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

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

News & analysis

California: Taxpayers get billed for kids of millionaires at charter school
In Silicon Valley, Bullis elementary school accepts one in six kindergarten applicants, offers Chinese and asks families to donate $5,000 per child each year. Parents include Ken Moore, son of Intel Corp.’s co-founder, and Steven Kirsch, inventor of the optical mouse. Bullis isn’t a high-end private school. It’s a taxpayer- funded, privately run public school, part of the charter-school movement that educates 1.8 million U.S. children. While charters are heralded for offering underprivileged kids an alternative to failing U.S. districts, Bullis gives an admissions edge to residents of parts of Los Altos Hills, where the median home is worth $1 million and household income is $219,000, four times the state average. (Business Week)

North Carolina: Charter schools seek approval
Alicia Minkins has waited years to open a charter school that empowers students to start businesses and solve problems in their community. A previous cap on such schools stood in the way, she said. Now, the board of directors for the proposed Global Leadership Entrepreneurial Academy could finally get the break it needs. “It was a very difficult process in the past,” said Minkins, a board member and managing partner for EJ’s Staffing Services in Greensboro. “Without the cap, it gives you a good chance of getting a good program through the system.” Last week, the state Office of Charter Schools received 27 applications from organizations that want to open schools next summer. North Carolina previously allowed only 100 charter schools to operate at one time, but lawmakers eliminated the cap this summer. The state Board of Education initiated a “fast track” application process for groups that need less than a year to get their schools running. The board intends to issue new charters in February. (News Record)

New York: Calming schools by focusing on well-being of troubled students
Mark Ossenheimer, principal of the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx, threw out a name to add to the list of teenagers in trouble. Convening the meeting was Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that the young-but-faltering school in an impoverished neighborhood near the Bronx Zoo had brought in this year to try to change things. “This is the condition our organization was created to solve,” said Dr. Pamela Cantor, Turnaround’s founder and president. “A teacher who works in a community like this and thinks that these children can leave their issues at the door and come in and perform is dreaming.” In focusing on students’ psychological and emotional well-being, in addition to academics, Turnaround occupies a middle ground between the educators and politicians who believe schools should be more like community centers, and the education-reform movement, with its no-excuses mantra. Over the past decade, the movement has argued that schools should concentrate on what high-quality, well-trained teachers can achieve in classrooms, rather than on the sociological challenges beyond their doors. (New York Times)

New York: Investigator to probe cheating on NY exams
New York Education Commissioner John King has appointed a special investigator to review how the state deals with reports of cheating on student exams. Henry “Hank” Greenberg, an ex-federal prosecutor and former counsel to then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, has accepted the task as special investigator without pay. King says Greenberg will have “unfettered” access to Education Department assessment records, including alleged test violations and how those were tracked and resolved. (Times Union)

Minnesota: State sets out new education proposals in waiver from NCLB
State education officials plan submitted on Monday their application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said the goal is to be freed from the current system, which she says unfairly labels schools as ‘failures.’ A key criticism of No Child Left Behind is that it unfairly compares this year’s reading and math scores with last year’s even though a different set of students took last year’s tests. Cassellius said test scores are important, but there are better ways of analyzing those and other data to measure schools and the state is proposing a new system in its waiver application. (MPR)

Rhode Island: Providence releases plan to fix struggling school system
Laying the groundwork for what it calls a “cradle to career” initiative, a committee of local education experts Monday offered Providence Mayor Angel Taveras recommendations for turning around the city’s troubled public school system, which had a 23.4 percent dropout rate in 2010. The report offered few specifics on how the city should implement systems to achieve the stated goals, but it did include targeted outcomes for students over the next year. They include making sure every pre-kindergartener participates in a “summer learning activity to prepare for school,” twice-per-year parent teacher meetings, a 25 percent reduction in middle school chronic absenteeism, raising NECAP test scores and ensuring that 53 percent of the class of 2012 enrolls in college. (GoLocalProv)

Ohio: State takes over 8 charter schools that lost sponsor
The state is taking over sponsorship of eight northern Ohio charter schools whose sponsor was revoked, leaving some Democrats concerned that the state does not have a clear path out, and that Ohio is helping schools that should not be saved. The state Controlling Board yesterday approved allowing the state Department of Education to collect and spend $298,000 in sponsorship fees for the schools, which were formerly sponsored by the Cleveland-based Ashe Culture Center. The state auditor declared six of the schools unauditable in late 2010 because financial records were a shambles. (Columbus Dispatch)


Kevin Chavous: Congress backslides on school reform
A funny thing happened on the way to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the sweeping school-reform law better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB): The debate over reauthorization has spawned a political alliance between the tea party and the teachers unions. These strange bedfellows have teamed up to push for turning teacher-evaluation standards over to the states—in other words, to turn back the clock on educational accountability. (WSJ)

Marc S. Tucker: A different role for teachers unions
American teachers unions are increasingly the target of measures, authored by friends and foes alike, intended to limit their power, or even eviscerate them. Looking at this scene, one would never guess that the countries that are among the top 10 in student performance have some of the strongest teachers unions in the world. Are those unions in some way different from American teachers unions? Do unions elsewhere behave differently from American teachers unions when challenged to do what is necessary to improve student performance? To explore these questions, I compare teachers and their unions in Ontario, Canada and Finland with their U.S. counterparts. (EdNext)


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