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:
Black-Male Grad Rate Still Lags Despite Slight Uptick

The four-year graduation rate for black males has steadily improved over the last decade, but remains dismally low compared to the rate for their white male peers, according to astudy released this morning. In its fifth biennial report on graduation rates for African-American males, the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that in 2009-10, 52 percent of black males graduated from high school with a regular diploma within four years. It’s the first time that more than half of the nation’s African-American boys did so, according to Schott’s report. (Education Week) 

Do Scores Go Up When Teachers Return Bonuses?
In Chicago, parents were fuming over a weeklong strike by teachers. Around the rest of the country, in the face of growing evidence that many U.S. students are falling behind, administrators have tried to devise different ways to motivate teachers. Among the contentious issues is whether teachers should be held accountable for their students’ performance on standardized tests. Such efforts have produced  enormous conflicts between school districts and teachers. In many parts of the country, administrators and teachers have fought one another to a standstill. That’s where a novel social science study may have the potential to shift the conversation. (NPR) 

D.C. schools set new achievement targets for students by race and income
Every public school in the United States has aimed for the same goal over the past decade: that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. But that noble ambition, educators and experts almost universally agree, was never realistic. Now, in the District and many states, goals over the next five years tend to be lower for black, Hispanic and poor children than they are for white and Asian students, and in the District, they tend to be higher at schools in affluent areas than in poor neighborhoods. It’s a policy shift that strikes some parents as a form of prejudice. (Washington Post) 

Chicago’s Next School Crisis: Pension Fund Is Running Dry
One of the most vexing problems for Chicago and its teachers went virtually unmentioned during the strike: The pension fund is about to hit a wall. The Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund has about $10 billion in assets, but is paying out more than $1 billion in benefits a year — much more than it has been taking in. That has forced it to sell investments, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, to pay retired teachers. Experts say the fund could collapse within a few years unless something is done. (New York Times) 

Wisconsin Seeks Stay of Ruling on Bargaining Law
Wisconsin’s attorney general on Tuesday moved to block last week’s ruling that struck down the state’s collective-bargaining law for some public sector unions. J.B. Van Hollen filed a motion in Dane County Circuit Court to stay Judge Juan Colas’s ruling on Friday that found the state law that ended most collective-bargaining rights for many public-employee unions violated their constitutional rights. (Wall Street Journal) 

View Points:
Paul Thomas: Is poverty destiny? Ideology vs. evidence in school reform

Science educator and activist Anthony Cody had a five-part exchange with the Gates Foundation about education reform on his Education Week blog, Living in Dialogue
These point-counterpoint posts serve well to illustrate the essential difference between Social Context Reformers, represented by Cody, and “No Excuses” Reformers, represented by the Gates Foundation: “No Excuses” Reformers insist that the source of success and failure lies in each child and each teacher, requiring only the adequate level of effort to rise out of the circumstances not of her/his making. As well, “No Excuses” Reformers remain committed to addressing poverty solely or primarily through education, viewed as an opportunity offered each child and within which…effort will result in success. (Washington Post – The Answer Sheet)

The future of Chicago’s schools
Wednesday will be another school day for 566 students at Fuentes Elementary charter school on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Fuentes isn’t a traditional Chicago public school, but part of the United Neighborhood Organization network of charter schools, run under different rules without union teachers. Fuentes students — who outperform students in traditional Chicago public schools in reading and math — have been in class since Aug. 6. They haven’t missed a single day of instruction while 350,000 of their peers have slept late and waited for striking teachers to return to classrooms. Their parents have not had to scramble to find alternatives. Think the parents of those 350,000 kids haven’t noticed the normalcy at schools such as Fuentes? Think those waiting lists for charters across the city aren’t about to explode? Think again. (Chicago Tribune) 


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