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

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

News & analysis

Obama to propose community college aid
President Obama on Monday will propose a $8 billion Community College to Career Fund, with the goal of training two million workers for well-paying jobs in high-demand industries, officials said. The fund, which would need Congressional approval, would be administered jointly by the Departments of Labor and of Education. The money would be used to bolster partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train workers in areas like health care, transportation and advanced manufacturing. In his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama called for a national commitment to help create an economy built to last by training two million workers with skills that will lead directly to a job. (New York Times)

Schools look to holistic approach to improve attendance
When it comes to lowering the high school dropout rate, many school leaders have found that something fairly basic works: the ABCs — Attendance, Behavior and Class. And after President Obama’s call-to-action to raise the legal dropout rate to 18 in this year’s State of the Union, communities across the country are looking at their own attempts to crack down on poor attendance and searching for the most effective strategies. (Newshour)

SIG program promising despite bumpy first year, urban districts say
The School Improvement Grant program, with its controversial, much-maligned four models, is largely seen in Washington as Exhibit A when it comes to federal overreach in K-12 education. But a majority of urban districts think SIG will make a difference in the long-run for schools that are struggling the most, according to a report released today by the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization in Washington which represents 65 of the nation’s largest school districts. The program has meant a myriad of challenges, including a tight timeline for getting new and complicated reforms off the ground, the report found. In particular, over the past year, districts had a tough time handling the Human Resources element of SIG: finding and training good teachers and principals to work in some of the nation’s most challenging schools. Still, nearly half of the districts surveyed by CSGS said they “strongly agree” that SIG “has a strong chance of significantly improving our district’s persistently lowest-achieving schools.” And more than three-quarters “agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that the program gave their districts “the autonomy and flexibility to effectively implement and oversee school turnarounds.” (Politics K-12)

New York: Final week of school duel
It’s high noon this week in Albany as Gov. Cuomo, playing the role of sheriff, faces off with teachers-union leaders — the outlaws. The two sides will confront each other over the governor’s claimed determination to force meaningful teacher-evaluation standards on New York schools. Thursday is the deadline set by Cuomo to automatically amend the budget he presented to the Legislature last month with special language that could unilaterally impose teacher-evaluation requirements throughout the state. Last month, Cuomo told union leaders — who have resisted the standards for nearly two years — that if they wanted to avoid his action, they must reach an agreement on new evaluation standards with city Department of Education and state education officials. But as of yesterday, no agreement was in sight. (Post)

Rhode Island: Education experts react to NECAP scores
Rhode Island schools showed improvements on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests, but students are still struggling in math, according to results released today. Across all levels, 56% of students scored at proficient or better in mathematics, a 1% increase from last year, and 73% achieved proficient or better in reading, a 2% improvement. Still, the state fell short of most of the ambitious achievement goals set by the state and Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Gist. “Because of our many current initiatives- including mentoring for all new teachers, transition to the internationally benchmarked Common Core standards, and implementation of educator evaluations – I am confident that our schools will continue to improve and our students will attain even higher levels of achievement,” Gist said. (GoLocalProv)


Star Tribune: Scrap seniority-only teacher tenure law
An excellent “Teacher of the Year” finds herself out of a job just months after receiving the honor — the victim of a layoff based solely on seniority. In another district, a highly respected teacher with more experience in a subject area gets bumped out of a position in favor of a more tenured instructor. Those unfortunate cases are real examples from Minnesota schools. Under current state law, seniority is the lone deciding factor in laying off teachers. And although there were good reasons for the law decades ago — including discrimination based on race and gender — rigid tenure laws that place seniority above performance in evaluating teachers are no longer in the best interest of school children. That’s why an important legislative proposal that would modify Minnesota’s “last in, first out” teacher tenure law merits bipartisan support. (Star Tribune)

What can be done about the growing education gap between rich and poor?
Today’s New York Times features on its front page new research from the Russell Sage and Spencer Foundations that concludes that the achievement gap between rich and poor is growing, and is now significantly larger than the gap between white and black students. This research is consistent with scholarship that The Century Foundation published in its 2010 volume, Rewarding Strivers, finding that the socioeconomic obstacles to doing well on the math and verbal SAT are seven times as large as those associated with race. The Times article highlights the very troubling class divide in education, but then ends with a bizarre quotation from Douglas J. Besharov of the Atlantic Council. With unwarranted fatalism, Besharov suggests that in addressing the educational division, particularly between the children of well-educated dual-income families and those of less-educated single parents, “No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.”  In fact, research published by The Century Foundation and other organizations going back more than a decade shows that there are an array of strategies that can be highly effective in addressing the socioeconomic gaps in education. (Century Foundation)


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