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It’s an idea that could revolutionize how schools are evaluated, and it has set off a fierce debate nationwide.

Schools currently are judged based on how each crop of third graders, for example, does against the previous group and how many students finish “proficient” in state tests.

That system can be terribly unfair. Wealthy schools almost always do better; their kids come to school better prepared than poorer students. That means a poor school that helps students improve significantly can come off looking a lot worse than a wealthy school that does little to help its kids.

But a new model has emerged that measures each student’s performance on their test scores each year, potentially opening a window into the individual impact of a school, and even teacher, on a student.

Emily Alpert goes in-depth to explain the model’s promise and its limitations, the teachers union’s stern opposition to using the numbers to grade teachers and how San Diego Unified schools are quietly using a gentler approach with the numbers to ease teacher worries.


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This story comes after the Los Angeles Times used this new method as the foundation for an explosive series that, among other things, included a database of individual teacher performance.

Other news:

• If you were one of those football fans who figured out how to avoid the blackout, congratulations. Let us know if you need legal representation. If you didn’t avoid it, you might be especially interested in Sam Hodgson’s vivid game-day photos.

• We’re following Raj Krishnan’s journey from student to CEO. Not only is he a complete character, he’s also an interesting guy with lofty goals: Cure cancer and start a company. In our second episode of Blood Work, we examine why he chose to start his own company rather than go to academia or with an established biotech. It’s a decision every budding researcher has to make.

“I could have tried to get a job, but I don’t think anyone would ever hire me,” he told us. “I don’t have the temperament for it. I need to be able to do my own thing.”

• Worries and rumors over the Copley family’s intentions have been a part of San Diego life for generations. That’s continued even after the family sold the local newspaper.

Copley Press owns a prime 25-acre chunk of undeveloped land in La Jolla and residents, who say they were told it would always be green space, are concerned that construction activity near the property is signaling that the land is being developed.

We looked into it and it turns out the land isn’t being developed — at least not yet. It is up for sale for $22 million, but all that construction activity is from a remodeling of the adjacent estate of the newspaper’s former publisher, David Copley.

• Arts editor Kelly Bennett is especially interested in moonlighters, those artists who grind it out with a day job but keep their passions stoked through some other project. She has her first look at one now, a police detective who’s also one heck of a crooner. Know any moonlighters yourself? Tell Kelly about them.

Elsewhere:

• The Los Angeles Times unleashed a big investigation into government-sponsored redevelopment in California and the results will sound familiar to San Diegans:

“The Times found widespread instances of corruption, questionable spending and poor accountability at such agencies, which take in $5 billion in property tax revenues each year. Under state law, the agencies are allowed to keep any increases in tax revenue in areas they improve.

“For years, the agencies operated largely unnoticed, with little state scrutiny. Now, California’s budget crisis is forcing them to make a case for their importance — and their considerable resources. They lost a big round in May, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature authorized shifting $2 billion from their coffers to schools.”

The second part of the series showed how hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent on affordable housing without constructing a single new unit, a theme that has popped up in San Diego redevelopment as well.

• Mayor Jerry Sanders promised a regular series of audits when asking San Diegans to pay increased water and sewer bills in 2007. But the Union-Tribune finds that those didn’t happen.

• Meanwhile, the North County Times wants to make it easier to follow the money. The paper has created a database of campaign finance filings so you can satisfy your inner Woodward (or Bernstein, depending on your personality).

• A strong presence in San Diego’s civic life is stepping down: Morris Casuto, the longtime local leader of the Anti-Defamation League, traces his journey from New York-born Fulbright scholar to civil rights crusader in San Diego. (NCT)

The newspaper also tracks down one of Casuto’s old nemeses, white supremacist Tom Metzger, the former Fallbrook man who is now running for Congress in Indiana.

• With the Padres losing out on the playoffs in the season’s final day, The New York Times takes a quick look at how hard it could be for the scrappy, low-budget underdogs to match this year’s magic.

This story includes a creative take on just how little the Padres spent on players this year: “The San Diego Padres began the season with the 29th-highest payroll in baseball, at just under $38 million — or about two-thirds of what the Yankees spent on the left side of their infield.”

Please contact Andrew Donohue at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

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