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

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

News & analysis

House panel takes a look at school choice, parent triggers
Parent trigger laws have gotten a lot of attention lately—and they’re about to get even more when the Hollywood version comes out later this year. So today, the House subcommittee that oversees K-12 education got in on the act, exploring parent triggers, plus long-standing, oft-debated choice options for parents, including charter schools and school vouchers. Notably, the panel, which is lead by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican whose home state of California is one of seven states with parent-trigger laws on the books, didn’t appear to be looking for a federal solution as much as he was seeking to highlight and encourage what he sees as good practices at the state and local level. “The fight to improve our nation’s education system cannot happen in Washington, D.C., alone,” Hunter said. “It is critical states continue to lead the charge by engaging parents and providing options in the local education system.” Read Hunter’s full statement  here. That’s in keeping with the philosophy of the new, more conservative majority in the House of Representatives, which wants to keep the lid on the federal role in education. In fact, Hunter introduced a bill that would scrap the Parent Information Resource Centers, among more than 40 other programs. The program was eventually put back in during committee consideration of the legislation, which never made it to the floor. (Politics K-12)

“Chronically absent” students skew school data, study finds, citing parents’ role
Up to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. They argue that policy makers tend to look at absenteeism in the wrong way, requiring districts and states to measure average daily attendance rates, but — with the exception of a few states — not focusing on the relatively small number of students who account for most absences. They found that some schools report an average of more than 90 percent daily attendance, masking the fact that 40 percent of their students are chronically missing. “We don’t see the problem clearly because, in most places, we don’t measure it, and average daily attendance really skews the way we view this,” said one of the authors, Robert Balfanz, a research professor at the university’s School of Education. Many studies have linked frequent absence to low academic achievement and high dropout rates; recent studies of children in New York, Chicago and other cities suggest that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do. Poor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school. (New York Times)

California: UC regents discuss 6 percent tuition hike for next fall
University of California regents Wednesday discussed the possibility of a 6% tuition increase for next fall but pledged that they would lobby hard to avoid such a $732-per-student hike. With such money worries rippling through the 10-campus system, the regents approved the hiring of a new chancellor for UC San Diego at a $411,084 salary, which is 4.8% higher than his predecessor, Marye Anne Fox. In addition, Pradeep Khosla, now the engineering dean at Carnegie Mellon University, will receive a relocation bonus of nearly $24,700 annually for his first four years. The raise will come from non-state funds and Khosla’s overall package is reportedly less than what he now earns, but some critics said any UC raise is unwarranted in today’s brutal fiscal situation. UC administrators were pleased that Gov. Jerry Brown did not propose any immediate cuts to the university this week although Brown warned that UC could lose $250 million if voters do not approve his proposed tax increases in November. Still, officials said they hoped to persuade Brown and legislators to give UC about $125 million extra to avoid an increase that would cost undergraduates $12,924, not including other campus fees, room and board. Regents are expected to vote on tuition in July. (LA Times)

New York: NY school budgets are approved at high rate
Voters around New York State overwhelmingly approved their school districts’ annual budgets on Tuesday, the first to be delivered under a new cap on property taxes for schools.  Roughly 92 percent of school boards produced budgets that kept tax increases within the cap, which limits the total increase in tax dollars that can be collected annually by a school district. The cap varies from district to district but averaged 2.3 percent statewide. In those cases, a simple majority of voters had to approve the budget, and 99 percent of them passed, according to the New York State School Boards Association. In a preliminary tally, school boards in 48 of the state’s roughly 675 public-school districts wanted to exceed the cap, requiring a 60 percent supermajority for approval. It appeared that 29 of those budgets, just over 60 percent, passed. School officials said Wednesday that the election results reflected extremely tight budgets and the degree to which most districts cut staff and dipped into reserve funds rather than exceed the cap, which was enacted last year in response to complaints about soaring tax bills. The officials cautioned that it would grow progressively more difficult for districts to stay under the cap without more substantial cuts to educational programs. But in its first year, the new system seemed to hold down school tax increases without producing major disruption to operations, school officials said. (New York Times)


Sara Mead interviews Ama Nyamekye, Executive Director of Los Angeles E4E
Last year, this series profiled Educators for Excellence founders Evan Stone and Sydney Morris, who launched Educators for Excellence in New York City and state to engage teachers in education policy issues and provide a platform for teacher voices to be heard by policymakers and the media–with the ultimate goal of elevating the profession and ensuring that teacher expertise informs smart education policy choices. Late last year Educators for Excellence expanded to Los Angeles, under the leadership of Ama Nyamekye. In its first several months in operation, E4E Los Angeles has built a membership base of more than 450 teachers and helped to author an amicus brief urging California courts to protect schools from seniority-based layoffs. Prior to joining E4E, Nyamekye, 31, began her career at an education nonprofit serving incarcerated young men and women and taught English in the New York City Public Schools through the New York City Teaching Fellows program. She has also worked for a global communications firm and consulted with a variety of education reform organizations. (Policy Notebook)

Tracey Dann: 100%
My children have a skill we refer to in our family as selective hearing. They can hear the creak of the oven door from three blocks away if I am pulling out a pan of cookies, but if I look them in the eye and tell them to go clean their room – somehow it doesn’t register. One of the first things I learned from the teachers at Blackstone Valley Prep is that selective hearing can also be used, not just by my children, but as a parenting skill. There are words I turn a deaf ear to every day. At the top of the list are “But Mom” and “I can’t.” As much as it is counterintuitive, sometimes I give my children their best opportunities when I stop listening to their excuses. In one sense, the job of our state’s lawmakers, our Board of Regents, our school committees and our school administrators is the same as that of our mothers and teachers. Rhode Island needs a “No Excuses” attitude when it comes to education. Instead, we must show our children what they can do and watch as they use the knowledge we give them to grow faster and brighter than we ever imagined. Even on the small scale of Blackstone Valley Prep, the “No Excuses” environment is intimidating. But after two years as I parent I can attest to the tremendous positive effect it has had on my children and in our home. Teachers make themselves available by phone every night until 9pm and in person for various “opportunity day” events conducted on Saturday mornings throughout the year. They make home visits each year in order to assess each situation a student faces; broken homes, non-english speaking families, poverty, illness, special needs, etc. Together with the student and guardian they look at each “I can’t” in a child’s life and say “Yes, we can.” (RI-CAN Blog)


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