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

Inside ESSA Plans: How Do States Want to Handle Testing Opt-Outs?
Parents who opted their children out of state exams in recent years became the focal point of major education debates in the country about the proper roles of testing, the federal government, and achievement gaps. Now. under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have a chance to rethink how they handle testing opt-outs. So how are states responding in their ESSA plans they submitted to the federal government.? In short, it’s all over the place, an Education Week review of the ESSA plans shows. (Education Week)

If Your Teacher Looks Like You, You May Do Better In School
Think back to grade school for a moment and envision that one teacher who could captivate you more than any other. Did that teacher look a bit like you? One recent study says: probably. There’s mounting evidence that when black students have black teachers, those students are more likely to graduate high school. That new study takes this idea even further, providing insight into the way students actually think and feel about the teachers who look like them and those who don’t. (NPR)

The Purpose of Education—According to Students
Radio Atlantic recently examined a question that underpins many, if not most, debates about education in the U.S.: What are public schools for? Increasingly, it seems, American parents expect schools to first and foremost serve as pipelines into the workforce—places where kids develop the skills they need to get into a good college, land a good job, and ultimately have a leg up in society. For those parents, consistently low test scores are evidence that the country’s education system is failing. Conversely, other parents argue that public schools’ primary responsibility is to create an educated citizenry, to instill kids with the kinds of values integral to a democratic society—curiosity, empathy,  an appreciation for diversity, and so on. (The Atlantic)

Grading Hawaii’s New Schools Chief
Hawaii’s new schools superintendent will face an evaluation process that aims to be more fluid and include more input from both education administrators and members of the public. That’s the idea behind a proposed blueprint of the process recently released by the state Board of Education. Unlike in years past, the evaluation that officials will use to review Christina Kishimoto in her first year on the job strives to be more transparent and provide a clear understanding of the new school leader’s priorities for the year and what she is expected to accomplish. (Honolulu Civil Beat)

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal rejects state’s education plan
Gov. Nathan Deal refused to sign Georgia’s plan for complying with the latest federal education law, highlighting a conflict with state school Superintendent Richard Woods.Deal wrote to Woods that Georgia’s plan, required under the Every Student Succeeds Act, “falls short in setting high expectations for Georgia students and schools” and is too restrictive on how local districts run their schools. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New Mexico
Use evaluation system as an improvement tool
The New Mexico Public Education Department recently released statewide data that indicates that more teachers are effective according to the state’s teacher evaluation system. More New Mexico students are being taught by highly effective and exemplary teachers. This should be a time to celebrate the growth that teachers and students are making in the state. Instead, recent articles continue to focus on attacking the systems that are contributing to better education in New Mexico.(Albuquerque Journal)

New York
As new charter schools open, Buffalo School Board asks for moratorium
The new school year brought a new charter school to the city’s Willert Park neighborhood, while another Buffalo charter added a second location on Hertel Avenue. One broke ground for an elementary school on Great Arrow Avenue, while two more charters are scheduled to open next year,  bringing the total in Buffalo to 18. At least three more are on the horizon. The flurry of local activity surrounding charters is refueling tensions with Buffalo Public Schools, which has petitioned the state to slow down the charter expansion across the city. (The Buffalo News)

Improving struggling Pa. schools is education department’s ‘highest priority’ — but it will take time
Pennsylvania’s accountability plan under the new federal education law has earned praise for a range of initiatives from shortening standardized tests and to creating an educator leadership “pipeline” to help create a diverse teaching force statewide. But it lacks details on how to fix its longtime lowest-performing schools, which some critics have called a failing. PennCAN’s Jonathan Cetel last week found the final plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act “at best, subpar,” pointing out “an overall lack of detail … and no clear plan to turnaround chronically low-achieving schools.” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

Why is Virginia, cradle of America, killing its U.S. history tests?
My entire life I have heard complaints about how little we Americans know about our history. So why is Virginia killing its annual U.S. history tests, while still requiring state exams in English, math and science? I always liked Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests, particularly U.S. History to 1865 in fifth grade, U.S. History 1865 to Present in middle school and the high school exam, U.S and Virginia History. Twenty years ago, my first front page story as a Post education writer was about other states admiring Virginia’s new guide to key parts of our nation’s story. (The Washington Post)

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


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