Comparison of Washington area teacher salaries is reported

Teachers can make $15,000 more just by moving to the district next door. The Washington Post compares the salaries in the school districts participating in the Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) report. One comment noted that although Arlington County paid teachers more than Fairfax, the benefits package was significantly weaker. The commenter noted that one teacher compared an offer from Arlington, and although the salary was $13,500 more, after counting benefits, the difference ended up being “less than $100 more per month.”

New York City to offer more computer science courses

In a speech before hundreds of parents and educators, Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday laid out new reforms for New York City public schools. He committed to expanding Advanced Placement classes to every school; ensuring that all students take algebra by 9th grade or earlier, and providing every student with computer science classes in elementary, middle and high schools.

The New York Times reports  that at least two other American cities have decided to offer computer science courses to all students. Chicago has pledged to make a computer science  a high school graduation requirement by 2018. Also “The San Francisco Board of Education voted in June to offer it from prekindergarten through high school, and to make it mandatory through eighth grade.”

Here is the portion of the mayor’s press release  dealing with computer science:

Every student will receive computer science education in elementary, middle, and high school within the next 10 years. Through this commitment, every student will learn the fundamentals of computer science, like coding, robotics and web design. This promotes critical skills like thinking creatively, working as a team, and interacting with technology, as well as technical skills that will power the 21st century economy. The Software Engineering Pilot (SEP) has brought computer science to 2,700 students in 18 middle and high schools across the city during the 2014-15 school year, and the number of computer science programs will be expanded significantly beginning in fall 2016.

  • Students reached: By 2025, all 1.1 million students will receive a computer science education in elementary through high schools.
  • Cost: $81 million commitment over 10 years. Computer Science for All will be funded through a public-private partnership between the City of New York, CSNYC, Robin Hood Foundation and AOL Charitable Foundation who have committed to a 1:1 match of City funds.
  • Full implementation: New classes starting in fall 2016 with full implementation in all grade levels by 2025.

Graduation rates rise

“More students are graduating from high school than ever before, and that number could rise again with this year’s seniors,” the Atlantic reports.

The national graduation rate for the 2012-13 school year was 81 percent, which was up from 80 percent the year before and 79 percent the year before that, according to the U.S. Department of Education. This sort of growth is possible as a result of the huge improvements in the numbers of black and Latinos getting their diplomas. But it’s also due to specific state improvements.



Parents are asked to provide more school supplies

Strapped schools ask parents for copier paper, cleaning supplies, tissues. The Washington Post reports, “While nearly all schools frame supply lists as a request and not a requirement, the assumption that families will comply is stressful for those with low incomes, said Dan Cardinali, president of Communities In Schools.”

For the coming school year, families on average will spend $642 for elementary school students, $918 for middle school students and $1,284 for high school students, according to a recent study by Huntington Bank. Those amounts include not only school supplies but also fees, which schools are increasingly charging for extracurricular activities, workbooks, textbooks and the use of school laboratories.

U.S. faces a shortage of qualified teachers

“In California, the number of people entering teacher preparation programs dropped by more than 55 percent from 2008 to 2012,” the New York Times reports. “Nationally, the drop was 30 percent from 2010 to 2014.”

Seeing stagnating wages and teacher layoffs during the recession, “prospective teachers became wary of accumulating debt or training for jobs that might not exist. As the economy has recovered, college graduates have more employment options with better pay and a more glamorous image, like in a rebounding technology sector.”

The Times reports that some school districts are hiring teachers to start working even before they complete their degrees.

At the local, state, and national levels, officials need to ensure that they are offering good career prospects to people who train to be teachers.

High school transcripts are used to assess whether students need remediation

Montgomery College tests a new approach to remedial math courses. According to the Washington Post, more than 60 percent of Montgomery County graduates attending this college require remedial math courses.

The Post reports that a pilot program at Montgomery College looks at high school transcripts rather than relying on standardized test results.

“We have come to believe that having a high-stakes test is not the best way to measure someone’s mathematical competency,” said John Hamman, dean of mathematics and statistics at Montgomery College. “Trying to look at a longer history of their work makes more sense than what they are able to do on one particular day.”

American schools might be better at encouraging creativity than European schools

James B. Stewart believes that a fearless culture fuels U.S. tech giants

Often overlooked in the success of American start-ups is the even greater number of failures. “Fail fast, fail often” is a Silicon Valley mantra, and the freedom to innovate is inextricably linked to the freedom to fail. In Europe, failure carries a much greater stigma than it does in the United States. Bankruptcy codes are far more punitive, in contrast to the United States, where bankruptcy is simply a rite of passage for many successful entrepreneurs.

Petre Moser, assistant professor of economics at Standard and its Europe Center, said that Europeans have been trying to recreate Silicon Valley with little success, “The institutional and cultural differences are still too great.”

In his New York Times column, Stewart explains:

One of Europe’s greatest innovations was the forerunner of the modern university: Bologna, founded in 1088. But as centers of research and innovation, Europe’s universities long ago ceded leadership to those in the United States.

With its emphasis on early testing and sorting, the educational system in Europe tends to be very rigid. “If you don’t do well at age 18, you’re out,” Professor Moser said. “That cuts out a lot of people who could do better but never get the chance. The person who does best at a test of rote memorization at age 17 may not be innovative at 23.” She added that many of Europe’s most enterprising students go to the United States to study and end up staying.

She is currently doing research into creativity. “The American education system is much more forgiving,” Professor Moser said. “Students can catch up and go on to excel.”

Libraries help with internet access

Libraries help close the digital divide. Stephen Barker, a librarian in Prince Georges County, describes the vital role of libraries play in providing internet access. Librarians can try to assist with on-line job applications, but sometimes are frustrated by poorly designed on-line applications. “No one should have to spend hours on dysfunctional Web sites to find an entry-level job,” Barker says. “How many unemployed people have thrown up their hands in despair and joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed?”

His op-ed in today’s Washington Post says we must do more to eliminate the digital divide:

As a nation, we have to do more to make computers available to all people. While public libraries are one part of it, local librarians can’t do it all. The government should increase grants to schools, libraries and community centers, especially in low-income and economically depressed areas. Community colleges could make some computers available to the public and offer free computer classes to adults, as Prince George’s County Memorial Library System does.

Project Momentum replaces Priority Schools Initiative

County schools overhaul support program addressing low test scores. Kate Yanchulis explains that administrators of Fairfax County Public Schools have changed the approach and the name of the Priority Schools Initiative to Project Momentum. Many of the 47 Priority Schools will continue to receive some additional support through Project Momentum, “but the majority of resources will be focused on a small group of 15-18 schools judged to have the largest academic needs.”

The funding in the FY 2016 budget for Project Momentum is $4.3 million.

Former educators face overly harsh penalties for a cheating scandal

Twenty years? It is ridiculous to even threaten former educators with that amount of jail time due to a cheating scandal.  AP reports they have been locked up in Fulton County jails as they await sentences that could send them to prison for years.

The teachers, a principal, and other administrators “were accused of falsifying test results to collect bonuses or keep their jobs in the 50,000-student Atlanta public school system.”

“This is a huge story and absolutely the biggest development in American education law since forever,” University of Georgia law professor Ron Carlson said. “It has to send a message to educators here and broadly across the nation. Playing with student test scores is very, very dangerous business.”

There are a lot more dangerous threats out there that the government should spend its time protecting people from. Yes, cheating is wrong. No question about that. But how does this scandal morph into an episode of America’s Most Wanted?

There are other ways of sanctioning cheating without resorting to incarceration.