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

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

News & analysis

Preschool provides major advantages to English-learners, study says
Four-year-old children with parents who speak little to no English reap important benefits by participating in one year of center-based care—such as Head Start or state preschool—before starting kindergarten, a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California concludes. Specifically, these so-called “linguistically isolated” children, who have virtually no exposure to the English language in their home and neighborhood environments, demonstrate much stronger early-reading skills than their peers who do not attend a center-based preschool program prior to starting kindergarten, the study concludes. The vast majority of these children, both in California and nationally, are Latino. The researchers did not find the same improvements for children’s math skills, which “suggests that center-based programs serving linguistically isolated children are missing the opportunity to promote readiness in mathematics,” according to the study’s summary. We know that Latino 3- and 4-year-olds, as a subgroup, are the least likely to participate in a high-quality early-education program, often because of a lack of access to such programs. (Learning the Language)

Study shows later school start times improve student performance
In high school, Melissa Edwards woke up at 6:30 a.m. to catch a bus. It was dark, she was tired and the school’s 7:15 a.m. morning bell forced the St. Louis teen to eat lunch at 10:45. Her brother was incredulous. “I thought that this couldn’t possibly be good,” said Finley Edwards, a Colby College economist, of his sister’s predawn start. But when Edwards sought data on the topic, he couldn’t find any. So he ran the numbers himself. On Thursday, the Harvard journal Education Next will release Edwards’ findings that show that later start times, which usually allow teens more sleep, boost test scores significantly. The Economics of Education Review will publish a longer version of the study. “Start times really do matter,” Edwards said. “We can see clear increases of academic performance from just starting school later.” Edwards found that students who started middle schools an hour later in Wake County, North Carolina, saw their standardized test scores increase by 2.2 percentile points in math, and 1.5 percentile points in reading on average. The impact was greater for older students. Starting school an hour later had further benefits, he found: 12 fewer minutes of television-watching per day; nine more minutes devoted to homework per week; and an average of 1.3 fewer absences than other students. (HuffPo)

New York: City to add new teachers next year
After years of swelling class sizes, the number of New York City schoolteachers will increase next year for the first time since 2008, city officials said. The nearly $70 billion budget Mayor Michael Bloomberg will introduce on Thursday keeps the number of general education teachers flat, while the number of special education teachers will rise, officials said. State aid to the city will climb slightly this year after steep cuts last year. Officials couldn’t confirm the exact increase in teachers. The city has had a partial hiring freeze, but hires teachers in certain subjects to replace those who quit or retire. About 5,000 of the city’s nearly 75,000 teachers left the system last year, but more than 3,000 were hired to fill empty spots, according to the Department of Education. Class sizes in many grades have been rising for about five years, with the biggest impact felt by the youngest students. This year, elementary-school class sizes rose 3% to an average of 24.4 students per class. (WSJ)


Sara Mead interviews Catharine Bellinger and Alexis Morin, Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors, Students for Education Reform
For all the lip service paid to “putting students first,” the actual voices of students themselves are largely absent from contemporary education policy debates. Catharine Bellinger and Alexis Morin are working to change that. As students at Princeton, they founded Students for Education Reform to engage and organize college students–most of whom were recently public school students themselves–around education reform. Today, SFER has over 3,000 members in more than 100 chapters in over 30 states and is working to increase awareness of education issues, build the pipeline of talented college students going into education, and influence state policy change in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York. And its founders haven’t even graduated yet! Both Bellinger, a Washington, D.C. native, and Morin, who hails from Northborough, Mass., are currently on leave of absence from Princeton while working to build SFER, but they still live very much like students, sharing an apartment in New York City when they’re not traveling to various SFER chapters around the country. (Policy Notebook)

Julie Greenberg: Hint, hint
It’s certainly not yet a trend, but the University of California Hastings College of Law will be admitting 20 percent fewer students in fall 2012 than in years past and the reason has nothing to do with declining applications. No — the dean has simply declared, “There are too many law schools and there are too many law students and we need to do something about that.” It’s an idea well worth emulating by the nation’s teacher prep programs.  As we’ve reported, the overproduction of elementary teachers—institutions are training twice as many elementary teachers as are needed each year—is doing real damage to the profession.  First, the inattention to supply and demand means that institutions let just about anyone into their programs, with the result that instructors are forced to lower the rigor of their courses to accommodate less able teacher candidates.  Second, institutions then have to place far too many unqualified and poorly motivated teacher candidates into student teaching assignments. There simply aren’t enough high quality placements to accommodate current inflated production, and the teachers that would do the best mentoring job are often unwilling, burned out by having previously accepted candidates who proved to be more of a hindrance than a help in the classroom. (NCTQ)

Vanessa Gambone: Gov. Corbett’s shell game solution does nothing to help education
A s a taxpayer and parent in the Central Dauphin School District, I am upset with the funding crisis facing our public schools. Now, the Central Dauphin School Board plans to furlough many of our teachers and educational support staff in response to budget cuts made by Gov. Tom Corbett. Interestingly, despite cutting teachers and staff, the district intends to maintain athletic programs at current levels, presumably out of fear of backlash from parents. Meanwhile, programs related to general education, language, special needs and cultural programs (that encourage such vital fundamentals as leadership and team building) will be forced to bear the burden with financial cutbacks and decreased staffing. The Central Dauphin School Board should be ashamed to assume parents are any less supportive of educational and cultural programs than athletic programs. Additionally, I am offended and insulted that the governor and his administration as well as elected school board members feel that I, as a taxpayer and parent, should sacrifice my children’s education to solve a problem created by my elected officials. It is, after all, their job to responsibly oversee such matters. Obviously, the financial climate, district census and countless other factors play a significant role in this dilemma. But as a taxpayer, I find it troublesome that while cutting nearly $1 billion from public schools, Gov. Corbett’s new idea is to hide these cuts by collapsing four state-funding programs that have been proven to work into one that is not proven to work. (Patriot News)


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