Elsewhere

MICHIGAN

Charter schools spur public schools. Researchers from Western Michigan University and a Lansing-based consulting group question the quality of the state’s charter schools but say that public schools have become more creative in response to the new competition. Their report is the first major study of Michigan’s charter schools, which were approved in 1995.

The report praised some individual charters but criticized many as “cookie-cutter” schools run by for-profit corporations. Charter schools generally scored lower on the state’s standardized test than their public school counterparts. The report also noted that average class sizes are only slightly smaller in charter schools and that the percentage of minority students attending them is declining, reports the Associated Press.

But researchers praised one significant charter effect. “They are forcing more accountability on the public schools,” Gary Miron of Western Michigan University told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re seeing marketing, professional development, after-school programs, all-day kindergarten, introduction of foreign languages, more magnet schools.”

MASSACHUSETTS

Teacher test challenged. When Massachusetts launched a new teacher certification test last spring, more than half the candidates failed. Now a study by three education experts is calling the test unreliable, the Feb. 12 Boston Globe reports.

The experts compared candidates scores with their other qualifications and found little correlation—low-achievers sometimes passed while those with strong track records failed.

The report also noted the tests’ high degree of error. As a result, students who retook the test could come out with widely different scores. Furthermore, scores on the reading and writing tests were inconsistent, which the experts found peculiar since both measure verbal skills.

The Massachusetts Teacher Test should be replaced with a national certification test, say the authors, an education writer and two college professors, one a testing expert.

Candidates should also be reimbursed the $150 it cost them to take the test, the experts insisted.

Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci, who supports the test, ridiculed the authors: “These are the same people who would say ‘Well, we’re going to pass Johnny to the fourth grade because we don’t want to give him a failing grade because it might affect his self-esteem’ … and then he gets socially promoted to the teacher college. And then when he gets his teaching degree, he can’t pass a literacy test.”

NATIONWIDE

School reform models rated. Only three of 24 popular school reform models have proven that they can raise student achievement, according to a recent study sponsored by five national educator associations. The report gave the top ratings to Direct Instruction, Success for All, and High Schools That Work, reports the Feb. 17 Education Week.

The study was conducted by an independent Washington, D.C.-based research group and funded by the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals and National Education Association.

“We wanted to have a document that really, critically evaluated the evidence base underpinning these programs,” Marcella R. Dianda of the NEA told Education Week.

To earn a “strong” rating from “An Educators’ Guide to Schoolwide Reform,” a model needed four or more studies documenting improved student achievement.

However, according to Prof. Henry M. Levin of Stanford University, the report discounted factors other than the reform models that might have had an impact on a school’s performance. Levin’s Accelerated Schools program received a “marginal” rating in the report.

SAN FRANCISCO

Desegregation curtailed. A legal settlement has ended a policy that helped Latino and black students in San Francisco enroll in the public schools of their choice, according to the Feb. 18 San Francisco Examiner.

The policy was part of a 15-year old federal desegregation decree to integrate the city’s nine major racial and ethnic groups. Under the decree, no group could make up more than 45 percent of a school’s enrollment, and schools had to enroll at least four ethnic groups.

“Without such racial engineering, schools will swiftly become less diverse,” the Examiner predicted.

Five years ago, Chinese Americans filed a class-action lawsuit against the district, charging that the decree denied them equal access to selective schools, which considered race and economic status as well as prior achievement. Most black and Latino students admitted last year to the city’s top school would not have met entrance criteria on test scores and grades alone, notes the Examiner.

The district will still give some priority to students who live in the poorest neighborhoods, the Examiner reports.