Newspaper investigates possible widespread cheating

     The Atlanta Journal-Constitution made national headlines last summer when it revealed that nearly 200 Atlanta teachers, principals and superintendents attempted to improve student test scores by changing answers on standardized test forms.
    
     The paper found evidence of cheating at 44 of Atlanta’s 56 schools, which ending up costing Superintendent Beverly Hall her job.
    
     A new Journal-Constitution investigation reveals that “suspicious test score patterns – which alone is not evidence of cheating – were found in 196 of the nation’s 3,125 largest school districts,” including the Houston and Los Angeles districts, reports The Atlantic.
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Idaho lawmakers show knowledge is power

     Idaho is among the growing number of “right to work” states, in which union membership is not a prerequisite to getting a job. In order to attract new members in these states, teacher unions play up their ability to provide educators with professional liability insurance – a necessity in today’s hyper-litigious society – while downplaying the union’s far-left political agenda.
    
     Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed a law requiring the state’s school districts to provide teachers with a comprehensive list of liability insurance providers, lest educators think the highly politicized and expensive Idaho Education Association was the only game in town.
    
     That allowed educators to learn about the nonpartisan Northwest Professional Educators, which offers teacher insurance protection for $198 a year, compared to the almost $600 it costs to join the IEA.
    
     The law was a good idea in theory, but it has resulted in teachers being inundated with a huge list of potential insurance providers, “leading to frustration for districts and confusion for teachers,” writes The Heartlander.
    
     The House passed a new bill this week that would whittle the list down to only companies that provide teacher liability insurance, and require the companies to request placement on a district’s list. It’s unclear if the Senate will take action on the bill or not.
    
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Tennessee lawmakers to parents: Mind your own business!

Efforts to keep the public from inspecting teacher ratings hit high gear in legislature
     
By Ben Velderman
EAG Communications    
     
     NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time ever, Tennessee is basing a portion of a teacher’s evaluation on student test data.
    
     Test scores will be combined with a principal’s classroom observations to create an overall score for teachers, ranging from 1 (significantly below expectations) to 5 (significantly exceeds expectations).
    
     But parents and taxpayers will not be allowed to see those overall scores, if Republican State Sen. Jim Tracy, gets his way.
    
     Last week, education reform advocates were caught off guard when a last-minute amendment was added to Tracy’s bill, SB 1447, making “all aspects of educators’ new evaluations confidential,” the Tennessean reports.
    
     The bill was passed unanimously by a Senate committee, and will soon be voted on by the full Senate. A similar measure is working its way through the House, and Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, has indicated he will sign the bill into law.
    
     The flurry of legislative activity is in response to a recent announcement from the Tennessee Department of Education that teacher scores would be available to the public under the state’s open records laws.  
         
     Anti-transparency lawmakers believe public knowledge of the test scores would be detrimental to teachers and would lead to “teacher shopping” among parents. What could possibly be wrong with caring parents shopping for effective teachers for their kids?
    
     The state’s largest teachers union couldn’t be happier about the legislation.
    
     “Any evaluation system that puts a numerical rating on an employee – that information ought to be between the employee and the employer,” said Tennessee Education Association official Jerry Winters.
    
     Apparently Mr. Winters doesn’t understand that taxpayers are the employer. They pay the salaries of all school employees, and deserve to know how well a teacher is doing in his or her job.
    
     In fact, Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system was designed and implemented with $501 million in federal Race to the Top funds, which means all Americans qualify as employers and are entitled to see the scores. 
    
     “Every study we see concludes that good students are the results of good teachers, and bad teachers take more than a year for students to recover from,” reads a Tennessean editorial. “Parents should be able to arm themselves with any and every tool to ensure their children are getting the best teacher for them.”
    
     And taxpayers should be able to see what kind of return they’re getting on their investments.
     
New York might hide teachers scores, too
     
     Public transparency might also be in trouble in the state of New York.
    
     Last month, New York’s highest court gave its okay to the public release of 18,000 teacher rankings, many of which were published in various news outlets.
    
     Now, members of New York City’s teachers union – the United Federation of Teachers – are pressuring lawmakers to “ban the public from seeing new teacher report cards,” according to the New York Post.
    
     The transparency ban might get support from both Democrats and Republicans who are anxious to mend fences with unions over a new law that scales back “pensions for newly hired government workers,” the Post reports.
    
     Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is said to oppose any move that would weaken public accountability.
    

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Students assigned to dig for dirt on GOP

     A recent civics assignment has stirred up quite a controversy throughout the state of Virginia. The Daily Caller reports that Liberty Middle School teacher Michael Denman “recently forced his (Civics Honor’s) students to support President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign by conducting opposition research in class against the Republican candidates.”
    

     Students were instructed to look into the candidates’ backgrounds for “weaknesses,” to create a strategy of how those weaknesses could be used by the Obama campaign, and to identify an office in the campaign that might receive their research.
    
     No students were assigned to conduct opposition research on the president.
    
     The teacher’s behavior was so indefensible that a spokesman for the Virginia Education Association made a special point of noting the teacher is not a VEA member. (The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers hasn’t commented, either way.)
    
     “This assignment was just creepy beyond belief – like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” one father told the Daily Caller.
    

     The father did have some advice for all teachers: “Leave politics out of the classroom. Present a balanced viewpoint, teaching children to listen to all sides and think for themselves.”
    
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Las Vegas arbitrator rules against union, saves 134 teacher jobs

     Here’s a story straight out of the “strange but true” file: The Las Vegas teachers’ union is upset with an arbitrator’s decision that will save the jobs of 134 teachers. 
     
     Yesterday, an arbitrator ruled that under state law, members of the Clark County Education Association are required to make increased contributions to the state’s retirement system – just like all other public employees.
     
     The decision saves the Clark County School District $10 million dollars, which equals the cost of 134 teacher positions, reports the ReviewJournal.com.
     
     While it’s a victory for the school district, taxpayers and the 134 teachers, everyone is anxiously awaiting the ruling of a second arbitration case which will determine whether all Clark County teachers will take a pay freeze, or if some educators will get pay raises while hundreds of others get pink slips.
    
     The Clark County union is hoping for the second option, which makes us wonder: Whatever happened to the time-honored union ideals of “We Are One” and “Solidarity Forever”?

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The high cost of firing bad educators

     South Country Central School District (New York) Superintendent Joe Clipp Jr. has resigned after accusations that he raised a grade for a star football player in order to help the player receive a college scholarship. The district will give Clipp $545,000 in severance pay, the equivalent of two years’ salary, CBS 2 reports.
    
     The district is located in Nassau County, which has the second highest property taxes in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.
    
     Undoubtedly, the school board’s generous severance package was done in the best interests of district students, though details remain murky.
    
     In Washington State, a high school math teacher of Chinese descent who sued the Waterville School District for discrimination has agreed to resign in exchange for about $430,000, reports the Associated Press.
    
     Teacher Jim Zhu was fired in 2009 for allegedly verbally abusing students and refusing to help struggling students, the AP reports. The district will give Zhu more than three years’ salary and a letter of recommendation, which Zhu can presumably use to secure another teaching job.
    
     The damage teacher tenure and trial lawyers can inflict on our schools is breathtaking, is it not?
    
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School officials must face facts: Union concessions necessary to balance budgets

By Steve Gunn
EAG Communications
     
     EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Tis the season for teachers union contract negotiations in school districts across America, and the process will remain extremely difficult this year.
     
     That’s because thousands of public school districts remain in financial jeopardy, with budget deficits running in the six and seven figures. Rising costs, declining enrollment, cuts in state aid and the loss of federal stimulus money have contributed to the shortfalls.
     
     To make up for those deficits, most school boards have two choices. Assuming they lack the legal or practical power to raise local property taxes, they can either lay off younger teachers and cancel student programs, or turn to their unions for modest concessions to help save their districts money.
     
     The latter option makes a great deal of sense, since a typical school district spends about three-quarters of its total budget on labor costs, mostly for salary and benefits for union employees.
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Poll shows Wisconsin residents have limited interest in Big Labors fight with Walker

Recall is all about union revenge, but citizens interested in other issues 

     Wisconsins pending recall election is not about Republicans vs. Democrats.
      
     Its about the public sector unions seeking revenge against Gov. Scott Walker for Act 10, which cancelled many of their collective bargaining privileges. 
    
     And its becoming more clear every day that the people of Wisconsin have limited interest in helping the unions grind their political ax.
        
     The evidence? A recent Marquette University poll shows former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk trailing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 36-29 percent in a possible Democratic primary matchup. 
        
     Those are very telling numbers, considering Barrett hasnt even announced whether he will run, while Falk is the handpicked candidate of the public employee unions, and the only candidate promising to veto any state budget that does not fully restore public sector collective bargaining.
    
     The people of Wisconsin are beginning to understand that public employee unions, particularly teachers unions, consistently abused the collective bargaining system by refusing to make crucial concessions in recent years to help school districts and local governments save money during the recession.
    
     For more information on that topic, check out EAGs new report, The Bad Old Days of Collective Bargaining: Why Act 10 Was Necessary for Wisconsion Public Schools. 
    
     Citizens also recognize that the unions were willing to pass the buck to unemployed or underemployed Wisconsin residents by calling for higher taxes to balance school and municipal budgets. The unions werent willing to cough up a dime, but wanted everyone else to increase their contributions.
    
     In the words of Diane Lazewski, president of the teachers union in the New Berlin school district, Should the taxpayers never have their taxes raised?
    
     The people have also started to notice that schools and local governments are in better financial shape, now that they have the power under Act 10 to manage their own budgets and address runaway labor costs without union interference.
     
     Education Action Group does not endorse political candidates, and has no position on the pending recall election. But we can read the writing on the wall, and it clearly says the Democrats will need more than union bitterness as a campaign platform if they hope to install a new governor this year.

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PEGs culturally relevant teaching program is simply another Marxist attack on American values

By Ben Velderman
EAG Communications
     
     SAN FRANCISCO – At the heart of the education reform movement is a desire to close the achievement gap between students of different ethnic and socio-economic groups.
    
     In broad terms, students in high-income, predominantly white suburban school districts tend to have better reading and math skills than their minority peers in low-income, urban school districts. The National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that math and reading scores of white students are roughly 25 points higher than those of African American and Hispanic students.
    
     Many education reform advocates argue the achievement gap can be reduced through more school choice and accountability for educators. Defenders of the status quo – mostly teachers unions – argue that the problem can be solved with more money for public education.
     
     But the San Francisco-based Pacific Educational Group offers a much different explanation for the achievement gap between white and minority students.
     
     Plainly stated, PEG believes that African American and Latino students are being discriminated against by the nation’s public schools, which have been designed to promote a curriculum based on “white culture” and “white privilege.”
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This is what democracy looks like

     It’s no secret that teachers unions love the Occupy Wall Street crowd, and share most, if not all, of the ideological anti-free market principles the Occupy movement is built on.
    
     WEAC officials are big fans, according to the union’s Twitter feed, and Milwaukee Teachers Education Association President Bob Peterson has even specifically stated that “Our teachers union supports Occupy Wall Street Milwaukee.”
    
     “We believe we need to change the political and economic dynamic of this society,” he said. 
     
     Many of the agents of change for Big Labor, the recall effort and the Occupy movement were out in full force last week during an Americans for Prosperity event featuring presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.
    
     EAG chatted with some of the protesters outside of the event, and the video we captured says a lot about these radicals and the unions that support them.
     Read More »

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