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

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

News & analysis

Obama to governors: Stop cutting K-12, college funding
President Obama was visited at the White House by the nation’s governors today, and he used the occasion to chide them for making what he sees as harmful cuts to K-12 and college spending. “Nothing more clearly signals what you value as a state as the decisions you make about where to invest,” Obama told the governors, according to a statement. “Budgets are about choices, so today I’m calling on you to choose to invest more in teachers, invest more in education, and invest more in our children and their future.” Obama’s remarks reflect one of his recurrent election-year themes. As November draws closer, he’s sought to draw a sharp contrast between his support for spending on K-12— much of it aimed at protecting school jobs—and federal and state Republicans’ calls for budget cuts in that area. (State EdWatch)

North Carolina: Pre-K is next political battle
The wrangling over North Carolina and pre-kindergarten classes continues. Bill Harrison, chairman of the State Board of Education, has weighed in with a blog post that takes aim at Republican efforts to privatize the state’s pre-kindergarten program and narrow the population that qualifies for pre-k services. On Thursday, the House Select Committee on Early Childhood Education will meet to finalize recommendations about pre-K in the state. A draft piece of legislation by the committee spells out that pre-k would be offered only in private child centers, Harrison writes, which is “clearly not in the best interest of the students and families the program was designed to serve.” (News Observer)

Maryland: Mayor launches campaign to raise bottle tax for schools
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched her campaign to repair Baltimore’s long-neglected schools Monday, introducing a bill to more than double the city’s bottle tax as part of a plan to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to fix dilapidated buildings. “This is something that we can use to help change the landscape when it comes to the physical needs for our schools,” the mayor said of the tax. “Our kids deserve better, and sometimes it takes tough decisions to make sure that we provide a way forward for a better school system.” Passing the tax hike — and even deciding on the scope of the school construction and renovation project — likely will be fraught with controversy. Store owners and beverage lobbyists are pushing hard against the tax, and the chairman of the City Council committee that must approve the tariff says he will delay a hearing for at least two months. (Baltimore Sun)

Minnesota: Senate passes teacher layoff bill
The Minnesota Senate has passed a bill that would let schools lay off teachers based on performance. The bill passed in a 36-26 vote. It would let school districts make layoff decisions based on teacher evaluations that consider student performance. Current state law requires that schools only consider teacher seniority, unless individual districts negotiate their own arrangements to consider other factors. Sen. Pam Wolf, a Republican who sponsored the bill, says it lets schools keep the most effective teachers. (MPR)

New York: Mulgrew says mayor’s education legacy is “in shambles”
After a weekend of outrage and anger among his members, the president of the teachers’ union, Michael Mulgrew, greeted teachers returning to school in Brooklyn on Monday and sounded a note of defiance in the union’s approach to the education policies of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. At a news conference convened on the sidewalk outside Public School 321 William Penn in Park Slope, Mr. Mulgrew said he took calls all weekend from his members, who told him of their disgust with the Education Department and the mayor after the release on Friday of teacher ratings based on students’ progress on standardized tests. His members, he said, are fed up with the mayor and his policies. “I’ve heard over and over again from so many of the teachers that he doesn’t want anyone thinking about what his education legacy is because it’s in shambles,” Mr. Mulgrew said about the mayor. “And that’s how they feel. And I believe that they have a right to feel that way.” (School Book)


Amy Davidson: Bad teachers, or bad ratings?
How useful are the city’s newly released teacher-evaluation scores? Let’s say you’re a hypothetical parent—maybe me. You go to the Times’ summation of the ratings for your child’s school, and find that they look pretty bad. In English, none of the teachers managed to score above average; only a small minority of the math teachers did. A teacher your child loves and seems to be learning a lot from was in the high single digits, percentile-wise. This is surprising, if not alarming, because your child’s school, as evidenced by a brutal middle-school admissions process, is one of the more highly regarded in Manhattan, a reputation that is backed up by other statistics. Its scores on the state English and math tests are well above average; so are its admissions to specialized high schools. On the city’s other arcane customized statistical product, the school report card, it has received an A five years in a row. The city just gave your child’s principal a twenty-five-thousand-dollar performance bonus. If you believe in statistics, you are presented with a terrific school with terrible teachers—except that the importance of teachers is what underlies this whole exercise and, as far as your amateur eye can tell, has been a key part of its success. You also learn that there are similar contradictory numbers at other good—or is that “good”—schools, including the elementary school your child just graduated from, toward which you feel unmitigated gratitude. You might be a parent who really does believe that tests are meaningful, and knows for a fact that teachers are. And then you’re just confused. (New Yorker)


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