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

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

News & analysis

Training of teacher evaluators examined
ormal training of the principals and other observers conducting teacher evaluations is a complex, necessary, and often overlooked component of the systems, concludes a new paper written by the experts who oversaw the training and scoring of thousands of teachers’ lessons, as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching Project. Such training, including the certification and testing of observers, will help to ensure that judgments of teacher practice are valid and reliable for the purpose of professional development and other decisions, they assert. The paper estimates that the length of training observers could take somewhere in the range of 35 to 40 hours in all, though it isn’t clear just how much Cadillac training of this sort would cost, per teacher. So, you ask, who’s actually doing this kind of training? Two come to mind: The Santa Monica, Calif.-based Teacher Advancement Program, a nonprofit that provided the training for Tennessee’s statewide teacher evaluation system, for one. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Teachscape itself also provides these services. But I’m sure there are others I’ve missed. (Teacher Beat)

Rhode Island: More than 100 turn out in Central Falls to hear receiver outline school changes
More than 100 parents, teachers and students are attending a School Board of Trustees’ meeting Tuesday evening to hear details of the consolidation between municipal and school services to help the bankrupt city save money. Receiver Robert J. Flanders Jr. and his chief of staff, Gayle Corrigan, are expected to outline changes, including the move of School Supt. Frances Gallo and her team to City Hall next month. (ProJo)

New York: Gov. Cuomo ad urges push on teacher evaluations
Gov. Cuomo took to the air in a new ad Tuesday urging New Yorkers to pressure their local school districts and unions to reach deals on new teacher evaluation systems. The ad, paid for by the state’s Democratic Party, comes as a host of teachers unions and administrators push for changes to a grading deal brokered by Cuomo between the state Education Department and the state teachers union. The governor has threatened to withhold state aid if the local districts do not implement the teacher evaluations by January. The ad is scheduled to run on radio stations statewide. In it, Cuomo reiterates his message that New York’s spending on education ranks first in the nation while the state’s graduation rate is 38th. (Daily News)

New York: NYC Voters favor the release of teacher ratings but Q-poll finds voters consider controversial rankings “flawed”
New York City voters favored the release of controversial teacher ratings but also believe the numbers are “flawed,” a new poll finds. The Quinnipiac poll, released Wednesday, shows 58% approved of the release of the rankings while 38% disapproved. But at the same time, just one in five voters “trust” the results, with 46% saying the ratings were “flawed.” An even higher percentage of parents with kids in public school — 52% — question the results. “Those teacher evaluation rankings are suspect, voters think,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. The ratings given to nearly 18,000 teachers from 2007 to 2010 are based on students’ state test scores. The city used a complicated calculation to determine whether a teacher improved their students’ scores as much as expected, factoring in demographics. (Daily News)

Maryland: Northwestern High Forum held to discuss protest, suspensions
About 50 students, parents and teachers from Northwestern High School and the surrounding area attended a community forum in Hyattsville on Monday night to discuss the massive walkout that wasn’t. On the agenda was “Project Xbox,” the codename for the March 1 protest, the principal’s decision to squash the event, and the suspensions that were given to the four students who helped organize the walkout. Some students came to the meeting to cast a spotlight on the issues they planned to protest about and to demand that the suspensions be removed from the four students’ permanent records. Prince George’s County Board of Education member Amber Waller (District 3), who represents the area, said Monday night’s meeting was not the appropriate place to discuss the suspensions or to demand that they be lifted. Instead, she used the meeting to encourage political activism – but only if it’s done in the right manner. The students said the walkout, which was part of a national effort, was to increase teacher pay, improve the quality of education and demand an apology to Filipino teachers who will lose their jobs because their visas will expire. (WaPo)

Maryland: Montgomery Board of Education advocates for stronger education funding bill
Montgomery school officials spoke out Tuesday in support of an education funding bill being debated in Annapolis that would secure a steady flow of local education dollars year after year. Officials argued that education funding is an investment in the future workforce and wealth of the community and that it occupies a special legal status. “The constitution guarantees funding for education; It does not speak to libraries or firefighters. It does not speak to police. While they are necessary parts to having a civilized, efficient, well-run county, they are not guaranteed in the Maryland constitution,” said board member Patricia O’Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) at a board meeting Tuesday. The Montgomery County Council reduced its per pupil spending for three years running as it tried to balance the needs of public safety and other social services with those of the 146,000-student school system. Amending the nearly three-decade-old law that requires local counties to provide at least a constant amount of per pupil funding each year in exchange for increasing state aid has become the subject of increasing debate in recent years as county governments have grappled with declining revenues. (WaPo)


New York Times: Help for student borrowers
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is right to take on the poorly regulated, private student lending industry. Too often, college students are lured by schools or lenders into ruinously priced loans, even when they are eligible for affordable federal loans that offer hardship deferments and broad consumer protections. Under a new initiative, the bureau is providing one-stop shopping for complaints on billing and collection disputes, and financial institutions will have to resolve complaints within 60 days. The bureau should require lenders and schools to make the differences between loans clear, and Congress should require private lenders to contact colleges before issuing loans to determine if student borrowers are eligible for federal loans. The schools should then steer students toward the federal program. Students who borrow privately often wrongly assume that private and government loans function in the same way. They don’t. Currently, for example, the interest rate on most federal student loans is capped at 6.8 percent. Interest on private loans is typically uncapped, with variable rates that can start at 15 percent or higher, according to a 2011 report by the Institute for College Access and Success, a research group that tracks student debt. The data on private loans is incomplete, but it suggests that students who borrow this way are more at risk of default. Federal loans also allow borrowers who lose their jobs to defer payment or to pay smaller amounts tied to their incomes. Private lenders offer fewer such protections. (New York Times)


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