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

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

News & analysis

Failure rate of schools overstated, study says
When the Obama administration was seeking to drum up support for its education initiatives last spring, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress that the federal law known as No Child Left Behind would label 82 percent of all the nation’s public schools as failing this year. Skeptics questioned that projection, but Mr. Duncan insisted it was based on careful analysis. Now a new study, scheduled for release on Thursday, says the administration’s numbers were wildly overstated. The study, by the Center on Education Policy, a Washington research group headed by a Democratic lawyer who endorses most of the administration’s education policies, says that 48 percent of the nation’s 100,000 public schools were labeled as failing under the law this year. (Times)

A lobbyist by any other name
When executives at Kaplan University were looking for an Obama insider to help fight the administration’s efforts to rein in the for-profit higher education industry, they scored a major coup. They landed Anita Dunn, the former White House communications director and FOO (friend of Obama). Dunn’s ties to President Obama date back to 2006, when the then-Senator hired her to be in charge of communications and strategy for his political action committee. In that role, she helped lay the groundwork for his presidential run. Dunn then served as a top adviser to Obama during the 2008 campaign and for most of his first year in office. Meanwhile, her husband Robert Bauer is the president’s personal attorney and served as White House Counsel from December 2009 to June 2011. He is now the top lawyer on Obama’s reelection campaign. Judging from an article that ran in The New York Times this weekend on for-profit college lobbying, Kaplan got its money’s worth. As a consultant for the giant for-profit college company, Dunn “played a key role in helping shape” the industry’s “message” in opposing the administration’s proposed “Gainful Employment Rule,” which aimed to shut down for-profit school programs that leave students buried in debt but without the training they have been promised, the newspaper reports. (Ed Sector)

New York: Thumbs up for Success Academy’s move into Brownstone Brooklyn
The Twitter posts coming out of Newtown High School in Queens on Wednesday night depicted a lively meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, but for those of you who were not following along, let us cut to the chase: The Success Academy Network of charter schools will be moving into Brooklyn. Amid insults and accusations, as Fernanda Santos puts it in The New York Times on Thursday, from a boisterous crowd, the panel voted to allow Eva S. Moskowitz‘s charter network to move into an existing school building on Baltic Street in Cobble Hill that is now occupied by three schools, the Brooklyn School for Global Studies, the School for International Studies and a program for students with disabilities. (School Book)

Maryland: Teachers say frustration marks first year of landmark contract
Pointing to an unprecedented partnership between Baltimore’s school district and union leaders, officials signed a new teacher contract last year that they said would revolutionize the city’s teaching profession by implementing a pay-for-performance plan. But union and school system officials have struggled to work out critical details of the three-year pact that replaces a pay structure tied to tenure with one that gives teachers the opportunity to earn six-figure salaries. (Baltimore Sun)


Rebecca Greenfield: What it’s really like to be a poor black kid
After white middle-aged Forbes contributor Gene Marks described what he would do “If I Were a Poor Black Kid,” the Internet has done a total takedown of the tone-deaf piece, giving Marks a better idea of what the world for actual poor black kids is like. The Web has diagnosed the following problems with Marks’s column. He did not actually talk to any poor black kids. It’s paternalistic. It doesn’t address the real problems poor black kids face. It assumes poor black kids don’t work hard as a norm. It contains flawed logic. And lastly Marks is pretty sure of his own gifts. The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates explains that last part well. (Atlantic Wire)

Joe Williams: One year’s flat test results do not negate system’s progress
The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, results for New York City students have given its critics a lot of fuel to suggest that city children are not learning any better under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s school reforms. They could not be more wrong. Not only do one year of results (which are not even down; they are flat) say next to nothing about overall progress, they show that students have indeed made significant gains since the test was first administered in 2002, and that the city’s most disadvantaged students are narrowing the achievement gap with their more well-off peers. (School Book)

Dana Goldstein: On the purpose of schooling
What is school for? There is a disturbing tendency in the education reform debate to narrowly define “student achievement” as the goal of schooling. If our measures of success are merely graduation rates and test scores, then why not save $1500 per student and allow a bunch of disadvantaged kids to veg out in front of their laptops, indoors all day? Sure, over half of K12’s 200,000 “cyberpupils” are behind grade level, but most of them are poor anyhow, and their neighborhood schools are probably failing, too. And maybe we can improve virtual schools over time–there’s no reason to be a technophobe! Right? In researching the history of American education for my book project, I’ve been struck again and again by the newness of the idea that schooling is primarily a matter of academic achievement. The mid-nineteenth century reformers who founded the Common Schools Movement, the precursor to our modern system of universal public education, believed that Protestant morality was the first goal of education. “Scientific truth is marvelous, but moral truth is divine,” Horace Mann declared. His friend Catharine Beecher, an advocate for girls’ education and women teachers, believed that the role of the teacher was “to instruct in morals and piety.” (Dana Goldstein)


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