Lisa Gibes is 50CAN’s vice president of strategy and external relations. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:

News & analysis:
A Big Default Problem, but How Big?

The Department of Education plans to release its official default rate in the next few weeks. Prepare to be underwhelmed. Neither the department nor Congress talk much about a student loan default problem. One reason is the government’s official measure plays down the numbers. The department’s official default rate measures only borrowers who have defaulted within two years of beginning to repay their loans. By that measure, which was established by Congress, the most recent default rate — for borrowers entering repayment in fiscal year 2009 — was 8.8 percent, up from 7 percent the previous fiscal year. (New York Times) 

With No Contract Deal by Deadline in Chicago, Teachers Will Strike
Union leaders for this city’s public schoolteachers said that they would strike on Monday morning after negotiations ended late Sunday with no contract agreement between the union and the nation’s third largest school system, which have been locked for months in a dispute over wages, job security and teacher evaluations. Coming as the school year had barely begun for many, the impasse and looming strike were expected to affect hundreds of thousands of families here, some of whom had spent the weekend scrambling to rearrange work schedules, find alternative programs and hire baby sitters if school was out for some time. (New York Times) 

Studies Find More Students Cheating, With High Achievers No Exception
Large-scale cheating has been uncovered over the last year at some of the nation’s most competitive schools, like Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, the Air Force Academy and, most recently, Harvard. Studies of student behavior and attitudes show that a majority of students violate standards of academic integrity to some degree, and that high achievers are just as likely to do it as others. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades. (New York Times) 

Charter schools call proposed L.A. moratorium illegal
Charter school advocates are mounting a campaign against a proposed moratorium on new charters in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The moratorium is one provision of a resolution, by school board member Steve Zimmer, that is scheduled for discussion on Tuesday. Any moratorium would violate state law, according to the California Charter Schools Assn., in a Friday letter to L.A. Unified. The proposal “very clearly violates the Charter Schools Act,” wrote the group’s general counsel, Ricardo J. Soto. “The Board of Education must continue to accept, hear, and take action on all charter petitions.” (New York Times) 

New York:
Special Report: The best high schools in New York

With more than 400 New York City high schools, students and parents have a lot of work to do before the December deadline for applications. Besides publishing U.S. News & World Report’s first exclusive New York high school rankings, the Daily News solicited advice from experts on navigating the cumbersome, time-consuming process of finding the best school for each student. “Obviously, everyone comments on the length of the process and how there’s almost too much choice,” acknowledged Rob Sanft, chief executive of the city Department of Education’s Office of Student Enrollment. READ the Full List of NYC’s Best High Schools (New York Daily News) 

Teacher Grading Off to Uneven Start
New York state’s first system to grade teachers using students’ standardized test scores is turning out to be anything but standardized. More than two years after a new law required a complete overhaul of teacher and principal evaluations, the state Education Department has begun approving dozens of agreements hammered out between local districts and unions. Of the state’s roughly 700 school districts, 75 had plans approved as of Friday. New York City and its teachers union, which accounts for by far the largest portion of the state’s educators and students, have not reached a deal. (Wall Street Journal) 

View Points:
Taking care of truants

City and school officials in Los Angeles had a good idea a few years back when they began ticketing students for truancy. It was also a good idea for them to back away from that approach, as they did over the last year. The expensive citations didn’t work because the second, more important part of the program — to get to the bottom of why a student played hooky or was chronically late, and to provide the counseling and services to turn him or her around — wasn’t carried out. A new, gentler plan has real merit, but it will fail too if the Los Angeles Unified School District doesn’t make good on its pledge to provide both the discipline and the services to change students’ behavior. (Los Angeles Times) 


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