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:
More Than Half of States Now Have NCLB Waivers

Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act remains stalled in Congress, but the Obama administration continues to push ahead with big changes to the accountability system at its core, with more than half the states now having been approved for waivers from major mandates of the law. The U.S. Department of Education so far has granted conditional waivers to 26 states from mandates such as the 2013-14 deadline for bringing all students to proficiency on state tests and the NCLB law’s teacher-quality requirements. In exchange, states have promised to adopt college- and career-readiness standards, measure teacher effectiveness in part by student outcomes, and set alternative goals for student achievement. (Education Week) 

Jay Matthews: Nothing can replace a good teacher
Those who hope 21st-century technological wonders will save our schools should read a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. It tells the story of Melvin Marshall, a seventh-grader at Barber Focus School in Highland Park. During the just-completed school year, the lawsuit says, “Melvin was enrolled in a class called ‘Virtual Learning English Language Arts,’ in which he answered questions on the computer. While he worked on the computer, his teacher graded papers or did other work on her own computer. His teacher did not lecture or use the blackboard for instruction. Melvin did not receive direct instruction from his teacher and was frustrated that, although the computer program would indicate whether he answered a question correctly, it never explained why a particular answer was correct.” (Washington Post) 

Absent, suspended city students falling further behind on MSAs

For the third year in a row, Baltimore’s scores on state tests show a double-digit achievement gap between chronically absent students and their peers who attend school regularly, and the system’s recent spike in suspensions has created a similar disparity. In releasing the Maryland School Assessment results last week, city schools CEO Andrés Alonso identified the widening gap between students who are chronically absent — meaning they miss more than 20 days a year — and those who attend school regularly as a crucial barrier to the system’s overall achievement. “Nothing is more important than this,” he said. “[We] still have not figured out how to communicate how important it is for kids to be in school.” (Baltimore Sun) 

New Jersey:
Chris Cerf: Op-Ed: Charter Schools — A Single Strand in NJ’s Tapestry of Great Public Schools

This week, the Department of Education will announce which charter schools will open in September, along with additional strategies to hold all charter schools accountable for results. Since charter schools have been in New Jersey for 15 years, it makes sense to go beyond the frequent misrepresentations to have an honest conversation about what charter schools are and why they are important to New Jersey. Let me be clear from the start — I support great public schools, whether they are district, charter, magnet, or vocational. A child in a classroom does not care about the governance structure of a school; what matters to children and families is whether they have an effective teacher that brings out the best in them and whether they are succeeding. We should all have only one priority — making sure every student is in a great school that meets his needs and is preparing him for success in college and career. (NJ Spotlight) 

New York:
New Charters Proposed for Manhattan

The city has proposed placing two of former City Council Member Eva Moskowitz’s newest charter schools in the heart of Manhattan, sharing buildings with struggling high schools in Union Square and Hell’s Kitchen. Those elementary schools and four others slated to open in 2013-14 would bring the number of schools in Ms. Moskowitz’s fast-growing Success Academy Charter network to 18 and solidify her foothold in the city’s more affluent neighborhoods. “While most of our schools have been in disadvantaged communities, we didn’t build schools for disadvantaged communities,” she said. “We were trying from the get-go to build world-class schools.” (Wall Street Journal) 

News Analysis:
Education’s pendulum: Thinkers or test takers?

The people of a large and mighty nation wonder why their schools can’t do more to imitate those of another large, powerful nation across the Pacific Ocean. But this time it’s not the United States seeking to emulate the schools of an Asian country — it’s China seeking to emulate ours, at least to some extent. China is pushing for more emphasis on building creative skills and less on high-stress, high-stakes testing, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Under the existing system, a single entrance exam determines whether students attend college, and which one. Talk about teaching to the test: The last year of high school is often given over to cramming for the exam. In at least one classroom, students were placed on intravenous drips of amino acids in preparation for the test, in the belief that it would help their memories and provide an energy boost; in another sad case, a girl was not told about her father’s death for two months to avoid disrupting her studies. (Los Angeles Times) 


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