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: Story alleges cheating at Highland Elementary School
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story this weekend questioning ”extreme score gains” at Silver Spring’s Highland Elementary School, at at dozens of other schools that have won the national Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Education Department. Highland went from the cusp of a state takeover in 2005 to posting some of the highest reading scores in Maryland by 2009. The remarkable turn-around came about at a school with a challenging population. More than 80 percent of is students come from poverty and a majority don’t speak English at home. The school won the prestigious federal award in 2008. Unlike in some cases of alleged cheating that the Atlanta newspaper and other news outlets have exposed, the latest story did not report any suspicious erasure rates on answer sheets or include allegations of cheating made by teachers or staff members. Montgomery officials have repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Still, such jumps are “remarkably unlikely” and suggest cheating, the article said. (Maryland Schools Insider)

New Jersey: Gov. Christie, Cory Booker to deliver addresses at school choice conference in Jersey City
Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker are the headliners at a national conference on school choice scheduled for this week in Jersey City. Both men are scheduled to speak at the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice’s major meeting. The groups advocate for giving parents more school options for their children. Christie has been pushing for a tax-credit program that would use public money to send children in some New Jersey communities to private schools. The Republican governor and Democratic mayor have united previously on education issues. They were both involved in Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to donate $100 million to try to improve Newark’s schools. (Star Ledger)

New York: Hizzoner says releasing teacher ratings to parents would lead to “chaos”
Turning over controversial teacher evaluations only to parents would cause “chaos,” Mayor Bloomberg said Friday. Continuing to push for full disclosure of the ratings, Bloomberg said on his radio that the state’s plan to release the evaluations just to parents would lead to the spreading of incorrect information. “In a practical sense, you know day one there will be a website out there where everybody will be asked to post grades and the grades that get posted who knows who makes them up?” he said. “It would lead to just chaos and it would be very bad for our teachers.” Gov. Cuomo said Thursday that parents have the right to know their teachers’ ratings — but that instructors also have a “right to privacy.” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) also supports a limited release. But Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR radio show that the information could be disseminated “unfairly and erroneously or deliberately” in an attempt to hurt someone. “It’s just not practical to give them to the parents in this day and age,” he said. “You know that if you give it to the parents it’s going to be out except that it would be incomplete.” (Daily News)


Rick Hess: Philanthropy gets in the ring
Odd as it may seem, I’m suggesting that foundations should make it conscious policy to welcome — even encourage — public criticism. I’m not talking about hired evaluations or strategic assessments conducted by friendly consultants but about rigorous debate over objectives, strategies, and outcomes. Given that even tart-tongued observers will be unusually reluctant to share their thoughts, foundations must make it extravagantly clear that they won’t blacklist critics and that they won’t look kindly upon anyone who does. Of course, such debate inevitably entails critiques that may seem incomplete, wrong-headed, or unfair. However, the value of skeptics is that they raise unpleasant issues and make it possible for those inside an organizational bubble to see things in a new light. Engaging with critics in a real and sustained way is essential to forestalling the plagues of hubris and groupthink. (Foundations would find it easier to do this if the more vehement critics exercised a little more restraint and spent more time focused on substance and less attacking the motives of donors.) As for explicit collaborations with the federal government, my advice is this: Stop it. It does indeed build on the notion of leverage. But it threatens to stifle criticism, leaves little obvious room for alternative approaches, and takes the risks to a whole new level. Ultimately, it’s a bridge too far. Embracing public debate would require foundation boards to become more accepting of negative publicity than is the norm. It asks foundation staff to view themselves as fair game for public criticism, rather than stewards of noblesse oblige. This may seem like a lousy deal. But one lesson the new edu-philanthropists have learned is that mixed reviews are the painful price of relevance. (AEI)


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