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 wants lower college costs, higher dropout age
President Obama gave college affordability a prominent place in his domestic agenda during his annual State of the Union address, calling directly on universities to hold down costs in order to make higher education more accessible to the middle class. He outlined a set of proposals that include threatening universities with a loss of federal money if they are unable to tamp down tuition. In a speech that emphasized four pillars—manufacturing, energy, worker training, and American values—he advocated for one concrete K-12 policy: He urged states to raise the dropout age to 18. “We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma,” he said. And, he reiterated his call for Congress to approve some version of the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children, if they go on to college or the military. (Politics K-12)

Maryland: State wants to curb student suspensions
Concerned about the high numbers of student suspensions, state school board members are proposing an overhaul of discipline codes that would move away from zero-tolerance policies. School board President James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr. said Tuesday that the board will propose a series of regulations next month that will require school districts to form a plan to reduce nonviolent offenses in the next three years as well as the number of suspensions of special education and minority students. The board wants to “get everybody to focus on the fact that this is part of our educational mission” and that “we are clear that every kid counts,” DeGraffenreidt said. (Baltimore Sun)

Rhode Island: State makes great strides on teacher quality
Rhode Island is among the states that have made the most strides on teacher-quality policies in the last two years, a national education-research group said Wednesday. A report by the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Rhode Island fifth in the nation in overall progress on policies ranging from teacher tenure and compensation to pensions and performance evaluations. In its “State Teacher Policy Yearbook,” the council, which seeks to improve teaching quality, gave Rhode Island a B-, compared to a D in 2009. (ProJo)

New York: Teacher quality rates “C”
New York has made some progress in its efforts to improve teacher quality, ranking 13th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in a report released Wednesday. New York received a C, up from D-plus two years ago, in the report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The report comes as the state and New York City are struggling with the issue of teacher evaluations. Gov. Andrew Cuomo told school districts this month that they must settle on a new teacher evaluation system or lose their share of a proposed 4 percent increase in education spending. (Times-Union)


Dana Goldstein: Scratching the surface of Obama’s education rhetoric
[Before] we make dropping out of high school a crime for either students or the schools that let them go, we might try offering teenagers high-quality, relevant vocational education, through programs that link students to employers in their area. I profiled a few great models in this article, all of which demonstrate that “career and technical education” can coexist with a college-preparatory curriculum for all students. And though it can be politically difficult to talk about the life outcomes of students who are unlikely to graduate college, it is crucial that we do so. According to research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, about a third of the American jobs created between now and 2018 will require an occupational certificate, but not a four-year college degree. President Obama knows this, which is why he spoke tonight about turning community colleges into “community career centers.” The truth is, high schools should also be offering career and technical education programs that ready students for the job market. (The Nation)


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