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

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

News & analysis

Obama’s college aid proposal puts a focus on affordability
President Obama is proposing a financial aid overhaul that for the first time would tie colleges’ eligibility for campus-based aid programs — Perkins loans, work-study jobs and supplemental grants for low-income students — to the institutions’ success in improving affordability and value for students, administration officials said. Under the plan, which the president is expected to outline on Friday morning in a speech at the University of Michigan, the amount available for Perkins loans would grow to $8 billion, from the current $1 billion. The president also wants to create a $1 billion grant competition, along the lines of the Race for the Top program for elementary and secondary education, to reward states that take action to keep college costs down, and a separate $55 million competition for individual colleges to increase their value and efficiency. (New York Times)

Romney hearts English immersion, Mrs. Gingrich likes music education
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a huge fan of English immersion programs. Romney’s state used a CNN-sponsored debate in Florida to reiterate his love for programs that teach kids only in English. He’s said in other debates, and in his recent book, that kids don’t learn as well in bilingual education classes. And, in response to a question about why his wife, Callista, would make a good first lady, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talked up her expertise in arts and music education, an area that has faced major cuts both at the federal and local levels. In fact, Callista Gingrich made a video extolling the virtue’s of music education and bemoaning cuts to music education at the local level. “Many schools are threatening to cut or eliminate entire music programs,” she says in the video, released in December. “Many studies suggest a strong link between music and academic achievement. … To eliminate music from our schools is to diminish a large part of our cultural experience. Together, we can work to support music education in our nation’s schools and preserve our cultural identity.” (Politics K-12)

New York: As evaluation talks resume, some teachers press for a resolution
More than a hundred teachers who work at struggling schools that had almost $60 million in federal grants blocked by the state are asking the city and union to come together so the money can be restored. In a letter addressed to Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott and the teachers union president, Michael Mulgrew, that was delivered last week, teachers petitioned the two sides to reach an agreement on an evaluation system that would fulfill the requirements of the federal grant and allow the state to restore their financing. Many of the teachers are members of Educators 4 Excellence, a nonprofit group made up of current and former teachers that has challenged the union’s long-held positions on merit pay and tenure. (School Book)


The evolution of Bill Gates, education philanthropist
Gates’ beliefs on teaching reform are more sophisticated than they used to be. While he still supports the use of student testing data as part of a teacher’s evaluation score, he now understands that teaching is a profession built around an ideology of cooperation, not competition. Indeed, the sociological research on teachers has shown this consistently for decades; check out the work of Edward Deci and Dan Lortie. Teachers’ disinterest in financial gain relative to other working conditions is why merit pay programs are rarely the transformative reform lever their supporters hope they will be. (Dana Goldstein)

Can computers replace teachers?
As a field, education is easily seduced by technological promises. Textbooks? Thomas Edison saw movies as way to replace them. In a prelude to today’s debates, the phonograph and film strip were lauded as technologies that could replace live teaching. These days, conservatives are in love with the idea that technology will not only shrink the number of in-classroom teachers but render the teachers’ unions obsolete. The experience to date is less grandiose and more worrisome considering the billions that have been spent on technology in schools in the past few decades. Interactive whiteboards have been around since the early 1990s and done little to transform how teachers teach, and computers are often unaligned with classroom instruction, even though 90% of classrooms around the country have them. Still, according to Department of Education data from 2009, just 61% of students use computers to prepare texts “sometimes or often” and just 45% do more complicated tasks, for instance to “solve problems, analyze data, or perform calculations” on a regular basis. (Andy Rotherham)


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