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January 08, 2010

Parent Trigger, TFA Teachers, and Schools Without Money

Education in the news this week:

Putting Parents in Power
As the director of Parent Revolution put it, we did it. "For the first time anywhere in America, parents have been empowered and entrusted with the legal right to force dramatic change at their child's failing school." Part of a huge reform package signed into California state law by Governor Schwarzenegger yesterday, "the measures call for districts to take aggressive steps to turn failing schools around, including firing staff, closing schools and converting campuses to independently operated charter schools," reports the SF Chronicle. "The bills are intended to increase California's eligibility for as much as $700 million in federal Race to the Top grants, which the Obama administration is using to advance favored reforms."

What Makes a Great Teacher? A Great Citizen?
Teach for America "has been systematically pursuing this mystery for more than a decade — tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and analyzing why some teachers can move those kids three grade levels ahead in one year and others can't," writes the Atlantic Monthly.

Things that you might think would help a new teacher achieve success in a poor school — like prior experience working in a low-income neighborhood — don’t seem to matter. Other things that may sound trifling — like a teacher's extracurricular accomplishments in college — tend to predict greatness.

Strangely enough, TFA participation does not necessarily lead to commensurate civic engagement. As the New York Times found out, "In areas like voting, charitable giving and civic engagement, graduates of the program lag behind those who were accepted but declined and those who dropped out before completing their two years."

The Recession's Impact on Our Schools
"A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that the economic recession and federal attempts to lessen its impact have dealt a mixed hand for school districts across the country," blogs Ed Money Watch. For example, the GAO estimates that while 50 percent of school districts will receive a 5 percent boost in federal funding in 2009-10, less than 10 percent will see a similar boost in state or local funding. At the same time, over 40 percent of school districts will receive a 5 percent or larger decrease in state funding and almost 20 percent will receive such a decrease in local funds. "In short, school districts were nearly as likely to receive cuts to state or local funds as increases in federal funds."

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