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

Does Test Prep Harm Teaching? Maybe Not as Much as We Think
At least since the first standards-and-testing regime began in K-12 public schools, advocates of all stripes have quarreled over the impact of the tests on teachers’ classroom instruction day to day, and whether the pressure to keep scores up warps teaching in unproductive ways. Let’s call it the Great Test-Prep War. In this war, there are two major schools of thought. The first argues that test-prep strategies take valuable learning time away, because they focus on the rote or procedural knowledge that is most likely to appear on the tests, rather than conceptual learning. At its worst, it’s a form of cheating. (Ditch the tests!, they argue.) (Education Week)

When The Focus Is On The Student, Not The Class
Not that long ago, the high school in Pittsfield, N.H., had some of the lowest standardized tests scores in the state and was known as a dropout factory. But over the past six years, the school district has overhauled its approach to education. Now in most classes, grades aren’t used to measure progress. And that is a relief to Jenny Wellington, an English teacher at Pittsfield High School, who says grades never really told her whether her students were actually learning. (NPR)

Lawmakers pitch voucher-like program to help bullied, abused students change schools
TALLAHASSEE–Children in Florida’s K-12 public schools who have been victimized by bullying, assault or other violent trauma will have a new option to change schools — including an incentive to leave the public school system for a private alternative — under an initiative announced Wednesday by House Republicans. House leaders won’t have specific legislation available for at least another month for the school choice program they’re proposing as a “Hope Scholarship,” but their announcement sets the stage for a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran in the 2018 session. (Miami Herald)

Parents of students with disabilities sue state of Georgia, allege discrimination
Parents of children with disabilities and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday alleging the state of Georgia has discriminated against students placed in “unequal and separate” schools for kids with behavioral disorders and problems. The Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) schools are “segregated programs,” housed in separate buildings or in separate wings of regular schools, the lawsuit says. “Thus, GNETS students are denied the opportunity to be educated in classrooms with their non-disabled peers.” (The Telegraph)

At Maryland high schools, teaching empathy in a time of controversy
As anger and intolerance dominated the national public discourse over the past year, Arundel High School principal Gina Davenport thought about how her students might respond. Davenport wanted to help the young people communicate in ways that rose above what they were witnessing daily on the news and on social media about the deadly rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in August and debates about removing monuments to the Confederacy from public squares. (The Baltimore Sun)

New York
Angry parents call on Mayor de Blasio to ditch plans for unassigned city teachers
Dozens of angry parents rallied Thursday at City Hall and called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to ditch his plan to place unassigned teachers in the public schools. The protest came as de Blasio prepares to place up to 400 teachers from a costly pool of roving educators — known as the Absent Teacher Reserve — into vacancies at public schools, whether principals want them or not. The city’s new ATR policy begins later this month and differs from the usual method of staffing city schools where principals select teachers from an open market. (NY Daily News)

North Carolina
KIPP Charlotte and Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund Celebrate Opening of New Charter School
CHARLOTTE, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Andre Agassi, tennis champion and co-managing partner of the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, joined officials from KIPP Charlotte along with students and parents today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its newest elementary school campus, KIPP Change Academy. (Business Wire)

Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School agrees to cap enrollment of Bethlehem area students
The Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School has agreed to an enrollment cap with the Bethlehem Area School District, a move that helps give the district consistency in budgeting the costs for charter schools. Superintendent Joseph Roy asked if the charter school would consent to a school-wide enrollment cap of 187 district students during a presentation from charter School Principal Lisa Pluchinsky at a school board committee meeting on Monday. (The Morning Call)

Virginia’s retreat from academic rigor
FIFTEEN YEARS ago, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and President George W. Bush (R) came together to tackle one of the great civil rights issues facing the country: the failure to give poor — mainly minority — children a good education. They knew the problem wouldn’t get solved unless it was measured, and the best way to measure was to test student achievement. (The Washington Post)

Mimi Woldeyohannes is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at 50CAN. She lives in Maryland.


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