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

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

News & analysis

Updated teacher observations a key to improvement, report says
The old-fashioned practice of rating instructors by watching them teach is tricky, labor-intensive, potentially costly and subjective — but perhaps the best way to help them improve, according to a study released Friday by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings highlight the importance of teacher observations, but also pinpoint why they frequently don’t work. The old way — observing a teacher once a year, or once every five years in some cases — is insufficient. And the observers, typically the school principal, frequently don’t know what to look for anyway. (LA Times)

Education law’s promise falls short after 10 years
The No Child Left Behind education law was cast as a symbol of possibility, offering the promise of improved schools for the nation’s poor and minority children and better prepared students in a competitive world. Yet after a decade on the books, President George W. Bush’s most hyped domestic accomplishment has become a symbol to many of federal overreach and Congress’ inability to fix something that’s clearly flawed. The law forced schools to confront the uncomfortable reality that many kids simply weren’t learning, but it’s primarily known for its emphasis on standardized tests and the labeling of thousands of schools as “failures.” Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of the day Bush signed it into law in Hamilton, Ohio. By his side were the leaders of the education committees in Congress, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. The bipartisanship that made the achievement possible in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks is long gone. (Sun Times)

New York: No improvement in test scores for middle-income kids during Bloomberg years
While Mayor Bloomberg has touted gains for the poorest students, middle-income kids’ test scores have failed to improve during his administration. Eighth-grade reading scores for this group dropped dramatically compared to their peers in other large cities between 2003 and 2011. Middle-income students’ average test scores in fourth-grade reading and in fourth- and eighth-grade math showed no significant gains, even while nationwide scores trended up. (Daily News)

New Jersey: Governor Christie pledges school aid battle
Gov. Chris Christie plans a new challenge to a court-ordered state education funding formula that has provided billions of dollars in extra funding to poverty-stricken schools within the so-called Abbott districts. While he didn’t discuss specifics of how he would continue the fight, Mr. Christie said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he would nominate two state Supreme Court judges this spring who won’t “grossly” overstep their powers—as he argues the court has by ordering more school funding. (WSJ)

Minnesota: State holds first-ever American Indian education summit
The Minnesota Department of Education is holding a first-ever American Indian Education Summit aimed at reducing barriers facing the state’s Indian students. Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to deliver opening remarks at Monday’s all-day conference. The event features keynote speeches from Denise Juneau, the superintendent of public instruction in Montana, and Kevin Lindsey, the commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights. (Brainerd Dispatch)


Virginia Postrel: How Art History majors power the world
The argument that public policy should herd students into Stem fields is as wrong-headed as the notion that industrial policy should drive investment into manufacturing or “green” industries. It’s just the old technocratic central planning impulse in a new guise. It misses the complexity and diversity of occupations in a modern economy, forgets the dispersed knowledge of aptitudes, preferences and job requirements that makes labor markets work, and ignores the profound uncertainty about what skills will be valuable not just next year but decades in the future. Pundits are entitled to their hypotheses, of course, and if they’re footing the bill they can experiment on their children. But they shouldn’t try to use the rest of the population as lab mice. (Bloomberg)


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