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

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

News & analysis

Business, civil rights groups blast Kline’s NCLB proposal
A top GOP lawmaker’s plan for rewriting the No Child Left Behind Act amounts to a “rollback” of the law, 38 business, civil rights, and other advocacy organizations said in a letter, sent Jan. 24 to its sponsor. Where do the groups’ concerns stem from? Under the current law, states have to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. They have to set annual achievement goals for all students, including racial minorities, and students in special education. Schools that don’t meet those targets are subject to increasingly serious, federal sanctions. Under the Kline plan, states would still have to test students. But they wouldn’t have to set goals for student achievement anymore. And they wouldn’t have to intervene in schools that aren’t making progress with particular subgroups. (Politics K-12)

Rhode Island: Lawmakers call for full-day kindergarten
After the House of Representatives approved a resolution last year throwing support behind full-day kindergarten programs statewide, Reps. Roberto DaSilva (D-Dist. 63, East Providence, Pawtucket) and Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) are now looking to make full-day programs a matter of state law. “The House debated this issue and endorsed a resolution last year supporting the concept of all-day kindergarten,” said Representative DaSilva. “But that’s not enough. We need to follow up our strong vote of support with legislation that makes full-day kindergarten a reality for all of our children.” If enacted, the bill (2012-H 7127) would make full-day kindergarten mandatory, with a school day consisting of at least five-and-one-half hours of actual work. (GoLocalProv)

Minnesota: President’s remarks buoy supporters of raising dropout age
Minnesota supporters of raising the minimum school dropout age say they’re buoyed by the president’s mention of the issue. President Barack Obama called on states in his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening to require students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. Minnesota law only requires attendance until 16. State Senator Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, dropped out of high school for a year — even working briefly for a circus — before returning to the Twin Cities to get his diploma. For several years, he has pushed to put Minnesota’s dropout age at 18. “You need to set a message as a state, this is very important. The ramifications are significant,” Wiger said. “When our national leader says that, I applauded. So, it refueled my interest in hoping that I can get a hearing on this.” In 2008, Wiger’s measure was part of a larger omnibus policy bill that was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. (MPR)

New York: The $200 million scuffle over school funding
The District Parent Coordinating Council and Buffalo ReformED joined a few education reform groups across the state today to issue a joint statement supporting the governor’s plan to allocate $250 million in the 2012-13 budget for school performance grants. School leaders across the state have called on the governor to instead allocate $50 million for the competitive grants, and allocate the other $200 million to school districts through standard aid formulas. The statement from the reform groups and parent groups today echoed Cuomo’s often-used line that New York spends the most on education than any state, but is 38th in graduation rate, and takes to task “the special interests in New York State (who) have fought successfully to protect the education bureaucracy at the expense of our students.” (Buffalo News)

New York: Report finds lasting graduation rate at city’s small schools
The Bloomberg administration has long touted the small high schools it created as outperforming large schools closed to make way for them. But a new report finds, for the second time, that the schools also post higher graduation rates than other city schools that stayed open. Being randomly selected to attend small high schools opened under the Bloomberg administration made students significantly more likely to graduate, even as the schools got older, according to the report, conducted by researchers at the nonprofit firm MDRC. (Gotham Schools)

Maryland: Alonso’s billion-dollar borrowing pitch
With the support of City council President Bernard “Jack” Young, students and education advocates, Baltimore city schools CEO Andres Alonso headed to Annapolis on Tuesday to make his pitch to state lawmakers for unprecedented borrowing authority, and a committed stream of funding that would allow sweeping facility upgrades to the city’s dilapidated school infrastructure. According to a story today by our City Hall Reporter Julie Scharper, Alonso–who rarely makes a showing in Annapolis–proposed to the Senate’s Budget and Taxation committee that the school system be allowed to borrow $1.2 billion— six times more than the district’s current bonding authority. The schools chief also asked that legislators commit at least $32 million a year to school construction. Scharper points out, “the plan hinges on financial commitments from the state and an increase in the city’s bottle tax — both of which could prove tough sells,” for instance the controversial bottle tax that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will seek this year. (Baltimore Sun)


Henry Levin and Cecilia Rouse: The true cost of high school dropouts
Only 21 states require students to attend high school until they graduate or turn 18. The proposal President Obama announced on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address — to make such attendance compulsory in every state — is a step in the right direction, but it would not go far enough to reduce a dropout rate that imposes a heavy cost on the entire economy, not just on those who fail to obtain a diploma. If we could reduce the current number of dropouts by just half, we would yield almost 700,000 new graduates a year, and it would more than pay for itself. Studies show that the typical high school graduate will obtain higher employment and earnings — an astonishing 50 percent to 100 percent increase in lifetime income — and will be less likely to draw on public money for health care and welfare and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. Further, because of the increased income, the typical graduate will contribute more in tax revenues over his lifetime than if he’d dropped out. When the costs of investment to produce a new graduate are taken into account, there is a return of $1.45 to $3.55 for every dollar of investment, depending upon the educational intervention strategy. Under this estimate, each new graduate confers a net benefit to taxpayers of about $127,000 over the graduate’s lifetime. This is a benefit to the public of nearly $90 billion for each year of success in reducing the number of high school dropouts by 700,000 — or something close to $1 trillion after 11 years. (New York Times)


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