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:
Ed. Dept.: Most Automatic Cuts Wouldn’t Affect Coming School Year

Districts and state officials who have lost sleep worrying that key federal education progams might be cut smack in the middle of the coming school year can calm down, at least according to a letter the U.S. Department of Education sent out to chief state school officers late Friday. Title I grants to districts, special education state grants, career and technical education, and Title II grants for teacher quality wouldn’t be cut in the middle of the school year even if the automatic federal spending cuts triggered by last year’s deficit-reduction deal take place, Anthony Miller, the deputy secretary of education at the department, wrote. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Backers of parent trigger law score victory in court
A Superior Court judge has ruled that a Mojave Desert school board illegally rejected a parent petition to turn over an elementary school to a charter, in a major victory for supporters of California’s parent trigger law. In a decision made public Monday, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ruled that the Adelanto School District improperly allowed 97 parents at Desert Trails Elementary School to rescind their signatures, which caused support for the petition to drop below the required 50% threshold. Under regulations adopted last fall by the state Board of Education, Malone ruled, the parent trigger law does not allow recisions and explicitly states that parents “shall be free from … being encouraged to revoke their signatures on a petition.” (Los Angeles Times)

News Corp. Ed. Division Moves Into K-12 Curriculum
Global media conglomerate News Corporation jump-started its fledgling—and mostly quiet—education division today, unveiling Amplify, a new brand for its education business that will include education software products and, in a surprising move, curriculum development. The re-branded division will include three initial focuses, beginning with pilot programs during the upcoming school year:
• assessment and data analysis, mostly through Wireless Generation, the software company News Corp. purchased a majority stake of in 2010;
• a tablet-based digital learning platform that will customize content, assessments, and course materials to each student using performance data and will be delivered, at least initially, through a partnership with AT&T;
• English language arts, science, and math curriculum, adapted to the Common Core State Standards. The content will be licensed from other publishers or written by Amplify in-house and combine text, interactive elements, and assessments to adapt to individual students. (Education Week – Marketplace K-12) 

Enrollment Off in Big Districts, Forcing Layoffs
Enrollment in nearly half of the nation’s largest school districts has dropped steadily over the last five years, triggering school closings that have destabilized neighborhoods, caused layoffs of essential staff and concerns in many cities that the students who remain are some of the neediest and most difficult to educate. While the losses have been especially steep in long-battered cities like Cleveland and Detroit, enrollment has also fallen significantly in places suffering through the recent economic downturn, like Broward County, Fla., San Bernardino, Calif., and Tucson, according to the latest available data from the Department of Education, analyzed for The New York Times. Urban districts like Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, are facing an exodus even as the school-age population has increased. (New York Times) 

Louisiana sets rules for landmark school voucher program
State money will continue to flow to scores of private and religious schools participating in Louisiana’s new voucher program even if their students fail basic reading and math tests, according to new guidelines released by the state on Monday. The voucher program, the most sweeping in the nation, is the linchpin of Louisiana’s bold push to reshape public education. The state plans to shift tens of millions of dollars from public schools to pay not only private schools but also private businesses and private tutors to educate children across the state. (MSNBC) 

Arne Duncan: The Tennessee Story

For the last four years, the Obama administration has provided funding and incentives for states to help build a teaching profession that is both respected and rigorous. Today, we’re starting to see that investment pay off — in expanded collaboration among teachers and improved performance among students. More teachers today are treated as true professionals, instead of as interchangeable cogs in an educational assembly line. Exhibit A: Tennessee. Tennessee — one of the first two states to win a federal Race to the Top grant — recently released an important report on the first year of implementing its new teacher evaluation system. The report found that after one year, Tennessee’s students made their biggest single-year jump in achievement ever recorded in the state. That is a remarkable accomplishment. (Huffington Post)


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