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

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

News & analysis

California: Students at charter-run Locke do better than nearby peers
Students at Locke High School are faring better than their peers in nearby traditional schools, but achievement overall remains low at the charter-managed campus near Watts, according to a new study. Still, the Locke students were more likely to graduate and to have taken courses needed to apply to a four-year state college, according to the UCLA-based National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. The ongoing research has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In a much-watched reform initiative, Green Dot Public Schools became the first outside charter operator to take over a Los Angeles Unified campus in 2008. Green Dot has divided Locke into five small schools, replaced most of the faculty and tried to instill a college-going culture while also making the campus more secure. The study analyzed two groups of students: The first enrolled in one of two small Watts-area Green Dot charters before the organization took control of Locke; the second, starting a year later, attended the Locke campus managed by Green Dot. Students in both groups were compared to peers who had similar test scores and demographics in middle school but subsequently attended one of three nearby high schools run by L.A. Unified: Fremont, Jordan and Washington Prep. In the study, Locke graduated 42% of students from the Class of 2011, compared to rates ranging from 34% to 39% at the other schools. In addition, 37% of those Locke students fulfilled the college-prep requirements for admission to a four-year school; 20% at the nearby schools did so. Also in the Class of 2011, 44% of Locke students remained in school from ninth grade through 12th grade, compared with 37% of the students from L.A. Unified, the study found. (LA Times)

New York: Columbia University janitor graduates from ivy league school after 12 years
For years, Gac Filipaj mopped floors, cleaned toilets and took out trash at Columbia University. A refugee from war-torn Yugoslavia, he eked out a living working for the Ivy League school. But today was payback time: The 52-year-old janitor donned a cap and gown to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in classics. As a Columbia employee, he didn’t have to pay for the classes he took. His favorite subject was the Roman philosopher and statesman Seneca, the janitor said during a break from his work at Lerner Hall, the student union building he cleans. “I love Seneca’s letters because they’re written in the spirit in which I was educated in my family — not to look for fame and fortune, but to have a simple, honest, honorable life,” he said. His graduation with honors capped a dozen years of studies, including readings in ancient Latin and Greek. “This is a man with great pride, whether he’s doing custodial work or academics,” said Peter Awn, dean of Columbia’s School of General Studies and professor of Islamic studies. “He is immensely humble and grateful, but he’s one individual who makes his own future.” Filipaj was accepted at Columbia after first learning English; his mother tongue is Albanian. For Filipaj, the degree comes after years of studying late into the night in his Bronx apartment, where he’d open his books after a 2:30-11 p.m. shift as a “heavy cleaner” — his job title. Before exam time or to finish a paper, he’d pull all-nighters, then go to class in the morning and then to work. (Star Ledger)

New York: Book rack & ruin at city schools
They have pencils and paper — but not much else. Several struggling schools in underprivileged neighborhoods are failing to provide students with classroom basics — such as books, let alone working computers, and teachers trained in their subjects, The Post has learned. State inspections also revealed that some school employees lacked essential qualifications — including a staffer hired to interact with parents who wasn’t fluent in English. In nearly every shocking case, the reviews determined that the failures were hurting students’ education. “This is direct information that these schools do not have basic things needed for children to learn,” blasted United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. Department of Education officials quickly questioned the accuracy of the reports — noting that one even identified a school in Brooklyn as being in Queens. They criticized the reviews as only two-day snapshots that don’t paint the full picture of a school and how it operates. DOE brass also said many of the issues have been addressed since the reviews of 15 schools were conducted last winter. (Post)

Rhode Island: Commissioner Gist joins graduates at Penn
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was among the students at graduation ceremonies this weekend at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Gist has been working toward a doctoral degree in education leadership at the Ivy League school. A spokesman from the Rhode Island Department of Education says she is still putting the finishing touches on her dissertation, and she expects to officially receive her degree at the end of the summer semester. The topic of Gist’s dissertation will be familiar to teachers and administrators across the Ocean State: the process of implementing an educator evaluation system. (Elisabeth Harrison)


Jonathan Cetel: Pennsylvania’s charter school law needs an upgrade
F or thousands of families throughout the commonwealth, spring’s warm weather means more than baseball games and barbecues. It also signals the approach of a despairing ritual known as the charter school enrollment lottery. Fifteen years and 162 schools later, charter schools have become a permanent fixture of Pennsylvania’s public education system. With 90,616 enrolled students and a staggering 30,000 or so on waiting lists, charter schools can no longer be considered an experiment. But just having charter schools isn’t enough. What we need is great, achievement-gap busting charter schools that give all kids the chance to achieve, regardless of their ZIP code. So how are we doing? In 2011, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Pennsylvania 12th out of 41 states with charter school laws on the books. Just one year later, our ranking dropped to 16. While we can proudly claim some of the nation’s best and most innovative schools, the overall performance of our charter schools is mixed, and we now lag behind many other states in promoting high-quality schools. In short, Pennsylvania is slipping, and that is devastating news to the thousands of families seeking better school options for their kids. What can we do to fix it? The General Assembly is long overdue to refine Pennsylvania’s public charter school law based on lessons learned during the last 15 years of real-world experience. Specially, it’s time for state lawmakers to step up and make three important changes: Promote quality authorizing; create a performance-based accountability system; and ensure equitable funding. (Patriot News)


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