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:
Turnaround Schools Struggle With Staffing, Time, and Climate

Anyone who has taken a close look at the federal School Improvement Grant program—or turnarounds in general—probably knows that school staffing, scheduling, and climate can be among the toughest challenges to tackle. The Center on Education Policy at George Washington University, which has already done some must-read studies of SIG, took a deeper look at the these three tricky issues in a trio of reports out today. The reports relied both on a survey of 46 Title I directors, conducted by CEP in the winter of 2011-12, and on “case studies” of SIG schools in three very different states: Idaho, Maryland, and Michigan. (Other reports using the survey and case-studies are available here and here.) Background on the very complicated program, including its four complex models here. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Alarms Sounded As Federal Ed. Cuts Loom
A pair of new reports out today raise dire warnings about the impact on school districts and federal education programs from the sweeping, across-the-board spending cuts set to hit all federal agencies in early January if Congress doesn’t act to head them off. The reports, from the American Association of School Administrators and the National Education Association, take a close look at the threat posed by what’s known as sequestration, the automatic budget cuts that loom as a result of the deal last August to raise the federal debt ceiling. Almost every area of federal spending, from education to the military, would see cuts ranging from 7.8 percent (according to the Congressional Budget Office) to 8.4 percent (according to analysts from the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which works on fiscal policy ). (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

School is too easy, students report
Millions of kids simply don’t find school very challenging, a new analysis of federal survey data suggests. The report could spark a debate about whether new academic standards being piloted nationwide might make a difference. The findings, out today from the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank that champions “progressive ideas,” analyze three years of questionnaires from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test given each year.
Among the findings:
•37% of fourth-graders say their math work is “often” or “always” too easy;
•57% of eighth-graders say their history work is “often” or “always” too easy;
•39% of 12th-graders say they rarely write about what they read in class. (USA Today) 

Baltimore Schools Assess their Readiness for the Common Core

In anticipation of next year’s rollout of the Common Core standards, The Baltimore City Public School System conducted effectiveness reviews of 25 of its schools. Using measures that probe deeper than simply rating student proficiency in math and reading, this first round of reviews uncovereddeficiencies in the depth of instruction students receive, as well as other systemic weaknesses needing improvement. The district plans to use this information to inform its efforts to gear up for the Common Core. Under the new standards, Baltimore students will need to acquire greater mastery of reading, writing, and mathematics, and teachers will be required to successfully convey rigorous lessons on par with those delivered by their high-performing counterparts in the international arena. (The Education Trust) 

New York:
Education reform panel starts its work

Education officials from around the state appealed Tuesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new reform commission, describing what they see as problems that need to be addressed in the state’s public schools. The “New” New York Education Reform Commission met in Albany for its first of 10 public hearings. Members, including Education Department Commissioner John King and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, will hear testimony and suggestions before submitting their own recommendations to the governor on revamping the state’s education system. The commission’s report, which Cuomo will receive in December, will advise the governor’s education agenda for next legislative session, which starts in January. (Press Connects) 

David Bornstein: Open Education for a Global Economy

If you or your kids have taken an online lesson at the Khan Academy(3,200 video lessons, 168 million views), been enlightened by a TED Talk (1,300 talks, 800 million views), watched a videotaped academic lecture (Academic Earth, Open Courseware Consortium, Open Culture), enrolled in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course, now being offered by companies like Udacity and a growing list of universities, including M.I.T., Harvard and Stanford), or simply learned to play guitar, paint a landscape or make a soufflé via YouTube — then you know that the distribution channels of education have changed — and that the future of learning is free andopen. This is good news for everyone, but it is particularly good for the vast number of people around the world whose job prospects are constrained by their skill levels and who lack the resources to upgrade them through conventional training. It’s a problem that a relatively unknown company based in Ireland called ALISON — Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online — is helping to address with a creative model. (New York Times) 



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