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

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

News & analysis

New York: Teacher Deal in Talks
Under pressure from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state education and union officials are moving closer to reaching a settlement over a teacher evaluation system tied to student test scores, according to people familiar with the talks. A breakthrough would bring the state a step closer to salvaging about $1 billion in federal education dollars and remove a legal obstacle that has, in part, prevented school districts across the state from adopting a system that was required by a 2010 law. But a deal between state education officials and the union, New York State United Teachers, wouldn’t resolve a related dispute between the New York City Department of Education and the city’s teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, over whether teachers rated ineffective, which could lead to dismissal, should be able to appeal to a party outside the city’s education department. (WSJ)

New York: Petty differences mask consensus on teachers
Regarding teachers’ unions with a certain distaste, maintaining the belief that they exist to champion inadequacy, is now virtually required for membership in the affluent, competitive classes, no matter an affiliation on the right or left. Over the past two weeks, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg have aggressively pushed for phasing in a new, more rigorous teacher evaluation process — with tens of millions of dollars in state and federal aid to schools at stake — they have deployed a rhetoric of enmity, one meant to suggest that the state’s teachers’ unions are committed to keeping talentless hacks in jobs they can’t handle. As the governor put it on Monday, “Our schools are not an employment program.” What has been lost in these performances of reproach and imperiousness is the extent to which the city and state, and the related unions (the United Federation of Teachers in the first instance and New York State United Teachers in the second) are generally in agreement over how classroom evaluations ought to be held and what, in fact, constitutes sound teaching. As it happens, the state union was at work devising substantive evaluation reform more than a year before Mr. Cuomo even took office. (New York Times)

Maryland: State’s student homeless population doubles
For a few hours after school, Ryan Johnson is just like most 16-year-olds. He lounges on the couch with his favorite Xbox game or checks his Facebook page. But then reality sets in. He decamps from his cousins’ house for the Howard County cold-weather shelter. Dinner is a meal with his father and 20 other homeless people. He goes to bed early, on a green plastic mat next to strangers, who also have no other place to go in one of the state’s wealthiest counties. “It has been really hard,” said Ryan, a junior at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. “I look at it like a detention I have to do every day, even though I didn’t do anything wrong.” Ryan’s experience is becoming increasingly common. The number of homeless students in Maryland has more than doubled in the past five years, rising from 6,721 to 14,117 last school year, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. The largest increases in homeless populations are notable for where they are occurring: in the suburban rings around cities. Anne Arundel County has seen a 231 percent increase in homeless students since 2005, Baltimore County a 140 percent increase and Howard County a 150 percent increase. The increase in Baltimore City, which still has the largest number of homeless students, was 75 percent. (Baltimore Sun)

Minnesota: Secretary of Education Duncan praises state’s efforts, improvements
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared today at events in Minnesota, including a town hall with Gov Mark Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “I came here a couple years ago and frankly was a little bit tough on Minnesota,” Duncan said. “I didn’t feel that there was a sense of urgency, I didn’t feel there was a push to go to the next level. And I have to say the past couple years, the commitment to reform, the increased sense of urgency, and ultimately the results have been pretty extraordinary.” Minnesota education officials have asked for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. Duncan did not comment on the application. (MPR)

Georgia: Atlanta Schools to repay $363,000 for cheating
Atlanta Public Schools has agreed to repay more than $363,000 in federal money the district won by teachers and administrators who cheated on tests, state officials said Friday. State schools Superintendent John Barge told The Associated Press that the district has 90 days to return the money. He said in exchange, the state is placing five people who have expertise in helping struggling schools in the 50,000-student district, and providing training for educators. The district also has agreed to tutor thousands of students affected by the cheating, which administrators have said will carry a price tag of about $4 million. (NPR)

Connecticut: Teachers union starts ad campaign
Connecticut’s largest teachers union went on offense Sunday in a looming education reform debate, kicking off a television advertising campaign during the New York Giants playoff game. The Connecticut Education Association, which represents 43,000 public schoolteachers, said the ad will run for two weeks as part of a larger campaign launched in hopes of shaping the conversation during next month’s state legislative session, which lawmakers have devoted to education policy. The 30-second television spot will also run during a special extended edition of “American Idol.” The media buy will reach only Connecticut households, union officials said. While the teachers union declined to say how much it spent on the ads, it said the high-profile prime-time placement is part of a strategic move to influence an education debate taking place across the country. (WSJ)

Missouri: Legislators to consider changes to teacher tenure
Ending tenure for Missouri public school teachers could be among the most contentious topics debated this year by lawmakers looking at revamping the state’s education system. The chairman of the House education committee said he is considering legislation to phase out tenure over several decades. The issue also could appear on the November ballot if supporters of a newly filed initiative petition gather enough signatures. Missouri teachers generally receive tenure after teaching in a district for five years. With tenure, they can be dismissed for immoral conduct; incompetency, inefficiency or insubordination; willful or persistent violation of the state’s school laws or regulations; excessive absences; or conviction of certain felonies. Teachers also can be removed if they have a physical or mental condition that makes them unfit to instruct children. (Missourian)


Nicholas Kristoff: How Mrs. Grady transformed Olly Neal
IF you want to understand how great teachers transform lives, listen to the story of Olly Neal.  A recent study showed how a great elementary schoolteacher can raise the lifetime earnings of a single class by $700,000. After I wrote about the study, skeptics of school reform wrote me to say: sure, a great teacher can make a difference in the right setting, but not with troubled, surly kids in a high-poverty environment. If you think that, or if you scoff at the statistics, then listen to Neal. (New York Times)

Michael Winerip: In Obama’s Race to the Top, work is left to those on the bottom
Even if you think the Obama administration’s signature education program, Race to the Top, will not help a single child in America learn more, you have to admire its bureaucratic magnificence. First, it has had a major effect — reaching into most public schools in America — while costing the Obama administration next to nothing. The Education Department will spend about $5 billion on the program, and even if you’re thinking, hey, I could use $5 billion, consider this: New York won the largest federal grant, $700 million over the next four years. In that time, roughly $230 billion will be spent on public education in the state. By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform. (New York Times)


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