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

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

News & analysis

Kline wants more aid for special ed., less for Obama priorities
U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, wants to see Congress put more money into state grants for special education. He sent a letter to the leading lawmakers on the House panel that oversees K-12 spending. Kline’s letter might foreshadow a funding fight similar to last year’s, in which House Republicans sought to shift big bucks into the key formula grants near and dear to education advocates (Title I grants for disadvantaged students and special education) at the expense of some of the Obama administration’s favorite programs (Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Grants, and the School Improvement Grants). Ultimately, the administration won that funding fight. But we may have to wait until the presidential election results are in to see if it prevails again. If Obama’s out, those programs may be, too. (Politics K-12)

States differ in doling out turnaround funds, study finds
States have gone a bunch of different directions in giving districts money through the federal School Improvement Grant program, the largest national effort yet to turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools, according to a report released today by the Center for American Progress. The report found big disparities in how selective states have been in deciding which schools got their share of the $3.5 billion in competitive grants made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. (Primer here.) Some states—like Alaska, Kentucky, Oregon, and Vermont—had a 100 percent application-approval rate. Others, like Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi, gave the go-ahead to less than 30 percent of the schools who applied. (Politics K-12)

New York: Doubts about high-stakes tests and their effects on teachers
The chief academic officer of New York City’s public schools said on Monday night that principals were not alone in being concerned about the state’s new teacher evaluation system: He also has qualms. At a panel discussion on high-stakes testing held at the Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer for the city’s Education Department, told a packed auditorium that the new law contained “real risks,” for teachers and principals alike. Quietly passed into law by the State Legislature last week, the evaluation system calls for 60 percent of a teacher’s annual review to be based on subjective measures, like classroom observations and feedback from students. The remaining 40 percent is drawn from student achievement — 20 percent from growth on the state math and English exams, and 20 percent from assessments that districts can select and design. Teachers who score below 65 points out of 100 will be rated ineffective, creating the potential for a principal to give a teacher a perfect score of 60 points on the subjective portion, only to have the teacher labeled ineffective if her score on the achievement portion is very low. (School Book)

New York: Mayor hopefuls all make time for teachers’ union leader
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the New York teachers’ union, has not been the most popular figure at City Hall under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. They have been at odds over almost everything, like Mr. Bloomberg’s push to close underperforming schools and his insistence on putting charter schools in district school buildings. But Mr. Mulgrew can already envision the post-Bloomberg future — a future that is represented by the night and day cellphone calls from the men and women who are hoping to be the next mayor. The candidates, declared and in waiting, call Mr. Mulgrew before they make big statements about education. They talk to him about their children, their vacations and his golf game. One of them invited him to Finland. Mr. Mulgrew is a coveted friend for the people who hope to become mayor. His union, the United Federation of Teachers, has 200,000 members: they are highly organized, and they vote. And at a time when education is a major issue for the city, and in a race with only Democratic contenders thus far, the union’s membership could have a disproportionate influence in a potentially decisive primary in 2013. (New York Times)


News & Observer: Perdue’s education punch
When they boasted of adding state funding for 2,000 additional teachers in their budget, Republican lawmakers fell all over each other to get to the spotlight. Yes, they did fund those 2,000 teaching spots with state money. But what one hand gaveth, the other tooketh away. The additional state money didn’t cover the loss of emergency federal money that had funded more than 2,000 teachers. And, the GOP budget ordered local school districts to return to the state a total of $429 million. To meet that obligation, school districts had to cut, and some of them cut teachers. The bottom line is that there are fewer teachers this year than there were last year, and the lumbering state of the economy and loss of federal stimulus dollars will make next year even tougher, absent a booming recovery. These circumstances have Gov. Beverly Perdue on the road pushing a three-quarter-cent sales tax boost that was eliminated by Republicans, cutting state revenues by $850 million a year. This money could hire teachers and restore some funding to the state’s university system, among other benefits. It would be a sensible and relatively painless tax (it was hardly noticed when in effect), but Republicans are painting it as tax increase on working families and a “job killer” and say they won’t go along. It is as if they simply do not want to face the reality that absent that money, the quality of public school education for the children of North Carolina will decline. (News & Observer)

Wendy Kopp responds to critics of her views on value-added data
My piece isn’t motivated by not wanting to seem like one of the ‘bad guys’ or by going soft in any way.  Rather, it’s motivated by a growing conviction that our current reform discussion and the strategies we’re pursuing — exemplified by the NY Post’s decision to print the teacher rankings — oversimplify the problem and solution to educational inequity and won’t lead us the kind of transformational change for kids that we actually need. I conclude that we should embrace a strategy that looks at schools, rather than classrooms, as the unit of change.  In my mind, we should center everything we do as a ‘reform’ community around the question of what it will take to realize all the more expediently the day when all high-need kids are in what I would call “transformational schools.” (Scholastic Administrator)


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