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

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

News & analysis

Duncan to Florida: Tutoring doesn’t work
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today he doesn’t understand why Florida passed a law requiring districts to continue offering free tutoring to students in struggling schools. Florida is one of 11 states that got a waiver from many of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. That means districts in the Sunshine State no longer have to put aside 20 percent of their Title I money for tutoring and school choice. But lawmakers in Florida still think tutoring is a good idea and passed a law requiring districts to set aside 15 percent of their Title I funding for the program. The law takes effect in July.  Duncan doesn’t think that was a smart move, and said so at a meeting of the Florida Council of 100, a non-profit organization comprised of business leaders in the state that advises the governor and other policy makers on key issues. The study looked at kids who got the services, and those who just barely missed out. And it found that there wasn’t a substantial difference in achievement between the students who got the tutoring and those that didn’t. “Why is Florida keeping the set-aside for tutoring that is showing little or no impact on children?” Duncan asked, according to the Associated Press. “Is it because of pressure from the industry?” But Florida thinks continuing tutoring is the right move. In fact, Gerard Robinson, Florida’s Commissioner of Education, essentially said today that the state is trying to do the best for its students and the federal government should butt out. Okay, he was more a lot tactful than that. Here’s his statement. (Politics K-12)

New Jersey: Principals selected for 8 struggling schools in Newark
City Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson has chosen principals for eight struggling schools where all staff members have been forced to re-apply for their jobs. Competition for the jobs was tough, with only four current principals being rehired. Others chosen to oversee the eight schools, known as renew schools, had served in other educator roles in the district ranging from math specialist to social studies chair. “We wanted to look within Newark Public Schools to find proven leaders, and we were able to select all of our renew school principals from within,” Anderson said. “We asked ‘Who within our district has the skills to dramatically improve student achievement?’ and we found them.” Anderson named Erskine Glover principal of Quitman Street Renew School and Kimberly Mackey principal of 13th Avenue Renew School — positions they now hold. Also appointed were principals of two schools closing at the end of this school year: Barbara Ervin, to Cleveland Street Renew School, and Chaleeta Barnes, to Peshine Avenue Renew School. Other new principals are: Jacquie Hartsfield, Newton Street Renew School; Darleen Gearhart, Sussex Avenue Renew School; Samuel Garrison, Camden Renew School; and Jose Fuentes, Chancellor Avenue Renew School. (Star-Ledger)

Maryland: Baltimore County cuts back on school leadership positions
Baltimore County school officials told middle and high school principals last week that they must limit the number of leadership positions next year to save $814,000, a move teachers say means schools have again been targeted for cuts. The decision will strip the title and pay from some teachers who act as department chairs and perform certain roles, including helping principals evaluate teachers, making sure books and supplies are evenly distributed, and deciding how curriculum will be taught. The announcement came during national Teacher Appreciation Week, which Teachers Association of Baltimore County President Abby Beytin said was a particularly unfortunate time to tell some teachers they will lose their $2,800 to $5,000 annual stipends for doing the extra work. The school system said the reductions have been planned for more than a year and were detailed in the adopted budget for this school year and next. The intent was to stop “excessive use of this extra pay allotment” while preserving the most important leadership positions, Phyllis Reese, a spokeswoman for the school system, said in an email. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: Howard school board set to vote again on adequate facilities measure
The Howard County school board is scheduled to reconsider Tuesday a measure that would determine which schools can accommodate new residential development. Each year, school officials craft a chart that designates the areas ripe for development under the county’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance by labeling schools as open or closed. The ordinance ensures that roads, school buildings and other infrastructure can handle more residents. Recently, the school board failed to pass the chart, voting in favor of it 4-3. The chart requires at least five votes for passage and allows for the student board member, who has limited voting powers, to cast a vote. If a development is slated for an area where the school has been designated as closed, it cannot be approved unless a new school is built, additions are made to an existing school or students are reassigned through redistricting, school officials said. Before the vote on the chart, board member Brian Meshkin voiced strong opposition to the process, saying that charting schools amounts to reacting to changes rather than planning for what lies ahead. “I am very concerned that our current approach creates ‘inadequate’ public facilities,” Meshkin, in his first term as board member, said in an interview Wednesday. “Ever since joining the school board, I have raised this issue and have voted against the APFO chart because blindly approving a chart that contributes to the problem makes the school board complicit in a broken system. (Baltimore Sun)

New York: Chancellor proposes plan to remove unassigned and unsatisfactory teachers
After years of trying through various proposals, city officials have abandoned plans to negotiate with the union for the removal of some 830 teachers who do not have permanent jobs, but are still salaried, costing the city millions of dollars each year. Instead, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott proposed on Thursday to offer buyouts to those teachers to leave the system. Mr. Walcott did not name his price, but in a speech before the Association for a Better New York, he said the amount would be “generous,” and would exceed teacher buyouts in such cities as Dallas and Washington. The chancellor also vowed to bypass stalled negotiations with the city’s teachers’ union over a new evaluation system. If there is no agreement by fall, he said, the city’s Department of Education would remove and try to fire any teacher who received two consecutive ratings of “unsatisfactory.” “In my view, if you are one of the few hundred teachers who gets poorly rated for two years in a row, you don’t deserve to teach in our schools and in front of our students,” he said a speech full of blunt terms. “We will move forward, whether or not the union decides to join us.” How to solve the problem of unassigned teachers has long been a battleground issue for city education officials and the union, the United Federation of Teachers. Although both sides agreed to the current situation, which is embedded in the union contract, each blames the other for the large number of teachers in the “absent teacher reserve” pool, made up of teachers who lost their school assignments through budget cuts or school closings. The pool currently has about 830 teachers, but if the buyout were offered today, only the 475 who have been in the pool for at least a year would be eligible. But by fall, city officials expect most teachers in the pool would meet this requirement. (School Book)

New York: Ivy League janitor is still wearing his gown
Gac Filipaj is thrilled that he graduated this week from Columbia University. “I’m still wearing the gown. I’m going to wear it for awhile,” he told Tell Me More host Michel Martin just after Columbia’s commencement ceremony. “And I look pretty well in that, to tell you the truth.” Why is it such a big deal? It’s not just that he’s graduating with honors at age 52, or that the Albanian refugee was forced to flee civil war in the 1990s. It’s because for nearly 20 years, Filipaj has been working as a janitor at the Ivy League school, while taking free classes to learn English and earn a bachelor’s degree in classics. “My main concern was work, school, school, work,” says Filipaj. “I can tell you this for sure that I have not taken one midterm or one final, and to be very well-rested before I took it.” Once he was accepted at Columbia’s School of General Studies, Filipaj took classes in the morning, worked as a janitor well into the night, and only then did he have the chance to crack open a book. “Couple of times when the alarm clock rang, and I was so tired, I thought, ‘You know what? Let me stay, and sleep, and rest, and forget this school. I’m going to drop everything,’ ” he says. But somehow, he would conjure up the strength to get up, he says, and as soon as he was on his feet, he would be OK. Filipaj plans to stay at his job and go for a master’s degree focusing on Roman philosophy. (NPR)


Maribeth Whitehouse explains why she teaches
I teach because… of my students. Each of them is a gift, even if they don’t know it or act like it. …no matter how good I get, the crafting of an excellent teacher never ends. It demands a lot from me all the time, and I like that. …there are moments and experiences with my students that are electric, addictive and imprinted in my mind. …the process of learning to trust one another as teachers and learners is unique and intricately beautiful. …I can ignite a new passion or enrich a long-held one, the potential of which reaches beyond the limits of my own life. …I can’t do anything else. I don’t mean “can’t” as in “those who can do and those who can’t – teach.” I mean that post-9/11, I couldn’t continue in a job that failed to promote positive transformative change in the world. When people hear that I teach special-education students in a South Bronx middle school, they often shake their heads and say, “God bless you.” To which I say, “He already did.” (Learning Matters)

Christina Grant: Budget votes are good news for NY’s kids
In school districts across New York, the voters have spoken: The property-tax cap overwhelmingly approved last year by Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature works. The cap has not only served to control tax increases, it’s also forced a major paradigm shift in the conversation over school property taxes. We’ve shifted from “How much money can we spend and on what?” to “In a time of limited resources, what programs do we need to ensure school quality?” In the first budget votes since the cap was approved last year, 92 percent of New York’s 675 school districts lived within the cap and were rewarded with a 99 percent approval rate. Only 48 districts tried to exceed the cap, and 19 of them failed to get the supermajority they needed to do so. Many failed even to win a simple majority. So kudos to Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature — and to school districts — for making tough choices to live within their means. All told, 96 percent of school budgets were approved on Tuesday, which the New York State School Boards Association calls the second-best approval rate on record. It’s well above the historic average of 84 percent. And early indications show that voter turnout, usually very low in school budget votes, was marginally better statewide — and significantly better in many districts. (Post)

Friday hijinx

Teachers “dance bomb” students


Recent Posts

More posts from Today in Education

See All Posts