POLITICO. June 5, 2014.
BIG BROTHER, MEET THE PARENTS: The parental privacy lobby is gaining momentum and catching big data advocates off guard. The movement is raking in support from the left and right, from the ACLU to ALEC. They’ve already won a major battle: The dissolution of the $100 million Gates-funded student database inBloom just 15 months after its launch. Now they’re gearing up for a much bigger brawl: The tearing down of huge state databases that could track children for more than two decades. Nearly every state is working on a longitudinal database, totaling well over $1 billion. They’ll store intimate details on tens of millions of children and young adults — name, birth date, address and even, in some cases, Social Security number — all with the goal of helping officials pinpoint the education system’s strengths and weaknesses and craft public policy accordingly. Stephanie Simon has the story, part of a POLITICO series examining the unchecked expansion of private-sector data collection and the implications for consumer privacy: http://politi.co/SbtD1e.
NEW MEXICO STANDING FIRM ON NEW TEACHER EVALS: Shifting to a new system of evaluating New Mexico teachers this school year has been painful at times, but state chief Hanna Skandera told Morning Education she wouldn’t consider going back to the entirely subjective system of the past. This school year marks the first that all teachers were rated on more than just an administrator’s observation of them in action. The result: The percentage of teachers rated effective statewide dropped sharply, from 99.8 percent to 75 percent (including those rated better than effective). TV news crews caught some teachers burning their score cards in protest: http://bit.ly/1jRM1CN.
— “Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not,” Skandera said. “Is it a huge step forward? Absolutely.” She points out that unlike the approach some other places have taken, consequences aren’t attached to evaluation results, though districts must develop professional growth plans for teachers rated subpar, and it would make sense to ultimately let go those who don’t improve. And in a departure from the past, within 10 days of an observation, principals must provide teachers with feedback they can act on. Student achievement is just one part of the new evaluations (a big part: 50 percent), which also combine observing teachers and metrics districts choose choose on their own, like teacher attendance or student or parent surveys. Teachers are credited for moving students regardless of how far behind they are — a fifth grade teacher would be considered effective if a student in her class working on a second-grade level at the start of the year was on a third-grade level at the end. Kindergarten and first grade teachers’ evaluations [http://bit.ly/1kyR3sM] don’t involve test scores — unlike revamped evaluations in some other places. And evaluations for counselors and other school employees who aren’t responsible for a specific group of students are still in the works.
— Skandera notes that while the new system, NMTeach [http://bit.ly/TeYye4], rated more teachers less-than-effective than the old, it also rated far more teachers exemplary — the best rating — than just observing teachers, and the state has budgeted money to reward its most effective teachers. She said the state will work on even more ways to explain the new system to teachers — there are already weekly emails and Skandera has spoken to individual teachers and large groups.
NEW MEXICO CONTRACTS UNDER SCRUTINY: Speaking of the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico’s education officials are already on the defensive over a lucrative contract they awarded Pearson to develop and administer Common Core tests for the PARCC consortium. A rival testing company accused the state of rigging the bid; the state purchasing agent is reviewing that claim. Now, new allegations of impropriety in the education department’s contracting division have surfaced. At issue: A contract signed last summer between the state and tutoring company AfterMath Education, Inc. Hilary Noskin, then the top lawyer for the Public Education Department, approved the contract — even though she founded AfterMath, remains the majority shareholder and has loaned the company money, using her property as collateral.
— In a letter reviewed by Morning Education, Noskin told state officials investigating the potential conflict of interest that she made an “inadvertent error” in signing the contract. “I did not mean to do this whatsoever,” she wrote. Noskin added that she has never received any compensation from AfterMath. She did not include her affiliation with the company on her financial disclosure forms, though she said she told department officials about it when she was hired and put her shares in a blind trust. Noskin, who is no longer with the department of education, also urged officials looking into the matter to recognize that AfterMath is “having amazing public benefit” by helping students. The Santa Fe Reporter has more of the story:http://bit.ly/TdC0ul
— Skandera told Morning Education she couldn’t discuss the PARCC contract much. (She was in D.C. for a PARCC governing board meeting.) “I’m very confident that New Mexico has administered this procurement in all the ways one would expect,” she said.
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WIOA, EXPLAINED — PART 2: The 800+ page jobs bill [http://1.usa.gov/1nMvhVJ] unveiled by a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers last week, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, would rewrite workforce education in the U.S. for the first time in 16 years. In several installments, we’re explaining what the bill would do and why.
— Today: WIOA and displaced youth. The Workforce Investment Act helps fund apprenticeships, jobs training, mentorships and other activities that help train young people for the workforce. Advocates were relieved that WIOA’s youth provisions, YouthBuild and Job Corps, made it into the bill. Both offer combined academic and skills training to high school dropouts and other low-income, out-of-school youth.
— The bill would also reserve 75 percent of the funds set aside for activities for out-of-school youth. Currently, there’s a maximum of 40 percent. And out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24 are eligible for services, whereas in-school youth are only eligible up to age 21.
— Meeting income eligibility requirements for youth programs would be easier, too, for all young people. Those who qualify for free or reduced price lunch or live in high-poverty areas would qualify as low-income under the bill, which currently isn’t the case. Right now, documentation required to qualify for services is lengthy, and can create a barrier for students applying, according to Mala Thakur, executive director of the National Youth Employment Coalition.
IT’S OFFICIAL: South Carolina is dropping the Common Core after Gov. Nikki Haley signed state legislation on May 30 (more on that here http://politico.pro/1pGyiXo). The bill would require the state to review the Common Core before Jan. 1, 2015, and implement a new set of standards by the 2015-16 school year. South Carolina dropping the standards isn’t so bad, said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute. The state is keeping them for now and may end up tweaking them while developing new standards. Missouri is in a similar situation. But in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin has until Saturday to act on a bill that would immediately repeal of the Common Core, which is much worse, he said.
— Nevertheless, Petrilli said Common Core supporters shouldn’t worry. “After two straight years of vitriol and bombast, well north of 40 states are moving forward with the Common Core,” he said. “Meanwhile, with very few exceptions, politicians who support the Common Core are winning their primaries handily. The anti-Common Core movement is all bark and no bite.”
HILLARY’S HURDLE: OBAMA’S EDUCATION LEGACY: The Democratic party’s education platform could look very different if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton becomes president. Conor P. Williams at the New America Foundation writes that Clinton might have to mold her views on education to the current political environment, backing away from President Barack Obama’s often controversial reforms. But one area where spectators can bank on Clinton’s support: Pre-K. “Clinton is almost certain to pull back from the Obama Administration’s education legacy and tout her longstanding — and growing — credentials on early childhood education,” Williams writes. The piece, featured in the New Republic: http://bit.ly/1pQ96Lo
TODAY: WHITE HOUSE TALK ON STUDENT LOANS: Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, a long-time English professor and wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will host a discussion on college loans and affordability with economists, students and student advocates in the White House Roosevelt Room at 11 a.m. Eastern.
— A New York state senator introduced legislation aimed at cutting ties with Pearson. The Journal News: http://lohud.us/1p7PdzH
— Indiana will need a new statewide standardized test if it wants to keep its NCLB waiver. The Indianapolis Star: http://indy.st/UcWEeR
— Beyond a college ratings plan, higher education groups are divided over federal accountability. Inside Higher Ed: http://bit.ly/1kDZNhB
— Siemens donates billions in software to seven Virginia colleges. The Richmond Times-Dispatch: http://bit.ly/1l4WD66
— The University of California and teaching assistants agree on contract, averting a strike during exams. Los Angeles Times: http://lat.ms/1ukOhKD
— Colorado’s Supreme Court hears both sides in a pension fight involving thousands of retired teachers. Chalkbeat Colorado: http://bit.ly/1owd0bn
— The Common Core repeal moves education to front of Senate race in North Carolina. Charlotte Observer: http://bit.ly/TfweYY
— The principal of Wilson High in D.C. comes out as gay at school’s Pride Day. The Washington Post: http://wapo.st/1pSzrIO
— A Philadelphia special education teacher is accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her students. The Philadelphia Inquirer: http://bit.ly/Tgz7J1