schools

After a long stretch as the law of the land, annual standardized tests are being put to, well, the test.

This week, the Senate education committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and, specifically, on testing. The committee's chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has released a draft bill offering a lot more leeway to states in designing their own assessment systems.

On the education front, President Obama's State of the Union address is likely to focus on three big proposals:

First, the president wants to talk about the idea he floated last week of making community college tuition-free. This is new.

The plan would benefit about 9 million full- and part-time students and would cost the federal government about $60 billion over 10 years. According to the administration's numbers, that would account for three-fourths of the total cost. States and community colleges would come up with the rest.

Discrimination claims from people across Connecticut led the U.S. Attorney’s Office to announce that it would form a working group to investigate possible civil rights violations by public and private schools and childcare programs.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The panel created by Governor Dannel Malloy in the wake of the Newtown school shooting is continuing to work on its final recommendations. 

Wikimedia Commons

A Catholic school in Meriden that's over a century old will close at the end of the year as enrollment, finances, and demographics continue to change the state of parochial schools in the Nutmeg State. 

David DesRoches

Nate Quesnel, the superintendent of schools in East Hartford, told a story about a student sitting in the back of the classroom, a wool cap pulled over his eyebrows, his faced glued to a cell phone, his fingers attacking the screen in a gaming frenzy.

"Right away, I recoiled inside," Quesnel said. "I felt embarrassed." He was embarrassed because at the time, an executive from Xerox was presenting the students with information on job skills, including how to act during an interview.

The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff.

It seems self-evident that parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools. As the argument goes, the overall effect should be to improve equity as well: Lower-income parents won't have to send their kids to an under-resourced and underperforming school just because it is the closest one to them geographically.

Meet The Classroom Of The Future

Jan 12, 2015

The classroom of the future probably won't be led by a robot with arms and legs, but it may be guided by a digital brain.

It may look like this: one room, about the size of a basketball court; more than 100 students, all plugged into a laptop; and 15 teachers and teaching assistants.

This isn't just the future, it's the sixth grade math class at David Boody Jr. High School in Brooklyn, near Coney Island. Beneath all the human buzz, something other than humans is running the show: algorithms.

An announcement about the long-term fate of the historic Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts is now expected by mid-February.  Advocates of rebuilding the school that was wrecked in the 2011 tornado are encouraged by word the school will operate for one more year, at least, at its temporary campus. 

       Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will begin a series of meetings on January 24th in what will amount to the final due diligence on whether to rebuild the Catholic high school with a 130-year- history in Springfield. 

Driven by higher tuition fees and tighter state funds, America's public colleges now get more money from their students than from all state sources. That's according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, which says tuition revenue reached 25 percent of the colleges' total in 2012.

The numbers are stark, with the GAO saying that from fiscal years 2003-2012, "state funding decreased by 12 percent overall while median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges."

Close your eyes for a minute and daydream about a world without bubble tests.

Education Week recently reported that some Republican Senate aides are doing more than dreaming — they're drafting a bill that would eliminate the federal mandate on standardized testing.

Helder Mira / Creative Commons

A newly released investigative report describes “rampant nepotism,” and ineffective oversight of the Jumoke Academy charter school in Hartford, and its management group The Family Urban Schools of Excellence, also known as FUSE. The probe was commissioned by the State Department of Education and carried out by an independent special investigator. 

Thomas O'Donnell's kindergarten kids are all hopped up to read about Twiggle the anthropomorphic Turtle.

"Who can tell me why Twiggle here is sad," O'Donnell asks his class at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Baltimore.

"Because he doesn't have no friends," a student pipes up.

And how do people look when they're sad?

"They look down!" the whole class screams out.

Yeah, Twiggle is lonely. But, eventually, he befriends a hedgehog, a duck and a dog. And along the way, he learns how to play, help and share.

What do the Common Core State Standards have in common with congressional Democrats and the Chicago Cubs?

They all had a really rough year.

Of the 45 states that first adopted the academic standards, many spent 2014 talking about repeal. In Oklahoma (as well as Indiana and South Carolina), it wasn't just talk. The Legislature voted to drop the Core in May. And Gov. Mary Fallin, a longtime champion of the Common Core, signed the repeal in June.

Yik Yak

Local, state police, and federal law enforcement are investigating a post on social media threatening a "hail of bullets" in East Lyme.  The post, which appeared anonymously Dec. 24 on the mobile app Yik Yak, said East Lyme should "get ready for the hail of bullets."

As a boy, Daniel Majook Gai fled the civil war in Sudan, running miles by himself to safety and leaving his family behind. He was one of the so-called Lost Boys — a name given to children separated from their families during that conflict.

After years in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, Gai landed in the United States, reunited with his family and got an education. In 2011, he returned home to the newly independent country of South Sudan.

But war came back in 2013 and split the new nation.

One thing's for sure: Nikki Bollerman believes in her school and the kids who go there. How else to explain Bollerman, 26, giving a $150,000 windfall to the Boston area public charter school where she teaches third grade?

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Unlike other parts of the country, New England has been seeing a growing number of new farms. Connecticut is among eight states recently chosen for a federal pilot program supporting locally-grown food in schools.

Existing federal funds in this year’s Farm Bill will now allow 16 school districts to use tax dollars to purchase fruits and vegetables from Connecticut farms for school lunches. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty calls it a double-win.

U.S. Department of Education

The population of English language learners in Connecticut has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past ten years. According to the data, these students are falling behind. 

Chion Wolf

The population of English Language Learners in Connecticut has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past ten years. Unfortunately, support for these students hasn’t kept up. Despite this steady increase in a learning population, the number of certified, bilingual teachers has been in a steady decline.

Diane Orson / WNPR

The state Supreme Court has ruled that arbitrators are not covered by the state's Freedom of Information laws, denying the public's right to know what evidence is presented in arbitration hearings between teacher unions and school boards.

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there's still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

U.S. Department of Education

State education officials are currently negotiating changes to Connecticut's landmark school desegregation settlement. 

New Haven Promise

President Barack Obama convened a Summit on College Opportunity at the White House Thursday, aimed at helping more students prepare for and graduate from college.

Patricia Melton, executive director of New Haven Promise, a scholarship and support program for New Haven public school students, was there.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor attended his final State Board of Education meeting Wednesday. He announced earlier this year he’d leave the post, and will depart in January. A process is underway to select an interim commissioner.

State of Connecticut

Last month, the Office of the Child Advocate released a report on Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza. It details Lanza's mental health history and how the educational system handled his case.

We sit down with the state's child advocate, Sarah Eagan, to get a better sense of how Lanza slipped through the cracks of the educational system. We also hear from others who worked on the report.

This story was reported for the radio by Eric Westervelt and for online by Anya Kamenetz.

"We, the Committee of Public Safety, find Jean Valjean guilty. The sentence is death by guillotine!"

Molly McPherson, a redhead with glasses, is dressed in a blue bathrobe — in costume as Robespierre. Her seventh-graders are re-enacting the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, with a little assist from Les Miserables.

Supporters of the only Catholic high school in Springfield, Massachusetts are meeting this evening to urge the new bishop of western Massachusetts to rebuild the tornado-damaged school.

Svigals & Partners

The state bond commission has approved a $5 million grant for the new Sandy Hook Elementary school. 

CT-N

Governor Malloy's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission met in Newtown on Friday. The panel heard from three parents of children killed in the Newtown tragedy, who offered a host of policy recommendations based on their experiences over the last 23 months since the massacre. 

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