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

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

News & analysis

Supreme Court to hear affirmative action case
In a 2003 decision that the majority said it expected would last for 25 years, the Supreme Court allowed public colleges and universities to take account of race in admission decisions. On Tuesday, the court signaled that it might end such affirmative action much sooner than that. By agreeing to hear a major case involving race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas, the court thrust affirmative action back into the public and political discourse after years in which it had mostly faded from view. Both supporters and opponents of affirmative action said they saw the announcement — and the change in the court’s makeup since 2003 — as a signal that the court’s five more conservative members might be prepared to do away with racial preferences in higher education. The consequences of such a decision would be striking. It would, all sides agree, reduce the number of African-American and Latino students at nearly every selective college and graduate school, with more Asian-American and white students gaining entrance instead. (New York Times)

Panel to assess methodology for assessing teacher prep
A variety of methods for evaluating teacher education programs will be weighed for their methodological rigor, accuracy, and utility as part of a new research project recently launched by the National Academy of Education and George Washington University. The new project is at least partly a reaction to a controversial review of every teacher education school in the country that is now being conducted by the Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report. The chair of the academy project’s steering committee, Michael J. Feuer, has been among those raising concerns about the methodology of the NCTQ review—though he insists it is not the only impetus behind it. (Ed Week)

Rhode Island: Senate President backs push for full-day kindergarten
Despite the state’s financial crisis, some key lawmakers want to encourage more school districts to offer full-day kindergarten by giving them money to offset start-up costs. Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, D-Cranston, has drafted legislation with the help of Rhode Island Kids Count that would give an unspecified amount of money to three to four school districts that do not currently offer full-day kindergarten. Currently, 19 school districts offer full-day programs, while 17 do not, including Gallo’s home district, Warwick, Cumberland, Coventry and several smaller districts. Woonsocket had to abandon its full-day program last year because of that city’s budget crunch. (ProJo)

North Carolina: State spending falls, improves to other states
The country’s largest teacher union is out with annual public school spending estimates that say North Carolina’s ranking improved slightly since last year. The North Carolina affiliate of the National Education Association said Tuesday the state’s No. 42 ranking for per pupil expenditures this school year doesn’t hide that spending fell a little compared to the year before – when the NEA report ranked North Carolina 45th among 50 states and the District of Columbia for similar expenditures. (Winston-Salem Journal)

New York: As new evaluations firm up, more city principals oppose them
During the month that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was engineering revisions to the state’s teacher evaluation law, more city principals signed onto a petition critiquing it. A pair of Long Island principals launched the petition against the state’s 2010 evaluation law in November, arguing that its requirement that a portion of teachers’ ratings be based on students’ test scores is unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts. Two weeks after the petition started circulating, hundreds of principals across the state had signed on, but only a handful were from New York City. By early January, only about 100 city principals had signed on, up from 30 in early December. Now, there are more than 175 principals on board as of the version of the petition distributed Monday night. (Gotham Schools)

New Jersey: Christie proposes $32.1B budget with increased education funding, revenue expectations
Gov. Chris Christie proposed a $32.15 billion budget today that relies on robust revenue growth to deliver about $2 billion in increased spending in several areas, including higher education and aid to local schools. Saying it is “time to put the New Jersey comeback into high gear,” Christie unveiled a spending plan for the fiscal year 2013 that relies on a 7 percent increase in revenue — even though collections in the current year have fallen short of expectations. The plan is in stark contrast to his two previous budgets, which called for steep cuts or flat funding. “We have left the dark times of lost jobs worsened by overtaxing, overspending and over borrowing,” Christie told the Legislature in his budget address. “Please be clear on this point — we will not return to the path of higher taxes under any circumstances. Not on my watch. To do so would risk stopping the New Jersey Comeback in its tracks.” (Star-Ledger)


Paul Bruno: Teaching content versus “teaching to the test”
The Obama administration has been taking a lot of flak – most recently from Jon Stewart – for criticizing “teaching to the test” while simultaneously pushing policies that are arguably going to encourage exactly that sort of behavior by teachers and school officials. I think it’s fair enough to blame President Obama to the extent that his policies promote ineffective instruction.  At the same time, though, the phrase “teaching to the test” masks a lot of variability in what educators are actually doing to improve their scores, and it’s not always obvious that when schools “teach to the test” they’re helping themselves at all. [There] are reasons to be skeptical about the effectiveness of spending significant instructional time on “test-taking strategies”. It’s probably helpful for students to be familiar with the structure of a test, even if only to improve its validity, but presumably the most helpful thing for students will be knowing the content being tested. Apart from a few short lessons prior to our state test in May I spend no time whatever teaching test-taking strategies to my science students because I figure that they will get better scores anyway if I spend my all-too-precious instructional minutes just teaching the content laid out in our science standards. (Scholastic Administrator)


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