WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (March 15-21, 2010)

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Despite Gains, Charter School Is Told to Close.” By Trip Gabriel. New York Times. March 18, 2010. Accountability is a mantra of the charter school movement. Students sign pledges at some schools to do their homework, and teachers owe their jobs to students’ gains on tests. But as New York State moves to shut down an 11-year-old charter school in Albany, whose test scores it acknowledges beat the city’s public schools last year, it is apparent that holding schools themselves accountable is not always so easy, or bloodless, as numbers on a page. The principal, teachers and families of the New Covenant school have mounted a furious defense, citing rising achievement as well as their fears for the loss of a safe harbor from chaotic homes and streets, where teachers deliver homework to parents who are in jail to keep them involved, and the dean of students chases gang members from a nearby park. “We’re that turnaround school America has been waiting to see,” said Jamil Hood, the dean, who grew up in the Arbor Hill neighborhood where the school is located. Nonetheless, a trustees’ committee of the State University of New York, which grants the school’s charter, voted last month to close it. The committee endorsed the findings of state evaluators who said that despite academic gains, New Covenant fell short of a key benchmark in English, suffered from high student and teacher turnover and was not fiscally sound. The full 17-member SUNY board will decide the school’s fate on Tuesday.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Students, faculty give Harvard a global reach.” By James F. Smith. Boston Globe. March 18, 2010. Even as record numbers of foreign students are pursuing degrees at Harvard University, far more Harvard undergraduates than ever are traveling abroad for summer study, internships, and projects from Botswana to Beijing. Last year, a total of 1,678 Harvard undergraduates went abroad to study, one-fourth of the student body. That is 2 1/2 times as many as the 667 who went abroad six years earlier. “This is a remarkable turnaround from an era, not very long ago, when undergraduates were discouraged from going abroad because it would take them away from precious Harvard Square for some moment of their undergraduate experience,’’ Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in an interview in her Harvard Yard office before leaving for China last week. That increase in students traveling abroad is just one of many measures of the growing globalization of Harvard over the past decade. Faculty are leading the charge, conducting research in scores of countries. Harvard now has offices in more than a dozen foreign cities.

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