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

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

News & analysis

Online educators gaining both classes and critics
It is a policy maze being navigated by state lawmakers, school leaders and educators across the country. Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled in virtual courses is growing. Thirty percent of high school students have taken a course online, according to a 2011 report from Project Tomorrow, a nonprofit education group, and Blackboard, an education technology company. Some educators want more evidence that online instruction works, and they are skeptical of such enthusiastic private-sector involvement. Gene V. Glass, a senior researcher at the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center, who will release a study on virtual education this fall, questions the findings of a 2009 United States Department of Education analysis that found online learning could lead to superior results. (New York Times)

Nearly half of states link teacher evaluations to tests
Nearly two-thirds of states have overhauled policies in the last two years to tighten oversight of teachers, using techniques including tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, linking their pay to performance or making it tougher to earn tenure, according to a report issued Wednesday. (WSJ)

To help boost the economy, Obama moves to ease student debt burden
The Obama administration unveiled a plan to make it easier, and cheaper, for students to repay their student loans—all as part of a broader strategy to hammer on Congressional Republicans for failing to enact his jobs plan. Using his executive authority, President Obama plans to accelerate an income-based loan repayment plan Congress approved in 2010. Currently, the plan would cap loan repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income beginning in 2014. Obama will start the 10 percent cap in 2012. (Anyone who takes out a loan in 2012 would be eligible.) Administration officials estimate this will lower payments for 1.6 million borrowers. (Politics K-12)

ELL programs get overhaul in New York and Los Angeles
Acknowledging that they are not meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of students learning to speak English, the nation’s two largest school systems this month announced plans to improve instruction and services for English-language learners. Pressed by federal and state officials, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the New York City Department of Education will adopt broad changes to their programs and services for students learning English. (Ed Week)

Webinar: One size can’t fit all — developing policies to evaluate pre-k-3 teacher effectiveness
This webinar will highlight research and examples of new approaches, especially from the early learning field, that can inform state policies related to assessments of Pre-K-3 teacher effectiveness. After the discussion, participants will understand important guiding principles and critical factors to consider when crafting these policies. We invite governors’ education advisors, Pre-K-12 administrators at the state and local levels, and education advocates to join this conversation. (Pew Center)

The effect of charter schools on student achievement: A meta analysis of the literature
Charter schools are largely viewed as a major innovation in the public school landscape, as they receive more independence from state laws and regulations than do traditional public schools, and are therefore more able to experiment with alternative curricula, pedagogical methods, and different ways of hiring and training teachers. Unlike traditional public schools, charters may be shut down by their authorizers for poor performance. But how is charter school performance measured? What are the effects of charter schools on student achievement? (Center for Reinventing Public Education)

New Jersey: Education officials continue to block ACLU suit over transparency in $100M Facebook donation to Newark schools
Education officials from Newark continue to block a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that could reveal new details about the genesis of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark’s schools. The City of Newark recently asked the court to dismiss an open records lawsuit filed by the ACLU in August that seeks e-mails and other correspondence about the donation. This request came days after the ACLU learned Newark Mayor Cory Booker and acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf have discussed the gift using their personal email accounts. (Star Ledger)

Rhode Island: Cranston Council wants say in future mayoral academy proposals
Want to open a mayoral academy in the city’s school district? You may need the City Council’s permission first. Permits for such academies — charter-type schools that involve elected officials in their operation — are normally approved by the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. But the City Council Monday night approved a resolution that asks the General Assembly to amend the mayoral academy statute to require the regents to consider proposals that have been endorsed and approved by the city or town councils first. (ProJo)


Michael Goodwin: Mayor in denial about failing schools
New Yorkers have been hit with a blizzard of education statistics lately, but there are two sets that really matter: First, about 65 percent of New York City high-school students graduate in four years, and 64 percent of high schools carry grades of either A or B. The second set is this: Only about 21 percent of students are ready for college work after four years, while 75 percent of those who go to city community colleges need remediation in one or more core subjects. The differences between the first and second set of stats are glaring in an absolute sense, but also for another reason: The “good” numbers are the city’s own assessments, and the “bad” numbers are the assessments of educators outside Mayor Bloomberg’s control. (New York Post)

Michael Mulgrew: A tax break for the rich? No way
Hedge fund magnate John Paulson – who reportedly made $5 billion personally last year – reacted recently to Occupy Wall Street protesters by talking about how much the top 1% of New York City families pay in income taxes. What he didn’t talk about was how the same 1% made nearly half (44%) of all the income in the city, or that when all state and local taxes are taken into account, the richest taxpayers in fact pay a lower percentage of their total income in taxes than do people in the middle. Meanwhile, with unemployment levels stubbornly high, median family income declining and public services under budget pressure, times are getting tougher for almost everyone else. Public school class sizes in New York City – already far higher than in surrounding communities – are getting bigger still. Our annual survey in September showed that an estimated one-quarter of the city’s public school children were in one or more oversize classes as the school year began. After-school programs are disappearing. Art and music have become things of the past in our schools. Hundreds of school aides are on the unemployment line. (Daily News)


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