwarts Effort to Close Achievement Gap

Trends in Chronic Student Absence Analyzed

May 19, 2011

California’s effort to close the achievement gaps, improve graduation rates and address local budget challenges can all benefit from improved school attendance. But the state has more work to do before it can fully use this key early warning indicator to identify and turn around students and schools headed off track academically.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson was scheduled to host a policy forum in Sacramento on Thursday exploring what keeps students from coming to school in the first place and how schools and communities can partner to bring them back to the classroom...

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Group Disputes CDE View of Latest CELDT Results

May 19, 2011

The Education Trust-West, a statewide education advocacy organization, issued a statement late last week disputing some of the conclusions reached in a statement regarding last week’s release of the results of the 2010-11 California English Language Development Test (CELDT) by the California Department of Education (CDE).

The CDE statement, as reported in EdBrief last week, contended that the decline in academic performance by students who are English Learners was the result of reductions in state funding for public schools, leading to a shorter school year in many school districts, and related factors...

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Torlakson Releases 2010 Base API for Schools

May 12, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released the 2010 Base Academic Performance Index (API) and the public school ranks last Thursday, marking the start of California's annual reporting cycle of academic growth and achievement.

“This is the jumping-off point where, based on last year's testing results, schools are given a number of points by which they must grow in order to satisfy the requirements of our state accountability system,” said Torlakson...

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LAO Report Examines Small School Districts, Suggests Consolidation with Other Districts Yields Few Benefits

May 12, 2011

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released a report on Monday examining small school districts, as well as the benefits (or lack thereof) stemming from consolidation with other nearby districts.

According to the report’s summary:

The Supplemental Report of the 2010–11 Budget Act directed our office to study school district consolidations and determine whether the state should more actively promote consolidating small districts into larger districts...

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Court Decision in Garden Grove Special Education Case Raises Several Concerns, May Open Flood Gate

April 21, 2011

A decision on March 28 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving a special education student could have implications for other California districts.

The case involved a student in the Garden Grove Unified School District. The Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that effectively lowers the bar for parents seeking reimbursement from a school district for private education services.

The case stems from a decision in 2007 by the student’s parents to place the student in a non-public agency...

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Study of Eighth-Grade Achievement Finds Gains in Most States; But Growing Gaps at Advanced Level

April 14, 2011

Contrary to the perception that 8th-grade achievement is stagnating, a new analysis by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) – released last week – finds upward trends in reading and math test scores in most states.

Progress is strongest in math, where every state with sufficient data made gains in the percentage of 8th grade students reaching the advanced level and all but one of these states showed gains at the proficient level. In most of these states, however, gaps have widened between lower- and higher-achieving subgroups of 8th graders at the advanced level in math...

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Poverty Puts Struggling Readers in "Double Jeopardy"

Study Shows Third Grade Students Who Don't Read Well are More Likely to Become High School Dropouts

April 14, 2011

Students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers, according to a study over time of nearly 4,000 students nationally.

The report, “Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation,” was just released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Click here to see the full report.)...

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San Diego Unified Arts Education Programs Win National Award – and Now Face Drastic Budget Cut

April 7, 2011

Just days before receiving national recognition for the exemplary arts education programs in their district, the San Diego Unified school board may be forced to cut the budget for these programs by as much as 93 percent.

On April 11, the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and the National School Boards Association will present the San Diego Unified School District’s Board of Trustees with an award for their demonstrated commitment to high-quality arts education. The district, the second largest in California, competed with nominees from all over the United States to win this recognition...

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U.S. Dept of Education, Arizona Reach Settlement on Identifying ELL Students; Arizona Changes Survey

April 1, 2011

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, today entered into a settlement agreement with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to ensure that the substantial number of Arizona's English Language Learner (ELL) students receive the educational services that they need. The Agreement requires ADE to revoke its one-question Home Language Survey (HLS), which failed to identify and serve all eligible ELL students, and reinstate its three-question HLS so that all potential ELLs are identified for assessment and service.

“This agreement highlights our commitment to ensuring that all ELL students receive the services they need to learn,” said Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education...

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Torlakson Releases 2010 Physical Fitness Results, Announces Team California for Healthy Kids Campaign

April 1, 2011

With the latest physical fitness tests showing that only one students in three posts a healthy score, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson last week announced plans for a statewide campaign to improve the health and fitness of California's 6.2 million schoolchildren.

"Nothing is more important than the health of our children, and today's results show that many of them need a helping hand to get fit and stay in shape," Torlakson said. "The Team California for Healthy Kids campaign will help students adopt the healthy habits that will help them succeed in the classroom today – and help them stay healthy over a lifetime."...

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United Way CEO and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Announce s Third Grade Reading Campaign

March 24, 2011

On Tuesday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the launch of a third grade reading campaign for the greater Sacramento area. The goal of the campaign is to ensure all third graders in the greater Sacramento area are reading at grade level and to become a national model for third grade literacy.

Mayor Johnson was joined by Steve Heath, CEO of the United Way; Riva Sass, Library Director of the Sacramento Public Library and Ron Fairchild, a senior consultant for the national Grade Level Reading Campaign...

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White House Partners with Non-Profit Organizations, Stakeholder Groups on Anti-Bullying Agenda

March 17, 2011

Last Thursday, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama called for a united effort to address bullying at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers came together to discuss how they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students.

“If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up...

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President Hosts Anti-Bullying Summit at White House

March 10, 2011

On Thursday, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services hosted students, parents, and teachers in addition to non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers to the White House for a Conference on Bullying Prevention.

The conference was designed to bring together communities from across the nation that have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it.

The Conference also showcased the work and commitments made by several non-profit and corporate leaders on this issue...

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Conference Focuses on Successful Achievement Gap Strategies for African American Students

By Jeff Hudson - March 3, 2011

Hundreds of educators gathered at the Doubletree Hotel on the Berkeley Marina on Wednesday for an institute on “Closing the Achievement Gap for African American Students,” sponsored by Total School Solutions (TSS) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

“Most of the participants were teams with between 10 and 15 participants from districts in the Bay Area,” said Tim McClure, Director of Professional Development with TSS. “Our presenters came from elementary schools, middle schools and high schools that are meeting their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets, including for their African American students...

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More California Public School Students Succeeding in AP®

February 10, 2011

The 7th Annual AP® Report to the Nation, released Wednesday by the College Board, reports that 22.3 percent of California’s public high school class of 2010 completed high school having succeeded in Advanced Placement Program® (AP) Exams — up from 15.9 percent in 2001 and far exceeding the national average of 16.9 percent.  Additionally more California students (85,890) from the class of 2010 scored 3 or higher on an AP Exam — the score typically needed to qualify for advanced placement in colleges and universities — than even participated in AP nearly a decade ago (71,898)...

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Duncan Discusses Difficulties Faced By Rural Schools Under No Child Left Behind

February 3, 2011

Last Wednesday (Jan. 26), Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in a public conference call discussing the difficulties faced by rural schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The President and I both understand that NCLB doesn’t work in every school in America, in particular for schools in rural communities,” Duncan said.  “Over the past two years, I’ve traveled to nearly every state in the country. I’ve seen both the strengths and the unmet needs and challenges of rural areas first-hand.”...

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Annual NAEP Report Card Finds California Students Still Struggling with Science

January 27, 2011

On Tuesday, the National Center for Educational Statistics released the results of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science at grades 4, 8, and 12.

The results for California were not especially encouraging:

  1. In 2009, the average score of fourth-grade students in California was 136. This was lower than the average score of 149 for public school students in the nation...

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Torlakson: New NAEP Science Results "Troubling"

January 27, 2011

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson commented on Tuesday regarding the release of the fourth and eighth grade science results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

“As a science teacher (at the high school level in decades past), these results are troubling. Despite the enormous efforts being made by educators, we’re seeing the consequences of lagging behind other states in investing in education,” Torlakson said...

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Hundreds Attend Conference on Closing the Achievement Gap for Latino Students, English Learners

By Jeff Hudson - January 20, 2011

Over 400 educators attended the “Closing the Achievement Gap for Latino Students and English Learners” conference in Ontario on Wednesday. The event was co-sponsored by Total School Solutions (TSS) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), said “Our focus was to find teams from districts that are kind of beating the odds. I’m talking about districts that have large populations of lower income students and students who are English Learners...

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Register Now for March 2 Event

Conference to Focus on African American Students

By Jeff Hudson - February 3, 2011

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and Total School Solutions are partnering for an upcoming workshop geared toward helping African American students. “Closing the Achievement Gap for African American Students” will offer numerous best practices from successful practitioners in the field.

“There is an acknowledged racial achievement gap in California,” said ACSA Legislative Advocate Adonai Mack. “These are the kids we as educators are working extra hard to reach out to, because we all want to see our students successfully graduate high school, fully prepared to either go on to higher education or to enter the workforce...

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State Gets 342 New National Board Certified Teachers

January 6, 2011

As the conversation in the education arena expands from teacher quality to teacher effectiveness, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the organization that sets and maintains the standards for teaching excellence, announced in late December that 342 California teachers achieved National Board Certification in 2010.

The state ranked fifth nationwide in the number of new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) for the year, and ranks fifth in the total number of NBCTs over time, with 4,913 teachers having completed the NBCT process...

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Nearly 37 Percent of African American Students Drop Out

O'Connell Releases 2008-09 Dropout and Graduation Rates – Achievement Gap Still Looms Large

December 9, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell on Tuesday released the annual report on dropout and graduation rates for the 2008-09 school year – and the new numbers continue to highlight the achievement gap between California’s student subgroups.

For 2008-09, the estimated dropout rate among Hispanics was 26.9 percent, and among African-Americans it was 36.9 percent...

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Transformation Model

ABC Unified Reaches Agreement on Plan For Teacher and Administrator Evaluations

By Timothy McClure - November 4, 2010

(Second in a series examining the four School Improvement models under federal No Child Left Behind guidelines)

The ABC Unified School District was approved through the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program to implement the Transformation Model at Pharis F. Fedde Middle School. The district serves about 20,500 students in Los Angeles County. Fedde is in Year 5 Program Improvement, with enrollment less than 500, with 80 percent Hispanic and 60 percent English Learners in grades 7-8...

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Turnaround Model

San Juan USD Focuses on Collaboration to Implement School Improvement Models

By Timothy McClure - October 21, 2010

(First in a series examining the four School Improvement models under federal No Child Left Behind guidelines)

“We did not want to sell our soul just to get the money,” said Tom Alves, Executive Director of the San Juan Teachers Association.  He was referring to the $3.6 million the San Juan Unified School District received through the School Improvement Grant program to implement the Turnaround Model at Encina Prepatory High School. San Juan USD serves 42,000 students in the Sacramento area...

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ACSA/TSS Sponsored Event

Special Education Conference Draws Hundreds of Educators, Aiming to Improve Student Achievement

By Jeff Hudson - October 28, 2010

About 250 educators from around California gathered for a conference titled “Closing the Achievement Gap for Students with Disabilities,” held on Wednesday at the Ontario Airport Hilton Inn in Southern California.

The keynote speech came from Rich Smith, Deputy Superintendent with the Sanger Unified School District.

“Rich Smith did a great job explaining how the Sanger district made tremendous gains in student performance, and talked about some of the things that they did to make those gains,”...

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Antioch Awarded $2.5 Million Small Learning Communities Grant to Transform High School

By Jeff Hudson - October 14, 2010

The Antioch Unified School District has received a five-year, $2.5 million Small Learning Communities Grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the transition of Antioch High School into a community of smaller, more personalized learning environments with the goal of improving the academic achievement of their students and preparing them for postsecondary education.

The Antioch High School Smaller Learning Communities plan will personalize the education of every Antioch High School student by providing them with the opportunity of participating in one of six learning pathways...

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California Afterschool Network Launches New STEM Initiative, One Million Students Targeted

October 7, 2010

The California Afterschool Network, housed in the UC Davis School of Education's CRESS Center, has launched a new initiative: “Advancing California’s Capacity to Leverage out of School Time Systems to Deliver High-Impact STEM Programming.” With support from the Bechtel Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, the initiative will lay the groundwork to create and implement a robust statewide system that can deliver high-quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) experiences during out-of-school time to more than one million students in California and support the 40,000 out-of-school-time professionals who serve them...

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Achievement Gap Workshop Slated – Focuses on Students with Disabilities

October 7, 2010

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and Total School Solutions (TSS) have teamed up to offer a series of workshops designed around the goal of closing the achievement gap. The upcoming event will address closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities.

“Closing the Achievement Gap for Students with Disabilities” will take place Oct. 27 in Ontario. The workshop will feature a number of promising practices shared from educators at all levels of K-12, in schools where students with disabilities are meeting their API targets...

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New Ruling Reverses 2009 Decision

Court Rules Interns Working Toward Alternative Certification Are Not "Highly-Qualified" Teachers

September 30, 2010

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that California school districts should not consider interns working toward alternative certification as “highly qualified” teachers who satisfy the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  The ruling maintains that only experienced teachers (and not interns) will meet the law’s requirements.

Monday’s ruling reverses a 2009 decision, which was issued by the same panel...

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Students to Evaluate Trustworthiness of Online Resources

Newly Adopted State School Library Standards Go Hand-In-Hand with Common Core

By Jeff Hudson - September 23, 2010

For the first time, the California Department of Education has school library standards – they were approved last week by the State Board of Education.  The new standards focus on a school library’s role in present day times – providing books, as well as guidance and training regarding the use of online research resources, and more.

The new state library standards have also been drawn up to work hand-in-hand with the recently adopted Common Core academic standards...

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O'Connell Marks Deaf Awareness Week

September 23, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell invited the public to participate in Deaf Awareness Week activities this week, and become more familiar with issues relating to the education of students who have limited hearing.

“Like any other student, Deaf and hard-of-hearing students can learn, express themselves, and thrive,” said O’Connell. “But sometimes people don’t realize that and treat them differently...

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O'Connell Suggests Raising Bar for "High Performing Schools"

API Figures Rise Modestly, While Hundreds of Schools Enter Program Improvement

By Jeff Hudson - September 16, 2010

Saying that California schools are achieving “solid if not rapid growth statewide,” outgoing State Superintendent of Public Instruction rolled out the 2009-10 Accountability Progress Report on Monday, showing:

Modest gains by student subgroups in the 2010 Growth Academic Performance Index rankings, with scores rising faster (17 percent) for Hispanic/Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged students than for other subgroups like White and Asian students (who posted gains in the single digits)...

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Three California Districts Piloting First Interactive Full-Curriculum Algebra App for iPad

September 16, 2010

Textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has announced a year-long pilot of the first-ever full-curriculum Algebra app for the Apple iPad. The pilot also represents the launch of Fuse™, HMH’s new mode of curriculum delivery via interactive platforms and mobile devices. The HMH Fuse: Holt McDougal Algebra 1 app will use of the iPad’s interactive technology in a K–12 school setting.

Through the iPad, students can receive feedback on practice questions, write and save notes, receive guided instruction, and access video lessons and more with the touch of a finger...

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California Part of PARCC Group

$330 Million in RTTT Funds Granted for Developing New Standardized Tests

September 9, 2010

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded two groups of states grants to develop a new generation of standardized tests – which could have far-reaching consequences for states and school districts as the new tests come into use.  The new tests will be aligned to the Common Core standards that were recently developed by governors and chief state school officers and have been adopted by 36 states (including California).  The tests will assess students' knowledge of mathematics and English language arts from third grade through high school – with an eye toward college preparedness...

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Study Adds to Controversy – Recommends against Using Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teacher Effectiveness

September 2, 2010

Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, even with the addition of value-added modeling (VAM), a new Economic Policy Institute report by leading testing experts finds.  Though VAM methods have allowed for more sophisticated comparisons of teachers than were possible in the past, they are still inaccurate, so test scores should not dominate the information used by school officials in making high-stakes decisions about the evaluation, discipline and compensation of teachers...

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80 Percent of Students Passing in 10th Grade

O'Connell Announces 2009-10 Results for California High School Exit Examination

September 2, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the latest results for the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) last week, showing the state's public high school students continue to make progress in passing the test, which is a statewide graduation requirement.

“I am pleased that the latest Exit Exam results show that more of our students are mastering the mathematics and English-language arts skills measured by this exam,” said O'Connell...

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PPIC Study Confirms Extra Time Spent on Reading Boosts Literacy

August 26, 2010

Struggling elementary and middle school students who are given extra time for reading can make sizable gains in literacy, according to a report released Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The report is the first evaluation of the long-term effects of a sweeping reform program implemented in the San Diego Unified School District — the state's second largest and one that mirrors the demographics of other large districts — and draws lessons that can be used nationwide. It comes at a time of national debate over efforts to improve public school accountability...

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Achievement Gap Still Evident

O'Connell Releases 2010 STAR Program Results – Student Scores Rise Slightly

August 19, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the results of the 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program on Monday. The results indicate that California students overall continue to make academic progress in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and history-social science – but also indicate that the much-discussed achievement gap is slow to close.

The 2010 STAR results may be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Web page at Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results...

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Newspaper Uses Student Test Data to Rate Los Angeles Teachers – Union Leaders Howl

August 19, 2010

Last Saturday, the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy article headlined “Grading the Teacher” – the first in a proposed series   that has stirred up a tempest.  The LA Times obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District and then used the test score results to estimate the effectiveness of some 6,000 Los Angeles Unified School District teachers.

Within hours, the leader of the teachers union in Los Angeles Unified was bitterly criticizing the article’s methodology, and calling for a boycott of the newspaper...

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$3 Million Grant from State EDD

Program at Six CSU Campuses Will Help At-Risk High School Students Prepare for a Teaching Career

August 12, 2010

The California Employment Development Department has awarded six California State University campuses a total of $3 million to help at-risk high school students attain a college degree and then become teachers. The Workforce Investment Act funding will support teacher pathway development programs that integrate after-school employment with teacher preparation.

“This grant will touch many areas, but most importantly it will help participants attain a college education and then return to their communities as teachers,” said Beverly Young, the CSU's assistant vice chancellor for teacher education and public school programs...

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SBE Unanimously Approves Common Core State Standards – with California Additions

By Jeff Hudson - August 5, 2010

After a discussion that featured many harmonious comments (and only a few moments of criticism), the State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously approved the Common Core State Standards on August 2.  The new standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics – which include some material added for California – will supersede standards that the state developed and adopted in 1997.

Speaker after speaker, representing multiple school districts from around the state as well as diverse stakeholder groups including the California Mathematics Council...

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September 22-23 Session Planned

Institute Will Help Administrators Develop Plans to Help Schools Exit Program Improvement

July 22, 2010

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and Total School Solutions are teaming up to offer an institute on strategies to exit Program Improvement.  The event will take place in Fairfield on September 22-23.

ACSA Legislative Advocate Adonai Mack noted this learning opportunity is geared toward any school that wants to improve its academic achievement.

“We’re strongly encouraging any of the schools in the state that have been identified as persistently low-achieving, or schools that are on the verge of falling into this category, have someone attend,” Mack said...

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New York, Massachusetts Approve Common Core

Final California Commission Recommendation on Common Core Standards to be Released Soon

July 22, 2010

The California State Academic Content Standards Commission – which completed lengthy meetings last week at the Sacramento County Office of Education – is expected to release its formal recommendations regarding a transition to the proposed national Common Core Standards in the next few days – perhaps on Friday.

The final recommendations will go before the State Board of Education (SBE) during a special meeting on August 2.  The SBE can either adopt the final recommendations, or reject them...

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Reading Databases Offer Parents Tips On Books

O'Connell Encourages Vacationing Students to "Read to Ride" at the California State Fair

July 22, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell is urging students to enjoy an added benefit of reading this summer by taking advantage of the California State Fair’s Read to Ride program.  Children in kindergarten through grade eight are encouraged to read two books approved by their parent, guardian, or teacher.  The children then fill out a form and summarize the two books.  In return, they will earn two carnival rides at the State Fair.  Children under the age of six may draw a picture that describes the books...

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Study Confirms Delayed School Start Time Leads To Improvement in Students Mood, Behavior

July 8, 2010

A pilot study conducted in a small private high school in Rhode Island confirms what many have been touting for years: the benefits of a delayed school day start time.  Judy Owens, MD, a sleep expert with Hasbro Children's Hospital, reports that a modest delay in school start time of only 30 minutes was associated with significant improvements in adolescent alertness, mood and health.  Her findings are published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine...

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African American Students Make Gains on State Tests, Achievement Gap Remains

July 1, 2010

A new study released Wednesday by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) finds that African American students have made gains on state reading and math tests and have narrowed achievement gaps with white students since 2002, when the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act took effect.

But despite this progress, African American students as a group often had the lowest performance among racial/ethnic groups on 2008 state tests at grades 4, 8, and the high school grade assessed for NCLB...

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Latino Students Generally Doing Better on State Tests – But Gaps Remain Large

July 1, 2010

The performance of Latino students on state reading and math tests improved in most states between 2002 and 2008 at grades 4, 8, and the high school grade assessed for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, according to a new analysis of test results released on Wednesday by the Center on Education Policy (CEP). But as a group, Latino students continue to achieve well below Asian American and white students on state tests.

The study, Improving Achievement for the Growing Latino Population is Critical to the Nation’s Future, summarizes key results for Latino students on the state tests used for accountability under NCLB...

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Some Asian Subgroups Still Struggle Academically, But

Study Finds Asian American Students Generally Outperform Other Subgroups

July 1, 2010

A new study released Wednesday by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) shows that in 2008, Asian American students were often the highest performing racial/ethnic subgroup in math in grades 4, 8, and high school, and in reading in grades 4 and 8. Asian American students also made greater gains between 2002 and 2008 than the white subgroup, ending up further ahead of white students than when they started.

Some Asian students are struggling academically, however—a reality that is sometimes overlooked because of the high achievement of the group as a whole...

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Coleman Discusses Common Core State Standards

New Standards to Boost the Academic Performance

June 10, 2010

David Coleman – one of the primary authors of the proposed Common Core State Standards – told in a teleconference for California journalists on Monday that if adopted, the new standards would boost the academic performance of California students and make them be “college and career ready, without remediation” and even reduce the cost of textbooks in the state.

And – perhaps mindful that some of the nation’s educators seem a trifle weary of top-down, do-it-our-way-or-else education policy...

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Governor, Assembly Speaker Name Appointees for Academic Content Standards Commission

June 10, 2010

The line-up for California’s Academic Content Standards Commission – which during the next few weeks will examine the recently proposed Common Core State Standards, and forward a recommendation to the State Board of Education in time for action on August 2 – is now complete.

Last Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his appointments...

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Revised Common Core State Standards Released – O'Connell, Schwarzenegger Signal Support

June 3, 2010

With a geographically diverse group of elected officials, education stakeholders and corporate leaders on hand to indicate broad-based support, the National Governor’s Association rolled out a much-anticipated new set of Common Core State Standards at a press conference in Georgia on Wednesday.

The English-language arts and mathematics standards for grades K-12 were developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including content experts, state leaders, teachers, school administrators and parents...

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More Members of Academic Contents Standards Commission to be Appointed

May 23, 2010

Assembly Speaker John Pérez is expected to announce his five appointments to the Academic Contents Standards Commission in the coming days.

Another 11 appointments to the commission will be made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – it is not clear when the Governor’s appointments will be announced.

Five appointments to the commission have already been made by the California Senate...

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June Conference Will Examine Issues

Parent and Community Support Are Key Factors in Student Achievement

By Timothy McClure - May 20, 2010

Educators know, as a general rule, that parent and community involvement is a key component in operating a successful district and school.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to simply assume that effective practices are in place when, in fact, more attention should be directed to this important area.

Total School Solutions, in partnership with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), has sponsored three statewide conferences this year...

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Site Visits Key to Implementing Reform Plans

By Tina Burkhart - May 13, 2010

Part IV in a series

In the Center on Education Policy report on Improving Low Performing Schools, research indicated states should encourage schools and districts to have regular site visits.  The districts with the most success had ongoing school site visits from consultants or state staff to assist the district in creating reform plans.  The districts received assistance in the implementation of the plan and evaluating the implementation of the plan. 

The study found that states which had regular visits from outside consultants or state staff increased achievement...

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Similar School Ranking, Growth Targets for 2010

O'Connell Releases New Cycle of Base Academic Performance Index Statistics

May 13, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell kicked off California's annual reporting cycle of academic growth and achievement on Thursday with the release of the public school rankings and the Base Academic Performance Index (API) report.

The numbers released to the public on Thursday will not come as a surprise to most school district administrators, who were given early access to the information by the CDE...

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CSBA Wins Appeal in Algebra I Litigation

May 6, 2010

The Third District Court of Appeals has upheld an injunction that was granted in California School Boards Association’s successful 2008 lawsuit against the State Board of Education regarding the State Board of Education's decision to mandate Algebra I for all eighth graders in California.

In the action taken last week, the court declared that the SBE had violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by failing to give adequate notice of its intended action...

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State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell Announces Second Phase of Digital Textbook Initiative

May 6, 2010

On Monday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced that California's Free Digital Textbook Initiative has entered a second phase with the completion of a review of digital textbooks by the California Learning Resources Network (CLRN), yielding 10 new digital resources.

The Free Digital Textbook Initiative was launched last year by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with the support of the State Board of Education (SBE). After a review by CLRN to evaluate the digital textbooks' alignment to California's rigorous content standards...

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Administration Reverses Bush Policy Regarding Title IX, Equal Support of Women in Sports

April 21, 2010

On Tuesday, Vice President Biden announced that the Obama Administration has issued a 'Dear Colleague' letter that reversed a previous Bush Administration policy by withdrawing a 2005 interpretation of Title IX policy.

Enacted in 1972, Title IX mandates that any educational institution receiving federal funding for programs and activities cannot discriminate on the basis of sex.  The 2005 policy issued compliance standards that were widely criticized for being inadequate and inconsistent with Title IX's nondiscrimination goals...

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Program Trains Pink Slipped Teachers for Special Education

Alternative Certification Programs Placed 3,500 New Special Education Teachers Last Year

April 15, 2010

The California Teacher Corps, the statewide organization representing alternative certification programs, announced Wednesday that its programs are reaching out to school districts to provide pink-slipped and laid-off teachers retraining to move into the high-need field of special education.  The announcement follows the state's notification in March, when more than 26,000 teachers received notices of potential lay-offs.

Alternative certification programs will work closely with school districts to offer many of these teachers continued opportunities within the teaching profession...

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March 25 Session Offered Pointers, Another Conference Upcoming

Mutually Understood Goals and Common Practices Can Boost Student Performance

By Timothy McClure - March 25, 2010

Districts in California where African-American, Latino and English Learner students are meeting proficiency targets share common practices.  These commonalities are emerging as school leaders share strategies that have resulted in positive student gains in a series of conferences focusing on these key subgroups.

After reviewing student performance data over a period of three years for the featured schools, most educators attending the conferences ask, “I wonder how they did that?”...

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Most Low-Performing Schools Remain In Lowest Quartile

New Research Shows Persistence of Test Scores and School Performance, Despite Reform Efforts

March 25, 2010

Seeking to answer the question of whether failing schools can be saved, a new report from the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy concludes that test scores are primarily static, and that while turning around these schools can be done, the odds are daunting.

The research compares the 1989 and 2009 California Assessment Program (CAP) test scores of 1,156 California schools that had an eighth grade class in 1989 and were still operating in 2009...

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2009 Nation's Report Card

Reading Shows Gains in 8th-Grade Scores, While 4th-Grade Scores Hold Steady

March 25, 2010

Since 2007, the nation’s 8th-graders have made some improvements in reading comprehension while the overall results for 4th-graders were unchanged, according to results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as The Nation’s Report Card, released on Wednesday.

The 2009 NAEP Reading Report Card — the only nationally representative and continuing measure of student achievement — shows the average reading score for the nation’s 8th-graders rose from 2007 to 2009, as nine states posted increases and no state showed a decline...

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Comment Due By April 2

Revised Common Core Standards Unveiled, Some Differ with California's Standards

By Timothy McClure and Jeff Hudson - March 18, 2010

The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices last week released the draft K-12 Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics on behalf of 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. California is participating in the process.

An online survey is posted at www.corestandards.org to solicit response to the standards. The public comment period will end on April 2, 2010 and it is expected that the final set of standards will be available in late Spring of 2010...

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A Single Program Probably Won't Help In Every Case

Multifaceted Reforms Should Focus On Each School's Particular Needs

By Tina Burkhart - March 11, 2010

As districts look for ways to turn around struggling schools, a recent Center on Education Policy (CEP) report found that most states were not solely using the six corrective actions found in No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  Most were using the new curriculum action – but with multiple reform efforts occurring.  The importance of the multiple reform efforts emphasized the need for each district and school in Program Improvement (PI) to look at what can and should be done districtwide, and what other reform efforts are needed based on the specific school needs...

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Concerns Raised Over Linking Title 1 to Common Core

March 11, 2010

Several national education associations have expressed concern over President Barack Obama’s proposal to link Title 1 funds to the adoption of college- and career-ready standards.

Under the proposal, states would be required to adopt higher-level Common Core Standards in English language arts and math in order to qualify for Title 1 grant funds.

However, there has been concern in the field over the coercive nature of the proposal...

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Seminar on March 25 in Ontario

Latino Students and English Learners: Strategies to Improve Student Performance

By Jeff Hudson - March 4, 2010

California educators will gather in Ontario on March 25 to share insights on strategies to improve academic performance for Latino students and students who are English Learners.  The all-day session will focus on the needs of English learners who are acquiring English as they seek to meet grade-level standards, and the needs of Latino students who are making progress toward closing the achievement gap in California schools and districts with large socioeconomically disadvantaged populations...

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Budget Crisis Means Fewer Sections Available

Decline in Community College Enrollment Projected, Despite High Student Demand

March 4, 2010

Reversing five years of enrollment growth, enrollment at California’s community colleges appears to be headed downward – largely due to budget cuts that limit student access to classes.

“Our enrollment is not dropping due to a lack of demand,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott last Wednesday at a press conference in Sacramento.  “As demonstrated by last year’s record high enrollment of nearly 3 million students, our colleges are more popular than ever.”...

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O'Connell Announces New Tool to Help Migrant Students Succeed Academically

February 26, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced last week that California will participate in the Migrant Student Information Exchange (MSIX) system.

“One of the most difficult challenges students of migrant families face is maintaining a continuum of education services because of the itinerant nature of their lives,” said O'Connell. “This too often results in migrant students falling behind their peers academically...

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"Closing the Achievement Gap for African-American Students" Draws Educators to Sacramento

February 19, 2010

Some 350 educators gathered in Sacramento on Wednesday (February 17) to focus on “Closing the Achievement Gap for African-American Students: Best Practices for Student Success.”

The all-day institute – offered by Total School Solutions (TSS), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) – featured 12 presentations, held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel and the Sacramento Convention Center...

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Science Teachers Can Use Free Lesson Plans Highlighting Vancouver Winter Olympics

February 19, 2010

The Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) is offering an online collection of learning tools that helps students learn about physics, biology, and mathematics through exploration of events featured at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics via a 16-part video series, Science of the Olympic Winter Games, produced by the National Broadcasting Company’s Learn and the National Science Foundation.

The lesson plans and activities are hosted on the SVEF online repository, Lessonopoly...

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Test, Evaluate, Collaborate, Reteach

Use Data to Guide Decisions about Instruction

By Tina Burkhart - February 12, 2010

Part II of a series.

In an article last week, we looked briefly at the Center on Education Policy (CEP) recommendations for improving struggling schools.  (To review last week’s article, click here.)

This week we will begin with the only factor all schools which exited Program Improvement had in common – a frequent analysis of testing data and the use of the data to inform instruction...

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Governor Launches Second Phase of Free Digital Textbook Initiative

February 12, 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched the second phase of his first-in-the-nation free digital textbook initiative.  The initiative reviews existing free digital textbooks against California’s rigorous academic standards to identify which free textbooks are standards-aligned and may be used in California’s classrooms.

Free digital textbooks are downloadable and may be projected on a screen, viewed on a computer, printed chapter by chapter, or bound for use in the classroom...

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The Center on Education Policy Releases Report on "Improving Low-Performing Schools"; Recommends Data Analysis, Reform Strategies

By Tina Burkhart - February 5, 2010

As more districts and schools enter Program Improvement, the quest to find answers on how to turn around a struggling school intensifies.  Many school and district leaders are searching frantically for the program or study that will solve these achievement issues. 

The Center on Education Policy studied six states and a group of districts who were working to improve achievement.  In December 2009, the Center on Education Policy released their 5 year study on improving low performing schools...

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Lower Expectations for Students Who Aren't "College Bound"

Study Sheds Light on Gap Between High School Preparation and College Expectations

January 22, 2010

High schools should focus on providing in-depth instruction of fundamental knowledge and essential skills, rather than covering a larger number of skills in less depth, to better prepare students for college and career.  That is one conclusion of the latest ACT National Curriculum Survey® findings, released Wednesday by ACT, Inc.

The research, in which thousands of secondary teachers and postsecondary instructors across the U.S. were surveyed, sheds light on the gap between high school preparation and college expectations...

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Federal Lawsuit Charges Los Angeles County with Failure to Educate Probation Camp Youth

January 15, 2010

An alliance of legal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Southern California filed a ground-breaking class-action lawsuit this week against the Los Angeles County Probation Department and top county education officials, charging they have failed to provide youth in the county's largest juvenile probation facility with basic and appropriate education.

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, charges that county personnel – including administrators and teachers at the Challenger Memorial Youth Center in Lancaster, California – have in some instances relied on worksheets in lieu of substantive classroom instruction...

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State Board of Education Approves New "Education and the Environment" Curriculum

By Jeff Hudson - January 8, 2010

The State Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved 76 instructional units developed for California’s Education and the Environment Initiative, which was authorized seven years ago by legislation by current State Sen. Fran Pavley, back when she was a member of the California Assembly.

Sen. Pavley was all smiles as SBE member Yvonne Chan – who is also a school principal in Los Angeles – praised the new curriculum...

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CTC Discusses Third-Tier Credential Option

December 18, 2009

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) continued to discuss a third-tier teaching credential in December, despite opposition by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and other education associations.

In October 2008, at the request of the CTC, staff brought forward the concept of the third-tier credential, aimed at recognizing and rewarding teachers who demonstrate expertise in their chosen fields, promoting the retention of teachers and honoring master teachers...

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NAEP Math Scores Rise in Urban Districts Participating in TUDA, San Diego School District Sees Improvement

December 11, 2009

The mathematics results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — released Tuesday in Washington, DC — paint a mixed picture of student achievement in the 18 urban school districts that participated in the most recent Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). Among the districts that also participated in earlier years, most showed improvement since 2003 but no significant change since 2007.

The 11 districts that participated in prior years are: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Cleveland; the District of Columbia; Houston; Los Angeles; New York City; and San Diego...

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Obesity Still a Problem

2009 Physical Fitness Results Released – California Students Show Some Progress

December 4, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell this week released the results of the annual California Physical Fitness Test, called the FITNESSGRAM®, which was given during the 2008-09 school year to more than 1.38 million students in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades.

The FITNESSGRAM® assesses a total of six fitness areas. In the last school year, a greater percentage of students met all six benchmarks compared to the previous year.  More than half of the students in the fifth and seventh grades successfully met five of the six targets as did two-thirds of the ninth graders...

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Duncan Meets Superintendents from Nine Rural School Districts

November 20, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan met Tuesday with a group of rural school superintendents from nine states (including California) to listen and learn about their needs and to discuss ways the Education Department can be a partner in helping to find solutions to their educational challenges.

“Rural schools have unique challenges and benefits, and we value the input of rural school leaders as we work together to improve education for all children,” Duncan said...

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Global Tides Rescinds Some of its 91 Charter Petitions, Plans to Submit Revised Petitions Soon

November 13, 2009

Marco Salazar, who filed charter school petitions with school districts up and down California seeking to establish the Global Tides online charter school, told EdBrief this week that he is retooling his effort.

Salazar, a vice president with Charter School Development Systems and spokesman for Global Tides, indicated that thus far, Global Tides has not been granted a charter in any of the 91 school districts in which petitions were filed during September.  Several dozen school districts have denied the petition...

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New Report on High School Exit Exams Shows Improvement in Passage Rates

November 6, 2009

A new study released Thursday by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) finds that although high school exit exam policies are increasingly complicated and diverse across states, there is a general trend in increases in initial passage rates by students.  Also, the report finds more states are using exit exams for accountability under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), but have also designed varied alternate pathways to graduation.

The report, State High School Exit Exams: Trends in Test Programs, Alternate Pathways, and Pass Rates, draws from CEP’s eight-year study of high school exit exams to identify long-term trends...

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New America Foundation Releases Report on Early Learning in California

November 6, 2009

As California struggles to close persistent achievement gaps, it is increasingly apparent that these gaps exist at school entry and that efforts to improve the early education systems (PreK-3rd) are warranted.  The state could make major strides by implementing a PreK-3rd strategy that focuses on pre-K access, curriculum and standards alignment, data collection and high quality teaching across the early grades, according to a report released last week by the New America Foundation...

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California Charter School Enrollment Rises by 56,000 – Nearly 90 New Schools Opened This Fall

October 30, 2009

The California Charter Schools Association announced this week that 88 new public charter schools opened their doors this fall, bringing the total number of California charter schools in operation to 809 schools, serving approximately 341,000 public school students.

New and existing charter schools added an estimated 56,000 new students this year, equivalent to adding the entire enrollment of the ninth largest school district in the state...

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O'Connell Announces New Web Tool to Help Education Agencies Close the Achievement Gap

October 23, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell on Wednesday introduced Signature Practices, a new Web-based searchable database of effective strategies used by California Distinguished Schools to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap.  Providing this resource to schools is one of the recommendations made by O'Connell's California P-16 Council in its Closing the Achievement Gap report.

“Schools that are struggling to close the achievement gap need to know what really works to improve student achievement with different subgroups of students,” O'Connell said...

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Nation's Report Card

NAEP Scores Hold Steady, California Scores Remain at the "Basic" Level

October 16, 2009

There has been no significant change in the performance of the nation’s 4th-graders in mathematics from 2007 to 2009, a contrast to the progress seen from 1990 to 2007 at that grade level and subject, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in mathematics, which was released on Wednesday.

But the 8th-grade mathematics score on the NAEP – which is also called The Nation's Report Card – posted a small two-point improvement over the 2007 score, and reached its highest level since 1990...

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O'Connell Calls for Restoration of Framework and Instructional Materials Development Funds

October 9, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell launched a campaign this week aimed at regaining funding for the California Department of Education’s (CDE) programs for curriculum framework and instructional materials development – funds that were cut earlier this year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

O’Connell said that unless funds are restored, California students won’t see updated texts in several critical areas until 2017...

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CDE Releases Online Kit for Achievement Gap

October 9, 2009

The California Department of Education (CDE) this week announced a new online tool called the Resource Kit for Developing Partnerships to Close the Achievement Gap (Resource Kit).

The Resource Kit may be used by families, communities, and organizations to develop partnerships with schools that can help narrow the academic achievement gap that exists between higher-performing and lower-performing students.  The online tool can help anyone understand the importance of partnerships, how to create them, and help existing partnerships improve...

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Nationwide Panel Evaluates "Common Core State Standards," Obama Administration Supports Effort

By Jeff Hudson and Brett McFadden - October 2, 2009

A group of educators convened by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is gathering comment on a recently proposed draft set of English and math standards – a project that advocates hope will establish as common standards defining “college ready” skills for high school graduates in states around the nation.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, as the effort is known, released the proposed draft standards last week (available at www.corestandards.org), and will be accepting comment from states into October...

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San Bernardino City Unified School District Posts API Gains after Recent DAIT Work

By Judy White - September 25, 2009

Eight out of nine schools in the San Bernardino City Unified School District that worked with a District Assistance and Intervention Team from Total School Solutions (TSS) posted gains that met or topped their growth targets in last week’s release of 2009 Growth Academic Performance Index data by the California Department of Education (CDE).

Two elementary schools in the district – Inghram and Muscoy – posted strong double digit gains...

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More than 100 Schools with API Over 800 Now in PI

Academic Performance Index Scores Rise; Yet More Schools Tip into Program Improvement

By Jeff Hudson - September 18, 2009

The number of schools meeting or exceeding the 800-point target on California’s Academic Performance Index (API) is on the rise.  In results for the 2009 Growth API released on Tuesday, some 42 percent of California’s schools are at or above 800 – the point at which the California Department of Education (CDE) considers them to be “high performing” schools. That’s an increase of six percent over last year.

At the same time, the number of California schools meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements under federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation is on the wane...

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Preparing for "District of Choice"

By Brett McFadden, Adonai Mack and Tahir Ahad - September 11, 2009

State lawmakers this week approved a significant expansion of the current “district of choice” program.  And it looks like the governor will most likely sign it the next month.  If signed, the bill will take effect January 1, 2010.

Senate Bill 680 (Romero, D-East Los Angeles) would expand the current district of choice (DOC) program statewide and extend the sunset date by seven years.  In addition, the program enables participating school districts to declare themselves a “district of choice” and admit students from neighboring districts without a reciprocity agreement from the student’s district of residence...

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CAHSEE Results Released; Achievement Gap Persists

By Jeff Hudson and Tina Burkhart - September 3, 2009

There are some rays of sunshine in the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) results for 2008-09, released on Wednesday by the California Department of Education (CDE).

But despite small improvements in a variety of categories, the results show that the much-discussed “achievement gap” between ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups hasn’t narrowed a whole lot.

As a large group, some 90.6 percent of California students in the Class of 2009 passed both...

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LAUSD Board Approves Plan That Could Transfer 250 Campuses to New Management

By Jeff Hudson - August 28, 2009

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s board of education voted by a 6-1 majority on Tuesday to approve a controversial plan that could transfer operation of up to 250 schools – including 50 newly built campuses and 200 campuses that are in Program Improvement Year Three (or higher) – to charter schools, “outside operators,” or even neighborhood control under a teacher collaborative.

The plan authorizes LAUSD’s Superintendent Ramon Cortines to recommend the best option for running some of the mammoth district’s lowest-performing schools...

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CDE Postpones Release of CAHSEE by a Week; APR Release Delayed to Mid-September

August 28, 2009

In an announcement sent to reporters on Monday, the California Department of Education (CDE) said that “The (public) release date for the 2008-09 California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) results has been pushed back.”  The public release had originally been scheduled for Thursday, August 27.

According to the CDE, the 2008-09 CAHSEE results will now be publicly released on Wednesday, September 2...

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2009 STAR Results Show Progress, But Lingering Achievement Gap Prompts Concern, Criticism

By Jeff Hudson - August 21, 2009

California students made incremental progress in the 2009 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program results, released on Tuesday by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

But even as O’Connell praised the slow-but-steady progress of students in several academic areas over the past few years, he acknowledged that the achievement gap between different ethnic and socioeconomic groups remains stubbornly evident...

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Update on QEIA Funding Situation:
Reduced Revenue Limits Do Not Eliminate Program Requirements

By Brett McFadden and Tahir Ahad - August 14, 2009

As reported in EdBrief last week, the recently adopted State Budget included a significant budget hit for the 135 school districts participating in the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA).  This is a hit on top of the huge reductions they have taken alongside other districts in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

In a nutshell, these districts and their participating schools have had their QEIA funding completely erased for the 2009-10 school year.  And this occurs at the time when many school districts have already begun the school year, while other districts are within a couple of weeks of starting...

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State Leaders Intend to Restore Funding to QEIA Districts and Schools

By Brett McFadden and Tahir Ahad - August 7, 2009

The recently adopted State Budget contained an unpleasant surprise for the 135 school districts participating in the Quality Education Investment Act program (QEIA).

The budget deleted additional $450 million non-Proposition 98 appropriations contained in the 2009 Budget Act approved in February 2009, including $402 million appropriated for the QEIA program.  This action was taken to avoid reduction of $450 million in Proposition 98 funding and, alternatively, any negative impact on the health and social services side of the state budget...

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Back to School, Already?! Many Districts Are Starting Classes in Early August – Even July

By William Spalding - July 31, 2009

The barbeque grills and other summer gear share space with the “Back-to-School” section at Target and other retailers nowadays, as parents stock up on new Jonas Brothers backpacks, pencil cases, and binders.  The smell of burnt gunpowder from Independence Day celebrations has barely left the nostrils when kids are forced to start getting up early for the first week of classes – trundling off to school on days when many inland communities will see the thermometer go over 100 degrees...

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O'Connell Invites Comment on Education and the Environment Initiative Curriculum

July 24, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced this week that instructional materials submitted for the 2009 Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) Curriculum Review for kindergarten through grade twelve are now available for public review and comment.

“Students today will be responsible for making decisions that influence the future health of the environment,” said O'Connell.  “This curriculum provides the foundation to prepare students to be informed, environmentally conscious decision makers...

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Rising Enrollment, Surging Percentage of English Learners Pose Challenge for California Educators

By Jeff Hudson - July 17, 2009

The task facing California educators has grown substantially over the past 29 years, with rising enrollment and several dramatic shifts in student demographics making the situation more complex, according to a report presented to the State Board of Education (SBE) by former California State University system chancellor Barry Munitz and Rick Miller, deputy state superintendent with the California Department of Education, at the July 9 meeting of the SBE.

Highlights of the presentation include...

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SBE Defends CAHSEE, Approves Waivers Allowing Districts More Time to Buy New Textbooks

By Jeff Hudson - July 10, 2009

This week’s meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) included several items relating to the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), and approval of a slew of waivers giving about 70 school districts an additional year before they are required to buy new math and English Language Arts instructional materials.

The SBE unanimously approved a resolution expressing continued support for the CAHSEE, and urging the Legislature not to send any bill to the Governor that would suspend the CAHSEE as a high school graduation requirement...

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U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Reimbursement for Special Education Services

By Brett McFadden (ACSA) and Karen E. Gilyard (AALRR) - June 26, 2009

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parents of special education students may seek local education agency (LEA) reimbursement for private school tuition – even if they had not previously received and/or sought such services from their public school.

The court in Forest Grove School District v. T.A., No. 08-305 (June 22, 2009) held that the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) did not restrict its authority to “grant appropriate relief” on this matter...

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Summer School Programs Cut, O'Connell Bemoans Loss of Local Programs

By Jeff Hudson - June 19, 2009

Several school districts, large and small, located up and down California, have cancelled or reduced summer school programs in response to local budget problems brought on by reductions in state funding. On Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell held a news conference at Ethel Phillips Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District to highlight the impact of these summer program cuts on students, many of whom are already lagging behind their classmates in academic performance...

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Budget Conference Committee Votes to Drop CAHSEE as Graduation Requirement

By Jeff Hudson - June 17, 2009

One of the eye-catching budget-cutting plans voted through on Tuesday by the Legislative Budget Conference Committee in Sacramento was a proposal to temporarily drop the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) as a requirement for high school graduation.

Under the proposal – which has not cleared either chamber of the Legislature, or been signed by the Governor – students would no longer be required to pass the CAHSEE (starting in the 2009-2010 school year) as a graduation requirement...

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ACSA Invites School Leaders to PI Institute

By Jeff Hudson - June 5, 2009

Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) is sending an open invitation to district administrators and staff to come to the Program Improvement Summer institute that has been developed to address the needs of all districts without regards to their accountability status.

The institute is being offered in association by ACSA and Total School Solutions (TSS). The objective of the institute is not only to help improve current practices and learn from experts with demonstrated success in schools and districts in California, but also to start building the foundation for the work required in improving district culture and systems...

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Poor Attention in Kindergarten Predicts Lower Test Scores in High School, UC Davis Study Finds

By Jeff Hudson - May 29, 2009

Students that have “attention problems” in kindergarten and elementary schools often grow up and become high school students that achieve lower scores on standardized tests.

That’s the conclusion of a UC Davis study appearing online this week in the June issue of the medical journal Pediatric. The study found a clear link between attention problems early in school and low achievement when the same students reach their teens...

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State Evaluating Free Digital Texts; Deadline for Submissions is June 15

May 29, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and the State Board of Education, in support of the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative, announced this week that content developers of digital textbooks may submit materials to the California Learning Resources Network (CLRN) for review.

“The time has come for California to be the leader in promoting this effort, especially now when school districts are struggling to survive the current budget crisis,” O’Connell said...

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More Schools Hit "High Performing" Status in 2008 Base API – But Achievement Gap Lingers

By Jeff Hudson - May 22, 2009

The number of California schools reaching the threshold of “high performing” status grew slightly in the 2008 Base Academic Performance Index Report (API), released by the California Department of Education (CDE) on Thursday.

But the ongoing achievement gap among California students continued to be a cause for concern, with students from white and Asian ethnic backgrounds tending to score significantly higher on standardized tests than their African American and Hispanic/Latino classmates...

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ACSA Releases Second Round of ARRA/IDEA and Title I Guidance

By Sherry Skelly Griffith, Brett McFadden, and Adonai Mack, ACSA - May 18, 2009

In this advisory from ACSA on the three main funding streams that are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), we cover federal guidance for the use of IDEA Part B, ARRA formula funds and ESEA Title I, ARRA formula funds. The purpose of this advisory is to cover the requirements, reporting and use of these new limited term funds. This advisory comes directly from the federal guidance.

Please click on the link below to view the first advisory on the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) on the ACSA website...

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Mixed Results on "Nation's Education Report Card"

By Jeff Hudson - May 1, 2009

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) rolled out "The Nation's Report Card" this week.  The assessment has been tracking the academic progress of representative groups of nine-year-olds, 13-year-olds and 17-year-olds over the course of roughly four decades. The executive summary of the 2008 version of the report card concluded that:

  1. Improvements were seen in reading and mathematics
  2. Black students make greater gains from the early 1970s to present than White students...

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California's Dropout Rate Dips Slightly, While High School Graduation Rate Inches Higher

By Jeff Hudson - May 15, 2009

The graduation rate for California high school students increased slightly in 2007-2008, and the dropout rate declined by a small amount, according to initial figures released by the California Department of Education (CDE) on Tuesday.  These figures may be revised as further data is analyzed.

The shifts were not dramatic.  In 2007-08, 68.3 percent of public school students in California graduated, up from 67.7 percent in the previous year. The adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same school year was 20.1 percent, down from 21.1 percent the previous year...

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Governor Announces Program to Compile List of Digital Texts

By Jeff Hudson - May 8, 2009

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a program on Wednesday to create a cache of free, open-source digital textbooks for California high school students. The Governor directed his Secretary of Education Glen Thomas to ensure these resources are available for use in high school math and science classes by fall 2009.

"As California's budget crisis continues we must find such innovative ways to save money and improve services," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "California was built on innovation and I'm proud of our state's continued leadership in developing education technology...

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In an Era of Budget Cuts . . . What About GATE?

By William Spalding, TSS and Brett McFadden, ACSA - May 1, 2009

"You can't cut our program – those are the future leaders of this country!" was a statement recently made by a GATE parent to one of the authors of this article.  The parent’s school district is considering some significant changes to the GATE program in light of budget constraints and student enrollment.  And the parent's remark highlights the visceral challenges that education leaders often face when considering changes in the way a GATE program is operated or funded.

In 1961, the state of California established what was then called the MGM (Mentally Gifted Minor) program,...

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English Learners Post Modest Gains in CELDT

By Jeff Hudson - May 1, 2009

California students who are English learners posted modest gains on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), according to statistics released on Wednesday by the California Department of Education (CDE).

For 2008-2009, nearly 39 percent of English learners who took the CELDT in the public schools scored at the “early advanced” level (29.7 percent) or the "advanced" level (9.5 percent). This represents a three-point gain over the preceding year...

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TSS, Springboard Combine DAIT Services

By Jeff Hudson - April 24, 2009

Educational consulting firms Total School Solutions and Springboard Schools have announced a new partnership to support and improve Program Improvement districts.  Springboard and Total School Solutions will combine efforts and provide joint District Assistance and Intervention Teams (DAIT). This brings the expertise of two experienced companies together in providing quality services to school districts and County Offices of Education needing DAIT support and reforms to improve student achievement...

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New Stanford Study Concludes Exit Exam Doesn't Boost Achievement, Negatively Impacts Girls & Minorities

By Jeff Hudson - April 24, 2009

A study released on Wednesday found no evidence that California’s High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) has improved student achievement, and also found that the exit exam has negative impacts on girls and students of color among students scoring in the bottom 25 percent on the state’s annual standardized tests (or STAR tests).

Sean Reardon, an associate professor at Stanford University, and Michal Kurlaender, assistant professor at UC Davis, based the study on data from four large school districts...

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Former ACSA President Enters Race for Superintendent of Public Instruction

By Jeff Hudson - April 17, 2009

Larry Aceves, a former president of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), who’s served with school districts in Northern and Southern California, announced on Monday that he’s running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In announcing his candidacy, Aceves said his priorities would be to increase funding for public education, close the achievement gap, and ensure that poorer school districts receive the same level of school funding as wealthier ones...

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Caught in the Matrix:

Program Improvement Districts and AB 519

By William Spalding - March 27, 2009

Amidst the epic budget angst that has dominated the landscape for schools and districts this year is a little-known piece of legislation that established how school districts caught up in the No Child Left Behind Act’s Local Educational Agency Program Improvement would be treated as they move into “sanction” or “corrective action” (“sanction” being the federal term, changed to the kinder and gentler “corrective action” by California’s State Board of Education.)

The bill, AB 519, lent clarity and direction last fall to the California Department of Education (CDE) and State Board of Education (SBE)...

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SBE Approves Several New Charter Schools, Waivers

By Jeff Hudson - March 13, 2009

The State Board of Education dealt with several charter school issues and waiver issues during its meeting on Wednesday and Thursday in Sacramento. The board:

— Held a lengthy discussion, but took no formal action on a request by the Los Angeles Unified School District to waive Ed Code regarding class size reduction requirements under the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), allowing funds from seven QEIA schools to follow students to nine newly constructed schools. CDE staff had recommended denial. In the absence of action by the SBE, the waiver will automatically be granted for one year...

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DAIT Districts: To adopt, or not adopt?

By William Spalding - March 10, 2009

Many districts are grappling with the current financial crisis, and are knee deep in pink slips, growing class sizes, and red ink as they go forward into the next school year.

A major consideration is the second of the large back-to-back core adoptions, Reading/English/language arts.  IMFRP (Instructional Materials Funding Realignment Program) funding for these adoptions has become more anemic over the years.  And in the current fiscal environment, many districts find the hefty adoption of new Reading/English/language arts,...

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Special Education Efficiency Studies – A Money Saving Tool in Rough Economic Times

By Steve Horowitz - February 27, 2009

School districts are in the process of making important decisions about significant budget-cutting steps to reflect the dismal current and projected state budget.

One area of potential savings that districts should consider is special education.  Special education services are a vital component of any district’s instructional program.  In many cases, these services are mandated by state or federal law.  Nonetheless, there is potential to realize cost savings based on a district’s staffing and program offerings...

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QEIA and the Budget Butcher: Now What?

By William Spalding - February 18, 2009

The Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) of 2006 was the final outcome of the dispute between the legislature and the governor over promises made and broken in our last budget crisis.  Ah, the good old days.

You’ll recall that close to $3 billion was allocated to a grant for Decile 1 and 2 schools, and a lottery determined the winners of a $500-$1000 per pupil formula (depending on the grade level) for each year through 2014...

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CTA, ACSA Part Ways Over Class Size Reduction

By Jeff Hudson - February 6, 2009

A political battle is under way over the future of class size reduction programs in California public schools — and the issue has produced something of a divide in education circles.

Since 1996, many California school districts have participated in a state-sponsored class size reduction program that maintains a ratio of 20 students to one teacher for kindergarten through third-grade classes, and in some classes for ninth- and 10th-graders...

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The Show Must Go On . . . Keep the Goal in Mind

By William Spalding - February 13, 2009

If you are a California school district administrator, you have probably experienced several weeks including all-day cabinet meetings, meetings with teachers, meetings with classified staff, meetings with site administrators, board study sessions, and meetings with parents.

And all of these meetings have likely focused on one thing: the state budget deficit, and the reductions that school districts will experience as a result.

We’ve heard two things about the budget that have come up again and again...

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TSS Team Praised

State Board of Education Hears From Three Districts About DAIT Process

By Jeff Hudson - January 16, 2009

At the Jan. 8 meeting of the State Board of Education, the board heard presentations from three school districts that had recently had positive experiences with DAIT (District Assistance and Intervention Teams) providers.

The San Bernardino City Unified School District worked with a DAIT team from Total School Solutions.  Superintendent Arturo Delgado began by describing his district, which has about 55,000 students – one of the ten largest districts in the state in terms of enrollment...

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CDE Seeks Participation in Framework Revisions

By Cathy Bui - January 16, 2009

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced on Thursday that people may apply to participate in the revision and update of the K-12 Mathematics and Health Frameworks for California Public Schools.

The Frameworks are designed to provide guidance to teachers, administrators, and parents in the implementation of the subject matter that reflects the state-adopted content standards.  A framework is like the scaffolding upon which the state builds support for teaching the content standards, i.e., the subject matter teachers teach in the classroom that is appropriate for the grade level being taught...

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Master Scheduling III – Building Your Master Schedule, While Reducing Staff

By William Spalding - January 9, 2009

(Third article in the Master Schedule series.)

Shortly before corks were popping on New Year's Eve, the Governor popped a cork of his own and quietly proposed another round of cuts to education that included proposals to shut down school a week early this year, as well as dropping a year of Science from the paltry two-year Science graduation requirements for California’s high school students.

In our previous articles on master scheduling (Master Scheduling I, November 21 and Master Scheduling II, December 12) we talked about important timelines and strategies for saving on staff...

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Master Scheduling II – Streamline and Optimize Staffing When Resources Are Stretched Thin

By William Spalding - December 12, 2008

(Second article in the Master Schedule series.)

Our last installment discussed the importance of an established master scheduling calendar that begins a full year prior to the actual implementation, and how important it is to match student enrollment projections with staffing allocations.  We also discussed matching student course sign-ups with teacher assignments.  Identifying real needs early allows the school and district to make staffing adjustments and to possibly realize some cost savings in the difficult times ahead...

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Master Scheduling I – Prepping the Master Schedule . . . in November?

By William Spalding - November 21, 2008

(First in a series of articles.)

This may sound like "Christmas in July" . . .  But believe it or not, it's time to think about and act on master scheduling for next year in your middle and high schools.  Yes, even now in November.  Especially this year.

Master scheduling feels a lot like hanging wallpaper – 90% the work is in the preparation – but it also often feels rushed and maybe a little sloppy as a late spring or even summer activity.  The truth is that the most effective master schedule preparation begins in earnest the previous year...

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State Board of Education Discusses New Committee, Curriculum

By Jeff Hudson - November 7, 2008

Some developments at this week's State Board of Education meeting involved African American students, curriculum questions, and updates on election results.

  • The board heard a request from board member Greg Jones to create an advisory committee to focus on education of African American students, along the lines of the board’s existing committee that focuses on education of students who are English Learners, as a means of reducing the achievement gap. Board member Ken Noonan supported Jones...

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Computer-Based Math Intervention Programs

By Tina Burkhart - October 24, 2008

For years there have been predictions of the day when technology programs would take the place of paper textbooks.

Some predictions even suggested that teachers would be replaced by computers.

That hasn’t happened yet.  But technology does play a larger classroom role each year.  A few states have adopted technology-based programs as state adopted curriculum. When California’s State Board of Education (SBE) adopted a new math curriculum last year...

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Fifty-Two Districts Await State Board Action Regarding Program Improvement Status

By William Spalding - October 17, 2008

Dozens of California school districts are closely following developments in Sacramento as they move further into the Program Improvement process. And many other California school districts – realizing that they may likely go into Program Improvement themselves sometime during the next few years – are keeping an eye on the situation as well.

In the next few weeks, the California State Board of Education (SBE) will hear the recommendations for corrective action and proposed requirements...

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The Seven Year Itch: Adopting New E/LA Materials in 2009

By William Spalding - September 19, 2008

Just as you finished (or are finishing) with the mathematics adoption, and are feverishly distributing books, and training your teachers . . . the long-awaited Reading/English/Language Arts and English Language Development (ELD) adoption moves from the on deck circle to the batter’s box for your consideration.

School year 2009-2010 is the target for implementation, though in light of budget woes and uncertain Instructional Materials Funding Realignment...

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DAIT & PI Technical Assistance
"Caveat Emptor" - Buyer Beware!

By William Spalding - September 1, 2008

Districts and schools in the advanced stages of Program Improvement, or those with DAIT (District Assistance and Intervention Team) or Technical Assistance status can expect a variety of initiatives being undertaken to make rapid reforms for students who are underperforming.

These districts are typically trying to avoid the new scarlet letter in our modern accountability system: PI...

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New AYP/API Releases Upcoming

By William Spalding - September 1, 2008

It’s that time of year again.  Districts received their STAR results in late July and early August, with the public notification of STAR results throughout the state released August 14.

The results for the 2007-2008 school year demonstrate overall steady progress, with some areas of flat performance or minimal improvement. Examples would be Grade 2 Mathematics and upper level Mathematics courses at the high school level;...

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