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District News Round-up

As this short summer week begins, several districts have made big announcements.

  • The Indianapolis school district today announced its new superintendent: Lewis Ferebee, who will move to the so-called Crossroads of America from Durham, N.C. The Indianapolis Star describes Ferebee, who is 39, as the most "transitional" of the three candidates the district had considered. Indianapolis' board was open to new strategies for the district's management this spring, so it will be interesting to follow Ferebee's actions there. Ferebee was previously the chief of staff (not superintendent) in Durham's schools.
  • In Washington, DCPS's Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the creation of new 9th grade academies at nine of its high schools. The idea is to help students make the tricky transition from middle school to high school. Ninth grade teams will focus on data-driven decision-making (using data ranging from attendance to test scores to address students' needs); teaming guidance counselors and support staff with academic teachers; and differentiated course programs for students. The College Bound blog today highlights a report on a study from the MDRC research group on implementing 9th grade academies in Florida.
  • In Detroit, a new budget optimistically assumes that Detroit Public Schools will be able to lure 5,000 students back to its schools after years of declining enrollment. The charter sector in the city has been growing, and the Education Achievement Authority, a state-run district, began running a dozen schools in the city in the 2012-13 school year. Still, the district says it thinks that a school-level marketing campaign will bring families back to district schools. A district spokeswoman said that budget projections—which did not include any teacher layoffs in the current iteration—may change if fewer students return to the district. Meanwhile, the Education Achievement Authority's spending on the Detroit students in its schools will increase this year, as it is receiving more Title I money from the federal government and has received $1.5 million in gifts and donations, the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • In Philadelphia, Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has stepped in to avert a budget disaster in the city's schools. Corbett signed a budget that offers a $140 million rescue package to the district, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Some of the more colorful proposals on the table—an increased cigarette tax or liquor tax, for instance—were not part of the rescue package. But the district will receive a one-time $45 million influx from a forgiven state debt, for instance, and will gain the ability to borrow $50 million in future sales tax. A $304 million shortfall meant that the district was planning to cut arts, music, support staff, and many other programs. Already, 3,859 teachers have been laid off, and parents in Philadelphia began a hunger strike last month to protest the financial situation. We wrote about some of the ideas on the table and the political implications of Corbett's intervention last month.
  • We reported late last month about concerns that some of the confessions from teachers involved in the Atlanta cheating scandal had been coerced. Now, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter has determined that the teachers in question had not been threatened with the loss of their jobs, and therefore the case against them will proceed. Some statements may be dismissed on a case-by-case basis. There are 35 defendants in a case that has caught the nation's attention.
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