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

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

News & analysis

Half of foster kids quit high school
When Carey Sommer entered foster care in California, he left his mom, his high school and his friends. Bounced from home to home, he changed high schools nine times until the disheartened teen finally dropped out. “I just started to not really care about high school because I figured I’m just going to move anyway — why does it matter?” said Sommer, who was told it would take an extra year and a half to graduate to make up for credits he lost changing schools. Sommer, 19, is among the roughly 50 percent of the nation’s 500,000 foster kids who won’t graduate from high school, experts say. (Boston Globe)

NAEP scores will be released today
The National Assessment of Educational Progress will soon release its test scores that compare academic improvement in states. The widely cited tests called NAEP (nape) tests are scheduled to be released at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The test scores will report results of assessments taken by fourth and eighth graders earlier this year. (WSJ)

More non-fiction, simplified elementary school math: How the common core could change the American curriculum
Currently, American students are taught just a little bit about a whole lot of mathematical topics each year; we have a curriculum with tons of breadth, but not much depth. Check out this chart Coleman showed us from education researcher Bill Schmidt. It demonstrates that while typical first-graders in high-achieving Western European and Asian countries learn just three concepts–quantity, measurement, and addition/subtraction of whole numbers–American first-graders must learn 14 topics, including polygons, circles, how to use a compass, and how to estimate. The American curriculum may appear more rigorous, but our six-year olds are actually being denied the opportunity to master the foundational skills upon which the rest of their mathematical education will be based. (Dana Goldstein)

Colorado: ProComp Final Evaluation Results
New (summative) evaluation results on Denver’s teacher compensation system, ProComp (Professional Compensation System for Teachers) are here. As is the case with most evaluations, it doesn’t give us the final answer to the big question—does it work? But it does tell us a lot about what’s happened since ProComp—and most of it’s good. The study finds that student outcomes are up across grades and subjects, and that teacher recruitment and retention has also increased. These positive outcomes can’t be tied directly to ProComp and, in all, the evaluation can’t pinpoint a “ProComp effect.” But that’s not to say ProComp hasn’t had any effect. By the 2009-10 school year, nearly three-quarters of teachers are ProComp participants—that shows wide-scale acceptance and, along with reports that the system is much better aligned with the mission and goals of the district, suggests sustainability.  Teachers report more collaboration, not more competition as was expected by some when ProComp began. System leaders say ProComp led to changes in the district’s HR policies and procedures and paved the way for Denver’s achievement growth model and new evaluation system. (Quick and the Ed)

California: New report warns shorter school year would hurt low-income, other students
A report released Monday by a statewide advocacy group warns that low-income students, students of color and English learners will be disproportionately harmed if school districts in California move to further shorten the academic calender due to budget cuts. The report by the nonprofit The Education Trust-West cites research findings that extending instructional time leads to academic gains and narrows the achievement gap for low-income students and struggling schools. Yet two years ago, amid a floundering economy, the state allowed districts to reduce the calender from 180 to 175 days. (LA Times)

Minnesota: State’s new teacher evaluation law among 17 given high marks
New teacher-evaluation laws in Minnesota and 16 other states have earned high marks from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. Meanwhile, four states whose plans for identifying the best and worst teachers earned millions in federal stimulus dollars came in for criticism. “Across the states, there is unprecedented momentum towards developing and implementing teacher evaluation systems that factor student achievement into teacher ratings,” the council reported [PDF]. In broad strokes, Minnesota’s law meets most of the goals advocated by the NCTQ, which advocates for reforms to teacher training, evaluation and compensation. (Learning Curve)

Minnesota: No significant result from early school start
Test scores did not change significantly last year in 25 southwest Minnesota school districts that had special permission to begin the school year before Labor Day, according to a report. Leaders of those districts, however, believe the early start will eventually boost achievement. The report also includes results of a survey that found more students, teachers, and community members agree. (MPR)

Rhode Island: Study links pensions to teacher performance
With teachers at the center of the pension reform debate in Rhode Island, a new study by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) credits pensions with improving teacher performance and reducing turnover in school districts across the country. (GoLocalProv)

Rhode Island: U.S. Education Secretary Duncan to visit state on Wednesday
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will visit Rhode Island Wednesday. He will be the keynote speaker at the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council’s annual dinner at the Rhode Island Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. He will also speak at a town hall meeting at the Providence Career and Technical High School for students, teachers and administrators at 3 p.m. (ProJo)


Diane Ravitch responds to Eric Hanushek
Rick claims that we are not eliminating enough teachers; that if we fired the “bottom” 5-10% of teachers, our national performance would rise to the top of the world. He assumes that a “low-performing” teacher would be replaced by an average teacher, thus leading to a drastic overall improvement in student outcomes. Nobody disagrees that there are ineffective teachers and that, if they are unable to improve, they should be removed. But let’s clear a few things up. When Rick says “research shows” that removing the “bottom 5-10” percent would generate dramatic results, he is referring to his own calculations, not to any actual program that has ever been tried. It’s a hypothetical extrapolation, and it consists of removing teachers based solely on test scores. Rick says he doesn’t advocate for purely test-based dismissals. But the dramatic improvements he foresees are based solely on students’ test scores. (Eduwonk)

Room for Debate: Should college grads get a break on their loans?
The Obama administration unveiled a plan this week aimed at reducing the burden of student loan debt, which now surpasses credit card debt in the United States. Will the Obama plan make a difference? Will it help prevent defaults or will it lead today’s students to borrow more, if they view their debts as potentially negotiable and if they believe the government is assuming more of the risk? What should government do about student debt and the college loan industry? (New York Times)


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