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

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

News & analysis

Study finds grad, college-going results mixed for charter networks
A follow-up to a major national study on the performance of charter school networks shows that they have varied results on their students’ high school graduation rates and on their postsecondary enrollment. The study shows that, of the six charter-management organizations for which data were available, three have significant positive impacts on graduation compared to the traditional public schools in their area. One of those organizations increased the probability that its students graduate from high school in four years by 23 percentage points. Two other charter-management groups have positive but not statistically significant impacts on graduation. And one network had a serious negative impact on the graduation rates of its students compared to the local public schools, reducing the probability that students would graduate on time by 22 percentage points. (Inside School Research)

Maryland: State progressing on Race to the Top reforms
Except for a delay in a new teacher-evaluation program, Maryland has made a strong start toward achieving the ambitious school reform goals that won the state a coveted $250 million grant, according to federal officials. Maryland, one of 11 states and the District of Columbia to receive Race to the Top funding in 2010 in exchange for committing to school reform, made strides in several areas in the first year of the four-year grant program, U.S. Department of Education officials said in a progress report to be released Tuesday. The report said the state prepared more than 6,000 teachers from every school in the state for the rollout of a new statewide curriculum; improved teacher quality through partnerships and recruitment efforts; intervened to turn around 11 of the lowest-performing schools; and launched several science, technology, engineering and math programs. The progress report, though, also cited a couple of problem areas that the state would have to address in the coming year. A controversial plan to base half of a teacher’s job rating on the performance of students was delayed a year, with statewide implementation now scheduled for the 2013-2014 school year. (Baltimore Sun)

Maryland: Inspector general finds gaps in Montgomery County school system’s financial reporting
The Montgomery County Council was furious last year when school officials announced — in the 11th hour — a $21 million surplus in health insurance reserves. The school board used the money to avoid an increase in health insurance premiums for school employees that the council had proposed. The fuming council asked the inspector general to investigate the surprise surplus. The report was issued Monday. The inspector general found that the monthly financial reports the school system provides to school board members and other county leaders include estimates of revenues and expenditures, but not actual figures. Actual figures could have been more helpful to the elected officials when making decisions about the budget, the report said. (Washington Post)

Minnesota: Teachers oppose controversial topics policy
The teachers union in Minnesota’s largest school district urged its school board Monday night to drop a proposed policy on handling controversial topics in the classroom, saying educators should be trusted to mediate student discussions about sexual orientation and other issues. The board proposed the change to replace a current policy that requires teachers to remain neutral when the topic of human sexuality comes up during class. Some people believe the current policy, which is being challenged by two lawsuits, fosters bullying of gay students. The policy came under fire after six students in the district committed suicide in less than two years. The district in the northern Twin Cities suburbs has about 38,500 students and 2,800 teachers. (SC Times)

Georgia: Waiver ties teacher evals, test scores
Georgia’s 180 school districts soon may have no choice but to evaluate teachers largely on their students’ progress and test scores. That’s because the U.S. Department of Education is requiring states to launch a statewide teacher evaluation system that’s driven by student achievement. In exchange, the state would receive a waiver from what some say are unreasonable requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Georgia was one of the first states to ask for the federal NCLB waiver, and state officials are confident they’ll get one — possibly any day. (AJC)

New York: U.S. faults state’s progress on Race to the Top goals
In a strongly worded statement on Monday, the education secretary, Arne Duncan, said that despite “significant progress,” New York had “hit a roadblock” in recent months, failing to put in place a planned database to track student records across school districts and failing to fulfill a promise to adopt a system to evaluate the work of teachers and principals. The state has not fallen as far behind as Hawaii, which was warned last month that it risked losing its federal grant over delays in adopting a teacher evaluation system. But New York’s progress, along with that of Florida, has been slow enough to raise concerns. “New York has a chance to be a national leader, or a laggard, and we are only interested in supporting real courage and bold leadership,” Mr. Duncan said. “Backtracking on reform commitments could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.” (New York Times)

New Jersey: Bills fly through Senate, Assembly as jam-packed day in Trenton unfolds
The Legislature handed Christie a small but welcome victory on education reform, passing a bill that gives private companies unprecedented authority to build and manage up to a dozen public schools in Newark, Camden and Trenton. The Schools Development Authority is responsible for construction in these and other low-income districts, but dozens of projects have been stalled since Christie took office — and no schools have been built to replace those that are crumbling or overcrowded. “This is the first step into redefining education in our urban areas,” said state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden), the bill’s sponsor. “This gives a chance for our urban youths.” (Star Ledger)


Daniel Lautzenheiser: Reform is a mindset, not a set of policies
Reform is a mindset. It’s the idea that allowing new ways of thinking, different models of schooling or a fresh take on the professions therein, and insights from different sectors is generally a good practice, but won’t itself transform education without attention to details and an eye on implementation. In contrast, reform is not a set of particular policies that are, by default, “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad.” As Rick’s pointed out, “The biggest problem in education is that our current arrangements force us to approach these questions as ‘policy’ questions, with the presumption that a state or district will set rules that apply to every teacher in every school in that geography. In that fashion, by enforcing uniformity, we stifle opportunities for variability or creative problem-solving, and accentuate the temptations to adrenalize these debates.” (Straight Up)


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