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

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

News & analysis

Kline teacher proposal would create winners and losers
States that have seen big explosions in population—including Nevada, Utah, and Arizona—also would see a big jump in federal funding for teacher quality under a little-noticed provision of a draft bill to renew the No Child Left Behind Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee. But other states that have lost people in recent years—including New York, Michigan, and Kline’s home state of Minnesota—would see a dip in funding, according to an analysis Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington that champions progressive policies. The reason? Kline’s proposal would change the formula for distributing about $3 billion in Improving Teacher Quality State grant money, or Title II, in Washington-wonkspeak. The funds help states provide professional development, reduce class size, and generally boost teacher quality. Right now, that money is distributed largely based on poverty (65 percent) as opposed to population (35 percent). The Kline proposal would change that to 50-50. (Politics K-12)

Rhode Island: Vote today for Achievement First
After many months of debate, the State Board of Education has scheduled a vote tonight on Achievement First. The charter manager is looking to open two elementary schools in Providence. The schools would also serve students from Cranston, Warwick and North Providence. Opponents are calling for a delay of the vote, saying there is no deadline until the end of March. Supporters of Achievement First say parents need more options given the poor performance of many urban public schools. They point to strong test scores especially in Math at Achievement First schools in Connecticut. (Elisabeth Harrison)

Rhode Island: Bill would extend teacher contracts
After losing last year’s battle to win binding arbitration for teachers, union leaders this year are supporting a bill that would continue the terms of a contract after it expires. They say teachers need this protection in light of a 2010 court decision that allowed the East Providence School Committee to unilaterally impose new terms after the two sides failed to reach a new agreement and the district struggled to close a deficit. House Bill 7250 was introduced by Rep. John M. Carne-vale, D-Providence, who said the bill would give stability to teachers and classrooms. But the same forces that fought binding arbitration turned out at a House Labor Committee meeting Wednesday night to voice their opposition. State law says contracts can last only three years, and that should be maintained, said representatives of the Rhode Island Department of Education, Rhode Island Association of School Committees, Ocean State Tea Party in Action and the education-advocacy organization RI-CAN, among others. J.R. Pagliarini, senior executive adviser to Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, said economic conditions can change dramatically in three years. “We need as much flexibility as possible to help us get out the financial dire straits we currently see ourselves in,” Pagliarini said. Continuing terms beyond three years provides a “disincentive for unions to negotiate new terms” he said, especially if that means salary freezes or paying for a greater portion of health-care premiums. (ProJo)

New York: Academic quits SUNY board over charter schools
A prominent academic has resigned from the State University of New York Board of Trustees, one of two groups with the power to approve charter schools, saying the university is approving charters that increase inequality and needlessly divide the community. The resignation of Pedro Noguera, a professor at New York University, comes as the debate about the role of charter schools heats up in suburbs and wealthier neighborhoods in the New York City area. In an interview, Noguera said he sees a lack of political leadership about the role of charters and the deep divisions that occur when charter schools move into the same buildings as traditional public schools, a controversial policy known as co-location. “Policymakers who are elected and accountable to the public should be thinking through the implications of what they’re doing, and I don’t see any evidence that that’s happening right now in New York state,” he said. (WSJ)

Maryland: Alonso’s chief of staff withdraws name from superintendent search
Tisha Edwards, Alonso’s chief of staff who traveled to East Baton Rouge last week to interview as a finalist for the parish’s superintendent seat, withdrew her name from the running, according to a story published this week in Baton Rouge’s newspaper, The Advocate. Edwards, the mother of a city school graduate and a current student, said Wednesday that she chose to withdraw her name so that her son can finish his middle school education in Baltimore. Edwards was one of six semi-finalists for the seat, and took part in a public interview before the East Baton Rouge school board on Jan. 23. The EBR parish has held an unusually public search for a new superintendent, devoting an entire website to the search, and posting interviews on You Tube. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: Montgomery superintendent and Daniel Pink discuss new ways to motivate teachers, students in book talk
Montgomery County superintendent Joshua Starr said he is “disappointed” and “astounded” at the national direction of school reform and its emphasis on standardized testing, but that Maryland’s largest school system can pursue a “third way” to improve performance by focusing on what motivates teachers and students rather than how they perform on an annual test, said superintendent Joshua Starr during his second book talk. To stir new ideas about what helps teachers and students invest in their work, Starr invited author Daniel Pink to Rockville on Tuesday night to discuss his best-selling book “Drive,” which draws upon 50 years of research on the science of motivation. As a new superintendent in Montgomery County, Starr proposed a series of book talks to introduce his educational philosophy to the community. The 90-minute conversation was filmed in front of a studio audience and broadcast on local television. A second group of parents and teachers watched the live event from a Barnes & Noble in Bethesda. Pink told viewers that the prevailing wisdom about motivation — namely, that rewarding a certain behavior encourages it while punishing a behavior discourages it — does not hold true in today’s businesses or schools. (WaPo)

Minnesota: Battle to end teacher seniority begins
Parents, teachers and education activists squared off at the Capitol Tuesday over a Republican proposal that would transform the way Minnesota school districts conduct teacher layoffs by scrapping seniority, the sacred tenet of most teachers unions. The proposal would effectively put an end to a state mandate that requires school districts to consider seniority when conducting layoffs. It’s the latest attempt to identify and protect good teachers in Minnesota while giving lousy ones the boot. Faced with a growing number of cash-strapped districts and demand for teacher accountability, Minnesota now joins several states looking to change long-standing seniority rules for teachers with the controversial plan. “They [students] need a teacher who is going to make a difference whether they’ve been there one year, 10 years or 30 years,” said Sarah Schultes, an Andersen Open Elementary teacher who testified before a House education committee in support of the plan. But leaders of several Minnesota teachers unions argued that students will suffer if Minnesota loses its most experienced teachers. (Star Tribune)

New Jersey: School tests show low-income students still struggling
The results of state testing of elementary and high school students during the 2010-11 school year show that while overall performance continued to hold steady or improve slightly in nearly all grades and subjects, a persistent achievement gap remains for economically disadvantaged, African American, and Hispanic students. Overall statewide performance stayed statistically constant or increased slightly on both the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) test and the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) in both math and language arts literacy, according to information provided by the state Department of Education on Wednesday. Despite these overall results, what the DOE describes as a significant achievement gap remains for both low income and minority students. (Newsroom NJ)


Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj: Schools are not making information about choice a priority
School reformers have long promoted accountability and school choice as the best methods to provide greater academic opportunities for all students. School personnel throughout the city have consequently become singularly focused on reaching the targets set by the accountability framework of tests and evaluations. Where does that leave school choice? Anything not tied to a reward or punishment system in this high-stakes era seems to receive limited attention at the school level. I found this to be the case in a number of the middle schools I studied where informing families about high school choice was a low priority relative to all activities associated with the progress report grade. (SchoolBook)


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