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: School districts borrowed; now they beg
Twenty-six metro school districts — nearly twice as many as last year — are turning to banks to make ends meet, borrowing a total of $382 million this year. The borrowing blitz by more than 60 percent of metro-area school districts that took part in a survey released Wednesday is being blamed on an unprecedented delay in state funding. It comes in a year when a near-record number of districts statewide asked taxpayers for more money. While borrowing is up, layoffs and budget cuts are down, illustrating a shift in how school districts are balancing their budgets. “This was probably the lesser of two evils,” said Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, whose annual survey asked districts how much they’re borrowing for the first time this year. “But it’s not a pain-free way; there are consequences.” (Star Tribune)

Connecticut: ConnCAN released its annual school report cards
Every year, ConnCAN assigns letter grades, based on student performance, to more than 1,000 Connecticut public schools and 160 school districts. We’ve also put together Top 10 lists of elementary, middle, and high schools to show the top performing schools in different categories like performance gains and low-income student performance. What’s this all about? Parents, educators, policymakers, and taxpayers – really, all of us – have a stake in understanding what’s going on in our schools. ConnCAN’s report cards make it possible for anyone in the state to get an insider’s view of any school or district and access the data necessary to demand excellent public schools for all students in Connecticut. (ConnCAN)

New York: On Long Island, SAT cheating was hardly a secret
The suspected test takers came from prominent, respected families, some of them in financial distress — among the five facing felony charges were the sons of a well-known lawyer, the president of the local library board and a wealthy philanthropic family. The youths who are accused of paying them as much as $3,600 to take SAT and ACT tests were largely undistinguished students willing to cut corners to strengthen their modest résumés. The combination yielded one of the most conspicuous cheating scandals in memory, a telling reflection on the college admissions rat race — and, perhaps, contemporary ethics more broadly. According to prosecutors, principals, parents and teenagers here on Long Island’s Gold Coast, it was common knowledge at some of the nation’s most prestigious high schools that if you had the money, you could find someone with a sharper vocabulary and a surer grasp of geometry to fill in the blanks for you. (Times)

New York: Teacher transfers planned at two low-performing Buffalo schools
Half the teachers of two low-performing Buffalo elementary schools will be moved out in 2012-13, under plans the district will file with Albany at the end of the month, district officials said this week. Staff could be moved from other schools, too, which will become clear in the next two weeks. But teachers at Futures Academy and Dr. Charles Drew Science Magnet School 59 are nearly certain to be transferred under plans the district will submit to Albany. Outrage was strongest at Futures Academy, where every teacher refused to reinterview for a job at the school. The same will happen this time, teachers there vow. Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore has repeatedly said that he opposes the involuntary transfer of teachers. It has not been proved to improve student performance, he says. The only way he would support it is if the teachers at each affected school vote in favor and then the union’s Council of Delegates supports it. (Buffalo News)

Rhode Island: Low-income Cranston students to get college help
More than 400 sixth-graders who receive free or reduced lunches could get some help getting into college, too. For the first time, low-income students in Cranston looking for scholarships and other help can apply for membership in The College Crusade of Rhode Island, a college-readiness program that works with the state’s poorest families. Notices about the free program will go out with report cards in early February. (ProJo)


Dana Goldstein: The trouble with social studies standards and how the common core might help
The Common Core English standards call for 50 percent of all reading assignments to be non-fiction and “informational;” currently, according to David Coleman, the lead architect of the new standards, about 80 percent of all reading assignments are fiction or memoir. So if schools and teachers take the Common Core suggested reading lists seriously, students will gain  a lot more exposure to great thinkers and ideas in civics, history, and the social sciences. English class reading lists aren’t a substitute for high-quality history and civics courses, but they do foster seriousness toward these subjects across the curriculm. And remember: There are pragmatic political reasons why the Common Core isn’t explicitly crafting history standards. Every time the country or even an individual state tries to come to any sort of agreement about how to teach history, we become embroiled in culture war nonsense. (Dana Goldstein)

James Merisotis: Cut college costs to build workforce
College tuition has outpaced inflation for nearly three decades. The cost of a degree is now prohibitive for too many Americans. This is a troubling trend that, if left unchecked, will most likely leave the nation unable to meet the growing demand for a highly educated workforce – which is critical to our national economic competitiveness. (Politico)


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