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

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

News & analysis

Broad Foundation announces 2012 finalists for Broad Prize
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation announced today the finalists for the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education, $1 million awarded annually to the four urban school districts making the greatest progress in America in raising student achievement, particularly for traditionally disadvantaged students. The Broad (rhymes with “road”) Prize for Urban Education is the largest education award in the country given to urban school districts that demonstrate the best overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among poor and minority students. The winner of the 2012 Broad Prize, to be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art, will receive $550,000 in college scholarships for high school seniors who will graduate in 2013. The three finalist districts will each receive $150,000 in college scholarships, for a total distribution of $1 million in Broad Prize scholarships. (Broad Foundation)

Under scrutiny, some Head Start programs in limbo
The Obama administration is calling for major changes in Head Start, the 46-year-old early childhood education program that helped launch President Johnson’s War on Poverty. President Obama says too many children today aren’t learning, and too many education programs are mismanaged. “We’re not just going to put money into programs that don’t work,” the president announced late last year. “We will take money and put it into programs that do.” To that end, the administration has released a list of 132 Head Start programs in 40 states it has rated “deficient.” Those programs will now have to compete for federal funding. But when it comes to increased scrutiny of Head Start, some critics say it’s about time. David Muhlhausen, a research fellow with the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, says “it’s time for new thinking” when it comes to early childhood education. “To the Obama administration’s credit, if the proposed reforms are actually carried out, then I think it would raise the accountability of Head Start,” Muhlhausen says. Muhlhausen says the $8 billion program is currently riddled with problems, including financial fraud, shoddy record-keeping and doctored documents that have allowed ineligible families to enroll. (NPR)

Teacher-prep rulemaking: Is consensus in jeopardy?
The panelists charged with rewriting federal teacher-preparation rules faced a grueling day today during which major tension points emerged with little resolution, all of which served to call into question whether they will be able to reach consensus by Thursday. You don’t have to take my word for it: During some of the breaks, I spoke to a handful of negotiators—they all, reasonably, wanted to speak on background since the process isn’t finished yet—and by and large, they weren’t optimistic: “It seems doubtful.” “Probably not good.” “I don’t know.” “I think the answer is probably no.” If the panelists don’t reach a final consensus, the U.S. Department of Education gets to go it alone when writing the regulations. Some of the tensions that emerged today have been brewing under the surface for a while, but as of the last session, there at least seemed to be agreement on the Education Department’s proposal to classify their teacher-preparation programs into four categories: “low performing,” “at risk,” effective,” and “exceptional,” based on a mix of input- and output-based measures. (Teacher Beat)

States move to close off teacher evaluations
Tennessee is poised to pass a law exempting teachers’ evaluations from broad disclosure under the state’s open-records laws. And next up could be the state of New York, where a similar proposal is under discussion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last week I wrote this piece for Education Week pointing out that this information could be made available in 18 states and the District of Columbia, under open-records laws. As I explained in that story, this is quite a complex issue. While there appears to be a general consensus emerging among education movers and shakers that newspapers shouldn’t publish teacher-performance information wholesale, opinion seems to be more divided on whether parents should have the ability to access these evaluations. (Teacher Beat)

New Jersey: Education Department to consider 32 charter applicants
The state Department of Education will consider 32 applications to open new charter schools across the state including proposals focused on science, fashion and performing arts instruction, a department spokesman said Tuesday. Expanding access to charter schools is one of Gov. Chris Christie’s education reform priorities, but this application cycle drew 10 fewer applicants than the last round in October. School leaders will learn by September if their plans have been approved. Most of the applicants propose opening schools in Newark, Paterson or Jersey City, where students enrolled in traditional public schools post low test scores on state exams. (Star-Ledger)


The Daily Breeze interviews LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy
Los Angeles Unified’s superintendent hustled through the hallways of San Fernando High School, ducking into classrooms, spot-checking teachers’ assignments and greeting every student who crossed his path.”Hi, I’m John Deasy, howaya?” he asked, his rapid-fire patter shaped by the accent of his native Boston. “What are you going to do after you graduate?” That seemingly innocuous question is the heart of Deasy’s administration: the right of LAUSD’s 664,000 students to graduate from high school with the skills to succeed in college or on the job.  It’s what drives his efforts to get rid of underperforming teachers, boost test scores and involve parents in their kids’ education. It’s what draws Deasy to his downtown office well before dawn, working to fulfill his promise to L.A.’s youth despite a $390 million budget shortfall. And it’s the goal that Deasy and his advisers have worked toward since his promotion to superintendent last April 15, serving a district where nearly one-third of the students are English-learners and three-quarters live in poverty.  “So many youth rights have not been fully realized,” Deasy said during a recent interview in his 24th floor office, where portraits of President Obama, Cesar Chavez, Anwar Sadat and Martin Luther King Jr. grace the walls. (Daily Breeze)

Jonathan Plucker: Why is the U.S. priortizing minimum competency?
When historians discuss early 21st century American education, I’m convinced they will pinpoint our decision to focus almost exclusively on minimum competency as an educational and economic turning point. And by “turning point,” I mean that they will ask, “What on earth were they thinking?” Let me be clear: I’m not saying that getting every third grader to at least a third grade reading level is unimportant. To the contrary, getting 100% of our students to minimal competency in ALL subject areas is a moral imperative. But I’m not convinced basic proficiency should be the whole of national and state education policy. Rather, our objectives should be educational excellence–and equal opportunity for educational excellence–goals we have largely ignored over the past decade. I’m not referring to the number of American students performing at the advanced level on national and international tests, although we have fewer students performing at the highest levels of PISA and TIMSS than other countries. We should instead be concerned about the differences at the advanced levels between groups of students in the U.S., which we’ve labeled “excellence gaps.” (Straight Up)


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