New York City Teacher Evaluation Talks Fail, School Discipline Crisis: Ed Tonight

Deal Or No Deal? This afternoon, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the union was calling it quits on negotiations with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg over teacher evaluations. Shockingly, each side blames the other. What does this mean? The city will lose oh, a couple hundred million dollars in state budget money. Bloomberg says, via Gothamschools, that it's "too soon to tell" whether the loss will necessitate teacher layoffs.

My question: WWAD? (Stands for: What Will Arne Do? Obviously.) I've left the folks at the U.S. Education Department that question and will update when I hear back. But long story short, the adaption of a teacher evaluation framework was among the terms of the state's Race to the Top grant. U.S. Ed Sec. Arne Duncan has promised to be merciless in holding states accountable for their deadlines; already, Maryland and Hawaii have gotten warning letters. I think the trouble here is that, on the one hand, if Duncan does nothing, his threats will look empty, and he could risk losing political clout among state and local school districts. On the other hand, policies like teacher evaluations end up suffering when they're rush jobs, as we saw in states like Tennessee. That tension between politics and policy over Race to the Top implementation must be hard to negotiate.

The Discipline Crisis? A new report out today from the Advancement Project exposes what advocates are calling a massive school discipline crisis, in which minor infractions lead to punishments such as arrests, suspensions, and expulsions. As we reported, one such incident involves a 12-year-old who got involved in a shoving match, only to find himself handcuffed minutes later. His grandfather still doesn't know who called the cops, or why they were called in the first place.

But the bigger picture is this: Yesterday, the White House unveiled a historic effort to curb gun violence. That push includes funding to create 1,000 more counselors or school cops ("school resource officers"), at school districts' discretion. Members of the civil rights community are pushing back, since experts on school violence have found that school cops are largely ineffective, and, when not properly trained, can actually harm school climate. And, of course, they've reportedly contributed to the disproportionate suspensions and arrests of minority students. So there's a tension between civil rights and school safety as districts start to arm up in the wake of tragedies like the Newtown shooting.

Based on a conversation we had earlier today, I think Duncan is sensitive to that tension, and wants to make sure the training is done right. As CEO of Chicago Public Schools, he faced the tension of disproportionate school discipline with the need for safer schools firsthand. "There's no reason why additional school resources have to drive up the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline," Duncan tells us. "Execution is really important."

Is Your School Closing? Today, D.C. schools chancellor Kaya Henderson released a list of schools she will seek to close. Check it out here, thanks to the Washington Post. Full story here. "Ultimately, we're paying too much and offering too little," Henderson said. "There are too many schools, and too many small schools, to allow our students to get the full benefit of the resources that we have." We'll have more to say about this soon.

Trigger Happy? As you might have heard, a group of parents is trying to trigger the takeover of a Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. Click on over to Alexander Russo's blog to read about how this may play out differently from trigger wars past. For one, John Deasy, the superintendent, will likely be more receptive of the idea of a trigger than the Adelanto school board was. Which is to say: Won't Back Down might not be the best case study for these parents. (Or, actually, for anyone at all, but that's a whole 'nother story...)

What's Up Below The Border? Mexico yesterday passed a sweeping set of education reforms. Reports the AP: "The law, which is backed by Pena Nieto and was approved by Congress in December, calls for creation of a professional system for hiring, evaluating and promoting teachers without the discretionary criteria currently used in a system where teaching positions are often bought or inherited." It also notes that the country's equivalent of a teachers' union is definitely losing out here, though it sounds like the Union of Education Workers is a liiiiittle bit different from the NEA or the AFT: "Under the old law, she hires and fires teachers, and she [the union chief] has been accused of using union funds as her personal pocket book," AP writes.

**Extra Credit**
Meet your inaugural high school marching band! Students from Washington, D.C.'s Ballou High School will serenade Obama as he gets sworn in once again.

Take that, cool kids. Score one for the band.