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AM News: Parents Are The Prize

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Parent involvement at L.A. schools getting new look LA Times: In Cudahy, parents collected more than 600 signatures demanding a new principal. In Culver City, they fought attempts to unionize classroom aides and formed a group that elected a school board majority. In Los Angeles, parents are organizing for more effective school disciplinary practices.

Speculating on De Blasio’s Choice for Schools Chief NYT: Several educators frequently mentioned as candidates for New York City schools chancellor once worked under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, but then criticized his policies.

Washington, New York Set Passing Bars on New Teacher Test Teacher Beat: Washington state set a lower cutoff point for most teachers than did New York on a new teacher-licensing test.

ALEC Ed. Agenda for 2014: Course Choice, Student Data 'Backpack Act' State EdWatch: The free-market-oriented organization is considering draft bills dealing with school choice and a state records database with academic information on individual students.

N.Y. Teacher Evaluation Staffer Heads to U.S. Department of Education PoliticsK12: Amy McIntosh, who has been working on teacher and leader effectiveness as a senior fellow in the New York Department of Education's Regents Research Fund, will be joining the U.S. Department of Education's office of planning, evaluation, and policy development in mid-January as a principal deputy assistant secretary. That's according to an internal email sent today by John King, New York's commissioner of education.

Illinois Legislature Approves Retiree Benefit Cuts in Troubled Pension System NYT: The hard-fought deal, which includes higher state contributions to the system, could be a template for agreements elsewhere.

Brooklyn Teachers Decry Emphasis on Testing WNYC: Greenfield and others spoke to parents and fellow teachers in the P.S. 321 auditorium at a forum under the umbrella of Teachers Talk Testing, a newly-formed group seeking to reduce the emphasis on testing in three ways: ending grade promotion tied to test scores; ending middle school and high school admissions tied exclusively to test scores; and revising the way test scores factor into school progress reports.

Abbott Setting Sights on Education Policy Debate Texas Tribune:  Attorney General Greg Abbott will spend most of the next month talking about education, signaling that he won’t cede any ground on the issue to state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is making her support of public schools a calling card in the governor’s race.

David Catania, D.C. Council member, to form exploratory committee for mayoral run Washington Post: His intentions were confirmed by former council member Sharon Ambrose, who said she will lead the committee. Catania (I-At Large) declined to comment Tuesday night.

School counselors increasingly are missing link in getting kids to college Hechinger: The challenges facing Ryder soon become clear. When she asks about her students’ goals, one hand goes up. Then a low voice in the back of the room wisecracks, “Be a drug dealer.” A while later, when the students are told to sit at computers and go through a questionnaire to help determine what courses of studies and careers would be good fits for them, several struggle with the words on the screen, English still foreign to them.

American test scores stagnate as other countries improve NBS News: After about half a million students took the PISA exams, US performance remained flat. America has a child poverty rate nearly double that of some countries that outperform the United States, which is thought to be a factor. Experts say the test results will likely intensify the debate over education reform. 

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Pretty much all of Shanghai would be considered impoverished by American standards, so the poverty explanation for our PISA results is unconvincing. But we're going nowhere under the current administration's policies, and our kids are growing up, so the question arises as to why Secretary Duncan, who insists upon judging educators by their students' test scores, isn't himself held accountable for our flat-lined progress. And where is that record of impressive improvement in Chicago's collapsing school system that led to his promotion? Or perhaps, as with other noted, misguided reform leaders, test score accountability is for others but not for the leaders? And things won't be better three years from now, when the PISA emphasis will be on science, which is one subject too many for our myopic educational leadership to attend to.

My school district, San Francisco Unified, is plurality Chinese. Low-income Chinese students, including immigrant English learners, buck the trend by tending to be high achievers (overall on average). San Jose, 50 miles south, where I worked for many years, has a heavy Vietnamese population to which the same thing applies.

So there's also that situation affecting Asian nations. It's so hard to talk about race that it just isn't discussed as much as it would presumably deserve to be. In fact, it's barely discussed at all.

I agree, Caroline; although our emphasis ought to be on culture, and specifically the culture of the home, since I doubt anything of value can be gleaned from focusing on the specifically racial aspects of the problem. But east Asian parents consistently make sure that students do their homework, and hire tutors for their kids when they are having trouble, or when they want them to get farther ahead. (There are lots of books on this issue; a good one is "No Excuses", by Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom.) And, just as there are greater differences within than between schools in relation to these test performances, there are bigger differences between schools than between jurisdictions, so wise parents carefully assess the value added by the collections of people (faculties and student peers) that comprise the different schools their children might attend, and school governors work to attract and empower outstanding educators to lead those schools -- educators repelled by the top-down management of our ruling class in the New York-Washington, D.C. corridor.

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