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 on teacher value uses data from before teach-to-the-test era
That 1998/2004 divide — what happened in the interim was the 2002 No Child Left Behind law — should be kept in mind when analyzing a new, widely publicized study that closely tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years to determine whether teachers who helped raise children’s test scores have a lasting effect on their lives. The researchers conclude that having such a teacher improved students’ odds of going to a good college, the quality of the neighborhoods where they lived and their lifetime earnings. The results have created a big stir because they seem to say that no matter what we think of all the standardized testing going on in education today, the scores are at least a measure of what matters in the long run. That is not exactly what the research paper shows. While it is impressive for its scope and creativity, there is a major caution: it is largely based on test scores from the 1990s, that low-stakes era when my son enjoyed his fourth-grade test. Whether those results are applicable to our post-2004 high-stakes world, we cannot tell. It may well be that teachers under pressure to raise their students’ scores through extensive test preparation will get inflated results that do not carry over positively to adulthood. (New York Times)

Expansion in pre-K programs curtailed during recession
The expansion in public prekindergarten programs has slowed and even been reversed in some states as school districts cope with shrinking budgets. As a result, many 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t going to preschool. Kids from low-income families who start kindergarten without first attending a quality education program enter school an estimated 18 months behind their peers. Many never catch up, and research shows they are more likely to need special education services and to drop out. Kids in families with higher incomes also can benefit from early education, research shows. Yet, roughly a quarter of the nation’s 4-year-olds and more than half of 3-year-olds attend no preschool, either public or private. Families who earn about $40,000 to $50,000 annually face the greatest difficulties because they make too much to quality for many publicly funded programs, but can’t afford private ones, said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. (Boston Globe)

New York & Connecticut: Sweating the big and small stuff at Achievement First’s P.D. day
When principals and coaches at Achievement First charter schools conducted observations this fall, they found that many teachers fell short when using a classroom technique called “checks for understanding.” The technique, in which teachers ask questions to determine in real time whether students are absorbing lessons, “was the most important thing for improving our students’ achievement,” said Dacia Toll, Achievement First’s founder and co-CEO. Plus, she said, “We’re not asking good questions in the first place.” So as the charter network’s annual professional development day approached, Toll took it upon herself to lead the “Checks for Understanding” session. That session, along with 48 other training workshops, took place Jan. 6 at a Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Conn. (Gotham Schools)

New York: Cuomo and Bloomberg stoke fight on teacher review impasse
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, each irate that a stalemate over teacher evaluations is endangering federal education aid, fixed their sights Monday on a shared opponent: what they derided as New York State’s education bureaucracy. Both men said the state could no longer tolerate a public school system they said was failing students, invoked the ideals of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and appeared ready for a fight. At separate observances commemorating Dr. King’s birthday, the governor and the mayor ratcheted up their attacks on teachers’ unions and school administrators. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, declared that “we have to realize that our schools are not an employment program” and vowed to press for the speedy establishment of a statewide teacher evaluation system. “It is this simple: It is not about the adults; it is about the children,” Mr. Cuomo said, drawing loud applause from a mostly black audience at a state convention center in Albany. Citing the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the governor lamented that because of failing public schools, “the great equalizer that was supposed to be the public education system can now be the great discriminator.” (New York Times)

Indiana: Judge upholds voucher law
A judge upheld Indiana’s school voucher law on Friday, rejecting opponents’ arguments that the largest such program in the nation unconstitutionally uses public money to support religion. Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele said the School Choice Scholarship program doesn’t violate the state constitution because the state isn’t directly funding parochial schools. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose where to use them. That was essentially the argument made by the program’s supporters. About 4,000 children are enrolled in Indiana’s school voucher program, making it the nation’s biggest. Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger said opponents would keep fighting the law. The union had backed the lawsuit brought by teachers and religious leaders. (Boston Globe)

Rhode Island: Pedro Cano, first Colombian immigrant to Central Falls, passed away at the age of 92
CANO, PEDRO M., 92, passed on January 14th at home with his family by his side. He was the husband of Carlina Cano. Born in Bolivar Antioquia, Colombia, a son of the late Antonio and Adelina (Sanchez) Cano. He had been employed as a Chief Mechanic over 70 years in the Textile Industry before retiring. He was the first Colombian immigrant to Central Falls in 1964 and recruited other workers from Colombia to the Blackstone Valley area. He has received many awards and citation from numerous congressional and regional officials. Mayor David Cicilline declared August 19th the Pedro M. Cano Day in the City of Providence. He was an avid reader and storyteller, the movie “Telares” is a documentary that was made of his life in the textile industry. (ProJo)

Rhode Island: Both sides invoke King in charter school debate
Both sides in the increasingly acrimonious debate over Achievement First invoked the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in yet another skirmish Monday. At a rally on the back lawn of the State House, Providence City Councilor Bryan Principe alluded to King during his salvo against Achievement First, a charter school operator that wants to open two elementary schools in Providence. The school, whose application is before the Rhode Island Board of Regents, would also serve students in North Providence, Cranston and Warwick. “We are here today, a day in which the nation pays tribute to one of the greatest civil-rights leaders of all time, Dr. King,” Principe told about 40 charter school opponents. “And so we all gather here to stand for educational equality for all.” Earlier in the day, a spokesman for Achievement First released a statement that claimed King’s legacy for his own cause. “It’s unfortunate that today’s rally is focused on undermining the hard work of Achievement First,” former Providence state Rep. Joe Almeida said in the release. “No one group can claim the mantle of Dr. King. If you’re going to hold a rally on this day, it should be an all-inclusive event to protest the continued failings of our current education style.”    As the March 1 deadline for a decision approaches, both sides have tried to claim the moral high ground, with Achievement First supporters arguing that they are offering parents a choice in a failing school system while opponents say the charter school would undermine the existing public schools by siphoning off students and resources. (ProJo)


Christina Grant: Parent Trigger law would empower New Yorkers
A parent trigger is the kind of policy with the potential to bring the urgency for change that we so desperately need in our public schools. In response to the troubles faced in their own education systems, California, Texas and Ohio have either passed or are exploring their own versions of a parent trigger. Perhaps the most devastating figure in our State of New York Public Education report is that only 18 percent of New York’s black eighth-graders are proficient in reading, meaning that by the time they enter high school, 82 percent are not reading on grade level. Hundreds of thousands of New York children have learned this truth the hard way. We New Yorkers spend more per student on education than any other state. But we still fail to prepare the vast majority of our students for college and the highly competitive job market. It is crucial that lawmakers prioritize education in New York this year and enact legislation such as the parent trigger. (Buffalo News)

Star Tribune: Honor King’s legacy by closing the gaps
A champion of equity who grew up in the racially segregated South, King wrote, marched, preached and ultimately died working for people of all races to have peace, jobs, housing, health care — and access to a quality education. It’s safe to assume that the man we celebrate today would be disappointed about where this nation stands in most of those areas. Though some progress has occurred, the nation still falls short of King’s vision for a stronger, more compassionate community. And King would be especially heartbroken to see that more than 50 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation decision, his vision for education is far from fulfilled. In Minnesota, educational outcomes for kids of color continue to lag far behind those of their white peers. As the Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now (MinnCan) reported last year, the learning disparities are an education “emergency” that demands immediate attention. MinnCan’s work reaffirmed numerous studies over the years about the state’s serious, persistent learning gap. Among the indicators: Minnesota’s African-American students score worse than their black peers in the Deep South; the gap between low-income eighth-graders and their more affluent counterparts is almost the worst in the country; only 18 percent of state teachers say their students are ready to do grade-level work, and National Assessment of Education Progress scores show that Minnesota Latino and black students are second and third from the bottom among their peers of the same race from other states. (Star Tribune)


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