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

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

News & analysis

Minnesota: Dayton vetoes bill that would weaken teacher seniority
Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill Thursday that would have forced school boards and teachers unions to consider teacher performance when making layoff decisions, rather than just seniority. The bill was described by supporters as a reform of the “last in, first out” system that puts priority on preserving the jobs of senior teachers during layoffs. It passed the State Legislature along largely partisan lines. Dayton wrote in his veto letter Thursday that the bill was just one of many introduced this legislative session that was “anti-public schools, anti-public school teachers, or anti-collective bargaining rights.” Vallay Varro, executive director for Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now, said she thought the bill should have been more “apolitical.” “We think that this particular piece of legislation would have prized our best teachers, making sure that in the instances where we have to make a layoff that we are keeping our best talent in the classroom,” Varro said. (MPR)

Maryland: State to check erasures for standardized test cheating
From now on, when Maryland students take the state’s standardized tests in the spring, it won’t be just their answers that are tallied — their eraser marks will be, too. The Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved a $75,292 contract modification to have NCS Pearson, Inc., perform an annual in-depth analysis of pencil erasure marks on all third- through eighth-grade test booklets in the state to root out possible cheating by teachers, students or administrators. Twenty other states currently use erasure-detection technology, according to the Maryland State Department of Education’s request for funding. “We always try to maintain the highest integrity with our testing programs. That said, we want to continue [improving test security],” said education department spokesman Bill Reinhard. In recent years, investigators from the Maryland State Department of Education and Baltimore City Public Schools have uncovered widespread cheating by staff members at three city elementary schools. In all three cases, thousands of student answers were changed from wrong to correct, boosting the schools’ overall performance. As a result, the school system has installed independent monitors at every school, expanded training and tightened protocols. The digital analyses will be a backup to that process for every school in the state, Reinhard said. (Gazette)

New Jersey: State Senate panel questions regulations that have helped lead to drop in low-income children in preschool
There have been 9,000 fewer children from low-income families enrolled in subsidized pre-school and after-school programs over the last 2-1/2 years, largely because of more stringent requirements, and members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee said Thursday the rules should be eased. The Senate panel, controlled by Democrats, sharply questioned state Department of Human Services over the rules requiring parents to be working or enrolled in job training for 25 hours a week, and to prove their income by showing a letter from an employer. The state has also phased-in co-payments for pre- and after-school care programs and an electronic attendance system in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse of the popular programs.The state expects to save $32 million by tightening the regulations. Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget for fiscal 2013 anticipates 12,728 children enrolled in the pre- and after-school program, down from 21,728 in 2010. (Star Ledger)

New Jersey: Getting students out of failing public schools is Gov. Christie’s top priority, he says
Gov. Chris Christie said his top legislative priority over the next two months is passing a bill that would give private and parochial school scholarships to students attending some of the worst schools in the state. The bill, known as the Opportunity Scholarship Act, would be financed with tax deductible donations from businesses and is considered budget-neutral. Though the legislature came close to advancing the bill last year, Democrats balked at the size of program and progress stalled. “A lot of fights will come up over the next 59 days, but my number one fight will be passing the Opportunity Scholarship Act,” Christie said. The governor’s remarks came during a keynote address to the American Federation for Children, a group funded privately by supporters of voucher programs and charter school expansion. The Opportunity Scholarship Act is one of four education reforms the governor has been pressing the legislature to act on before lawmakers break for a recess in June. Christie also expects the legislature to pass legislation that would reform tenure, expand access to charter schools and end teachers’ seniority rights during layoffs. (Star Ledger)

Viewpoints

Maria Teresa Tatto discusses her research on teacher training programs around the world
How is math teacher training in Norway different from that in Singapore? What about Botswana or Chile? A group of international researchers headed up by a team at Michigan State University set out to answer those questions in 2006. The result is a six-year, 17-country study that tries to zero in on what countries can learn from each other to improve their teacher training practice. The Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics is the first attempt to compare international math teacher preparations on this scale. About 22,000 teachers-to-be were surveyed and tested, as well as 5,000 instructors. The Hechinger Report talked to Maria Teresa Tatto, study director and associate professor at Michigan State, to learn the main takeaways of the work. (Lessons from Abroad)

Taneesha Crawford: What is being done to improve parent involvement?
Remember the days when your parents walked you to school? Sometimes they brought you inside and hand-delivered you to your teacher. Why did that stop? Fast forward 20 years. Now you have students who live across the street from their schools and are consistently late. Many times older siblings have the responsibility of dropping off their younger siblings before they get themselves to school, and their attendance suffers, too. But in New York you have to work, and work is scarce. Most people even with a college degree are struggling to find jobs. No longer do parents have the time to get involved with their children’s education — and in some cases they don’t see the need. Even in the idealistic situation of a two-parent home, coordinating the family schedule can be a challenge. And in the area where I work, where a lot of students come from single-parent homes with more than one school-age child, seeing parents for other than an emergency or parent-teacher conferences is rare. But parental involvement has become a very hot topic within education circles. There is constant comparison of the outstanding involvement of parents in suburban and private schools with the lack of involvement from parents in urban public schools. Someone is always talking, measuring, criticizing — but not solving. We talk constantly about teacher accountability, publicizing teacher data reports and test scores, even though they are controversial. Well, what about parent accountability? What carrot or stick are we using to encourage parent involvement? That seems to be the elephant in the room that no one is trying to move. (School Book)

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