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

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

News & analysis

Principals, superintendents, school boards critique Kline’s draft bill
Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, is expected to put a formal version of his draft bill rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka the No Child Left Behind Act) very soon. But so far, the bill has been met mostly with criticism, including from civil rights and business groups and the National Education Association. So Kline must have been pretty happy when he got this largely supportive letter from a whole bunch of groups representing practioners, including the American Association of School Administrators, the Association of Education Service Agencies, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, the National Rural Education Association, and the National School Boards Association. The groups support further action on the draft, but have stopped short of actually endorsing it, which is a very Washington-ish thing to do. It generally means that folks have found much to like in a particular piece of legislation, but still have some major concerns that they want to see addressed before they pledge full support. (Politics K-12)

Congressman worry about draft pension rules’ effect on charters
Charter school advocates are upset about the prospect of pension rule changes that they fear would bar them from participating in state pension plans, and today, members of Congress echoed those concerns in a letter written to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who chairs the House education committee, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the subcommittee on early childhood, elementary and secondary education, told IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman that regulations in the works could “unfairly jeopardize the retirement security of charter school teachers. [U]nder the new test articulated in the draft regulations, these teachers could be prohibited from participating in state retirement systems,” they write. “The draft notice could effectively prevent many public charter schools from recruiting or retaining veteran traditional public school teachers, significantly interfering with charter schools’ ability to achieve their educational goals.” (Politics K-12)

New York: Wide approval for Cuomo’s plan to link school aid to evals
Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers approve of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s carrot-and-stick approach to getting new teacher evaluations in place, according to poll results released today. Last month, Cuomo vowed to withhold increases in state school aid to districts that do not settle in short order on new teacher evaluations that take test scores into account. The poll, conducted last week by the Siena Research Institute, asked respondents, “Do you support or oppose the Governor’s plan to link school aid increases to the implementation of an enhanced teacher evaluation process?” Seventy-one percent said they support that plan. (The poll of 807 registered voters had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.) The support was evenly split between respondents in New York City and the rest of the state and was especially high among black New Yorkers (77 percent) and young people between 18 and 34 (78 percent). Households with union members (61 percent) and Jews (63 percent) supported Cuomo’s plan least often, but even they stood by it in large numbers. (Gotham Schools)

Rhode Island: Central Falls mails teacher layoff notices
Central Falls school administrators have put 71 teachers on notice: they may not have jobs in September because of budget constraints.The tiny district is facing the loss of nearly $2 million in state aid, contributing to a structural deficit that the state has estimated at $5.6 million. Central Falls is also waiting for a bankruptcy judge to rule as to whether school officials or a receiver for the city can negotiate a new teacher contract. (Elisabeth Harrison)

Maryland: School officials worry about overwhelming students, schools with tests
The 2013-2014 school year may seem like a long way off, but state school officials are already fretting over a perfect storm of education reforms that could make today’s extensive state testing regimen seem like a snap. That’s the year when students could take as many as five state-mandated tests, on top of their teachers’ occasional pop quizzes and the tests given several times each year by the local school systems. While the Maryland School Assessment will be phased out, those tests will still overlap with a new battery of four new assessments to be field tested here and in 23 states. “We are going to have students sitting in testing situations for weeks on end” if all of them are given, said interim state schools Superintendent Bernard Sadusky. Parents and educators have raised concerns about the potential strain on children and teachers alike, and some officials have questioned whether schools have the technology to administer all of the tests online. (Baltimore Sun)


Pedro Noguera: Why I resigned from the SUNY board of trustees
Whether it was intended or not, in many cases charter schools are contributing to a more inequitable educational playing field. I still believe that there is a lot that educators in traditional public schools can and should learn from the charter schools. I am unsympathetic toward educators who tolerate chaos and disorder in their schools, and who refuse to accept any responsibility for the under-performance of the students they serve. KIPP schools are often better managed and frequently get better results. Schools like Excellence for Boys and La Cima in Bedford Stuyvesant are obtaining impressive results with children who more often than not fail to achieve in traditional public schools. And despite the controversies raised by co-location, the Success Academies are providing the children they serve with extraordinary learning opportunities. Only the most ideological and close-minded partisan would dismiss the accomplishments of these schools simply because they are charters. Parents who want the best for their children certainly do not. The real problem in New York is the absence of leadership. Our elected officials are watching as communities fight each other over the placement of charter schools and they are silent as the interests of children are ignored. Resigning from the Board of Trustees will not solve this problem, but I do hope my action will prod those who have been entrusted to lead to reflect on what they can do to resolve the conflicts that are paralyzing our schools and polarizing our communities. (School Book)

Karin Chenoweth: Principals matter: School leaders can drive student learning
Last week, Stanford’s Eric Hanushek — who conducted many of the early economic analyses on teacher impact — presented a new research paper at a conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research. The findings show, in his words, that “principals matter.” How much they matter to kids still needs further study and depends on how you run the analysis. Do you control for the kind of schools principals lead? Do you control for how long they’ve been working in the school? On and on the methodological questions run, but no matter how Hanushek examined the numbers, he found that principals demonstrably affected student achievement. In some ways, Hanushek is not saying anything new. Others, including Ken Leithwood at the University of Toronto, have shown this in large-scale studies, too. But education professors are easily and often ignored by policy makers. Hanushek is harder to disregard because his body of research is so intertwined with current policy discussions, particularly on teacher impact. (HuffPo)

Laura Klein: Everyday failures, but a narrative of success
You get comfortable with failure when you are a teacher. Not complacent about failing, but comfortable with the reality that each day will include some failure, as well as some success. This week felt like a success in some important ways. Students thrived, revealing themselves in the choices that they made, and showing me what they were capable of when left to their own devices and their own definitions of success. Still, there were a hundred moments when I felt like I was failing, not doing enough, not doing it right. Sprinkled in with any success is always doubt about what I could have done better, and where we are heading in the long run. I keep a yellow folder in my desk from year to year. It contains about 60 papers from each year that I have taught: 30 papers from the first week of each year, when they create their first writing sample, and 30 from June, when they create their last. The growth evident in these samples makes me glow — seeing a child evolve from a point where they wrote papers with no punctuation or paragraphs, no sense of direction, to a point where they can organize their thoughts enough to convey them effectively. They have learned to communicate — a skill that, once mastered, they will always have. (School Book)

Kathleen Porter-Magee: Teach Like a Champion versus the Common Core: Do pre-reading activities help or hurt struggling students?
The difference may be small, but its impact may be significant. What Lemov saw in his best teachers could amount to “spoon feeding” answers to students. It might let kids off the hook by putting most of the heavy lifting of reading on the teacher’s shoulders. And it could be one factor that contributes to the ongoing struggle that gap-closing schools have in helping their students learn the kinds of life-long independent reading and analysis skills they will need to be ready for the rigor and demands of college and beyond. Of course, the challenge these schools have is real. As I mentioned in a previous post, gap-closing schools have to maximize every moment because every moment wasted simply adds to the already significant achievement gap between rich and poor. But, in reading class, have schools gone too far in their quest for efficiency and not left the space for students to learn the persistence they will need to do the kinds of analysis that will be required of them in the years ahead? There is no easy answer—and there is no one right answer. But how schools approach these and other strategic questions in the months and years will go a long way towards determining the long-term impact of Common Core. (Common Core Watch)


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