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

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

News & analysis

States try to fix quirks in teacher evaluation systems
States “are racing ahead based on promises made to Washington or local political imperatives that prioritize an unwavering commitment to unproven approaches,” said Grover J. Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “There’s a lot we don’t know about how to evaluate teachers reliably and how to use that information to improve instruction and learning.” Backers of the new approaches say that change takes time. “You have to start the process somewhere,” said Daniel Weisberg, executive vice president and general counsel at The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit agency founded in 1997. “If you don’t solve the problem of teacher quality, you will continue to have an achievement gap.” (New York Times)

In reality and film, a battle for schools
On Tuesday officials in Adelanto, a California desert town, are set to consider whether parents there can be the first to take over a failing public school under a new state law that is being closely watched around the country. The Hollywood version? It’s already a done deal. In a rare mix of hot policy debate and old-fashioned screen drama, 20th Century Fox is preparing a September release for “Won’t Back Down.” The film heads smack into the controversies around so-called parent trigger laws that in California and a handful of other states allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools. (New York Times)

New York: City, union spar over evaluations
One day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded a statewide teacher-evaluation agreement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday the city could close “a whole bunch more schools” unless it quickly reaches a final deal with its teachers union. Mr. Bloomberg said the Department of Education would like to begin implementing new evaluations in September. But without a labor pact, the city will continue to oust poor-performing teachers by exercising an option to close failing schools and reopen them with a new staff, the mayor said. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, called the mayor’s stance “an abuse of power,” suggesting that the road to a final agreement may not be smooth. “Forget about the evaluation system. We’re not going to [be] amenable to working with him on anything if he continues to try to threaten people by closing schools,” Mr. Mulgrew said in an interview on NY1. “That’s an abuse of power. And what we will then do is start looking at how to take that power away from him.” (WSJ)

Rhode Island: GoLocalProv chats with Education Commissioner Deborah Gist
Gist had this to say: “In order to transform education in our state, every Rhode Islander must truly believe that our students can achieve at high levels, that our teachers and school leaders can be excellent, and that our schools can be America’s best. Establishing this climate of belief requires the commitment and leadership not only of those in the education field but also of our leaders in government.” (GoLocalProv)

California: Parent trigger campaign divides families at troubled Adelanto elementary school
Julie Rodriguez wanted improvement — but not a wholesale change of staff — at her children’s school in the High Desert community of Adelanto. So late last year she signed what she thought was a petition, circulated by parents she considered friends, for more programs and better teachers. But she learned that what she actually signed was a petition to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter campus, a change she says she had specifically told organizers she didn’t want. Furious, Rodriguez has rescinded her signature and is working to help other parents do the same before the Adelanto school board votes Tuesday on whether to accept the petition. The Adelanto organizers contacted Parent Revolution for training. Pat DeTemple, organizing director of that group, said that although the Compton campaign divided the community, the vast majority of parents at Desert Trails continue to back the petition and that any controversy has been fanned by a few dissident parents. (LA Times)

Minnesota: State says BlueSky Online Charter School can stay open
An online charter school that faced closure by the state of Minnesota will be allowed to remain open. BlueSky Online Charter School, based in West St. Paul, has been under investigation by the Minnesota Department of Education for more than two years. State officials say BlueSky illegally gave diplomas to students who hadn’t met state standards. But in her final ruling, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius now says the state doesn’t have enough evidence justify a shut down BlueSky at this time. “It’s great news for us,” said Dan Cook, the school’s spokesman. “The actions will cease and we can go back to the business of educating our students.” (MPR)

Minnesota: Senate sends teacher testing bill to governor
The Senate has sent Gov. Mark Dayton a bill requiring teachers to pass a skills test. The bill requires Minnesota teachers to pass a basic skills test in reading, writing and math before they receive a teaching license. Current law allows licensed teachers to take and retake the test for up to three years. The bill would also require all out-of-state teaching license applicants to pass the test. Supporters have said the measure will keep unqualified teachers out of the classroom. The Senate passed the bill in a 60-1 vote. Last week the House passed the bill unanimously. (Brainerd Dispatch)


Alexander Russo: Pop! Goes the bubble
Sometime over this past summer, the school reform “bubble” popped–seemingly unable to withstand the combined weight of unrealistic claims, weak results, poor policy choices, and resistance from career educators, along with the inertia of a $600 billion a year K-12 school system. What happens next could be a new, more balanced effort to improve public education-or a return to trench warfare and the status quo. (Alexander Russo)

Richard Lee Colvin: Teacher evaluation promises matter
With $700 million in federal Race to the Top money at risk, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York Federation of Teachers worked out a deal on a new teacher evaluation system this week. On Friday, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised the agreement, which calls for 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student achievement. The rest of teachers’ evaluations will be based on observations by principals, independent trained observers, peers and feedback from students and parents.  “Evaluating teachers in a comprehensive way that is focused on improving teachers’ instructional skills is what’s best for kids,” she said in a statement. It’s not yet clear, however, what affordances teachers will be provided to help them get better. Generally speaking, this critical element of teacher evaluation systems is less clear and less helpful than it must be if the goal of evaluating—which presumably isn’t solely to get rid of bad actors—is to be achieved. (Quick and the Ed)


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