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

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

News & analysis

Apps for autism: Communicating on the iPad
Autistic people whose condition prevents them from speaking are making breakthroughs with the help of tablet computers and special applications that allow them to communicate, some for the first time. Lesley Stahl reports. (60 Minutes)

California: A Silicon Valley school that doesn’t compute
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix. This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. (New York Times)

Georgia: Atlanta high schools broke rules to meet performance standards
After school every day, Chantel and her mother, Deirdre, logged onto test preparation websites. At Carver High School of Technology in Atlanta, where Chantel was a junior, teachers helped her get ready. They believed, Deirdre Cox said, that Chantel could pass. But the morning of the high school writing test, in September 2009, school administrators pulled Chantel and several other Carver juniors aside. All stood a good chance of failing — and of lowering the school’s odds of meeting its do-or-die performance targets. While the rest of the 11th grade took the test required for all juniors, Chantel and the others worked puzzles in a special-education classroom. (AJC)

Maryland: Speaking out for school construction dollars
While there’s been complaining in Baltimore County recently about the lack of air-conditiong and the overcrowding in schools, the city’s teachers, parents, students and education advocates have banded together to try to get some solutions to their facilities problems. The group, Transform Baltimore, has started a campaign to get City Hall to agree to some more creative approaches to financing $2.4 billion in school construction needs. (InsideEd)

New York: In college, working hard to learn high school material
In June, Desiree Smith was graduated from Murry Bergtraum High. Her grades were in the 90s, she said, and she had passed the four state Regents exams. Since enrolling last month at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Ms. Smith, 19, has come to realize that graduating from a New York City public high school is not the same as learning. She failed all three placement tests for LaGuardia and is now taking remediation in reading, writing and math. So are Nikita Thomas, of Bedford Stuyvesant Prep; Sade Washington, of the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem; Stacey Sumulong, of Queens Vocational and Technical; Lucrecia Woolford of John Adams High; and Juan Rodriguez of Grover Cleveland High. “Passing the Regents don’t mean nothing,” Ms. Thomas said. “The main focus in high school is to get you to graduate; it makes the school look good. They get you in and get you out.” (New York Times)

New York: How hard is it to get into the Buffalo school you want?
The School Board is starting to consider whether to revamp Buffalo’s school choice model in favor of some version of neighborhood schools. It’s a concept that has been floating around for some time, but only now seems about to become the subject of a full discussion at the board level. (School Zone)

Rhode Island: Occupy Providence group demonstrates for student loan forgiveness
Chanting “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” and “What do we want? Loan forgiveness,” 18 members of the Occupy Providence group marched from Burnside Park to the headquarters of Citizens Bank Friday to demand that banks forgive the thousands of dollars owed in student loans. (ProJo)

Ohio: Locals say state cuts led to levies
All across Ohio, cuts in state aid have pushed hundreds of local governments, schools and libraries to ask voters for more money. Although Gov. John Kasich and GOP legislative leaders frequently boast of closing a massive budget shortfall without raising taxes, it hasn’t taken long for the cuts — compounded by those from earlier years — to threaten services at the local level and create an urgent need for cash from local tax levies. (Columbus Dispatch)


Dana Goldstein reacts to the Waldorf School’s technophobia
I’m generally skeptical of technophilic education reform, since I believe curriculum and quality teaching are far more important than whizz-bang gadgetry. But I don’t think technophobic classrooms would work nearly as well for a less priveleged student population. While it’s true that Googling a phrase, address, or phone number is simple, it isn’t always easy or intuitive to interpret the results of a more complex search for information, whether you’re looking for a good doctor, checking if your apartment is rent controlled, or researching a politician’s record and platform. The Internet is filled with misinformation, as is talk radio, cable news, and just about every other media source with which Americans come into daily contact. That’s why I was impressed with a 10th grade social studies lesson I observed last spring in Providence, R.I. Jennifer Geller taught her students to fact-check their textbook using Google, but also explained to them how to sift the wheat from the chaff online, by understanding how Google and Wikipedia are programmed. (Dana Goldstein)

Charters and minority progress
A tragedy of American politics is that civil rights groups like the NAACP oppose education reform, even as reform’s main beneficiaries are poor and minority students in places like Harlem and New Orleans. The latest evidence comes in a study showing that black students in charter schools outperform their peers in traditional public schools. (WSJ)


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