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

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

News & analysis

Raw Data: What our kids is doing
Via Brad Plumer, here’s the latest data from Common Sense Media about the media diets of young children in America. To be honest, I’m a little surprised that TV watching is only two hours a day for 5-8 year-olds. On the other hand, I’m sort of appalled that 75% of 0-2 year-olds watch TV, and of those, the average TV-watching time has increased from 1:02 to 1:30 over the past six years. In that age group, it probably ought to be zero. (Kevin Drum)

Harkin-Enzi NCLB bill faces uncertain future
Their bill would reauthorize the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which became known as No Child Left Behind during its last overhaul a decade ago. A product of compromise, the new bill rolls back the federal government’s role in school accountability, enshrines the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition and does not mandate rigorous teacher evaluations. But critics, such as data-driven education-reform groups and civil-rights groups, have said that Harkin has watered down the bill so much in the name of bipartisanship that it would be better to go back to the drawing board and forgo the small window of opportunity this rewrite has of reaching the President’s desk. After the bill’s passage through committee, the next step would be Senate floor discussion. But with the hubbub of the super committee’s activities and Obama’s emphasis on the jobs plan, there are no guarantees the bill will get time on the floor. (HuffPo)

Obama using education issue as a political sword
With President Barack Obama’s jobs plan stalled in Congress and his re-election bid saddled by low approval numbers and high unemployment, his administration is using its record on education—and that of congressional Republicans—as a political weapon as Campaign 2012 heats up. Even though the Senate earlier this month rejected a $35 billion piece of a $447 billion package the administration said would save an estimated 400,000 teacher jobs, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his top officials used speeches in a number of states to emphasize how many education jobs they say are at stake there: 12,000 in Michigan, 14,500 in Illinois, 5,100 in Utah. (Education Week)

Connecticut: Supreme Court hears argument on Bridgeport school takeover
In a case that could pave the way for state education officials to replace local school boards in other low-performing districts as they did in Bridgeport, justices on the Connecticut Supreme Court were told Thursday there is no standard the state follows when determining whether to intervene in a troubled district or leave it alone. (CT Mirror)

Rhode Island: Obama’s plan to help 30,000 RI student borrowers
The White House says an initiative announced by President Obama will help more than 30,000 Rhode Island students and borrowers lower student loan payments. Obama announced new executive actions to ease student loan payments Wednesday. The initiative accelerates an income-based repayment plan that reduces the maximum required payment on student loans to 10 percent of annual income. It was supposed to go into effect in 2014, but Obama wants it to start next year. Obama also announced a program to allow borrowers to consolidate their loans and get a lower interest rate. (ProJo)

New York: Cellphone ban is a tale of two city schools
The chancellor’s regulations explicitly ban cellphones and other electronic devices from school property. At schools with metal detectors, like Thomas Jefferson, students pay a price for obeying that rule because it is almost impossible for them to sneak their cellphones into the building. But only 88 of the city’s 1,200 school buildings have metal detectors, which were originally brought in to keep out weapons like guns and box cutters. That means that more than 90 percent of the city’s schools have no real way to keep out the phones, and in those schools the ban is largely ignored. (School Book)

New York: School progress reports suggest grad rate trouble ahead
When the phase-out of the Local Diploma was years off, then-Schools Chancellor Joel Klein often said that New York City students and teachers would rise to the challenge and meet the more stringent graduation requirements when push came to shove and the local diploma “went away.” But toward the end of his tenure Klein’s tone shifted: “While we haven’t closed the gap, we are closing it,” the then-chancellor said last year, when graduation rates were announced by the state. (Klein resigned in December.) The mayor put things more plainly: “It is going to be a great challenge to get all our kids to Regents diplomas,” Mayor Bloomberg said in 2010, when asked whether the stiffer requirements might blunt the grad rate. (City Limits)

New York: Rumore’s turnaround view resisted
Samuel L. Radford III, vice president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, urged the School Board to do what is necessary to qualify for the federal aid. “As the DPCC, we really want to be good partners this year. But at the same time, we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied by the Buffalo Teachers Federation,” he said. “In our opinion, the board lost $14 million in resources it could have had for this year.” District officials had planned to use a turnaround model for 2011-12 that requires moving half the staff out of each school. But Rumore opposed the plan, saying it would be chaotic, and said he would not sign off on it. (Buffalo News)

Alabama: Critic’s see “chilling effect” in state’s immigration law
The champions of Alabama’s far-reaching immigration law have said that it is intended to drive illegal immigrants from the state by making every aspect of their life difficult. But they have taken a very different tone when it comes to the part of the law concerning schools. “No child will be denied an education based on unlawful status,” the state attorney general, Luther Strange, argued in a court filing. The man who wrote the schools provision says the same thing, that it is not meant as a deterrent — at least not yet. It is, however, a first step in a larger and long-considered strategy to topple a 29-year-old Supreme Court ruling that all children in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, are guaranteed a public education. (New York Times)


Who’s minding the Gap?
Ah, the achievement gap. So much trouble to fix, so why bother trying? That seems to be the attitude in Washington, where pundits have spent the last several months ripping the current focus on improving the low end of student performance in our nation’s schools. In September the Obama Administration put forward a plan to offer waivers to states that want more flexibility — i.e., less ambitious targets — under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Last week the bottom really fell out when the Senate committee that handles education passed a rewrite of the No Child law basically leaving it to states to figure out how (and probably, in practice, even whether) to close the gaps. In other words, a decade after an overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to get serious about school accountability, it’s open season on a strong federal role in education. How did we get here? (Andrew Rotherham)


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