By Libby A. Nelson
With help from Caitlin Emma, Nirvi Shah and Stephanie Simon
QUESTIONS MOUNT ABOUT COMMON CORE: This has been a turbulent month for the Common Core academic standards. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin gave a strong defense of the academic standards at the National Governors Association. But Alaska pulled out of a federally funded testing consortium. Lawmakers in Kentucky — the first state to adopt the standards, back in 2010 — filed a bill to junk them. And governors in Indiana and South Carolina advocated scrapping the standards. “We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, the Anderson Independent Mail reported. “We want to educate South Carolina children on South Carolina standards, not anyone else’s standards.”
—New York to take up revisions? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that the bumpy rollout in his state will spur some rethinking — perhaps the most surprising turn. "It has really raised concerns all across the board, and those are concerns that we are looking at, and I think we will be discussing this legislative session," Cuomo said on the public radio show "The Capitol Pressroom," according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
—Sticker shock in Maryland: Meanwhile, Maryland lawmakers were briefed on a new study that found schools will need $100 million in computer and infrastructure upgrades to prepare for Common Core tests. The implementation and testing will be so disruptive that some schools might have to cancel some electives and even shut down essential functions like email to preserve bandwidth during the testing period, the study found. State Sen. Paul Pinsky told the Baltimore Sun that the study “raises concerns” and suggested that the rollout might need to be slowed.
REPUBLICANS EMPHASIZE VOUCHERS: The Republican Party is talking more about school choice as the 2014 midterms approach, Stephanie Simon reports. It’s an effort led by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, with high-profile contributions from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. They’re placing vouchers and school choice at the heart of a campaign to woo minority voters, pointing to strong showings from Latino and black families on charter school waiting lists and in lotteries. More: http://politico.pro/1e8yaWi.
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OUTCOMES VARY FROM STIMULUS SPENDING ON EARLY EDUCATION: “In the wake of a financial crash triggered by subprime lending, too many children in America have been experiencing subprime learning,” say the early education experts at the New America Foundation in a new report released this morning. The infusion of federal stimulus money during one of the rockiest economic moments in recent history has generated less-than-stellar education outcomes, the report finds. It covers federal spending on early education from 2008 to 2013 and digs into broader trends, including children and family services, system-building policies, teaching and learning policies and age-targeted programs.
— Some findings: Federal spending cuts have led to variability in state funding; federal spending on special education has remained flat until it fell under the sequester; funding and access for Head Start and other pre-K programs has remained in flux; pre-K teacher pay parity has largely been ignored; and minimal progress has been made when it comes to teacher preparation.
— Bright spots: The analysts point to increasing attention to birth through third grade reforms; progress on state quality rating and improvement systems; early learning guidelines increasingly aligned to the Common Core standards; and growth in research and philanthropic investments. The full report: http://politico.pro/1i7kbH3
KANSAS FACES LOSING NCLB WAIVER: Kansas education officials say they plan to ask for an extension of their No Child Left Behind waiver, saying they are no closer to installing a new teacher evaluation system than they were last summer, the Wichita Eagle reports. The U.S. Education Department put Kansas on notice in August, calling its waiver "high risk" because of delays in linking teacher evaluations to student growth. The state has until May 1 to come up with a plan to do so. But state Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said a new appeal will ask for another year of wiggle room as the state develops new teacher evaluations.
“We will resubmit it with wording that maybe is (more) appealing or appeasing … and see where we go,” she told the newspaper. “There is a chance that we could either lose our waiver or have another conditional” one. Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said the union is open to considering new evaluation systems, but ones judging teachers based on student test scores are “inherently flawed,” he said. The full story: http://bit.ly/1bJkN1U
Read more here: http://bit.ly/19K9Wpm
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OBAMA’S SPEECH WRITERS CAN STOP SWEATING IT: Education Secretary Arne Duncan already gave the State of the Union. Just not enough people heard it, writes Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times. Friedman is referring to Duncan’s speech at the National Assessment Governing Board’s Education Summit for Parent Leaders last week. [ http://1.usa.gov/1dP101m] In that speech, Duncan again said parents in the United States must ask more of their children, and their educational leaders. Friedman said Duncan’s message would be a State of the Union the country won’t soon forget. “To really help our kids,” Duncan said, “we have to do so much more as parents. We have to change expectations about how hard kids should work. And we have to work with teachers and leaders to create schools that demand more from our kids.” http://nyti.ms/19EgqG5
CLOSE LOOK AT ITT AND PRIVATE LOANS: The New York Times delves into the company’s financial statements to figure out what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might see as violations — and provides a good refresher on the 90-10 rule and for-profit finances. In short: The college expanded its private lending business as other sources of private student loans dried up, perhaps to satisfy the rule that 10 percent of a for-profit college’s tuition revenue must come from non-federal sources or from veterans’ benefits. But more than half of those students could now be defaulting. More: http://nyti.ms/1f7BxyQ.
SOME GOOD NEWS FOR HIGHER ED: State funding rose for the second consecutive year in 40 states, according to the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. But spending on higher education still hasn’t made up the ground it lost during the recession. And three states are disproportionately behind the healthier numbers: Florida, California and Illinois. More from Inside Higher Ed: http://bit.ly/1f7ARtj.
MEET OBAMA’S FAVORITE COLLEGE PRESIDENT: It’s Nancy Zimpher of the State University of New York, who took a star turn in the White House briefing room Thursday. Why Zimpher? She and the White House had a meeting of the minds the last time Obama met with college presidents in late 2011, but equally important is SUNY’s size and centralization: If she signs onto a policy, she immediately brings half a million undergraduates and 64 campuses along. My story: http://politi.co/1dCTczT
REPORT ROLL CALL
—A new study published by the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California finds that charter high schools may have substantial positive effects on persistence in college as well as high school graduation and college entry. http://bit.ly/1eX53al
—The Orleans Parish School Board wrongly terminated more than 7,000 teachers after Hurricane Katrina without due process, an appeals court ruled. New Orleans Times-Picayune: http://bit.ly/19zHeaA.
—Attorneys for more than half of Texas’ 1,029 school districts return to court today to argue that despite the $3.9 billion the legislature restored to public education funding last year, the system remains inequitable and must be fixed. Amarillo Globe-News: http://bit.ly/1mxgk6y.
—University of California system president Janet Napolitano has faced skepticism and blowback from her last job as Secretary of Homeland Security. The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1f7CiHX.
— Boston public schools are mounting a campaign to hire more African-American teachers. The district is in violation of a long-standing federal court order to maintain a significant number of minorities on its teaching force. Boston Globe: http://b.globe.com/1jqWVSi.
—New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo received several donations from charter school supporters in the last six months, including a $40,000 gift from a billionaire who is a major donor to a system of charters in Albany. Capital New York: http://bit.ly/1jjj7jT.
—Kids who use debit cards seem to make more unhealthful eating choices in the school lunch line compared with kids who use cash in school cafeterias, Brian Wansink, a behavioral economist at Cornell University, finds. NPR: http://bit.ly/1jjhMJN.
—Five principals from Newark, N.J. are suspended. Four of them had spoken out against proposed school closures at a community forum last week. Newark Star-Ledger: http://bit.ly/1dq8fZ2.
—Arapahoe High School Security Guard Cameron Rust claims the school and the Littleton School District should have done more to prevent the Dec. 13 shooting that left two students dead and one injured. Campus Safety Magazine: http://bit.ly/KA7Egv.
Why can’t we overcome this wall? [ http://bit.ly/1jddULp] Maybe it’s because you don’t know the whole Pro Education team: @CaitlinZEmma or firstname.lastname@example.org, @LibbyANelson or email@example.com, @MaggieSeverns or firstname.lastname@example.org, @NirviShah or email@example.com and @StephanieSimon_ or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this tipsheet misidentified Kansas state Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker.