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:
Part of Georgia’s Race to the Top Grant Put On High-Risk Status

Part of Georgia’s $400 million Race to the Top grant is being put on high-risk status, the U.S. Department of Education told Gov. Nathan Deal in a letter dated July 2. The department is worried that the state, which has had a number of amendments to its plan in the tricky area of teacher evaluation, has strayed too far from the vision it originally outlined in its winning application. The upshot? If Georgia is unable to address the department’s concerns, it could lose roughly $33 million of its $400 million—the portion dedicated to implementing the state’s teacher-evaluation plan. Why isn’t the whole thing being put on high-risk status? Right now, Georgia has demonstrated sufficient progress on the rest of its plan, the department wrote. Georgia isn’t the first state to see its Race to the Top grant put on high-risk status because of tricky teacher-evaluation issues. Earlier this year, Hawaii came close to losing its grant, in part because its union hasn’t yet embraced its teacher-evaluation plan. Hawaii was able to keep its grant, but itremains on high-risk status. And, unlike Georgia, Hawaii’s entire grant was put on high-risk status because it was behind on other parts of its plan as well. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Ed. Dept. Pauses NCLB Clock For Some States
Earlier this week, Iowa, which had its request for wiggle room from mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act turned down, got another kind of reprieve from the U.S. Department of Education: the chance to freeze its Annual Measurable Outcomes (goals for student proficiency) under the NCLB law for one year, while it works towards waiver approval. And today, the department announced that six other states, Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, and West Virginia, can also hit the pause button on their AMOs for the coming school year, while they work on their waiver plans. Check out a sample letter (Alabama’s) here. See a full list of where states stand in the waiver process here. The option was designed to give states that are planning to apply for a waiver in the early fall a “transition year” so they’re not completely stuck with NCLB while they work on their waiver. Alabama, Alaska, Maine, and West Virginia are in that position. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Prominent Charter Networks Eye Fresh Territory
A handful of prominent charter school networks that have won praise for their academic performance and unorthodox models are expanding to new parts of the country, in some cases after receiving recruiting pitches from state and local officials determined to bring proven operators into their communities. Until now, organizations such as Aspire Public Schools and Rocketship Education, both headquartered in California, and BASIS Schools, Inc., of Arizona, which have been held up as worthy of emulation, have focused their work within their states’ boundaries. But in recent months, those organizations and others have announced plans for incremental growth, the success of which could determine whether they venture into other cities and states in the years to follow. (Education Week)

North Carolina:
Teach For America’s ranks grow amid education cuts

As school districts across North Carolina cope with state budget cuts, the organization Teach For America is offering a ray of good news: It’s expanding the ranks of newly minted teachers it sends into some of the state’s poorest school districts. Nationally this year, Teach For America will send out a record 10,000 new teachers – a 10 percent increase over 2011 – to work in 46 regions in 36 states. In North Carolina, the TFA teaching corps is expanding from from 150 to 230. (Charlotte Observer) 

George F. Will: In Chicago, a battle over schools’ future

The name of the nation’s largest labor union — the National Education Association — seems calculated to blur the fact that it is a teachers union. In this blunt city, however, the teachers union candidly calls itself the Chicago Teachers Union. Its office is in the Merchandise Mart, a gigantic architectural Stonehenge, which resembles a fortress located on the Chicago River, which resembles a moat. Which is appropriate.Unions are besieged, especially public-sector unions, particularly teachers unions, and nowhere more than here. Teachers unions have been bombarded with bad publicity, much of it earned, including the movie “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” and have courted trouble by cashing in on sentimentality, cloaking every acquisitive demand in gauzy rhetoric about how everything is “for the children.” (Washington Post) 



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