Some of the News Fit to Print
‘VALUE-ADDED’ CONCEPT PROVES BENEFICIAL TO TEACHER COLLEGES 
The use of “value added” information appears poised to expand into the nation’s teacher colleges, with more than a dozen states planning to use the technique to analyze how graduates of training programs fare in classrooms. Supporters say the data could help determine which teacher education pathways produce teachers who are at least as good as—or even better than—other novice teachers, spurring other providers to emulate their practices. The article is in Education Week.
FEDERAL ROLE IN K-12 AT HEART OF ESEA HEARING 
Anyone following the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would be able to guess at the big question hanging over a hearing on the House GOP bills to rewrite the law: What's the right role for the federal government in helping to improve K-12 education? The legislation, introduced last week by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, would squelch the federal role in education policy, leaving almost all major accountability decisions to states. The post is from Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.
NEW STATE EVALUATION FRAMEWORK LEAVES MUCH UP TO LOCAL DISTRICTS 
Teachers can expect unannounced observations to factor into their annual ratings under the terms of the evaluations agreement that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. The unannounced observations are one of several ways that the State Education Department and state teachers union, NYSUT, agreed to flesh out the state’s 2010 evaluation law, seen as so open-ended as to stymie implementation. The agreement, which Cuomo is set to turn into law through the state budget amendment process, resolves some major points of contention while continuing to leave many elements of districts’ evaluation system subject to local collective bargaining. Districts and their unions have until the end of 2012 to turn the framework into a local evaluation system, or risk losing state aid. The post is from the Gotham Schools blog.
SMARTER, BALANCED 
American students have been called the most tested and least examined of any in the world, writes Linda Darling-Hammond in an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee. This is especially true in California, where students take 35 tests before they take the SAT and AP exams. Darling-Hammond therefore applauds the state's joining the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium -- a group of 20 states creating new tests. Currently, most of California's tests are limited to multiple-choice rather than asking students to write well-defended responses, research and present information, solve complex problems, or use new technologies. The Smarter Balanced tests will be computer-assisted assessments that include more written responses from students, plus tasks that require engaging in research, solving complex problems, and using technology. The tests will be designed to measure student growth accurately and return results quickly to teachers, students, and parents. Districts will be able to support teaching with formative instructional lessons and interim assessments, which will be less costly and more aligned to the Common Core standards than most current products. California can replace up to 18 of its tests with fewer of these new assessments. Darling-Hammond recommends California reconsider its other 17 tests as well, especially those for science. This information is from the PEN NewsBlast.
ABOUT HIGHER ED
GROUPS TARGET TEXTBOOK PRICES TO REIN IN COLLEGE COSTS 
A push to create free or inexpensive textbooks is gaining momentum as educators, philanthropists and policymakers nationwide search for new ways to rein in college costs. Some schools are pushing for electronic textbooks as cheaper alternatives for students. The state of Washington last fall launched an electronic library of books for 42 popular community college courses that are free online and cost no more than $30 in print, and it is set to add books for 39 more courses this year. The president of California's senate last week proposed a similar library for 50 courses at California's public colleges. In a plan funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other non-profit groups, Rice University this month announced it will provide free online textbooks for five of the nation's most-attended college courses. Rice officials estimate students in the USA could save $90 million over the next five years. The article is in USA Today.