Fielding phone calls from parents asking about enrollment is part of everyday business for schools, but for some charter schools, the person on the other end of the line may only be posing as a parent.
Modeled after “mystery shopper” or “secret shopper” services used in retail, authorizers in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts are using a similar tactic to make sure the charter schools they oversee are not turning away students with more specialized needs, such as children with disabilities or who are still learning English.
This issue has long dogged the charter sector, which nationally, some studies show, enrolls a lower percentage of students with disabilities compared to regular public schools. The discrepancy, some charter critics say, comes from the publicly funded but independently run schools turning away such students in order to improve test scores.
Beset by an epic budget crunch, the SRC unilaterally canceled its expired contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers earlier this month and declared that the union's 11,500 members will begin paying a portion of their health-insurance costs.
Observers across the political spectrum view the action as the latest salvo in an ongoing national battle over the collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers. In recent years, teachers and other public employees from Louisiana to Wisconsin have found themselves on the defensive as management has sought to roll back benefits and job protections.
Consistently ranked as one of the most "endangered" governors when it comes to reelection prospects, Keystone State Gov. Tom Corbett has consistently trailed Democrat Tom Wolf this year, and he is the only Republican governor whose race is now considered safely in the Democratic column, according to Real Clear Politics. (I wrote about Wolf's position on education funding earlier this year.) However, Corbett has closed the gap in recent months, and what was once a deficit of approximately 20 percentage points is now getting closer to single digits, as the Real Clear Politics polling average below shows:
Finding ways to create "innovative" high schools seems to be a perennial policy priority for the beleaguered Philadelphia School District—and a topic that we at Education Week just can't seem to stay away from.
This school year, despite being beset by a financial crisis, stalemated labor negotiations, and a toxic reform climate, the 131,000-student district opened three new outside-the-box high schools, the planning of which we covered last spring.
Pennsylvania's Gov. Corbett has released a somewhat ambiguous statement about the future of the Common Core State Standards in that state, saying he has asked for a "continued public review" of the standards as part of the "final phase" of a three-year process to "roll back" the standards in the Keystone State.
In his Sept. 8 statement, Corbett said that he has asked his state K-12 chief, Carolyn Dumaresq, to ask the state Board of Education to hold hearings immediately on the state's academic standards. The goal, he said, is to ensure that Pennsylvania begins new academic standards with the help of national experts, teachers, and parents.
Black people in Ferguson, Mo. — where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed Black teenager Aug. 9 -- are more likely to be arrested by local police officers than their White peers. Those statistics have sparked a mistrust of the mostly White police force that added fuel to passionate protests that have followed the death of Michael Brown, 18.
Those racial disparities are also present in schools in Ferguson, where Black students are more likely to face some forms of discipline than their White peers, federal statistics show.
Although more people know what the Common Core State Standards are than last year, most of them oppose the standards, according to the 46th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.
Overall, the wide-ranging survey found, 81 percent of those polled said they had heard about the common standards, compared with 38 percent last year. However, 60 percent oppose the standards, generally because they believe the standards will limit the flexibility that teachers have to teach what they think is best. Last year's poll did not specifically ask respondents whether they supported the standards.
Nearly a year after Superintendent William Hite committed millions of dollars to expand Science Leadership Academy and two other pioneering District schools here, the investment in hands-on, technology-rich instructional models has stirred hope and experimentation across the city.
But the tentative flourishing of innovation is at risk of being overwhelmed by a massive funding shortfall that has cast doubt on the superintendent's ability to safely open schools in September, let alone spread promising new models across the 131,000-student system.
by Liana Heitin for Education Week
The achievement data from NAEP, known as "the nation's report card," show that 12th graders' average math score remained at 153, on a 300-point scale, when comparing the 2013 results with those from 2009, the last time the test was administered. Just 26 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level in math — again, the same as four years ago.
by Benjamin Herold for Education Week
And I couldn't help but feel profoundly sad.
Such is life in Philadelphia, my adopted hometown and former professional stomping grounds, where hundreds of public schools and tens of thousands of children have been left largely on their own to forage and fundraise for the basics of modern education.