Gov. Peter Shumlin- “It’s time to re-evaluate Vermont’s education financing system.”

       Governor Peter Shumlin announced that it is time re-evaluate the education financing system of Vermont, together with the Legislature, to observe equality between students and taxpayers in an education symposium held last Tuesday.

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       The said event started something that is meant to be a long debate for the school funding formula in Vermont’s schools. The aim is to understand how it is working in the middle of the current economic and educational situation and if there is a chance that it can better out.
       Vermont’s current funding formula which was created in 1997 with the passing of Act 60 and amended in the year 2003 with Act 68 has been long evaluated and now all of the funding system law’s parts and mechanisms will be reviewed. This includes areas from per-pupil costs to property tax framework and income sensitivity.
       The symposium took a six-member panel discussion with a three breakout sessions to give way to the broad line of conversations. It was held at St. Michael’s College in Colchester and was organized as a reply to the rising number of criticisms about high poverty tax rates and grievances about educational outcomes especially concerning schoolchildren from Vermont’s poorest districts.
       By the end of January, Lawrence Picus, author of a 2012 document on the state’s financial system for education, will prepare a conference paper for the management and Legislature. The record will generalize and enlarge the discussion from the Tuesday’s symposium.
       Vermont’s expert six-member panel with others from around the country measured alongside the background with various statements: that rising property taxes are disliked more compared to an income-based scheme, for instance, or that the fall down of the housing market as well as the decreased property assessment led the temporary point in property tax but will eventually come back.
       Another issue that was brought up by the panelists is the continuously rising rates in school budgets.
       According to Daphne Kenyon, public policy consultant at Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in New Hampshire, the per-pupil cost of education in Vermont lands to either first or second place as highest in the state.
       Kenyon said that Vermont’s achievement scores don’t demonstrate a return on the high per-pupil cost in contrast to New Hampshire and Massachusetts, neighboring states of Vermont, which spend fewer than the standard per student.
       Picus on the other hand quoted that Vermont’s financial system got “good bones.” It can be concluded that it is now in its 17th year and updates are to be made but not a complete replacement.
       An economics professor at St. Michael’s College, Patrick Walsh, confronted the convention that more spending will result to better outcomes— though he clarified that the relationship can vary depending on which student population is studied. For example, extra amount bound for disadvantaged students likely makes a bigger difference than an improvement for richer schools.
       Shumlin and a number of panelists agree that the impact of how a school spends is just one assumption that should be studied.
       In his opening remarks, Shumlin asks, “Do we have a challenge with income sensitivity driving school spending beyond sustainable rates?” This line is in retrospect with Vermont’s current education finance formula that uses income sensitivity so the property tax worries will be reduced for households that earns fewer than the defined threshold. Shumlin wondered too why some people believed that reducing taxes from income sensitivity will help with the true cost of their votes in the school budget.
       On their property tax bills, about two-thirds of Vermont’s family qualifies for income sensitivity. Several panelists recommended that school budgets would be lower if more taxpayer citizens had more of their own “skin in the game.”
       During the breakout sessions, issues like the need for better data to answer the queries about financial education system as well as the mission of finding what the ideal class size should be and what school district size in enough were discussed. This has long been a major issue in Vermont together with its small schools.
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       Another component in the formula that may be squeezed out is the “high-spending threshold” that serves as a way of moderating increases in the school budget. Once a school budget exceeds a firm level of annual increase, high-spending threshold, will point out the tax rates and control the school spending.
       Walsh reacted, “It seems like that threshold is not really doing its job (of preventing) runaway spending.”
       Tufts University’s associate professor of economics, Tom Downes suggested that taxpayers should be reclassified more than just residential and non-residential types. Vermont’s current law should consider different categories such as residential, commercial, industrial and general.
       Downes also explained that having multiple thresholds for income sensitivity could also help as it narrows the implications of tax. Giving a higher tax burden slowly may discourage people from directing their household income yearly to avoid errors in their tax bills.
       Michael Wolkoffs who is a University of Rochester’s deputy chair of economics department added that the assessment of property owner’s capability to pay taxes using an accurate income determinant may also help.
       Shumlin, Picus and other panelists warned that whatever feature of the school financing system may be revised, there will always be someone left unhappy.
       Though House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville emphasizes that the fundamental goal of the state is to achieve both fairness in financial obligations and fairness in educational access for all schoolchildren in Vermont.

Michele Obama pushes the importance of pursuing higher education

A new initiative will begin seeking to increase the number of low-income students to get a college degree was presented by Michelle Obama on Tuesday based on the first lady’s personal life.

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Mrs. Obama told the students of Bell Multicultural High School, whom she visited on Tuesday that, to do whatever it takes to continue in their education after high school. She further exclaimed that it is whether it will be in community college, technical school, a training opportunity or pursuing a four-year college degree.

“I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story,” as introduced by the first lady. “The details might be a little different, but so many of the challenges and triumphs will be just the same.”

In the new policy, Mrs. Obama will be linking with the Education Department to help in President Obama’s plan to make the US go higher in the rank of college graduates from 12th to first by 2020.

Supporters of Mrs. Obama have been in the excitement to know that the first black first lady is using her resume in all of the agendas being raised publicly with the support of the president’s policies. Mrs. Obama is the daughter of a pump worker in Chicago Waterworks and was able to graduate in Princeton University and the Law School of Harvard. She later became an associate to Sydley Austin law firm and also became a health care executive in Chicago.

Mrs. Obama highlighted that she and her brother also came from the same situation as those in low-income families and sees getting a college degree as the door to success. It is also given that though the policy is in accordance to higher education, the first lady’s focus will as always be the youth following the limits of her power.

In her speech, the first lady explained that the students will have the need to some form of higher education so they can build a stable career and provision for their family.

The National Center for Education Statistics reveals that 52% of 2011 high school graduates from low-income families get into university immediately, setting a contrast with high-income families who had fewer enrollment results.

Critics then emerged with this new project stating that the first lady should avoid giving policies that only appeals to a certain part of the population. Professor Catherine Allgor of University of California, Riverside saying that Mrs. Obama should have done the program four years ago said that the idea of the first lady to eat salad for it is healthier is more on the nanny side. “If she came out of the gate with something much more tied to policy, she would have been shot down. Just look at the reaction to her suggestions that people eat salad.”

Due to the popularity of Mrs. Obama’s stint in all of her programs like dancing in a middle school and doing pushups in one of the famous morning TV program to showcase the importance of exercise as well as her opening video at the recently concluded Oscars to give the significance of arts the office of the first lady informed that Mrs. Obama will initiate school visitation in the country and will also use the power of social media to appeal the message that pursuing a higher education is the key do a wider world.

Other popular agenda’s of Mrs. Obama includes her help with military families, evangelizing exercise and healthy food consumption.

Early Exams Result to Improve Attendance and Performance Among College Students, Studies Show

essay outline news New research finds that there is an increase in attendance and improvement of grades in college students when they were given quizzes regularly at the onset of class days rather than on occasional major examinations.

The results were documented in PLoS One and originated from a recent experiment where 901 college students from the University of Texas served as respondents. The so-called “testing effect” proved to be effective specifically towards students from lower economic classes. The respondent students were required to bring their personal laptops with them for the use of online examinations. Dr. James W. Pennebaker and Dr. Samuel D. Gosling, the two professors teaching Psych 301 to the said 901 students, were the same instructors that requested that those who had laptops to bring them to school. Incidentally, no one came empty-handed. To the horror of the students they were asked to take a set of short quizzes daily using their laptops. The quizzes are custom made for every student, with a standard set of questions and one personal item that the specific student answered incorrectly on a quiz before. The quizzes had a reasonable level of difficulty and served as a substitute to a final exam later on in the semester.

Namita Pallod, one of the students from the class claimed that the quiz items, “weren’t impossible, as long as you did the reading and paid attention in class, but there were definitely some ‘thinkers,’ further adding, “The harder part for me was always when old questions you had missed previously came back.”

The exam system was unsurprisingly met with very negative feedback from the students. “Sam and I usually get really high course evaluations from the students,” Dr. Pennebaker admitted, “these were the lowest ever.” Dr. Gosling owes the resentment to the students’ other agendas, “For the first few weeks, every time their friends went out drinking, they couldn’t go; they had yet another test the next day.”

college essay outline newsThe results proved to be beneficial to the students. Their scores trumped those of the previous year by a 10% difference, with the highest rate of grade improvement coming from the students that came from low caliber schools. Dr. Gosling says that the shorter quizzes help keep students seeing their progress realistically, instead of the sad trend he usually sees “when they fail the first midterm, they think it’s a fluke…by the time they’ve failed the second one, it’s too late. The hole’s too deep. The quizzes make it impossible to maintain that state of denial.” In addition to improving test scores, the daily quizzes also helped improve students’ attendance. The two professors also brought up the significant increase in students who came on time and who didn’t cut class. “In the middle of the semester, attendance usually averages about 60 percent…In this quiz class it was 90 percent. If you know you’ve got a quiz, you have to show up.”

The study initially was aimed at proving that technology is a helpful tool in education, attempting to debunk the assumption that it only leads to counter productivity. Scientists also concluded from the experiment that examinations improve academic performance and justifiably measure the improvement at the same time.
It is already a well known consensus that academic performance changes depending on what time of the day tests are carried out. Psychologists, on another study conducted a few years ago, have found that jotting down details of an essay outline from memory causes a student to have greater retention of the work compared to reading it over and over again.

The results from the recent experiment are said to be plausible proof of how earlier conducted quizzes could be used in this day and age when technology is the new norm. But the experts heed educators to not act on the findings so hastily just yet, since they are still not fully informed of how this could be applied practically in real life situations.

A professor of psychology at Purdue, Jeffrey Kapricke, although not directly involved in the study, understands the full value of the research, saying that it bridges the gaps between social classes, “This study is important because it introduces a new method to implement frequent quizzing with feedback in large classrooms, which can be difficult to do…This is the first large study to show that classroom quizzing can help reduce achievement gaps.”

New York Mayor Bloomberg Announces Final Letter Grades to Schools

                                                                                                  New York- Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg issued for the last time his last series of letter grades given to at least 1, 600 public schools last Wednesday, granting high As and Bs to more than half of schools that were nurturing students in preparation for college.

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Mayor Bloomberg is about to bequeath his position over to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who vocally opposes Bloomberg’s letter system. De Blasio plans to eradicate the letter grades, claiming that the process is a crude and unjust way to judge educational institutions’ performance.

The letter grades system started in 2007 as a tool, Bloomberg says, that would help especially for parents, saying at a news conference not related to the matter, “Getting it down to something that they can use, I think, is not making it too simplistic but, quite the contrary, I think it’s making it useful.” Spokeswoman for mayor-elect de Blasio, Lis Smith, said that “[the letter grades offered] little real insight to parents and are not a reliable indicator of how schools are actually performing.”

As a replacement for the grades, Mr. de Blasio claims that he would retain the report cards that come with the letter grades given to schools, but will confer with parents and educators if they should continue such system.

According to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, founded by one Jed Bush, 14 out of 50 states use the letter grades system to evaluate school performance. Supporters of the system claim that extremely low grades give extra motivation for schools to improve, in comparison to non-exacting ways to evaluate institutions. Said grades will, they claim, also give recognition to schools that are doing well, which could help in letting their educational tactics be known for others to follow. Other evaluation systems include star ratings, use of roman numerals or even color-codes, as with Michigan. In the case of New York, schools are given report cards, containing test scores, demographics, and compliances with state standards.

The report cards do not have a final judgment, nor an evaluation of how students write their essay types. In order for schools with a healthy number of disadvantaged students to be judged on an equal playing field, Michael Bloomberg upgraded the grading system with the help of data experts that devised a way for innately substandard schools to not be penalized. It resulted to a very complicated grading system, one of the most elaborate in the US. It compared and contrasted schools with a common range and quality of student population and monitored their annual progress instead of evaluating them in totality.

From the very beginning, teachers and parents alike greatly opposed Bloomberg’s report cards, expressing negative feedback towards the way it prioritized grades to determine which schools stay open, and for taking notice to test scores as determinants of progress. Last academic year, the report cards comprised of grades as well as attendance rates and surveys from students, parents and educators. This did not stop Bloomberg from using the system even on restaurants, or lower government offices from evaluating their employees with the letter grades.

The letter grades system was not always perfect. Most (97 percent of them to be exact) schools in 2009 suspiciously received very high marks, which called for modifying the formula year after year to improve the system. Unfortunately the oppositions still did not die down. “Bloomberg and his team tried to build a system that was as robust as they were able to design, but in schools, unlike in financial markets, there is a lot of sentiment,” said Frederick M. Hess. Hess works as an education scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He also adds that, “No matter how sophisticated or smart the systems are, they’re ultimately vulnerable to those concerns.”

Shael Polakow-Suransky claims that New York has improved in attempting to give the report cards a little more distinction and improvement by using varied methods of evaluation apart from using standardized tests, such as class projects and grades. Furthering this system, New York has shifted its attention to how students are prepped for college, evaluating schools on how much of their graduates are still in college after three semesters, wherein most officials say most students give up. The system also uses the Common Core standards in evaluating performances on math and reading, rendering poor results and making it imperative for New York to modify the formula yet again to adjust to the level of difficulty of the exams.

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De Blasio will be steering clear from the trend of closing schools on account of poor report card grades. The education department will not be shutting down schools on the basis of this year’s performance.

Having the last set of grades is met with mixed opinions. When some faculty saw it as an end to an educational dark age, some hoped that New York will not lose sight of the importance of evaluating the performance of schools. Park Slope, Brooklyn’s Public School 321 principal Elizabeth Phillips, the principal for over 15 years, claims that her school never failed to receive high grades annually, but they were completely meaningless.“They fluctuate dramatically, from year to year, even when there are no significant changes in the instruction, or the leadership or the teaching staff,” she said.

In West Village Public School 3, parents look forward to de Blasio and his expected alterations to the system. After two years of receiving Cs, it finally received it’s A this academic year. Dana Abraham, a co-president of Public School 3’s PTA, said, “It does not paint the entire picture of any school.”