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

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

News & analysis

Race to the Top for districts piques interest of Los Angeles and Chicago mayors
Opening a new phase for the Obama administration’s role in education reform, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signaled interest in applying for the revamped, district-level Race to the Top competition. “The idea … that districts will now be allowed to compete for Race to the Top in states like mine, where they haven’t really wanted to have a competitive bid, is really heartening,” Villaraigosa said, speaking on a Friday morning panel with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Emanuel and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “We will now, on our own, be able to put our performance, our reforms, our changes with an idea toward a set of results … and not be tied to what goes on at the state level,” Emanuel said, who went on to describe the district-level competition as “a significant change.” (HuffPo)

Maryland: Parent-teacher conference bill heard in senate finance committee
On Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, MarylandCAN testified in support of legislation that would allow parents the right to attend biannual parent-teacher conferences without risking their livelihood. Senate Bill 329 was heard in front of the state Senate finance committee. MarylandCAN Executive Director Curtis Valentine testified: “I come to Annapolis today not simply as an advocate for students, parents or teachers; I come as a former middle school educator who understands the struggles of not having full participation from parents. I come to Annapolis today as a parent of a public school student—a parent who will one day have to make tough choices about my child, but choosing between a parent teacher conference and keeping a job shouldn’t be one of them.” (Riverdale Park Patch)


Michael Winerip: Hard-working teachers sabotaged when student test scores slip
For 15 years, Anna Allanbrook has been the principal of Public School 146 in Brooklyn, one of the highest-achieving elementary schools in the city. In that time, she has never had a more talented and hard-working bunch than the current team of fifth-grade teachers. The five have lunch together daily, using the time to plan. They stay until 7 p.m. on Fridays to prepare for the following week. On Thursday night, most of them helped at the science invention fair until it was past 8 p.m. Their credentials would be impressive for college professors. Antoinette Byam, who received a grant to spend a month in Ghana in 2006, won a Fulbright scholarship in 2008 to do research in Mexico and Peru. She then wrote fifth-grade curriculums on the Mayans. Before becoming a teacher, Nancy Salomon had her own theater company and ran a drama program in the schools that won an arts award from the Guggenheim Museum. Cora Sangree has trained teachers at Bank Street College of Education and Teachers College at Columbia University. Laurie Matthews worked as an archaeologist in Brazil and France before she started teaching. In 2009, 96 percent of their fifth graders were proficient in English, 89 percent in math. When the New York City Education Department released its numerical ratings recently, it seemed a sure bet that the P.S. 146 teachers would be at the very top. Actually, they were near the very bottom. How could this possibly have happened? Though 89 percent of P.S. 146 fifth graders were rated proficient in math in 2009, the year before, as fourth graders, 97 percent were rated as proficient. This resulted in the worst thing that can happen to a teacher in America today: negative value was added. The difference between 89 percent and 97 percent proficiency at P.S. 146 is the result of three children scoring a 2 out of 4 instead of a 3 out of 4. (New York Times)

William Johnson: Confessions of a “bad” teacher
I am a special education teacher. My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances. I love these kids, but they can be a handful. Almost without exception, they struggle on standardized tests, frustrate their teachers and find it hard to connect with their peers. What’s more, these are high school students, so their disabilities are compounded by raging hormones and social pressure. As you might imagine, my job can be extremely difficult. Beyond the challenges posed by my students, budget cuts and changes to special-education policy have increased my workload drastically even over just the past 18 months. While my class sizes have grown, support staff members have been laid off. Students with increasingly severe disabilities are being pushed into more mainstream classrooms like mine, where they receive less individual attention and struggle to adapt to a curriculum driven by state-designed high-stakes tests. On top of all that, I’m a bad teacher. That’s not my opinion; it’s how I’m labeled by the city’s Education Department. Last June, my principal at the time rated my teaching “unsatisfactory,” checking off a few boxes on an evaluation sheet that placed my career in limbo. That same year, my school received an “A” rating. I was a bad teacher at a good school. It was pretty humiliating. (New York Times)


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