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

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

News & analysis

“Creative … motivating” and fired
By the end of her second year at MacFarland Middle School, fifth-grade teacher Sarah Wysocki was coming into her own. “It is a pleasure to visit a classroom in which the elements of sound teaching, motivated students and a positive learning environment are so effectively combined,” Assistant Principal Kennard Branch wrote in her May 2011 evaluation. Other observations of her classroom that year yielded good ratings. Two months later, she was fired. Wysocki, 31, was let go because the reading and math scores of her students didn’t grow as predicted. Her undoing was “value-added,” a complex statistical tool used to measure a teacher’s direct contribution to test results. Kamras said the disconnect between the observations of Wysocki’s classroom and her value-added scores was “quite rare.” Most teachers with poor ratings in one area, he said, are also substandard in the other. “It doesn’t necessarily suggest that anything wrong happened,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just not possible to know for sure.” Wysocki said there is another possible explanation: Many students arrived at her class in August 2010 after receiving inflated test scores in fourth grade. Fourteen of her 25 students had attended Barnard Elementary. The school is one of 41 in which publishers of the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests found unusually high numbers of answer sheet erasures in spring 2010, with wrong answers changed to right. Twenty-nine percent of Barnard’s 2010 fourth-graders scored at the advanced level in reading, about five times the District average. (WaPo)

Teachers’ survey: Job satisfaction, security take a dive
After a year that brought budget cuts, booming class sizes, radical hiring changes and governors who curtailed collective-bargaining rights, teachers’ job satisfaction is at a two-decade low, according to a new survey released Wednesday. According to the “MetLife Survey of the American Teacher,” a long-running survey of educators, parents and students, teachers’ job satisfaction has decreased by 15 points since the survey assessed the issue in 2009. Forty-four percent of teachers reported they were very satisfied, the lowest rate MetLife has seen in 20 years. According to the survey, more teachers feel their jobs are not secure: That rate ballooned from 8 percent in 2006 to 34 percent in a post-recession world. And over the last two years, the percentage of teachers who are considering leaving the field increased by 12 points, to 29 percent. “The results are not at all surprising given the context within which teachers have been working for the last couple of years,” said Kevin Welner, a University of Colorado, Boulder education professor. “Teacher bashing has been so undermining of the profession that it’s sapping the appeal out of the career choice.” “The criticism [of unions] is sloshing over to teachers in general,” said Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia University, Teachers College. “Governors, state leaders, federal leaders … need to make clear how important this job is, even though there are problems.” (HuffPo)

Rhode Island: Does RI have a shortage of AP classes?
The State Senate has just approved a bill that calls for more teachers to train for Advanced Placement courses. The bill, sponsored by Senator Hannah Gallo, directs the State Department of Education to provide the training with funding from the General Assembly. The program would focus on teachers from schools that do not currently offer at least one AP class in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. In a statement, Senator Gallo says all students should have equal access to AP courses, which she credits with challenging students and providing important critical thinking skills. (Elisabeth Harrison)

New York: Cuomo creates site to track evaluation progress
Want to see if New York state school districts are literally checking the right boxes on new teacher evaluations? The Empire State has you covered. The website, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, allows parents and others to follow the progress of districts in hashing out the new evaluations, in the wake of the Feb. 16 agreement on the basic shape of those evaluations between the state education department and the state teachers union, New York State United Teachers. (State EdWatch)

New York: Teacher group says principal evals should count attrition, discipline
Principals are already evaluated on test scores, parent and teacher surveys, and their compliance with an array of policies. But their performance should also be assessed on new measures, including teacher retention and the number of students suspensions under their watch. Those are key recommendations being published today in a new paper by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. A policy team of 18 public and charter school teachers reviewed research, examined current policies, and surveyed 197 colleagues to reach their conclusions, which will be discussed tonight at a panel on principal evaluations. The paper, called “Principals Matter: Principal Evaluations from a Teacher’s Perspective,” seeks to emphasize the teacher’s point of view on the issue. That includes the proposal that principals “be given credit” when effective teachers stay at their schools. In a city where half of all teachers leave the profession after five years, the paper concludes that “effective teacher retention data can illustrate a principal’s ability to support teachers and should be one component of a principal evaluation system.” The paper also recommends that student suspensions should be considered when measuring a principal’s success at developing a safe and culturally responsive environment. (Gotham Schools)

New York: Cuomo and Republicans quiet so far on tuition aid for undocumented immigrants
With immigration still a contentious issue around the country, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Republican lawmakers have maintained a noticeable distance from New York State proposals that would make financial aid available to illegal immigrants at colleges and universities. Advocates for the so-called Dream Act have the backing of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who said at a recent budget hearing that maintaining a system in which illegal immigrants cannot gain access to scholarship aid “is just asking us to continually have a group of people who can’t share in the American dream.” But thus far the advocates have been unable to win public support from Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has generally been supportive of immigrants but who faces the possibility that his position could reverberate if he runs for president in 2016. Mr. Cuomo’s spokesman would say only that the governor was studying the legislation. Advocates for the legislation are also hoping to win support from at least some Republican lawmakers, as party leaders have increasingly promoted their outreach to the state’s fast-growing Hispanic population. But Republicans have so far issued only cautionary statements about the Dream Act. (New York Times)

Minnesota: House GOP plans to tap budget reserve to reduce k12 shift
Republicans in the Minnesota House are proposing to tap two thirds of the state’s budget reserve to pay back a portion of a K12 school shift they used to balance the budget in 2011. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, says the measure is part of a K12 bill that will be heard in committee tomorrow. He said paying back schools with $430 million from the state’s budget reserve is a better use of the money. “If you look at accounting principles, it’s better to reduce your debt and reduce your liabilities than to have that cash sitting around,” Garofalo said. A nonpartisan budget analyst in the House said the proposal could force the state to enact short-term borrowing to meet cash flow needs. DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen says they’re open to the option but would prefer Republicans find a way to pay the entire $2.4 billion shift back. “This is one way to do it and I think it deserves consideration,” Thissen said. “But I also think we ought to be putting a plan in place that is paying back the school shift over time and getting that into law.” (MPR)

Illinois: Teacher retention up, but scores flat, under Chicago reform project
The Chicago Teacher Advancement Program increased mentoring and improved teacher-retention rates in some participating schools compared with a similar, nonparticipating set—but didn’t appear to raise student achievement, according to a study released today by Mathematica Policy Research. It is the final report on the Chicago TAP program, looking at all four years of the program’s implementation in the Windy City. “Chicago TAP was only partially successful in achieving its goals,” researchers Allison Siefullah and Steven Glazerman conclude. “The program can be credited with improved retention outcomes for some of its schools, but it did not have a noticeable positive impact on student achievement over the four-year rollout in Chicago.” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the head of Chicago schools when the district applied for the Teacher Incentive Fund grant that financed the program. (Teacher Beat)


Wendy Kopp: The trouble with humiliating teachers
When I dropped my kids off at school last week, I had a hard time looking their teachers in the eye. The New York City government had just posted their performance assessments online, and though I’m a strong supporter of teacher accountability and effectiveness, I was baffled and embarrassed by the decision. So-called value-added rankings—which rank teachers according to the recorded growth in their students’ test scores—are an important indicator of teacher effectiveness, but making them public is counterproductive to helping teachers improve. Doing so doesn’t help teachers feel safe and respected, which is necessary if they are going to provide our kids with the positive energy and environment we all hope for. The release of the rankings (which follows a similar release last year in Los Angeles) is based on a misconception that “fixing” teachers is the solution to all that ails our education system. No single silver bullet will close our educational achievement gaps—not charter schools, or vouchers, or providing every child with a computer, or improving teachers. Each of these solutions may have merit as part of a larger strategy, but on their own they distract attention from the long, hard work required to ensure that our schools are high-performing, mission-driven organizations with strong teams, strong cultures and strong results. (WSJ)


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