By Donna Krache, CNN
(CNN) On Tuesday, voters in two states – Washington and Georgia – will be weighing in on charter schools.
Charter schools are independent public schools that have flexibility in certain aspects of education like curriculum and length of the school day. In return for this flexibility, they are held accountable for student performance.
The research is mixed on whether students in charters perform better than their traditional public school counterparts. Some cite the CREDO study from Stanford University, which found that “17% of charter schools provide superior education opportunities for their students.” According to this study, about half the charters did not fare any better or worse than their traditional school counterparts, and about 37% of the charters fared worse.
Others cite research like that found in the “Informing the Debate” study from the Boston Foundation, which “found large positive effects for Charter Schools at both the middle and high school levels.”
Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.
The topic of charter schools, including how they are established and who gets to attend them, stirs up a lot of emotion among parents, educators and policymakers. Because it’s relatively new territory, shaping legislation on charters has become a public tug-of-war. The states of Washington and Georgia have charter school initiatives on their ballots.
Washington’s Initiative 1240
Washington has put ballot measures on charters in front of voters three times before, each one rejected – most recently in 2004, when the measure failed by 16 percentage points. There are no charter schools in Washington.
The latest attempt is Initiative 1240, which would allow for the establishment of eight charter schools in the state per year – 40 over five years. At the end of that period, the charter system would be up for review. The state-approved charter schools would be free and open to all students and be independently operated.
By John Martin, CNN
(CNN) - A New Hampshire school board member says that he wants to ban football in his district. Paul Butler, a retired surgeon and first-term board member for the Dover school district, says that the risks of injury in the sport are too great. "I think it's bad to take this away I certainly do. But it's worse to let it continue," Dr. Butler told CNN affiliate WHDH.
The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t just call football a contact sport. The medical group also refers to it as a collision sport, because participants routinely slam into each other or into the ground.
AAP released updated guidelines in 2010 on dealing with head injuries in children, recommending that some student-athletes retire from football after multiple concussions or if symptoms from a concussion last longer than three months.
The medical group doesn’t say young people shouldn’t play varsity football, which is what it said about youth boxing in 1997.
Some parents say there are benefits to playing on the gridiron. "I think there's a lot of positive things you can get from playing football. A lot of good lessons kids learn, teamwork, working together for a common goal," Harold Stephens says in the video above.
By John Martin, CNN
(CNN) – Even in its aftermath, Superstorm Sandy is having a major impact on education. Schools in New York City and much of the state of New Jersey, among other areas, were closed for the third straight day on Wednesday. NYC Schools is the nation’s largest school system, with more than one million students attending about 1,700 schools in the city.
CNN scanned a variety of local news sites and found weather-related school closings from as far south as South Carolina to as far north as Maine on Tuesday. By Wednesday, there were fewer closings along the coastal states, but significant closings in inland states like Ohio and West Virginia. Some schools, both public and private, still had no power Wednesday morning.
Colleges and universities have also shut down due to this disaster.
By Bill Mears, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Supap Kirtsaeng had tuition and living expenses to pay when he arrived in the United States from Thailand to attend college.
So he started a side business, asking family and friends back home to ship him foreign editions of textbooks that often can be bought more cheaply overseas. Kirtsaeng resold them online and made money, but he was sued for copyright infringement and lost.
That decision was appealed and the case is now before the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on Monday in a dispute that has attracted interest from the Obama administration, media and publishing companies, and a range of consumer and retail groups.
Competing claims of intellectual property and owners rights in the electronic age have made Kirtsaeng's venture one of the most closely watched business cases at the high court this term.
"I have to say the Supreme Court is faced with a really difficult job here because the text of the [copyright] statute really seems to be hard to reconcile - the two provisions at issue seem to say opposite things," said Michael Carroll, a professor at American University's law school and an intellectual property expert.FULL STORY
By John Martin, CNN
Atlanta (CNN)–My great aunt Muriel Lokey passed away August 27, 2012, at age 90. Family and friends gathered recently in Atlanta, more to celebrate her being and her attitude toward life than to mourn her passing. During her rich life, Lokey explored the world with her husband, Hamilton (Ham), climbing the world's mountains and rafting down America's rivers.
Decades before those accomplishments, Lokey was a force for justice and social change in her home city of Atlanta.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the now famous case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that all public schools must desegregate. Soon after, Georgia passed a series of laws, in defiance of the court, to bolster segregation. Ham Lokey, Muriel’s husband and my great-uncle, was in the state legislature and he and six or seven of his fellow representatives were often the only votes against these measures.
By 1958, the state of Georgia mandated that if any public school integrated, its school district would be shut down.
The Lokeys had five children and they believed in public schools. Muriel Lokey began to talk about the issue with other Morris Brandon Elementary School parents, over coffee or when dropping off or picking their children up from school in the daily carpool. Later, she told the Atlanta History Center, "The school crisis came to a head in 1958, and I had a front row seat in watching the amount of changing in our society and I climbed on the stage and played a role in the drama."
By John Martin and Nick Valencia, CNN
(CNN) - Civil rights groups and some parents are concerned that new proficiency targets in several states are selling African-American students short.
A majority of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have set up different benchmarks for different groups, including racial and ethnic student populations.
Florida is the latest state to establish race-based standards. By 2018, 74% of the state’s African-American students must be proficient in math and reading. That is a lower standard than the state’s white (88%), Hispanic (81%) or Asian students (90%) are expected to reach by the same year.
On the surface, this may look like less is being expected of some kids. But there’s an explanation that’s rooted in how we assess student performance under No Child Left Behind.
By Robert Jeffers, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robert Jeffers teaches at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, and is a current Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.
I recently attended a screening of a PBS documentary about the future of California State Parks, featuring several of my students at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. When the applause died down, the host convened a Q&A session that included a former student of mine, now a rising senior at Williams College. Facing an intimidating crowd, this student spoke with eloquence and insight about Dorsey High School, about parks and about the important people that set him on his trajectory to success. Then he embarrassed me. He credited me – by name, and by pointing!
It takes a lot to make a successful teacher: Hard work, a generous support network and faith from colleagues and administrators all play a role. I’ve been lucky to have those things, and have seen some professional success — success that’s evident in my student growth data, their college acceptances and the outstanding hands-on projects they’ve completed.
My students have published a book of original food writing and artwork, completed award-winning films, established an on-campus recycling program recognized as one of the best in Los Angeles County and planted more than 60 trees around our inner-city campus. I’m proud of what we’ve done together.
But I would never call myself “irreplaceable.” That’s a word that has been tossed around a lot since TNTP, a teacher quality nonprofit, used it to describe top teachers in a new report, “The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools.”
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
Highland Park, Michigan (CNN) - A few weeks before school began here, parents filed into the high school cafeteria to meet the people just hired to revamp one of the state's worst-performing districts: their own.
They came with questions. What time would the school day start? What were these new uniforms they’d heard about? Would all the schools stay open? Would the same teachers be there? The same kids? Was there anything worth saving?
For years, financial and academic turmoil plagued Highland Park schools. The state of Michigan says the district ran at an operating deficit five of the last six years. Barely 800 kids still attended its three schools, and even those buildings were overgrown with weeds and tagged with graffiti.
There was a lot of cash coming in, more than $14,000 per student, but there weren’t enough textbooks to go around. Standardized test scores were embarrassingly low; among 11th-graders, 10% scored proficient in reading and 5% proficient in math. Some kids went on to college, but nobody - 0% - of kids reached the ACT's college readiness benchmarks.
The district drew national attention this summer when the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a "first-of-its-kind" lawsuit against the state, education leaders and Highland Park schools for allegedly failing to teach students to read at grade level.
Now the state-appointed emergency financial manager had handed the district over to a charter school operator, the Leona Group, for a five-year contract worth more than $750,000. In a statement, the Michigan governor’s office said it moved to address “a long overdue fiscal and academic crisis that was crippling the district” because it “can’t and won’t accept academic failure.”
For some here, it was a hostile takeover. For others, a new hope.
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
"Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free" - from the Bible (John 8:32), inscribed on the facade of the the University of Texas at Austin Main Building ..."Equal Justice Under Law" - inscription above the U.S. Supreme Court Building
(CNN) - Heman Marion Sweatt and Abigail Noel Fisher both wanted to attend the University of Texas at Austin.
Both claimed their race was a primary reason for their rejection. Both filed civil rights lawsuits, and the Supreme Court ultimately agreed to hear their separate appeals - filed more than half a century apart.
Their cases share much in common - vexing questions of competition, fairness, and demographics - and what role government should play when promoting political and social diversity.
But it is the key difference between these plaintiffs - separated by three generations and a troubled road to "equality" - that now confronts the nation's highest court: Sweatt was black, Fisher is white.
Sweatt's 1950 case produced a landmark court ruling that set the stage for the eventual end of racial segregation in public facilities.
Fisher's case will be heard by the justices Wednesday. The question here could come down to whether a majority on the bench believes affirmative action has run its course - no longer necessary in a country that has come far to confront its racially divisive past, a country that has a president who is African-American.
"There's a good chance that affirmative action, at least in the case of education, is on the chopping block," said Thomas Goldstein, a Washington appellate attorney and SCOTUSblog.com editor.FULL STORY