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

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

News & analysis

Education colleges cry foul on ratings
The National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan group, seeks to come up with more rigorous ratings for undergraduate education programs but is running into opposition from the schools, which say the ratings fail to measure graduates’ effectiveness in the classroom and rely too heavily on assessing course syllabi. The council sued Wisconsin public colleges of education in January for refusing to turn over course syllabi the group says it needs to assess the programs, and this week sent a letter to Minnesota officials threatening similar action. Higher-education officials in Wisconsin and Minnesota argue the syllabi are the “intellectual property” of the faculty. The council is trying to reach an agreement with Wisconsin on the syllabi issue. States including California, Arizona and Maine are cooperating. “This is nothing but the colleges of education closing ranks to keep the public from getting insight into the quality of their programs,” said Kate Walsh, president of the council. (WSJ)

Harkin bill would provide billions to hire teachers, fix up schools
As the U.S. House of Representatives gets ready to approve a Republican budget for 2013 that would cut taxes and federal spending, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is offering a countermeasure that would spend more money on things like education and workforce training, and eliminate some corporate tax breaks. Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, is proposing a sweeping effort to “rebuild America’s middle class,” which contains several elements that most teachers and school districts will cheer. (Politics K-12)

New Jersey: Cerf defends Christie’s proposed changes to education formula
The state’s top education official today defended the Christie administration’s proposed changes to the school funding formula, including a plan to spend less money on poor students. Testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in Trenton, acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said adjusting the way public schools get state aid is good for students and will encourage teachers and administrators to boost student achievement. “We need to collectively get out of the box that says we can define success in education by how much we spend,” Cerf said. “It’s not only how much we spend — the box we’ve been pushed into by the courts — it’s about an integrated strategy of policy and funds.” The changes the administration has proposed include a reduction in funding to districts that serve poor students and students with limited English proficiency, but the plan also increase the base amount of per-pupil funding. (Star-Ledger)

New York: Budget will provide $7.92B in total school aid to the city
City schools will get a $75 million boost in funding under the budget deal hammered out by state lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo. The soon-to-be-adopted budget provides $7.92 billion in total school aid to the city, surpassing the $7.84 billion Cuomo initially proposed in January, according to figures released Thursday afternoon. “It’s definitely a good budget for the city,” said Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn). “They did very well.” Lawmakers said the added funding came about because legislators pared down Cuomo’s plan to allocate $250 million in education aid through competitive grants. They reduced Cuomo’s figure to about $50 million, allowing $200 million to be re-allocated back into traditional school aid formulas. Overall, the 2012-13 budget provides approximately $20.4 billion for school aid, an increase of about $805 million from the current spending plan. (Daily News)

New York: Buffalo schools illustrate difficulties of NY teacher evaluations
Buffalo schools had $9.3 million in federal School Improvement Grant money suspended by the state in January, because its proposed plan for teacher evaluations (submitted in December) did not come up to snuff. A subsequent teacher evaluation proposal submitted to the New York State Department of Education on Feb. 15 and agreed to by the Buffalo district and its teachers’ union, was rejected because it excluded the performance of chronically absent students from a portion of the evaluations. After my March 14 story, the school district and union reached another evaluation deal on March 23. It no longer excluded students with attendance problems from evaluations, but did include provisions that essentially allowed scores to be adjusted based on the percentage of students chronically absent at a school, if the percentage varied from overall district attendance rates. But on March 27, the state rejected this latest evaluation model, but not because of problems with factoring in student attendance, Buffalo Superintendent Amber M. Dixon said. She said state officials this time cited various problems with the district’s proposed scoring methods for determining which teachers are rated “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective.” (State EdWatch)

North Carolina: McCrory pitches education plan with different tracks for students
Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory on Wednesday rolled out highlights of the public school improvements he’d make if elected in November. They included refrains from his 2008 campaign. McCrory promoted his focus on vocational education by saying he would push for two types of high school diplomas — one that certifies a graduate is college-ready and another that certifies a graduate is ready for a career. He also said he backs merit pay for the best teachers, favors expanding the state’s online education network and urges the use of technology by parents and children. Although high school graduation rates have increased in recent years, McCrory said there are still too many students dropping out, placing a burden on the criminal justice or welfare systems. Others who graduate are filling up community college and university classrooms, needing remedial classes before moving forward. “We cannot put up right now with the status quo of education,” McCrory told reporters at the north Raleigh campus of Wake Technical Community College. “We must change and I’m here to help institute that change.” Left out of his education platform were the details on how to pay for his changes. (Winston-Salem Journal)

North Carolina: Democratic hopefuls vow aid to schools
The major Democratic candidates for governor all sang from the same hymnal Thursday, pledging before a group of educators to be forceful advocates for the public schools. The Democrats voiced support for restoring the three-fourths-of-a-cent sales tax that the Republican legislature repealed, opposed vouchers or tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools, and were skeptical about merit pay for teachers. In one of their first forums, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, former Congressman Bob Etheridge, and state Rep. Bill Faison avoided criticizing each other. In fact, with few exceptions they mainly ignored the likely Republican nominee, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. (News Observer)



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