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

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

News & analysis

Income, more than race, is driving achievement gap
First the good news: The gap between black and white students in the classroom that bedeviled a generation of educators and policymakers narrowed significantly over the last 50 years. Now the bad news: The same time, the gulf between rich and poor students widened dramatically. Students from poor families are more likely to score lower on standardized tests and less likely to finish college than students from more affluent families. And if that sounds like old news, consider that while the black-white gap on standardized test scores narrowed, the rich-poor gap jumped 40 percent and now stands at double that of blacks and whites. (NPR)

Obama promotes job training at community college
President Obama unveiled his fiscal 2013 budget at Northern Virginia Community College Monday. His proposal includes $8 billion for community colleges to partner with businesses to provide training in job skills that are in demand. Students there were pleased to hear the president call for more support for their type of school. (NPR)

Most students who should be taking AP exams aren’t
While more high school students are taking the Advanced Placement exams — and succeeding on them — most students who should be taking the exams aren’t. More than 60 percent of students considered to have AP potential didn’t take the exam last year, even though their PSAT scores showed they could perform well on one, according to a College Board report released last week. Overall, black, Latino and Native American students were less likely to take AP exams than their white and Asian counterparts. “AP potential” as defined by the College Board is a 70 percent or greater likelihood that a student will score a 3 (out of 5) or higher on an AP exam. The “potential” is calculated based on more than 2 million public school PSAT/NMSQT takers in the class of 2011. (HuffPo)

The literacy gap: Will holding students back be a step forward?
When it comes to education reform, lawmakers and teachers often find themselves at cross-purposes. Lawmakers want to enact sweeping legislation aimed at overhauling what is often perceived as a flailing system. Teachers want to help individual students who are actually in their classes — right now. This short term vs. long term dichotomy is playing out in the debate over how to best address the nation’s literacy gap. Lawmakers in at least four states (Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Tennessee) want to hold back students who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade. But educators and researchers say while that might seem like a short-term solution, it could do long-term harm to a child’s social and educational development. (The Educated Reporter)

Minnesota: Charter-school group seeks legislative changes to ease replication, ensure accountability
You know what Shannon Blankenship hates about running a pair of odds-beating urban schools? Choosing next year’s entering classes at the two Hiawatha Academies, Minneapolis charter schools where he is executive director. He’d like to find a spot for everyone. There are more applicants than seats, so admission is done by lottery, which is fair, and the law of the land for publicly funded charter schools. The losers, Blankenship knows all too well, are likely to end up in schools where a third or fewer will reach grade level. His dream of providing this kind of game-changing education to lots more kids is more uncertain. Despite Minnesota’s history as the birthplace of the charter movement, it’s still a very tough place to “scale-up” a successful school model. Passage of the Quality Charter School Act, a bill being introduced this week at the Legislature, would help a lot. Still, because the legislation would force the closure of failing charters and make it easier to hire teachers with nontraditional credentials, it’s guaranteed to be controversial. (Beth Hawkins)

Maryland: Groups prepare for Dream Act fight
While President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent will capture national headlines this November, Maryland voters will turn their attention to in-state policy disputes, like 2011’s In-State Tuition Bill, also known as the Dream Act. By the end of April, groups such as Educating Maryland Kids and Help Save Maryland will be canvassing neighborhoods, calling homes and distributing pamphlets in an attempt to sway voters on a referendum vote for the controversial bill. Presidential candidates will, of course, be on the ballot in November, but Maryland is usually ignored by national campaigns because it is such a safe state for Democrats. If enacted, the Dream Act will allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates provided they attended high school in Maryland, file Maryland income taxes and are in the process of applying for citizenship or permanent residency. Currently, illegal immigrants have to pay out-of-state tuition rates, which are often thousands of dollars more than in-state rates. (The Capital)

New York: City’s top TFA official says he’s resigning to return to teaching
New York’s Teach for America executive director has taken the term “lead by example” very literally. Jeff Li announced last week that he is resigning from his top post at Teach For America after less than two years on the job and returning to the classroom as a teacher. The announcement comes just days before his organization is set to announce a campaign meant to encourage alumni to stay in the teaching profession, rather than leave for other professions. “A funny thing happened along the way as our team thought through this campaign,” Li wrote in an email to TFA alumni teachers on Thursday. “As I personally thought more about teaching beyond two years, and all that can be accomplished by doing so, I became truly re-inspired myself.” The program that TFA is launching is called “Teach Beyond 2,” a not-so-subtle reminder for its alumni that even though their TFA commitment is technically only two years long, they should consider teaching to be a longer-term pursuit. (Gotham Schools)

New York: Governor Cuomo says his teacher evaluation plan would be more straightforward
Gov. Cuomo is moving ahead with plans for his own teacher grading system if the state and union leaders fail to make a deal — but don’t expect Mayor Bloomberg to be thrilled. “I am an optimist . . . I still hope they will get there,” Cuomo, speaking to the “Capitol Pressroom” radio show, said ahead of his self-imposed Thursday deadline. Cuomo said his plan — to be introduced as amendments to his 2012-13 budget proposal should negotiations break down — would be more “straightforward” than the existing teacher evaluation law, which the governor says is flawed. “I would streamline a lot of the current problems,” Cuomo said. (Daily News)


Dana Goldstein: Cory Booker and Chris Christie say teachers should live in Downtown Newark
Yesterday Newark Mayor Cory Booker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and several private developers and investors—including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein— converged on a vacant lot in Newark’s historic downtown for the groundbreaking of Teachers’ Village. The mixed-use development, a project six years in the making, will include expanded space for three existing public charter schools and a private pre-school; 200 moderately priced apartments reserved for Newark public, charter, and private school educators; and space for retail establishments, including restaurants and possibly a supermarket. But given central Newark’s continued struggle to revive, are teachers ready to move to the neighborhood? The RBH Group survey found that currently, just 19 percent of Newark teachers live in the city proper; 29 percent live in the New Jersey suburbs; 19 percent live in New York City; and 10 percent live in Jersey City. As in many American cities, the uneven quality of Newark’s public schools may be keeping teachers from enrolling their own children in the district. The best way to convince Newark teachers and other middle-class professionals to live in the city might be to focus less on building teacher-specific housing and more on overall school improvement efforts across the city, in both charter and traditional public schools. (The Nation)

New York Daily News: Cuomo must give tough lesson in school reform
Less than 72 hours before his deadline, Cuomo repeated his vow, saying, “I’ll put in my own evaluation system because it has taken two years” to reach paralysis under a union-friendly statute enacted by lawmakers and signed by his predecessor. Those were bracing words, as were Cuomo’s pronouncements when he started the clock running toward Thursday’s deadline. Speaking of the unions and Education Commissioner John King, the governor then declared: “If they can’t do it, we’ll do it for them.” The mind leaped to envisioning a bold, sweeping overhaul, one that would: Set clear benchmarks for judging how well a teacher imparts knowledge to students — using standardized test scores whenever possible and fuzzier measures like classroom observations and student feedback when necessary. Give principals wide discretion to pass judgment on which instructors are highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective, with those in the very bottom category for two straight years deemed eligible for dismissal. Establish that double ineffective ratings would be presumptive evidence of incompetence, requiring a teacher to prove in a streamlined hearing process either that a school district failed to follow proper procedures or the grade was unfair. (Daily News)


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