Five minute primer: Advanced Placement test scores
May 29th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Five minute primer: Advanced Placement test scores

By Jordan Bienstock, CNN

(CNN) – It began on May 7 with Chemistry and Environmental Science, and ended on May 18 with Human Geography and Spanish Literature. During the two weeks in between, millions of U.S. students pored over questions and essays on more than 30 Advanced Placement exams.

Now, all they can do is wait.

Advanced Placement, or AP, courses provide high school students the opportunity to earn college credit. They’re overseen by the College Board, the same organization that administers the SAT college admission test.

The battery of exams takes place in early May, but students won’t find out how they did until July, when scores are revealed.

Even then, students won’t know which questions they got correct or what individual mistakes they may have made on essays. All they receive is a number, 1 through 5, with a 3 or higher being a passing score. FULL POST

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Filed under: College • Five minute primer • Practice • Testing
Five minute primer: School funding
Teachers participate in an education budget cut rally and protest at Pershing Square on May 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
April 17th, 2012
06:46 AM ET

Five minute primer: School funding

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Buses, salaries, building maintenance…the costs add up. It should come as no surprise that a free public education is hardly free. An estimated $1.15 trillion will be spent in public elementary and secondary schools this academic year to educate almost 50 million students throughout the U.S. Where does the money come from?  Here are some major sources of funding for public school districts and some challenges to that funding.

The federal government

In the U.S., education is primarily a state and local responsibility.  It varies, but about 10.8% of a state’s education budget is being funded by the federal government this year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That department contributes to states via federal program grants like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus” of 2009), and Title I, which provides financial assistance to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.  There are also competitive grants, such as those available under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, that revolve around adoption of standards and assessments, teacher evaluation, and turning around low-achieving schools.  The amount of money awarded to states varies based on the states’ willingness to adopt and implement the federal requirements.  Other departments, including the Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal school lunch program, contribute education funding to states as well.

While some state administrators welcome federal help for elementary and secondary schools, critics cite the Department of Education’s requirements as their “strings attached” and view this as an intrusion of the federal government into state control over education.
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Filed under: Five minute primer • Policy • Practice
Five minute primer: Parent trigger laws
March 14th, 2012
06:10 AM ET

Five minute primer: Parent trigger laws

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN)  Last Friday, Florida’s state senate narrowly defeated a proposed “parent trigger” bill.  In more than 20 states, legislatures are considering or have taken action on parent trigger bills, which are designed to empower parents to take action on failing schools by firing staff, transferring students or creating a new school.

How do parent trigger laws work?

State proposals and laws vary, but in essence, if a school fails to demonstrate academic achievement among its students according to predetermined benchmarks (for example, test scores), under parent trigger laws, a majority of parents could determine that some or all teachers and administrators should be dismissed and new staff brought in.  Under some state proposals, action by a majority of parents could close the school altogether or hand over management of a school to a private corporation or organization and re-establish the school as a charter school.

The pros

Proponents of parent trigger laws say that they empower parents, especially those of students in low-performing schools, to be able to turn schools around and provide their children with the best opportunity for a good education. They say it gives parents an option that they currently do not have. Often these parents lack the means to provide other options, such as a better public school or a private school for their kids, they say.

California was the first state to pass a parent trigger law, in January 2010.  The primary force behind its passing was Parent Revolution, which, according to its website, makes this promise to parents: “Organize half the parents at your children's failing school to demand change, and we will stand with you and empower you to fight for the great school your children deserve.”
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Filed under: Five minute primer • Policy