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

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

News & analysis

$5B in grants offered to revisit teacher policies
The Obama administration will propose a $5 billion competitive grant program to encourage states to overhaul the teaching profession, federal education officials said Tuesday, using its Race to the Top school improvement competition as a model. The new program, which needs Congressional approval, is part of President Obama’s budget proposal and expands upon a call in his State of the Union address last month to give schools more resources “to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best ones.” Federal education officials said the program would seek to bring together state and district officials, union leaders, teachers and other educators to address a range of issues, among them tightening tenure rules, increasing salaries and improving professional development. (New York Times)

Duncan champions new teacher quality fund
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to appear at at teacher townhall today to pump up the administration’s proposal for a brand new $5 billion competitive grant program to get states and districts to work with teachers, unions, education schools and others to totally retool the teaching profession. The fund is called the RESPECT Project, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching. The Obama administration will work with Congress to refine the proposal, but in a nutshell they want to use the money to help states and districts do a whole host of things, including: overhaul teachers’ colleges to make them more selective, create career ladders for teachers, give extra money to teachers who work in tough environments, bolster professional development, revamp tenure, craft evaluation systems, and make teachers’ salaries more competitive with other professions. (Politics K-12)

Minnesota: House passes bill requiring teacher test
The Minnesota House has unanimously passed a bill that would require teachers to pass a basic skills test before getting a teacher’s license. Republican bill sponsor Andrea Kieffer (KEY’-fur) says the legislation would keep unqualified teachers out of the classroom. Current law allows teachers to hold a provisional license for three years while continuing to retake the test. The companion bill hasn’t received a vote in the full Senate. Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet taken a public stance on the bill. (Brainerd Dispatch)

Minnesota: More partnerships to build learning opportunities
The Minnesota Department of Education wants more businesses across the state to adopt schools. There are already several partnerships between businesses and schools around the state, but Brenda Cassellius, state education commissioner, wants to see more. Businesses can help schools by offering internships for students, buying computers or offering volunteer tutors, she said. “Human capital, as well as financial resources or sometimes providing computers or other things for schools that really enhance the ways we teach students and provide learning opportunities,” Cassellius said. (MPR)

New York: Cuomo optimistic on teacher evaluation guidelines
On Tuesday, Cuomo and Larry Schwartz, the secretary to the governor, sounded generally upbeat that the NYSUT and state officials were working toward an agreement. Cuomo said he sees “two discrete steps” the state needs to take on teacher evaluation. First, the state has to approve the basic teacher-evalution template. Once that occurs, he’s given local school districts a year to reach their own agreements to create teacher evaluation systems, which would have to be collectively bargained with local unions, based on the state’s overall template. (Some of those districts, most notably New York City, are having a much tougher time than others in reaching accords with unions, Cuomo and Schwartz acknowledged.) The governor has offered those local districts a carrot to reach a deal—or a stick, depending on your point of view. He’s said that districts will only be eligible for the 4 percent increases in state aid that he’s proposed in his $132.5 billion budget if they can reach local deals on evaluations. New York City, for instance, stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, he said, if they fall short of an accord. (State EdWatch)

Maryland: Mayor, Alonso do agree on one part of school construction plan
In a story today about Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake’s State of the City address, our City Hall Reporter Julie Scharper touched a lot on how the mayor has essentially rejected city schools CEO Andres Alonso’s plan to rapidly rebuild the city’s dilapidated school buildings with more debt, and instead champions a plan based on a slower, but arguably steadier, stream of revenue. But, I believe a sleeping giant is where the mayor and Alonso are of the same mind: schools, possibly some pretty historic anchors in communities, will have to close in order for any facilities overhaul plan will work. (InsideEd)


New York Post: The bad teacher test
Team Cuomo sounded upbeat yesterday about a deal for a new system for rating teachers — and, presumably, firing bad ones — as its self-imposed Thursday deadline nears. Indeed, odds are good that New York’s biggest teachers union will strike an “agreement” with the State Education Department — or that Gov. Cuomo will keep his vow to impose teacher-evaluation guidelines as part of his budget. But the devil resides very much in the details. Once the smoke clears, will public schools finally be able to easily rid themselves of incompetent teachers? The depressing answer: Not likely. (New York Post)


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