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

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

News & analysis

Obama announces education initiatives at White House science fair
President Obama for a second time converted the White House public rooms into a science fair on Tuesday, and announced new federal and private-sector initiatives to encourage “a nation of tinkerers and dreamers” in so-called STEM education in science, technology, engineering and math. According to a White House summary, in his annual federal budget request next week, Mr. Obama will seek to dedicate $80 million for the Education Department to a $100 million competition – more than $20 million will come from corporations and foundations led by Carnegie Corporation – to support programs to prepare teachers in science, technology, engineering and math, including programs allowing students to simultaneously earn a degree in their subject and a teaching certificate. The administration had previously set a goal of 100,000 additional math and science teachers and one million more graduates over the next decade. “This is a goal we can achieve,” Mr. Obama said in remarks to the audience of more than 100 students from 45 states, business leaders and science educators, including “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” former host of a popular program on educational television. (New York Times)

New York: Bloomberg poll: Like the ideas, not the messenger
This Wednesday morning brings bad reviews for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on his legacy issue: his handling of the New York City public schools. A Quinnipiac University poll that was embargoed until early Wednesday found that New York City voters strongly disapprove of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s handling of the public schools, and are much more likely to trust the teachers’ union than the mayor to advocate for students, David Chen writes in City Room. While the voters expressed support for Mr. Bloomberg’s overall policies by 46-44 percent, they gave a thumbs down to his performance on educational issues. (School Book)

New York: Parent group backs Cuomo’s teacher evaluation plan
The District Parent Coordinating Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution in support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s education reform agenda, which emphasizes requiring school districts to implement new evaluations that tie teacher ratings to student achievement. “If we don’t back up the governor’s change, what do you think happens the day after tomorrow? We go back to the same old,” said Samuel L. Radford III, the vocal leader of the parent group. “Whose kids pay for that? Ours.” (Buffalo News)

New York: Appeals court weighs teacher ruling
The court battle over teacher evaluations between the state Education Department and New York State United Teachers continued Tuesday, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat that it must be resolved next week. Both sides presented oral arguments in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. A decision could be two months away despite the “shot clock” Cuomo set last month. The court battle over teacher evaluations between the state Education Department and New York State United Teachers continued Tuesday, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat that it must be resolved next week. Both sides presented oral arguments in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. A decision could be two months away despite the “shot clock” Cuomo set last month. (Times Union)

Maryland: Large number of city teachers receive unsatisfactory evaluations
A significant number of Baltimore teachers — in some schools as many as 60 percent of the staff — have received unsatisfactory ratings on their midyear evaluations as the system moves to implement a pay-for-performance contract that’s considered a bellwether for a national movement. Teachers contend that the high number of “performance improvement plans,” which can be a precursor for dismissal, is an attempt to avoid paying raises. But city school officials say that putting teachers on such plans is part of broader efforts to help them become more effective in the classroom. (Baltimore Sun)

Minnesota: MPS marshals help for families filling out FAFSA
Last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Minneapolis’ South High School to talk to seniors about the newly simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. South’s overachievers were polite, but steered the conversation to hard-core policy questions. Your Humble Blogger was so blown away by their collective poise and quick wits that she completely forgot to report on the other local news angle of the day: In an effort to increase the number of high-school grads who complete the form, Minneapolis Public Schools has declared this month FAFSA February. Every MPS high school has a Career and College Center, which South’s policy bird-doggers have clearly been patronizing. But most kids can’t complete the forms themselves, and the sad reality is that lots of them come from homes where college is too quickly presumed out of the financial picture. So the district is sweetening the pot by holding a series of events where families can get help filling out the FAFSA and completing their income taxes. (Learning Curve)

Minnesota: State integration task force adopts plan to close achievement gap
A bipartisan task force approved a plan Tuesday that begins to spell out how Minnesota schools can better spend $108 million in funds to integrate schools and close the ever-widening achievement gap. Among the task force’s recommendations: giving the state Department of Education power to withhold integration funds if a school can’t show it’s making progress boosting student achievement, providing better access to college readiness programs for low-income students, and creating incentives for school districts that reduce racial disparities through voluntary school choice programs. The task force did not recommend specific changes to the program’s funding formula, which currently pays out the most dollars to Minneapolis and St. Paul schools. (Star Tribune)

Rhode Island: Q&A with Debroah Gist: Involving teachers in evaluation policy
Deborah Gist, Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, has implemented some major reforms since assuming her role in 2009. She has raised the score required to pass teacher-certification tests and allowed a superintendent to fire all of the teachers at a school that was resisting reforms. Perhaps most notably, she has overseen the implementation of a new teacher-evaluation system. The Hechinger Report recently interviewed Gist about her state’s new approach to evaluating teachers. (Hechinger Report)


Tim Daly and Kati Haycock: Give school districts a tough deadline
Two years ago, New York State’s legislators passed a law requiring districts and teachers unions to replace outdated evaluations that rate nearly all teachers “satisfactory” and fail to provide the feedback and support educators deserve. It was the right thing to do. Rigorous evaluations tied in part to student learning, as measured through test score gains, are crucial to helping more teachers succeed — and as decades of research have shown, when teachers succeed, students succeed, too. The only real solution is to amend the current law to give districts a clear deadline. Districts should have 90 days to negotiate their own evaluation systems that meet rigorous state guidelines. If they can’t, the law should require them to adopt a system designed by the state. Whichever option they choose, they should be required to begin implementing it by the start of the 2013 school year. (Daily News)

Chris Tessone: Surviving Pennsylvania’s school aid cuts
This afternoon, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is set to announce his budget for the next fiscal year, and the proposal is being described as “dramatic” and “difficult.” Flat state aid for K-12 schools is the best situation expected—many observers expect further cuts on top of last year’s regressive reductions in state aid. Districts—especially poorer ones that rely heavily on state funding—are faced with a serious challenge to make ends meet. Chester Upland School District has shown what not to do: pretend extra money will appear out of thin air. After spending as if last year’s state aid reductions never happened, the district is on the brink of bankruptcy. School boards, superintendents, and union leaders in other Pennsylvania districts have a responsibility to make their budgets work without dragging their schools to the brink. Pennsylvania’s lawmakers bear some responsibility—and blame—here as well, however. How they allocate the cuts needed to balance the state’s budget have a real impact on kids, especially those in disadvantaged communities. The Keystone State’s legislators ought to ensure that wealthier communities bear the brunt of any cuts in state aid, since they have a more robust local tax base and rely less on dollars from Harrisburg. (Flypaper)


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