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Newswire: November 1, 2011

Vol. 13, No. 42

WE’RE WITH DA MAYOR. Chicago Tribune adopts Mayor Rahm-style battle against absurdity of city’s teacher union, which is beside itself with the Mayor’s sledge hammer approach to extend the day by a whopping 1 ½ hours. Union leaders cried to the labor relations board, claiming “irreparable harm” if school day is extended. “No, we are not joking,” writes the paper. The labor relations board agreed and now wants Attorney General Lisa Madigan (that’s the House Speaker’s daughter) to seek a court injunction to “stop more Chicago schools from – gawd, the injustice! – giving children more time to learn.” That’s what the Trib writes and we couldn’t have said it better. A shout out to the Tribune editors who won’t stand for union fiddle playing while city schools burn in failing mediocrity.

UNSTOPPABLE. The National Council on Teacher Quality just released a study that shows states are well on their way to developing teacher evaluation systems. Mikhail Zinshteyn, from the American Independent, discovered during a press call with Sandi Jacobs, vice president of NCTQ, that 32 states and D.C. have made changes to their teacher evaluation policy since 2008. Jacobs noted during the conversation that improved teacher oversight is “taking big leaps forward even if there are some unanswered questions.” She also mentioned that while Race to the Top funds spurred state teacher evaluation activity, states continued on that path even when the money ran out. NCTQ supports multiple measures to evaluate teachers, but “touts” value-added methods even if this is not yet a perfect measurement. In the press call, Jacobs also praised schools that assess teachers multiple times throughout the year, highlighting D.C.’s Impact program in which teachers are evaluated 5 times during the year. What all this really means is that most states, and hopefully more, are trying to turn teaching into a profession with real consequences – both good and bad – based on on-the-job performance.

NOWHERE HAS AMERICA MADE EXCELLENT PROGRESS. That’s what NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) should stand for. Year after year the nation flatlines or drops in various areas and subgroups, with, we’re told, in some cases an increase of statistical significance. Not exactly a ray of hope in this data, even though the NAEP folks tried to find some sunshine in the numbers. Even with a one percentage increase, our kids do not do well when compared to their counterparts in other developed countries, and that’s the job market of today, not tomorrow. “Our nation’s students can’t afford for us to sit idly by while another year passes with relatively no improvements. The Nation’s Report Card demonstrates the status quo does not work,” said Jeanne Allen in a press release. We also need to wake up to the fact that boys continue to sink, especially black young men in 8th grade of whom nearly half, that’s 49%, meet proficiency in math. It is an outrage that many inner-city charter schools with documented success – Success Academy, Harlem Children’s Zone, KIPP, and others –meet barricades of resistance from those more interested in protecting the status quo than improving the education and economic status of these young men. . . and women. So, check out the NAEP report. Then, go out and do something to increase choice for all families to truly change the American education system so all children – boys, girls, rich, poor, black, white – can compete at an international level.

STATESIDE. Shout out to our good folks in Mississippi and Kentucky, both with upcoming gubernatorial races. Mississippi GOP candidate Phil Bryant is anticipated to win, but his support for choice is unclear. Right now, the state has the worst charter law in the nation and it comes as no surprise that it also doesn’t have any charter schools at the moment. Calling on you to make sure Bryant, if he is the victor, takes a positive stand on choice.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has a three-way race among the NEA’s candidate, incumbent Steven Beshear, GOP candidate David Williams, who says he supports charters and performance pay, and Independent Gatewood Galbraith, whose opinion is not known on these issues. It’s important to flush out specifically how Williams and Galbraith stand on matters of school choice.