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

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

News & anlaysis

Rhode Island: Lawmakers hope to pushback teacher layoff notification date
Support is growing for a law that would move the date for teachers to receive layoff notices back from March 1 to June 1 after the Woonsocket School Committee last week voted to issue pink slips to all of its teachers as it works to trim a deficit in the school department. The same issue occurred last year in Providence, when Mayor Angel Taveras made national headlines for his decision to fire every teacher in the capital city as he attempted to address his city’s $110 million structural deficit. In the House chamber, Representative Jon Brien has introduced legislation that will move the layoff notification date back by three months. A similar bill on the Senate side has been introduced by Senators Lou DiPalma, Roger Picard, Christopher Ottiano, Minority Leader Dennis Algiere and Dawson Hodgson. On Thursday, the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN) also issued a statement of support. “Every year for the past several years, communities in fiscal distress such as Providence, Central Falls and most recently, Woonsocket, have been forced to send layoff notices to their entire teaching staff because of this outdated policy,” RI-CAN executive director Maryellen Butke wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “The March 1st notification law is just one of several antiquated staffing policies keeping us from prizing our talented teachers.” (GoLocalProv)

Rhode Island: Applications vastly outnumber openings at charter schools
A total of 6,521 children have applied for only 697 openings at 15 charter schools in Rhode Island in the 2012-13 school year. The annual selection ritual that leaves hundreds of families disappointed began Thursday with 10 public charter schools holding lotteries. For many applicants, charter schools are seen as a refuge in public school systems struggling with limited resources, abysmal test scores, high dropout rates and crumbling buildings. This is especially true for Providence, which closed five schools last year due to a budget crisis of historic proportions. (ProJo)

New York: Teachers find errors in data reports, but record will remain
Like many New York City teachers, Caitlin Duffy was upset when she first saw her middling rating on her performance report. But alarm bells truly started ringing when she saw the list of students it was based on, and realized she had not taught half of them. Ms. Duffy, who teaches at The Computer School, a Manhattan middle school, is one of 18,000 public school teachers whose ratings the city released last week, after the teachers’ union lost a court battle to keep them private. The idea behind the reports was simple: take students’ test scores, match them to their teachers and use the gains as a measure of job performance. But in the city’s school system, the country’s largest, the task of extracting accurate information from multiple data systems and old files has proved more complicated. By the Education Department’s calculations, 2,700 of the teachers who received data reports for the 2009-10 school year found at least one error. Education officials said the most common mistake that teachers corrected was having too few students on their class rosters, but they said that at this point, changes would not be made to the reports just released. Since the city began ranking teachers in the 2007-08 school year, there have been complaints about inaccurate class lists and teaching assignments. After teachers submitted corrections last year, the department was able to update those reports. (School Book)

Maryland: Baltimore schools pay $14M overtime in four years
The cash-strapped Baltimore school system has paid more than $14 million in overtime over the past four years, mostly to its understaffed police force and hundreds of temporary employees who have filled gaps created by CEO Andrés Alonso’s plan to shrink the central office. According to salary information obtained by The Baltimore Sun, the district paid about $3.4 million to nearly 1,600 city school employees in 2011, a year when school budgets were cut because of rising personnel costs. School officials said the overtime costs are mostly tied to student safety. The vast majority of overtime earners were city school police officers and operations staff who maintain the system’s crumbling infrastructure. The top overtime earner in 2011 was Alonso’s driver — a school police sergeant hired in 1975 who has worked as chauffeur to city school superintendents for two decades. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: Lawmakers wrestle with budget and tax plan
Dozens of people testified yesterday on Gov Martin O’Malley’s proposed $35.9 billion budget, with many saying the plan to make teachers’ pensions the responsibility of the counties, and not the state, would siphon funds out of the classroom and gut counties’ noneducation services. Ernest Crofoot, county attorney for Caroline County, said the state, along with county boards of education, has increased teachers’ pay and increased the amount it takes to fund their pensions. Now, Crofoot said, county governments — not local school boards — are being saddled with the expense. The move would cost local jurisdictions $239 million in the first year and go up after that. “You need to stand up and be intellectually honest, and have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and tell the citizens ‘We need more money and we are coming after more money,’ “ he told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Debbie Schafer, financial secretary at Severna Park Middle School and president of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County, told the committee lawmakers must find more revenue. One major hindrance in Anne Arundel County, she said, is the property tax revenue cap put in place 20 years ago. (Hometown Annapolis)

New Jersey: Mayor Booker comes out swinging at contentious state of the city address
A hundred demonstrators gathered outside, mostly from the Newark Teachers Union, objecting to the plan of Booker and Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson to close seven school facilities. Booker said the protests and the backlash over the plan were the necessary byproducts of change. “They put politics and personalities ahead of children and families,” Booker said of Anderson’s detractors. “We must do better for our children.” Over the next year, Booker and the city council are likely to do unprecedented battle over the budget, water, and schools, largely due to the mayor’s more combative approach. “I’ve listened to them attack me time and time and time again,” Booker said. “I’m asking for council members to lead. It’s as simple as that.” (Star-Ledger)


John Thompson: Accountability … for attendance
I would like to offer a modest proposal for updating one part of NCLB’s accountability system: All roads to school improvement in the inner city must go through the family crises that cause chronic absenteeism.  The John Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center has documented the importance of chronic absenteeism, identifying it as one of the “ABCs” that predict educational failure. Along with the “B” of persistent misbehavior and the “C” of low course performance, the “A” of missing 10% of school days can predict with 75% accuracy which 6th graders will fail to graduate. Hopkins researchers then make a powerful case for state-of-the-art Early Warning Systems to address absenteeism and craft solutions before it metastasises. The Everyone Graduates Center reports, however, that only 16 states have the longitudinal data systems necessary for timely interventions. Moreover, only four states disseminate data to educators on a weekly or daily basis. In other words, during the era of No Child Left Behind, our nation invested billions of dollars for digital accountability systems, but relative pennies for data systems to directly help our most vulnerable children. (Scholastic Administrator)

Star-Ledger: Evaluation Study warrants an “A”
Everyone agrees that the teacher evaluation system in New Jersey is due for an overhaul as part of comprehensive education reform. But it is important to make sure the instruments used for those evaluations are themselves up to the job. That is why it is gratifying to see the state Department of Education has contracted with Rutgers University to review the new teacher evaluation system being tried out in 10 school districts across the state. Observing a teacher once a year ignores the fact that any teacher can have a bad day. And ratings of simply satisfactory or unsatisfactory fail to differentiate the poor teacher from the fair, good or outstanding teacher.The pilot program calls for teacher evaluations to be based half on classroom observations and half on how much progress students show in learning, including how they perform on standardized tests. Teachers get one of four ratings, from ineffective to highly effective. (Star-Ledger)


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