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Newswire: February 21, 2012

ED REFORM LITERACY: What do fans of more school choice, more accountability, standards or virtual learning have in common? They are all working toward more educated students, right? But what if the shared goal were more educated people – period? Our nation not only faces a general education crisis, but a literacy calamity throughout its adult population. The new leadership of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy believes we must connect the dots throughout reform to ensure that parents are equipped to be educational leaders for their children. “Parents are a child’s first teacher,” said Jeb Bush repeatedly throughout the 12th-annual celebration of reading this past Friday. Bush and his sister Doro Bush Koch are the new co-chairs of their mom’s 22-year-old effort to eradicate illiteracy from the adult population. We salute their efforts and pledge to help them connect the dots with the greater reform movement going forward. Volunteer USA now manages the Foundation’s efforts. Go to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy for more information.

YOU’RE FIRED. Saying those words is a lot easier for malfeasance in the corporate world than it is in the schoolhouse. In Queens, New York, a 5th-grade teacher asked her students to make holiday cards for soldiers and homeless people, and many children included their home address. Instead, the teacher handed them to a friend who is a convict in prison. The teacher was removed from her job…but re-located to an administrative position. CNN asked Jeanne Allen about this atrocity. Allen deftly pointed out the desperate need for teacher evaluations with teeth plus the ability to immediately fire teachers who make such egregious errors that play with the lives of young children. She did, though, applaud the efforts of New York’s Governor Cuomo on fighting the battle to bring effective evaluations to the state.

SPEAKING OF CUOMO. New York scratched and clawed its way to a teacher evaluation process, thanks in large part to the fortitude of the Governor. State leaders reached a settlement with the teachers union over a union lawsuit on how student testing would be used to measure teacher performance. The end results: at least 20% of a teacher’s overall rating would be based on student progress on a state exam. Another 20% would use test scores, but measured by a union-approved method. Classroom observations and other criteria would account for 60% of the teacher’s score. In New York City, the union and city leaders agreed on a process to appeal a low teacher rating. Bottom line: Teachers rated “ineffective” would be able to appeal to a third-party “validator,” chosen by the state Department of Education, for a second opinion. Collective “whew” heard from New York, but there’s still a lot of work ahead to ensure top teachers in every classroom.

SPEAK UP IN MAINE. Hearings are scheduled throughout Maine to give the public an opportunity to say what they want in a charter school. While the state certainly should be commended for joining the charter flock, its law is far too limited to make choice an easy option for parents. Look here for the schedule of meetings, attend and make your voice heard for unlimited charters. Specifics you can argue for include: multiple and independent authorizers, no limits on enrollment and facilities funding.

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO PROTEST: Chicago Public Schools’ insistence to close poor-performing schools certainly has ruffled feathers in the city. Protestors, including the teacher union, began a march from one of the schools scheduled to close and ended up at Mayor Emanuel’s North Side home. Their alleged, and weak, argument is that the Mayor did not visit the school nor talk to parents before scheduling it to close. CPS officials handed out a statement at the rally saying the union staged the event to protect itself and the status quo. No surprise there.