Ed News, Friday, December 19, 2014, Edition


 “What we want to see is the child in pursuit of the knowledge
not the knowledge in pursuit of the child.”
George Bernard Shaw
A commentary in the Monterey Herald is strongly in favor of educational accountability.  However, the author, a veteran elementary teacher in California, thinks the way it’s being pushed is upside down. “Accountability needs to be placed on the shoulders of those who created the education programs foisted on the education system,” he demands.  “It is the programs which ultimately have the greatest impact. It is not just or even hardly ever the soldiers themselves fighting street-to-street, city-to-city, state-to-state, who win or lose wars. It is the plan. The education plans need to be evaluated and field-tested before they are implemented.”
Is there a push to get climate-change denial into classroom textbooks?  That’s the gist of an investigative story from The Atlantic.  It focuses on a battle over new books in Texas and how the lines are being drawn over the issue.
Walt Gardner’s “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK wonders if it’s fair to expect low-income students to be able to compete with their middle-class counterparts.  “Poverty is not destiny,” he eloquently concludes.  “But it affects learning. That’s not an excuse any more than gravity is an excuse for why objects fall to the floor.”
A 10-year-old 4th grader in Montclair, New Jersey, tells her local school board why she thinks the new PARCC assessment “stinks.”  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post  describes the little girl’s presentation before the committee.  It includes a transcript of her remarks and several links to the video (3:19 minutes) of her speech.  This one is well worth your time if you’d like a student’s perspective on the new standardized tests.
Julian Vasquez Heilig comments on the growing backlash against Teach for America on his Cloaking Inequity blog.  It includes 2 segments he appeared in for Al Jazeera America about TFA.  You can view both part 1 (4:39 minutes) and part 2 (4:20 minutes) by clicking here.                 Not everyone is critical of TFAEDUCATION WEEK offers a forum to Howard Fuller, a professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee and a member of a regional board of directors for TFA.  He titles his piece “The Anti-TFA Protests Are Misguided.”
Are their better ways to evaluate teachers than using questionable value-added models (VAMs)?  According to recent findings from two University of Pennsylvania researchers, working for the Consortium on Chicago School Research, rigorous classroom observations yield much more accurate results and contribute to improved student performance.  This latest information can be found in an article on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.
A new report from Bellwhether Education, highlighted in EDUCATION WEEK, suggests more accountability over charter schools in Ohio.  You can review 4 of the proposals from the report in the Ed Week article.  It includes a link to the full study (62 pages) titled “The Road to Redemption–Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter School Sector.”
School districts and the State of California are increasing efforts to assist English Language Learners to more quickly become more fluent in English.  A new state law requires California to “define and identify ‘long-term English learners.'”  “In its inaugural data released Wednesday,” the article from yesterday’s L.A. Times reports, “the state has identified nearly 350,000 students in grades six through 12 who have attended California schools for seven years or more and are still not fluent in English.  They make up three-fourths of all secondary school students still learning English.  Among them, nearly 90,000 are classified as long-term English learners because they also have failed to progress on the state’s English proficiency exam for two consecutive years and score below grade level in English standardized tests.”  The story goes on to describe an exemplary program being used at Parkview Elementary School in El Monte (Mountain View Elementary School District).
The New York State Board of Regents delayed the renewal of a number of New York City charter schools despite recommendations that they approve the requests from the city’s Department of Education.   Details about the surprising action can be found on the Chalkbeat New York website.  “The renewals are typically considered rubber-stamp votes by the time they make it to the Regents agenda,” it explains.  “This time, state officials said they wouldn’t approve the extensions until representatives from the city’s charter-school office came to Albany and explained their reasoning.”
The so-called education “reformers” have based their philosophy on a number of tenets: school choice, common standards and assessments and value-added models (VAMs) to evaluate teachers among others.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, believes that many of those “pillars of reform” are “collapsing.”  He provides a point-by-point run-down of why he thinks they are.  “There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs,” he submits.  “The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling.  Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?”  Be sure to check out the very evocative picture he includes at the head of his piece.
Mercy College’s teacher preparation program in New York received a very poor accreditation review in 2006.  [Ed. note: Oxy people, does this sound familiar?]  State officials contemplated pulling the plug on the program but chose, instead, to give it a reprieve contingent on the department implementing some important fixes.  Now the program appears “to be flourishing, with the education school having received national accreditation this year.”  The tale of what happened at Mercy College and how the program has been successfully resurrected contains many lessons for others in similar situations.  EDUCATION WEEK recounts the details.
Yesterday’s L.A. Times included 3 letters commenting on the Sandy Banks column from Tuesday’s paper in which she lauded the LAUSD for including an ethnic studies course as a new graduation requirement.
Are there any alternatives to the test-based accountability system?  As Diane Ravitch describes what’s happening now: “Test-based accountability fails because it is based on a lack of trust in professionals.  It fails because it confuses measurement with instruction.  No doctor ever said to a sick patient, ‘Go home, take your temperature hourly, and call me in a month.’  Measurement is not a treatment or a cure.  It is measurement.  It doesn’t close gaps: it measures them.”  So where are we now?  A group of 16 veteran teachers with 275 years of experience between them offers 6 concrete alternatives to the current accountability system on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  
Many experts decry the misuse or overuse of handheld devices by adults and teenagers.  However, a pediatric occupational therapist offers “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.”  Her list includes the latest research and comments about each one.  It appears courtesy of the Huffington Post. 
EDUCATION WEEK’S “College Bound” column features a new study that finds about 50% of high school graduates do NOT feel adequately prepared for college or work.  The poll questioned 1,347 students nationwide who graduated from the classes of 2011-14.  The article includes 5 suggestions gleaned from the report that high schools can implement to better prepare their graduates.  It includes a link to the full survey (27 pages) titled “Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared For College and Work?”
An ambitious group of South L.A. parents who were concerned about sending their middle-schoolers to underperforming Jefferson High decided to form their own school.  Working with the LAUSD they helped create the Nava College Preparatory Academy which opened its doors this school year to an initial group of 280 9th graders.  It plans to add an additional grade each year until it ultimately serves around 1,100 students in grades 9-12 by 2017.  A piece in yesterday’s L.A. Times explains how the campus got off the ground, how things are going today and plans for the future.
Ever heard of the “kinesthetic classroom?” Chalkbeat Colorado has the interesting details.   “The term may be a mouthful,” it explains, “but it’s really just another way of saying that the room would feature desks and tables with built-in bicycles, elliptical machines and other exercise equipment. The idea, which has been piloted at a handful of schools around the country, draws on neuroscience research showing how exercise facilitates learning and memory.”  Not exactly sure what something like that would look like?  Check out the picture that heads the article.  Here’s another example:

TIME magazine has its much anticipated “Person of the Year” cover story.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK blog, has selected his “Education’s Newsmaker of the Year.”  Envelope please.  And the winner is . . . . “Charter School Scandals!”  (Wild applause).  No! Wait!  That’s nothing to applaud.  That’s terrible news but he goes on to enumerate the myriad problems that were uncovered this year regarding charter schools.  Bryant writes: “In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams.”  Are they really a viable alternative to public schools?  Read his piece and decide.
And finally, the author of this item in EDUCATION WEEK is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught English Language Arts for 20 years at Revere High School in Massachusetts.  She takes time out from her very busy schedule to identify 12 unsung “Everyday Teacher Heroes.”  “People don’t know the challenges teachers face each day,” she writes.  “People don’t know the enormous amount of work it takes to be an effective teacher. And people don’t know the sacrifices teachers make to do that work.  Teachers often go far out of their way to help their students achieve and succeed in the world. These efforts can make all the difference to a child.”  Many of you probably know colleagues who should be included on her list.  Some of you should be on it, too!
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.



Ed News, Tuesday, December 16, 2014 Edition


Sundown today marked the beginning of the 8-day Jewish celebration of Chanukah.

Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every
teacher can make him learn.  
A University of Georgia professor has been writing a series of profiles for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled “Great Georgia Teachers.”  In this latest installment he describes a first-grade teacher at a campus in Savannah.  The author of the article describes a lesson on bees that is presented.
Paul Thomas of Furman University delivered a talk at the fall conference of the National Council of Urban Education Associations titled “Thirty Years of Education Accountability Deserves an F: Education Accountability as Disaster Bureaucracy.”  He reprints his remarks on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog and includes a link to the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied his remarks.  He traces the whole “accountability movement” to the publication of A Nation At Risk during the Reagan administration.
Margaret Raymond, the founding director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which is part of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, roiled the education reform movement last week when she stated that market-based reforms don’t “seem to work in a choice environment for education.  I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career, she continued.  “That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work.”  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, analyzed Raymond’s remarks and includes a link to the speech, before the City Club of Cleveland, in which she made them.
Did Chicago school officials alter test data to make it appear that charters in that city did better than their public school counterparts?  That’s the focus of an investigative piece by the author on his own TROY LARAVIERE’S BLOG.  “All things between public schools and charter schools . . . . are not equal,” he points out.  “Despite having such a massively deceptive technical advantage, the [test] results demonstrated conclusively that charter school students learned far less than students in public schools, especially in reading.”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacted rather poorly to the funny business taking place in Chicago.
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending along a commentary from the UNITED OPT OUT website titled “How Standardized Testing Harms Urban Communities.”  It urges not only suburban parents to opt their children out of state assessments but presents some powerful arguments why parents of color ought to do the same.  “While it may indeed be far easier for parents in White suburban enclaves to refuse the tests with minimal impact to their schools,” the author contends,” it’s all the more necessary for communities of color to refuse the tests in spite of the threats of punishment to their schools because it’s precisely these same communities that are under the greatest attack by standardized testing.”
The New York Times “Room for Debate” feature invited several experts to argue the question “Are Charter School Cherry-Picking Students?”  You can read each participant’s response by clicking here.   “Many charter schools have embraced strict disciplinary measures,” it notes, by way of introduction, “that lead to much higher rates of suspensions and expulsions than traditional public schools.  Critics say this lets charter schools siphon off the best students and, in the process, inflate their test scores.  What does this trend mean for students and public education?”               Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog, slammed one debate participant, Michael Petrilli, who is an education “reformer” and pro-charter for admitting that those schools do selectively pick students.               Larry Lawrence sent along another article, this one from Peter Greene’s CURMUDGUCATION blog that also took Petrilli to task and blasted charters for breaking “the American Promise.”  “The whole point of school choice is so that select parents can get their children away from Those People.  You know Those People,” Greene submits.  “Those Children are unruly, poorly behaved, badly dressed, generally uncouth. They make for a poor school atmosphere. They won’t pull up their pants, or get off our lawn. They set a Very Poor  Example for the other children,” he continues.  “If we could just get our own exemplary children away from Those People, life would be so much better. Well, at least it would be so much better for us.”
What will be some of the key education issues facing governors and state legislators as the new year commences?  That’s the focus of a story in EDUCATION WEEK which details testing, Common Core, school finance and charters among other agenda items to be dealt with.
How good a job do the SAT, ACT and standards-based tests do at predicting success in college?  Peter Goodman, writing on his Ed In The Apple blog says not very well.  What does he suggest people look at instead?  Why none other than a student’s GPA!  “Unfortunately we are using the wrong tools to measure the wrong outcomes,” he explains.  “We base a range of decisions on a test, a few hours of bubbling in answers and writing an essay; however the SAT and the ACT, which also use bubble sheets and essays, are poor predictors of college success. The best predictor is standing in class as measured by the student’s GPA. It should not be surprising; the GPA is determined by numerous tests over four years of high school reflecting the judgment of many teachers.”
Are the costs and time allotments on  the new Core-aligned tests being lowballed for some nefarious reasons?  That’s the conclusion of a story from WATCHDOGWIRE about a report on those items and more as they pertain to Colorado. 
Voters in the State of Washington turned down charter opportunities three times in the past.  They finally acquiesced in 2012.  They should have stuck with their initial suspicions.  The Seattle Times reports that the first charter to open in the state is “in disarray” for a number of reasons since it opened its doors in early September.   
How are the Common Core standards faring in the individual states?  REAL CLEAR EDUCATION takes a look in light of the recent mid-term elections and the coming presidential race in 2016.  Be sure to check out the interactive map at the end of the piece with a risk scale of possible repeal of the standards.  Place your cursor over any state to get more details about the status of the standards.  “Now empowered with a Republican-controlled Congress in Washington and big wins for the GOP across gubernatorial midterms,” the article explains, “education analysts are speculating about how much risk Common Core faces over the next few years.”
When the Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate in January they will take over as chairs of all the chamber’s committees.  The Democrats will be relegated to “ranking member” status.  The top Democrat on the Education Committee will be Patty Murray from Washington State.  “Education advocates will be pleased to know that her top three priorities for the committee, which also deals with health care and labor issues, are all education-related,” according to an item in EDUCATION WEEK.   She’s interested in reauthorizing the long-stalled No Child Left Behind law, reducing the burden of student loan debt, and investing in early childhood education.”     Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will become the new chairperson.                The outgoing chair is the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who made his final speech on the floor on Friday prior to casting his last vote on Saturday.  An article in the same publication had a farewell profile of the special education champion who served in Congress since 1974.  He will be sorely missed.               John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Education Committee, announced one of his first goals will be to scrap the No Child Left Behind law according to a short item also in ED WEEK (via the Associated press).  “Kline says he envisions a law that returns more power to state and local leaders,” it explains.  “He says the current system where some states have waivers from the law is too messy.”

Saturday’s L.A. Times included 2 brief letters responding to the paper’s story last Tuesday about the LAUSD requiring a new ethnic studies course as a requirement for graduation.  One of them suggested they include women’s history in the curriculum.  
Diane Ravitch is touting a new documentary film (which she appears in) titled “Education, Inc.” that describes the corporate attempt to co-opt public education.  She includes a link to the trailer (3:13 minutes) on her website.
Carol Burris, the award-winning principal of South Side High School in New York, often appears in Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post.  This time she takes a no-holds-barred look at the (disastrous) tenure of John King who recently announced he was leaving his post as Commissioner of the New York Department of Education in order to take a job as a senior assistant to Sec. Arne Duncan at the U.S. Dept. of Education.  The item is titled “What Arne Duncan’s New Senior Advisor Did to N.Y. Schools.”  As your can probably tell, Burris is not kind in her assessment.
LAUSD school board member Tamar Galatzan will face 5 challengers in the upcoming March municipal election.  She had the most people qualify to run for her seat in District 3.  In the other 3 contested positions there was little or no opposition.  The story in yesterday’s L.A. Times also briefly mentioned the four races for the L.A. Community College District board.
Is Teach for America’s star beginning to dim?  According to a story in EDUCATION WEEK the organization may be facing problems recruiting new candidates.  “Teach For America could have a smaller corps in its coming year due to recruitment challenges,” the article notes, “potentially falling short of placement demand by 25 percent, the organization said in a letter sent to its partner school districts this weekend.”  As a result, TFA announced it would be closing its New York and Los Angeles summer training institutes.               Valerie Strauss weighed in on the latest developments about TFA in her column in The Washington Post.  Strauss included the note sent from TFA to schools predicting its recruitment might fall short.  “After enjoying enormous popularity among school reformers and elected politicians,” she notes, “TFA has been feeling growing pushback.”
Does taking algebra over again in high school do more harm than good?  That’s the surprising conclusion of a new study of the issue in California schools highlighted by The HECHINGER REPORT.  “A growing body of research is showing that when you march a teenager through the same algebra class again, it doesn’t help much,” the article suggests.  “And this is part of an overall picture of students repeating classes or an entire year of school without good results. Without addressing a child’s underlying learning issues or missing foundations, repetition alone is rarely effective and sometimes harmful.”  It includes a link to the full report (31 pages) titled “Who Repeats Algebra I, and How Does Initial Performance Relate to Improvement When the Course is Repeated?”
Sandy Banks, in her column in today’s L.A. Times, describes her experience taking an ethnic studies class when she was a junior in high school in 1971 and how it changed her life.  She applauds the LAUSD’s decision to include the course as a graduation requirement.  “An ethnic studies course changed my life when I was a teenager — though not in the way that today’s opponents of ethnic studies seem to fear,” she begins.  “It didn’t teach me to feel like a victim, to despise America or to resent white people. I learned that history doesn’t have to be boring, and that you may have to dig deep beneath the surface to find the truth in a story.”
Districts are quick to close under performing schools but what do states do when faced with poorly functioning teacher preparation programs?  An extended EDUCATION WEEK analysis found that they rarely shut them down and when they do the movement is very slow.  [Ed. note: In a sidebar to this article titled “Ed School and Program Closures By State” under the heading “States in which an education school, provider or program, withdrew from the approval process, in part for performance reasons:” under California, it lists “1 college.”  I wonder which one that is?]
And finally, what happens when a veteran teacher attends parent-teacher conferences for the first time as the PARENT of his kindergarten daughter?  The results are both hilarious and a little bizarre, particularly when the teacher gets around to explaining his daughter’s test scores.  You can read all about Steven Singer’s experiences on his GADFLYONTHEWALL blog.
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog. 



Ed News, Friday, December 12, 2014 Edition


“It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact 
which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was 
because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made 
it so pleasant and acceptable to me.” 
The NBC affiliate in Miami investigated a rash of  charter school closings in Miami-Dade County over the past 5 years with many owing large sums of taxpayer money.  The piece is titled “Charter Schools Not Making the Grade” and includes a video segment (4:05 minutes).  “Charter schools are so popular they’ve doubled in number to more than 600 across the state,” it begins.  “But lately charter schools have made headlines for a rash of closings in South Florida—that aren’t just upsetting parents, but are costing taxpayers money.  Charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently.  Forty-nine charter schools have shut down in South Florida in the last five years, more than 40% owing school districts millions of dollars in tax money.”
“iPadgate” update:  Karen Klein, an editorial writer for the L.A. Times, penned an opinion piece for the paper titled “Four Reasons to be Glad A Federal Grand Jury is Investigating L.A. Unified’s iPads.”  
4 states have what are referred to as “Recovery School Districts:” Louisiana, Tennessee, Michigan and Virginia.  The Milwaukee Public Schools in Wisconsin may be next in line.  “What Happens in a Recovery School District?” is addressed in Larry Miller’s Educate All Students! blog.  The author lists a number of outcomes when districts become RSDs.  
The recent race for California State Superintendent of Pubic Instruction was a good example of how vast sums of money are now being spent on political races.  The contest between incumbent and eventual winner Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck raised over $26 million from outside groups which was THREE times the amount spent in the race for governor.  The facts and figures are describes in a story from THE NETWOK for PUBLIC EDUCATION.
Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, went apoplectic over an article in Forbes about a granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton who had a “plan to fix public education.”  Schneider couldn’t wait to see how many ideas for improving schools were based on Walmart practices and philosophies which Schneider is highly scornful of.  She didn’t have to wait long as Carrie Walton Penner is a major booster of charter schools.  You can read the original Forbes piece by clicking here.
The Madison, Wisconsin, Capital Times published an editorial supporting the state’s teachers unions as “vital defenders of pubic education.”  It describes how they have repeatedly stood up to the legislative onslaught of Gov. Scott Walker who has promoted steep budget cuts, loss of collective bargaining rights and salary reductions among other indignities.
The most recent ALOED book club discussion last month covered Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed–Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.  Paul Thomas from Furman University, on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog,  critiqued Tough’s ideas and found them a bit wanting.  He illustrates his work with a number of graphs, charts and tables to bolster his points. 
Anthony Cody, in his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, has a short video promo (49 seconds) discussing the Gates Foundation ideas for education for an upcoming documentary called “The Public School Wars” which should be out next year.  
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday column for the L.A. Times, reviews the past 12 months in the LAUSD and claims it was mostly “bad news” for the nation’s second largest district as it “let down” its over 600,000 students.  Believe it or not, he did have a few good things to say and even suggested some ways the district could go about selecting a new superintendent.
The State of Georgia’s approach to education comes under fire in an op-ed in the Athens Banner-Herald headlined “Georgia’s Patchwork Approach to Education Isn’t Working.”  “While education ‘reform’ is an issue as old as the republic,” the author complains, “Georgia’s approaches to it are crazier than any patchwork quilt.  We bounce around from one quick fix to the next.  We routinely ignore research about what works, and use ideas that have never been tested.  Our legislature tries to micromanage our schools, the governor controls the policy-making state school board and we elect the state school superintendent, who is not required to know anything about education policy or the business of running schools.”
Is former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani “off his rocker?”  Did he really just try to blame the United Federation of Teachers for the death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man killed by a NYPD officer who used an unauthorized chokehold?  You’ll have to review what “hizzoner” said in a brief item on the Raginhorseblog and decide for yourself.               Valerie Strauss, in her column in The Washington Post, was also shocked at the intemperate remarks and inferences uttered by Guiliani.  “So there you have it,” she concludes.  “Next let’s blame the union for the bad weather.”
George McKenna, the newest member of the LAUSD school board who won an August special election race, will face no opposition when he runs for a full term in the March primary.  Three of the other seats will be contested according to a story in Monday’s L.A. Times.
The first Common Core-aligned assessments designed by one of the two major consortia PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) will be rolled out this month for 30,000 middle and high school students in 6 states in math and English/Language Arts.  Exams from the other group SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which includes California) will be administered in the spring.  EDUCATION WEEK has all the details.
Many charter schools claim to be non-profit, yet they make LOTS of money for their investors or charter management operators.  How can that be?  An investigative story in PRO PUBLICA takes a look at the phenomena of non-profits that make money.  It’s titled “When Charter Schools are Nonprofit in Name Only.”  
Starting in 2018-19 the LAUSD will add an ethnic studies course as a requirement for graduation.  The district’s demographics shows 74% of students are Latino and 10% are African-American based on an item in Tuesday’s L.A. Times which goes on to explain the new mandate.             Cynthia Liu, founder and CEO of the K-12 News Network, pens a piece on why she supports an ethnic studies graduation requirement as recently approved in both the LAUSD and the San Francisco Unified School Districts.  “Ethnic Studies,” she maintains, “is a path to self-understanding for students otherwise denied the histories of those who speak and look like them, but it’s also how all people can empathize across lines of race, culture, religion, ethnicity, and language and feel in our bones the deep commonalities of shared hopes, struggles, and dreams of our individual lives.”               An editorial in today’s L.A. Times is critical of the way the LAUSD is going about implementing the new ethnic studies graduation requirement.  It’s not against the concept but believes the district has not done “its homework” regarding cost, what courses to offer and how it will fit into tight student schedules.  
How do charter schools in Ohio match up with their pubic school counterparts?  Based on an analysis of data from Stanford University, the answer is “not very well.”  A brief item from the 10th Period blog provides some numbers.  
Steve Lopez, in his column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times, profiles relatively new LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff and what she’ experienced during her first couple of years on the job.  “Her staggering [election] upset,” he explains, “may have been both a credit to her straightforward authenticity as a concerned teacher and a backlash against the powerful Angelenos who were determined to remake the board.  When she joined the board 18 months ago, Ratliff was grateful to be beholden to no one and eager to make an impact.”
Ever thought about STARTING your own school?  If so, how would it be designed?  What guiding philosophies would you incorporate?  The author of this item from EDUCATION WEEK is a blogger and an award-winning  history teacher who currently works at the International School of Beijing.  He titles his piece “The 4 Qualities of My Dream School.”  “My dream school . . . . is full of courage, dignity, and commonwealth,” he writes.  “It is the place where the community finds space to come and work together with teachers, to get used to one another, and to build our shared future.”
The controversial New York State Education Commissioner John King will be stepping down to take a new position at the start of the New Year as a senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  King took his current post in May, 2011, and was a strong advocate of the Common Core, high-stakes testing and the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.  The New York Daily News reports on the move.               For the New York BATS (Badass Teachers Association) King’s resignation was both good news and bad news.  Good news that he was leaving New York, bad news that he was moving to the U.S. Dept. of Education.  You can read their press release on the Badass Teachers Association website by clicking here.               Valerie Strauss weighed in on the surprise announcement about King leaving on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.              King’s departure prompted both positive and negative reactions from various other sources as reviewed by EDUCATION WEEK.             The group New York State Allies for Public Education put out a press release on their website reacting to the move by John King.  It includes statements from a number of different districts around the state plus a call for Gov. Cuomo NOT to interfere in the process of selecting a new commissioner.
Anthony Cody blasts U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan, in his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, for introducing all sorts of value-added models (VAMS) to the new teacher preparation program evaluations.  Cody reviews a number of studies that find VAMS to be of dubious reliability and consistency and wonders how they can possibly be utilized to evaluate credential programs much less teacher effectiveness.                 The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted some new federal guidelines for teacher preparation programs.  Former Oxy president and current Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Education Ted Mitchell appeared on the “Bloomberg EDU” radio program discussing the new measures with host Jane Williams.  You can listen to the segment (30:49 minutes total.  The Mitchell portion covers the first 13:40.  The rest deals with early childhood education) as it was carried on SoundCloud.

                                            Ted Mitchell                                                                                                                                                                           
The LAUSD hopes to learn from the disastrous (and expensive) Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal and settlements.  The board, on Tuesday, directed Supt. Ramon Cortines to study previous examples of misconduct in order to better protect students in the future.  In other actions the board approved spending an additional $11 million in order to rectify problems surrounding the trouble-plagued roll-out of the new computerized student data system (MiSIS) and $23.2 million for purchases of computers.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times has all the details.
Jeff Bryant at the Education Opportunity NETWORK wonders “Who’s Really Failing Students?”  It seems to him that laws like No Child Left Behind and many of the Common Core aligned assessments are designed to promote student failure.  Why has this become the “standard” and who stands to benefit from it?  Those and other questions are addressed by Bryant in his provocative piece.  “New standardized tests hitting most of the nation this school year,” he argues, “have been engineered to increase failure rates, and policy leaders tell us that children and parents deserve this.  The expected sharp downturn in scores will no doubt further tarnish the brand of public schools, siphon yet more precious public dollars into private operators pledging to hold schools ‘more accountable,’ and add fuel to the already raging fires of a growing anti-testing movement. But what too few are asking is who really is the failure here.”
Any poets out there (and I don’t mean from Whittier College)?  The author of this story in EDUCATION WEEK searches Walt Whitman’s “As I Sat Alone by Blue Ontario’s Shore” for some inspirational words as he moved through his career teaching social studies in Jericho, New York.  “Walt Whitman’s Challenge to Teachers” is the title of the piece.
And finally for your reading pleasure, askreddit put out a question to teachers: “What was the strangest encounter you’ve had with a student’s parents?”  The responses run the entire gamut of weird situations.  Have you had similar interactions?  Any odd ones of your own to add?  Enjoy it, and try not to die of laughter too often.               If you don’t wish to read the thousands of comments, with new ones being added all the time, EDUCATION WEEK picked out a few of the more “interesting” ones to whet your appetite.  You can find them by clicking here.
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Saturday, December 6, 2014 Edition


“Education leads to enlightenment. 
Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. 
Empathy foreshadows reform.” 
“How the Koch Brothers are Sneaking Their Way Into Public Schools” is the title of an expose in AlterNet’s “Zinn Education Project.”  It explains how the billionaire brothers are the chief funders behind the Bill of Rights Institute which aims to try and control social studies curricula around the country.  The author cites as an example the recent National Council for the Social Studies national convention held in Massachusetts prior to Thanksgiving and the type of presence the BRI had there.  “Well, the Kochs won’t be there in person, but they will be represented by a Koch-funded and controlled organization: the Arlington, Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute,” he notes.  “For years, the Bill of Rights Institute has shown up at NCSS conferences to offer curriculum workshops, distribute teaching materials, and collect the names of interested educators. What the Bill of Rights Institute representatives fail to mention when they speak with teachers is that they have been the conduit for millions of dollars from Charles and David Koch, as the brothers seek to influence the country’s social studies curriculum. (When I attended a Bill of Rights Institute workshop at an NCSS conference,” he continues, “I asked the presenter who funds their organization. ‘Donations,’ she replied.)”
With all the controversy surrounding the Common Core it’s nice to see a story with a positive spin regarding a new social studies curriculum.  Since 2009 Stanford University has made available a free  series of online lessons and assessments for U.S. and World History.  The reception from teachers who have taken advantage of the materials has been strong and students who have been working with the lessons have been enthusiastic.  A number of LAUSD educators have participated in the training and utilized the curriculum  that goes with it according to a story in the L.A. Times from Nov. 26.  It includes a link to the Stanford University History Group that created the materials that are titled “Reading Like A Historian.”
Robert Reich, on his personal Robert Reich blog surveys the class divide in this country and how it impacts the public schools.  He views this as part of the growing debate in the U.S. over immigration policies. “The nation’s attention is focused on the border separating the United States from Mexico,” he concludes, “and on people who have crossed that border and taken up residence here illegally.  But the boundary separating white Anglo upscale school districts from the burgeoning non-white and non-Anglo populations in downscale communities is fast becoming a flashpoint inside America.”
EDUSHYSTER conducts an interesting interview with Gordon Lafer a political economist and Associate Professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center.  He looks at the idea of corporate education reform in the context of politics and economics.  “This is one of the most enlightening interviews,” Diane Ravitch noted on her blog.  
“I urge you to read it.”
truthout has a very provocative piece titled “Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths” that looks at some of the reasons why charter schools are hailed as saviors of public education and why they are “myths” that, in reality, promote racial segregation.  “Despite what was once a central commitment to public schooling in the United States,” it begins, “radical education advocates cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the struggles against racism that exist and persist within charter school environments, despite the rhetoric of equality and justice.  This is particularly necessary because many of the most vulnerable students, with the greatest needs, have generally remained within now even more poorly funded and resourced public schools, while more and more public dollars, under private control, are redirected to serve the privileged few.”
The “Ed News” previously highlighted a powerful new documentary titled “Crenshaw” which describes the highly disruptive forced reconstitution of the school by the LAUSD a couple of years ago.  [Ed. note: I worked at Huntington Park High School (LAUSD) for 26 years before retiring in 2009.  Two years later HPHS went through a similar reconstitution.  From tales I heard from former colleagues it was best described as a “massacre.”]  Anthony Cody turns his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog over to the filmmaker, Lena Jackson, who talks about her project.  It contains a brief trailer (1:19 minutes) for the film.
Proposed new federal guidelines for teacher preparation programs were announced last week by U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  The article in last Saturday’s L.A. Times provides some interesting figures about training in California.  The Commission for Teacher Credentialing has approved 261 programs and there are 1,395 others alternate paths to earning a credential.  The California State University system is the largest producer of educators in the nation.  “The proposed regulations,” the story notes, “would allow states broad flexibility to develop measures of performance but demands that emphasis be placed on teacher outcomes, such as employment, retention and success in the classroom.  That could include evaluating training programs based on the test scores of K-12 students taught by their graduates, a model that provokes heated contention in the education community.”                 THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION weighed in on the new rules and predicted that “Teacher colleges aren’t feeling very thankful for” them.  It suggested that rankings of teacher preparation programs will now be based on how many of their graduates are hired and how well their pupils do on standardized tests.  “But teacher unions and college lobbyists,” it argues, “worry that the rules will punish programs whose graduates are concentrated in high-need schools, where test scores tend to be lower and teacher turnover higher.  They warn that the plan could discourage colleges from placing their students in such schools.”             Larry Mantle on his “Air Talk” program for NPR station 89.3KPCC earlier this week hosted 3 guests who are experts on teacher training to discuss the new federal guidelines.  He also took calls from listeners.  You can hear the segment (20:13 minutes) and read a brief introduction by clicking here.                David Berliner, Emeritus Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, has some advice for Arne Duncan about “How to Do Teacher Education Right.”  His comments appear in the Education in Two Worlds blog.   
Forbes magazine has developed a 5-point plan for improving education with the help of some handy billionaires.  3 of the recommendations include “Teacher Efficacy,” “Universal Pre-K” and “School Leadership.”  You’ll find the other 2 in the article along with explanations of each plus a cost/benefit analysis (remember, Forbes IS a business publication).              Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog actually required 2 posts to dissect the plan.  The first looked at the 5 specific proposals that it contained.  In the second he engages in a “mythical” discussion of the ideas with Andrew Cuomo, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and others.  
“iPadgate” update.  Instead of an exclusive contract with Apple to supply tablet computers to all students and staff the LAUSD will now broaden the field and also offer less expensive Chromebooks that use the Google operating system.  The details were in an item in Monday’s L.A. Times.  “Los Angeles school officials want to give schools more choices in equipping students with new computers,” it begins, “part of an ongoing evolution of the district’s approach to buying and using technology.  Under a new plan, 27 schools that were originally set to receive iPads, made by Apple, now will also have the choice of choosing a less-expensive Chromebook, which uses a Google operating system.”               The FBI made a surprise visit to the LAUSD headquarters Monday afternoon and carted off 20 boxes of documents related to the iPad contract the district had with Apple according to a story in Wednesday’s Times.             NPR station 89.3KPCC host Larry Mantle, on his “Air Talk” program, invited the station’s education reporter and a professor from the Loyola Law School to discuss the situation and what it means legally.   The segment runs 14:09 minutes.                 KPCC ran several updates to its original story including the fact that LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines quickly cancelled the iPad contract the district had with Apple and the FBI turned over the seized documents from the LAUSD to a federal grand jury.                 With the “iPad-for-all” program back in the headlines (see above), Thursday’s L.A. Times ran a primer about the issue in its “Explainer” column.  It focuses on the details of how contracts with Apple and Pearson were concluded.               Yesterday’s paper published a single letter reacting to the Times’s original story on Wednesday about the FBI visit to LAUSD headquarters.
Julian Vasquez Heilig, on his Cloaking Inequity blog, crowns Arne Duncan as the winner of his 2014 Education Policy Turkey of the Year Award based on a poll Heilig conducted.  1,000 readers of his blog participated in the contest.  Duncan won with 51%, the “Billionaires” came in second at 30% and Time Magazine was third garnering 8%.  You can read about the award and view some additional results by clicking here.  NB: The “picture” of Duncan that leads off the article is worth a peak.           
The much maligned Common Core Standards are getting a prominent academic boost.  Stanford University is partnering with the California Teachers Association (CTA) to provide initial training to 160 teachers and 24 administrators who will, in turn, help prepare an additional 50,000 educators throughout California to work with the new curriculum.  The collaborative effort between the scho0l and the state’s largest teachers union will commence this week, according to a story in Monday’s L.A. Times.
Randy Traweek was rather disgusted [Ed. note: That’s putting it mildly.  He spoke of “throwing up] over a report from NPR that seemed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Teach for America.  It did raise some of the issues that TFA has been criticized for and some of the changes the group is in the process of making.  You can listen to the segment (6:55 minutes) or read a separate online report (it’s not a transcript) by clicking here.
During Pres. Obama’s second term his U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been focusing on the important role principals play in the success of their schools.   EDUCATION WEEK features some of the latest research and federal programs on the subject and what Duncan would like to do with them in the last 2 years of the Obama presidency.
The controversial charter school approved for opening next year in  Rochester by the New York State Education Department, that was to be run by a 22-year-old with a questionable resume, will not open  as originally planned.  The NYSED rescinded its decision last month as numerous questions were raised about the proposed founder’s veracity and experience.  The story was highlighted previously in the “Ed News.”  The latest details are courtesy of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.  “Ted Morris Jr. represented himself to the New York State Education Department as a precocious businessman and educational advisor with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees earned mostly online,” it summarizes.  “In fact, he has no college degrees and scant professional experience.  He resigned Nov. 25, the day most of the misrepresentations came to light and just a week after the school gained approval from the state Board of Regents.”
Is it possible for school districts and teachers unions to work TOGETHER to help students?  That’s the question tackled by a piece in Tuesday’s L.A. Times.  The answer is a qualified “yes” based on examples of cooperation from the ABC Unified and Culver City Unified school districts.  Chicago and L.A. were cited as cities where collaboration has not been forthcoming.               Yesterday’s Times included two letters reacting to the story about district/union collaboration.  One was from a retired LAUSD teacher and instructional coach.
A new Field Poll, in conjunction with EdSource, finds a large majority of California’s registered voters support the idea of providing high-quality preschool for children in the state.  When asked if “high-quality preschool is important to a student’s later success in school and in life,” 61% responded “Very important” and 22% “Somewhat important.”  You can view additional material from the poll and analysis of the findings in the article.  It includes a link to the full survey (11 pages) titled “Highlighting Strategies for Student Success.”
Were you aware that federal law requires school districts to notify the U.S. Dept. of Education how many times they are forced to physically restrain a child?  Were you further aware that most large urban districts including New York, L.A. and Chicago do not comply with the law?   PRO PUBLICA has an enlightening expose on the subject.  “Like all school districts across the country,” it recounts, “New York is required to record every time a public school kid is held or tied down and report totals each year to the U.S. Department of Education. The number New York gave the government? Zero. . . . New York, the nation’s largest school district, wasn’t the only one to incorrectly report zero restraints to the federal government.  So did Los Angeles and Chicago – the nation’s second and third largest school districts.”
The National Association of Secondary School Principals joined a growing chorus against the use of valued-added models (VAMs) to evaluate teachers.  The group gave “preliminary approval to a statement that says test-score-based algorithms for measuring teacher quality aren’t appropriate,” according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  You can read the full statement from the NASSP website, titled “Value-Added Measures in Teacher Evaluation,” by clicking here.  A vote on final approval of the statement is planned for Feb., 2015.
The HECHINGER REPORT profiles an elementary school in Massachusetts that has narrowed the achievement gap through the use of an expanded day and an extended year.  The Lawrence school district’s 24 campuses had been placed in receivership almost 3 years ago.  “The receiver, Jeff Riley, had put forth a turnaround plan that included inviting proven charter school operators into the district to take over a small number of the lowest-performing schools,” the article explains,  “but required that they allow their teachers to be a part of the union and that they operate the same neighborhood schools without a district-wide lottery.”  Interestingly, the district and its teachers union worked in close partnership to reach their goals.
Here’s a rather bold and intriguing prediction: “Test Scores are Going to Go Down Next Year.”  How do they know that?   Answer: “Blame it on Common Core.”  Vox takes a look at the only two states to fully implement standards aligned assessments, New York and Kentucky, and extrapolates from their results.  “The test results on Common Core exams, at least at first, are likely to make students’ reading and math abilities look worse than they did on older state tests,” it states.  “The standards are more demanding than what many states had in place previously, and the tests are more difficult.  New York and Kentucky — the only two states that have fully switched over to Common Core tests — have already learned that lesson. Proficiency rates dropped by about half in both states, from around two-thirds of students to about one-third.”  How are parents, educators and the general public going to react to those very poor and discouraging results? 
And finally, California’s new Local Control Funding Formula which revolutionized the way money is allocated to districts in the state rolled out at the start of this school year.  How are things going so far?  The answer seems to be “It’s working, but slowly.”  EDUCATION WEEK has a brief description of how the program works and the status of its implementation.  “The new funding formula, which began in the 2013-14 school year,” it indicates, “increases the state’s per-student allocation over an eight-year period, until 2020-21.  It directs additional funds to schools with high concentrations of traditionally challenged and low-performing populations, such as low-income students, English-language learners, and those in foster care.”
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Tuesday, November 25, 2014 Edition


The “Ed News” will be taking a brief break to enjoy the coming holiday.  Look for the next edition on Friday, Dec. 5.

“There are times when I long to sweep away half the things I am expected to learn; 
for the overtaxed mind cannot enjoy the treasure it has secured at the greatest cost. … 
When one reads hurriedly and nervously, having in mind written tests and examinations, 
one’s brain becomes encumbered with a lot of bric-a-brac for which there seems to be little use. “
Has the so-called education “reform” movement really come to this?  Let this article from The Michigan Citizen explain what the courts in that state just ruled.   “In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.  A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a ‘broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.’  The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality.”  The piece goes into much more detail about what it all means.  Diane Ravitch called it “a shocking decision.”  Say it ain’t so!
For those of you with a connection to LAUSD, here’s a brief summary from the UTLA website of the latest bargaining session for a new contract and some additional proposals the union has put on the table.  It includes an excellent chart outlining the steps of the the collective bargaining process before the union can call a strike.  It shows where in the process the negotiations are now.                UTLA members held rallies to publicize their contract demands at 5 different sites around the city on Thursday.  A story posted on the L.A. Times website on Friday described the one held in Boyle Heights where over 500 union activists gathered.  “The demonstrations were intended to make a statement about union solidarity over contract demands,” the story related.  “United Teachers Los Angeles is seeking a one-year, permanent 10% raise, while also putting forward an agenda on staffing levels, classroom conditions and policies aimed at improving academic results.”
Bloomberg EDU hosted a radio debate between two principals about the Common Core.  Carol Burris from South Side High in New York and Jayne Ellsperman from West Port High in Florida engaged in a spirited discussion of their opposing views of the standards on a podcast (29:45 minutes).  
Many classrooms today have students of more than one race represented.  This piece, from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, offers some concrete suggestions, based on the latest research, for promoting interracial friendships.  The author is a doctor of psychology and frequent contributor to the publication.  “While it may be easy to feel discouraged,” she concludes, “we shouldn’t forget that great strides have been made in women’s rights, minority rights, and gay rights because of how people came together and changed attitudes in society… often radically so. Making sure we encourage schools to remain integrated and encouraging intergroup friendships are ways we can help our children continue to challenge prejudice and to lead the way toward a safer, more connected society for all.”
This piece from the Badass Teachers Association (BATS) is titled “Charter Schools: Good, Bad and Ugly.”  Under “The Good” heading the author actually has some nice things to say about one local charter in particular.  “The Bad” and “The Ugly” are a different story.                Speaking of charter schools.  The California Department of Education website has a list of all charter schools in the state by county.  You can use the map at this link to select a county and get a table of all charters in that county.  For Los Angeles County click here (warning: it’s pretty long.)
A New York editor and film-maker has created a short video (3:33 minutes) called “Refuse the Tests.”  It a series of parents describing the impact of standardized testing on their children and why they have chosen to “opt-out.”  You can view it on YouTube by clicking here.  Both Anthony Cody and Diane Ravitch promoted the film on their blogs.
The LAUSD and other school systems including the Boston city school district have been working diligently to reduce suspension rates of students claiming it increases instructional time and helps boost test scores.  Apparently charters in the Boston area are doing just the opposite.  The Boston Globe highlighted a new report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice with those results.  “The findings come amid a national debate about the use of school suspension. The tactic had been gaining popularity over the last decade or so as part of ‘zero tolerance’ policies that schools adopted,” it reports, “taking a hard line on discipline in hopes of maintaining order.  But a growing body of research suggests that students who are suspended repeatedly are more likely to fall behind academically and drop out, prompting a backlash among students, parents, and civil rights advocates.”
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, describes how the Republican majority on the Texas Board of Education overrode Democratic objections and approved new social studies books with “inaccurate and biased” material.  She explains what some of the battle were over and how a few of the issues were corrected.  “The panel has been reviewing proposed textbooks,” she noted, “e-books and other instructional materials for months and faced strong criticism this year that many of the proposed materials had a plethora of inaccuracies and biased narratives of some topics.”
Many of the so-called education “reformers” want the schools to adopt practices from the business community.  Unfortunately, most of what they suggest may not be appropriate for fixing what ails the schools.  Andrea Gabor, the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College, writing on her own Andrea Gabor blog, maintains there are some things the schools can learn from business but they are not the ones being pushed by the current “reformers.”  She suggests the ideas of management guru W. Edwards Deming may hold clues to some truly meaningful changes.  “Simply put, Deming would be appalled by much of what passes for education reform today. In this blog post,” she explains, “I will describe how the lessons Deming taught American industry might apply to education. His ideas are already being applied by a handful of schools and districts that are explicitly adopting his management ideas.”  Gabor proceeds to describe a number of specific practices Deming brought, not only to businesses in the U.S. and Japan, but also how his ideas helped transform schools in the latter country.  She even includes a very brief reference to the iPads-for-all fiasco in the LAUSD in the course of her piece.
Anthony Cody on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog provides you with his “Education Reform Lexicon for Paradigm Busters.”  He describes his list thusly:”The following terms have taken on special meaning as the religion of test-worship has taken over our schools.  Those not raised in the church of Father Coleman might benefit from a translation into plain English.  This lexicon reflects a complete worldview.  The enthusiastic embrace of these meanings is required to function in a 21st century school in the United States.”  Here’s just one example to spark your curiosity.  It relate to the recent title the ALOED book club discussed last week:  “Grit. This is the ineffable quality that distinguishes the 30% of students who manage to scrape their way to proficiency on the rigorous exams.”
December 14th will mark the second anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 young students and 6 teachers and staff.  The latest incident took place on Thursday at Florida State University in Tallahassee when 3 people were wounded by a gunman who was shot and killed by police.  Any idea how many shootings have taken place on campuses since Sandy Hook?  15?  27?  46?  59?  Not even close.  Everytown for Gun Safety has a shocking list of 91, (91!) school shootings since Sandy Hook.  It includes a very brief introduction.  The picture heading the piece is worth a thousand (a million?) words.
In light of the massive $139 million settlement the LAUSD announced on Friday with the remaining plaintiffs in the Miramonte Elementary School sexual abuse case, Sunday’s L.A. Times had an analysis of the outcome, what the district has learned and how it may alter some of its policies regarding the issue in hopes of avoiding similar cases in the future.  “The settlement has Cortines — the current superintendent — and others concerned,” the article notes, “that other earlier reforms didn’t work and considering what needs to be done for the district to better protect students from sexual misconduct by adults.”               An editorial in today’s Times urges the LAUSD to implement new polices to make sure there are no more “Miramontes.”                 The same paper published 3 letters reacting to the latest Miramonte settlement.  One pointed out that local and state taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill for the total amount paid out ($169 million).  
The Badass Teachers Association (BATS) issued a statement that said “WE HAVE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTIONS TO TESTING THAT HURTS, PUNISHES, AND BLAMES CHILDREN!”  It went on to explain why they were taking that position and the announcement was signed by a long list of members of the organization.
Here’s a little different education story.  The head basketball coach at Westlake High School (Conejo Valley USD) is suing a parent of a former player for libel.  Yes, you read that right.  The story appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “In a 10-page civil complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court,” it notes, “an attorney for Westlake High varsity boys basketball coach Robert Bloom is suing parent James Clark, alleging that he was unable to ‘accept the fact that his son wasn’t and isn’t a Division I Basketball star,’ and made libelous statements ‘with specific intent to … ruin” the coach’s life.'”  You have to read the rest of the article to get all the “he said, he said” details.  What have we come to?
The New York State Board of Regents has approved a charter high school to open in Rochester in 2015.  That’s pretty straight forward.  What’s interesting is it’s to be run by a 22-year-old man with a newly minted doctorate in education.  He’s never taught in or started a school before.  The campus will begin with 100 ninth graders and will eventually total about 400 students in grades 9-12.  The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle story explains whats going on.  “One of the key tenets [of the new school] will be extensive use of online learning,” it notes.  “Each class will have two certified teachers, or one teacher and one teacher’s assistant; at any given time, each of them will be working with a third of the students and the remaining third — in particular, the more advanced students — will be working on computers.”  Would a public high school have a 22-year-old principal with no experience at the helm?  What have we come to?               The young man in question, Ted Morris, claimed to graduate from Rochester’s High School Without Walls.  Diane Ravitch received an short email from the principal of that school, during the time Morris says he graduated, challenging that contention.               Peter Greene was so astounded that Dr. Morris was approved to begin a charter that he wrote two, TWO separate items on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  You can read the first one titled “Rochester Charter Proposal: More Than Meets the 22-Yr-Old Eye”  and the second one titled “More on Rochester Charter Wunderkind (Or: How Hard Is It To Do Your Job, Anyway?”) here which contains some links to other sources (even Mercedes Schneider published two separate blogs trying to keep up with all the “facts”)  that commented on the story including an update of the original item from the Democrat & Chronicle.  Valerie Strauss weighed in on the issue.  She reviewed some of the items mentioned above  and reports on an email exchange she had with Morris about some of his claims.  They all make for some very interesting reading and demonstrate, rather clearly, that the New York State Board of Regents did not undertake much due diligence in checking out Morris’ resume.
The influx into the U.S. over the past several years of a number of unaccompanied minors  from countries in Central America has had a big impact on schools in this country.  The “Ed News” had featured a number of stories about the issue.  This piece, from The HECHINGER REPORT talks about some of those individual experiences through the eyes of the students who lived them.  One of them is an 18-year-old young man who recently arrived from Guatemala and landed in a high school in Oakland.  His is a tale, as the title explains, of “hope [and] past trauma.”  “Whatever their reasons for coming,” the story relates, “the vast majority of the newly arrived children — both the ones the government caught on the way here and the unknown number who made it across without getting picked up by Border Patrol — are now attending the one American institution legally bound to serve them: public schools.”               How big an impact do undocumented students have on the public schools of the United States?  Valerie Strauss features some interesting statistics from a new PEW Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.  It found that 6.9% of K-12 pupils had parents who were in the country illegally as of 2012.  Nevada had the highest percentage (17.7) while California was second with 13.2% closely followed by Texas (13.1) and Arizona (11.0).  Both North Dakota and West Virginia had the lowest rate at 0.1%.  You can find the full report (54 pages) titled “Unauthorized Immigrant Totals Rise in 7 States, Fall in 14–Decline in Those From Mexico Fuels Most State Decreases” by clicking here.
The National Education Policy Center put out a new report yesterday urging caution in the  use of computers and technology in the classroom or even in lieu of classrooms.  It also looked at the new teaching strategy called “Personalized learning.”  The study was authored by Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at UCLA.  You can read a press release about it or the full report (26 pages) titled “New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for A New Direction in Computer-Mediated Learning.”
The author of this commentary for EDUCATION WEEK explains why it’s important and “How to Become a Teacher Advocate.”  Jessica Cuthbertson, from Aurora, Colorado, describes herself as a “teacherpreneur.”  She teaches 8th grade literacy, promotes Common Core implementation strategies and is involved in her local union and the National Writing Project.  “Seeing ourselves as teacher-leaders and advocates for public education is key.  If we don’t see ourselves in this role,” she maintains, “we leave the door open for others outside the profession to tell our stories and determine the successes (and shortcomings) of our schools.  Teacher advocates see the bigger picture and purpose of public education.  We ask lots of questions. We problem solve and push back against the status quo. We take initiative. We wonder out loud and imagine possibilities. We say ‘Yes’ often when asked to explain our work to others despite our busy schedules. We see advocacy as part of what it means to be an educator.”
A new report from Public Advocates, a California nonprofit law firm, found that a number of charter schools in the state require parents to volunteer their time or pay a fee in order to maintain their child’s enrollment.  The civil rights group claims that violates the state’s free education law.  A statement from the California Charter Schools Association denied knowledge of any situation where a student was excluded from campus or a school activity because a parent failed to volunteer or pay a fee in lieu of volunteering.  “The report,” according to an item in  yesterday’s L.A. Times, “calls on the state Department of Education to clarify and give guidance on the law and to move to end the practice.  If it does not, the [Public Advocates] group will consider litigation.”  This item brings to mind one question: Can the public schools require parents to volunteer their time or pay a fee?
Richard Lodish, 68, had a distinguished career in K-12 education but now he may be better known for the remarkable collection of 18th to early-20th century school memorabilia that he has collected over the years that is bursting the seams of his home in Bethesda, Maryland.  His stash has attracted the attention of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  That institution has been organizing some of this materials for an exhibit.  You can read a little about Lodish and view pictures of some of his fascinating trove in a “photo blog” from EDUCATION WEEK.  
And finally, for some slightly lighter reading to enjoy while working off that huge turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, try this item from the Badass Teachers Association (BATS).  It’s titled “12 Things You Should Never Say to Teachers” and offers some of those snarky comments parents or members of the public often make to teachers along with some strong retorts to counteract them.  To whet your appetite for what this article contains, here’s point #1:  1. “We’ve all been to elementary school, so aren’t we all kind of experts on it?”

Umm, no. You’ve been sick before — does that make you a doctor? 

How many of you have heard some of these comments in the past?  Can you come up with some additional, pithy responses?
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog. 



Ed News, Friday, November 21, 2014 Edition


“I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious.
I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place”
Howard Gardner
Charters love to claim they draw from students of all different income levels, races, religions, disabilities, ethnic groups, etc.  However, that’s not always the case.  The Sacramento Bee describes a charter elementary school in that city that’s “open to all students” but, in actuality, serves predominantly children from the former Soviet Union.               Mark Weber, aka the Jersey Jazzman, turns his focus once again on charter schools  in his home state in an article this time on NJSPOTLIGHT.  He discusses the reaction a report he co-authored about charters elicited from supporters of those schools.  Much of it overlooked or ignored the data he provided.  “The data is quite clear,” he reminds everyone, “as a sector, charter schools do not educate the same students as their host districts. On average, charters educate proportionately fewer students in economic disadvantage (as measured by eligibility for the federal free lunch program) than do the district schools in their communities.  Charters also educate fewer students with special education needs; further, the students with those needs that charters do educate tend to have less costly disabilities. In addition, the sector enrolls very few students who are English language learners.”  He offers his research as an antidote to those who’d like to see entire districts or even states go all charter.                 Meanwhile Peter Greene, the CURMUDGUCATION  guy, picked up on the same meme and added some additional details.  Greene lays out how Weber’s study “reveals the limits of the charter business model.”
Adam Stone, on his foundinblank blog, adapts a chapter of Henry Giroux’s new book Education and the Crisis of Public Values: Challenging the Assault on Teachers, Students and Public Education.  Stone adds some “pertinent” videos to illustrate Giroux’s text for the chapter titled “In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis.”  If for no other reason check out the format of this rather unique piece.  
Wendy Lecker, columnist and senior attorney at the Education Law Center, wrote about what the obsession with standardized testing over the past 10+ years has done to a generation of students.  Her commentary appeared on the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate website.  “The national testing obsession is destroying all that used to distinguish the American educational system. Worse still,” she concludes, “it is robbing students of the opportunity for normal and healthy brain development. Anyone who cares about children must demand an end to these destructive policies before they ruin an entire generation.”  Diane Ravitch described this as “a terrific article . . . .about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.”
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, commiserates with teachers in Minneapolis who, earlier this month, had their teacher ratings published for all to see in the local newspapers.  They now join groups of educators in Los Angeles (2010) and New York (2012) who were forced to suffer similar indignities.  “I’m so sorry Minneapolis teachers. Apparently you work for dopes, and given the publishing of your ratings in the morning paper, fairly malicious dopes at that.  This is the worst,” he bemoans in conclusion.  “This is the absolute worst version of reformster foolishness, slandering and upending an entire city’s worth of teachers. I don’t know any Minneapolis teachers, have never met any, but even sight unseen, I know they– and their students– deserve better than this.”               Minnesota may be following in the footsteps of California and New York in another way.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK mentions the state may be next in line, after its west and east coast counterparts, for a Vergara-type lawsuit.  The article includes a link to an interview in the Minneapolis Star Tribune with one of the plaintiff’s attorneys in the case who hinted the state may be ripe for similar litigation.
 Two first grade teachers at a school in Tulsa, OK, sent a letter home to the parents of their students explaining why they are refusing to administer the standardized tests and other (abundant) assessments expected of them.  Their note appears on the UNITED OP OUT website.                 John Merrow, on his Taking Note blog, indicates that at least 5,000 Colorado seniors opted out of standardized tests administered to them at the end of last week.  “What to make of recent events in Colorado,” he begins, “where thousands of high school seniors refused to take a state-mandated standardized test? Is this a harbinger of things to come, an American version of ‘Arab Spring,’ or was it an isolated incident with slight significance beyond the Rocky Mountain State?”  If you’re interested in his interpretation check out his column.
Lloyd Lofthouse, who writes the Crazy Normal–The Classroom Expose blog, offers an excellent timeline of how public education developed in this country and mentions some of the billionaires who are attempting to destroy the system.  He throws in 5 videos, for good measure, to illustrate some of his points.  He titles his piece “A Successful History of–And the Threat To–Public Education in the United States.
Veteran educator Marian Brady takes over Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post to lay out “A Paradigm Shift Schools Need” in what they teach and “It’s Not Common Core, Tech or Rigor.”  He proceeds to quote from a number of world renowned scholars about what students need to learn to cope with today’s world.
This headline from the Huffington Post is enough to give one pause:  “Number of Homeless Children in America Surges to  All-Time High: Report.”  The study was issued by the National Center on Family Homelessness and was based on a state-by-state review.  Shockingly, it found that 1 in 30 children are currently homeless with California one of the worst states.  “The problem is particularly severe in California,” the piece points out, “which has one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children with a tally of nearly 527,000.”  Consider the implications for education of this shameful condition!  The story includes a video (5:59 minutes) about this issue with comments and analysis from a co-author of the report and the director of the California Homeless Youth Project 
A meeting at the White House on Wednesday with Pres. Obama and Department of Education Sec. Arne Duncan was used to present to 100 school superintendents some new federal  educational technology resources for K-12 schools.  The details of the gathering are courtesy of the “Digital Education” blog at EDUCATION WEEK.               This item from The HECHINGER REPORT looks at how digital literacy is distributed along class lines.  As you can probably guess, the poorest segments of the population have the least access to things like broadband and thus have the lowest levels of technology skills.  How does this impact schools and learning?  “Digital tools are not only changing the way we learn,” the piece concludes, “they are also changing the way we behave.  Students who learn with laptops, tablets and other digital devices will internalize particular social and emotional skills, specific thought patterns and ways of interacting with the world that will eventually become the new ‘ordinary.’  Students who do not have access to these technologies, or who receive exposure only in a minimally integrated way, will find themselves disadvantaged.”
Valerie Stauss turns her blog over to guest Arthur H. Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., who suggests now may be the ideal time to reframe the entire rancorous debate over education reform.  Instead of relying on terms like “accountability,” “no-excuses” and “choice” he offers ideas like “shared responsibility” and “empathy.”  Not sure exactly what he means?  Click on the link and let him explain it for you.
More finger pointing at the LAUSD.  The district’s inspector general released a report on Wednesday that found  management of the trouble-plagued computerized student information system, MiSIS, was “grossly inadequate” and it singled out for much of the blame the consultant who was hired by the district as project manager.  “Glitches in the system caused myriad problems,” the story in yesterday’s L.A. Times relates.  “Some students spent weeks waiting to be assigned to classes, and the district scrambled to fix errors in transcripts in time for college application deadlines.”  The IG study included a list of recommendations for moving forward.
Diane Ravitch passes along a piece from Connecticut writer Jonathan Pelto who has identified some 200 blogs that support public education.  [Ed. note: I don’t think he included the “Ed News,” so that would make it 201.]  “Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence,” Pelto notes, “education bloggers work alone and in groups to educate, persuade and mobilize parents, teachers, education advocates and citizens to stand up and speak out against those who seek to undermine our public education system, privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than Common Core testing factories.”
Most people are familiar with the protest technique known as a “walk-out.”  Have you ever heard of a “walk-in?”  Jeff Bryant at the Education Opportunity NETWORK explains how it’s being used to oppose unequal school opportunity in parts of Chicago and other issues in districts nationwide.  Yesterday was the culmination of a national “Week of Action for the Public Schools All Our Children Deserve.”  Bryant describes some of the activities taking place in support of the protests in various cities around the country.  “Today’s [Thursday’s] nationwide walk-ins,” Bryant concludes, “should be a call to all Americans to demand our leaders abandon current public education policies and begin implementing what would truly represent a more positive direction forward.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible GOP contender for president in 2016, delivered a stirring defense of the Common Core, which he has supported for a long time, in a speech yesterday before the National Summit for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization he founded.  In a perfect world, Bush said. “Parents would have the right to a full and competitive marketplace of school options. Neighborhood schools. Charter schools. Private schools. Blended and virtual schools. Home schools.”  His comments appeared in an article in EDUCATION WEEK.
California’s K-12 schools and community colleges could be getting some good news to the tune of $2 billion, according to a study released Wednesday by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.  As state revenues come in well above projections the two systems could soon see significant increases in their budgets.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “California’s education funding formula,” it reminds readers, “which is part of the state Constitution, sends spikes in revenue to schools and community colleges.  The report highlights how California’s finances are continuing to improve after many years of budget crises.”
Criticism of Teach for America is cropping up in some interesting places.  An opinion piece in The Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper of the University of North Carolina, had this to say: “TFA teachers are imbued with the best of intentions; however, we believe that TFA is a highly flawed program.”  It pointed out the school was the sixth-largest provider of TFA recruits in the country in 2013.  “At its worst,” the article continues, “TFA risks driving a deprofessionalization of teaching, encouraging school districts to invest in short-term hires rather than paying for the development of career teachers.”
Since 2009 the State of New York has required all new teacher candidates to take a series of tests in order to gain a license to teach.  The battery of assessments includes two state tests and one national one, the edTPA.  The results for the exams from 2013-14 showed some fairly low passing rates.  A piece from EDUCATION WEEK discusses the program and the ramifications for hiring.
The troubling Miramonte Elementary School lewd conduct case that broke into lurid headlines in 2012 may finally be drawing to a close.  The LAUSD announced today that it had reached a settlement with the remaining student plaintiffs and their families who’d brought a civil suit against the district.  That trial began Monday and would have most probably made public some gut-wrenching testimony from the young victims.  The LAUSD agreed to pay $139 million for the 81 legal claims in lieu of having a jury decide the outcome.  A story posted on the L.A. Times website this afternoon provides the details.  It includes a video report (3:08 minutes) from KTLA Channel 5 News about the settlement.
And finally, here’s Friday’s Quiz question, courtesy of Valerie Strauss: what percentage of guests invited on cable news networks to discuss education issues are actually EDUCATORS?  (A) 9% (B) 23% (C) 46% (D) 71%.  Take a minute and THINK before you answer.  OK, pencils down!  If you marked “C” you’d be incorrect; “B” is wrong, too, as is “D.”  The correct (rather shocking) answer is “A,” 9%, according to study done my Media Matters that Strauss features.  It included programs on CNN, FOX and MSNBC.  (Bonus question for extra credit:  Which one of those had the best record?  Answer:  You’ll have to read the piece.)  No wonder the general public seems to be so clueless about what goes on in their local classrooms.  Try to have a good weekend while you mull those numbers over once again.
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.



Ed News, Tuesday, November 18, 2014 Edition


“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn 
and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can,
accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions 
– if they have any — and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”
                                                                                             ― John Holt
Why is one charter school chain in North Carolina refusing to divulge salaries of certain administrators despite a directive to do so from the state’s Board of Education?  PRO PUBLICA details the standoff and in an update explains that the chain finally complied.  The chain, Charter Day School, Inc., founded by entrepreneur Baker Mitchell, was highlighted  in a previous edition of the “Ed News.”  “On his blog and in earlier interviews with ProPublica,” the article indicates, “Baker Mitchell has maintained that private companies operating charter schools should not have to be transparent about their financials or publicly disclose what they pay their employees.”   Can public schools get away with that?
EduShyster interviews Sarah Lahm, the investigative reporter from IN THESE TIMES, who wrote a piece about billionaires who were pouring money, not into the schools of Minneapolis, but into two school board races there (a story highlighted by the “Ed News,” by the way).  The question arose as to why outside individuals were so interested in a mundane school board contest.  “I think people have a hard time grasping the concept that our public schools are being privatized,” Lahm responded in the Q & A.  “They don’t see it, they don’t want to see it, they call it a conspiracy. The notion that people who are investing money in our schools may not have completely altruistic motives, that they may actually have a business goal, that seems very offensive to some, especially people who’ve really hitched their wagons to charter schools as the solution to all of our problems.”
The author of this piece in Bloomberg Businessweek takes an in-depth look at K12, Inc., the largest operator of online public charter school, and what “went wrong.”  “K12 Inc. (LRN) was heralded as the next revolution in schooling,” it begins.  “Billionaire Michael Milken backed it, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised it. Now the online education pioneer is failing to live up to its promise.  Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.”
The ALOED book club had an excellent discussion last Tuesday of Peter Tough’s book How Children Succeed–Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.  As you can tell from the title he tried to demonstrate the importance of character and “grit” for students’ academic success.  Not everyone was buying that theory.  Peter Greene, the CURMUDGUCATION guy, reviews a recent report from the Brookings Institute that attempted to support Tough.   Greene, to put it mildly was quite skeptical of the whole thing.  “There are so many things wrong with this report– sooooooo many things– and I’m about stumped for wrapping it all up in a neat conclusion,” he mentions dismissively.  “It is such a thin tissue of supposition, weak arguments, cultural biases, part-for-the-whole fallacies and poorly reasoned conclusions that I get rather lost in it myself. I can only hope that as of this post, I’m the only person who’s really paid this much attention to it.”  If you want to ignore his advice and take a look at the full study(35 pages)  for yourself, he includes a link.
Remember all those individuals and groups who were pushing value-added models (VAMs) for evaluating teachers.  The ardor seems to be cooling.  As Audrey Amrein-Beardsley explains, on her VAMboozled blog,  two big names in the VAM world resigned their positions recently.  The first was the Tennessee Education Commissioner and the second was the executive director of the Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Education Initiatives.  I’ll let Amrein-Beardsley sort it all out for you.  
This is a very tragic story to have to pass on.  You may be aware that the 43 students in the Mexican state of Guerrero who were kidnapped by local police in late September, turned over to drug gangs and apparently murdered, their bodies burned and the ashes dumped in a river were all in a teacher training program.  An article in the latest edition (Nov. 24) of TIME magazine details the impact of this ghastly act on their families, the community, Mexico and, hopefully, the entire world.
Have you heard of the group the “Collaborative for Student Success?”  I didn’t think so.  They’re a new “grassroots” organization that strongly supports the Common Core and are pushing the idea that since Republicans did so well in the recent mid-term elections that is an indications of strong support nationwide for the standards.  Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 isn’t buying that line for a minute.  She did her usual investigative homework and found that CFSS is funded by none other than the Gates Foundation.
The LAUSD is apparently not the only big-city school system experiencing difficulties with its computerized student data system.  The New York Daily News reports the city schools are dropping its $95 million Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS) due to it being “clunky and slow” since it was implemented in 2007.  Questions were also raised when former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who helped introduce ARIS, won a contract for his company to assist in maintaining the program.
EDUCATION WEEK has an intriguing item about the setting of cut scores for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s exams.  SBAC is the group California has cast its lot with.  The article mentions that the percentage of students who will likely test “proficient” is predetermined and will most likely be less than 50%!  “In a move likely to cause political and academic stress in many states,” it predicts, “a consortium that is designing assessments for the Common Core State Standards released data Monday projecting that more than half of students will fall short of the marks that connote grade-level skills on its tests of English/language arts and mathematics.”  Interesting.  If one reads that right it appears that, upfront,  more than half of the students taking the tests will land in the “not proficient” category.  Does that sound fishy to you?  Looks like built-in, predetermined failure.  Then, according to the script, the so-called education “reformers” can blame the public schools and their teachers for doing such a “poor” job and that the only solution is to privatize or charterize the schools.  Sounds VERY FISHY!
This may prove to be a surprising statistic.  Since the economic recession began in 2008, college and university graduation rates have declined even as the number of students enrolled has increased.  The HECHINGER REPORT features a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center with the figures.
A new report from UCLA demonstrates that students at high-poverty high schools get less instructional time than their more well-off peers.  Factors that contribute to that included more teacher absenteeism, poorly trained substitutes, test preparation and campus lockdowns among others.  The study appeared in an article in today’s L.A. Times which includes a link to the full report (27 pages) titled “It’s About Time–Learning Time and Educational Opportunity in California High Schools.
And finally, Valerie Strauss published a great cartoon under the heading “Teachers: Do You Ever Get Home From School and Just . . . .?”  Check it out,  It will only take you 13 seconds. 

Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.