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

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

News & analysis

House panel gives partisan approval to ESEA bills
On a partisan vote, the House Education and the Workforce Committee today gave its stamp of approval to GOP-backed legislation reauthorizing portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A pair of bills, both of which were introduced by U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the committee, would scale back the federal role in education and give states much more running room when it comes to K-12 policy, a 180-degree pivot from the current version of the law, the decade-old No Child Left Behind Act. The measures passed on a party-line vote of 23-16. Debate around the measures at today’s committee markup was predictably partisan. Rep. George Miller, the top Democrat on the committee, said the legislation “turn[s] its back on the civil rights promises of this nation: that every child deserves a fair shot at success, no matter what their background.” Not surprisingly, Kline sees it differently. He said the legislation “untie[s] the hands of state and local leaders who are clamoring for the opportunity to change the status quo and revive innovation in our classrooms.” (Politics K-12)

Maryland: Bill proposes time off for parent-teacher conferences
Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill that would require businesses and state and local government employers to allow their employees to take unpaid leave to attend a biannual parent-teacher meeting. Curtis Valentine, executive director of the Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now, a public school reform organization, said at a Senate finance hearing earlier this month that parents shouldn’t “be choosing between a parent-teacher conference and keeping a job.” Senate Bill 329 requires employees to notify their employer at least three days before using unpaid leave to attend a parent-teacher meeting, according to the legislation. Employees would not be allowed to use the unpaid leave more than twice per each half of the academic year, the bill stated. (Perry Hall Patch)

Maryland: School board approves $1.6B budget
The Prince George’s County Board of Education voted on a $1.6 billion budget Thursday that calls for nearly the same amount in spending as this year’s plan. “This budget is markedly different from some past years where we have suffered through [layoffs] and furloughs,” said Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5), the school board chair. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins in July, is a 2 percent increase over this year. The board is asking the county to contribute $617.5 million toward the budget, which is the amount the county currently provides. The rest of the funding comes from the state and federal governments. (WaPo)

Rhode Island: State applies for federal waiver for NCLB
Rhode Island applied Tuesday afternoon for a waiver from No Child Left Behind, a decade-old federal education law widely recognized to be in need of repair. Under the state’s proposal, Rhode Island would develop a new system for classifying schools; allow high schools to report a six-year graduation rate; and include the performance of more at-risk students, particularly in suburban schools. It also lays out a new approach for intervening in the most troubled schools. “We hope to put this new system in place during the current year so that we can move forward rapidly with our work of accelerating all schools toward greatness,” said state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. (ProJo)

North Carolina: New charter schools up for approval
Nine new charter schools are up for approval by the State Board of Education this week, with a committee discussion today and the vote scheduled for Thursday. The new Public Charter School Advisory Council recommended the nine applicants for “fast-track” consideration, which would allow them to open this fall. They would be the first new schools after a 100-school limit on charters was removed. Much of the debate centers on two proposed Triangle schools, Research Triangle High School and the Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School. Both face fierce local opposition. (News Observer)

New York: Performance ratings for charter schools made public
Performance ratings for 217 New York City charter school teachers were made public on Tuesday but city officials cautioned that because of missing information, the reports cannot be used to objectively compare the quality of a public school versus charter school education. The controversial ratings cover math and English teachers of grades four to eight at 32 charter schools. These schools receive public funding, but are privately managed, and unlike traditional public schools, they voluntarily participated in the city’s teacher data initiative, believing that the information would remain confidential. Some of the schools that volunteered for the assessment are part of established charter management organizations like KIPP or Uncommon, while others are independent schools, commonly called mom-and-pops. (School Book)

South Dakota: Teach for America bill passes house
South Dakota House members support a bill that establishes a matching funds system to shore up the state’s Teach For America program. The bill creates a grant program with the Department of Education that expands funding for four years starting in July. Under this measure, the state would match private donations 3-1 over the four-year period. Since its 2004 South Dakota start, Teach For America has placed 57 teachers in the state’s most rural communities. With more money, the number of educators is expected to grow to 100 by 2015. Supporters say there aren’t enough teachers from South Dakota universities willing to live on reservations, and the program helps fill education gaps between Native American and non-tribal students. (Rapid City Journal)

California: Adelanto parent-trigger supporters claim fraud
Parents battling to improve their struggling Mojave Desert school charged Tuesday that opponents had illegally altered documents in a campaign to defeat their petition to transform the campus into a charter school. At a Los Angeles news conference, parents from Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto presented evidence that at least two documents ostensibly revoking support for the petition had been doctored. Their attorney, Mark C. Holscher, said he had asked the San Bernardino County district attorney to investigate the alleged fraud. Last month, parents submitted the petition under the state’s pioneering parent-trigger law, which allows parents of at least half the students at a failing school to force changes in staff and curriculum, close the campus or convert it to a charter school. Parents turned in petitions representing 70% of the school’s 666 students. But the school board rejected the petition last week, saying parents of 97 students claimed they had been misled and rescinded their signatures; those rescissions and other petitions that were found to be invalid drove the support below the required legal threshold. On Tuesday, however, petition supporters said they had regained their majority after examining all documents of parents seeking to revoke their signatures. They said they found that at least 27 had been inappropriately counted, including those missing signatures or signed by someone who had not signed the original petition. In two cases, parents said they had signed the document to remove their signatures without checking off any boxes as to why, but the boxes were filled in on a duplicate copy. (Los Angeles Times)


Pioneer Press: When teacher layoffs are necessary, let go of last-in, first-out
The Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate have passed bills that would base teacher layoffs, when necessary, on performance rather than seniority. Assuming that the reconciliation process to come stays true to the intent of the legislation, the governor should sign it.  Currently, except in districts that have expressly decided otherwise, experience is the deciding factor when schools have to cut teacher jobs. Experience is a good thing, but it’s only one of the variables that influence whether a teacher – or anybody in any job, for that matter – is effective. The last-in, first-out rule is indiscriminate; it takes no account of talent or skill or performance or classroom results. So it has to go. (Pioneer Press)

Rick Hess: Cage-busting leadership
As some readers may know, I’m well along on my next book. Tentatively titled Cage-Busting Leadership, it’s due to Harvard Ed Press in July and you can expect to see it out early next year. The title may be a bit weird, but the premise is simple: I believe that two things are true. It is true, as would-be reformers often argue, that statutes, policies, rules, regulations, contracts, and case law make it tougher than it should be for school and system leaders to drive improvement and, well, lead. At the same time, however, it is also true that these leaders have far more freedom to transform, reimagine, and invigorate teaching, learning, and schooling than is widely believed. (Straight Up)


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