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

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

News & analysis

TFA, National Writing Project, New Teacher Center snag new fed grants
Two programs that lost funding when Congress revised its rules on earmarks—Teach for America and the National Writing Project—will get some federal money after all, under a new $24.6 million competitive program, the Supporting Effective Educators Development or SEED program. The National Writing Project, a Berkeley, Calif., based non-profit, got $11.3 million grant to train K-12 teacher-leaders in writing instruction. That’s not as much as the $25.6 million the group used to get when it got federal funding as a “national authorized program”, or “earmark”, depending on whom you talk to. Teach for America, a New York City-based nonprofit that places new college graduates in under-resourced schools, got $8.3 million, to recruit, place, and support new educators. TFA used to get $18 million from the feds before the rule change. (That’s not counting its $50 million, five-year Investing in Innovation Grant, which is dedicated to expanding the program.) And the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., got $4.98 to support new teacher and principals in Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida. The New Teacher Center isn’t one of the programs that lost federal funding last year. This is a brand new grant for them. (Politics K-12)

Rhode Island: Ed department awards $1.9M in federal funds to 8 communities
The state Department of Education has awarded $1.9 million in federal funds to 16 community learning programs in eight communities: Central Falls, Cranston, Newport, North Kingstown, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick and Woonsocket. Four of the programs, one in Pawtucket, one in Providence and two in Woonsocket, are newly funded this year. The money comes from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides funds to support after-school or summer academic enrichment programs. (ProJo)

North Carolina: Teachers say high-stakes testing dominates classes
More ammunition for foes of high-stakes testing has come in the form of a survey of North Carolina teachers showing that more than half those polled say they devote over half their classroom time to preparing for high-stakes tests. The results have been publicized at virtually the same time as the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which showed this year that teacher job satisfaction is at its lowest in more than two decades, as my colleague Liana Heitin reported yesterday. The North Carolina survey of more than 600 teachers statewide and an accompanying report from the North Carolina NAACP, Advocates for Children’s Services, and the Advancement Project (a civil rights group that tackles community inequities), also showed that nearly 90 percent of teachers thought the state’s end-of-grade and end-of-course tests damaged teacher morale. (State EdWatch)

New York: Revamped principal evals could reshape superintendents’ role
Attention has focused squarely on teacher evaluations in recent months. But the state’s evaluation law applies to principals, too, meaning that major changes could be on the way for the way city principals are assessed. In some ways, principals in New York City have been preparing for the state’s evaluation system for years. Since 2008, the city has rated principals according to a tiered system based “multiple measures” that include student test scores — exactly as the state’s evaluation law requires. The city’s current teacher evaluation system is “an old, antiquated process that has to take leaps and bounds to move forward,” said David Weiner, a top Department of Education deputy, during a discussion for about 50 principals affiliated with Teachers College’s Cahn Fellows program in January. “Our principals process is in a much better place.” But that doesn’t mean a new system for principal evaluations is likely to come easily. The law’s requirements mean the city and principals union will have to settle on some major adjustments — adjustments that some question whether the city has the capacity to make. The biggest adjustment will have to be to the role of the superintendent, who must formally observe principals under the state’s new evaluations framework. The city will have to restore authority and support to the offices of the city’s 38 superintendents, which have seen both of those things disappear during the Bloomberg administration. (Gotham Schools)


Andrew Rotherham: Are people expecting too much from Parent Trigger?
As the father of school-aged children, it’s hard for me to oppose the parent trigger, and I don’t. But I do see school choice as a more sustainable way to give parents options and control in the long run. If my own children’s school was failing, my wife and I would pull them out and send them somewhere else. But too few families have that ability, and the resulting desperation many parents – particularly poor parents – are experiencing is a national travesty. However, as an analyst, I’m cautious about what we can expect once parents pull that trigger. When it comes to handling real firearms, there are some age-old axioms: never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot, and never fire unless you know where the round is going to end up. In this case these rules apply to schools as well. (Time)

Sara Mead: Saul Alinsky, integration, and fixing poverty first
The United States has a shamefully high child poverty rate, and poverty and associated ills certainly impact children’s educational outcomes and make educators’ jobs harder. But once we start to focus on poverty it’s easy to get tangled up in a web of interconnected and deeply challenging issues that are very hard to address–including some we don’t fully understand or know how to address, and others where political and fiscal realities put bold action out of reach. So people who want to improve outcomes for low-income American kids today need to heed Alinsky’s advice and pick targets where we have the power to start. Public schools, their policies, and effectiveness are a more promising target than the family, deep rooted neighborhood dysfunction, or “poverty” writ large. We know there are inequities in how schools serve low-income kids, we know there are models that are producing better results than the average today, and we know that there are policy changes that can increase the odds that low-income kids get a good education. We also know that public schools alone can’t close the achievement gap or resolve deep inequities of income distribution and opportunity. But we pick the target we can change. And we remember that, as Alinsky writes, success on one target begets success on others. (Policy Notebook)


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