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

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

News & analysis

Growing gaps bring focus on poverty’s role in schooling
The fractious debate over how much schools can counteract poverty’s impact on children is far from settled, but a recently published collection of research strongly suggests that until policymakers and educators confront deepening economic and social disparities, poor children will increasingly miss out on finding a path to upward social mobility. The achievement gap between poor children and rich children has grown significantly over the past three decades and is now nearly twice as large as the black-white gap, according to Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. He examined data on family income and student scores on standardized tests in reading and math spanning 1960 to 2007. As the income gap has grown, so too has the disparity in how much money and time affluent parents invest in the development of their young children compared with such efforts by low-income parents. For example, between birth and age 6, children from high-income families now spend an average of 1,300 more hours in “novel” places outside their homes, schools, and day-care centers than children from poor families, a trend documented by Meredith Phillips, an associate professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. (Ed Week)

Former Ed Secretary Margaret Spellings is Romney advisor
There’s a familiar face among the roster of those advising Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign: Former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, the chief architect of the No Child Left Behind Act. Phil Handy, one of three co-chairs for Romney’s education team confirmed Spellings’ involvement today. Spellings is serving as a volunteer for the Republican hopeful’s campaign, which means she’s working with Handy, the former chairman of the Florida state board under then-Gov. Jeb Bush; Nina Rees, who led the U.S. Department of Education’s office of innovation and improvement under President George W. Bush; and Marty West, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Spellings’ day job is still working as a senior adviser to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on education issues. And she’s also the president and CEO of Margaret Spellings and Company, a public policy consulting firm in Washington. (Politics K-12)

Teacher job satisfaction takes huge drop, according to study
The fact that there’s been a record decline in the percentage of teachers who say they are satisfied with their jobs is worrisome — but perhaps not surprising. The new MetLife Survey of the American Teacher – the result of telephone interviews with over a thousand teachers across the country  – found just 44 percent of them were satisfied with their jobs, compared with 59 percent in 2009. That 15-percentage slide represents a record drop and takes teacher satisfaction to its lowest level in 20 years. At the same time, the percentage of teachers who said they were likely to leave their jobs in the next five years jumped to 29 percent from 17 percent just two years ago. (The Educated Reporter)

Rhode Island: Report says state needs more engineers
A survey of Rhode Island defense companies finds many of them are looking for engineers. They also need more workers with technical skills and the ability to write and communicate clearly with clients. Overall, the defense industry expects to hire more than 600 workers over the next year. Roughly half will be entry-level positions like technicians and production workers. The governor’s Workforce Development Board commissioned the study to better understand the needs of the state’s defense industry. Many firms reported at least some difficulty filling open positions. (Elisabeth Harrison)

North Carolina: Teacher performance pay is off state agenda
A legislative education committee won’t include performance pay for teachers in its recommendations for short-session laws, one chairman said. Performance pay for state employees, including teachers, was one of the big ideas included in the GOP-crafted budget last year. The budget included $121 million to spend in 2012-2013 on “labor market and equity salary increases” and performance-based pay plans. Setting up a performance pay system is extremely complicated, said Rep. Brian Holloway, a Stokes County Republican and co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee. “I highly doubt performance pay will take place in the short session,” he said. (News Observer)

New York: Integral to “value-added” is a requirement that some score low
Add one more point of critique to the city’s Teacher Data Reports: Experts and educators are worried about the bell curve along which the teacher ratings fell out. Like the distribution of teachers by rating across types of schools, the distribution of scores among teachers was essentially built into the “value-added” model that the city used to generate the ratings. The long-term goal of many education reformers is to create a teaching force in which nearly all teachers are high-performing. However, in New York City’s rankings — which rated thousands of teachers who taught in the system from 2007 to 2010 — teachers were graded on a curve. That is, under the city’s formula, some teachers would always be rated as “below average,” even if student performance increased significantly in all classrooms across the city. (Gotham Schools)


Anonymous Teacher: Middle school is just like high school
I teach at a middle school in the Bronx. I’d heard about the possible release of the TDR scores [results from a student-testing-based city teacher-rating system] a while ago, but I kind of thought the whole thing had gone away. It really wasn’t on my radar. Then they put the numbers out. I started looking up everybody else’s scores. I couldn’t help it. On Sunday I called a co-worker, and we stayed on the phone for half an hour looking up the scores of all our colleagues. Some surprised us, some didn’t. One guy we work with got a seventeen [percentile score]. He’s an eleven-year veteran. I knew he was bad, but seventeen is awful … now the guy with the seventeen is getting avoided like the plague. It’s not his score so much as people just not knowing what to say to the dude. They feel bad, but they don’t know how to broach the subject. What are you supposed to say? My rating was well above average, but I’m still against publishing this stuff. I thought these ratings were meant to help teachers, not shame them. If one of my students gets a bad test grade, I sit down with him—I don’t post a 23 on the bulletin board. At the same time, I gotta be honest. When I’m walking around the school now and pass another teacher’s room, I definitely think of their number. (New York Magazine)

Lynnell Mickelson: DFL is stuck in the mud on teacher seniority
I’m beginning to think that teacher seniority rights are to the DFL what gay marriage is to the GOP. Republicans keep banging their Bibles and thundering that marriage is between a man and a woman. But they are losing this culture war. The public — especially people under 30 — increasingly accepts gay marriage, and we’re not going backward on this issue. The same thing goes with teacher seniority rights. The DFL can keep insisting that rigid seniority works great, that teachers — unlike any other profession — can’t be fairly evaluated or hired or laid off based on their performance. But the public doesn’t buy it. Many young teachers are also asking for change. As Democrats, the more we defend these rules, the dumber we look. (Star Tribune)


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