Survivors of College Tour Bush Crash Prepare to Start School

In April, a FedEx truck slammed into a bus full of high school seniors from Southern California, on their way to tour Humboldt State University. Five of the students died, and the survivors - many of them injured - had some big decisions to make, including whether to go to Humboldt State, where the new school year started this week.

Community Colleges Begin New Push to Help Students Finish Coursework

The state's chief of community colleges says too many students drop out before they obtain a degree or finish course work needed to transfer to a four-year university. An ambitious new plan aims to reverse that trend.

PBS NewsHour

Summer school motivates college dreams for middle school students


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Our next report looks at an innovative summer school program here in the U.S. designed to motivate its students to apply for college.

Special correspondent Terry Rubin reports from Minnesota.

TERRY RUBIN: It’s the middle of the summer in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and these sixth, seventh and eighth graders are hopscotching their way into school. These students are not taking summer school because they have to, but because they want to.

Instead of going to a classroom, they go for a rousing game of dodgeball.

MAN: The final point.

TERRY RUBIN: This unusual start to a day is actually quite normal for a program called Breakthrough, an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week summer enrichment program for middle schoolers and soon-to-be high school freshmen. They take courses in math, English, science, and social studies, and say they have fun doing it, especially when music cues them to dance from class to class.

Breakthrough is a unique summer program, with the sole focus of showing low-income, under-resourced middle school students how to get to college.

Mikisha Nation is the executive director of Twin Cities Breakthrough.

MIKISHA NATION, Executive Director, Breakthrough Twin Cities: Breakthrough’s mission, at its core, it’s about two really important issues. The first is preparing under-resourced students for college success, and the second is engaging and inspiring the next generation of educators. And we do this through a unique model of students teaching students.

TERRY RUBIN: Nation says it is this idea of students teaching students that has led to Breakthrough’s success in getting these middle schoolers to believe they can go to college.

Breakthrough executive directors around the country say there are two elements that make this program unique: It implants the idea of attending college while students are young and impressionable, and it shows them what they have to do for the next six years to get there.

Jeff Ochs has been connected to Twin Cities Breakthrough for more than 10 years. He says they make sure students are on the right track from the beginning.

JEFF OCHS, Former Executive Director, Breakthrough Twin Cities: The first thing that we do is, we really work to make sure that these students are in honors courses during their school year. What we want to make sure is that inside those schools, they’re in the courses that are preparing them the best for college and so, you know, that not only are they getting academic support, but they’re also in a culture, a college-going culture with their peer group that’s really going to support them on that journey.

TERRY RUBIN: The middle schoolers say the learning experience itself is different.

Dynasty Anderson is in her first year at Breakthrough.

DYNASTY ANDERSON, Breakthrough Student: They, like, teach in a different way. They just don’t, like, stand in front of the class and say, oh, you’re going to do this, this and this, like regular school. They give you options, and they ask do we have any questions in between almost everything they say, instead of, like school, we have to wait until the end, and we might forget our questions.

TERRY RUBIN: Another difference, according to soon-to-be high schooler Becky Stark, homework is called Booyah.

BECKY STARK, Student: A lot of people associate homework with boring, not fun, and just something you have to do that just takes up your time. But like here, it’s — every time someone says Booyah, you have to respond with Booyah. Like, you have to repeat it. And it just keeps the energy up, and it makes everyone feel welcome and together.

TERRY RUBIN: In the Twin Cities, 100 percent of the students who attended the middle school summer program in addition to the weekend enrichment sessions throughout high school are attending college this fall.

Thirteen-year-old Luciano Munoz is back for a second year and says Breakthrough has made him a better student.

LUCIANO MUNOZ, Breakthrough Student: When I was in sixth grade, well, they didn’t really give us grades, but I’m pretty sure I might have had C’s. And when I came back from Breakthrough, I started getting A’s and B’s during seventh grade.

TERRY RUBIN: Site director Ben Bauer cited studies that show, without the support or guidance of programs like Breakthrough, 85 percent of students like these are not likely to attend college.

BEN BAUER, Site Director, Breakthrough Twin Cities: Even those kids who are high-achieving and highly motivated in elementary, going into middle school can drop off.

And a lot of that is because it’s not the norm, it’s not cool to like learning. And kids want to fit in, at that age especially, and liking learning and being smart isn’t fitting in. We want to create a place where they are fitting in. And, especially in the middle school years, that’s really powerful.

TERRY RUBIN: Neesha Moore says her peers were surprised she was already talking about college in middle school.

NEESHA MOORE, Breakthrough Student: My friends, it was a surprise to them. They were like, why are you looking at colleges and stuff?  We’re in seventh grade. And I was like, it doesn’t really matter. It’s never too early to start, because we learned that here at Breakthrough.

TERRY RUBIN: Students must apply to get into this program. This summer, Breakthrough served more than 4,000 students nationwide, although, at various sites, they turned away anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of applicants, based on a lack of funding or lack of facilities.

Twin Cities Breakthrough became one of the few cities to have multiple facilities, as they have partnered with Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools, opening up two more sites in low-income neighborhoods. Still, the program could only accept 150 out of more than 400 applicants.

Nationally, Breakthrough leaders say it costs on average more than $2,500 per student to run the six-week program. Their funding comes from corporate sponsors, grants, and individual donations. To create this distinct culture, Breakthrough directors award about 800 hands-on teaching fellowships at 27 sites across the country each year.

They say the fellows are the key to the program’s success. College junior Denise Quintanilla was a Breakthrough student, and is now teaching science. Hanan Farah is entering her senior year of high school and is teaching social studies this summer. Both these teaching fellows say the system works because they relate to the kids.

DENISE QUINTANILLA, Breakthrough Teacher: It’s just understanding how they work and how you work, because you’re not too far apart in age, which is really nice. And you’re also able to build a relationship that is based on friendship as well, and you’re a role model to them. So you have a very beautiful connection with them because you’re their teacher, but their friend and role model as well.

HANAN FARAH, Breakthrough Teacher: They know that you’re going through the same thing, that you have homework, and that you have classes you need to get to in the morning. We wake up at the same time during the school year. That’s why students can really relate to us.

TERRY RUBIN: Daniel Bernal used to be a teaching fellow, and now is a full-time teacher in Saint Paul public schools. He trains the current crop of young educators.

DANIEL BERNAL, Former Breakthrough Teacher: One of the reasons that our teachers are so successful at Breakthrough being teachers is because of the support that they get from the staff and from the coaches like me, who work with them to make sure every lesson is high-quality, every lesson is going to work for their students, is going to be engaging.

It’s interesting because we get a lot of college students who think, oh, I would love to do something fun in the summer, something academic, something with kids, and they have never thought of teaching before. They find out about Breakthrough, and it’s just infectious, in a good way.

TERRY RUBIN: More than 70 percent of the Twin Cities Breakthrough teaching fellows ultimately choose a career in education. Ben Bauer is one of those. He has spent five years with Breakthrough.

BEN BAUER: When I got this opportunity, one thing that really stuck out was just being with kids, and actually getting that hands-on experience, and not even just kids in general, but the specific Breakthrough students. I fell in love with the students we have here, and it made me want to go teach in a low-income school, and that’s something that wasn’t even on my radar before.

TERRY RUBIN: While the executive director is looking for ways to expand and reach more kids, teaching fellows say they end each day the same way they started, showing these middle schoolers the path to college, with a little dancing.

The post Summer school motivates college dreams for middle school students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

How to start your own charter school: one family’s recipe for startup success

Before Yu Ming Charter School had a playground of its own, kindergarten students played in a public park during recess.
         Photo by Yu Ming Charter School

Before Yu Ming Charter School had a playground of its own, kindergarten students played in a public park during recess. Photo by Yu Ming Charter School

As a child, Wynee Sade remembers kicking and screaming all the way to Mandarin language school on Saturdays, demanding of her mother, “Why do I have to go? My other friends from school don’t have to go!”

But once she became an adult and had a daughter of her own, she decided it was important to maintain the connection to her family’s Chinese cultural roots. So Sade and her husband began searching for a school near their Bay area home with Mandarin incorporated into its curriculum.

“We were looking at local public and private schools here in Oakland, which are terrific, but no language until much later on and no Chinese even at that later stage,” said Sade, “It just wasn’t an option.”

Sade soon discovered other parents were experiencing similar difficulties.

“There were a couple of families in the same boat and so we said ‘Well, what if we were to start our own school, what would that take? What would be involved?’ because there really is a need for it out here and we don’t see the school that’s right for our children,” said Sade, “and that’s how the idea first started.”

She and her husband along with four other families decided to establish their own dual-language Mandarin immersion school. Meeting at each other’s homes with just a blank sheet of paper, they began the long and arduous process of establishing what would one day be the Yu Ming Charter School.

It took two years, but in 2011, Yu Ming Charter School opened its doors with its inaugural 100 students. Below is a condensed conversation in which Sade describes the step-by-step process of making their dream school a reality.

Stage 1 — Writing the Charter Petition

Q: Take us through the process step-by-step.

WYNEE SADE: We had to write a charter petition and the petition is much like a business plan. If you were to start a business, you have a very thorough plan. Our petition was over several hundred pages. That took a lot of research, visiting and talking to other immersion schools across the country, both public and private.

The petition has everything from the vision and mission of the school to the curriculum design, the hiring practices with the vision that we want to have, the discipline approach that we’ll have in the school, the structure with parents and communications. I mean it’s everything nuts to bolts in this charter.

It took us a good six months to get it locked down, where we really felt like it was good and tight.

Q: What did you learn from other schools?

WYNEE SADE: We talked to administrators, principals and teachers about the curriculum design — how they did it, what are the “watch-outs,” what to consider. They gave us advice and counsel on different aspects.

Stage 2 — Approval

Q: After writing the charter petition, what was the next stage in establishing Yu Ming?

WYNEE SADE: Getting approval. Charter petitions are often reviewed and approved or denied at the District level Board of Education. In our case, we submitted and presented to the Alameda County Board of Education, which at the time, had only approved a few charter schools.

Many folks who start charter schools go to the city level district to get approval for their charters. So we had the option to go to Oakland, but we elected to go to the county level, to the Alameda County Office of Education because we saw the merit of providing an innovative Mandarin curriculum that other districts in the county could ultimately tap into down the road.

We were selling a vision and a promise and a belief that we could create a better school for our kids. And we succeeded.
Q: What next?

WYNEE SADE: Then there’s a hearing where we went to the board of education and presented a summary of our petition and answered and addressed questions of the seven members of the board. We had a couple of minutes to share, a couple of folks had the chance to present and speak five to seven minutes about our school. At this point, the board had already reviewed the charter and had already heard the recommendation from their team.

Q: What kinds of questions did the board of education ask during the hearing?

WYNEE SADE: They asked about the teaching philosophy. They asked about how we would would attract teachers, how we would attract a diverse pool of students to reflect the diversity of Alameda County, which was a priority for the board, and it is for our school as well. They asked about financials, and so those are the main categories of questions. Another one was enrollment, “How are you going to get the kids? How are you going to get the word out and get awareness of the school and the program?”

Q: So you get past the school board, who else has to approve the plan?

WYNEE SADE: There’s a public forum where the public gets up and speaks for 30 seconds about whether they were for or against it. Just any public comments. There weren’t any questions or opposition from the audience. We had a ton of public comments from parents and individuals in the community who weren’t even parents of future students, who spoke on behalf of Yu Ming and impressed upon the Board why they felt so strongly about the school and the merits of having such a school in the County.

In addition to all of the parents and community support, we were so fortunate to have Dr. David Pearson also speak in support of Yu Ming. He’s a faculty member in the language and literacy program at the University of California at Berkeley, and he served as dean from 2001 to 2010 for that department. To have someone as distinguished as him speak on our behalf, certainly it helped, yes.

Q: So after all of those meetings, does the charter have approval?

WYNEE SADE: Not just yet. The board reviews the petition further and then there was another hearing where we all went in again, parents were in the audience and there was a vote. We had a unanimous vote, seven to zero, in favor of our school being approved. So we all went to celebrate after that.

         at Yu Ming Charter School listen intently as they learn traditional school subjects in both English and Mandarin. Photo by
         Yu Ming Charter School.

Students at Yu Ming Charter School learn traditional school subjects in both English and Mandarin. Photo by Yu Ming Charter School

Stage 3 – Implementation

Q: What comes after getting the “green light?”

WYNEE SADE: Once we got approved, which is a huge milestone and a huge, amazing accomplishment, we all celebrated and then said, “OK. Now we’ve really got to build a school. Holy cow.” And that was the shift into the next chapter, the next stage of, “Now the real work begins.”

Q: How did you raise the money?

WYNEE SADE: We had to find seed capital to secure a facility, hire teachers, buy books and supplies. We got $325,000 for our original startup federal grant, to really help us with the additional operating capital. There’s specific guidelines for what the grant monies could be used for and they have quarterly requirements and submissions to make sure that you’re following the plan that you had submitted and proposed.

Unfortunately the state funding from California is not sufficient to provide exactly what we want to do with our school. We were fortunate to have the federal startup grant for the first two years of starting our school, but once that dropped off, in order to provide the curriculum and the mission and vision that we have for the school, we had to bridge the deficit much like many schools, public and private, with fundraising and fund development.

So reaching out and having parents write grants to different corporations and different grants that were out there. We also hosted a lot of different fund developments and galas to bridge the gap so that we can have art in the classrooms, so that we can have physical education, art and higher teaching assistance.

Q: What about recruiting students and teachers?

WYNEE SADE: Doing outreach in the community to educate prospective parents on this new school that’s about to open in the fall was hard. I mean, how do you share your vision with folks that haven’t seen a facility or have any track record to share? They know about a school based on someone, a parent talking, a founder getting up in a library talking about this vision and what we want to provide, but you know, we were selling a vision and a promise and a belief that we could create a better school for our kids. And we succeeded. We had more than 100 on the waitlist that first year; we even opened with two grades: kindergarten and first grade.

So with enrollment, it was about getting a team, an army of parents who would literally go out, put fliers out to all the preschools in the entire county, to host and speak at libraries and community centers to learn more about this new Mandarin immersion school and to share the vision and to spread the word. Very grassroots, very word-of-mouth because we didn’t have the funding to do elaborate marketing campaigns.

Q: To what extent does “who you know” affect whether you can start a school or not?

WYNEE SADE: We were fortunate to get picked up by different news stations out here and that helped spread the word. We put articles and ads out in the Chinese newspaper and other community outlets, but yes, I think certain relationships and knowing some folks in the community helped us. We partnered and hired a third party consulting firm of sorts, an outsourcer called EdTec, and they helped us with the back-office activities among many other critical pieces.

Q: How do you recruit faculty and staff?

WYNEE SADE: It’s somewhat self-selecting. There are teachers who want to be a part of it, where you’re helping to build and create and we’ve been fortunate to find that kind of a staff. But in the early stages, it was a little bit tricky because we’re a new school, we’ve got no track record and it takes a leap of faith for even the teachers to come over. But in the early stages we had a parent-run hiring committee — some were Chinese speaking, some were not — to help put ads in different websites that teachers are known to go to. And we have a thorough interview cycle; we have teachers come do mock teaching with kids in the classroom to assess.

Q: Did you have to create a school board?

WYNEE SADE: There is a board to govern our school’s operations and activities. It’s a non-paid board. It’s comprised of different individuals with varying experiences and skills to contribute to the schools’ governance. We started our board membership with parent founders and over time have recruited other individuals with deeper education, real estate, finance and other skills to take on the important role of governing the school. Originally, I served as Treasurer of the Board and my friend and colleague serves as Chairman of the Board. We have two parent-elected board seats, with voting rights, to allow the Board to have the parent community perspective represented.

I feel like the U.S. has a long way to go in terms of education and we need to make change. It takes communities and things like we’re doing all across the country to make this happen. I’m hopeful that ten years from now, education in our country can look very different.
Q: How did you go about finding the right facility?

WYNEE SADE: It was a good year and a half of hard work before we actually found a facility, an interim facility, that could get us off the ground and then a year ago we moved to a different facility that’s a bit larger as we’ve outgrown our space. Currently, we’re not renting a facility from the district, from Oakland, but we were in discussions with them about possibly working together to find space that we would lease from the Oakland district, but currently we are in another facility. It was once a parochial school and we lease from the church.

Q: What kind of approval do you need to open a school in a building?

WYNEE SADE: If you find a building that is commercial, it has to be converted to education use. Then there’s a lot of different code issues and it requires a lot of financing and funding resources to bring it up to code. So that comes with it. We have looked at other commercial facilities that might have been a factory and they have to be checked through for ventilation and access for doors. For example, children under second grade can’t be placed on a second floor facility. They have to be on the ground floor for fire exit and evacuation reasons. So there are a lot of considerations particular and unique to schools that we have to, and I think all schools do have to consider.

Q: After all is said and done, did you feel like you had to make any concessions in order to establish Yu Ming?

WYNEE SADE: Well certainly there are trade-offs. For instance, in the first year of a charter school or a public school that’s trying to get off the ground, where banks won’t give you loans because you have no history or track record, it was really challenging. To even find a facility is really hard so for the first year, yes there were some trade-offs. For instance we had a school tucked in Oakland Chinatown, and that had benefits because the kids were immersed, right in the middle of the heart of a Chinese community, but there was no playground that was fenced in, so the children had to walk two blocks over to a public park and that has its host of logistical challenges for the teachers and the staff and safety. But you have to make do with what you’re given. We had some classrooms there that didn’t have windows and you know, we just had to start modestly and realize that we are so fortunate to have an amazing community, teachers, staff, and really it’s the staff that makes this all happen, and sure it would have been terrific for these kids to have windows in the classroom but kids are so amazing and they learned as much as they learned regardless.

Q: How do you measure progress?

WYNEE SADE: Within the actual Yu Ming parents community, we have suggestion boxes. There’s very clear processes for how to communicate and share feedback with teachers, with the principal. Our principal holds weekly coffee chats for parents to come and talk about a particular topic — could be about curriculum, could be a whole host of other things, where parents can chime in. There’s also a parent action group, much like a PTA. It’s a forum and a way for parents to gather for volunteerism, to lead different things, to really help the school and also help to become a voice in our community to channel back to the teachers as well.

The county board of education, when we have to go back in a few years to renew our charter, because charters are approved on a five year cycle here, they’ll be looking at several things. They’ll be looking at the curriculum, have we been true to the curriculum and tests scores? Last year, when our kids were in second grade, we had one of the highest, if not, the highest math scores in the whole county for our first year taking the test and these kids are learning math in Chinese, you know, with the teachers teaching it in Chinese. And so the county will look at test scores and progress against that. They will look at the financial health of the school. Is it in a good place? Good foundation? They will be looking at diversity. Are we working towards attracting a diverse community of parents and students? They will also look at enrollment, you know, are we holding up enrollment? They’ll look at attendance. So that’s what it will take and I’m happy to say that everything should be “check, check, check.”

Q: How are things looking for next year?

WYNEE SADE: There are over 220 kids, K through three right now. Next year we have a fourth grade, that’s older kids become the fourth graders, and we have a new class of two kindergarten classes, so we’ll probably hit 260 at that point or more. And every year since our inception we have had a very long wait list because we have more applications than seats.

Q: Do you have advice for others who are thinking about starting their own charter school?

WYNEE SADE: I think that the biggest piece for me is really surrounding yourself with a passionate team of folks who are committed and want to be supportive and helpful. That just goes a long way because then they reach out to their group of supporters. And where you don’t have expertise, know where you have your limitations, go seek out help to compliment your strengths because if we didn’t do that or weren’t open to different ideas, we would never be here. It takes a lot of humility and drive to say “Alright, we know what we want to do, but it really takes a whole team to do it.”

It is possible to create the school and to create the options for your kids. You can do it. It’s not easy, but certainly if you amass and pull together with folks who also want to do it, it can happen. I feel like the U.S. has a long way to go in terms of education and we need to make change. It takes communities and things like we’re doing all across the country to make this happen. I’m hopeful that ten years from now, education in our country can look very different.

Charter school requirements are different by state. Learn more about how to establish a charter school with these resources endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education:

This story and PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post How to start your own charter school: one family’s recipe for startup success appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

How is Common Core playing out in all 50 states and DC?

The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by states to allow comparison of students’ performance. More than 40 states have adopted them.

Here is a state-by-state look at how governors and educators are dealing with the standards:


The state school board folded Common Core into the state’s College and Career Ready Standards for public schools and has been defending the decision ever since.

Legislators introduced bills in 2013 and 2014 to repeal the standards. The repeal movement drew support from tea party groups, but Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a Republican, blocked the bills with the support of one of the state’s most powerful business groups, the Business Council of Alabama.

– By Phillip Rawls


The state did not adopt Common Core, although several Alaska school districts did. Deputy Education Commissioner Les Morse said those districts will be held accountable for ensuring that student learning is in line with the state standards in English, language arts and reading that were adopted in 2012. The state standards have some similarities with Common Core.

– By Becky Bohrer


Republican Gov. Jan Brewer has tried to defuse criticism about the Common Core standards by issuing an executive order renaming them as “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards,” and reaffirming that Arizona is acting independently from the federal government.

A legislative effort to kill the standards failed this spring.

– By Bob Christie


The Arkansas Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, with an effective date of this fall. The Legislature endorsed the board’s decision during its 2011 regular session.

A few teachers, parents and national groups asked legislators last year to repeal the standards, and a state lawmaker this year attempted to bring up a bill to delay their imposition for three years. Neither effort gained traction.

– By Kelly P. Kissel


Most California schools are expected to begin basing instruction on the Common Core standards during the coming school year. Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-controlled Legislature have allocated more than $1.2 billion, about $200 per student, for school districts to spend on teacher training, materials and technology over two years.

California is part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that is developing online tests in math and language based on the Common Core. The state has resisted the department’s call for teacher evaluations to be based in part on standardized test results.

– By Lisa Leff


As in many states, the Common Core standards have prompted opposition in Colorado from some conservatives.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected a proposal that would have ordered a yearlong delay for new statewide tests while the standards were reviewed. Colorado is part of a multistate testing consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and students are set to take the PARCC test this school year.

– By Kristen Wyatt


In June, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy committed spending an additional $15 million to continue launching Common Core in the state’s public schools. That includes $10 million in borrowing for new school technology, one of the recommendations of a task force created by Malloy in March after teachers and education professionals raised concerns about whether schools were prepared for incorporating the new standards.

While some of Connecticut’s public school districts have begun using the new Common Core standards, others have lagged behind. The issue has become a political one for Malloy, who faces re-election. Both his Republican challenger and a potential petitioning candidate have criticized the rollout of Common Core.

– By Susan Haigh


The state is moving forward as Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, a former co-chairman of the Common Core standards initiative, works to dispel notions that they are a federal initiative aimed at the states.

In the spring, students in grades three to eight, and 11th grade will take the new Smarter Balanced assessments in English and mathematics that are tied to Common Core. State education officials have agreed to a one-year delay, subject to federal approval, in using the test results in teacher evaluations. The delay takes into account concerns of the Delaware State Education Association, the teachers’ union.

– By Randall Chase


District of Columbia public schools began implementing the standards voluntarily in 2010. School leaders are making one major concession: Teachers won’t be evaluated based on their students’ performance on new, Common Core-aligned standardized tests this school year.

That decision made news because the district has moved aggressively to align teacher evaluations with student test scores. The Education Department was initially critical of the policy change, saying it represented a slowdown of the District’s school-reform efforts. Hundreds of District teachers have been fired after receiving poor evaluations, while the top performers have received bonuses.

– By Ben Nuckols


Florida officials tweaked the standards among a growing backlash. Beginning the fall, the “Florida standards” will be used in state classrooms.

While some have asked GOP Gov. Rick Scott and legislators to jettison the standards, high-ranking Republicans have tried to tamp down the controversy in other ways.

For example, legislators passed a measure that repealed more than 30 mentions of Common Core that were placed into state law just a year ago. Scott initially backed Common Core standards. But after complaints from grassroots conservative groups and activists, he called for public hearings and set the groundwork for the state to pull out of a consortium developing a national test to see if school children are meeting the new standards.

– By Gary Fineout


Some Republican lawmakers have pushed bills for two years opting out of Common Core, which are supported by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, backed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and former Gov. Sonny Perdue who co-chaired the governors group that created the standards.

Republicans who control the Legislature compromised by forming a study committee to review the standards’ origins. Georgia dropped out of a national consortium developing tests in line with Common Core in July 2013, saying it was too expensive. The state signed a contract this summer with CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop its own exam that students are scheduled to take during the coming school year.

– By Kathleen Foody


Hawaii’s Department of Education is asking the public to review test questions aligned to Hawaii Common Core standards and help recommend achievement levels for grade-level proficiency.

Beginning next spring, students will take new Common Core-aligned assessments that will replace the Hawaii State Assessment.

– By Jennifer Kelleher


There’s been growing opposition to Common Core in Idaho, with calls for reconsideration, even repeal, in the three years since the standards were adopted. But schools are slowly moving forward to put them in place, including the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams.

So far, efforts to repeal the standards have failed. As the November election approaches, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for state superintendent have said they will work to improve implementing the standards but have not said they must be repealed.

– By Kimberlee Kruesi


Illinois started to adopt the Common Core standards in 2010, and fully implemented them last school year. Next spring, the PARCC tests linked to Common Core standards will be used in school districts across the state.

The tests will be given to students in grades three to eight, but only partially rolled out in high school because the state board of education had its budget request for assessments cut — By $10 million. The ACT exam has been a state mandated assessment for high school juniors in recent years and doubles as a college entrance exam.

– By Kerry Lester


Indiana formally ended its participation in Common Core this past spring, when Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a measure pushed by conservative Republicans. But a key change in the legislation, mandating that any Indiana standards qualify for federal funding, spurred the bill’s original author, state Sen. Scott Schneider, a Republican, to withdraw his support.

The state Board of Education approved new education standards in April, a rare moment of agreement between Pence and Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz. But the new standards drew criticism from conservatives and tea partyers who said they were too similar to the Common Core requirements.

– By Tom Lobianco


Many of the Common Core components have been blended into Iowa’s statewide standards, known as the Iowa Core.

Conservatives in Iowa have attacked the Common Core, but efforts to change the state program have not been successful. But GOP Gov. Terry Branstad last year signed an executive order clarifying that the state would continue to maintain control over education standards and testing, not the federal government.

– By Catherine Lucey


The state Board of Education adopted the Common Core reading and math standards in 2010, but in recent years they have been attacked by conservative Republicans, who say they’re too expensive. Earlier this year, the state Senate attached a provision to an education funding bill that would have blocked their implementation, but it was dropped in the final version of the bill.

The board is moving ahead with developing student tests tied to the standards.

– By John Hanna


In Kentucky, state lawmakers passed a bill in 2009 that set more rigorous academic standards, new assessments and a new accountability system. Kentucky followed up a year later by adopting Common Core and then in 2013 next-generation science standards. The new standards are known as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

Teachers first taught the new English/language arts and math standards in the 2011-12 school year. Students began testing on those new standards that same year.

– By Bruce Shreiner


GOP Gov. Bob by Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has sued the Obama administration, accusing Washington of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards.

Lawmakers this year rejected several attempts to strip Common Core from classrooms and a majority of the education board voted to continue using the standards.

Jindal suspended contracts that the state Department of Education planned to use to buy testing material aligned with the standards. The education superintendent, John White, and education board leaders say the governor overstepped his legal authority, and they sued.

A state district judge has since said the governor’s actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students and he lifted Jindal’s suspension of the contracts. The decision allows White to move ahead with Common Core-tied testing plans until a full trial is held later over the legality of Jindal’s executive orders against the standards.

At the same time, 17 state lawmakers who oppose the standards have lodged their own legal challenge, but lost their first round in court.

– By Melinda Deslatte


Two groups opposed to the reading, writing and math benchmarks are trying to collect enough signatures to trigger a statewide vote in 2015 to repeal them.

Maine Education Commissioner James Rier says he spends much of his time fielding calls from people with a misunderstanding of the standards, adopted in 2011 in Maine. The state is now assembling a team of educators and businesspeople to look at updating the standards for math and English language arts, he said. Any changes would have to be approved by the Legislature.

– By David Sharp


Maryland schools began implementing the standards in reading and math two school years ago, and will begin using the PARCC test during the upcoming school year.

In this year’s legislative session, Maryland lawmakers voted by large margins to address some issues that have arisen with Common Core in the state. For example, test scores won’t be used in teacher and principal evaluations for at least the next two years. In addition, a workgroup including teachers and parents will be formed to improve implementation.

– By Brian Witte


The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in July 2010, and they became part of the state curriculum the following year. The state is also in the middle of a two-year trial of the PARCC.

The new standards are being challenged by a grassroots group, known as the Common Core Forum, which argues the state’s standards should not be dropped and replaced. The group of parents, teachers and local elected officials has called for repeal of the new standards and more transparency from the state.

– By Michael Melia


In Michigan, the 2014-15 school year was supposed to be the first in which students would take exams developed by the Smarter Balanced consortium. But lawmakers balked, despite last year ultimately letting the state continue spending dollars implementing the standards after vigorous debate.

Legislators later directed the state not to administer the Smarter Balanced test this coming academic year. Instead, it must develop Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests that align with Common Core. The new assessment is to be given starting in the spring of 2016.

– By David Eggert


Minnesota has adopted only the English and language arts standards portions of Common Core but augmented them with more rigorous content developed close to home. The state had already redrawn its math standards.

Rather than joining the national testing groups related to Common Core, Minnesota went with its own assessments.

– By Brian Bakst


Mississippi schools are supposed to be fully teaching based on the standards this year, and Mississippi plans to use the PARCC tests for most of its state standardized testing beginning this spring.

Attempts were made earlier this year by some lawmakers to roll back the state’s implementation of Common Core, but those proposals failed by wide margins.

But Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has called Common Core a “failed program” and said he expected lawmakers to address the standards in the 2015 legislative session. State Superintendent Carey Wright has pushed back against Bryant, saying his description of Common Core is a “gross mischaracterization” and saying students “deserve the opportunity to perform to higher expectations.”

– By Jeff Amy


Public schools in Missouri have transitioned to the standards, but a new state law backed by opponents could get rid of them.

In July, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed a measure passed by the Republican-led Legislature that creates task forces of parents and educators to develop new state standards for English, math, science and history to be implemented during the 2016-2017 school year.

– By David Lieb


Montana students for the first time will take a test linked to the standards. There was a trial of the test last spring.

Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Denise Juneau said some schools are behind in curriculum development, teacher training and acquiring textbooks or other equipment to teach to the new standards. The 2013 Legislature rejected proposals to allocate money for training and equipment, and state Sen. Roger Webb has submitted a bill request for the 2015 session to bar any funding for the standards.

– By Matt Volz


Nebraska has not adopted the standards, and uses state standards developed by teachers, said Betty VanDeventer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. By law, they’re reviewed once every five years.

A study commissioned by the department last year found that Nebraska’s language arts standards are as tough as those of Common Core and more demanding in some areas. The study said Nebraska’s math standards cover most of the national Common Core content. Some material is introduced in later grades, but the study said it’s often presented in greater depth.

– By Grant Schulte


Opponents have spoken out against the standards at state school board and interim legislative meetings, and coalesced into a group called Stop Common Core Nevada. Some are working with lawmakers in hopes of introducing a bill next year to repeal the measures.

Meanwhile the Nevada Board of Education now refers to the Common Core name as the Nevada Academic Content Standards, and the state superintendent has launched a communications initiative called Nevada Ready to inform parents and the public about the new standards. The Wynn Family Foundation, funded by casino mogul and state school board president Elaine Wynn, has provided $200,000 to the public relations campaign.

– By Michelle Rindels


Local school boards are not required to adopt the Common Core standards, even though they have been endorsed by the state Board of Education. But state assessment tests, which students will begin taking next spring, must be aligned to the standards.

The Legislature defeated several bills this spring aimed at ending or scaling back the state’s involvement in the standards.

– By Holly Ramer


New Jersey is moving ahead. Beginning with the coming school year, schools will be required to use PARCC tests to measure how well students are learning the curriculum.

The Democrat-dominated Legislature wanted to delay consequences of those tests for at least two years until a review of the standards could be completed. That would have meant that the tests could not have been used as part of teacher evaluations.

In a compromise, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, took executive action that said the exams will count for teachers’ grades, but they’ll be given lower weight over the first two years. He also established a commission to review the effectiveness of student testing.

– By Geoff Mulvihill


Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has been a strong advocate of the Common Core standards, and students in grade three to 11 will take online tests aligned to the standards for the first time this spring.

The standards have been phased in, and teachers in all grades during the last school year, 2013-2014, were to have integrated Common Core into their classroom curriculum. There has been no push in the Democratic-controlled Legislature to back away from the standards.

– By Barry Massey


Dissatisfaction with Common Core and the tests based on them led thousands of New York parents to “opt out” of the 2014 exams, and state lawmakers approved a measure last month that delays the use of the test results in some teacher evaluations.

The Common Core has become an issue in the New York governor’s race. Rob Astorino, the Republican who aims to unseat incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, is seeking to capitalize on opposition to the standards by putting a “Stop Common Core” party on the November ballot. If enough people sign petitions for the party, Democrats and independents who oppose the Common Core could use the ballot line to vote for Astorino without voting Republican.

– By Karen Matthews



North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation in July to rewrite Common Core, creating a commission to come up with new reading and math standards.

Common Core will be in place in the state until the new standards are created and implemented. The commission can choose to integrate parts of the current Common Core into the new standards.

– By Katelyn Ferral


North Dakota adopted Common Core standards in 2011, and began to fully implement them during the 2013-14 school year. Assessments based on the new standards will start for all students next spring.

North Dakota lawmakers have remained mostly silent on the new standards.

– By James MacPherson


Republican lawmakers in the Ohio House are beginning a push to repeal Common Core learning standards by year’s end, citing widespread discontent they say they’re hearing from parents, teachers and communities.

It’s unclear whether the bill could pass. Districts already are well on their way to implementing the standards, which have the backing of a diverse coalition of Ohio groups including teachers’ unions, superintendents, the Urban League and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

– By Julie Carr Smyth


Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who strongly supported Common Core as head of the National Governors Association, reversed course this year and signed into law a repeal of the standards.

In response, the federal government on Thursday did not renew the state’s waiver involving stringent requirements in the No Child Left Behind law. The move stripped Oklahoma’s power to decide how to spend $29 million in education dollars. The Obama administration said the state no longer could demonstrate that its school standards were preparing students for college and careers.

Education officials estimate that about 70 percent of Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts already had integrated the Common Core standards into their textbooks, teaching methods or curriculum. Now, districts are being directed to return to the Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS standards, that were in place in 2010, until the state develops its own new standards. That process is expected to take up to two years.

– By Sean Murphy


Eighty percent of Oregon teachers who responded to a statewide survey this spring said what’s being taught in their school aligns with the skilled required by Common Core.

But there has been grumbling.

Dennis Richardson, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he opposes Common Core. Meanwhile, Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, asked the state to delay using Common Core-aligned testing to evaluate teachers, students, school districts and individual schools. State education officials have asked the Education Department to grant a one-year delay in using results from the new, Common Core-aligned assessments as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

– By Steven DuBois


Pennsylvania’s version, known as Pennsylvania Core Standards, took effect in March.

They were developed in part by examining the national Common Core but are not identical. At least one state lawmaker is attempting to get them repealed, and others have spoken out against them.

– By Mark Scolforo


The Common Core standards have been in place since the start of the 2013-2014 school year, and students will take the first assessments aligned with them next spring. The state is using the PARCC.

The state’s largest teachers union, National Education Association Rhode Island, has criticized the Common Core standards — including the pace of implementation — and what it considers an overemphasis on standardized tests. During debate over use of another test as a high school graduation requirement, state lawmakers generally expressed support for the standards and the alignment of the curriculum with the PARCC test.

– By Erika Niedowski


A South Carolina law signed May 30 requires new standards to replace Common Core — By the time students walk into classrooms in August 2015. Meanwhile, full implementation of Common Core, to include aligned testing, continues as planned this school year.

Many legislators saw the new law as a way to satisfy the opposition by essentially stepping up a review that would have occurred anyway, expecting little to change. Leaders of the state Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee — the two groups that must approve any changes — said there’s no time to start from scratch.

But Superintendent Mick Zais, a Republican who didn’t seek a second term, insists there is and that there will be no simple editing of Common Core. There’s a March deadline for the new standards to be approved.

– By Seanna Adcox


South Dakota began to fully implement the standards during the 2013-2014 school year.

A number of bills seeking to scrap the Common Core standards failed during the 2014 Legislature. Lawmakers, however, approved a bill that would delay the adoption of multistate standards in any other subjects until after July 2016. GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the bill in March.

– By Regina Garcia Cano


During the last Tennessee General Assembly, lawmakers proposed several measures to do away with the state’s Common Core standards. All of them failed.

But lawmakers voted to delay the testing associated with Common Core for one year. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam reluctantly signed the measure. He said the standards are needed to better prepare students for college and the workforce and play a role in attempt to raise the state’s high school graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025.

– By Lucas L. Johnson II


Texas refused to adopt Common Core, instead mandating curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, though as much as two-thirds of the state’s math standards are thought to overlap with Common Core requirements.

Conservatives continue to worry about Common Core seeping into Texas classrooms, so much so that the Legislature in 2013 passed a law expressly forbidding school districts from using it as part of lesson plans. Then, in June, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner in November’s governor’s race, issued an opinion reiterating that schools using Common Core standards “in any way” would violate that law.

– By Will Weissert


Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, has defended the state’s Common Core standards, which are generally referred to as Utah Core or Utah Core Standards.

But after protests and swelling complaints from conservative activists, Herbert has asked the state attorney general’s office to review the adoption of the standards and to report the level of control Utah and local districts and schools have over curriculum. He also asked education experts to review how well the standards will prepare students for success and established a website where parents and others can leave comments about the standards.

Utah passed a law two years ago that requires the state to abandon any agreements or contracts if Utah’s control of standards or curriculum is ceded to the federal government. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Herbert signed a measure creating a standards review committee.

– By Michelle Price


Common Core was introduced to Vermont educators in 2010 and this year schools are expected to have their curriculum fully aligned with the standards.

The agency has heard about pockets of parents who are upset. But Pat Fitzsimmons, the Common Core implementation coordinator for the state’s Agency of Education, says there’s been misinformation. She said some opponents are upset about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, to be given in 2015, and have concerns about technology involved and protecting student data.

– By Lisa Rathke


Virginia refused to participate in the national Common Core system, instead deciding in 2010 to strengthen its own Standards of Learning.

The state introduced new standardized math tests in 2012 and more rigorous reading, writing and science assessments in 2013. The state is reducing the number of standardized exams that middle and elementary school students have to take from 22 to 17.

In addition, state Secretary of Education Anne Holton has appointed a 20-member committee to study the Standards of Learning and make recommendations to the Virginia Board of Education and the General Assembly on ways to improve SOL tests and student growth measures, and encourage innovative teaching.

– By John Raby


Washington state adopted the new Common Core standards for math and English in 2011 and began using them in its public schools the following school year. During the coming school year, tests aligned to the standards will be used instead of the previous state-developed system.

Washington teachers and their union have expressed concern about both the new education standards and the new tests, saying they need more time to get used to the new program before they are judged on how well their students are doing. The Legislature decided not to require test scores to be part of the teachers’ evaluations, resulting in the state’s loss of its waiver from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Law.

– By Donna Blankinship


In 2010, the West Virginia Board of Education approved Common Core state standards for math and English, customizing the content specifically for the state’s students. More than 100 teachers developed the content standards aimed at giving teachers more focus and flexibility while preparing students to be college and career ready.

The transition must be complete in all grades by this fall, but the state is allowing counties to determine how to adopt the changes.

– By John Raby


Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate facing re-election this year, has called for repeal of the standards, a move opposed by his Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Mary Burke.

Repeal also is opposed by the nonpartisan state superintendent of schools, who argues changing course now after spending millions of dollars to implement the Common Core the past four years would send Wisconsin schools into chaos. Testing tied to the standards will begin this spring.

– By Scott Bauer


Some Wyoming school districts have implemented the standards, which were adopted in 2012, but critics have been persistent in speaking out against them.

A bill to repeal the standards in Wyoming failed to get enough votes for consideration in last winter’s legislative session. Under state law, the standards will be up for review again in 2017.

– By Bob Moen

The post How is Common Core playing out in all 50 states and DC? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Colleges emphasize student ‘stickiness’ to boost graduations


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HARI SREENIVASAN: Now our final report in our weeklong series on Rethinking College.

Tonight, we look at a funding model used by more and more states for their public universities. It’s all outcome-based. The institutions receive funding based solely on their graduation rates.

Four years ago, educators in Tennessee became alarmed by a troubling statistic.

WOMAN: Candidates, please rise.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Only 51 percent of students who enrolled at the state’s public universities actually graduated. The disturbingly high dropout rate raised questions about higher education. Is a public institution really successful if only half its students ever graduate?

It was a big question in 2010 before Tennessee’s Commission of Higher Education.

Russ Deaton is the commission’s chief financial officer.

RUSS DEATON, Tennessee Higher Education Commission: Our schools were very good at opening their doors to students, and the financial pressures were not on retaining students and graduating them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So Tennessee decided to dump its traditional funding model. Instead of paying schools to enroll students, the state now pays schools to graduate students.

RUSS DEATON: We used to count up enrollments. Now we count up your degrees, how many bachelor’s degrees did you produce the past academic year, how many students were successfully placed in jobs, how much research did the university do, simply counting up other outcomes.

MAN: This is key. Seems real easy.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now the more students that graduate, the more money the school gets from the state.

RUSS DEATON: It’s trying to find ways to get schools to respond to incentives the same way people respond to incentives. As a professor, I don’t grade students when they show up the first day of class; I wait and see how they perform throughout the semester, and then I evaluate them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Performance-based funding is catching fire; 25 states use some form of it. Tennessee’s was the first and most aggressive, tying 100 percent of funds to outcomes.

Not everyone is happy with the change. In Memphis, the new policy cost Southwest Tennessee Community College more than a million dollars.

Provost Joanne Bassett says the new model hurts community colleges, especially ones that attract students who struggle.

JOANNE BASSETT, Provost, Southwest Tennessee Community College: We have students — our averaging entering ACT is 16.5 percent. But we have a real struggle to take these students in this short amount, in two years, in three years, and get them finished.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Memphis is the poor large city in America and Provost Bassett fears Tennessee’s focus on outcomes will push schools to be more selective about the students they accept.

JOANNE BASSETT: What that formula tells you to do, whether it be directly said or not, it says, find better students, do better, produce better outcomes. We will never do that. We take anybody that has a dream that wants a college education, that wants to rise out of poverty, and we try to do the best that we can.

MAN: What’s the first thing we have to do?

HARI SREENIVASAN: But at Austin Peay State University, where 60 percent of the students are also low-income, graduation rates have climbed and the school reaped an extra $4 million.

TIMOTHY HALL, Former President, Austin Peay State University: What are you studying?

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Tim Hall says he worked hard to build strong student-to-school connections, what Hall calls stickiness.

TIMOTHY HALL: We try to increase stickiness, OK? The stickiness of an institution is what holds students in place across time. Graduation takes typically 120 hours, and the great enemy is life. Life is constantly taking students off pathway. So you have to pay attention to how life can redirect people away from college, and try to increase the stickiness of the college experience, so life doesn’t knock them off course.

You ready for finals?

MAN: Oh, yes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: To create the so-called stickiness, experiences are carefully scheduled.

WOMAN: I think we know that when we structure time for faculty and students to come together, that good things happen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Like social events for students and professors outside the classroom.

TIMOTHY HALL: So, it might be for an English professor taking students to see a local production of a Shakespearian play. For a scientist, it might be taking our students on a biological field trip out into some area where they study something that they are also studying in class.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Like grouping students into the same classes.

TIMOTHY HALL: About 35 percent of our students this past fall, they took three courses together. Imagine a student who is a brand-new freshman, doesn’t know anyone and is wondering, when is the test in that class? I know the professor said. And that student might be reluctant to turn around and ask a stranger, but if the student is looking at someone that he or she has had in the same class now for several months and more than just one class, they’re more willing to ask questions like that.

Success is built off of such trivial matters as the willingness to ask, to get help, to turn and rely on somebody else.

WOMAN: Go ahead and click on health educators.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the innovations Hall is proudest of is a computer program called Degree Compass. The program works a bit like or Netflix. It’s a prediction engine that estimates how well a student will do in a particular course.

TIMOTHY HALL: It takes every student’s academic record and compares it with every other student we have, and on the basis of that, it can make remarkably accurate predictions about the courses that you will do well in and the courses that you will do not so well in.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Adviser Ashlee Spearman explains how the software helps students avoid taking too many difficult courses at the same time, a situation which can lead to failure and even dropout.

ASHLEE SPEARMAN, Student Adviser, Austin Peay State University: We have stats that can actually show you, off a previous course, you may think you’re going to do well in this statistics class, but according to your past, this may be a little bit more of a challenging course for you, so may want to pair the appropriate courses with that course.

And so that definitely will help the students as they’re matriculating through to graduation to not only take courses that are going to be challenging.

You are predicted to do well in the actual course, but the lab, you’re potentially only going to do 4.5 stars.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Tyler Milton’s case, the software’s star system predicted she would need extra help in some classes.

TYLER MILTON, Student, Austin Peay State University: When you’re going to college in your freshman year, you don’t know what to prepare for. You don’t know how you’re going to do. You’re freaking out. You’re stressed out, away from home.

So it’s — it’s different. But, looking at that, I did prepare myself and I did go to tutoring classes. And because I did tutoring, because the star system helped with me that, I ended up doing better in some classes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Tennessee model is now spreading to other states.

TIMOTHY HALL: Hey, guys.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Austin Peay’s president, Tim Hall, is moving this fall to a small college in New York State, where he plans to introduce some of the same changes.

Online, read how growing student diversity is challenging college campuses to rethink how to better serve all students.

This segment was produced by Merrill Schwerin.

The post Colleges emphasize student ‘stickiness’ to boost graduations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.