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

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

News & analysis

Ed. Department offers states feedback on waivers
The second round of states—26 plus the District of Columbia—that applied to the U.S. Department of Education for wiggle room from the No Child Left Behind law got feedback on their requests in a round of letters sent April 17. (To recap, 11 states have already been approved. Check out the 27 pending applications here.) The standout, shining star based on the letters we received? That appears to be Maryland, a Race to the Top winner, which got a feedback letter that was long on praise and short on areas for improvement. The department had a long list of positives – including Maryland’s plans for intervening in struggling schools, transitioning to college- and career-ready standards, and its work so far on teacher evaluation. The department wanted more specificity when it comes to how the Old Line State will validate the measures it’s using in the teacher evaluation system. (Politics K-12)

Pennsylvania: Senate OKs bill targeting superintendent buyouts
A bill designed to limit the taxpayer cost of buyouts for public school superintendents in Pennsylvania and expose the terms to greater public view is on its way to the state House of Representatives. State senators approved it unanimously Tuesday. The bill would require termination, buyout and severance packages to be detailed upfront in contracts that are public records, and it would prohibit those provisions from being modified during the course of the contract or in the event a contract is terminated prematurely. It also would cap the value of severance agreements that are negotiated prior to the end of a contract. The state’s elected fiscal watchdog, Auditor General Jack Wagner, has criticized some recent buyouts as a waste of money and lacking in transparency. (Penn Live)

Rhode Island: Commissioner Gist tells lawmakers state schools are making improvements
Rhode Island’s top education official is telling state lawmakers they have reason to be proud of the state’s public schools. Education Commissioner Deborah Gist (GHIST’) detailed several recent education accomplishments during her annual State of Education address Tuesday at the Statehouse. Gist highlighted improvements in student proficiency and the state’s selection for a $50 million federal Race to the Top federal education grant. She also briefed lawmakers on a new teacher evaluation system and efforts to help the state’s lowest-achieving schools improve. Still, Gist says the state “has a long way to go” and must work hard to improve student performance in math. Gist became commissioner in 2009. The commissioner is required by state law to report to state lawmakers annually on the state of education. (The Republic)

New Jersey: Christie supports proposals to make high school graduates ready for college, workforce
Gov. Chris Christie Monday endorsed a series of recommendations to increase the number of high school graduates and attempt to ensure that all students leave students ready for college and careers. The recommendations, contained in a report released Monday by Christie’s College and Career Readiness Task Force, are an effort to transition New Jersey away from the current high school assessments – the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPA) and Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA) – to a new series of end-of-course assessments that measure student readiness at each grade level. The measures are designed to provide a tool for high schools to identify students in need and target individual support to put them on track for graduation. Paired with the phasing in of a new, federally mandated methodology for calculating the graduation rate, the recommendations are an attempt to ensure that graduating from high school in New Jersey means having the skills and knowledge to be ready to enter college or the workforce. (New Jersey Newsroom)

New Jersey: NJ high school graduation rates decrease under new federally mandated calculation method
Graduation rates among the state’s public high schools decreased an average of 9 percentage points in 2011 compared with the previous year, according to statistics released today by the state Department of Education. The drop comes in the wake of a new, federally mandated methodology for calculating the rates which state officials say is more “honest.”  “The new 2011 graduation rate presents us with a more accurate picture of the true level of high school completion across the state and we encourage all districts to study the data carefully to target their investments,” acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said in a statement. At Millburn Senior High School, the percentage of students earning diplomas dropped by 1 percentage point, while the rate at Woodbridge High School fell by 5 percentage points. Elsewhere, the rate fell by 16 percentage points at Dover High School in Morris County, by 14 percentage points at Franklin High School in Somerset County and by nearly 7 percentage points at Cranford High School. Until last year, schools calculated their graduation rates by dividing the number of seniors receiving diplomas by the number of seniors who enrolled at the start of the school year plus the number who had dropped out since that class entered high school. Because the state relied on districts to self-report their graduation rates, some school systems under-reported their dropout statistics, said Justin Barra, a spokesman for the Department of Education. (Star Ledger)


Dana Goldstein: Universal pre-k is a big idea that should be on the table in this year’s presidential campaign
It might surprise you to learn that only 58 percent of 3-to-5-year-old Americans are enrolled in any type of organized child care or early education program. The number is even lower—just 51 percent—among poor children. And less than a quarter of American kids attend preschools led by certified teachers; children in less school-like child care settings, like day care centers or in-home care, are often looked after by caretakers earning an average of less than $10 per hour, most of whom have no formal training in education or child development. Research shows that over the past two decades, the education level and salary of early child care workers have consistently declined. Meanwhile, in cities like New York and San Francisco, the children of the elite vie for seats in top private preschools, which charge as much tuition as private colleges and employ teachers who hold college and graduate degrees. Any radical rethinking of American public policy ought to start with a consideration of one of our most politically neglected populations: The majority of 3-to-5-year-olds who have no access to high-quality, low-cost educational options. As scientists have learned more about the brain, they’ve concluded the early years are the most crucial ones for cognitive development. Seventy-five percent of middle-class kindergarteners can write their own names, compared to just about half of poor kindergartners. The typical middle-class 5-year old can identify all 26 letters of the alphabet on her first day of school; a 5-year old living in poverty may know only two letters. By first grade, middle-class children have double the vocabulary of their low-income peers. (GOOD)


Recent Posts

More posts from Today in Education

See All Posts