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

Happy New Year! Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

New York: Governor Cuomo to announce new education commission
Governor Andrew Cuomo will be pushing for big school reforms in his State of the State address on Wednesday. Sources say Cuomo will announce a commission to look at education from a “student perspective,” and the panel is expected to include outside experts. (NY1)

New York: Teacher evaluation effort derails
Plans for a new teacher rating system for New York City schools that would include measures of student performance—a hallmark of national education reform efforts—were dealt a setback on Friday after negotiations broke down between the city and the teachers union. The failure to reach an agreement before a year-end deadline had an immediate, if minimal, effect: The state suspended a program to funnel nearly $60 million in federal funds to the city to improve a small number of troubled schools. The money represents less than 0.3% of the Department of Education’s annual budget. More broadly, however, the breakdown suggests a stalemate over implementing new teacher evaluations for the entire city school system, a state requirement that’s also one of the most ambitious items on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s schools agenda. In addition, including student performance in teacher evaluations is a key component of President Barack Obama’s education policies. (WSJ)

Minnesota: Majority of MN schools without teacher unions contracts
More than 200 Minnesota school districts remain without teacher contracts, significantly more than two years ago, and there’s no longer a state-imposed Jan. 15 deadline to penalize those that don’t reach agreements. The 2011 Legislature dropped the financial penalty that hung over the heads of negotiators for most two-year bargaining cycles since 1989. Minneapolis lost about $800,000 when it was one of 24 districts to miss the Jan. 15 deadline in 2010. According to Education Minnesota’s count, about 100 of 331 districts have agreed to contracts with teachers. That compares with 126 districts at this point in the 2009-11 contract cycle, with most of the rest settling within the next two weeks. But the financial incentive to settle quickly is gone now. (Star Tribune)

Maryland: Three city schools to extend day by three hours
Three Baltimore schools have extended their school day by three hours, using a national program that has boosted achievement in other urban districts and has been hailed as a way to make American students competitive in the 21st century. Hilton Elementary, George Washington Elementary and Harlem Park Elementary/Middle will join a handful of schools in New York and New Orleans implementing the ExpandED Schools program, a public-private initiative of The After-School Corp. that provides schools with additional instructional time via partnerships with community organizations. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: School segregation case goes to trial
More than a half-century after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public education, a court will decide if Maryland is doing enough to support the state’s historically black public colleges and universities. A lawsuit brought by a group largely made up of students and alumni from these schools, and headed to trial Tuesday in a Baltimore federal court, accuses the state of repeatedly failing to fulfill promises to desegregate the schools. The group claims the state’s higher education commission devoted millions of dollars over decades to “traditionally white institutions” that offer educational programs duplicating those from the black colleges. The overlapping offerings have made it difficult for the black schools, whose facilities often aren’t as up to date as the white schools’, to recruit and retain the best students and faculty members, the plaintiffs say. (WSJ)

North Carolina: NC wants grant to expand student tracking from infancy to adulthood
A new federal grant will expand North Carolina’s digital record-keeping of student academic histories, beginning in infancy for some children. About $9 million of the $70 million Race to the Top grant the Education Department recently awarded North Carolina will be used to expand to track the progress of younger children. Tracking already is done in a 2-year-old database covering more than 1.5 million public school students between kindergarten and 12th grade. Teachers also are recorded with unique identification numbers so their performance can be tracked. Four-year-olds enrolled in a state pre-kindergarten program were tracked previously. State education officials have applied for a $4 million grant that would increase the ability to track student performance into their university or community college careers, and even follow students when they enter the work force after leaving school. (Winston-Salem Journal)


Joe Nocera: The Central Falls Success
Central Falls, though, also has one of the most promising reading experiments in the country. The Learning Community, a local charter school, and the Central Falls public elementary schools have joined forces in a collaboration that has resulted in dramatic improvements in the reading scores of the public schoolchildren from kindergarten to grade 2. Given the mistrust of charter schools by public schoolteachers, creating this collaboration was no small feat. And while the city’s bankruptcy now threatens it, the Central Falls experiment not only needs to be preserved, it should be replicated across the country. I haven’t seen anything that makes more sense. (New York Times)

Andrew Rotherham is skeptical of Nocera’s column
In November NYT columnist Joe Nocera wrote a column about the Steve Brill book that took the trite party line on charter schools – they can’t scale etc…and the trite union line – it’s all about collaboration.  Some truth to both claims but both issues are also, of course, much more complicated.  Today he’s back with a column going hard the other way – touting a charter school in Rhode Island and a reading initiative launched in tandem with the local school district (none other than Central Falls, btw).  I  haven’t visited this school but when I look at the data it looks to be trailing state averages in math and reading? Today’s column touts dramatic gains in reading in grades k-2 as a result of this initiative, and the state only reports the data in grades 3 onward so perhaps…but what measures are being used her to cite “dramatic” gains? Anyone know what’s up? (Eduwonk)



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