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Education News: Themes from the week of August 15, 2010 - College readiness, teacher effectiveness and community development

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A round-up of the week's education stories brought to you by The Hechinger Report.2010-08-22-120pxFire_hydrant_with_water_in_brooklyn_new_york.jpg

Although it's still summer in the city, student achievement and teacher effectiveness made a media splash. My personal favorites -digital learning and promise neighborhoods - also garnered some attention.

Student Achievement
On Monday, Stephanie Banchero wrote in The Wall Street Journal that "New data shows fewer than 25% of 2010 graduates who took the ACT college-entrance exam possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level courses, despite modest gains in college-readiness among U.S high-school students in the last few years." This means that while some states inched up, others dropped their average scores.

The consensus: our nation's students are not college ready. But considering it's been 27 years since the National Commission on Excellence in Education wrote A Nation At Risk claiming "More and more young people emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work," it would seem not a lot has changed. My Hechinger colleague, Justin Snider, asks Where's the academic rigor?

More discouraging news: A report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education reveals that the overall graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent in 2007-2008. Mixed in with the bad news, there may be some good.

Grading the Teachers
The Los Angeles Times examines teacher effectiveness in the Los Angeles Unified School District using a statistical analysis of students' California Standards Test scores in math and English. The first in a series of stories, it created a stir about privacy and methodology. Some of the responses to the story are here, here and here. Note: A grant from The Hechinger Report helped fund the work, though it did not participate in the analysis. (Just Schools, California Watch and Marketplace)

Digital Learning
Former Governors Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Bob Wise (D-WV) announced the creation of the 50 member Digital Learning Council in an effort to discuss policy and integrate current and future technological innovations into public education. (Education Week)

Promise Neighborhoods
Paul Tough, author of Whatever it Takes, a book about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone, asks in a New York Times op-ed about the debate over funding for President Obama's Promise Neighborhoods initiative.

Tough posted two questions on his blog. "At this moment of uncertainty and experimentation, should the federal government wait, as critics of Promise Neighborhoods suggest, until ironclad evidence for one big solution exists?

Or should it create a competitive research-and-development marketplace to make bets on innovations, the way the government did during the space race and in the early days of the Internet, and allow the most successful strategies to rise to the top?"

What's a country to do?