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AM News: Common Core Balancing Act For Clinton, Christie

Christie Still Straddles Fence on Online Tests, Common Core Standards NJ Spotlight: Gov. Chris Christie yesterday offered some of his most expansive comments – if not an outright defense -- on the new PARCC tests and against the movement that has seen as many as 50,000 students sit out the exams. See also: NJEA to education chief: Don't take away state funds over PARCC opt outs | NJ.com.

Hillary Clinton Has To Be Very Careful When Talking About Common Core  ThinkProgress: If she doesn’t acknowledge concerns on the left that education reform is driven by hedge fund billionaires or that Common Core doesn’t allow for more diverse teaching methods, she will look out of touch. If she does criticize Common Core, she’s associating herself with conservatives such as Paul and Cruz as well, which may earn the ire of some liberals.

Delaware districts ramp up Common Core outreach NewsWorks: To avoid New York’s fate, states are trying to ease parent and teacher anxiety beforehand. New Jersey’s education commissioner, David Hespe, has written op-eds about the new PARCC test and its purpose. Maryland has run PSAs, held summer academies for teachers, offered practice tests to journalists, and even launched a twitter campaign (#PrepareforPARCC).

New York Grants Extension for Teacher Evaluation Phase-In WNYC: Tisch said school districts across the state claimed they wouldn’t be ready in time. So she extended the deadline for approval until September, 2016, directing education department staffers to meet with their counterparts at the governor’s office and the legislature "to find a solution consistent with the intent of the law."

Facebook Group Leaks Images Of New York's Common Core Test HuffPost: The Facebook group, which has since been deleted, has a history of posting content that is critical of the Common Core State Standards, the set of education benchmarks that informed the statewide exam. Some have come to the defense of the rogue Facebook group on Twitter, while others said the group went too far.

NJ Teacher's Union Shuts Down Talks with Christie WNYC: Tom Moran talks about Governor Chris Christie's brief courtship with the New Jersey Education Association, and the governor's comment earlier this week that the union and its legislative supporters are "suing themselves" to fix the issue surrounding pension funds. Advocates Sue a New York School District, Claiming Weak Programs for Refugees NYT: The New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of six refugees in the Utica City district. Law enforcement agencies have pressed New York schools for months to ease enrollment for immigrants.

Only Alternative for Some Students Sitting Out Standardized Tests: Do Nothing NYT: The anti-testing movement is targeting districts that require students not taking the exams to remain quietly in their classrooms and, as opt-out advocates have labeled it, “sit and stare.”

Ex-Oakland supe to head Illinois schools amid Chicago controversy EdSource Today: Smith, who was appointed to the position by the Illinois Board of Education on April 15, resigned unexpectedly from the Oakland Unified School District in April 2013 and left his post two months later. Several prominent large city school superintendents in California have left their posts over the last two years: 

More than 12 hurt as stage collapses at Indiana high school AP: More than a dozen people were injured after a stage filled with students collapsed during a musical performance at a central Indiana high school, authorities said....

AM News: Testing Opponents Publish NY State Exam Pages

Anti-‘Common Core’ activists leak state’s English exam online NY Post: More than three dozen photographs of the exam appeared Wednesday morning on the Facebook page “Education is a journey, not a race — USA,” which has posted screeds against Common Core-linked tests since March 2013.

Pa. schools are the nation’s most inequitable. The new governor wants to fix that. Washington Post: At Martin Luther King High, a hulking half-full school here, there aren’t enough textbooks to go around. If teachers want to make a photocopy, they have to buy paper themselves. Though an overwhelming majority of students are living in poverty, no social worker is available to help. Private donations allow for some dance and music classes, but they serve just 60 of the school’s 1,200 students.

Survey finds many parents know nothing about new Common Core tests KPCC: According to the nonpartisan research group Public Policy Institute of California, 55 percent of public school parents surveyed say they have not heard at all about the new tests that public schools are giving students grade 3 to 8 and grade 11 starting this spring. Another 36 percent say they have heard a little about the tests and only 8 percent say they have heard a lot about the exams.

Bills to Repeal Common Core Hit Roadblocks; Will Reviews Satisfy Foes? State EdWatch: Common-core-repeal bills are failing widely in state legislatures this year, but will bills to review the standards fare any better?

New CPS boss suspends $20.5 million contract that is part of federal probe Tribune: Speaking at the first board meeting since news of the investigation broke last week, both Ruiz and board President David Vitale sought to calm concerns over their support of the controversial contract with an executive-training company tied to schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. She took a leave of absence Monday amid the federal probe, and Ruiz was chosen to become acting CEO.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: While Common Core Rollback Efforts Falter, Duncan Says He'll Backstop States On Student Opt-Outs

Traction Limited in Rolling Back Common Core EdWeek: To date, 19 states this year have considered bills to repeal the common core, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures—but none has adopted such legislation. In Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, repeal proposals have lost what amounted to do-or-die votes, while states including Mississippi and West Virginia have changed repeal proposals into legislation requiring a review of the standards instead.

As opt-out numbers grow, Arne Duncan says feds may have to step in ChalkbeatNY:On Tuesday, when asked whether states with many test boycotters would face consequences, Duncan said he expected states to make sure districts get enough students take the tests. “We think most states will do that,” Duncan said during a discussion at the Education Writers Association conference in Chicago. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in.”

Jeb Bush's shifting words on Common Core Tampa Bay Times: “I think Secretary Duncan and President Obama deserve credit for putting pressure on states to change, particularly the states that haven’t changed at all. They’re providing carrots and sticks, and I think that’s appropriate. But these thing have to happen at the state level for policy changes, so for New Jersey wants to get rid of last in first out you gotta go to the legislature and get it done."

Duncan: CPS students deserve stability  Chicago Sun-Times: “I just hate that the current CEO is on leave or whatever, whatever that term is,” Duncan said Tuesday at an education writers conference in Chicago. “Before I was here, there was CEO Paul Vallas for about 7 years. I did about 7 1/2, so you had two ..." See also WTTW Chicago Tonight: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan 

Resentencing for Educators in Test Cheating Scandal in Atlanta AP: A judge plans to resentence three former Atlanta public school educators who received the stiffest sentences after they were convicted in a conspiracy to inflate student scores on standardized tests.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: Common Core Questions, Pessimistic #ESEA Insiders, Chicago Scandal

Common Core Tests Continue After Server Problems, But With Leeway AP via HuffPost: Limited testing was successful Friday in Nevada for the troubled Common Core assessments, but now the state is offering school districts leeway that could present an unprecedented challenge to the federal testing mandate.

PARCC Opt-Outs Raise Question About Score Validity State EdWatch: There are two testing windows for PARCC, one of two assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. What implications does that have for students who might opt out?

Teachers’ Unions Fight Standardized Testing, and Find Diverse Allies NYT: Often painted as obstacles to improving schools, the unions now find common ground with parents who object to testing and conservatives who oppose the Common Core.

Inside the beltway pessimistic about reauthorization SI&A Cabinet Report: Despite signs of growing bipartisan support for legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 52 percent of Washington’s education stakeholder community says it won’t happen while President Barack Obama is in office.

Federal Probe in Chicago Schools Includes Non-Profit Education Fund District Dossier: Federal officials are reportedly looking into a $20.5 million contract awarded to a company that once employed Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. 

The CPS No-Bid Investigation Spreads to CPEF, Once Chaired By Bruce Rauner  Chicagomag: This script could have been written by CTU President Karen Lewis, or her acting replacement, Jesse Sharkey, or by Rahm's opponent in the second round of the mayor's race, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. 

Local education reporting nets Pulitzer Washington Post: Local education reporting is rarely glamorous, but a team of California journalists has shown that it can be powerful. They revealed that the superintendent of a small school district in Los Angeles County had received excessive compensation and an unusually plush set of perks at the same time tight budgets were forcing teacher layoffs and budget cuts.

 Smart video games can assess kids better than standardized tests, a new book says  Washington Post: A new book is being released on Tuesday titled “The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.” If you doubt the title, read this post — and then the book.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: All Eyes On Chicago

Feds eye CPS records on education group backed by state's, city's elites Chicago Tribune: Launched in 2000, the group was first led by then-Chicago Tribune Publisher Scott Smith. Rauner joined the board the next year and later was its chairman before becoming an emeritus member of the board, along with future U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, a former member of the Chicago school board; and current school board President David Vitale.

Murky past of company boss in CPS probe Chicago Sun-Times: Now, Solomon, who wasn't charged with any crime, again finds himself under a harsh spotlight, his business empire at the center of a federal probe.

State board of education member resigns over superintendent hire Tribune: James Baumann, a key member of the Illinois State Board of Education, formally resigned this week, citing concerns about the unusual way the new state school superintendent was chosen.

Chicago schools chief requests temporary leave amid probe WBEZ: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett requested a leave of absence Friday amid a federal investigation over a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded to a training academy where she once worked as a consultant, according to her attorney.

Chicago Schools Chief Takes Leave AP: Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, will take a paid leave of absence amid a federal investigation into a $20.5 million no-bid contract the district awarded.

Common Core: Test refusal pushed by middle class families LoHud: Districts with a high test participation rate fell into one of two categories — they are either home to a large number of adults with advanced degrees and high household income, or where more than half the students are categorized by the state as "economically disadvantaged."

Anti-Test 'Opt Out' Movement Makes A Wave In New York State NPR: Activists say that about 175,000 students refused to take federally mandated tests last week.

LAUSD, teachers reach tentative agreement KPCC LA: The agreement covering over 31,000 members calls for a 10 percent raise over two years and an re-opener in 2016-2017. The pay raises would be phased in: 4 percent retroactive to July 1 and 2 percent retroactive to Jan. 1 and then 2 percent increases on July 1 of this year and again on Jan. 1, 2016.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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Twitter Friday: News & Commentary Here, On Facebook, & Via Twitter

It's Friday and I'm on the road so I'll be updating the site -- lightly -- via Twitter (which also posts to Facebook and here). See it all below. Have a great weekend!

AM News: Testing Snafus In 3 States, Plus NJ Opt-Outs Range From 4 To 15 Percent

Common Core Tests Halted in 3 States Because of Server Issue AP: A problem with a computer server is stopping Common Core testing in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota after a previous technical issue delayed it last month, officials said. See also WSJ: Common Core Testing Optional in Montana.

Montana Lets Schools Cancel Smarter Balanced Testing After Technical Woes State EdWatch: Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau said it would be "in the best interest of our students" to let districts cancel Smarter Balanced testing if necessary.

More Students Opt Out of N.Y. State Exams WSJ: In New Jersey, the average “parental refusal” rate was 4.6% for elementary schools, the state said. The biggest number of opt-outs came in 11th grade, where the combined refusal rate for English language arts and Algebra II was 14.5%.

Senate Committee Makes Progress On Updates To Education Law AP: In all, the committee has passed 24 amendments and defeated six. Dozens more amendments were debated but withdrawn as lawmakers sought to find common ground and leave some of the tougher fights for later.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: NY Opt-Out Rates, Senate NCLB Markup, Atlanta Sentencing

Some schools see high opt-out rates The Journal News: In Mahopac, some students were kept home by their parents for the duration of the tests and others, who showed up at school, sat in the cafeteria or ..... See also Daily Journal: New York school districts report varying rates of participation in Common Core testing

Senate panel takes up No Child Left Behind rewrite Washington Post: The Senate education panel began marking up a bipartisan bill to replace No Child Left Behind on Tuesday, with Democrats and Republicans going to great lengths to hold together a delicately crafted consensus around the proposal. 

Atlanta Schools Cheating Case Judge Keeps Word on Sentences AP: True to his word, a judge showed mercy to former Atlanta public school educators who accepted responsibility for their role in a widespread conspiracy to inflate student scores on standardized tests. Those who refused to admit guilt and agree to other conditions set by prosecutors, he treated much more harshly. See also NPR: Educators Sentenced To Jail In Atlanta Cheating Scandal, NYT: Atlanta School Workers Sentenced in Test Score Cheating Case

New Jersey Gov. Christie Distances Himself On Common Core WSJ: Gov. Chris Christie said implementing the Common Core wasn't working in New Jersey and that he will likely address the situation in coming weeks, among his strongest comments on the controversial education standards. See also Politico: Hillary Clinton 2016: The long hot summer that turned her into a politician

'Historic': First Katrina state takeover school returns to New Orleans control |  NOLA.com: A couple of School Board charter groups have taken over failed Recovery charters, but this is the first time a takeover school has chosen to return -- after dozens turned down the opportunity. 

In Classroom Discipline, a Soft Approach Is Harder Than It Looks Bright: Restorative justice has been credited with slowing the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Here’s how to ensure it fulfills that promise.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: You Watch The NCLB Markup, I'll Watch The NY Testing Launch

Senate Attempts To Revise No Child Left Behind Measure NPR: A Senate committee begins work on a bill that would overhaul the education law. That measure — once considered a great uniter of politicians on the left and right — has since become a great divider. See also NPR

Parents Get An Earful on Opting Out of the State Tests WNYC: Last year, 1,925 students opted out, according to the city's Department of Education. In 2012, 113 students opted out of the tests, education officials said.

Some Parents Oppose Standardized Testing on Principle, but Not in Practice NYT: Even parents who are uncomfortable with the exams are discovering that it is hard to push the button on the nuclear option — refusing to have their own children take them.

Atlanta Judge Urges Talks on Sentences in School Cheating Case NYT: Judge Jerry W. Baxter said, he thought an appropriate sentence for educators convicted of altering test scores would mean sending them to jail. But then he had a change of heart. See also Washington Post: Judge urges Atlanta educators to accept plea deals in test cheating case.

Marco Rubio's education plan is pretty much like President Obama's Fusion:  and Obama both support the idea of early childhood education. Rubio even said on CBS' Face the Nation that he thinks programs like Head Start, which Obama has championed, are well-intentioned.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: Testing Week Begins In New York (This Should Be Fun)

Opting Out of NY State Standardized Tests WNYC:  State standardized tests begin as of April 14th and mark the start of six days of annual exams for New York children in grades three to eight. And we take calls from parents on why they have their kids opt out from the exams.

Al Sharpton an unlikely ally in support of Common Core exams NY Post: Sharpton said a boycott could hurt urban kids and pointed out that neither he nor NAN chapter leaders in upstate cities such as Buffalo and Syracuse were consulted about the opt-out campaign.

5 percent of Portland Public Schools students opt out of Common Core tests Oregon Live: As of Wednesday, about 1,200 of the district's approximately 25,000 test-takers have submitted exemption forms.

Paul touts education issues in public, not on Hill Politico: Paul has sat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since 2011 and is co-chairman of its subcommittee on children and families, but he seldom attends committee hearings or works on the daily grind of writing letters or authoring bills. Paul did not attend any of the five education hearings held by the committee this year, a POLITICO review has found.

NEA: No Child Left Behind rewrite doesn’t level the playing field Washington Post: The head of the country’s largest teachers union said that her organization does not support a bipartisan proposal in the Senate to replace the nation’s main federal education law because it does not go far enough to create equal educational opportunities for poor children.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: Florida Sets New Limits On Its Testing Regimen

After Backlash, Florida Puts Limits on Standardized Testing AP: The changes, though not as wide as critics wanted, still represent a departure for Republicans who had fully embraced the reforms championed by Bush during his eight years in office. Bush is touting his reforms in what appears to be a likely presidential campaign. See also State EdWatch: Florida Votes to Cut Tests, Lower Exams' Weight in Teacher Evaluations.

New York teachers hate the idea of outsiders evaluating them. Here’s what happened when D.C. tried it. Hechinger Report: Similar consultants have already evaluated teachers in a handful of other places across the country, including Toledo, Ohio; Montgomery County, Maryland; and, perhaps most notably, Washington, D.C.

State Supreme Court: LAUSD must recalculate charter classroom needs KPCC: The court agreed with LAUSD that classrooms provided for adult education or preschool can be excluded from calculating K-12 class-size average, but it declined to clarify if other school spaces, such as supply rooms, should be used. So while the ruling clarifies how space for charters must be calculated, final numbers from the districts will determine whether charters get any extra real estate or lose ground.

School Discipline: When Local Police Call the Shots WNYC: An investigation from the Center for Public Integrity finds that schools refer racial minorities and students with disabilities to police at rates much higher than their white peers.

Duncan wants new law to include early childhood education, state oversight Washington Post: On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the nation’s main federal education law, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that Congress needs to craft a modern version that stays true to the law’s intent: to create equal educational opportunity for all children.

Emanuel Acknowledges Challenges in 2nd Chicago Mayoral Term AP: His administration now must negotiate a new contract with the Chicago Teachers Union. Its president, Karen Lewis, considered challenging Emanuel but helped recruit Garcia to run after she was diagnosed with cancer. The last round of talks between Emanuel and the union led to Chicago's first teachers strike in 25 years. Tensions deepened the following year in 2013 when Emanuel pushed to close dozens of neighborhood schools.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM New: Florida Sets New Limits On Its Testing Regimen

After Backlash, Florida Puts Limits on Standardized Testing AP: The changes, though not as wide as critics wanted, still represent a departure for Republicans who had fully embraced the reforms championed by Bush during his eight years in office. Bush is touting his reforms in what appears to be a likely presidential campaign. See also State EdWatch: Florida Votes to Cut Tests, Lower Exams' Weight in Teacher Evaluations.

New York teachers hate the idea of outsiders evaluating them. Here’s what happened when D.C. tried it. Hechinger Report: Similar consultants have already evaluated teachers in a handful of other places across the country, including Toledo, Ohio; Montgomery County, Maryland; and, perhaps most notably, Washington, D.C.

State Supreme Court: LAUSD must recalculate charter classroom needs KPCC: The court agreed with LAUSD that classrooms provided for adult education or preschool can be excluded from calculating K-12 class-size average, but it declined to clarify if other school spaces, such as supply rooms, should be used. So while the ruling clarifies how space for charters must be calculated, final numbers from the districts will determine whether charters get any extra real estate or lose ground.

School Discipline: When Local Police Call the Shots WNYC: An investigation from the Center for Public Integrity finds that schools refer racial minorities and students with disabilities to police at rates much higher than their white peers.

Duncan wants new law to include early childhood education, state oversight Washington Post: On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the nation’s main federal education law, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday that Congress needs to craft a modern version that stays true to the law’s intent: to create equal educational opportunity for all children.

Emanuel Acknowledges Challenges in 2nd Chicago Mayoral Term AP: His administration now must negotiate a new contract with the Chicago Teachers Union. Its president, Karen Lewis, considered challenging Emanuel but helped recruit Garcia to run after she was diagnosed with cancer. The last round of talks between Emanuel and the union led to Chicago's first teachers strike in 25 years. Tensions deepened the following year in 2013 when Emanuel pushed to close dozens of neighborhood schools.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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Morning Video: This Is What An Opt-Out Protest Looks Like

Watch some Westchester County (NY) parents, teachers, and kids protest against testing above (click the link if the video isn't rendering properly, or read more about the event here). Or watch a DC school get ready for them (via PBS NewsHour) below:

Continue reading "Morning Video: This Is What An Opt-Out Protest Looks Like" »

AM News: Thursday Hodgeppodge

How an underperforming school rallied to turn around test scores and conquer the Common Core PBS NewsHour: It’s pep rally day at Jefferson Middle School in Washington, D.C. There are prizes and gift certificates and lots of cheering, all meant to get children psyched about the high-stakes tests they’re about to take. Sixth grader Nazar Harper says it works.

Panel approves $1b allocation for Common Core SI&A Cabinet Report: A proposal adding $1 billion in state support for schools transitioning to Common Core State Standards won easy passage Wednesday from a key legislative committee.

Take a look inside the 600-page rewrite of No Child Left Behind Washington Post: The bipartisan bill to replace No Child Left Behind that was crafted after months of negotiations between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would end federal high-stakes testing and grant more power to states to decide what to do about struggling schools and how or whether to evaluate teachers.

Senate’s effort to rewrite NCLB sparks cautious optimism Washington Post: Just about everyone with a stake in public education is weighing in on the Senate’s bipartisan effort to rewrite the nation’s main education law. And while there’s no consensus, a wide range of groups and people are exhibiting cautious optimism that the draft bill released Tuesday could be the first step toward reaching a bipartisan deal in an otherwise gridlocked Congress.

Teachers union starts legal battle to unionize L.A.'s largest charter school group LA Daily News: United Teachers Los Angeles has brought its fight to unionize the city's largest charter school organization to the state's top labor authority.

Teachers sue to join union without paying for political activities Los Angeles Times: An advocacy group has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop teachers unions in California from using member dues for political purposes unless individual instructors provide their permission. 

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso and on Facebook).

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AM News: Emanuel Wins Chicago Re-Election, Plus Senate ESEA Plan

Rahm Emanuel wins runoff in Chicago Politico: In an interview with The Atlantic, AFT President Randi Weingarten said that forcing Emanuel into a runoff was a win for labor — a point echoed by progressives after the vote. See also Emanuel wins re-election over Garcia in race for Chicago mayor (WBEZ), Emanuel Wins Second Term as Chicago Mayor After Tough Runoff (EdWeek).

Senate Plan to Revise No Child Left Behind Law Would Not Measure Teachers by Test Scores NYT: The proposal retains the requirement for yearly tests, but the federal government would no longer prescribe how the states handle schools with continuously poor scores. See also Sens. Alexander, Murray propose bipartisan measure to replace NCLB (WP), Senators Announce Agreement to Update Education Law (AP).

California teachers unions face new legal challenge over dues Washington Post: Four California teachers are suing their unions over the use of member dues for political activities, opening a new legal front against unions that are already facing a separate challenge to their ability to collect dues from all teachers

Mexican-American Toddlers: Understanding The Achievement Gap  NPR: A new study finds Mexican-American toddlers are lagging behind their white counterparts.

First-Generation Students Unite NYT: These young pioneers, the first in their families in college, speak out about who they are, where they come from and the income inequality on campus.

As new teacher evaluation system looms, NY's Tisch defends need for state tests ChalkbeatNY: As state education officials have been tasked with crafting a new teacher evaluation system, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch on Tuesday continued to defend the need for a state test as a necessary measure to address longstanding inequities.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso and on Facebook).

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AM News: New Union Challenge In CA (Plus Chicago Election)

Another lawsuit challenges teachers unions' dues EdSource: In a statement on Monday, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten accused StudentsFirst of hypocrisy. See also SF Chronicle.

How Rahm Emanuel ended up in a fight for his political life Vox: If Garcia manages another upset? The ramifications will go beyond Chicago. The three largest cities in the nation will all have first-term mayors for the first time in generations — first-term mayors elected by populist, left-wing constituencies. And Rahm Emanuel, whose time here has long been seen as a stepping stone to more national ambitions, will be finished.

More Seattle students opt out of new Common Core tests Seattle Times: As many as150 students at one Seattle high school are refusing to take new Common Core tests mandated in Washington. Some teachers from Garfield High, the site of a 2013 testing boycott, are expected to announce their opposition to the tests Tuesday

Nation’s largest teachers union launches ad campaign as Congress debates No Child Left Behind Washington Post: As Congress debates how to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the nation’s largest teachers union is launching a $500,000 ad campaign urging lawmakers to reach a deal that reduces the focus on standardized testing.

How Struggling Schools Can Make Dramatic Improvements In Just A Few Years HuffPost: The CAP brief highlights four schools -- Frederick Douglass High School in Maryland, Leslie County High School in Kentucky, Emerson Elementary School in Kansas and Rose Ferrero Elementary School in California -- and the work they have done to make striking progress over a short time. 

 More news below (and throughout the day via Twitter or Facebook).

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AM News: Common Core Testing Continues (Who's Up Next?)

Online Test-Takers Feel Anti-Cheating Software’s Uneasy Glare NYT: School administrators say for online learning to be legitimate, testing has to be monitored. Proctortrack is a new anti-cheating program being used by some universities.

In the Name of Fairness, Special Needs Students Struggle Through Testing WNYC: Federal law requires that students with disabilities have access to the same material as their non-disabled peers, including state tests. But the end result may not be fair after all.

Readers: How our students spent their opt-out time ChalkbeatTN: We heard from people all over the state and the responses were varied. Some parents kept their students at home for the few hours student took the exams while others spent that time in the library working on homework.

First year of PARCC testing was no picnic for Ohio schools Columbus Dispatch: As Ohio schools transition to new, tougher state tests, this is bound to be a trying year, experts say. Scheduling struggles, glitches on the online tests and other issues are going to come up in the first year, said Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit research and advisory group based in Washington.

Parents launch petition to take control at 20th Street Elementary LA Times: In this instance, parents say they want a district-managed pilot school, which would incorporate some of the freedoms of a charter school. Those campuses typically operate under a simpler union contract and teachers must opt in to the school’s new efforts. If they don’t prove a good fit, they can be forced to transfer to another campus.

The education model that fell apart Capital New York: Once considered a gold standard of charter operations, two Brighter Choice middle schools were closed by the state’s Charter Schools Institute after just five years in operation, because 80 percent of the students were not proficient in English and math. Other charter schools in Albany, including an all-girls high school with a graduation rate of 51 percent, could be shuttered in the near future for poor performance.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: Cuomo, Christie, & Union Division Over Common Core

Cuomo: Budget Was Victory Over 'Formidable' Opposition WNYC: Gov. Andrew Cuomo took a victory lap on Wednesday, claiming the new state budget includes a better teacher evaluation system despite tough opposition from the teachers union.

Christie and Teachers Spar Over Benefits WSJ: Gov. Chris Christie was confronted by multiple protesters during a town-hall meeting here Tuesday and undertook a long back-and-forth with a public-school teacher angry about his push to scale back pension and health benefits for state workers.

As NYSUT endorses testing opt-outs, city union holds back Chalkbeat Indiana:  Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, of which NYSUT and the UFT are both affiliates, quickly jumped in. She posted online that she would boycott New York’s tests if she had children in the public schools.

Stumping for Chuy, AFT's Weingarten says Garcia won't make 'scorched earth ... Chicago Sun-Times: Randi Weingarten told the crowd at a City Club of Chicago lunch that Garcia “understands that when it comes to making tough choices, communities are not our enemy — they need to be our partners.” 

11 Ex-Atlanta Public School Employees Found Guilty In Cheating Scandal NPR: AThey were found guilty of conspiracy when they switched student test scores. The verdicts close a dark chapter for the school system and the city of Atlanta. One defendant, a teacher, was acquitted. See also NYT (Atlanta Educators Convicted in School Cheating Scandal), AP (11 Educators Convicted In Atlanta Test Cheating Conspiracy), NewsHour (How cheating on standardized tests can be a criminal act).

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: Rabbit, Rabbit (No Fooling!)

New York Budget Increases School Funding, Amends Teacher Eval Rules WNYC: Under deadline pressure, Democrats in Albany reluctantly agreed to a deal on how teachers are evaluated despite opposition from educators and policy makers acrossdiv the state.

Cuomo Gets Deals on Tenure and Evaluations of Teachers NYT: The final budget bill, to be voted on Tuesday, also includes new measures for improving chronically struggling schools.

Arne Duncan Gives Five States 'Early Bird' Renewal of NCLB Waivers Education Week: The five states that applied early—under a special, fast-track process—for renewal of their No Child Left Behind Act waivers have all gotten approved by the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday.

Half the Teachers in America Use One App to Track Kids WNYC: What data security and privacy obligations do techies have to today's kids? Legally speaking, for the most part, it's what they set for themselves.

The Perfect Classroom, According to Science Bright: It’s bright, quiet, and 72 degrees. And it makes every student feel valued.

States Use Cameras To Crack Down On School Bus Scofflaws HuffPost: At least 12 other states—Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia—have laws that authorize the use of cameras on the outside of buses to catch fly-by drivers, according to the NCSL.

Poverty linked to brain structure in children, new research shows Washington Post: A provocative new study suggests that poverty affects brain structure in children and teenagers, with children growing up in the poorest households having smaller brains than those who live in affluence.

Time to cool it with bashing schools SI&A Cabinet: Before the upcoming presidential race’s political climate gets too warm, let’s moderate the heated rhetoric about the dismal state of American education with some cold facts and careful analysis.

Michelle Obama Delivers Inspiring Speech at Black Girls Rock! Event AThe Root: The star-studded event, which occurred against the backdrop of Women's History Month, was co-hosted by actresses Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King, who helped celebrate the accomplishments of women of color in education, social justice, music...

AM News: Common Core Critics Losing, Warren Supporters Split Labor

Common Core Critics Are Loud But Losing Governing: Most states are now four or five years into the process. Ending Common Core would mean a lot of wasted effort and money. In places like Indiana, the brand name may have gotten dropped, but the essential elements remain intact. This spring, standardized tests based on the standards are being rolled out in schools all over the country. 

Top liberals call for Warren candidacy Politico: Most labor leaders have yet to weigh in, but many have a long history with Clinton and some have appeared with her at recent events. Just last week, Clinton spoke on a panel in Washington co-sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which endorsed her early in her failed bid for the 2008 nomination. She sat next to AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and close by the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten.

AFT’s Anti-Rahm Spend Dropout Nation: Within the last month, AFT has directly and indirectly supported Garcia’s quest to unseat Emanuel to the tune of $649,503.20. This includes a massive $300,000 donation to Garcia’s campaign on March 12, along with another  $349,503.20 spent on get-out-the-vote efforts on the challenger’s behalf.

Stretching One Great Teacher Across Many Classrooms NPR: A Nashville middle school is test-driving a big idea: To put a great teacher in charge of multiple classrooms.

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Events: Live-Tweeting From Yale

I'm at @yaleELC #backtowhy today, mostly on Twitter (Snapchatting an event is not so easy or fun as it sounds). You can check out all the updates here, or on Facebook (Alexander Russo), or directly on Twitter (@alexanderrusso). You won't miss a thing, plus you can see the fun things people Tweet at me all day. 

AM News: Meet Laurene Powell Jobs, Education Kingmaker?

Laurene Powell Jobs linked to Jeb and Hillary Business Insider:  Business Insider obtained Powell-Jobs' resignation letter from a source. In the letter, which was personally addressed to Bush and began "Dear Jeb," Powell-Jobs attributed her decision to leave the foundation's board of directors dto time commitments.

How do schools respond to competition? Not as you might expect. Washington Post: The school-choice movement is built on the philosophy that competition forces schools to improve.But new research on New Orleans — arguably the nation’s most competitive school market — suggests that school leaders are less likely to work on improving academics than to use other tactics in their efforts to attract students.

Evaluation stalemate, looming changes fuel teacher frustration ChalkbeatNY: The future of teacher evaluations in New York state appears more unclear than ever. With six days left to craft an on-time state budget, lawmakers have only just begun to seriously negotiate how to overhaul the state’s nascent teacher-grading system.

Technology is the focus of first-time Smarter Balanced implementation Concord Monitor: Schools are used to administering standardizedtests, but the tests corresponding to theCommon Core State Standards are a new experience for both... 

Bill would let parents initiate school reform process Tennessean: Currently, the state does not identify schools in the bottom 10 percent but does identify schools in the bottom 5 percent based on academic achievement. Most of the schools in the bottom 5 percent, known as priority schools, are in Davidson County and Shelby County.

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AM News: NEA Says "Let's Get This [Presidential Campaign] Party Started"

Nation’s largest labor union: We want 2016 hopefuls talking about schools Washington Post: The National Education Association, the largest U.S. labor union, is pushing to make public schools a front-burner domestic issue throughout the 2016 presidential race, union leaders said Wednesday. “We have 3 million members who want desperately to know what the candidates have to say to really, seriously improve public education,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told reporters. “We intend to activate those 3 million members, the parents, even the students. See also Huffington Post, EdWeek (anyone else).

Unions and Garcia push for $15-an-hour minimum wage WBEZ Chicago: Garcia, members of the CTU, and activists with the national movement “Fight for 15” rallied outside the Chicago Board of Education Wednesday. They want all companies who do business with Chicago Public Schools to agree to a wage increase.

LAUSD educators typically earned $75,504 last year LADN: The typical Los Angeles Unified educator collected $75,504 in 2014, according to pay records obtained by this news organization ­-- the first time the school district has released the pay and name of every employee. [yikes!]

About 20,000 sign in favor of teacher-evaluation bill Seattle Times: Parents delivered a petition to legislative leaders in Olympia on Tuesday supporting a bill that would require student scores on state tests to be used in evaluating teachers.

New York Dreamers Begin Hunger Strike As State Budget Deadline Looms Huffington Post: A group of 10 undocumented youths launched a hunger strike Wednesday, vowing to pressure New York lawmakers to put funding for a proposed state version of the Dream Act back into next year's budget. 

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AM News: Squeezing Clinton, Cheerleading "Chuy," & NCLB "No Go"?

Hillary Clinton Caught Between Teachers and Wealthy Donors NYT: The pressure Hillary Rodham Clinton faces shows the demands she will have to contend with on a number of divisive domestic issues that flared up during the Obama administration.

In Washington, it's 'Viva Chicago' for Garcia Chicago Sun-Times: "So there is a real choice here,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is saying at a Tuesday fundraiser for mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia at a townhouse a few blocks from the Capitol.

Connecticut education official resigns after insulting Obama, Holder, Sharpton New Haven Register: A Norwalk Board of Education member is resigning in response to criticism of a Facebook posting that featured obscenity-laced invective against the Rev. Al Sharpton and insults targeted at President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

GOP lawmaker: I’m short votes for No Child Left Behind rewrite Washington Post: Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the chairman of the House education panel, said Tuesday that he is still a “handful” of votes short to pass his GOP bill to replace No Child Left Behind, the main federal education law. 

GOP's John Kasich Isn't Backing Off 'Core' Support WSJ via RCE: If Gov. John Kasich is going to run for president, he doesnt seem likely to trim his sails on the hot-button issue of Common Core education standards.

2 Maryland students caught cheating on PARCC exam WBAL Baltimore: Education officials said they learned earlier this month that the students posted test questions to their Twitter accounts. 

Charter Leader Moskowitz Defends Her Policies, Won't Say if She's Running for Mayor WNYC: In an interview on WNYC's Brian Leher Show, charter school leader and lightning rod Eva Moskowitz defended her schools and her policy of not filling empty seats in upper grades. See also Moskowitz Weighs InMoskowitz addresses backfill and test prep critiques

Cuomo Drops Dream Act and Education Tax Credit From Budget NYT: A spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the Dream Act, which would allow high school graduates who are undocumented immigrants to apply for state aid to college, might have to be taken up later.

Blind Kids, Touchscreen Phones, and the End of Braille? NPR: Touchscreen phones work so well for blind people that Braille may become obsolete. But advocates worry this could render the next generation "functionally illiterate."

Maryland begins to consider requests to waive school days lost to snow Washington Post: Maryland officials will begin considering requests for waivers that would forgive school systems for canceling up to three days of classes during the winter’s snow and ice. The Maryland State Board of Education gave the go-ahead at its Tuesday meeting, saying that State Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery could decide such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Young Girls Are Much, Much Better Readers Than Boys, And Have Been For A Long Time HuffPost: The gap between boys' and girls' respective reading abilities has been getting a lot of attention lately, but the trend itself is not new.

AM News: It's Tuesday - You Make The Headline

Giuliani and de Blasio Form Unlikely Alliance on New York City Schools NYT: Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, both signed an appeal to state legislators to reauthorize mayoral control of the city’s schools.

In Congress, New Attention To Student-Privacy Fears NPR: A House bill seeks to restrict what private companies can do with information collected on students.

Obama To Young Scientists: 'Keep Asking Why' HuffPost: About 20 young scientists were honored on Monday, including Sophia Sánchez-Maes of Las Cruces, New Mexico, a high school senior who has studied algae as a potential fuel source, and Harry Paul of Port Washington, New York, who is now in his first year at Tufts and designed a new type of spinal implant after undergoing multiple surgeries for his own spine curvature.

Duncan: Teacher Preparation Lacks Resources, Focus TeacherBeat: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talked with the state supes on March 23 about a lot of different things, including the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Improving teacher prep was one area in which he said there hadn't been enough progress.

Schwarzenegger Continues After-School Education 'Crusade' AP: At a national summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Schwarzenegger will join education, business and law enforcement leaders in demanding that any bill passed continue after-school funding. A proposed House bill eliminated the so-called 21st Century Community Learning Centers along with 68 other programs in favor of a flexibility grant that would allow states how to decide to use funds.

During PARCC testing, some schools losing art, music, other ‘specials’ Chicago Sun-Times
Critics of this new test molded to common core standards have complained that it deprives children of classroom learning, and that, between preparation and conditions children need to test well, it takes over the whole school.

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AM News: NYC Teachers, Duncan In Philly, & End In Atlanta

Cuomo Fights Rating System in Which Few Teachers Are Bad NYT: Less than 1 percent of teachers in New York State were rated ineffective over all, and principals’ evaluations are often responsible for the high scores. See also: More Unwanted Teachers Leave System Under de Blasio WNYC.

Jurors Resume Deliberating Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Case NPR: Twelve ex-educators are accused of changing students' test scores in a scandal dating back to 2009. Jurors have six months of evidence to go through, including testimony from more than 130 witnesses.

No Child Left Behind Law Faces Its Own Reckoning NYT: A rewrite could collapse in partisan disarray. But it could also herald a new era of education, keeping some testing but eliminating prescriptive punishments.

Ed Secretary Arne Duncan on Pa.'s funding gap between rich, poor schools is ... Philly.com: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday that Pennsylvania does the worst job in the nation of funding low-income school districts. "The state of Pennsylvania is 50th, dead last, in terms of the inequality between how wealthy school districts ...

How a wheelchair challenge mobilized a high school to become more accessible PBS NewsHour: How one student’s efforts changed his high school in Texas and made it more accessible for people with disabilities. It’s the subject of nationally recognized video from our Student Reporting Lab in Austin and tells the story of Archer Hadley, a teenager with cerebral palsy who mobilized the entire school community.

How one California superintendent changed troubled schools Hechinger Report: Christopher Steinhauser has been the superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District in Southern California for 13 years. Made famous by the movie Freedom Writers, which told the story of novice teacher Erin Gruwell reaching her troubled students in the early 1990s through writing...

Parent Advisory Council Members in Conn. Sue Local Superintendent, Board EdWeek: Some parents claim Bridgeport school district leaders are trying to silence their criticism by removing them from their District Parent Advisory Council posts.

Kansas Schools Fight Plays Out Against Backdrop of Debate on Judiciary NYT: A state appellate court has suggested that it might block a school financing plan that lawmakers passed; Republican leaders say the court is overstepping its bounds.

A Donation Site Where Schools Can Pass The Hat NPR: For the last 15 years, DonorsChoose.org has helped teachers like Vanderford raise more than $310 million — with more than half of those donations going to America's poorest schools.

Former charter schools CEO earning $250K as Rauner's adviser WBEZ Chicago: For weeks, Beth Purvis' role in the administration had been somewhat of a mystery. There was no formal announcement when she was hired, and during a House education committee meeting earlier this month, she stood and introduced herself when someone on the panel asked if anyone from the governor's office was in attendance.

 A High School Where a Student Might Letter in Polo NYT: Officials at the elite, private Oxbridge Academy say its polo team will serve as a democratizer, uniting children of different economic backgrounds.

AM News: Parent Trigger 2015, Plus Social Media Monitoring

Parent-trigger showdowns loom nationwide Hechinger Report: Lawmakers around the country are gearing up for showdowns against teachers unions and school administrators who are seeking to squash a new round of education bills that would create and strengthen so-called “parent trigger” laws. Parent-trigger bills exist in some form in seven states, and have been rejected in more than two dozen others. Tennessee and Texas are their primary targets in 2015. See also Texas Tribune, EdWeek, Chalkbeat.

Student Privacy Debate Dominates Assembly Panel’s Meeting on PARCC Tests NJ Spotlight: For close to an hour, the department’s chief counsel and its investigations director defended the practices as legal and appropriate, and said security measures being taken are necessary to maintain the integrity of the exam. At issue specifically is the practice by Pearson, through subcontractor Caveon Test Security, of scanning social media for possible messages by students divulging the contents of the exams. See also: Test security now means checking social media for cheaters.

Mayor De Blasio Defends His School Improvement Plan WNYC: New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio makes the case that struggling schools have a better chance of turning around with his approach than with the plan proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. See also HuffPost: Andrew Cuomo's Approval Rating Drops To New Low.

Alabama Lawmakers Pass Charter School Bill EdWeek: The Black Alliance for Educational Options calls Alabama's charter school legislation a "victory" for parents and community members.

Texas Ready to Dump High School Steroids Testing Program AP: After years of catching few cheaters, Texas ready to dump high school steroids testing program.

In addressing food allergies, some Chicago schools fall through the cracks WBEZ Chicago: It’s a typical day in the Ravenswood Elementary cafeteria on Chicago’s North Side. Middle schoolers catch up with friends, make jokes and chow down on a mishmosh of cafeteria food and brown bag lunches.

More news and commentary throughout the day at @alexanderrusso.

AM News: Anti-Cuomo Protests In NYC, Republican Union Endorsement In LAUSD

At widespread anti-Cuomo protests, parents and teachers to join hands Chalkbeat New York:  City teachers union president Michael Mulgrew and his predecessor, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, will speak at the morning rally at Park Slope's P.S. 10, which is known for its presence in the movement to opt out of state...

UTLA one step closer to endorsing a Republican in Schmerelson LA School Report: Members of the teachers union political action committee, PACE, are recommending to the full committee an endorsement for Schmerelson in his bid to unseat the two-time incumbent Tamar Galatzan, pledging to work tirelessly to remove her from the school board.

California suspends other standards for Common Core, for now AP: One set of California school standards has temporarily fallen victim to another. California's school accountability system and its new Common Core academic standards were put head-to-head on Wednesday, and Common Core won. See also NPR: Ditching The Common Core Brings A Big Test For Indiana, PBS NewsHour: Why some students are refusing to take the Common Core test.

Privacy Pitfalls as Education Apps Spread Haphazardly NYT: Apps and other software can put powerful teaching tools at teachers’ fingertips, but concerns abound over data security, effectiveness and marketing.

The new digital classroom, brought to you by SXSW Marketplace Learning Curve: One area that's getting a lot of attention is "making."  The “Playground” area of SXSWedu was full of products focused on kids building things, using 3D doodlers and Lego robots. 

Did school board violate Sunshine Law with private Arne Duncan huddle? Palm Beach Post: The Palm Beach Post's education reporting team of Andrew Marra and Sonja Isger notes that, notwithstanding Florida's Sunshine Law, five of seven Palm Beach County school board members met privately Monday with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

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AM News: As Testing Continues, Jindal & Bush Joust Over Common Core

Jindal Rips Iowa Ads That Are Seen As Defending Bush BuzzFeed News: “If voters want to vote for someone who’s pro-Common Core, they’re going to have an opportunity to do that in this election,” Jindal tells BuzzFeed News. See also NYT.

More California parents exercise right to skip standardized tests KCRA Sacramento: According to the California Department of Education, fewer than 7,400 parents declined the STAR test (the previous test) in 2013. That's out of the 4.7 million students who took it. Officials said they did not have opt-out numbers for 2014, when the CAASPP was administered on a trial basis. 

Common Core tests running smoothly at Alice Ott Middle School, aside from minor glitches OregonLive:  The first 15 to 20 minutes of testing were somewhat "shaky," Johnston said. A few students were booted off of the system and needed help getting signed in again. Other students had issues finding the volume button for headphones used for audio portions or needed individual computer preferences to be updated.  But aside from those minor glitches, Johnston said the test has gone smoothly.

New Colorado tests debut with both problems and progress Denver Post: Early reports show large numbers of test opt-outs in Boulder high schools. Nearly one in four high schoolers due to be tested in the Cherry Creek district refused PARCC, with Cherry Creek High accounting for nearly 70 percent of the refusals, the district said.

As Students Opt Out of Common Core Exams, Some Say Movement Is Not About Testing US News: Teach Plus, a nonprofit focused on placing effective teachers in urban schools, on Tuesday released a survey  of more than 1,000 teachers in Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville and the District of Columbia who evaluated sample PARCC questions. More than three-quarters – 79 percent – of teachers said the test items were better than what their states used to have, but there were mixed results on whether they were grade-appropriate or too challenging. See also Hechinger Report: Can the new tests quell teacher anger over Common Core?

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AM News: Week 2 Of Common Core Testing Started Off Fairly Smoothly

NM's first PARCC test goes smoothly Albuquerque Journal: Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) was created by a consortium of states to measure knowledge of the Common Core standards

Common Core test debuts in Oregon, prompting stepped-up teaching, fears it will be too hard  OregonLive.com: Sixth grader Porter Stewart works on a writing assessment to help him prepare for the dauntingCommon Core test that will be given to 300,000...

Calls for opt-out bill continue as Illinois starts PARCC test Sun-Times: No major snafus were reported in the city or on the state level, although Mollison and Morrill elementary schools had some minor glitches, district spokesman Bill McCaffrey said. Otherwise CPS reported a “smooth start to testing,” he said, “with the exception of some minor tech issues, such as popup blockers.”

Federal education chief: Some kids are over-tested Sun Sentinel: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to a crowd of more than 500 on his vision for education and his push to fix the federal No Child Left Behind Act at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach as part of an event by the Forum Club of the Palm 

Education interests to pour money into Democratic primary Philly.com:  AFT president Randi Weingarten, asked whether her union will make independent expenditures to influence the Philadelphia mayor's race, said she was "deeply concerned" about the state of schools here.

With Jesse Jackson's Chuy Garcia Endorsement, Black Leaders Begin to Unite ... In These Times:  has come out strongly against Emanuel's policies in all of these areas, and has the backing of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union and its president Karen Lewis. However, longstanding tensions and distrust between the city's black and Latino ...

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AM News: Week 2 Of Common Core Testing Begins

Hand scorers sought for online Common Core tests EdSource Today: Tests are computerized, but humans needed to score critical thinking. See also Columbus Dispatch: New standardized tests go deeper but chew up time, Miami Herald, THE Journal, Orlando Sentinel.

Unions, Charter Supporters Eyeing Los Angeles Board Runoffs Teacher Beat: The fallout from runoff elections, to be held in May, could influence contract negotiations with the city teachers' union.

NY charter movement vies for dominance with teachers unions AP: Charter schools and their supporters, meanwhile, poured money into the fight. The group Families for Excellent Schools reported more than $9 million in lobbying expenses in 2014. NYSUT reported less than $4 million.

Charter School in Miami Fails, but Proves Useful on Jeb Bush’s Résumé NYT: The Liberty City Charter School, the first of its kind in Florida and a pioneer in what became a national movement, is now defunct.

Chronic truancy in D.C. high schools still rampant despite new laws Washington Post: Despite intensified efforts to improve school attendance rates in D.C. Public Schools, more than half of high school students — 56 percent —were considered ”chronically truant” during the 2013-2014 school year, after accumulating 10 or more unexcused absences, according to a report scheduled to be released Monday by the Children’s Law Center and D.C. Lawyers for Youth. See also Marshall Project.

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AM News: Big Action In New York, LA, & Boston (Yes, Boston)

A Charter School Rally Duels With Teachers’ Unions in Albany NYT: Charter schools and teachers’ unions from New York City gathered for competing events and to press their causes in Albany. See also ChalkbeatNYWNYC, Albany Times Union

Election sets stage for L.A. Unified battle LA Times: The election results were not exactly the outcome the union had hoped for. A charter schools group, which emerged as a major force in the elections, made significant strides. In a contest that United Teachers Los Angeles fought hard to win, union-backed incumbent Bennett Kayser finished second to charter school founder Ref Rodriguez. See also LA School Report.

Boston Selects New Superintendent of Schools District Dossier: The city's education officials chose Tommy Chang, an instructional superintendent in the Los Angeles Unified School District, from a field of four finalists. See also Boston Globe.

New 'Consumer Reports' for Common Core finds learning materials lacking Washington Post:  The initial report posted Wednesday examined materials that have at least a 10 percent market share and were endorsed by at least two states that said the materials were aligned with the Common Core.

GOP Education Chairman Anticipates Vote on Education Bill AP: Kline said he was "taken by surprise" by the opposition he says appears to have been fueled largely by a blog that said the bill would solidify the use of the standards and insert government control into private schools. Kline said the bill would do neither. He said opposition from the Heritage Action for America and Club for Growth also contributed to members' concerns.

Around The World, This Is How Girls And Boys Are Stacking Up Against Each Other In School HuffPost: Girls are now going to school longer than boys and significantly outperform boys in reading. Across countries examined in the report, boys are more likely to post low scores in math, reading and science. See also Washington Post.

More Children Eat Fruit in School, Study Shows NYT: The study found that from the time new nutritional guidelines went into effect in 2012 through last year, the percentage of students choosing fruits increased to 66 percent from 54 percent.

Body cameras for cops but classrooms too? SI&A Cabinet Reoprt:  Instances of children with little to no verbal skills facing verbal or physical abuse at the hands of a special education instructor or a class aid have been documented even though it can be difficult for those children to express that he or she needs help.  

AM News: Pockets Of Trouble For FL District Testing; CA Is Up Next

School Districts Report Second Day Of Testing Problems StateImpact FL:  The Tampa Bay Times reports Tampa-area schools had to suspend some testing for a second day. Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he won’t resume testing until the state can prove everything is working. Palm Beach school also will not test students on Wednesday. See also Bradenton Herald: State testing in Manatee County sees online delay but no need to suspend testing, ABC7 Common Core testing begins in California next week.

LAUSD Board Members in Runoff NBC SoCal: Los Angeles Unified School District board members Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and Richard Vladovic will have to compete in a May 19 runoff election as they fight to retain their seats, while incumbent George McKenna won re-election thanks to having no challengers. See also LA Times: One incumbent trails charter-school backed challenger in L.A. board balloting.

Taking the same road to Albany, education lobbying events on divergent paths ChalkbeatNY:  They’re lobbying with the same goal in mind — to push policies that will improve public education — but what they’re asking for couldn’t look more different. Here are four things to know about Wednesday’s festivities.

School Agenda Bedevils Chicago Mayor in Race NYT: As Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago faces an unexpected runoff election, it is his education agenda that threatens his political future. See also Tribune: Emanuel says CPS had no choice but to back down in testing controversy.

Chris Christie’s bold plan to remake public schools is running into trouble Washington Post: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went on a publicity blitz when he vowed to fix this city’s struggling schools with the most expansive re-engineering of urban education anywhere in the country.He told Oprah Winfrey in 2010 that Newark would become a “national model.”  See also HuffPost: Unions Say They'll Sue Christie Again Over Pension Payments, Courier Post: Gov. Chris Christie's shifting position on Common Core.

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AM News: Tuesday Common Core Testing Canceled In Dade & Broward (Anywhere Else?)

New Assessment Tests Canceled In Dade & Broward For Tuesday CBS Miami:  While some schools were not able to log into the online system, others that were able to access the system found that it worked so slowly that it was very difficult to proceed. See also FSA News: FSA Writing Test Postponed Amid Technical Issues | Sunshine State News;The Blaze: Test Based on Common Core Standards Sees Tech Glitches, Protests

LAUSD board president outpacing challengers in finances, endorsements KPCC: He did not get the endorsement of UTLA, the teachers union, which did not throw its support behind any candidate in the District 7 race.[But] the California School Employees Association, Service Employees International Union and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles have all endorsed Vladovic. Vladovic has also won endorsement from the California Charter Schools Association,which advocates for charter school expansion. See also LA School Report.

Robert Gordon Leaves as Ed. Dept. Advisor PK12: Gordon will be joining the College Board, a nonprofit organization. He'll serve as senior vice-president of finance and strategy. 

Pennsylvania Governor Appoints New Head of Philly School Commission District Dossier: The move comes nearly two weeks after the commission approved five of 39 applications for new charter schools. The governor wanted all the applications denied.

Hundreds attend rally to 'Call Out Cuomo' in Massena North Country Now: Hundreds of people attended a Saturday afternoon "Call Out Cuomo" educational rally at Massena High School. About a dozen speakers, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, stood onstage... See also Capital New York: Charter, union messaging creates New York echo chamber

Ex-Atlanta School Superintendent, Charged In Cheating Case, Dies At 68 NPR: In 2009, Beverly Hall was named national superintendent of the year largely based on her district's improved standardized test scores. But those scores soon came under scrutiny. See also NYT, AP, District DossierAJC.

Chicago ends standoff, agrees to give new state test WBEZ: Indeed, there are just three weeks between now and the end of the school year when CPS will not be giving some kind of standardized test. One of those weeks is spring break. Of course, not all students will have to take all of the tests and not all students are taking the test every day. But, Katten said, it’s still disruptive to the school environment. See also District Dossier.

Decision in ‘free-range’ case does not end debate about parenting and safety WAMU: The Maryland parents who let their children walk home from a park in Silver Spring were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over their views on parenting and children’s safety.

AM News: More States Begin Common Core Testing This Week

As Common Core Testing Is Ushered In, Parents and Students Opt Out NYT: About a dozen of their classmates, however, will be elsewhere. They will sit in a nearby art room, where they will read books, do a little drawing and maybe paint. What they will not do is take the test, because they and their parents have flatly refused. See also Yakima Herald: Common Core exams begin soon, and many school districts are ready to go; Philly.com: Monday the day for controversial student testing in New Jersey; WFLA: Florida Standards testing begins across state.

The snow conundrum: How a school system decides whether to open Washington Post: Todd Watkins had been following the snow forecasts closely. By the time he climbed out of bed in the darkness of 2 a.m., he didn’t think a storm would wallop the Washington region. But he thought it was possible that Montgomery’s schools would open after a delay. See also HuffPost: Teachers Ensure Poor Kids Are Fed On Snow Days When They Can't Get Free School Lunch

Contentious teacher-related policies moving from legislatures to the courts Washington Post: The latest foray into the courtroom began Feb. 13, when New Mexico teachers sued state officials over an evaluation system that relies heavily on student test scores. Tennessee teachers also sued their state officials this month, arguing that most teachers’ evaluations are based on the test scores of students they don’t actually teach. Florida teachers brought a similar lawsuit last year; it is now in federal appeals court, while other complaints are pending in Texas and New York.

Jeb Bush stands firm on controversial immigration, educationpolicies at CPAC Fox News: Rubio used his time to target Obama's foreign policies, focusing mostly on Iran's nuclear threat. During his speech, Rubio said America needed a leader who understands that the way to defeat the Islamic State “wasn't to give him a job,” referencing ...

No Child Left Behind debate in the House suspended Washington Post: The House suspended floor debate on a Republican bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind on Friday afternoon, with party leaders saying they had to shift the chamber’s focus to debate funding the Department of Homeland Security. See also AP: House Republican Leaders Scrap Education Vote.

Can 'Chuy' give Rahm a run for his money? Tribune: A 2012 teachers strike, among other confrontations, led Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis to form an exploratory committee for mayor last year. After she withdrew for health reasons, she asked Garcia, a former state senator, alderman and ...  See also NBC: Karen Lewis: I Could Have Won

Jimmy Kimmel got doctors to swear at cameras to convince people to get vaccinated HuffPost: "Here in LA, there are schools in which 20 percent of the children aren't vaccinated," Kimmel said, "because parents here are more scared of gluten than they are of smallpox."

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AM News: Newark Supe. Renewal, LA Teachers Rally, Chicago Testing Standoff

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson Gets Contract Renewal District Dossier: Anderson and the state signed a three-year contract last year, but it required both parties to agree to an extension each year.

LA Teachers, Union Leaders Rally Amid Stalled Talks AP: The Los Angeles standoff has focused mostly on teacher salaries, class sizes and increasing the number of support staff members like nurses and counselors. The union notes that teachers have gone eight years without a salary increase or cost-of-living adjustment. See also LA Daily News: Teachers rally in downtown Los Angeles.

Standoff over new state school test continues Chicago Public Radio: Suburban parents gathered downtown Thursday to express their own concerns with the test. They want state lawmakers to approve an opt-out bill that would give parents the right to refuse to have their children tested. As it stands now, by law, the only way to refuse the test is for students to verbally state they won't take it.  

In Dig at De Blasio, Cuomo Defends His Plan for Failing Schools WNYC: Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a vigorous defense of his plan to turnaround failing schools, one day after Mayor Bill de Blasio went to Albany and argued for an alternative. See also NYDN: De Blasio warns of flaws in Cuomo's education agenda

More teachers writing their own curricula under Common Core, says new report Hechinger Report via PBS NewsHour: The Center on Education Policy (CEP), a nonpartisan research group, reports that in roughly two-thirds of districts in Common Core states, teachers have developed or are developing their own curricular materials in math (66 percent) and English Language Arts (65 percent). In more than 80 percent of districts, the CEP found that at least one source for curriculum materials was local — from teachers, the district itself or other districts in the state. See also Washington Post: The Republican curriculum on Common Core.

Farmington teacher on paid leave after giving state testing opt-out forms to students Farmington Daily Times: Sharon Yocum, an Esperanza Elementary School fifth-grade teacher, was informed by a member of the Farmington Municipal School District administration Thursday morning that she would be placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation for alleged unprofessional conduct.

Continue reading "AM News: Newark Supe. Renewal, LA Teachers Rally, Chicago Testing Standoff" »

AM News: Common Core Sabotage, Chicago Standoff, & ESEA Veto Threat

Unable to repeal Common Core, foes try sabotage Politico: Conservative lawmakers in state after state are running into difficulty rounding up votes to revoke the academic standards outright.. See also NJEA launches ad campaign against PARCC.

White House Issues Veto Threat Against House GOP NCLB Rewrite PK12: Why doesn't the administration like this bill? For one thing, they're not happy about what they see as a big step on back on accountability, particularly for the poor and minority kids that NCLB was designed to help. See also AP,  Obama threatens veto of House education billWhite House threatens veto of GOP bill to fix No Child Left BehindNo Child Reauthorization Has No Shot.

CPS in a bind over snub of state-mandated test, official says Tribune: Chicago school board President David Vitale said during Wednesday's board meeting that the district's effort to administer the exam to just 66 of its more than 600 schools has been "clear and consistent." But, he acknowledged, "The response we've gotten from other authorities is also clear." See also Sun-Times: Which CPS schools will be tested in 2 weeks still unknown.

De Blasio calls for permanent mayoral control of schools ChalkbeatNY: Before mayoral control, the city’s school system was balkanized,” de Blasio said. “School boards exerted great authority with little accountability and we saw far too many instances of mismanagement, waste and corruption.” See also The Atlantic: NYC's Tale of Two Pre-Ks.

Rift escalates between Los Angeles teachers, district AP: Teachers in the nation's second-largest school district are in an escalating rift with Los Angeles Unified officials over higher wages. See also LATimes: Charter school group is political force in L.A. Unified board election, LA Weekly Charter Schools Take on Charter-Hating LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser

 More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

Former Montgomery schools chief Joshua Starr sets up business to open way for consulting Washington Post: Montgomery County’s former superintendent, Joshua P. Starr, has established a new consulting business, according to Maryland state records and a statement relayed through the school district.The limited liability company, called Education Solutions LLC, was registered with the state Feb. 17, a day after Starr’s resignation took effect, according to online records from the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation.

'Call Out Cuomo' teachers' rally at Massena High Saturday urging residents to ... North Country Now: Carlisto said the “Call Out Cuomo” events are expected to feature American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee and others

Arne Duncan talks early childhood education at Alexandria school Washington Post: Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday got a first-hand glimpse of early childhood education in a busy Alexandria preschool classroom, where he got down on the rug with youngsters playing with blocks, chatted up students building a “neighborhood” with sand and talked to a young girl about her writing.

5 Lessons Education Research Taught Us In 2014 NPR: Lessons from a handful of the most viewed papers from the American Education Research Association last year.

Dissecting A Frog: A Middle School Rite Of Passage NPR: In science classrooms across the country, middle-schoolers will take part in an iconic activity this year: frog dissection.

Teachers complain about revised CPS discipline policy Tribune: A CPS spokesman said the district makes training available to all schools on subjects including restorative practices and classroom management. Roughly 100 (of 600) schools have "restorative practices coaches" in the building weekly, and behavioral health teams work at 66 schools. Those resources are allocated to schools based on behavioral data, the district said.

Controversial Schools Tech Contract Wins NYC Approval WNYC: A contract to expand internet access in New York City schools as well as proposals for sharing school space moved forward despite concerns. Oh, and the cell phone ban was lifted.

Employee sues LAUSD superintendent third time alleging sexual harassment KPCC: The latest suit alleges Cortines made sexual advances to Graham in 2000 soon after Cortines helped Graham get a job with the school district’s real estate leasing operations. Cortines left the school district that same year and Graham didn’t report what allegedly happened, according to the suit.

The rise of Chicago's Casimir Pulaski Day WBEZ: The story behind this most “Illinois” of holidays involves Casimir, of course, but it’s more of a story about a strong community that was willing to spend political capital to honor him.

One District Will Have Saturday School to Make Up for Missed Days ABC News: A North Carolina school district will be in session on Saturday and parents aren't too happy. The Gaston County school district made the announcement Tuesday on Facebook and on its web site.

AM News: Teachers Force Mayoral Runoff In Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into April runoff election WBEZ: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to capture a majority of the vote Tuesday in his bid for a second term, an embarrassment for the former White House chief of staff who now faces a runoff this spring against CTU-endorsed Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

In Anti-Testing Push, Unions Turn to Polls, Ads TeacherBeat: The New Jersey and Connecticut state affiliates of the National Education Association are mounting aggressive campaigns.

Los Angeles Unified's teachers union faces test of organizing strength LA Daily News: The print shop below United Teachers Los Angeles' headquarters cranked out 7,500 signs for protestors to carry when they descend on downtown Thursday, demanding higher pay, fewer students per classroom and better working conditions.

The Great U.S. History Battle NPR: The College Board redesigned the framework for its Advanced Placement U.S. history course, and many conservative lawmakers aren't happy about it.

Feds Find Discrimination Against Female Athletes in NYC Schools WNYC: New York City denies violating federal law, but agrees to changes to expand high school sports options for girls.

Taylor Swift Gives $50,000 in Song Proceeds to NYC Schools AP: Global ambassador' Taylor Swift donates $50,000 in song proceeds to NYC public schools

Feds support transgender teen in civil rights suit against schools Washington Post: Federal officials have offered their support for a teen who has accused four Michigan school districts of discriminating against him because he is transgender.U.S. civil rights laws protect “all individuals from sex discrimination, including transgender individuals,” lawyers for the Justice and Education departments wrote in a statement filed in federal district court.

L.A. Schools Reboot Plan to Give Every Student a Computer District Dossier: The Los Angeles Unified district doesn't have the money to continue with plans to provide all students with a tech device, superintendent Ramon Cortines said.

D.C. Defends Plan For School That Would Serve Only Minority Boys WAMU: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s plan to open up an all-boys high school for minority students is facing new questions from the ACLU.

Photos Of School Lunches From Around The World Will Make American Kids Want To Study Abroad HuffPost: Parents could model better eating habits and stock their crispers with fresh fruit and vegetables, but a viable starter solution might begin at lunchtime. Sweetgreen, a healthy quick-serve restaurant that values local and organic ingredients, clarified disparity between American student lunches and those of other countries by photographing typical school lunches from around the world. The visuals are eye-opening.

How Twitter is shaping the #CommonCore debate Hechinger Report: Supovitz says that ordinary citizens and grassroots groups have used Twitter to gain the type of influence – both with politicians and the mainstream media – that has traditionally been enjoyed by more established groups.

AM News: Ramping Up For Friday's House ESEA Reauthorization Effort

More Conflict Over Cutting Federal Role in Education NYT: Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday produced data that he said showed that poorer districts would suffer under a Republican plan expected to clear the House of Representatives this week.

As House Prepares to Vote on NCLB, Advocates Push for Preschool Funding U.S. News & World Report: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, noted the first bill, passed in 1965, was a bipartisan effort, as was its reauthorization in 1994. "It would be a very good signal to America if something that has bipartisan support ...

How Would the House NCLB Rewrite Affect Funding for Minority Students? PK12: The White House report, released Tuesday, warns of cuts of more than $1.3 billion over 6 years to more than ten districts that serve high concentrations of African-American students. But, these top-line estimates, while powerful, are essentially a worst-case scenario that's highly unlikely to play out in real life, especially if you consider them over six years. There are a number of reasons why.

Schools using new tools to make teachers better Seattle Times: How to help teachers improve? A new system of in-depth observation by trained evaluators and principals, soon to be required in schools across Washington, shows what can help. See also: Seattle ranks high in suspending elementary-school students with special needs.

Suspended students lose millions of days of instruction while out of school Washington Post: Suspension rates dropped for many of the nation’s school districts — including some in the Washington region — but U.S. students still lost about 18 million days of instruction to out-of-school punishments in the 2011-2012 school year, according to research released Monday.

Suspensions at city charter schools far outpace those at district schools, data show ChalkbeatNY: One-third of charter schools reported suspending fewer than 5 percent of their students, and many schools said they did not give out any out-of-school suspensions. But 11 charter schools suspended more than 30 percent of their students — a figure likely to draw added scrutiny amid a nationwide push to reduce suspensions and a debate over allowing more charter schools to open statewide.

Chicago sets early voting record in last weekend before mayoral election WBEZ: About 90,000 Chicago voters cast their ballots during early voting, including more than 21,500 votes on Saturday, which set a single-day record for a municipal election.

Christie’s Truce With Teachers Could Pay Dividends in ’16 NYT: Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey Education Association are cooperating to grapple with the state’s crippling pension costs, and that may help the governor’s presidential ambitions.

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AM News: Tennessee Common Core Review Could Cost $4 Million

Tennessee's Common Core review comes with uncommon costs Times Free Press: A bill requiring Tennessee's State Board of Education to drop Common Core education standards and develop new requirements has a math problem: It's projected to cost $4.14 million over a three-year period.

State not joining revolt against Common Core learning model Seattle Times: Despite backlash in other states over new learning standards known as the Common Core, little serious opposition has surfaced in Washington.

Is your child’s personal data safe at school? PBS NewsHour: In Miami, a man was arrested with students’ names, social security numbers and birthdays — more than enough personal information to steal their identities. Parents in D.C. learned that information on student enrollment in special education services — including names and passwords for online mailboxes — has for years been easily accessible to anyone online, due to a security breach.

YouTube launches kids app Marketplace: YouTube launches a kids app on Monday. It comes with a filter for content, kid friendly design, and a parental timer for how long kids can play. It’s just one of several new media platforms targeting kids.

L.A. Unified says it can't afford 'computer for all' plan LA Times: Los Angeles Unified schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday that the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal of his predecessor's ill-fated $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.

When a Wildlife Rehab Center Regulates Charter Schools ProPublica: Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them. As a group, the schools overseen by the center fall below the state average on test scores.

Cuomo Plan Diminishes Principals' Authority on Evaluations WNYC: New York City principals challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his plan to increase the role of outside evaluators in reviewing teacher performance.

Report Recommends Elected School Board for Chicago District Dossier: A new report from the Collaborative for Justice and Equity in Education recommends an elected school board for the city that would prioritize "equitable educational opportunities and outcomes" in its decisionmaking.

At New York Private Schools, Challenging White Privilege From the Inside NYT: In a new type of diversity initiative at elite institutions, students explore privilege and power and are encouraged to think about social justice in a personal way.

A safety net for dropouts catches others WBEZ: Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Humboldt Park is one of the district’s 20 new alternative schools opened in the last two years. It’s a joint venture between the NBA-star-turned-businessman, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and EdisonLearning, a for-profit education company. Students come for half the day and do most of their work online. Many can finish a full credit in a matter of weeks.

Expelled in preschool Hechinger Report: An after-school program run by Chicago Youth Centers has seen significant improvement in children’s behaviors since staff began working with Lauren Wiley, an early childhood mental health consultant. 

Chicago's Mayor Emanuel spends heavily to avoid run-off  Reuters: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hoping his warm hug with President Barack Obama in the last days of his re-election campaign will help him avoid a run-off in the race to lead the financially troubled, third largest city in the country.

AM News: Frigid Temperatures, GOP's Common Core Divide

Frigid temperatures trigger school closures, delays across region Friday Washington Post: As extremely cold temperatures descended on the Washington region Thursday night, area school officials made early decisions to cancel Friday classes or delay school openings as they weighed student safety, bus operations and facility concerns.

Could Common Core cause a Republican civil war in 2016? CBS: A Gallup poll last August found 76 percent of Republican voters nationwide are opposed to Common Core, and only 17 percent in favor. See also US News: 5 things to watch as governors meet in Washington.

Charter groups top unions in lobbying, campaign spending Capital New York: Charter school groups and their supporters spent $16 million on lobbying, campaign contributions to state-level candidates and parties and independent expenditure campaigns last year. Charter schools spent nearly $700,000 on lobbying. Education unions and labor-funded advocates spent $11.77 million, according to the analysis. See also North Country Now: State teachers' union to lead rally in Massena Saturday against Gov. Cuomo.

Tough slog ahead in Congress for No Child rewrite Seattle Times: Murray believes the federal government — which put up $61 billion, or 10 percent, of the cost of educating public elementary and secondary students in fiscal 2012 — has the right to demand accountability from local schools. The federal government, she said recently, “has an important and unique role to play” to ensure quality education, particularly for lower-achieving students. See also EdWeek: House Set to Pass NCLB Rewrite Next Friday.

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AM News: Strike Maneuvers In LA, Cold Day Closing In Chicago

Teachers union takes first legal step towards strike that could close Los Angeles Unified schools LA Daily News: After seven months and 18 rounds of cantankerous contract talks, Los Angeles Unified administrators and leaders of the district's 35,000-member teachers union finally found common ground Wednesday when United Teachers Los Angeles made its first legally required step toward a strike.

Chicago cancels classes Thursday due to extreme cold WBEZ: According to Chicago Public Schools, its classes are cancelled on Thursday, Feb. 19, due to a forecast that is predicting extreme cold temperatures and winds. See also Washington Post: Anatomy of a school closing: How Fairfax County officials make the call on snow days.

New York Compels 20 School Districts to Lower Barriers to Immigrants NYT: The districts, which were found to be illegally blocking enrollment of undocumented immigrant children, will stop requests to prove residency and train enrollment officials.

Oklahoma May Scrap AP History For Focusing On America's 'Bad Parts' NPR: In Oklahoma, state lawmakers are debating a bill that would axe the teaching of Advanced Placement courses in U.S. history. The reason? Some believe the classes focus too much on what is "bad about America." The bill, which passed easily through a committee this week, outlines what should and shouldn't be taught in the classroom. See also HuffPost.

Same diploma, different school? WBEZ: A WBEZ and Catalyst Chicago analysis of that expansion has found that the district is on a troubling path toward its goal to re-enroll dropouts as it turns to new, largely unproven, mostly online alternative schools to educate more students.

Washington State Panel Mulls Bill to Trim Vaccine Exemptions AP: House committee considers measure to remove 'personal belief' vaccine exemption in Washington.

9 reasons Finland's schools are so much better than America's Vox: Finland might be a popular example because, no matter your general beliefs on education policy, you can find something to back them up. The result turns into a policy wonk buffet — nearly everybody can a policy lesson to learn from Finland's success, or a factor that explains why it isn't replicable in the US. Even if some of those lessons directly contradict each other.

AM News: NJ Gov. Christie Joins Brigade Of Common Core Position-Changers

Christie goes from Common Core supporter to critic, blames Obama Washington Post: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is no longer the only GOP presidential hopeful to undergo an election season conversion from Common Core booster to critic.New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told conservative Republicans in Iowa — the site of the first 2016 GOP caucus about a year from now — that he has “grave concerns” about the Common Core, the K-12 academic standards in reading and math adopted by 43 states and D.C.  See also WNYC: 'Grave Concerns' with Common Core.

Garcia suggests teachers will strike again if Emanuel re-elected Chicago Tribune: Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said Feb. 17, 2015, that he expects teachers to strike again if Rahm Emanuel is re-elected. Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said Feb. 17, 2015, that he expects teachers to strike again if Rahm Emanuel is re-elected. See also NYT: Rahm Emanuel's Campaign Worries How He Will Fare With Black Voters

As education rises in mayoral politics, teachers organize Philly.com: National teachers' union president Randi Weingarten, who spent significant time in Philadelphia last fall, hailed PFT's "incredible political program." "Obviously, that hard work paid off big in the end," Weingarten said in a statement.

New Mexico lawmakers confirm Jeb Bush protégé as education secretary Washington Post: The New Mexico Senate voted Monday to confirm Jeb Bush protégé Hanna Skandera as the state’s secretary of public education, handing a defeat to Democrats and teacher unions in what had become a four-year political fight. See also EdWeek: Hanna Skandera Confirmed as New Mexico K-12 Chief After Four Years in Limbo.

Report Highlights Features of Districts' Differentiated-Pay Systems Teacher Beat: The 10 districts now tie teacher raises to performance measures; most offer better overall pay, too.

Sharp Rise in Occupational Therapy Cases at New York’s Schools NYT: Nearly 42,000 public school students have been referred to the treatments, designed to help with things like managing sensitivities to noise or improving fine motor skills.

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AM News: Common Core Testing Begins In Ohio (Also: Chicago Reconsiders Holdout)

New Computerized Tests Debut This Week, Starting in Ohio AP: Her state on Tuesday will be the first to administer one of two tests in English language arts and math based on the Common Core standards developed by two separate groups of states. By the end of the school year, about 12 million children in 29 states and the District of Columbia will take them, using computers or electronic tablets. See also: Statewide testing begins without proficiency mark SI&A Cabinet Report.

Chicago Schools Reconsider Snub of PARCC Test Tribune: Chicago Public Schools officials are reconsidering their snub of a new, mandatory state exam after being threatened with potentially crippling financial sanctions. See also: Education at Heart of Chicago Mayor's Race Politico.

White House pushes back against GOP on funds for poor school children Washington Post: “The White House is using scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform, because they know a new law will lead to less control in the hands ofWashington bureaucrats and more control in the hands of parents and education leaders.” See also Politics K12: Title I Portability Sticky Wicket in NCLB Rewrite.

Gov. Christie Flip-Flops on Common Core WNYC: Governor Christie previously supported common core but now says he has "grave doubts" about the standards. NJ Spotlight's John Mooney explains what this means for education in NJ. See also EdWeek: Jeb Bush's 2005 Emails Show Thinking on Standards

A federal judge just put the brakes on Obama’s immigration actions Vox: The ruling comes right before the administration was going to open up applications for immigrants older than 30 who came the US as children to apply for protection from deportation and work permits. It also affects a program that was supposed to open later this spring, for parents of US citizens and permanent residents.

Amid measles outbreak, few rules on teacher vaccinations AP: In Vermont, Democratic Rep. George Till says legislators will try this year to eliminate philosophical exemptions for students and require that teachers be up to date on the same vaccines students must receive. In Colorado, pro-vaccination groups have been pushing the Department of Human Services to require vaccinations for workers at child care facilities, another area with uneven employee immunization standards. 

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#EdGif Of The Day: The President's Day #SelfieStick Demonstration

Things Everybody Does But Doesn't Talk About, Featuring President Obama

What better way to celebrate President's Day than a Presidential demonstration of the #selfiestick (devices that have already been banned at several museums and soccer stadiums but not yet at any schools that I know of)? See more Obama gifs here - they're all part of a video he did for Buzzfeed on behalf of the Obamacare signup. See you tomorrow!

AM News: LA State Supe Threatens Common Core Districts With Zeroes

La. Supt.: Zeroes for Schools Avoiding 'Core' Tests The Advocate: Tackling a bubbling controversy, state Superintendent of Education John White said Thursday that state and federal rules require Louisiana to proceed with plans to give Common Core tests next month. Schools and districts are set to get zeroes for students who avoid the tests.

Spat highlights jockeying among Clinton campaign surrogates Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: "At the end of the day, when we have a candidate that we nominate, Democrats will be together," saidRandi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and a Priorities board member, adding that Brock had done "terrific work."

Funeral for Muslims Killed in Chapel Hill Draws Thousands NYT: “Please involve the F.B.I.,” Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, whose daughters and son-in-law were killed Tuesday in North Carolina, implored at a service. 

Nation’s high school graduation rate ticks up for second year in a row Washington Post: The nation’s high school graduation rate ticked up for the second year in a row, according to new federal data released Thursday showing that 81 percent of the Class of 2013 graduated within four years. See also PBS NewsHour, HuffPost, EdBeat.

Louder Than A Bomb 2015: The 15th Annual Chicago Youth Poetry Festival WBEZ: The largest youth poetry festival in the world, Louder Than A Bomb--Power To The Poets, celebrates its 15th anniversary of giving students a global platform from which to share their stories. 

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AM News: New Report Says Student Data Software Lacks Basic Security

Data Security Gaps in an Industry Student Privacy Pledge NYT: On the eve of a congressional hearing to explore the use of new technology in classrooms nationwide, a software engineer has found significant gaps in an industry effort to bolster student data security and privacy.

Schools Are Using Classroom Coaches To Keep Up With The Common Core EdSource via Huffington Post: A survey by EdSource of six California districts -- Garden Grove Unified, Santa Ana Unified, Whittier Union High School District, Visalia Unified, Oakland Unified and San Jose Unified -- showed that all are relying on coaches as they move forward to implement the Common Core.

Threat of mass testing opt-outs looms over schools SI&A Cabinet Report: Ongoing protest over Common Core testing has 14 Louisiana schools asking for penalty waivers which would keep the state from holding them accountable if parents decide to remove their children from teEdsting next month.

Texas, feds on collision course over No Child Left Behind Act Austin American-Statesman: Education Commissioner Michael Williams said on Wednesday that he will not enforce an educator evaluation system, which means the state could lose its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

Jackie Robinson West stripped of Little League title WBEZ: In a stunning Wednesday announcement that came months after the all-black team, whose ages ranged from 11 to 13 years, captured the attention of the country and the hearts of its hometown, the baseball organization said it also found that after the league had changed the boundaries, some team officials went to surrounding leagues to convince them to go along with what they'd done. See also Crain's: Karen Lewis rips JRW decision.

Graduation Rates Rise; Gap Between Black and White Males Grows, Report Says District Dossier: A report released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education called for more action to address the disparity in graduation rates, academic achievement, and other factors such as out-of-school suspensions in the nation's public schools.

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AM News: Broad Foundation Suspends Signature Award Program

Broad Foundation suspends $1-million prize for urban school districts LA Times: The action underscores the changing education landscape as well the evolving thinking and impatience of the 81-year-old philanthropist. See also NYT: Billionaire Suspends Prize Given to Schools.

GOP Lawmakers Talk Plans for NCLB Rewrite at School Choice Jamboree PK12: As it stands, the draft reauthorization introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in January includes a Title I portability provision that would allow parents to use federal dollars only for the public school of their choice, including public charter schools.

Rich School, Poor School NPR: With 169 years of experience between them in college advising or admissions, Finks, the school’s dean of college counseling, and his four associate deans and two support staff calmly dispense wisdom, manage expectations and offer practical training in such things as mock interviews for college aspirants.

Arne Duncan presses his case for innovation grants at D.C. school Washington Post: As Congress sets about rewriting the No Child Left Behind law, key Republican leaders have been clear that they want to give states much more latitude to spend federal education dollars as they see fit. To that end, leaders in both houses of Congress are seeking to do away with dozens of dedicated federal funding streams — including a signature Obama administration program called the Investing in Innovation. See also PK12.

Lawsuit seeks instruction intervention at 5 CA high schools EdSource Today: After winning a court order to improve academic conditions at one Los Angeles high school last fall, lawyers in a class action suit asked Thursday for an additional court order to compel the state to improve instruction time at five other California high schools in the 2015-16 school year.

Low vaccination rates at schools put students at risk USA Today: Hundreds of thousands of students attend schools — ranging from small, private academies in New York City to large public elementary schools outside Boston to Native American reservation schools in Idaho — where vaccination rates have dropped precipitously low, sometimes under 50%. California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia also were included in the analysis.

No profit left behind Politico: A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas.

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AM News: Testing Critics Flood Congressional Inboxes, Annoy Staffers

Anti-Testing Advocates Flood Congressional Staff Inboxes PK12: Did it work? Actually, it seemed to have made at least one aide pretty cranky. If you think a flood of 800-plus emails are enough to stop a government-supplied Blackberry in its tracks, you're right. "This is bullying," the aide said. "We're trying to be really thoughtful on a range of issues, including assessments, in a really short time frame. We're doing the absolute best we can. And this makes it even harder."

Uncovering Security Flaws in Digital Education Products for Schoolchildren NYT: The law has long treated educational information as a category worthy of special protections, like credit or medical records, but the reality is often different.

Democrats Seek to Hit Jeb Bush With Comparisons to Romney AP: Not yet a formal candidate, Jeb Bush taking hits from Democrats who compare him to Mitt Romney

How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science NYT: Early educational experiences have a quantifiable effect on the courses students choose later, a study shows.

Starr’s record a mixed bag: Data show improvement, but there were missteps Washington Post: The listening tour came first, extending through Joshua P. Starr’s early months as the newly hired superintendent of Maryland’s largest school system. He crisscrossed Montgomery County in 2011, hosting town halls, dropping in on schools, hearing about budget strains and curriculum worries and performance gaps.

Malia Obama, Rap Tastemaker, Might Attend College in New York City Jezebel: Malia Obama, known 90s rap enthusiast and Joey Badass fan, is looking at universities this week—and cool New Yorkers who work very hard at being cool and calm are losing their shit because she's undergraduate shopping in the Big Apple.

Mom charged with threatening to blow up daughter's school AP: Authorities say a mother got so angry when told that her daughter had failed a New York state exam that she threatened to bomb the school....

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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AM News: Schools, Parents Track Measles Outbreaks & Vaccination Levels

Five children at Chicago-area day care diagnosed with measles WBEZ: Public health officials say students, staff and faculty at the facility have been notified and anyone who hasn't been vaccinated for measles has been instructed to stay away from unvaccinated individuals for the next three weeks.

See also Texas Tribune: See Vaccine Exemptions by School District, AP: A Look at Some Vaccine-Related Legislation in Several States, HuffPost: These States Don't Require Vaccinations For Home-School Students, FiveThirtyEight: Much Of The World Is Better At Giving Their Kids Measles Vaccines Than The U.S., The Atlantic: Schools May Solve The Anti-Vaccine Parenting Deadlock.

House Democrats discuss updates to ‘No Child Left Behind’ law PBS NewsHour: They crowded into a small Capitol Hill hearing room Thursday for their own forum on changing the law in protest of Republicans’ handling of the issue. Votes on a GOP bill are anticipated soon. See also PK12: House Democrats Hold Their Own Session on Rewriting the NCLB Law.

U.S. Department of Education Remakes School Improvement Grant Program PK12: Under the regs, states that want to cook up their own turnaround interventions for low-performing schools using federal SIG dollars and submit them to the U.S. Secretary of Education for approval will need at least one rigorous study to back up their approach. 

Fewer Top Graduates Want to Join Teach for America NYT: The group has warned school districts and charter school chains that the size of its corps of teachers this fall could be down by as much as a quarter.

The Education of Jeb Bush National Journal: GOP presidential hopeful has question for post-industrial America: "Can we shed a skin and renew ourselves?"

LAUSD school board candidates face off in debate KPCC: In a debate Thursday night featuring candidates for the Los Angeles Unified's school board District 5 seat, differences emerged on issues such as charter schools, testing and the problem-plagued student data system known as MiSiS. See also LA School Report: AFT president Weingarten visits town to give LA teachers a boost.

More news below (and throughout the day at @alexanderrusso).

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