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: Source: Last-minute deal on teacher evaluation system at hand
A last-minute deal on a new state teacher evaluation system may be at hand to meet Gov. Cuomo’s Thursday deadline. The Daily News learned late Wednesday afternoon that an agreement between the state Education Department and the state teachers union “is pretty well locked down.” “There are one or two minor things outstanding, but nothing that’s going to break this up,” said one source. While a pact is expected to be announced Thursday, a source warned: “Until it’s done, nothing is done.” In a major twist, once-deadlocked negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the city teachers union on a separate — but related — deal were picking up pace. “A deal (Thursday) is possible,” another source said. Cuomo has intervened in the talks because they had become “toxic,” his chief of staff said Wednesday. The governor is said to want to announce a city deal at the same time as the potential state agreement Thursday. (Daily News)

New York: With state evals said to be set, all eyes turn to city’s talks
All eyes are on Albany today, the deadline Gov. Andrew Cuomo set last month for an agreement on new teacher evaluations. The deadline is for the state teachers union, NYSUT, to set aside its lawsuit over the evaluations and reach an agreement with the State Education Department over how new evaluations should be structured. The word on the street — and in the Capitol parking lot, which Cuomo exited early Wednesday — is that SED and NYSUT appear nearly assured of meeting that deadline. But the specifics of an agreement remain opaque. Last spring, NYSUT had sued over Cuomo’s bid to increase the weight test scores play in the evaluations. Now, attention among the governor’s staff has turned to the city’s own evaluations impasse. Just a month ago, Cuomo gave the city a year to resolve its conflicts, which have focused on the appeals process for teachers who receive low ratings. But he seems eager to be able to announce a statewide sweep of teacher evaluation deals. Whether a sweep is in Cuomo’s grasp remains unclear. (Gotham Schools)

New Mexico: State granted NCLB waiver
New Mexico has been granted a waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act, federal officials announced today, less than a week after the state was the only first-round applicant for flexibility under the law to have been denied that request. In one sense, the announcement making New Mexico the 11th state to receive a waiver should not come as a major surprise. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had said last week that New Mexico was “very, very close” to securing a waiver, at the time he announced that the other 10 had been given that flexibility. Duncan was guarded about which aspects of the state’s plan needed work, but New Mexico officials evidently have met those standards. (Politics K-12)

Minnesota: Grant to expand services for parenting college students
Federal funds will help pay for special support centers for pregnant or parenting students at 11 Minnesota colleges and universities. The Minnesota Department of Health is distributing the $2.7 million to nine colleges that will set up new student-parent help centers and two colleges that will expand their services. Elizabeth Gardner, the Minnesota Department of Health’s student parents grant coordinator, said the centers are especially important because about a third of students at Minnesota’s two-year colleges are single parents. “We know that there are multiple demands on single parents, and we know that when a single parent is enrolled in an institution of higher ed, they are balancing a lot of responsibility: the schoolwork, perhaps a part-time job or a full-time job and then all the care-taking responsibilities,” Gardner said. (MPR)


New York Post: Day of Reckoning
All eyes will be on Gov. Cuomo today to see if he’ll finally, once and for all, follow through on his promise to ensure that teachers in the state are held accountable for the job they do in the classroom. Or whether he’ll flinch — and give them a pass. Unless Cuomo manages to put in place some kind of ironclad, statewide protocol that allows teachers to be graded based in large measure on student performance, the entire exercise will have been pointless. Nobody said that standing up to the unions would be easy: They own the Legislature — lock, stock and leadership. But what’s the point of seven-in-10 approval if you’re unwilling to spend a little capital on a matter of principle? And Cuomo surely understands the problem: “We have to realize that our schools are not an employment program,” he has said. “It is this simple: It is not about the adults; it is about the children.” (New York Post)

Nicholas Kristof: The New Haven experiment
One of America’s greatest challenges in the coming years will be to turn around troubled schools, especially in inner cities. It’s the civil rights issue of our age, and teachers’ unions have mostly been an exasperating obstacle. Yet reformers like myself face a conundrum. Teachers’ unions are here to stay, and the only way to achieve systematic improvement is with their buy-in. Moreover, the United States critically needs to attract talented young people into teaching. And that’s less likely when we’re whacking teachers’ unions in ways that leave many teachers feeling insulted and demoralized. The breakthrough experiment in New Haven offers a glimpse of an education future that is less rancorous. It’s a tribute to the savvy of Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and as shrewd a union leader as any I’ve seen. She realized that the unions were alienating their allies, and she is trying to change the narrative. (New York Times)

Beyond SATs, finding success in numbers
In 1988, Deborah Bial was working in a New York City after-school program when she ran into a former student, Lamont. He was a smart kid, a successful student who had won a scholarship to an elite college. But it hadn’t worked out, and now he was back home in the Bronx. “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me,” he told her. The next year Bial started the Posse Foundation. From her work with students around the city, she chose five New York City high school students who were clearly leaders — dynamic, intelligent, creative, resilient — but who might not have had the SAT scores to get into good schools. Vanderbilt University was willing to admit them all, tuition-free.  The students met regularly in their senior year of high school, through the summer, and at college. Surrounded by their posse, they all thrived. Most Posse Scholars would not have qualified for their colleges by the normal criteria. Posse Scholars’ median combined SAT score is only 1056, while the median combined score at the colleges Posse students attend varies from 1210 to 1475. Nevertheless, they succeed. Ninety percent of Posse Scholars graduate — half of them on the dean’s list and a quarter with academic honors. A survey (pdf) of 20 years of alumni found that nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they had founded or led groups or clubs. There are only 40 Posse Scholars among Bryn Mawr’s 1,300 students, but a Posse student has won the school’s best all-around student award three times in the past seven years. Posse is changing the way universities look at qualifications for college, and what makes for college success. (New York Times)

Eric Nadelstern: Teachers’ peer review will strengthen profession
Education is leadership development, plain and simple. In the best schools, we’re preparing students to exercise leadership over their lives, in their families and communities, and for our society. The goal must be to provide each youngster with the leadership skills required to become full participants in the political and economic life of the nation. However, you can’t empower kids until you’ve empowered their teachers to exercise leadership in classrooms, and extend their leadership to matters of curriculum, instruction and assessment. We expect those in other professions, like law and medicine, to assess one anothers’ work with the time-honored idea of peer reviews; why not encourage this with teachers, too? A quarter of a century ago, my faculty and I developed a system of peer review that included renewable tenure at the first International High School at La Guardia Community College. It was sanctioned by both the Board of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, but we were cautioned not to share what we were doing with other schools. Presumably, both the central office and the union did not trust teachers to evaluate their colleagues. Every teacher prepared a portfolio of their accomplishments on an annual basis and presented the contents, including student performance results, before a panel of their peers. The panels would decide important matters, like the granting of tenure and continued service after tenure, and on several occasions separated both tenured and untenured teachers from our school. More importantly, this process led to significant professional growth for all who participated. (School Book)


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