Lisa Gibes is 50CAN’s vice president of strategy and external relations. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:

News & analysis:
Some states tie reading tests to grade promotion

Fourth grade is when young people stop learning to read and start reading to learn, says Marcus Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Even so, because less attention is placed on developing reading skills past the third grade, Winters said, students who have not mastered the skill by then struggle to keep up and fall further behind each year. To address that issue, Ohio and North Carolina passed legislation in the past month requiring third-graders to pass a reading test before advancing to fourth grade. They join four other states — Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma and Florida — with similar policies, said Jaryn Emhof of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Emhof said more states, including Mississippi and New Mexico, are considering similar laws. The policy has critics, including psychologist Sylvia Rimm, who says she believes third grade is too late to hold students back. She says if a problem is noticed, a child should should be held back earlier, when they are less likely to experience emotional pain for repeating a year. (USA Today) 

No Child Left Behind – The Problem Is Not The Policy, It’s Us
Everyone not chattering about the job numbers is chattering about this morning’s New York Times article on No Child Left Behind and the waivers that are increasingly freeing states from its requirements.  In general some waivers were necessary – and some were issued during the Bush Administration, too – because the law was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007 and 2012 is now half over. But when you read stuff like this line in The Times story, you can’t help but wonder how much of all this is “everybody knows” and how much is based in facts: “[No Child Left Behind] has been derided for what some regard as an obsessive focus on test results, which has led to some notorious cheating scandals.” (Eduwonk) 

Minnesota hopes to improve college readiness among high school students

After decades of spending millions a year to teach thousands of college students skills they should have learned in high school, Minnesota’s institutions of public education are moving toward an overhaul to improve college readiness. In 2010, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities spent $30 million teaching remedial English, mathematics and other courses to ensure students have the skills to succeed in entry-level college courses. Half of that money is spent on recent high school graduates who are unprepared for college work and the rest on adults re-entering school and needing to brush up on skills. Of the students who attend college, about 40 percent require at least one of these developmental courses — an increase from 33 percent just a decade ago. The students come from the state’s top high schools and those most struggling. (

New York:
New York May Weigh Students’ Culture in Private Placements

A bill awaiting action from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would require school districts to consider cultural factors when deciding on private placements for students with disabilities.
New York districts, some of which do not have the capacity to teach all of their students with disabilities in their own schools, often turn to private schools to educate these students instead. Typically, in New York and around the country, these placements are based solely on the students’ educational needs. The bill approved by the state’s legislature would expand that consideration. Districts would have to consider the type of clothing a student’s family wears, the language they speak at home, and the like. Families could argue that a particular placement wouldn’t suit their child’s needs if it didn’t account for these factors, the state assemblywoman who sponsored the bill told The New York Times. (Education Week – On Special Education)

Andrew Coulson: America Has Too Many Teachers

President Obama said last month that America can educate its way to prosperity if Congress sends money to states to prevent public school layoffs and “rehire even more teachers.” Mitt Romney was having none of it, invoking “the message of Wisconsin” and arguing that the solution to our economic woes is to cut the size of government and shift resources to the private sector. Mr. Romney later stated that he wasn’t calling for a reduction in the teacher force—but perhaps there would be some wisdom in doing just that. (Wall Street Journal)



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