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

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

News & analysis

Friendly advice for teachers: Beware of Facebook
The new and ever-changing world of social networking has blurred the lines between private and public, work and personal, friend and stranger. It’s becoming a particular challenge for teachers who can quickly rile students and parents by posting comments or photos online. In some cases, teachers have been fired for statements they’ve made on Facebook, which is raising free speech issues. (NPR)

New York: NYC math scores dip on U.S. students’ tests, diverging from trend in other big cities
New York City students scored slightly lower on federal math tests this year compared with two years ago, according to results released on Wednesday, even as test scores of their counterparts in other big cities inched upward. The results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, showed that the city’s fourth-grade math average dropped three points to 234 (on a scale of 500) from 2009, the last time the exams were taken. Federal education officials cautioned that the changes were too small to be significant, but the dip diverged from the trend nationally and for other large cities. In 2011, the average fourth-grade math score rose by one point nationally and two points for cities with 250,000 or more people. (New York Times)

Florida: Budget adds to school spending
When Gov. Rick Scott rolled out his budget on Wednesday, it was to a group of reporters at a news conference at the Florida Capitol in a room packed with staff members, a far cry from the Tea Party crowd that cheered him on during his first budget announcement early this year. The governor’s 2012 budget plan was no less a turnaround. Mr. Scott, whose popularity has tumbled this year, proposed $1 billion in new money for Florida schools despite a yawning budget deficit. Putting heft behind his words, he vowed to veto any budget bill that did not “significantly increase state education funding.” “This is Floridians’ money,” the governor said when introducing his $66.4 billion budget, which would take effect July 1. “Increasing our commitment to education is vital.” (New York Times)

Minnesota: More U of M undergrads are finishing in four years
An increasing number of University of Minnesota students are graduating in four years. Fifty-four percent of students at the U of M Twin Cities campus now graduate in four years — that’s up 4 percent over last year. A decade ago the rate was under 30 percent. University officials credit the increase to better academic and financial aid advising, and more rigorous entry requirements for freshmen. (MPR)

Rhode Island: Achievement First, a nonprofit charter school, seeks to open two schools in Providence
Wednesday’s hearing on a proposed charter school for Providence symbolized the clash between two competing visions of public education. On the one hand were the supporters of Achievement First, a charter-school operator, who say its schools will offer urban and minority students an alternative to the failing schools around them. On the other hand were parents, community groups and progressive activists who say that a “big-box charter” will draw scant resources away from the traditional public schools and be less accountable to local school authorities. Among the 100 or so attending, the backers of Achievement First showed up early and filled the front rows, wearing sky-blue T-shirts. The opponents included a handful of activists from Occupy Providence who opened the public hearing with a chant and carried signs saying “Keep Wall Street out of our schools.” (ProJo)


Laura Bornfreund: Do teachers care about pay? Yes, but not as much as you think
I used to be a teacher: I wanted to excite children about learning and help shape the minds of the next generation. But like nearly 50 percent of teachers, I left the classroom before my fifth year. And while a higher salary would have been nice, it would not have kept me in the classroom. A recent report from the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have spurred yet more shouting matches in an already hopelessly ungrounded debate about today’s teachers. The report claimed that teachers are overpaid and raised the ire of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Discussions about accountability, pay, and colleges of education do not adequately address the driving reason many teachers—including me—leave the profession: It’s  school policies that diminish their calling and impede rather than support effective teaching and meaningful learning. A study by the Center for Teacher Quality in California revealed that 57 percent of California teachers who left in 2007 cited “bureaucratic impediment—excessive paperwork, frequent classroom disruptions and too many unproductive meetings. I know the feeling. There were also other factors that impelled me to leave: Inadequate preparation and poor quality professional development; lack of feedback on what I was doing well and where I could improve; meager time to plan and collaborate with fellow teachers; limited access to important data about students; and no foreseeable paths for career advancement. Other teachers agree. (Slate)

Laura Klein: Finding the Child in the Behavior
Suspensions make sense in a lot of ways. A suspension is a very clear, tangible form of punishment that is visible not only to the student being punished, but also to the others in the school who are watching to see what happens when someone does something wrong. Suspensions don’t, of course, transform a child, as numerous studies have shown. Just as the kids in the scenarios above were repeat offenders, so are many students recipients of serial suspensions. So if a suspension doesn’t seem to make any real difference in whether or not a child misbehaves again, how do we stop their misbehavior cycle? What makes teaching so challenging is attempting to look at the big picture and the little picture at the same time, without prioritizing one over the other. What’s best for the class is not always what’s best for a child. (School Book)


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