Mimi Woldeyohannes is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at 50CAN. She lives in Maryland.

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

News and Analysis

Here’s An Alternative to Betsy DeVos’ Privatization Agenda

We know Betsy DeVos has an idea: privatize education.  California thinks it has a better idea: make government-run public schools work better. Nowhere does this agenda become clearer than watching State School Board President Michael Kirst describe how the pieces of the state’s education reform agenda fit together. In just over 30 minutes Kirst outlined the state’s progress on more than 15 interlocking reforms including standards, curriculum, accountability, financing, and technology, all aimed at the classroom rather than school governance.  “If you’re not improving classroom instruction, you are working at the overhead level,” he told a Policy Analysis For California (PACE) policy conference audience. (Education Week)

Secretary Betsy DeVos on first school visit: ‘Teachers are waiting to be told what they have to do’
For someone now running the federal education department, Secretary Betsy DeVos doesn’t have many ideas for how it’s needed. In one of her first interviews since being confirmed as secretary last week, DeVos said the federal government was right to step in “when we had segregated schools” and to ensure girls’ access to sports teams. But she suggested that those issues have been resolved, narrowing the issues where federal intervention might be appropriate. (Chalkbeat)

What Betsy DeVos means for edtech
Betsy DeVos was barely confirmed last week as the new Secretary of Education –- or should I say bearly. In her welcome address to the Department of Education on Wednesday, Secretary DeVos made light of her remark about schools needing guns to protect children from grizzly bears: “For me, personally, this confirmation process and the drama it engendered has been a … bit of a bear.” She was laughing along with the entire internet. Memes of grizzly bears flooded social media for weeks. Following his confirmation hearing in 1991, Justice Clarence Thomas complained of a “high-tech lynching.” Secretary DeVos has been subject to a “high-tech mocking.” So it’s ironic that Betsy DeVos is positioned to become a champion of technology and upend many of the broken practices that litter the landscape of American education. (Tech Crunch)

At Philadelphia’s Mastery Charter Network, Culture Is Key to Turning Around Failing Schools

At John Wister Elementary School in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood, children come to class wearing matching polo shirts. In the hallways, students walk in straight, silent, and orderly lines. In the classrooms, signs instruct children to sit “like a S.T.A.R.” — meaning “Sit up tall,” “Track the speaker,” “Ask and answer questions,” and “Respect those around you.” (The 74)

Washington D.C.
What Could Reverse D.C’.s Intense School Segregation?

Last week, a group of Washington, D.C., parents and teachers stopped Betsy DeVos, the new secretary of education, from entering a D.C. middle school. Several conservative pundits compared DeVos, an outspoken school-choice advocate, to Vivian Malone and James Hood, the black students blocked from entering the University of Alabama by segregationists in 1963. The parallel, however, is somewhat problematic, since one of the things the D.C. parents were rallying against was segregation: The protester Betsy Wolf told NBC Washington she was there to ensure that DeVos “not do things to further the inequity and school segregation that already exists.” (The Atlantic)

New York
De Blasio’s State of the City Has Critics Asking: What About Schools?

If Mayor Bill de Blasio’s State of the City speech on Monday night was the opening act of his re-election campaign, one thing seemed clear to some critics: New York schools won’t get much attention.​ ​In a speech that ran to over 8,000 words, a mere 214 of them were devoted to education. Mr. de Blasio promoted the city’s high school graduation rate, which reached a record high of 69.6 percent last year. He boasted about his successful expansion of prekindergarten and cited progress toward his goal of bringing Advanced Placement courses to all high schools. And he alluded to his effort to build new schools in overcrowded neighborhoods.​ (The New York Times)​


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