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

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

News & analysis

Santorum would eliminate NCLB
Rick Santorum is still regretting his vote in favor of the No Child Left Behind Act. In tonight’s CNN debate in Arizona—which hosts a primary, along with Michigan, on Tuesday—the former Pennsylvania senator was hammered again for voting for NCLB in 2001. He’s neck-and-neck with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who also charged Santorum with a fiscal conservative foul: voting to expand funding for the U.S. Department of Education. Santorum, who reiterated that he regretted voting for NCLB, said that law has led to increased federal education spending. And, indeed, according to the New America Foundation, spending on federal Title I (one of the big federal education programs) has grown 88 percent, or $7.7 billion, since 2001. Santorum later said NCLB created a “testing regime.” (Politics K-12)

What teachers really do
There’s an unstoppable “What I Really Do” meme going around and thanks to @mandyzatynski here’s one of the teacher versions. (Alexander Russo)

New York: State restores federal funds for five districts, but not for the city
The state’s thaw over teacher evaluations is extending to federal funds that had been frozen to some districts. But New York City is still out nearly $60 million. Last month, State Education Commissioner John King cut off the funds, known as School Improvement Grants, to 10 districts that had been receiving them to help overhaul low-performing schools. The districts had not adequately complied with a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt new evaluations for teachers in those schools, King said. The funding freeze, along with a hefty dose of evaluations pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the last month, sent many of the districts back into negotiations about new teacher evaluations with their local unions. Today, King announced that five of the districts — Albany, Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, and Schenectady — had refined their evaluations agreements enough to restart the flow of federal funds. The other five districts, which include New York City, have all requested hearings to try to convince King that he should restore their funding. The districts all called off hearings scheduled for this week after last week’s statewide evaluation deal, although it was not clear how the deal would have changed what districts planned to say during their hearings. (Gotham Schools)

Minnesota: Teachers weigh in on proposed tenure shake up
A bill making its way through the Legislature would allow school administrators to consider a teacher’s performance in the classroom, instead of just seniority, when cutting jobs. The measure would eliminate the so-called “last in, first out” approach to layoffs. Although some teachers think it’s time to shake the system up, many are opposed to any change in the long-standing system of tenure, a form of job security for classroom veterans. There are some teachers who favor changing the “last in, first out” system, but they are outnumbered by those who don’t want the change. “I think it’s kind of hard to be a teacher with this opinion,” said Jeanne Fimmen, who teaches third-grade English at Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion School in Eden Prairie, Minn. Fimmen is in her third year of teaching at the school, and as a non-tenured teacher she expects to receive her third layoff notice soon, although she also expects the school to again rehire her. But her experience with layoffs isn’t the reason she favors changing the seniority system for teachers. Fimmen said the current system protects teachers who should be fired for poor performance. (MPR)

Minnesota: Dayton signs skills test requirement for teachers
Gov. Mark Dayton has signed a bill that requires teachers to pass a skills test in order to get a Minnesota license. The Democratic governor signed the bill Wednesday. Dayton vetoed similar legislation last year, but a press release from his office says the new bill included changes sought by his administration. The new law will require Minnesota teachers to pass a skills test in reading, writing and math before they receive a license. Current law allows licensed teachers to take and retake the test for up to three years. All out-of-state applicants for teacher licenses will have to pass the test as well. (Brainerd Dispatch)

Rhode Island: Woonsocket School Committee votes to issue pink slips to all its teachers
The School Committee voted 3 to 2 Wednesday night to issue pink slips to all of the district’s 600 teachers. Frank Flynn, president of the R.I. Federation of Teachers, called the move “outrageous.” “This district is obliged to provide 6,000 with an education,” he said. “This is an abuse of power and it shows gross ineptitude by the administration.” The two who voted against were Eleanor M. Nadeau and John Donlon Jr. Voting for were Chairwoman Anita A. McGuire-Forcier, Vimala D. Phongsavanh and Christopher Roberts. The district is facing a $2.1-million deficit. State law sets March 1 as the deadline for districts to notifiy teachers who might be laid off. (ProJo)


Bill Gates: Shame is not the solution
LAST week, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that teachers’ individual performance assessments could be made public. I have no opinion on the ruling as a matter of law, but as a harbinger of education policy in the United States, it is a big mistake. I am a strong proponent of measuring teachers’ effectiveness, and my foundation works with many schools to help make sure that such evaluations improve the overall quality of teaching. But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work. In most public schools today, teachers are simply rated “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” and evaluations consist of having the principal observe a class for a few minutes a couple of times each year. Because we are just beginning to understand what makes a teacher effective, the vast majority of teachers are rated “satisfactory.” Few get specific feedback or training to help them improve. (New York Times)

Diane Ravitch: No student left untested
The new evaluation system pretends to be balanced, but it is not. Teachers will be ranked on a scale of 1-100. Teachers will be rated as “ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective.” Forty percent of their grade will be based on the rise or fall of student test scores; the other sixty percent will be based on other measures, such as classroom observations by principals, independent evaluators, and peers, plus feedback from students and parents. But one sentence in the agreement shows what matters most: “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.” What this means is that a teacher who does not raise test scores will be found ineffective overall, no matter how well he or she does with the remaining sixty percent. (New York Review of Books)


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