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

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

News & analysis

Is pizza a vegetable? In school lunches, Congress says yes
Pizza would be considered a vegetable on school lunch trays under new changes to school meals proposed by Congress late yesterday. And lawmakers who wanted no limits on how many starchy vegetables students are served also got their wish. Collectively, child nutrition advocates say, the changes amount to Congress bending to the whims of food manufacturers and growers at the expense of children’s health. “At a time when child nutrition and childhood obesity are national health concerns, Congress should be supporting the U.S. Department of Agriculture and school efforts to serve healthier school meals, not undermining them,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Together the school lunch riders in the agriculture spending bill will protect industry’s ability to keep pizza and French fries on school lunch trays.” (Politics K-12)

With Hispanic students on the rise, Hispanic teachers in short supply
The surge in Hispanic students across the nation is forcing schools to reckon with a deep shortage of teachers who share their cultural heritage. More than 21 percent of schoolchildren are Hispanic, experts report, compared with 7 percent of teachers. No other racial or ethnic minority group has such a wide disparity. In the struggle to close this gap, the stakes are high: Research suggests that a more diverse faculty might lead to better attendance, fewer suspensions and higher test scores. (WaPo)

Louisiana: Does New Orleans welcome disabled students?
New Orleans has become the center of an education revolution, where more than 70 percent of students attend a charter school. The number of students taught in traditional district-run schools is shrinking fast. That’s because parents in post-Hurricane Katrina can pick and choose from a smorgasbord of schools with different approaches and cultures. By many measures, this educational marketplace has improved student achievement. But as this experiment moves ahead, it’s led to questions about whether the district is truly open to the most challenging students. (NPR)

New Jersey: $25.5M grant will assist Newark charter school expansion
The TEAM Charter Schools in Newark are among those that will benefit from a $25.5 million grant announced today by the Walton Family Foundation. The Arkansas philanthropy, started by the founders of the Wal-Mart chain, will invest $25.5 million in the KIPP — Knowledge is Power Program — Foundation, with the goal of expanding schools and doubling the number of children attending KIPP charter schools across the country. KIPP operates 109 charter schools, serving 27,000 students, in 10 cities. Included among KIPP schools are four TEAM schools in Newark: TEAM Academy, RISE Academy, SPARK Academy and Newark Collegiate Academy. (Star Ledger)

New York: Schools giving kids “free pass”
The city is abusing a system that was intended to help struggling high-school students get back on track, by allowing kids to earn credits even if they don’t show they’ve mastered a subject, state education officials charged yesterday. They said they’re mulling public hearings on the misuse by large urban districts of the practice, known as credit recovery, which has allowed kids who failed a course to make up the credits simply by completing computer programs or brief term papers afterward. The concerns come as city graduation rates have shot up in recent years — from 47 percent in 2005 to 61 percent last year — while the high number of kids who need remedial classes as college freshmen has barely budged. (Post)

New York: Union loses appeal on teacher ratings
The New York City teachers’ union on Tuesday lost another round in its yearlong court battle to keep performance ratings of about 12,000 city teachers secret, with the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruling that it would not take up the case. The union has one final legal recourse before the case is dropped and the information is released, and its president indicated it would take that step. “Given the harm that could be done by the release of these misleading and inaccurate reports, we will be filing a motion directly with the New York State Court of Appeals seeking leave to appeal the Appellate Division’s decision in this case,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. (School Book)

Rhode Island: Warwick, Hopkinton schools among new blue ribbon honorees
Two schools in Massachusetts and two in Rhode Island are among more than 300 nationwide being honored for helping close achievement gaps and helping their students reach and maintain high academic goals. The U.S. Department of Education announced the 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools on Tuesday. It’s among the highest honors public and private schools can receive from the federal government. This year’s Massachusetts recipients are Boston Latin School in Boston and Sharon High School. In Rhode Island, the honorees are Hope Valley Elementary School in the Hope Valley village of Hopkinton and Park School in Warwick. (ProJo)


Are the SAT and ACT to blame for the inferiority of U.S. schools compared to those in Finland, Singapore, and Shanghai?
In his new book “Surpassing Shanghai” comparing U.S. schools to those in countries (and the city of Shanghai) where students outperform us on international tests, Marc S. Tucker notes that they nearly all share one approach to college admissions that is different from ours. They don’t use machine-scored exams controlled by testing companies as the key to determining who is admitted to high-level academic institutions. (Jay Matthews)


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