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

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

News & analysis

U.S. graduation rate rises slightly, report finds
The last straw for 17-year-old Alton Burke was a note left on his door. The high school dropout picked up the phone and re-enrolled at South Hagerstown High. Burke missed roughly 200 days of class, but Heather Dixon, the student intervention specialist who left the note, never gave up on him. Aggressive efforts to prevent students such as Burke from dropping out contributed to a modest 3.5 percentage point increase nationally in the high school graduation rate from 2001 to 2009, according to research to be presented Monday at the Grad Nation summit in Washington. The event was organized by the children’s advocacy group America’s Promise Alliance founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The graduation rate was 75 percent in 2009, meaning 1 in 4 students fails to get a diploma in four years, researchers found. That’s well below the organization’s goal of 90 percent by 2020. Researchers found that the number of “dropout factories,” schools that fail to graduate more than 60 percent of students on time, had dropped by more than 450 between 2002 and 2010, but that 1,550 remain. (NPR)

North Carolina: NC among leaders in graduation rate gains
North Carolina is among a handful of states responsible for the majority of growth in high school graduation rates over the past decade, according to a report scheduled to be released Monday in Washington. The state is also singled out for praise in being among the national leaders in reducing the number of schools that graduate 60 percent or fewer of their students on time, referred to by the report as “dropout factories.” “The progress you’re seeing in North Carolina is remarkable and it’s sustained over time, which provides some pretty compelling evidence that our state is moving in the right direction,” said Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project, which was not involved in the report but tracks graduation rates in the state. (Charlotte Observer)

New York: Teacher evaluations face new union obstructions
School districts around New York state are discovering new challenges in creating teacher-evaluation systems, clashing with unions over details after a broad statewide deal announced to great fanfare last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In Buffalo and Rochester, teachers are insisting they shouldn’t be held responsible for test scores of chronically absent students. The Rochester teachers union is also at odds with its district over how much power to give principals in judging teachers. And some school officials said wealthier districts could determine the whole endeavor isn’t worth the trouble or the cost. The disagreements illustrate the difficulties many of the state’s 700 school districts could face as they try to launch a complex new system. Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Board of Regents, said the disagreements are likely to spread. “I am sure over the next six months we are going to hear of other issues,” Ms. Tisch said. “I just believe that in my gut.” (WSJ)

New York: City teacher ratings unreliable, educators warned
Education officials lacked confidence in the controversial ratings of teachers who oversaw the city’s highest- and lowest-performing students, cautioning schools about considering them in tenure decisions, the Daily News has learned. The city Education Department called superintendents last spring about the shakiness of ratings for teachers at the very top and bottom of the spectrum, which 33% of all ratings, including those of teachers not up for tenure, fell into. And all of the teachers at more than 30 schools fell into this category, a News analysis finds. Officials said the ratings were unreliable for teachers whose classes had an average score above 3.4 or below 1.68 out of 4 on the state math and reading exams, because the tests are meant to measure students in the middle and not subtle changes among the highest and lowest performers. For teachers with classes at the top or bottom, ratings could increase or decrease by 20 points if a class of students, on average, got one more question right or wrong. (Daily News)


Lucinda Rosenfeld: How charter schools hurt
A few weeks ago, for three days in a row starting at 3 p.m., a representative from the Success Academy charter school that is scheduled to open this fall in adjacent Cobble Hill stood outside the doors of P.S. 261, handing out fliers and attempting to recruit its students. On day two, outraged teachers asked the man to leave. He refused. On day three, a loose group of teachers, parents and students occupied the sidewalk next to him. Heated words were exchanged. It wasn’t until the next day, when a schoolwide rally unfolded in the front yard — and cameras from NY1 arrived — that the representative vanished. I can’t help wondering if this is the educational future that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had in mind when, in his State of the City address earlier this year, he called for 50 new charter schools to open in the next two years. Here in the Brownstone Belt, most elementary schools are overwhelmingly populated either by poor minorities or middle- to upper-middle-class whites. P.S. 261 is one of a minority of Brooklyn primary schools that manages to be truly diverse — racially, ethnically and economically. While 35 percent of its student body qualifies for free lunch, it also attracts and retains children from professional families of all races and creeds, who work in law, media and the arts. If Success Academy succeeds in luring away even a fraction of 261’s students, however, it could well create a snowball effect in which its middle-class population ends up fleeing. In New York City, school budgets are determined in part by the number of students who attend. So fewer kids at P.S. 261 would mean less money for the principal to spend on everything from teachers to class trips. (New York Times)

Dana Goldstein interviews Randi Weingarten
Educators and policy-makers from twenty-three nations gathered in New York this week for the second International Summit on the Teaching Profession, hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The purpose of the summit was to identify effective reforms for improving teacher quality. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten attended the summit. Here are her reflections on what the United States can learn from international education reform efforts, which she also had the opportunity to observe firsthand on a recent trip to Shanghai, Japan and Singapore. The interview has been consensed and edited for clarity. (The Nation)


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