Friday Wrap-Up — May 11, 2012

Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 2:01 pm by

Some of the news we have highlighted on Twitter and our homepage over the past week, including school budget votes, pronouncements from state leaders, a bit more on testing controversies and teacher evaluations, and a few other subjects…

A new post on our blog analyzing past school budget voting results and speculating on how the tax cap might affect the outcomes in next Tuesday’s votes.

The Albany Times Union explained some puzzling results in calculating tax levy limits for different school districts.

Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog wrote about a bill passed by the U.S. House of representatives designed to avoid the automatic cuts to education programs which would occur if Congress and the president fail to agree on a deficit reduction plan by January 1, 2013.

The Senate and President Obama will not agree to the House plan and advocates warn that it would not be much better than the automatic cuts.  The article gives a concise forecast of what could be in store for federal education programs.

Tom Precious of the Buffalo News interviewed State Senate Education Committee Chair John Flanagan.  The Senator delivers thoughtful observations on the controversy over releasing individual teacher evaluation results. The 10-minute audio interview is available here.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch spoke at a business gathering on Wednesday in New York City. She made some headlines by not slamming the door on speculation she might be a candidate for New York City Mayor next year.  But she also offered comments on recent testing controversies, calling problems with the grades 3 through 8 state assessments “inexcusable.”

GothamSchools.org reported that the Chancellor said,

“The psychometricians have assured us that the reliability and validity of the exams … is not contaminated by these errors.  What does drive my anxiety is [test-maker Pearson’s] ability to deliver on the contract. The mistakes that have been revealed are really disturbing. I don’t think children should sit in an exam and be confused about the exam. I think testing needs to be as straightforward as possible.”

She added,

“I would suggest to Pearson that they take this very seriously, because next year we are moving to the Common Core standards and those tests are going to be harder still.  What happens here as a result of these mistakes is that it makes the public at large question the efficacy of the state testing system.”

Last weekend, Time magazine posted a letter from a Pearson executive to the Education Department presenting its perspective on the 8th grade English language arts test “pineapple-gate” controversy.

US News & World Report issued its ranking of the nation’s best high schools.  The digital magazine found some errors in the data behind the rankings, but in the initial list, 20 of the top 100  are New York state public high schools.  New York’s share of the top schools is way above its share of nationwide public school enrollment — 5.6 percent.

The battle over teacher evaluations which threatens to cost Buffalo schools over $5 million federal grants continues.  The Buffalo News reported on Monday that the local teacher union is winning support from counterparts around the state.

For example, the Yonkers teacher union president said, “Someone has to turn to the state Education Department and say, ‘Your tests are faulty, you’re not taking into account student attendance, you’re not giving us enough time.’”

Then on Tuesday, the News reported on a survey of local voter reactions to the controversy.  The survey found a slight majority of voters agreed with the union’s position on the issue of how student attendance should apply in teacher evaluations.  The pollster said, however, that there were no winners.  Voters hold the school board in low regard and support for the union dropped when respondents were apprised of the potential loss of federal aid.

Under the new evaluation requirements, all districts must negotiate new procedures with their unions and have a state approved plan in place by January 17, 2013 or risk losing state aid increases.  We are watching Buffalo for insights into how voters might react to impasses elsewhere.

The Education Speaks blog checked in on the State Mandate Relief Council.  I found it surprising how few districts have submitted specific mandate relief requests to the Council.

President Obama came to Albany on Tuesday to speak at the State University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.  State Education Commissioner John King used the occasion to author a column for the Times Union on a proposal to expand high school graduation options.

The Ithaca Journal reported on Southern Tier school districts feeling financial pressure to consolidate.

This was national “Teacher Appreciation Week,” and a New York Times column about one mother’s example as a teacher drew a lot of attention.

Finally, Diane Ravitch and others have speculated over whether Governor Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission is a threat to the State Board of Regents.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 2:01 pm and is filed under Finance, Politics, Standards & Assessments, Teachers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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