Short Stuff 23.2

One Solution to Teacher Retention

If they build it, then they will stay. At least that’s the thinking behind the L.A. Unified School District’s plan to develop low-cost apartments for teachers on unused land, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The housing will be paid for out of Measure Q, the district’s $7-billion construction and repair bond that voters passed in November.

“L.A. Unified officials say the housing initiative will meet a critical need by creating apartments for school employees who are having trouble finding reasonably priced homes near their jobs,” the Times reported. “District officials said they could save $20,000 each year in training costs by reducing the teacher attrition rate at three campuses.”

The move has drawn fire from critics, who say the district should sell the land to the highest bidder, not become landlords.

“We’re always trying to utilize our assets better,” John Creer, district director of planning and development, told the Times. “But we’re not doing it to the detriment of our core mission, which is to provide education.”

Testing Widens ‘Gifted’ Gap

When New York City schools weighted its admissions standards for so-called “gifted” programs more heavily toward testing, the theory was that minority participation would increase. In fact, this year, minority enrollment plunged 50 percent.

The New York City Department of Education said previously the city’s “gifted” programs had varied admission requirements. In 2007, students took the same entrance tests, but there was no cutoff. Although the drop in minorities was not the intended effect of standardizing test cutoffs, the Department of Education told the media that they were satisfied that all children were tested and scored on an equal plane.

Not everyone is buying it.

“I’m not surprised by the outcome,” Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates For Children, told the New York Daily News. “I think when you shift towards ad- mission criteria that relies so heavily on standardized tests, it seems that you’re bound to import some of the bias that comes with those tests.”

The Daily News noted that while the majority of

children in the city’s elementary schools are black and Latino, “the majority of kindergartners and first graders in the gifted and talented programs are white and Asian.

Preschool Plan for Peach State

Georgia’s preschool advocates are demanding the state open its nearly $1 billion lottery reserve accounts to early childhood education.

“The lottery surplus is so huge and it is sitting there unused,” according to a re- port on touting the benefits of more preschool funding that was sent to Gov. Sonny Perdue and lawmakers.

“The proposals largely revolve around clearing up a state waiting list of more than 8,000 children, expand- ing the program to include 3-year-olds, and raising money to help private providers keep offering services,” the Augusta Chronicle reports.

October Surprise for Ark. Schools

One third of Arkansas’ schools are considered in need of improvement under federal No Child Left Behind Act guidelines, state officials were told on Nov. 1.

The number of schools on the “need improvement” in- creased by 50 to 375. Arkansas has 1,087 public schools. Furthermore, state Dept. of Education officials aren’t optimistic about the future. “The probability is very high that the number of schools placed on the list of schools in need of improvement will increase each year because the bar gets higher each year,” state Education Commissioner Ken James told the Arkansas News Bureau.