Category Archives: Legal issues in education

Atlanta newspaper reviews test scores from across the U.S. and finds 200 districts with “improbable” scores

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the integrity of school testing.

The analysis doesn’t prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.

For those with an interest in the technical details, the Journal-Constitution published its methodology here (the methodology page also lists the experts consulted as part of their analysis).

USA Today: Colleges and universities obsess more about school rankings than do students

USA Today reports:

When U.S. News & World Report debuted its list of “America’s Best Colleges” nearly 30 years ago, the magazine hoped its college rankings would be a game-changer for students and families. But arguably, they’ve had a much bigger effect on colleges themselves…

Yes, students and families still buy the guide and its less famous competitors by the hundreds of thousands, and still care about a college’s reputation. But it isn’t students who obsess over every incremental shift on the rankings scoreboard, and who regularly embarrass themselves in the process. It’s colleges…

…While U.S. News cross-checks some data with other sources, it relies largely on colleges themselves to provide it. Modest forms of fudging through data selection are undeniably common, especially in law school rankings. The most high-profile case of outright cheating involved Iona University in New York, which acknowledged last fall submitting years of false data that boosted its ranking from around 50th in its category to 30th.

But most rankings critics say by far the most pernicious failure of colleges isn’t blatant cheating, but what they do more openly — allowing the rankings formula to drive their goals and policies.

National Council on Teacher Quality: K-12 teacher tenure being weakened or eliminated in more U.S. states

The Associated Press (via ABC News) reports:

America’s public school teachers are seeing their generations-old tenure protections weakened as states seek flexibility to fire teachers who aren’t performing. A few states have essentially nullified tenure protections altogether, according to an analysis being released Wednesday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The changes are occurring as states replace virtually automatic “satisfactory” teacher evaluations with those linked to teacher performance and base teacher layoffs on performance instead of seniority. Politically powerful teachers’ unions are fighting back, arguing the changes lower morale, deny teachers due process, and unfairly target older teachers.

Science teachers face students skeptical about climate change

The Huffington Post reports:

Around the country — from Washington State to Oklahoma— pressure and pushback from skeptical students, teachers and administrators pose challenges.

In 2008, Louisiana voted to allow public school teachers to teach both creationism and the views of climate change skeptics. Last May, a school board in Las Alamitos, Calif., voted unanimously to require environmental science teachers cover “multiple perspectives” on climate change. That decision was later rescinded…

The National Center for Science Education, long-touted for its efforts to help teachers address evolution in the classroom, has recognized the predicament and announced this week that it would add climate change to its repertoire, offering teachers a range of tools and legal support.

Arizona judge upholds Tucson district’s finding that ethnic studies program is illegal

The Associated Press (via the Washington Post) reports:

An administrative law judge ruled Tuesday that a Tucson school district’s ethnic studies program violates state law, agreeing with the findings of Arizona’s public schools chief.

[Judge Lewis] Kowal’s ruling, first reported by The Arizona Daily Star, said the district’s Mexican-American Studies program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.

Kansas high school student reprimanded for tweeting criticism of Gov. Sam Brownback

The Wichita Eagle reports:

A Kansas teenager is in trouble after mocking Gov. Sam Brownback during a mock legislative assembly for high school students.

Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, was in Topeka on Monday as part of Kansas Youth in Government, a program for students interested in politics and government.

During the session, in which Brownback addressed the group, Sullivan posted on her personal Twitter page:

“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”

On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program.

The principal “laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment,” Sullivan said. “He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.

Despite often poor job prospects, college students seek out ‘easy’ majors

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Time will tell if the poor job market persuaded more students to push into disciplines such as engineering and science. Although the number of college graduates increased about 29% between 2001 and 2009, the number graduating with engineering degrees only increased 19%, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Education. The number with computer and information-sciences degrees decreased 14%. Since students typically set their majors during their sophomore year, the first class that chose their major in the midst of the recession graduated this year.

Research has shown that graduating with these majors provides a good foundation not just for so-called STEM jobs, or those in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, but a whole range of industries where earnings expectations are high. Business, finance and consulting firms, as well as most health-care professions, are keen to hire those who bring quantitative skills and can help them stay competitive.