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:
Will Small Districts Even Bother Competing in New Race to Top?

T-minus 76 days until applications for the $400 million Race to the Top district competition are due. Will your district be applying? Odds are, probably not. Not only is the 116-page application complex and demanding, but the eligibility requirements will make it difficult for a majority of districts to apply. More than half the nation’s school districts are not eligible to apply on their own for the Race to the Top competition for districts because their enrollments are too small. To apply, districts—or groups of districts—must have at least 2,000 students. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Teach for America alumni at the head of the class
From the start, Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp predicted that joining TFA would be life-changing for her recruits. They might not stay in the classroom after their two-year commitment, but she was certain many would devote their lives to education. She was right. Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education reviewed dozens of education-related organizations last year and found a startling number were founded or led by TFA alumni. To further its reach, TFA has been working to build a sister organization, Leadership for Educational Equity, which has a $3.5 million budget and a goal of boosting more TFA alumni into elected offices and influential policy posts nationwide. (Chicago Tribune)

Show and Tell for Teachers, Inspired by Reality TV
Great teaching, it is sometimes said, is one of those things where you know it when you see it. Now, teachers in Washington will be able to see a lot more of it. In deference to a world enthralled by shows like “Extreme Makeover” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” the public school district in Washington has hired a reality television company to produce videos intended to improve the skills of its teachers. The 80 videos, 5 to 15 minutes in length, are peppered with quick jump cuts, slick screen labels and a jaunty soundtrack. In short interviews and classroom snippets, the district’s highest-performing teachers demonstrate how they teach a range of lessons, from adding decimal numbers to guiding students of differing ability levels through a close reading of the Marshall Plan. (New York Times) 

Job Losses Persist for the Less-Educated
After suffering the largest share of job losses in the recession, Americans with no more than a high school education have continued to lose jobs during the sputtering recovery while better-educated people have gained millions of jobs, according to a Georgetown University study. Over nearly five years of financial turmoil, Americans across a broad spectrum have suffered blows to wages, benefits and savings. But when it comes to employment, the crux of financial survival, the study revealed a tale of sharply different economies, defined by education. (New York Times) 

Education Commissioner Cassellius in Moorhead to discuss school funding

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius is meeting with community members in Moorhead today to discuss school funding. She’s gathering information around the state to pass on to her Commissioner’s Education Finance Working Group, which is developing recommendations to reform and improve the current school funding system. Moorhead Superintendent Lynne Kovash and Moorhead school board members and administrators will be at the 5:30 p.m. gathering at the Probstfield Center for Education. The public is invited. (MinnPost) 

View points:
Tom Vander Ark: RTT-District: Scaling Personalizing Innovations
Last week the Department issued the final guidance on Race to the Top District (RTT-D) competition. It’s a big opportunity to improvement for underserved kids. Districts will compete for $383 million with awards of $5 to $40 million (based on enrollment) split between 15 to 25 grant winners. The program builds on priorities of the RTT-D state program and requires a coherent “theory of change” and demonstrated progress with a focus on college and career-readiness. The application appears to require the use of personalized learning tools but will not award single point solutions. Districts will need to proposed blended learning solutions but with attention to student supports, teacher development, culture, and community connections. (Education Week)




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