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February 22, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) -- The following local, state and national education news items are excerpted from a very informative e-newsletter published by Doug Deane, chair of the Business Education Committee at the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce.

Our picks for Deane’s top education stories from the latest issue include:

  • Grossmont school district looks at layoffs
  • GUHSD Superintendent Swenson's newsletter
  • City of El Cajon Youth of the Year award
  • In the glee era, youth choruses pop up all over
  • Flurry of data as rules near for commercial colleges
  • Among nation's youngest, analysis finds fewer whites
  • On evolution, biology teachers stray from lesson plan
  • U.S. plan to replace principals hits snag: who will step in?
  • Charges against Muslim student prompt debate over free speech
  • Recruiting in China pays off for U.S. colleges
  • Teachers colleges upset over plan to grade them
  • Grading the education president
  • Financial aide available for low-income students
  • Charter schools face relocation, growth challenges
  • La Mesa-Spring Valley schools bond program nears end

Grossmont school district looks at layoffs

Layoffs could be coming to the Grossmont Union High School District.

The district is considering a budget-cutting plan that could include layoffs and pay cuts to address a potential $19.5 million funding deficit next year.

“We’re going to have to make hard decisions soon,” Superintendent Ralf Swenson said at special board meeting in El Cajon last week. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the board would consider cuts at its meeting Thursday night).


GUHSD Superintendent Swenson’s newsletter

There’s a link below to the latest edition of Superintendent Swenson's Newsline.

You can check it out by clicking on:

City of El Cajon Youth of the Year award

Do you know of special young person already making a difference in our community? If you see, hear, or know of a youth who has gone the extra mile to improve the quality of life in our community, please take this opportunity to acknowledge and reward that effort! “The Success of Tomorrow…Depends on the Youth of Today!” Nomination forms will be accepted through March 11, 2011.

The full press release is attached above.

In the ‘glee’ era, youth choruses pop up all over

Running a youth chorus is a daunting task. The repertory has to suit young singers, and the experience has to keep tweeting, texting children entertained. Then there’s the tricky issue regarding boys: what to do when their voices break.

Despite these challenges, young people’s choirs are flourishing in the Bay Area. Thanks to the commitment of talented choral directors — and the popularity of TV shows like “Glee” — youth choirs in the region are in a golden era.


Flurry of data as rules near for commercial colleges

As the United States Department of Education gets closer to issuing its final regulations on commercial colleges’ eligibility for the federal student aid that provides the bulk of their revenue, a flurry of new reports and litigation are being filed in advance of important policy decisions for the schools.


Among nation’s youngest, analysis finds fewer whites

Whites continued to decline as a share of the American population in 2009, and they now represent less than half of all 3-year-olds, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of census data released Monday.

The country’s young population is more diverse than ever, with whites now in the minority in nursery schools, preschools and kindergartens in eight states — Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas — and the District of Columbia, according to William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings. That was up from six states in 2000.


On evolution, biology teachers stray from lesson plan

Teaching creationism in public schools has consistently been ruled unconstitutional in federal courts, but according to a national survey of more than 900 public high school biology teachers, it continues to flourish in the nation’s classrooms.

Researchers found that only 28 percent of biology teachers consistently follow the recommendations of the National Research Council to describe straightforwardly the evidence for evolution and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology. At the other extreme, 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism, and spend at least an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.


U.S. plan to replace principals hits snag: who will step in?

The aggressive $4 billion program begun by the Obama administration in 2009 to radically transform the country’s worst schools included, as its centerpiece, a plan to install new principals to overhaul most of the failing schools.

That policy decision, though, ran into a difficult reality: there simply were not enough qualified principals-in-waiting to take over. Many school superintendents also complained that replacing principals could throw their schools into even more turmoil, hindering nascent turnaround efforts.



Teachers’ colleges upset by plan to grade them

Grades are the currency of education — teachers give them to students, administrators grade teachers and states often assign grades to schools.

Now U.S. News & World Report is planning to give A through F grades to more than 1,000 teachers’ colleges, and many of the schools are unhappy, marching to the principal’s office to complain the system is unfair.

Numerous education school deans have protested that the ratings program’s methodology is flawed since the program was announced last month. In a letter last week, officials from 35 leading education colleges and graduate schools — including Columbia, Harvard, Michigan State and Vanderbilt — denounced an “implied coercion” if they do not cooperate with the ratings.



Charges Against Muslim students prompt debate over free speech

When administrators at the University of California, Irvine, decided to suspend the Muslim Student Union for a quarter over the disruption of a speech last year by the Israeli ambassador to the United States, most thought the latest controversy on campus had ended.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas of Orange County, however, disagreed — and filed misdemeanor criminal charges last week against the 11 student protesters, accusing them of disturbing a public meeting and engaging in a conspiracy to do so.



Recruiting in China pays off for U.S. colleges

The glossy color brochures, each crammed with photos depicting a Chinese student’s high-achieving life from birth to young adulthood, pile up in the admissions office at Grinnell College here (in Iowa).

“Hi Professors!” one young woman announced in her bound booklet, sometimes known in China as a “brag sheet,” which included a photo of herself as a baby. She characterized her childhood as “naïve and curious,” and described herself now as “sincere, kind and tough.”

The brochures, though they are almost never read by admissions officers, are a sign of Grinnell’s success marketing itself in China — a plan that has paid off in important ways, like diversifying the student body and attracting students who can sometimes pay full tuition.


Grading the education President

On one issue, at least, there seemed to be rare agreement in Washington. President Obama and Republicans and Democrats in Congress agreed that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was flawed and needed revision. The legislation, a priority of President George W. Bush and enacted with bipartisan support, gave Washington more power to set national education standards.

On Tuesday night, in his State of the Union message, the President touted his Race to the Top standards instead, saying that they were developed by governors, not by Washington. "Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids," he said in his address.

Do the education goals outlined by the president pass muster? What were the strong and weak parts of the president's statements on education in his address?



Financial aid available for low-income students

The application period for Cal Grants – which cover tuition and fees at California’s public colleges and universities for low-income students – is open through March 2.

High school seniors and recent graduates who meet eligibility requirements can receive up to $11,124 to attend public institutions in the state. The grants also can be applied to tuition at private universities and career schools in the state.



Charter schools face relocation, growth challenges

Wilson Racario came to City Heights last year with a mission: to give neighborhood ninth graders access to classes that would help get them into college.

Now, just as the school he opened is starting to hit its stride, Racario might have to uproot the entire operation and move nearly 15 miles west of the demographic he set out to serve.



La Mesa-Spring Valley schools bond program nears end

With the completion of new play areas at 16 elementary schools, the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District is nearly done with Proposition M construction projects.

“We are coming to the end of the road,” said Aaron Landau, a member of the district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, which monitors bond-related construction spending.
The East County district has a little more than $1 million remaining from the $67.1 million it raised for construction, mainly through the sale of bonds, according to district officials.



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