01/11/2011

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A Sign of the Times: Yale Pulls Investment in Urban Education Yale University is shutting down its teacher preparation graduate program in urban education—a small, focused, and intense program—as well as its undergraduate early childhood education and secondary certification programs by the end of 2012. The university plans to reinvest these funds in a Promise scholarship program offering full state college tuition for New Haven public school students. Tara Stevens, a graduate of the soon-to-be-obsolete master’s program, considers the program a long-term solution to educational obstacles in New Haven, particularly the wealth-opportunity gap. She claims Yale is only throwing money at the problem by creating a new program. Others from the school have concerns that while the Promise scholarship program will help some, ultimately, because of its hard-to-attain standards, the “promise” for many area students will remain out of reach. The university is not the first to go down this path. West Virginia instituted a similar Promise scholarship program in 2001. However, the “whys” behind their decision raise larger questions about the future of our education system. Can a scholarship program benefit the education system as much as a rigorous, high-quality teacher preparation program? The reality is attendance is down in teacher education programs everywhere. The Panetta Institute for Public Policy released survey findings stating that interest in becoming a public school teacher has fallen from 45 percent in 2006 to just 28 percent in 2010. What do you think about replacing a rigorous teacher preparation program with a scholarship program? Why are college students less and less interested in becoming...
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Making the case for bottom-up change in school reform In President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, he called out the Bruce Randolph School, a turnaround school here in Denver. Once one of the worst-performing schools in Colorado, Bruce Randolph graduated 90 percent of its seniors last year—and 87 percent of them headed to college a few months ago. Obama attributed the school’s success to reform that is not just “a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.” So how did they do it? According to a Denver Post article, then-Principal Kristin Waters first asked all teachers to reapply for their positions (only 6 out of 40 remained). Then, the school became the first in Colorado to be granted “innovation” status, a move that allowed it to operate more like a charter school, granting it autonomy from district and union rules and giving it more flexibility in terms of budget, hiring decisions, schedule, calendar, and incentives. Waters said the school succeeded, ultimately, because it created “the supports for students, teaching them to ask for help and giving them that help…It was all about best practices, holding teachers and students accountable and creating high expectations.” These factors are also at the heart of ongoing school improvement efforts in McLeansville, North Carolina, at Northeast High School (NEHS), which has moved from the academic “watch list” to the county’s “most improved school,” having increased test scores sharply for two years in a row. Since 2007, the school has seen double-digit gains in the...

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