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

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

News & analysis

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvanians can expect heated negotiations over proposed state budget
Millions of Pennsylvanians have a stake in the outcome of the negotiations over the 2012-13 state budget. Colleges, public schools and human service programs face cuts under Gov. Tom Corbett’s spending plan. Lawmakers, even some of Corbett’s fellow Republicans, say some cuts go too far. This sets up heated negotiations in the coming weeks. Last week, the Senate passed a spending plan that offers more money than the governor proposes. Leaders in the state House say they have different priorities on spending. Lawmakers face a governor determined to hold the line on spending. The clock is ticking. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Here’s a look at the key issues in the budget, the arguments for cuts, and why they might or might not happen. (Patriot News)

New Jersey: NJ Senate committee OKs bill extending tuition aid to students born to undocumented immigrants
A state Senate committee approved a bill Monday that would give New Jersey students born in the United States equal access to state tuition assistance for college, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. The bill, S-1760, would reverse a policy that denies tuition grants and in-state college prices to children of illegal immigrants. The legislation would consider a student “domiciled” in New Jersey for eligibility purposes if the student is a U. S. citizen, has lived in the state for at least a year and the student’s parent or guardian provides the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority with recent tax documentation. (Illegal immigrants often have payroll taxes withheld by employers.) The Senate Higher Education Committee approved the bill, co-sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, by a vote of 3-0-1. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for a vote. (The Record)

Maryland: MD special session moves quickly on tax package
Maryland’s General Assembly on Monday raced to approve a package of tax increases on six-figure earners, commercial real estate deals, tobacco products and even death certificates, pleasing unions and advocates for the poor but drawing protests from minority Republicans. The higher taxes — mostly in the form of raised income-tax rates — would add up to hundreds of dollars in new costs annually for Maryland couples reporting combined income above $150,000. For those reporting income above $1 million, the additional annual tab would stretch into the thousands. The tax increases would be retroactive to Jan. 1, meaning current payroll deductions for affluent Marylanders may not cover the tax bills residents will face next year. The Senate appeared poised to give final approval to the tax package Tuesday. Democratic leaders in the House expressed confidence they could send the plan to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Wednesday, despite discontent from some Montgomery County lawmakers, who argued the income tax increase hits their affluent jurisdiction too hard. The quick action stood in stark contrast to the end of the legislature’s regular session last month, when movement on the revenue measures ground to a halt amid brinkmanship over whether to allow a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s County. (WaPo)

Maryland: Baltimore county legislators, parents to ask Dance to put more teachers in high schools
Baltimore County parents and legislators will ask incoming schools Superintendent Dallas Dance to consider putting more teachers in high schools, where class sizes have swelled since positions were eliminated a year ago. Maryland Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said he wants Dance to examine restoring positions at high schools, where hundreds of classes have been dropped, soon after Dance takes over July 1. He said he warned county board members last fall that cuts made to the budget were having a more significant impact in the classroom than predicted. “Now we have documented evidence of the impact,” he said, which he believes could reverse 15 years of progress in the schools. He said there have to be “more intelligent cuts than these” that can be made in the school budget. The school system said last year that it would save $12 million by eliminating 196 teaching positions in the high schools. An analysis of class size data by The Baltimore Sun shows county high schools have dropped about 700 of their 9,200 classes, including 19 Advanced Placement classes. The analysis also showed that while nearly all of the 25 high schools lost teaching positions, officials protected the lowest-performing high schools, where smaller classes were deemed important for struggling students. But that meant the best and brightest students at some of the county’s star high schools have the largest classes. (Baltimore Sun)


Paul Bruno: Why NAEP science scores are good news
The NAEP released the grade 8 science test results for 2011 last week, and I’ve been a little puzzled by the negativity with which they’ve been greeted. For example: “There is no cause for optimism,” Gerry Wheeler, interim director of the National Science Teachers Association wrote in a statement, because “the results show miniscule gains in student achievement.” He lamented that “the majority of our eighth-grade level students still fall below the proficiency level,” calling the scores “simply unacceptable.” I don’t think anybody would deny that we should want our students to be scoring much higher on the NAEP, but we knew that scores were low after the 2009 test administration. The fact that scores are still too low in absolute terms isn’t news, then. And, yes, average scores for all students increased “only” 2 points since 2009. Just as with the 8th grade math and reading scores, however, that “top-line” number is somewhat misleading because demographic shifts can mask substantial improvements for student subgroups. It turns out that since 2009 we’ve seen statistically significant score gains for black students, Hispanic students, students of two or more races, and low-income students.(There were also gains that did not rise to the level of statistical significance for American Indian students, students with disabilities, and English learners.) I obviously would have preferred to see, for instance, our Hispanic students gain even more than 5 points, but exactly how much improvement is it reasonable to expect over a two year period? (Scholastic Administrator)

Mary Pasciak: Enough about Buffalo’s evals — what about the attendance problem?
There’s a whole lot of talk about teacher evaluations and how or if students with poor attendance should count toward a teacher’s evaluation. That would all be a moot point if Buffalo didn’t have such a big attendance problem. But right now, the key players — including Amber Dixon, Phil Rumore and Sam Radford — are focused on the evaluations, not attendance. Yes, the district has a pilot program in place at several schools to boost attendance. Yes, attendance is inching up in a number of schools. And yes, it is still so bad overall that many teachers feel it is unfair to count all students toward a teacher’s evaluation. I was talking recently to an administrator in the district who wondered why the School Board — in all these months that the attendance issue has been such a sticking point — has not decided to take a look at revising its attendance policy to respond to the problems and concerns in the district. A few months ago, when the attendance issue exploded in Buffalo, I reported that countless teachers said student attendance got markedly worse in 2005, when the board eliminated the portion of the policy that said students could not take the final exam if they missed more than 28 days. (“Back when Buffalo had a minimum attendance requirement for students”) Teachers and administrators at the time pointed to the attendance policy change — along with a change in grading policy that required teachers to give students no grade lower than a 50 — for a marked drop in attendance. (School Zone)


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