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SF federal court: Intern teachers can be deemed “highly qualified”

When it comes to filling teaching vacancies, the Oakland school district relies heavily on “interns,” college graduates who are still working to complete their certification. About 40 percent of new OUSD hires in recent years fall into this category; they come through “alternate route” programs such as Teach for America and Oakland Teaching Fellows.

Andy Kwok, the teacher we’ve been following at EXCEL High School, is one of them. He majored in biology, the subject he teaches, but jumped straight into the classroom after a short summer preparation program. He took education classes at night.

Kwok and other intern teachers are considered “highly qualified” by the U.S. Department of Education. But Public Advocates, a civil rights law firm, challenged that definition in a lawsuit last year. They argued it violates the spirit of the No Child Left Behind law, and that it lets school systems get away with hiring less experienced teachers. Continue Reading

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If you really loathe those STAR tests…

scantron.jpg
image from slavinfpo’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

I often hear Bay Area parents complain about the STAR testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act. In Berkeley, some take it a step further. They simply keep their kids from filling in the bubbles. In fact, so many Berkeley High students skipped the test last year that the school doesn’t have an API score (although maybe they didn’t need parental encouragement to boycott the test).

Parents do have the right to excuse their children from all or some of the STAR tests (Ed Code 60615). That puts schools and districts in a tough spot, though, since the federal law requires them to test 95 percent of their kids. Continue Reading

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Study: Students showed more improvement before NCLB

A report published today in the scholarly journal of the American Educational Research Association found that kids generally made larger academic gains in the years leading up to No Child Left Behind’s enactment in 2002 than they did afterward.

After analyzing the federal test scores in 12 states, researchers found that the reading scores of elementary school children declined since 2002 after rising during the 1990s — improvements they attributed to “state-led accountability efforts.” Fourth-grade math was the only area that picked up since 2002.

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, was the lead author in a report. In AERA’s synopsis, he says:

“The slowing of achievement gains, even declines in reading, since 2002 suggests that state-led accountability efforts—well underway by the mid-1990s—packed more of a punch in raising student performance, compared with the flattening-out of scores during the ‘No Child’ era,” he observed.

“We are not suggesting that ‘No Child’ has dampened the earlier progress made by the states,” Fuller said. “But we find no consistent evidence that federal reforms have rekindled the states’ earlier gains.”