WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 13-19, 2012)

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

For popular Khan Academy, a critical voice amid the adulation.” By Sharon Noguchi. San Jose Mercury-News. August 13, 2012. In the past year, education-reform icon Sal Khan has been lauded by Bill Gates as the “teacher to the world” and has been listed among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. His Silicon Valley-based Khan Academy posts free videos — most of which star Khan himself — and offers accompanying questions on everything from addition to calculus to art history. As of this month, Khan Academy had tallied more than 177.2 million views of its lesson pages and is being used by traditional and charter schools, as well as individuals worldwide. Amid the adulation, some teachers now have piped up with criticism of his teaching methods. A holder of three bachelor’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Harvard University, Khan has personally recorded 3,000 of the nearly 3,300 videos on the Khan Academy site. “The real draw for me was always to be able to explore the world and understand it and distill it down, so that it’s truly conceptually intuitive,” he said. He has attracted millions in funding from Google, Gates and other foundations. Word of Khan Academy spread virally, then among math teachers and other educators, and more recently through major media.

Charter school group’s chief blamed for 2010 cheating scandal; Educators say John Allen asked Crescendo principals to show teachers the state standardized test. L.A. Unified was going to suspend him, but the board voted to fire him and close the campuses.” By Howard Blume. Los Angeles Times. August 17, 2012. The meeting at Crescendo Preparatory South was progressing as usual when the acting principal dropped a bombshell: She had been given copies of the upcoming standardized tests. The teachers were to study them, take notes — and make sure the kids got it. Some of the eight instructors were troubled by what seemed to be an order to cheat. One burst into tears. So began one of the most brazen cheating scandals in the nation. Ultimately, all of Crescendo’s schools in South Los Angeles, Gardena and Hawthorne were shut down, its teachers let go and 1,400 students forced to find new schools. Only the rough outlines of the 2010 scandal were made public, but dozens of interviews with former Crescendo employees and officials — as well as a review of previously unreleased documents — portray an environment so poisoned by demands to excel on state proficiency tests that many submitted to a plan to boost the scores of schools that were already doing well.

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