Here's what educators, advocates, wonks and policymakers are talking about today:
News & analysis
Arne Duncan: Newspapers shouldn't publish teacher ratings
Publishing teachers' ratings in the newspaper in the way The New York Times and other outlets have done recently is not a good use of performance data, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview yesterday. "Do you need to publish every single teacher's rating in the paper? I don't think you do," he said. "There's not much of an upside there, and there's a tremendous downside for teachers. We're at a time where morale is at a record low. ... We need to be sort of strengthening teachers, and elevating and supporting them." So how does this square with Duncan's famous endorsement, in 2010, of the Los Angeles Times' controversial project to publish a database of teacher "value added" ratings? Duncan told me that while that project highlighted important data that at the time had been collected and unused by the district, its publication was "far from ideal." (Teacher Beat)
Newspaper finds suspicious test scores nationwide
Hundreds of school systems nationwide exhibit suspicious test scores that point to the possibility of cheating, according to an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The newspaper examined test results for 70,000 public schools and found high concentrations of scores in school systems from coast to coast. The analysis doesn't prove cheating. It reveals that scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools. The AJC reported in 2008 and 2009 about statistically improbable jumps in test scores within the 109-school Atlanta Public Schools system. Those reports led to an investigation by Georgia officials, which found that at least 180 principals, teachers and other staff took part in widespread test-tampering in the 50,000-student district. In Sunday's editions, the AJC reports that 196 of the nation's 3,125 largest school districts had enough suspect test results that the odds of the results occurring naturally were less than one in 1,000. (MPR)
New York: State legislators discuss plan to keep teacher evaluations private
State leaders are quietly discussing a plan that would restrict the public release of future teacher evaluations, the Daily News has learned. The teacher unions are pressuring lawmakers, who approved controversial changes last week to state and city pension systems, to deliver on the issue of evaluation privacy, sources said. The issue has popped up this past weekend as part of the last-minute budget talks among state leaders, multiple sources said. “There’s discussions being had, but I don’t know if it’s been resolved,” said a legislator familiar with the situation. Teacher unions went ballistic after the recent court-ordered release of controversial city teacher evaluations from 2007 and 2010. Pushed by Gov. Cuomo, the Legislature last week enacted a law requiring school districts statewide to come up with new teacher-grading systems by January or face the loss of their state school aid increases. (Daily News)
New York: NYC teaching fellows call for overhaul of the program
Like many driven do-gooders who apply for the New York City Teaching Fellows program, Lisa Cunningham wanted to make a difference in the lives of struggling students. “I wanted to put a lot of thought into my lessons and be passionate about what I was teaching, but often I was so exhausted,” the 25-year-old Wesleyan University graduate said. Eventually the pressures she faced and lack of support in the program made her physically ill and led her to seek therapy. “I was just falling apart,” said Cunningham, who quit after three years teaching special education students at the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science in the Bronx. She is now associate director of an after-school program at School of the Future in Manhattan. Monday is the deadline to apply to be a NYC Teaching Fellow, a vaunted program begun in 2000 to attract professionals to teach in inner city schools. Veteran fellows are calling for an overhaul of the program, saying they need to be better prepared to handle some of the lowest-performing kids in the worst schools in the Bronx and Harlem. (Daily News)
Minnesota: School teachers, board reach contract agreement
Minneapolis school administers and teachers announced Thursday that they have reached a tentative contract agreement. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Minneapolis School Board are expected to vote on the contract by mid-April. If approved, it would cover teachers until 2013. Negotiators worked through some "tough and challenging issues" said Stan Alleyne, Minneapolis Public Schools spokesman. "When you have negotiations, it's rare for everybody to get what they want, but we feel good about where we ended," Alleyne said. "We were able to focus on student achievement and the kids and the betterment of the district." Although the parties aren't releasing many details of the contract until next week, Alleyne said the negotiation teams spent a lot of time on issues like class size. (MPR)
Rhode Island: Providence considers hiring education consultant who angered parents, teachers in Florida
The Providence School Board is considering hiring a consultant for a $5-million project who was stripped of his authority as the chief academic officer in a Florida district and resigned after parents and teachers clamored for his ouster. On Monday night, the board will be asked to hire Jeffrey Hernandez, CEO of National Academic Educational Partners Inc., a nonprofit group that helps school districts improve their lowest-performing schools. Paula Shannon, the district's chief academic officer, said Hernandez's team would be charged with helping transform Mount Pleasant High School and the Sanchez complex. The Palm Beach Post reported that Hernandez infuriated teachers and parents after he imposed what they described as a top-down management style after he arrived as the district's second-in-command in 2009. (ProJo)
Maryland: General Assembly passes school funding reform
Legislation to significantly change education funding requirements for counties in Maryland has passed both the Senate and House of Delegates in that state, and now heads to the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley for his signature. The Senate bill would change the state's "maintenance of effort" provision that requires counties to fund schools at equal per-pupil levels from one year to the next. Several counties last year, due to fiscal problems, cut their per-pupil spending levels in order to lower their base school funding requirements for future years. The legislation passed first in the Senate and then in the House on March 23. It would establish maintenance of effort as the legal funding "floor" for counties, and would require them to seek a waiver from the state school board if they say they cannot meet maintenance of effort. It also would permit counties to break local property-tax caps to fund education, and to take into account their history of school funding, as well as economic circumstances, when they seek a waiver. (State EdWatch)
Rachel Smith: "Hallelujah, The Saviors are Here"
Poet Rachel Smith, 18, is a senior and a member of Epic Sound, the Kenwood Academy Slam Poetry Team. This is her second year participating in Louder Than a Bomb (and she can also be heard performing here). Hallelujah the Saviors are Here is a condemnation of teachers who come to "the inner city" without becoming a true member of the community. The largest of its kind in the world, Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) is Chicago’s rapidly-growing teen poetry festival, taking place February 18 - March 10, 2012, at various venues around Chicago. Aiming to bring teens together across racial, gang, and socio-economic lines, LTAB is a friendly competition that emphasizes self-expression and community via poetry, oral story-telling, and hip-hop spoken word. (WBEZ)
Wall Street Journal: Weekend interview with Gina Raimondo
So this is Gina Raimondo? The state treasurer who single-handedly overhauled Rhode Island's pension system and has unions screaming bloody murder? I had imagined her a bit, well, bigger. If not larger than life like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, then at least life-size. Ms. Raimondo couldn't be much taller than five feet, which may have caused some to underestimate her. That isn't the only thing that may have surprised people. The former venture capitalist is a Democrat, which means that she believes in government as a force for good. But "a government that doesn't work is in no one's interest," she says. "Budgets that don't balance, public programs that aren't funded, pension funds that are running out of money, schools that aren't funded—How does that help anyone? I don't really care if you're a Republican or Democrat or you want to fight about the size of government. How about a government that just works? Put your tax dollar in and get a return out the other end." (WSJ)
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