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

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

News & analysis

Gates Foundation awards $550,000 in “collaboration” funding to NEA Foundation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the National Education Association Foundation $550,000 to increase its efforts to improve labor-management collaboration, according to a release from the NEA Foundation. The funding will help to build on two of the foundation’s major projects: One to help close achievement gaps, and another begun in 2009, the Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. Ten school districts and unions funded through those projects are jointly creating new evaluation systems and working to improve professional development. The foundation will use the grant to develop case studies on successful collaborative practices, and to create a curriculum to help union and district leaders work together. The NEA Foundation is technically separate from its parent union, but still works closely with it. It’s an independent public charity financed by member dues as well as outside donations and it isn’t subject to the union’s policies. At the same time, NEA’s president and executive director sit on its board, and it maintains a fund to fight back against measures to curb collective bargaining. (Teacher Beat)

Is student motivation the missing link in school reform?
Amid the dizzying crush of school improvement efforts — federal incentive grants, new regulations for teacher evaluations, proposals to raise state curriculum standards — how often do you hear discussion about student motivation as a factor in academic achievement? A new report from the Center on Education Policy suggests student motivation is a potential missing ingredient in campus improvement, and that it deserves more attention from educators, parents, community organizations and policymakers. In examining a wide swath of research, CEP found some common themes among initiatives that were successful as well as those that fell short of expectations, said Alexandra Usher, a senior research assistant at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank and the report’s lead author. “It’s important to remember that we haven’t found the magic answer to how to motivate all students,” Usher told me. “But what we do know could help guide policy decisions.” Schools nationwide are experimenting with initiatives aimed at boosting student motivation, incorporating new programs aimed at piquing their interest or helping them feel more connected to the material they are being taught. In some instances—and , and not without controversy, schools have resorted to outright bribery, offering students cash and other rewards in exchange for greater effort and achievement. Opponents argue such tactics only undercut the intrinsic value of acquiring knowledge, and send educators wading into ethically murky waters. But supporters say tapping into a student’s extrinsic motivation – to complete a task not for its own sake but because of the result it will produce – is the only way to reach some unenthusiastic learners. (Educated Reporter)

Jeb Bush stays focused on education after office
On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney singled out former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for his leadership on changing the way Americans look at education. Bush, out of office for five years, talks about the issue’s importance. But he and his policies do have their critics. (NPR)

New York: Principal evaluation ratings stabilized with test scores last year
As test scores stabilized last year, so did principals’ evaluations. Two years ago, the state made it harder for students to score proficient on state exams. Scores dropped — and so did principals’ ratings, because the ratings are based almost entirely on student test scores. Last year’s test scores were more consistent with the previous year’s results. Almost 90 percent of schools received the same grade on their city progress report as they had the year before, or rose or fell by just one letter grade. Because of the way the city calculates principals’ performance ratings, the stable test scores meant that most principals’ annual ratings could only improve. As a result, only about 1 percent of principals — 18 out of 1,485 — got the lowest rating on the city’s five-point scale in 2010-2011. More than 25 percent landed in the highest category, “substantially meets expectations.” Of the lowest-scoring principals, only five remained in their position this year. (Gotham Schools)


Dana Goldstein: What we still don’t know about Mitt Romney and education
As Ben Adler reports, there are few surprises in Mitt Romney’s education platform, which the candidate finally unveiled yesterday in a forty-page white paper and a speech to Latino business owners. Guided by Bush administration veterans, Romney is pushing teacher accountability policies tied to student achievement data, an expansion of the charter school sector, and more freedom for parents to spend their children’s federal education dollars on private tutors and online learning—but without guaranteeing the federal funding or regulatory support necessary to ensure quality in any of these areas. All in all, Romney has skirted some of the most important and controversial issues in school reform, both within his own party and nationally. Here are my remaining questions for his campaign. (The Nation)

Charlie Rose interviews Diane Ravitch


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