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: School assessments off to a sleepy start
The Maryland School Assessments got underway this week – and students in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are hard at work with reading and math tests. The timing may have been a little tough for some, though. The two-week testing window started on Monday, March 12 — in other words, the day after we lost an hour to Daylight Saving Time. Some students are still looking for it, apparently, while trying to stay awake for their high-stakes tests. Montgomery school officials said they’ve heard from parents who were concerned about the timing of the test. “It is difficult to schedule exams on a statewide basis, and it would be wonderful if we [could] schedule them at a time that pleases everybody,” said William Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education in an e-mail. “We’d also like to be able to be assured that all students are healthy that week; that they aren’t scheduled to leave on a spring trip with their families,” he said. The Maryland assessment office only received one complaint about the start time, he said. And school systems had the option to start testing on Tuesday, which Prince George’s County did. (WaPo)

Rhode Island: Woonsocket school board votes to keep schools open, despite financial shortfall
Though the School Committee doesn’t know where the money will come from to keep schools open, it voted Wednesday night against a motion that would have closed schools on April 5. For more than 90 minutes the committee heard from angry teachers and parents who demanded the committee keep the schools open. Committee Chairwoman Anita McGuire Forcier said Monday night that the school system was on track to run out of money April 5 and close on that day. Other committee member agreed the financial situation was dire but vehemently opposed any school closings. School system lawyer Richard Ackerman said the district is required by state law to meet certain obligations to students, particularly with state and federal special education programs. (ProJo)

New York: Legislators sign off on Cuomo’s evaluation framework
A late-night, no-contest legislative agreement has brought changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system a crucial step closer to becoming law. The deal also heads off protest by the evaluation system’s critics, including principals from across the state who had planned to ask legislators to make changes. Under the agreement, the State Senate and Assembly agreed to approve revisions to the state’s 2010 teacher evaluation law proposed last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and the state’s main teachers union, NYSUT. The agreement came during a spree of deals that lawmakers tore through all night and well into this morning, on issues as wide-ranging as the state’s pension system, congressional redistricting, and a database to store most convicted criminals’ DNA. In large part because NYSUT had signed on to the framework, the evaluations legislation was among the least controversial issues before the lawmakers. They made no changes to the framework agreed upon last month. (Gotham Schools)

North Carolina: NC teachers’ group won’t endorse in gov’s primary
A leading public employee group in North Carolina will not endorse a candidate for governor in the Democratic primary. The News & Observer of Raleigh reported the North Carolina Association of Educators officially will stay out of the May primary race. Teachers’ group executive director Scott Anderson said the group’s reluctance can be attributed to the shorter primary race and the lack of time to complete the endorsement process. Anderson said several Democratic candidates are acceptable to the lobbying group. The group endorsed Gov. Beverly Perdue in the 2008 Democratic primary. She is not seeking re-election. (News & Observer)


Wendy Kopp: In defense of Optimism in Education
It was disappointing to see the views expressed in [A Chance to Make History] flagrantly misrepresented in a recent article in the New York Review of Books by Diane Ravitch. I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight and clarify what I believe and don’t believe. Teach For America is working hard to be one significant source of the leadership we need. More than two-thirds of our 24,000 alumni are working full-time in education. Although few of them intended to enter the field at all before their involvement with Teach For America, today a third of them are teaching, 600 are serving as principals, and many others are working as district leaders. Of the remaining third of our alumni, half have jobs related to low-income communities or schools, and only three percent are working in the private sector — hardly the “corporate” stereotype Ravitch is so fond of perpetuating. This growing alumni force is working, together with many other dedicated teachers and leaders across the country, to fundamentally change things for the better. (HuffPo)

Maribeth Whitehouse: Measuring my value
I came to teaching more than eight years ago by way of the law — having graduated from Fordham Law School in 1992. So I knew full well how intricate, malleable and unreliable evidence could be. When the New York City Teacher Data Reports came out and were touted as measuring my “value” as a teacher, I was deeply annoyed. Invalid, inaccurate and irrelevant, these data were no more useful in proving or disproving teacher value than the temperature on a single day could prove or disprove global warming. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good teacher, I do. I simply measure it in ways that cannot be captured on a test. My reaction came as a surprise to some of my family, friends and co-workers because I was ranked in the 99th percentile. Figure out a way to put that in an algorithm and perhaps I will accept it as providing some relevant evidence about the value I add to a classroom. Until then, keep your 99th-percentile rating. I prefer a letter of recommendation from one of my students. (Gotham Schools)

Andy Rotherham: 5 things teachers could learn from marines
The Marine Corps isn’t perfect. A few of its members have been accused of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, it’s undeniable that the Marines are highly effective at their core mission of maintaining a nimble and lethal fighting force. In conversations with active-duty Marines and with former Marines who now work full-time in public schools, some lessons for improving our teaching force became clear. Here are five things the leathernecks can teach us. (School of Thought)

Paul Bruno: The real causes of teaching to the test
He doesn’t frame them exactly this way, but Daniel Willingham’s recent posts on the lack of elementary-level science instruction shed more light on a point I’ve made previously: that many concerns about “teaching to the test” are at least partially misguided. As he points out,  much of the marginalization of science in elementary schools predates NCLB, which suggests that curriculum narrowing can’t be entirely explained by high-stakes testing. (A more likely culprit? Only 1/3 of elementary school teachers feel prepared to teach science in the first place.) o reiterate, I think it’s pretty clear that many of the practices that are labeled “teaching to the test” are, in fact, problematic. What I believe we need to take more seriously, however, is the possibility that these practices are attributable as much to other factors (e.g., misconceptions about educational psychology and inadequate teacher preparation) as they are to the perverse incentives of high-stakes testing. If we’re piling all of the blame on NCLB we’re probably misdiagnosing the problem. (Scholastic Administrator)


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