Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, expressed concerns about the virtual charters’ student-teacher ratios, students’ performance compared to their peers in traditional public schools, and their transparency when it comes to issues like executive pay and advertising.
“Accountability models, funding formulas, and attendance policies were created for brick-and-mortar schools, and yet, state funding and accountability policies have not kept pace with the growth of virtual charter schools,” Brown and Murray wrote to the agency.
Virtual charters have been going through a very difficult stretch. There’s intense skepticism about their performance and management practices. In Brown’s own state of Ohio, for example, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow disintegrated after a lengthy court battle over its claims about student enrollment. (Brown and Murray mentioned the ECOT fallout in their letter). Cyber charters in states like Georgia and New Mexico have also struggled to stay open.
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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), stakeholders, and planning documents identified extensive and diverse capital project needs at HBCUs and GAO found HBCUs rely on a few funding sources—such as state appropriations and tuition and fees—to address those needs. HBCUs responding to GAO’s survey reported that 46 percent of their building space, on average, needs repair or replacement. Based on a review of master plans—which assess the condition of HBCU facilities—and visits to nine HBCUs, GAO identified significant capital project needs in the areas of deferred maintenance, facilities modernization, and preservation of historic buildings. The Department of Education’s (Education) HBCU Capital Financing Program has provided access to needed funding for some HBCUs and has helped modernize their facilities to improve student recruitment. However, fewer than half of HBCUs have used the program, according to Education data,
Capital Projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
Note: The Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Financing program provides low-cost loans to eligible HBCUs.
Education has undertaken several efforts to help HBCUs access and participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. For example, Education conducts outreach through attending conferences. However, some HBCUs in GAO’s survey and interviews were unaware of the program. Moreover, public HBCUs in four states reported facing participation challenges due to state laws or policies that conflict with program requirements. For example, participants are required to provide collateral, but public HBCUs in two states reported they cannot use state property for that purpose. In March 2018, a federal law was enacted requiring Education to develop an outreach plan to improve program participation. An outreach plan that includes direct outreach to individual HBCUs and states to help address these issues could help increase participation. Without direct outreach, HBCUs may continue to face participation challenges. In addition, two HBCUs recently defaulted on their program loans and 29 percent of loan payments were delinquent in 2017. Education modified a few loans in 2013 and was recently authorized to offer loan deferment, but has no plans to analyze the potential benefits to HBCUs and the program’s cost of offering such modifications in the future. Until Education conducts such analyses, policymakers will lack key information on potential options to assist HBCUs.
Why GAO Did This Study
HBCUs play a prominent role in our nation’s higher education system. For example, about one-third of African-Americans receiving a doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics received undergraduate degrees from HBCUs. To help HBCUs facing challenges accessing funding for capital projects, in 1992, federal law created the HBCU Capital Financing Program, administered by Education, to provide HBCUs with access to low-cost loans. GAO was asked to review the program.
This report examines HBCUs’ capital project needs and their funding sources, and Education’s efforts to help HBCUs access and participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. GAO surveyed all 101 accredited HBCUs and 79 responded, representing a substantial, but nongeneralizable, portion of HBCUs. GAO analyzed the most recent program participation data (1996-2017) and finance data (2015-16 school year); reviewed available HBCU master plans; visited nine HBCUs of different sizes and sectors (public and private); and interviewed Education officials and other stakeholders.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends Education (1) include direct outreach to individual HBCUs and steps to address participation challenges for some public HBCUs in its outreach plan, and (2) analyze the potential benefits and costs of offering loan modifications in the program. Education outlined plans to address the first recommendation, and partially agreed with the second. GAO continues to believe both recommendations are warranted.
For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a post about teaching techniques, Maryellen Weimer cautioned readers about loving techniques for the wrong reasons. When I talk about formative assessment or formative instructional practice, I do share information about strategies and techniques to use that support the pedagogy. But for me, formative assessment goes far beyond the use of strategies and is more about a way of being in the classroom. It is about the engagement of both the teacher and the learners in gathering the evidence of learning to see where “they” (the entire classroom learning team) are in relation to the learning target or goals and using that evidence to make adjustments (on-the-fly) to both learning and teaching to get closer to where the members of the team want or need to be.
Dr. Weimer shares that…
…a collection of techniques has got to be monitored and managed, and that requires a lot more sophisticated skills than those needed to acquire a collection. Even a good technique doesn’t work well for all teachers all the time. There are no cure-all solutions that function effectively with all kinds of content and for all kinds of students. No technique is going to be implemented equally well by all teachers. Our thinking about what a technique can accomplish needs to be a bit less optimistic.
I couldn’t agree more. Over the past 15 years, I have watched teachers embrace the idea of formative assessment, become more mindful of strategies they were using, gather strategies to add to their toolkit, and work hard in their classrooms to implement and integrate those strategies. Where efforts sometimes fall short is in using the results and data gathered from using the strategies.
As part of a process, planning when to use formative assessment within a lesson is valuable, as is being able to use a formative instructional strategy in-the-moment – both of which take practice. The key is using the results and teaching students to use the results. Eliciting and gathering evidence of learning is work for both the teacher and the learners. It is the use of the data that make it formative. Let’s talk about three ideas to consider when it comes to making the use of the data formative.
The use of formative assessment has to be such that the data collected allows the teacher to differentiate the levels of understanding among the learners.
Both learners and teachers need to be able to use the results to see what the level of understanding actually is, and when the learner can make adjustments independently or may need assistance.
When the learner’s understanding is deep enough, the skills and knowledge transfer to new situations. The evidence gathered should provide information about that transfer. This data gathered and used formatively informs the decisions learners and teachers make regarding next steps…
That’s an example used by Julie Kurtz, co-director of trauma-informed practices in early childhood education at the WestEd Center for Child & Family Studies (CCFS), as she begins a trauma training session. Her audience, preschool teachers and staff of the San Francisco, CA-based Wu Yee Children’s Services at San Francisco’s Women’s Building, listen attentively.
Kurtz leads them into a description of how a child’s young brain functions, how young children – regardless of whether they have experienced trauma or not — live in their reptile brain.
“What’s the job of the reptile brain?” she asks.
“Survival” comes a response. “Yes, it’s fight, flight or freeze,” she says.
With guidance from adults, she explains, children’s immature brains develop neurons that build bridges to the rational part of the brain. The rational, executive part of the brain, she continues, is a place of calm, where we can plan, solve problems, and imagine how someone else interacting with us is feeling.
But if a child is in a state of terror, explains Kurtz, all bets are off. In that state, a child can’t hear what you’re saying or express herself in words, Kurtz says…
This is going to be a confusing year because Congress still hasn’t finalized last year’s spending plan, for fiscal year 2018, which started on Oct. 1 and generally impacts the 2018-19 school year. Congress recently passed legislation extending funding for all programs at fiscal year 2017 levels.
Trump’s newest proposal, though, will lay out his administration’s asks for fiscal year 2019, or the 2019-20 school year for most programs.
Editor’s Note: This Commentary is part of a special report exploring game-changing trends and innovations that have the potential to shake up the schoolhouse.
Read the full report:10 Big Ideas in Education.
My career has been motivated by two questions: What underlies opportunity gaps in educational outcomes? And how can we use empirical insights to help close them?
My first attempt to use scientific evidence to improve educational practice was with a team of management consultants who were working with a charter-management organization to reduce class sizes from 25 to 23 students in secondary schools. I shared with them the landmark Tennessee STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Ratio) study, which found that class-size reductions improved academic outcomes for younger children but only when class sizes were reduced to between 13 and 17 students. The team quickly changed course in response.
About the Author
Lisa Quay is the executive director of Mindset Scholars Network. Based in Los Angeles, she previously worked at the Stupski Foundation, Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the Berkeley School of Law, and the Bridgespan Group.
How easy, my 23-year-old self thought. All you have to do is put up a slide with facts, and people will change their behavior! I learned quickly, however, that “facts” are never straightforward, and data alone are never enough.