Curtis Whatley is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

U.S. bachelor degree rate passes milestone
More than 30 percent of American adults hold bachelor’s degrees, a first in the nation’s history, and women are on the brink of surpassing men in educational attainment, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday. The figures reflect an increase in the share of the population going to college that began in the mid-1990s, after a relatively stagnant period that began in the 1970s. They show significant gains in all demographic groups, but blacks and Latinos not only continue to trail far behind whites, the gap has also widened in the last decade. As of last March, 30.4 percent of people over age 25 in the United States held at least a bachelor’s degree, and 10.9 percent held a graduate degree, up from 26.2 percent and 8.7 percent 10 years earlier. (New York Times)

Black male teachers becoming extinct
Take a moment and think of all the teachers you had between pre-K and twelfth grade. Now, how many of them were black men? For most people, this question won’t take too long to answer. That’s because less than two percent of America’s teachers are black men, according to the Department of Education. That is less than 1 in 50 teachers. Terris King, 25, a kindergarten teacher at the Bishop John T. Walker School in Washington D.C., believes that for African-American children, having a strong role model in front of them can make a huge difference. “I fit a void in their lives,” King says, “A lot of them have never felt what it feels like to shake a man’s hand, [have him] look them in the eye, and tell them right from wrong. They need those things. They need someone in their lives who’s strong—they need an African American male in their lives that’s positive.” (CNN)

New York: Ratings of New York City teachers released today
The New York City Education Department will release the ratings of thousands of teachers on Friday, ending a nearly year-and-a-half-long legal battle by the teachers’ union to keep the names confidential. The ratings, known as Teacher Data Reports, grade nearly 18,000 of the city’s 75,000 public school teachers based on how much progress their students have made on standardized tests. The city developed these so-called value-added ratings five years ago in a pilot program to improve instruction and has factored them into yearly teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. Even before their release, the ratings have been assailed by independent experts, school administrators and teachers who say there are large margins of error — because they are based on small amounts of data, the test scores themselves were determined by the state to have been inflated, and there were factual errors or omissions, among other problems. The union, the United Federation of Teachers, is responding to the release with a $100,000-plus newspaper advertising campaign starting on Friday. With the headline “This Is No Way to Rate a Teacher,” the advertisements will feature an open letter from the union president, Michael Mulgrew, that displays a complex mathematical formula followed by a checklist of reasons why the ratings are problematic. (New York Times)

New York: School Book invites teachers to respond to their data reports
The ratings are imperfect, according to independent experts, school administrators and teachers alike. There are large margins of error, because they are generally based on small amounts of data. And there are many other documented problems, like teachers being rated even when they are on maternity leave. But the data figured in high-stakes decisions about public employees, and the debate about value-added ratings is continuing as the city and state overhaul the evaluation process. With SchoolBook’s partners at WNYC, The Times has developed a sophisticated tool to display the ratings in their proper context, a hallmark of our journalism. But we want to take that a step further, by inviting any teacher who was rated to provide her or his response or explanation. We are seeking those responses now, so they can be published at the same time as the data reports. (School Book)

New York: Nine schools cited for exam and credit irregularities
New York City’s Education Department has called for investigations into nine high schools for irregularities in the way the schools scored examinations or awarded credits, and has identified hundreds of students in the city who were allowed to graduate without meeting basic requirements. Officials found problems at 55 of the 60 high schools reviewed in a special audit, including the improper grading of Regents exams, the graduation of students who did not meet credit and testing requirements, the awarding of credits for work not performed, and gaps in reporting about students who supposedly switched to other schools. Of the 9,582 students who graduated from the 60 high schools in 2010, 292 fell short on their requirements. Still, the city said the graduates would retain their diplomas. The flaws were so glaring at nine schools that the Education Department referred the cases to the city’s office of the special commissioner of investigation for schools. (School Book)

New Jersey: Christie moves to change state school funding formula
Gov. Chris Christie Thursday announced the changes he wants to make to the state School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) in an attempt to ensure state aid is used in a way that will close the achievement gap between students in poor urban schools and those in suburban schools. The changes are based on the findings of the “Education Funding Report” prepared by state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf which outlines a series of measures that attempt to save money, and help close the state’s persistent achievement gap, including improving failing schools and changing standards for teachers. The proposed state budget includes $7.8 billion for public schools, the largest appropriation in New Jersey history and up $213 million from the 2011-12 allotment. Christie said that making modifications to the school funding formula will make it possible to fund districts based on the number and needs of students, while at the same time laying out a schedule that adds additional funds in each future year and will fully fund the SFRA over the next five years. The governor said the move will increase stability and predictability for districts and fund districts based both on the number of students served and the needs of those students. (NJ Newsroom)


Gotham Schools: Why we won’t publish individual teachers’ value-added scores
The fact is that we feel a strong responsibility to report on the quality of the work the 80,000 New York City public school teachers do every day. This is a core part of our job and our mission. But before we publish any piece of information, we always have to ask a question. Does the information we have do a fair job of describing the subject we want to write about? If it doesn’t, is there any additional information — context, anecdotes, quantitative data — that we can provide to paint a fuller picture? In the case of the Teacher Data Reports, “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced in 2009 and 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8, the answer to both those questions was no. We determined that the data were flawed, that the public might easily be misled by the ratings, and that no amount of context could justify attaching teachers’ names to the statistics. When the city released the reports, we decided, we would write about them, and maybe even release Excel files with names wiped out. But we would not enable our readers to generate lists of the city’s “best” and “worst” teachers or to search for individual teachers at all. (Gotham Schools)

Eric Hanushek: Teacher ratings are a vital step forward
Nobody would ever advocate making personnel decisions through public posting of evaluations in the newspaper. The public release of value-added scores for more than 12,000 New York City teachers, set for Friday morning, should not be taken as a model for how to run the human resource departments of the schools. But that is not what is going on here. The public release of these ratings — which attempt to isolate a teacher’s contribution to his or her students’ growth in math and English achievement, as measured by state tests — is one important piece of a much bigger attempt to focus school policy on what really matters: classroom learning. A key element of this effort is developing evaluation systems that identify both the highly effective and the highly ineffective teachers and administrators — and then actually uses that information to make personnel decisions. To understand why the release of this data makes sense, you must step back and see the intense, broader battle underway throughout the nation. (Daily News)

Washington Post: O’Malley’s teacher pension plan would hurt counties
MARYLAND’S SYSTEM for funding teachers’ pensions is rife with perverse incentives, lacks accountability and is heedless of taxpayers. Unfortunately, a fix proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) doesn’t go far enough. Maryland’s scheme is the product of decades of improvisation, fiscal mismanagement and political pandering. Not surprisingly, it is virtually unique among states — and almost uniquely senseless. Now Mr. O’Malley is seeking reforms, largely at the initiative of the state Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who himself is partly to blame for the mess. Starting next year, the governor’s plan would offload half of the cost for teachers’ pensions to local governments. Collectively, the localities would be hit with a $240 million bill in 2013, a charge that would increase over time. The main problem with the governor’s plan is that it sticks counties with a heavy bill but gives them no power to control costs. After all, school boards, not counties, negotiate teachers’ contracts. And state law forbids counties from cutting funding for schools unless enrollment shrinks. (WaPo)


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