Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

Apple pushes interactive textbooks on iPads
Apple Inc. on Thursday launched its attempt to make the iPad a replacement for a satchel full of textbooks by starting to sell electronic versions of a handful of standard high-school books. The electronic textbooks, which include Biology and Environmental Science from Pearson and Algebra 1 and Chemistry from McGraw-Hill, contain videos and other interactive elements. But it’s far from clear that even a company with Apple’s clout will be able to reform the primary and high-school textbook market. The printed books are bought by schools, not students, and are reused year after year, which isn’t possible with the electronic versions. New books are subject to lengthy state approval processes. (NPR)

Maryland: School funding debates heat up in Rockville and Annapolis
This week, Montgomery County officials unveiled their capital spending plan and state lawmakers began debating education spending priorities in Annapolis. Here are a few developments to watch that could have an impact on the bottom line for Montgomery schools. Although the Board of Education had requested $1.49 billion, or a nearly 10 percent increase, in school construction funding for next year, the county may reduce its share of building costs: County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed a $1.36 billion school construction spending cap, a 0.3 percent decrease from the previous plan. Also under debate during the 90-day session in Annapolis will be how to fix a law that determines the minimum amount a locality can provide to schools each year (a law that local school boards and teachers unions say puts millions of dollars at risk that school systems have traditionally relied upon), and whether the state should shift more of the hefty cost of teacher pensions to the counties. This could add a big responsibility to localities in future years. (WaPo)

Minnesota: Irondale’s new college-in-high-school program to be on display at townhall with Arne Duncan
Everybody knows graduation is what happens when a person has endured a certain amount of high school, right? What if graduation were redefined not as the accumulation of a certain number of credits but as the point at which a young person was prepared, academically and in all other respects, to go on to college — and complete a degree? At Mounds View Public Schools, educators are betting they know the answer: It would be nothing short of a paradigm shift. Starting next fall, students at the district’s Irondale High School, located in New Brighton, will have on-site access to enough college-level classes offered in conjunction with Anoka-Ramsey Community College to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. (Beth Hawkins)

New York: Bonuses are not the answer, teachers say
SchoolBook asked readers, “What is your reaction to the proposals in Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City address?” Teachers weighed in, mostly to scoff at the idea of bonus pay — a position also held by the city teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers. John Elfrank-Dana wrote, “The Mayor’s bonus program flys in the face of the latest knowledge in motivation research.” Citing a YouTube video that summarizes results of a study by scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Chicago, Mr. Elfrank-Dana said, “Monetary rewards backfire at enhancing performance that require high levels of cognitive functioning.” Barbara Tringali, a retired teacher, said that during her time as a payroll secretary, she noticed teachers would often forget to collect their paychecks on time. She said this demonstrated that money “did not affect the way you taught or how hard you worked to be better at the job.” (New York Times)

North Carolina: CMS says graduation-track stats are wrong
Reports indicating that virtually all students at all Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are on track to graduate are wrong, CMS officials acknowledged today after repeated questions from the Observer. Chris Cobitz, the administrator in charge of the school progress reports CMS released this week, initially stood by the calculation that more than 99 percent of elementary and middle school students and 98.2 percent of high school students in 2010-11 had never been retained in a grade –despite a high-school promotion rate of only 68 percent and a graduation rate just under 74 percent. But after the Observer sent follow-up questions about contradictory numbers and posted an online story, Cobitz said this afternoon that the “anticipated to graduate on time” numbers for virtually all schools, from elementary to high school, are inaccurate. He said the numbers came from the wrong column on a spreadsheet, but he could not immediately say what they actually represent. (Observer)


Andy Rotherham: Why parents should be allowed to choose their kids’ teacher
The most important decision you will make about your children’s education is picking their school, right? That’s the conventional wisdom, but it’s actually wrong — or at best it’s only half-correct. Teacher effectiveness varies a lot within schools, even within good schools, which means that just choosing the right school for your kid is not a proxy for choosing great teachers. So while “school choice” is hotly debated (next week is National School Choice Week, complete with Bill Cosby’s blessing and events galore,) there are few rallies being held for giving parents the right to choose a particular teacher. That’s because the whole system is stacked against empowering families in this way. In fact, because of how seniority rules generally work, it’s a lot more common for teachers to choose their students than for students to choose their teachers. (School of Thought)

Kathleen Porter-Magee: Reviewing Beverly Jobrack’s “The Tyranny of the Textbook”
Jobrack doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to the importance of instruction. Effective curriculum implementation relies on effective instruction. And effective instruction relies on a teacher’s ability to adapt curriculum to the needs of his/her particular students. And so any discussion about classroom-level implementation of curriculum should include a discussion of using formal and informal assessment to track student mastery of essential content and skills, and of using the data from those assessments to really drive short- and long-term planning and instruction. This kind of data-driven instruction is essential in ensuring not only that teachers have covered essential content, but that students have actually learned it. In the end, Jobrack helps reinforce the feeling that when it comes to state and federal policy a focus first and foremost on structural reforms does make sense. But Jobrack’s larger point still stands: a movement concerned only with these issues of structural reform can’t claim to actually be driving student achievement gains, instead only creating the opportunity for school leaders and educations to do so when they get curriculum and instruction right within school walls. (Fordham Institute)


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