Education in the news this week:
Debating Teacher Seniority Rules
In anticipation of thousands of teacher layoffs, parents and education policy officials are challenging the long-held "last in, first out" policies ruling school lay-offs. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "About 60,000 school workers were laid off across the country last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, double the number laid off in 2008 and three times the level in 2007." Critics of seniority rules are concerned that as firings are made in 2010, effective and talented teachers will be overlooked in favor of those entrenched in their tenure. Which led the New York Times to ask, "What is the most effective way to identify incompetent teachers and take steps to get rid of them?"
Obama Backs National Standards
"Under No Child Left Behind, schools had to meet state standards," writes The American Prospect. "But these were adopted with little input from the federal government. Because NCLB penalized schools that failed to meet the self-imposed standards, many just lowered them." On Monday President Obama revealed his administration's plan to link Title I funding to states' adoption of college- and career-ready standards. What does this mean? If certain schools failed to meet national standards, instead of penalties these schools would receive additional assistance.
Affordable SAT Prep
Harvard junior Jason Shah has developed an online SAT prep enterprise targeting low-income students who wouldn't otherwise have access to college advice, online lessons, mentors, or 24/7 email support — and unlike Kaplan and Princeton Review, it's all free. I Need A Pencil users get "60 custom lessons tailored to academic weaknesses, and an unlimited number of custom SAT questions and practice tests," explains the GOOD Magazine. "In comparison, Shah says Kaplan's SAT Online program offers 30 lessons for $399 with only four practice tests. The Princeton Review’s SAT Live Online costs $699 for 20-30 hours of tutoring with four practice tests." As Shah puts it, "Families shouldn't have to spend the equivalent of a college classes' tuition just to get ready to take the SAT."