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

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

News & analysis

Maryland: MarylandCAN Executive Director Curtis Valentine on WBAL’s Sunday Q&A
It’s a tall order but Curtis Valentine, executive director of MarylandCAN, says his organization will improve city schools. (YouTube)

Maryland: Baltimore principal pay below state average
Even as Baltimore principals have been given an unprecedented amount of responsibility over the past four years under schools CEO Andrés Alonso, their average salary has remained among the lowest in the state. The average salary for city principals this school year is about $108,000, just $2,800 more than their pay in 2008, according to an analysis of school system employee salaries obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request by The Baltimore Sun. That leaves city principals — who lead schools with the largest and most academically challenged populations in the state — behind most of their colleagues in the metropolitan area and only slightly above rural counties on the Eastern Shore. (Baltimore Sun)

Pennsylvania: Schools’ financing fight pits district against “charter on steroids”
The Chester Upland School District is more than $20 million in debt, its bank account is almost empty and it cannot afford to pay teachers past the end of this month. To make matters worse, the local charter school, with which the district must divide its financing, is suing the district over unpaid bills. The district’s fiscal woes are the product of a toxic brew of budget cuts, mismanagement and the area’s poverty. Its problems are compounded by the Chester Community Charter School, a nonprofit institution that is managed by a for-profit company and that now educates nearly half of the district’s students. The district sees the charter as a vampire, sucking up more than its fair share of scarce resources. The state, it says, is giving the charter priority over the district. “It’s not competition, it’s just draining resources from the district,” said Catherine Smith, a principal at Columbus Elementary, a district school. “It’s a charter school on steroids.” The charter says that it is also part of the public school system and that the district, its primary source of financing, has not paid it anything since last spring. The state has taken over payments, but even those are late, it says. (New York Times)

Minnesota: Proposed teacher seniority rule changes not likely to have local effect
Fergus Falls teachers union representatives and school board members say proposed changes to the state rule that bases school district teacher layoffs on seniority would have a negligible effect locally. One proposal offered by Republican legislators would end a state mandate that requires school districts to consider seniority when conducting layoffs. School board member Melanie Cole said that, no matter what is decided by the legislature, District 544 administrators and school board members will continue to address teacher issues when concerns arise. Almost 80 percent of Minnesotans, in a recent survey, said they believe laying off teachers based solely on experience hurts the quality of education for students. The survey was conducted by the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now, an education advocacy group. (Fergus Falls Journal)

North Carolina: High school crime and violence down
A new report says crime, suspensions and dropouts were all down in North Carolina schools during the year that ended last summer. The state Department of Public Instruction says in its annual report on school crime and violence released Thursday that offenses and suspensions relate to whether children stay in school to graduation. The reported number of criminal or violent acts in 2010-11 decreased by 6 percent for high school students, and was nearly unchanged from the previous year when all grades are counted. (Winston-Salem Journal)

Connecticut: Charter schools to get boost under Malloy plan
Charter schools would expand and get more money under a plan by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration to be announced Monday, but some of the additional funding would have to come from local school districts. The proposal would increase per-pupil funding for charter schools from $9,400 to $12,000. Of that, $1,000 for the first time would be paid by the districts where those students live, according to sources who have been briefed on the plan. For districts like Bridgeport, which sends about 1,400 students to charter school, the cost would be $1.4 million annually. Malloy, who plans to lay out his full education reform agenda on Wednesday, has been releasing components of his initiative for the past several days. The charter school proposals, described as one sliver of the package, is designed not only to increase the number of students who can access these publicly funded experimental schools, but attract high-quality, out-of-state charter school operators to the state. (CT Post)

Rhode Island: Regents give go-ahead to Providence charter school plan
The Rhode Island Board of Regents Thursday gave preliminary approval to a controversial charter school plan that has divided the city. In a 5-4 vote, with chairman George Caruolo casting the tie-breaker, the regents voted to permit Achievement First, a charter school operator with schools in New York and Connecticut, to open two elementary schools in Providence also serving children in Cranston, Warwick and North Providence. (ProJo)

New Jersey: Newark schools standoff
Newark’s new schools superintendent, Cami Anderson, outlined a broad plan on Friday to reshape the state’s largest school system, including closing poorly performing schools and lifting standards for charters. Although many of the changes echoed similar efforts in New York City, Ms. Anderson cast the blueprint as one tailored to the needs of Newark, a district where some parents, teachers and other stakeholders have grown resentful and suspicious of outsiders after more than 15 years under state control. But in what was perhaps a sign of difficulties to come, her presentation before parents, teachers and residents at Rutgers-Newark on Friday evening was drowned out by shouts for her to return to New York City, where she worked as a superintendent under schools Chancellor Joel Klein. (WSJ)

New York: Dominican families balance schooling with extended trips home
It begins in early December. Students pop into the attendance office at Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics brandishing plane tickets like doctor’s notes. Then the absences start, weeks before the winter break begins. And then comes the rolling return of students, stretching to the waning days of January. The annual ritual that takes place at Gregorio Luperon also plays out in other pockets of the city that, like Washington Heights, have many students from the Dominican Republic. Extended mid-year absences are by no means limited to Dominican students: The New York Times reported this week about post-vacation enrollment flux at Chinatown schools. But educators and community organizations say the phenomenon is especially pronounced at schools with many families from the Dominican Republic — and that the impact can be significant. (Gotham Schools)


Michael Winerip: Despite focus on data, standards for diploma may still lack rigor
The next time people try to tell you how much the data-driven education reform programs of President George W. Bush (No Child Left Behind) and President Obama (Race to the Top) have raised academic standards in America, suggest that they take a look at the Jan. 24, 2012, New York State English Regents exam. This year, for the first time, high schools students must score at least 65 on the English exam, as well as on four other state tests — math, science, global history and United States history — to earn a diploma. The three-hour English test includes 25 multiple choice questions; one essay; and two short responses that are each supposed to be a paragraph long. A short response is scored 0 to 2 points. A student who gets 1’s on both responses has a pretty good shot at scoring 65 and passing the exam. Here, from the state teachers’ scoring guide, is an excerpt from a short response written by an unnamed student. The guide says it deserves a score of 1: “These two Charater have very different mind Sets because they are creative in away that no one would imagen just put clay together and using leaves to create Art.” (New York Times)


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