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

Good morning! I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Here’s what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:

News & analysis

Kevin Carey profiles Diane Ravitch
Under the mountain of Ravitch’s firmly held opinions, it is difficult to locate many enduring intellectual convictions. Only two stand out: the value of a common, core academic curriculum for all students and the role of public education as a pillar of democracy. These are fine things in which to believe. But they are nothing close to a comprehensive philosophy on which to base a lifetime of inquiry into something as complex as public education. I asked James Fraser if, as a historian, he could locate any consistent intellectual point of view in her work. He thought for a while before saying: “No. And that’s an interesting ‘No.’ I can’t really think of anything at this state, beyond her ability to use historical narrative in illustrating various points—sometimes hugely contradictory points!—about current debates in education.” (TNR)

New York: Mexicans in NYC lag in education
About 41 percent of all Mexicans between ages 16 and 19 in the city have dropped out of school, according to census data. No other major immigrant group has a dropout rate higher than 20 percent, and the overall rate for the city is less than 9 percent, the statistics show. This crisis endures at the college level. Among Mexican immigrants 19 to 23 who do not have a college degree, only 6 percent are enrolled. That is a fraction of the rates among other major immigrant groups and the native-born population. Moreover, these rates are significantly worse than those of the broader Mexican immigrant population in the United States. The problem is especially unsettling because Mexicans are the fastest-growing major immigrant group in the city, officially numbering about 183,200, according to the Census Bureau, up from about 33,600 in 1990. Experts say the actual figure is far larger, given high levels of illegal immigration. (New York Times)

Tennessee: A possible model for higher education
The typical college student today isn’t “typical” anymore: Only 1 in 4 lives on campus and studies full time. But part-timers and commuter students are much less likely to finish — most part-time students are still without a degree or a certificate after eight years. Higher education is desperately looking for strategies that improve those numbers. There might be one in Tennessee. Many higher-ed institutions brag about all the choices they offer: lots of courses and majors to choose from, pick your own schedule. But for some students, choice can be the enemy, says James King, vice chancellor of the Tennessee Technology Centers, a state-supported career-training program with 27 locations strung across the state. (NPR)

Maryland: Legal immigrants join fight against the DREAM Act
Until recently, Maryland’s legal and political battle over in-state tuition has been seen as pitting young illegal immigrants against native residents. But in the past few months, a petition drive by opponents of the measure has attracted a small but growing number of legal immigrants, who say that they, too, are being cheated. The issue of what to do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States has roiled Republican presidential debates. In recent years, it has spawned national movements that advocate a range of solutions, including forcing all illegal immigrants to return home and granting them all legal amnesty. The Dream Act, which was passed by both houses of the Maryland legislature in April, was about to become law when an advocacy group called Help Save Maryland, working with Republican lawmakers, launched an online campaign to try to prevent it from being enacted. The drive garnered more than 100,000 electronic signatures, resulting in the suspension of the law until a statewide public referendum can be held next year. (WaPo)

Minnesota: Judge rules online charters should stay open
An online charter school in West St. Paul has won a major victory in a battle over the school’s existence. State officials had moved to close BlueSky Online, saying the school wasn’t meeting state standards and had graduated students who didn’t deserve a diploma. BlueSky disputed that, and asked for a review from an administrative law judge. The ruling Tuesday sides with the school, saying the state didn’t prove its case. It also recommends the state restore a key contract that had been terminated and would have prevented BlueSky from staying open. (MPR)


Rick Hess: An “American” approach to K-12 reform
When asked how to boost America’s educational competitiveness, a staple response is the emphatic assertion that we need to be more like Nation X. It can be South Korea, Finland, or wherever country the guru has visited most recently. But, just for a moment, let’s entertain the radical proposition that a better course is to tap into uniquely American strengths like federalism, entrepreneurial dynamism, and size and heterogeneity. Those besotted with international envy find it hard to accept that America’s “handicaps” are the inevitable flip side of its unique strengths. Rather than figuring out how to undo them, we would be better served figuring out to leverage them. (Straight Up)


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