Duly noted: Dec 21 – Dec 27, 2009

Happy holidays!  This is the last edition of Duly Noted this year.  Enjoy and see you in the new year!

  • Race to the Top is driving state policy action across the nation as state governors and legislatures look for ways to alleviate their budgetary woes.  The Department of Education estimates that competing for the funds will take a state on average 681 hours to prepare its grant proposal.
  • Texas’s proposed new social studies curriculum left many concerned that the state’s own history is overemphasized at the expense of knowledge about the nation and the world.  The state board of education will hold hearing on the proposed curricular changes in January.

Duly noted: Dec 14 – Dec 20, 2009

  • In response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that prohibited school districts from using racial data to assign students, the Chicago public school system is using socio-economic profiles rather than race to increase diversity, raising fears that gains in racial diversity might be erased.
  • The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a “doomsday budget” for 2010.  The budget, if implemented, would end the free metro cards program for students.  417,243 students currently receive free Metrocards; another 167,912 receive half-fare cards.  Families of students would need to spend an extra $810 per year to cover currently free subway rides.  Some fear that the cut would increase student dropout rates.
  • Who owns students notes to a university lecture, students or professors?  Finalsclub.org, a website started by a Harvard graduate that allows students to trade class notes and outlines online, has generated controversy over intellectual property issues.  Some professors, such as Steven Pinker, has agreed to have notes from his class posted on the website.  Other professors have adamantly refused.
  • Enraged Detroit parents demand jail time for school officials after the release of NAEP test scores showing that Detroit’s fourth and eighth graders have the worst scores in the nation.
  • New studies on the developing brain in cognitive neuroscience are changing the way educators teach math.  It turns out that children can understand many more mathematical concepts than previously thought.  (I have the feeling that educators in China and India already know this.)

Duly noted: Dec 7 – Dec 13, 2009

  • Anger over the University of California tuition increase continues.  Students barricaded themselves into a San Francisco State University building.  26 were arrested.  In addition, 8 people were arrested at UC-Berkeley for breaking windows, lights, and planters outside the home of the chancellor of the University of California.  On Friday night, 40-70 protester threw incendiary devices at police cars and the Chancellor’s home.
  • The Sixth Circuit upheld the Memphis City School’s policy of paddling students as a form of corporal punishment.  Martin Nolan, a former student, sued the school, alleging that he was paddled by his basketball coaches for missing practices, poor grades, and missing shots during a basketball game.  The unanimous panel found that the jurors could have reasonably concluded that the punishment was not excessive and was motivated by legitimate disciplinary concerns.
  • Plans for national certification for school principals are underway.  The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards said this week that it is in the final stages of crafting specific standards for principals.  The announcement came at the 20-year-anniversary of the development of advanced teacher’s certification program.
  • study by an independent research group compares American-born Hispanics to first-generation immigrant Hispanics.  While U.S.-born Hispanics are less likely to drop out of school and live in poverty, they are more likely to have exposures to gangs and violence and more likely to end up in prison.
  • Citing “an altered financial landscape,” Harvard University slows expansion of its campus and suspended the construction of a state-of-the-arts science center that was to house stem-cell researchers.  The center was originally scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Duly noted: Nov 30 – Dec 6, 2009

  • Micro-financing of student loans in the developing world is the hot new trend in education and international development.  Vittana Foundation, which provides loans to would-be students in the developing world, has an innovative model of philanthropy.  Loans are given directly by visitors to the website and sent to particular students that the lenders choose.  The loan — sometimes as little as $25 — are repaid to the lenders when the student completes the education and finds a job.
  • Citing drastic drops in endowment, Harvard Law School suspends the Public Service Initiative, a new and much-touted financial aid program that gives third-year law students one year of free tuition in exchange for a five-year commitment of working in a public interest career.
  • The GRE is changing.  The test will be slightly lengthened (from 3 hours to 3.5 hours) and graded on a scale of 130 to 170.  Some industry experts say that Education Testing Service, the administrator of the GRE, is revamping the test to better market it as an alternative to the GMAT (administered by Pearson) to business schools.
  • The 5th Circuit upholds a school district’s restriction on student distribution of written materials to their classmates in Morgan v. Plano Independent School District. The court concluded that the restrictions are content-neutral and aimed at providing a focused learning environment.

Duly noted: Nov 23 – Nov 29, 2009

  • President Obama announced an initiative to promote and encourage math, science, and technology education, and asked corporations and non-profit organizations to help.  He also annouced an annual science fair at the White House.
  • Officials in Oregon said that teachers in Oregon are likely to win the right to wear religious clothing, such as yarmulkes, head scarves, and crosses in school when the legislature convene in February.  A 1923 law in Oregon currently prohibits teachers from expressing their religious beliefs in school.
  • Lincoln University, a historically black college in Chester County, Pennsylvania, believes that BMI is as important as GPA.  To graduate, students with a Body Mass Index of over 30 — the measurement for obesity — must take a class called “Fitness for Life” before they may graduate.  The policy, enacted in 2006, will keep two dozen students from graduating this spring.  Student reaction to the new policy has not been positive.
  • A guest column on the Quick and the Ed explains why student protests against the University of California tuition hike, though unlikely to be effective, are still desirable because they attract national media attention to the contentious issue and to student discontent.

Duly Noted: Nov 16 – Nov 22, 2009

  • University of Nebraska toyed with the idea of becoming the first university to impose stricter guidelines on stem cell research than federal guidelines allow.  On Friday, the resolution to restrict such research failed after the Board of Regent cast a 4-4 tie vote, disappointing the hopes of conservative activists groups on campus who have been pushing for such limits.
  • The Gates and Melinda Foundation is donating $290 million to three school districts and five charter school groups, the largest donation the foundation has made to education in a decade.  $100 million will go to the school district in Hillsborough County, Fla., schools; $90 million will go to the Memphis schools; $40 million will go to the Pittsburgh public schools.  In addition, $60 million will go to five charter schools in Los Angeles.

Duly noted: Nov 9 – Nov 15, 2009

  • duly notedDepartment of Education officially opened the competition for the “Race to the Top” Funds, where states can apply and compete for a piece of the $4.35 billion to create “innovative” programs that can be replicated throughout the country.  
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy, “one of the court’s most vigilant defenders of First Amendment values,” insisted on pre-approving a student newspaper article about a talk he gave in a Manhattan private school.
  • 25 Chicago middle school students, aged 11 to 15, were arrested after participating in a food fight in the school cafeteria.