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:
ACT to Roll Out Career and College Readiness Tests for 3rd-10th Grades

ACT Inc. announced today that it is developing a new series of assessments for every grade level, from 3rd through 10th, to measure skills needed in college and careers. The tests, which would be administered digitally and provide instant feedback to teachers, will be piloted in states this fall and scheduled to be launched in 2014, says Jon Erickson, the president of education for ACT, the Iowa City, Iowa-based nonprofit testing company. The “next generation” assessment will be pegged to the Common Core State Standards and cover the four areas now on the ACT: English, reading, math, and science. “It connects all the grades—elementary school through high school—to measure growth and development,” says Erickson. “It informs teaching, as students progress, to intervene at early ages.” (Education Week – College Bound) 

Teachers’ Union Calls For More Responsibility, Obama Support As Its Membership Declines
After a few years of tremendous membership loss, the nation’s largest teachers’ union is reinventing itself.”Instead of waiting for someone to tell us what to teach or how to do our jobs, let us be the change we are waiting for,” Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, said in his Monday afternoon address to the group’s national convention in Washington, D.C., according to prepared remarks provided to The Huffington Post. The convention includes a gathering of the NEA’s state and local affiliates and votes on union policy.”We are part of … a system that has not successfully addressed the dropout crisis and allows kids who are poor to be stuck in schools that do not meet their needs — placed into classrooms year after year with the least qualified, least experienced teachers,” Van Roekel said. “If there is even one classroom with a teacher who isn’t prepared or qualified, we can’t accept that.”(Huffington Post) 

More Than 100 Organizations Invited to Apply for Smallest i3 Grants                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The U.S. Department of Education has invited 124 organizations to apply for the smallest—and most popular—of the Investing in Innovation grants, which are intended to scale up promising practices at the district level. This is the first time the department has done a “preapplication” for the “development” grants. Development-grant applicants don’t need to meet as high a research threshold as those in the other grant categories—they just need to have “reasonable research-based findings or theories. Development grants can be as much as $3 million. The other two categories are “validation” grants, which can be as high as $30 million each and go for programs with “moderate” level of evidence. “Scale up” grants of up to $50 million are for programs that have “strong” evidence of success. The department received more than 650 preapplications. Of those invited to apply, 23 focus on teacher and principal effectiveness; 39 deal with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education; 32 stress parent and family engagement; 20 are aimed at school turnarounds; and 10 focus on rural education. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

New Jersey:
NJ schools get fraction of anti-bullying funds

New Jersey school districts are getting way less than they hoped from the state to help pay for anti-bullying programs. In March, the Christie administration announced $1 million in grants to back up the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights after a state panel found the law to be an unfunded mandate on local government and therefore unconstitutional. Officials received applications from 371 districts with requests totaling nearly $5 million. Instead of choosing winner and losers, the state awarded each district about 20 percent of its request, according to The Record. As a result, the Haledon district received just $36, while the Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology alone received $9,000. Haledon Superintendent Richard Ney says his district was penalized for “playing it straight” with its request. ( 

New York:
Albany Bill Would Add Family to Special Education Factors

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is weighing whether to sign a bill on special education that opponents argue would give families more power to send their children to religious schools at taxpayers’ expense. Under a measure passed by both houses of the State Legislature last month, the “home life and family background” of special education students must be taken into consideration when public school officials are deciding whether to place a child in a public school or pay for private schooling. Court rulings in recent years have given parents more leverage to demand that the public cover the cost of private special education, if it is determined that public schools cannot meet their needs. Under the bill, those needs would include compatibility with their “home life and family background.” (New York Times) 

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett Enacts Landmark School Reforms, Increases Funding

Delivering on his commitment to reform Pennsylvania’s public school system, Governor Tom Corbett yesterday signed into law legislation that will bring sweeping changes to improve the quality of the state’s education system. The state budget invests more than $11.35 billion in funding to early, basic and higher education, accompanied by a new educator evaluation system and expanded school choice scholarship programs. Pennsylvania will join at least 22 states in using student achievement to evaluate educators. Corbett has brought about significant changes to the current educator evaluation system, which has not been revised in more than 40 years. “In order to bring about systemic changes to public education, reforms must start with those who teach in and lead our schools,” Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said.  “Governor Corbett’s initiatives will not only raise the bar for effective educators, they will ensure that every student has access to quality academic programs.” The current system only allows for two ratings, satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and provides no meaningful feedback in areas where an educator could improve. The number of possible ratings will be expanded to four: distinguished, proficient, needs improvement and failing. (PR Newswire) 


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