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This week's news roundup: Parent trigger, new evaluation plans and the search for excellent teaching

Extra, extra!

Every week, our team compiles a roundup of the most important, interesting and insightful edu-news from around New York. Read our latest roundup below. If you'd like to receive these updates via email, sign up for them here!

1. New York has a “parent trigger”-like law that mostly sits fallow
Geoff Decker, GothamSchools, September 19, 2012

Across the country, the right of parents to decide who controls their schools is getting a closer look with "Won't Back Down," a Hollywood drama based on the true story of a struggling California school that parents tried to turn into a charter school using a “parent trigger” law.

In the last year, at least 20 states have considered some version of the “parent trigger,” a controversial policy that would give parents the power to vote in significant changes at their children’s school. Advocates of the policy say it empowers parents, but critics say that it allows private corporations to manipulate parents into handing over control of public schools.

Here in New York, a version of the law has been on the books for more than a decade.

2. From failing to Blue Ribbon School: Bronx Charter School for Excellence takes home national award
Corinne Lestch, The New York Daily News, September 20, 2012

The Bronx Charter School for Excellence won the distinction of being one of three charter schools in the state to win a National Blue Ribbon Schools Award from the U.S. Department of Education.

BCSE won in the category, “Exemplary High Performing Schools” as opposed to “Exemplary Improving Schools,” though 40% of its students are “disadvantaged,” according to the DOE’s site. Nearly 80% of the students at the Parchester school are eligible for free or reduced lunch.



3. UAlbany unveils plan to Cuomo
Scott Waldman, The Times Union, September 20, 2012




The state University at Albany has proposed a $165 million Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex, an enrollment growth of 1,350 within five years and the addition of 800 new jobs.

On Thursday morning, school officials made their long-delayed pitch as part of the NYSUNY 2020 challenge grant program. The decision to grant the school $35 million now rests with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who heard the presentation at the Capital.





4. With strike over, Chicago faces another test
Stephanie Banchero and Caroline Porter, The Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2012




The fight over teacher evaluations that was at the center of this city's seven-day strike mirrors a dynamic playing out nationwide, as school districts struggle to fulfill promises—and legislative mandates—to overhaul decades-old rating systems.

In many districts, like Chicago, the details of newly proposed rating systems must be hashed out between district and union officials. Nowhere else have negotiations broken down to the point of a teacher walkout, but there have been bickering, delays and—some complain—weakening of policies during collective bargaining.

The debates are occurring in more than 30 states, which in the past few years have agreed to link teacher evaluations to student achievement—in most cases based on standardized-test scores. The trend is mainly a result of President Barack Obama's Race to the Top initiative, which has offered $4.35 billion in additional funding to states making that and other policy changes.




5. Black male H.S. graduation rates lag behind whites
Suzanne Gamboa, The Associated Press, September 19, 2012


More than half the young black men who graduated high school in 2010 earned their diploma in four years, an improved graduation rate that still lagged behind that of their white counterparts, according to an education group's report released Wednesday.





6. Young, gifted and neglected
Chester E. Finn, Jr., The New York Times, September 18, 2012


Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both attended elite private high schools. Both are undeniably smart and well educated and owe much of their success to the strong foundation laid by excellent schools.

Every motivated, high-potential young American deserves a similar opportunity. But the majority of very smart kids lack the wherewithal to enroll in rigorous private schools. They depend on public education to prepare them for life. Yet that system is failing to create enough opportunities for hundreds of thousands of these high-potential girls and boys.


7. Teacher evaluations: Of 54 local districts, only 9 have state OK on new systems
Gary Stern, The Journal News, September 17, 2012

With the school year hardly under way, many school districts are already scrambling to keep up with the requirements of the state’s new teacher evaluation system, which requires all teachers to get a score and rating come next summer.

The state Education Department has approved evaluation plans for only 80 school districts out of the more than 700 in New York. About 400 districts have not yet submitted plans, which are subject to collective bargaining with unions. In Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, only nine of 54 districts have had their plans approved.




8.  In search of excellent teaching
Editorial, The New York Times, September 14, 2012


The Chicago teachers’ strike was prompted in part by a fierce disagreement over how much student test scores will weigh in a new teacher evaluation system mandated by state law. That teachers’ unions in much of the country now agree that student achievement should count in evaluations at all reflects a major change from the past, when it was often argued that teaching was an “art” that could not be rigorously evaluated or, even more outrageously, that teachers should not be held accountable for student progress.



9. City schools chief wants community support
Bolgen Vargas, The Democrat and Chronicle, September 15, 2012


The first day reinforced my belief that if we give all our students and teachers the time and support needed for teaching and learning, then we will be able to change the educational trajectory of the school district, which has had significant challenges in student achievement.

One of our key approaches as we open the school year is to give our students more time and more support in school to mitigate the challenges they face in their daily lives. We need help from parents, guardians and the entire community. I am asking parents to make sure their children attend school daily, put effort in school and at home, and set high expectations for both the child and the school district.



10. Buffalo's school spending is nation's third highest
Mary Pasciak, The Buffalo News, September 14, 2012

The Buffalo Public Schools' per-student spending is the third highest among large districts in the United States, according to a recent study by the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester.

The district spent $26,903 per student in 2010, according to the study.

Two other districts in the state also ranked among the 10 districts spending the most. New York City ranked fourth, at $24,780 per student; Rochester ranked seventh, at $20,984 per student.