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

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

News & analysis

Civil rights, state chiefs, business groups oppose Harkin-Enzi bill
A broad basket groups, including Chiefs for Change, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Down Syndrome Society, Democrats for Education Reform, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and The Education Trust today officially came out against a bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo. (Politics K-12)

ESEA markup paused due to Senator Paul procedural objection
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., employed a rarely used procedural move to put the brakes on the Senate education committee’s consideration today of a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, saying that lawmakers hadn’t had enough time to digest the bill. (Politics K-12)

Why is college so expensive?
Many of the protesters occupying Wall Street and other places say they are upset about the rising price of going to college. Tuition and other costs have been going up faster than inflation, and family incomes can’t keep up. Despite public outrage about the problem, there’s little sign these costs will drop anytime soon. If you are a veteran of a public university, the jump in tuition at your alma mater might be downright jaw-dropping. Tuition at the University of California, Berkeley, was about $700 a year back in the 1970s. Today, U.C. Berkeley students have to fork over around $15,000 per year. That’s a 2,000 percent increase. “States are paying less of the cost than they used to,” [George Washington University Professor] Sandy Baum says. She adds that as state budgets shrink, the students’ share of paying for education goes up. (NPR)

Rhode Island: Warwick science teacher receives Milken Award
Michael J. Lobdell, a science teacher at Pilgrim High School, joined the ranks of the teaching elite Wednesday morning when he was presented with a 2011 Milken Educator Award at a surprise ceremony. The Milken Foundation combs the country each year looking for teachers worthy of the special award, which is accompanied by a check for $25,000. A teacher for the past seven years, Lobdell teaches biology and physical science and also leads an after-school “homework club” on a volunteer basis. (ProJo)

New York: High teacher turnover at a Success Network school
More than a third of the staff members at a Harlem charter school run by the Success Charter Network have left the school within the last several months, challenging an organization that prides itself on the training and support it offers its teachers. At Harlem Success Academy 3, 22 of the school’s 59 administrators, teachers and classroom aides left between the end of the last school year and the beginning of this one, according to the school’s records. Some took jobs at other schools, some moved to new cities and some said they quit out of frustration with the school’s tightly regulated environment. (School Book)

Georgia: Lawmakers say they’re serious about ed reform
State legislators and education experts will spend the next year reforming education funding in Georgia — and this time, they mean it. The chairmen of the state House and Senate education committees — Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, and Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta — tried to convince a skeptical audience of school superintendents at the Classic Center on Wednesday that they’re serious about reform. (Online Athens)

Maryland: Baltimore County schools move to address school crowding
At Stoneleigh Elementary School south of Towson, classrooms are too crowded to hold all the students, so many classes are held in portable trailers parked outside. It’s a common problem in Baltimore County’s York Road corridor, where trailers are being used at eight of the 12 elementary schools from Stoneleigh to the Pennsylvania line. Now, county school officials are poised to offer some creative solutions — including moving Stoneleigh students more than a mile away to a school on the other side of Towson, and building a new school in Mays Chapel. (Baltimore Sun)


Poverty and school performance
You sometimes hear education reformers say that teacher quality is the number one statistical correlate of measurable student learning. This is wrong. Parental socioeconomic status, as measured in a variety of different ways, is far and away the biggest correlate of student achievement. Teacher quality is the most important in-school factor, but out-of-school factors still have a bigger correlation. I find that this is widely misinterpreted by people as knock-down evidence that raising the incomes of poor parents is the best way to improve student learning. Even if you solved those problems, you’d still be left with the reality that poor children tend to have poorly educated parents who have less ability to help them with formal and informal learning. There’s probably no way to fully equalize this issue, short of something like Plato’s scheme to raise children in communal centers. But to a first approximation, the issue is that poor kids need great teachers. (Matt Yglesias)

Making sense of Michelle Rhee’s legacy and teacher “churn and burn”
I think the longterm question on IMPACT and other new evaluation plans is whether promising teachers choose to stick around to work under these systems. Of course, some teacher attrition is inevitable, since teachers retire, move away, and go on maternity leave. But the average yearly teacher attrition rate in a low-poverty American public school is 12.9 percent, compared to 20 percent in a high-poverty school. Since unwanted teacher attrition costs the typical urban school district tens of millions of dollars annually–and disporportionately affects low-income kids–a good test of any teacher quality reform is whether it improves the retention of effective teachers, not just whether it results in the firing of ineffective ones. (Dana Goldstein)

Blame game: Let’s talk honestly about bad teachers
Education policy debates are often like an argument between a couple in a bad relationship — about everything except the actual problems. Our leaders seem congenitally unable to lead a difficult but honest conversation about our nation’s teaching force that acknowledges that several things are all true at once — we have a teacher quality problem and a management problem, teachers are not to blame for all that ails our schools, we can’t fire our way to better schools, but removing some percentage of low-performers would be quite good for students. Instead we have a shallow debate dancing around the thing that matters most in schools: instructional quality. (Andrew Rotherham)



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