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

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

News & analysis

Teachers’ support for reform depends in part on experience
Revamping the makeup of the teaching profession through tweaks such as altering tenure and teacher evaluations has become a policy debate du jour, one that has riled many a state house in recent years. As it turns out, teachers themselves support that overhaul, according to recent survey data. But that support may depend on a factor central to many of these teacher reforms: experience. A survey released recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with Scholastic Education, asked 10,000 pre-K-12 public-school teachers questions about their satisfaction, environment and views on school policies. The metric of teacher support for certain policies is increasingly important as a chorus of voices claims educators have been excluded from the biggest debates over laws affecting America’s classrooms. An actual metric of teacher support is also crucial as education-reform groups trot out their policies to statehouses, claiming such a groundswell of educator support. (HuffPo)

Access to teacher evaluations divides advocates
As the movement to overhaul teacher evaluation marches onward, an emerging question is splitting the swath of advocates who support the new tools used to gauge teacher performance: Who should get access to the resulting information? As evidenced in recently published opinion pieces, the contours of the debate are rapidly being drawn. Some proponents of using student-achievement data as a component of teacher evaluations, including the philanthropist Bill Gates and Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, nevertheless believe that such information should not be made widely public. Other figures, like New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, champion the broad dissemination of such data. Regarding teacher evaluations, the policy landscape for disclosures is also in flux. An Education Week review shows that access to teachers’ evaluation results is permissible under open-records laws in at least 18 states plus the District of Columbia, though they are often unclear as to specifics. And only Florida and Michigan have established policies requiring that parents be notified if their child’s teacher repeatedly performs poorly on his or her evaluations. (Ed Week)

Connecticut: Two approaches to reform: compromise and conflict
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has made it clear that he does not want the state to wait for a consensus with special interest groups before moving forward on his controversial changes to the state’s public schools. Some state legislators showed Monday night they have other plans. “I hope it’s something we can all agree on,” Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, the co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee, said before the panel voted 28 to 5 to downgrade major elements of Malloy’s proposals to a study. “It’s appreciated,” Sen. Andrea Stillman, the other co-chair, said of the administration’s proposal, “but it’s also an issue that we have to come to the meeting of the minds on, and we will.” But Malloy and his education commissioner have said they don’t believe a consensus package would get the changes the state needs. “If we wait until there’s total agreement on anything we are going to do, then we aren’t going to do anything,” Malloy told a packed audience at a high school in New Haven earlier this month. Essentially, he has accepted that people — namely teachers unions — are not going to be happy with what he wants to do to the education system. “Change isn’t easy,” Malloy said. One group happy with the new language were the leaders of the state’s two teachers’ unions. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Sharon Palmer, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, noting there’s a long road ahead before anything becomes law. “Some folks believe this is a capitulation to unions. We don’t think that’s the case.” (CT Mirror)

Pennsylvania: Senate education committee shows its disapproval to governor’s proposed changes of exams
The Senate Education Committee showed how serious its opposition is to Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to change the Keystone Exam state testing program. The committee passed two bills intended to give lawmakers some leverage in ongoing talks with the Corbett administration, which wants to trim the number of course-specific Keystone exams being developed from 10 to 3. It is proposing to keep the Keystone exams in Algebra I, biology and literature, but drop the ones proposed in social studies. One bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, R-Dauphin County, would would bar tinkering with the testing program before June 2020. The other, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Dinniman, R-Chester County, would require the state to reimburse public schools for costs incurred in preparing for the Keystone exams that would not be administered. (The Patriot News)

New York: Cuomo backs release of teacher evaluations
Weighing in on the fight over releasing teachers’ evaluations to the public, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he’s inclined to preserve open access for parents but willing to explore of shielding the records in some way. “I believe in the case of teachers, the parents’ right to know outweighs the teachers’ right to privacy,” the governor said. “After that, it’s less clear to me. And that’s why I think it warrants conversation.” Teachers unions had lobbied the Albany lawmakers to outlaw the release of teachers’ evaluations, which are on the verge of becoming more substantial and more significant across the state. Lawmakers didn’t include privacy protections in the annual budget agreement announced Tuesday, but such provisions could resurface separately. Cuomo said the issue didn’t belong in the state budget because it was not a financial item. New teacher-grading regimes will rate teachers using measures such as observations by principals and student test scores — a sea change from previous evaluations, which rated teachers either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. By January, schools districts must adopt new systems or lose some state funding. Analysis of standardized test scores or other ways to gauge student learning will count for up to 40% of a teacher’s annual performance review under the new statewide system. (WSJ)

North Carolina: Most NC districts won’t add extra five days
The coming academic year won’t grow five days longer for most North Carolina public school students. State public school officials overrode the requirement passed by state lawmakers for the second straight year after local school boards complained the extra costs to operate buses and buildings wasn’t coming with any new money. School districts estimated it could cost them about $14 million statewide to hold five more days of classes in the 2012-13 academic year, state schools Superintendent June Atkinson said. School leaders also said since the extra days would be taken out of time allotted for teacher preparation, it would displace needed training time ahead of a statewide course of study rolling out next fall. “We projected it would cost $14 million and that was a factor, but another factor is that we will be implementing new standards in all grades and all subjects next year and we felt as if you could really accelerate student learning if teachers had more time to learn and work with those standards,” Atkinson said. “So there was the two factors, the money as well as the need for professional development of our teachers to implement the standards.” The Republican-led General Assembly last summer voted to add five days to the 180-day calendar to reach a much-discussed goal of increasing student learning by keeping them in classrooms longer. The decision also preserved a state law requiring a 10-week summer vacation. (Winston-Salem Journal)


Andy Rotherham: Cheating on the hard work of school reform
Cheating in school became education topic No. 1 this week, except this time it wasn’t students cheating on tests — it was adults cheating for them. As part of a series, USA Today published an article strongly suggesting that teachers or administrators goosed student test-score gains at an elementary and middle school in Washington. Since it was a school former D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee had singled out for praise, the news created yet another battleground for Rhee combatants. The distraction is too bad because the focus on cheating offers — pardon the cliché — a teachable moment for parents and policymakers. Even assuming that teachers and administrators at this school didn’t do anything improper, too much cheating by adults does go on in too many schools around the country. When I was a state board of education member in Virginia, “testing irregularities” (a delightfully dry bureaucratic term for suspected manipulation) were not an everyday occurrence but were not rare either. And before you rush to blame No Child Left Behind, know that the problems predate that law. (Time)


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