Education & Schools
Davenport Native Kara Bartels Named to Augustana College's Dean's List PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Kelly Sprecher   
Monday, 23 January 2012 08:47

SIOUX FALLS, SD (01/19/2012)(readMedia)-- Augustana College today announced that Kara Bartels, of Davenport, IA, has been named to the Dean's List for the Fall semester of the 2011-2012 academic year.

The Dean's List recognizes full-time students who have a minimum of 10 credit hours with grade-point averages at 3.5 or above.

About Augustana

Founded in 1860, Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., is a selective, residential, comprehensive college of the Lutheran Church. Committed to enriching lives and fostering development, Augustana combines a foundation in the liberal arts with professional skill and advanced study, leading the Templeton Guide to include the College among those that inspire students to lead ethical and civic-minded lives. With more than 1,850 students from 25 states and 30 countries, Augustana is featured among "America's Top Colleges" by Forbes; was ranked among the top 10 baccalaureate colleges in the nation for its efforts to advance social mobility, research and service by Washington Monthly; has been named a "Best Midwestern College" by The Princeton Review; and is identified in Peterson's "440 Great Colleges for Great Students."

Augustana celebrated its sesquicentennial during the 2010-2011 academic year.

 
Judge rules Indiana’s new school voucher program is constitutional PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Education Action Group   
Monday, 23 January 2012 08:46
ISTA threatens state with more punches
By Ben Velderman
EAG Communications
INDIANAPOLIS – The nation’s most comprehensive voucher program has survived its first legal test.
Last Friday, a Marion County judge ruled that Indiana’s new voucher law, the Indiana Choice Scholarship program, is completely constitutional. The 2011 law gives low- and middle-income families a voucher to pay for tuition at the public or private school of their choice, including religious schools.
The Indiana State Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, and a collection of voucher opponents sued that state, arguing that the law violated the separation of church and state.
In his ruling, Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele wrote, “This Court therefore concludes that the degree of religiosity of the participating schools is immaterial to the case at hand,” and noted that the scholarship program “bestows benefits onto scholarship recipients who may then choose to use the funding for education at a public, secular private, or religious school.”
“(The program) is designed to benefit students, not schools, and the court recognized that very essential fact,” Bert Gall, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, told IndyStar.com. "It's the most salient fact in determining that the program is constitutional."
“This is a huge victory,” said Robert Enlow, president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “It means that the nearly 4,000 low-and middle-income children in Indiana who are participating in the program can continue to attend a high quality, non-public school using public funds.”
Voucher supporters believe the favorable ruling will encourage more Hoosier families to make use of the program, which is designed to level the education playing field between poor and affluent students.
The voucher program is available to families earning up to 150 percent of the federal free and reduced price lunch program with enrollment caps set at 7,500 students in the first year, 15,000 in the second, and no limits in year three and beyond.
That last detail explains why the president of the state’s teachers union has promised to appeal the ruling.
“This is just round one,” said ISTA President Teresa Meredith.
It’s very revealing that the teachers union frames this issue in terms of a boxing match. While lawmakers are trying to free children from failing schools and give them a brighter future, the union sees this as just another political slug-fest over money. We’re disappointed by their response, but not even a little bit surprised.
GOV. CHRISTIE PROPOSES SIMILAR VOUCHER PLAN
Indiana’s success in passing a voucher program may have started a domino effect throughout the country.
Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he wants a voucher program for students who attend a state-managed school district.
This week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used his State of the State address to promote the Opportunity Scholarship Act, a voucher program that would apply only to students trapped in the Garden State’s worst-performing school districts.
“Opportunity should not be offered to only those in an excellent school district, or with parents who have the money to release their children from the prison that is a failing school,” Christie said.
The voucher plan was presented during last year’s legislative session. Though it had strong bipartisan support, it never received an up or down vote.
It’s unclear if the scholarship act will fare any better in 2012, as the New Jersey Education Association remains a powerful political player that’s determined to kill the bill.
“Voucher” is still considered a dirty word by some, but at least three governors agree that it’s an idea whose time has come.
NESHAMINY TEACHERS TO END STRIKE TODAY
Pennsylvania’s Neshaminy Federation of Teachers has agreed to end its nearly two-week strike, and members will return to the classroom Friday morning. But that doesn’t mean the nastiness is over.
The school board had refused to continue contract negotiations while the union was on strike, which means the disagreements about future pay raises, health insurance contributions and retroactive pay are still unresolved.
State law requires that a three-member arbitration panel be brought in to help assist negotiations, reports PhillyBurbs.com. The panel will make its non-binding recommendations by spring. If the district and the union still cannot agree, the NFT has the legal option of going on strike a second time this school year.
School board President Ritchie Webb said that a second strike would prompt the district to file an injunction with the state, asking that the teachers be ordered back to work.
“Teachers need to understand that you can strike until the cows come home, but it doesn’t create more money in the district,” Webb said. “We have limited resources.”
The community seems to have had enough of the NFT’s selfish behavior, too.
“I think what the teachers are doing is greedy and insulting to us – the taxpayers," said Tony Brillhart, according to LowerSouthhampton.Patch.com. “We pay them to do a job, not walk in front of the schools with posters.”
“They went to strike over greed and my daughter’s education is forced to suffer because of it,” said Shawna Frey, a sergeant in the National Guard who served in Iraq.
Like we said, the strike might be over, but the dissension and hard feelings remain.
JUDGE ORDERS BAILOUT OF UNION-DOMINATED SCHOOL DISTRICT
These days a lot of school budgets are being held together by the accounting equivalents of bailing wire and duct tape. But one Pennsylvania school district is so broke that it needs the state to provide the wire and the tape.
The Chester Upland School District began this week with only $100,000 in its savings account, and had no way of meeting its $1 million payroll – that is, until a judge ordered the state to give the district a  $3.2 million advance in its allowance, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The money will allow the teachers to be paid and the lights to remain on, at least for a few more weeks. The district is on track to be $20 million in debt by the end of the school year.
“Anxious parents are looking at other options for their children, such as sending them to private schools or having them live with relatives and go to other public schools,” the Daily Journal reported two days before the bailout was announced.
What’s causing Chester Upland’s financial meltdown?
According to school officials, the state has been illegally giving some of the district’s money to charter schools. State officials say the law requires it to fund the schools where students actually attend, and many choose to attend charter schools. A judge is expected to settle the dispute next month.
While the district might win its case in court, it seems destined to lose in the court of public opinion.
Since 2006, Chester Upland’s enrollment has dropped by almost 1,000 students. During that same time, the district has increased its workforce by 145 employees, and its budget by $28 million, reports the PhillyBurbs.com.
Members of the local teachers union have pledged to keep working “as long as they are individually able … even if they are not paid.”
While that makes for a nice press release, the Radar has learned that none the district's three school employee unions have agreed to open their contracts and offer any concessions to help the district survive.
Just another financial crisis, courtesy of Big Labor.
RECORD NUMBER OF FLORIDA SCHOOL EMPLOYEES EARN $100,000 IN 2010
Florida’s Marion County school district drew national headlines last summer when it announced that it was switching to a four-day school week as a way to save money.
Other school officials took a more conventional route by laying off teachers and cutting student programs, all the while blaming Gov. Rick Scott for underfunding Florida’s public schools.
Now comes a report that finds 946 school employees in the Sunshine State earned at least $100,000 in 2010. That’s up 818 percent from 2005, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability.
The foundation also finds the percentage of non-school employees who earn at least six-figures has increased by only 7 percent during that same period.
“You don’t have to be great in math to figure out that something is wrong with these school salaries,” Tarren Bragdon, Foundation for Government Accountability CEO, told the Sunshine State News.
“During these five years, you have flat student enrollment, the biggest recession since the Great Depression and skyrocketing six-figure salaries – that adds up to a raw deal for Florida parents and taxpayers,” Bragdon said.
The average salary for a Florida teacher is about $47,000, which means administrators and superintendents receive the majority of those hefty paydays.
Tea Party leader Patricia Sullivan summed it up best: “It appears the servant is now the master, and the children get the crumbs.”

 
Lt. Gov. Simon to colleges: Focus on the finish PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Monday, 23 January 2012 08:43

Math, transparency key to increasing completion rates

CHICAGO – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today urged education leaders to adopt a reform package that aims to increase the number of Illinois community college students who graduate within three years of enrollment.

“Our request of community colleges is deceptively simple: Help more of your students finish what they start,” Simon said. “As a state, we must stay focused on the finish.”

In a new report issued today by Simon, she states that four out of five recent high school graduates who enroll in Illinois community colleges do not complete a certificate or degree within three years.

“We’re doing a good job of getting all types of students into the doors of community colleges. But now we need to do a better job of moving them across the stage at graduation with a certificate or degree that leads to a good-paying job here in Illinois,” she said.

The report argues one reason students take longer to graduate – or drop out altogether – is that they are not prepared for college-level work. Almost half of recent high school graduates test into remedial courses, and most of those incoming freshmen struggle with math, Simon said.

“We have more than 142,000 unfilled jobs in Illinois right now, but thousands of people are looking for work,” Simon said. “That doesn’t add up to a strong economy. We need to better prepare employees for the workforce, and that starts with sending students to college ready to learn.”

Simon serves as Governor Quinn’s point person on education reform. In her first year in office, she conducted a fact-finding tour of the state’s 48 community colleges to learn how the state can work with schools to increase completion rates and connect students to the workforce.

“Higher education is critical to ensuring that Illinois continues to compete and excel in the global economy,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “I applaud Lt. Governor Simon for visiting each and every one of our community colleges last year and producing this report. By putting our community colleges front and center and focusing on preparing our students for a 21st century workforce, we can create more jobs, attract more employers and continue to grow the economy in Illinois.”

A former law school professor at Southern Illinois University, Simon said she chose community colleges as her focus because they enroll more students than public universities in Illinois, but produce fewer graduates. Community colleges need to shift their focus to completion for the state to meet the demand for middle and highly skilled workers, she said.

Simon’s report to the Governor and General Assembly, released today in conjunction with her first address at the City Club of Chicago, outlines several reforms that could improve student success rates while using existing resources. To move forward successfully, Simon identified two critical areas for education in Illinois: improved math instruction and transparency.

“Lt. Governor Simon sent a strong message to the higher education system by taking the time to visit every community college in the state during her first year in office,” said Alexi Giannoulias, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board. “We will work with her to improve learning, build stronger ties to the business community and blur the lines between high school, community college and university.”

More Math

Illinois requires high school students to complete three years of math to earn a diploma. This means many incoming high school freshmen at community colleges have taken a year’s vacation from math – and it shows. More than one out of three recent high school graduates test into at least one remedial math course at Illinois community colleges, and some require several semesters of these developmental skills courses.

The problem is that these remedial courses take up students’ time and money, but do not count toward degrees or certificates. The longer it takes for students to complete meaningful coursework, the more likely they are to drop out or incur debilitating debt.

Simon recommends a three-pronged math reform package: (1) High schools should voluntarily require four years of high school math; (2) high schools and community colleges should partner to offer dual credit mathematics courses to all high school juniors and seniors; and (3) community colleges should redesign remediation to embed skills development into credit-bearing courses.

She is asking the Illinois State Board of Education to begin tracking high schools which voluntarily require four years of math, and is seeking researchers to track if the added year reduces remedial needs.

“Our priority is to prepare students to succeed in college and careers, and we know that the skills businesses want from an employee and what is needed to be college ready are very similar,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We’ve already adopted new college-ready learning standards so it only makes sense to also evaluate our high school graduation requirements to make sure they’re aligned with college expectations as well to give students a better chance to succeed after graduation.”

Report Cards

For more than a decade, Illinois elementary and high schools have been required to publish annual school report cards illustrating the proportion of students who meet grade level skills. Not so for higher education institutions -- and that should change as the state shifts to a focus on completion, Simon said.

The state’s top education advisory body, the P-20 Council, has adopted a completion goal: 60 percent of working-age adults (25-64) holding a degree or certificate by 2025. The state is moving in the right direction. Illinois was at 41.3 percent in 2010, up from 40.8 percent in 2008, according to the Lumina Foundation’s analysis of census reports.

Beginning next year, community colleges should be more transparent about student success rates and progress toward the completion goal, Simon said. She proposes a two-page consumer report card be published by each college showing the number and percentage of students finishing courses, certificates, degrees and transfers.

“Tracking and reporting the progress toward our completion goal will raise the profile of community colleges and the role they play in our state’s jobs recovery,” said Miguel del Valle, chairman of the P-20 Council. “Annual college report cards can be an important tool in engaging students, educators and taxpayers in our pursuit of a highly educated workforce.”

Performance Funding

Simon said one of her recommendations is expected to be incorporated in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. She is a member of the Performance Funding Steering Committee that is devising a system to tie a portion of state higher education funding to student success rates.

Currently, the funding mechanism for community colleges considers mid-term enrollment, rather than the number or proportion of students who pass a course or earn a credential. She favors a funding system that “focuses on the finish,” and says it should be phased in over time.

“The university and community college systems are working with Lt. Governor Simon to better measure and reward success at each of our unique institutions,” said George Reid, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and leader of the performance funding committee. “We will continue to foster this relationship and share information to ensure transfer students are prepared for university work and graduates are ready for the workforce.”

Next Steps

Simon said the next step is for her office to work with stakeholders to introduce legislation where needed and to work with higher education governing bodies on reforms at the administrative level. She expects bills to be introduced later this month when the General Assembly returns to Springfield.

For a copy of the full report click here.

For a copy of the report fact sheet click here.

For a copy of the Lt. Governor’s speech click here.

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Iowans for Public School Options Supports Legislation Expanding School Choice PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Derek Flowers   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 08:41

Iowans to be offered greater choice in education

Des Moines, Iowa – Today, the Iowa Legislature will begin the process to debate the Governor's education transformation initiatives with a meeting of the subcommittee on HSB 517.  Iowans for Public School Options offers support for HSB 517 and its Senate companion, SSB 3009, which would create expanded options in education to Iowa's students.

 

With initiatives such as greater access to charter schools, online education, and innovative learning models, this legislation gives parents the ability to choose a school that is the best fit for their children.

 

"Iowa has a tradition of pride in its quality public education system.  Giving parents choice through public school options will help Iowa to once again be a leader in education and ensure every Iowa student is getting the best education available.  We support the initiatives to expand school choice found in this legislation," said Brian Kennedy, Chairman of Iowans for Public School Options.

All across the country, state Legislatures are working this spring to allow high-quality options in education to become available to parents and students in their states.  Allowing Iowa families access to these innovative models that have proven successful will continue to strengthen Iowa's public education system.

SSB 3009 and HSB 517 include initiatives to expand school choice:

•    Creates pathways for students to access online education in Iowa

•    Enables multiple authorizers for new charter schools across the state

•    Increases waiver authority allowing schools to innovate and better serve students

About Iowans for Public School Options
Iowans for Public School Options is a chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO) and is an alliance of parents that supports and defends parents' rights to access the best public school options for their children. The Coalition supports the creation of public school options, including charter schools, online schools, magnet schools, open enrollment policies and other innovative education programs. Additionally, NCPSO advocates for free and equal access without restrictions to these public schools for all children. For additional information, go to www.PublicSchoolOptions.org/Iowa.

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National School Choice week kicks off Saturday PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Ben Velderman   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 08:39
National School Choice Week set to kick off Saturday with a giant rally in New Orleans
By Ben Velderman
EAG Communications
NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans has always been known for its ability to throw a good party.

And these days the Big Easy is also developing a reputation as a showcase for the nation’s K-12 education reform movement.
So it’s seems only natural that thousands of parents, students and concerned citizens from across the country are gathering in New Orleans for Saturday’s kickoff to the second annual “National School Choice Week,” which runs January 22-28.
National School Choice Week (NSCW) is an umbrella group comprised of more than 300 organizations and tens of thousands of school choice supporters who join together every year “to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children,” according to the group’s website.
Those options include everything from “great public schools, to public charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, private schools, homeschooling and more,” according to the site. 

Officials involved with NSCW work throughout the year to encourage lawmakers at various levels of government to maximize the number of educational options for children, therefore maximizing their opportunities for success.
The old idea of keeping students trapped in geographic school districts is no longer acceptable. More and more people are starting to understand that the “one-size-fits-all”  approach to education is outdated and ineffective.

“For too long, too many kids have been forced to attend very bad schools, or schools that aren’t a good fit for them, just because those happened to be the only schools in their neighborhoods,” said Kyle Olson, chief executive officer of Education Action Group and National School Choice Week. 

“What could possibly be wrong with allowing parents to determine the best school for their children, regardless of where it’s located? The scope of a child’s educational opportunities should not be dictated by their zip code.”
New Orleans offers proof that choice works
Andrew Campanella, vice president of public affairs for NSCW, said the Big Easy is the perfect location for the NSCW launch because of its impressive record of increased achievement among students.
After Hurricane Katrina ripped the city apart in 2005, lawmakers decided that education reform was a necessary component to successfully rebuilding New Orleans. 

Chronically failing school districts have been taken over by the state. Families with students in those failed districts have been granted access to a variety of schooling options. As a result, the vast majority of New Orleans students now attend charter schools, which has led to a dramatic rise in student test scores and graduation rates. 

”New Orleans has been at the forefront  of education reform in our country,” Campanella said. “It’s seen tremendous growth in student achievement because of the choices that have been given to parents – everything from scholarships to virtual schools, charter schools and improved public schools.”
New Orleans’ public education system has undergone such a renaissance that last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the city for having the most improved school district in the nation.
"I continue to be in awe of the sense of urgency, the sense of commitment, the entire community getting behind the schools,"  Duncan said, according to NOLA.com.
Thousands expected at kickoff celebration
Thousands of school choice supporters – who represent the full spectrum of ethnic groups, income levels and political persuasions – will participate in the kickoff event, which is being held at the Lakefront Arena, located on the campus of the University of New Orleans

What binds the different groups together is the shared belief that all families deserve the right to choose the best schooling option for their children, Campanella said.
The NSCW event is meant to rally supporters for the upcoming week, as well as to celebrate the school choice victories that occurred last year, of which there were quite a few.
In 2011, Maine became the 41st state to allow the creation of charter schools. Other states, such as Michigan and Florida, lifted caps on the number of charter schools allowed in their states.
Last week, a judge upheld Indiana’s new voucher law that allows low- and middle-income families to use state funding to attend the public or private school of their choice. The Indiana voucher program is the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation.
The new year seems equally promising. Lawmakers in Alabama and Washington state are considering bills that would allow the creation of charter schools, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is pushing for a voucher law that rivals Indiana’s in scope.
After Saturday’s rally, supporters will hold individual events in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
“There will be more than 320 events during the week,” Campanella said. “We’ve tripled the number of participants that we had last year.”
While National School Choice Week has a number of high-profile supporters – legendary comedian/actor Bill Cosby being the most recent recruit – the movement’s success will be determined by the number of families and everyday citizens who get involved. 

To participate in one of the upcoming events around the nation, or learn more about the movement, log on to www.schoolchoiceweek.com.
“We’re getting more supporters every day,” Campanella said.

 
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