Ed News, Friday, September 12, 2014 Edition


“All of us must cross the line between ignorance and insight
many times before we truly understand.”
David Hawkins
A 21-year veteran high school English teacher from Portland, Oregon, reflects on why he went into teaching and why he continues in a very moving essay on the GOLOCALPDX website titled, very simply, “Why I Teach.”   
Apparently, not everyone is enamored of the Finnish school system.  A new book, by a Finnish author and 30-year veteran primary school teacher, raises questions about how students are treated and what she describes as outdated and uninspiring pedagogy.  Thanks to Marie Chaplar’s daughter (who earned her teaching credential at Oxy) who found this on the Finnish website  [Ed. note: It's in English, in case you're wondering.] yle UUTISET.  It includes a short video (4:21 minutes) of the author discussing some of the key issues raised in her book.  “[The book's author] argues that Finland’s consistently high performance in international PISA rankings,” the article states, “a test of problem-solving skills among 15-year-olds, has led to complacency among Finland’s educational establishment, and has blinded teachers and decision-makers to the reality of teaching today.”

The editor missed this one when it first appeared in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  It previews the opening, later this month, of a trial of 12 former Atlanta Public School employees for various alleged misconduct concerning a cheating scandal on standardized tests.  The educators could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.  The piece details what the defendants are being charged with and how the community is reacting to the trial. 

More and more districts are adding health and wellness data to the metrics they collect and distribute to the public.  Besides math and reading scores, attendance statistics and other academic numbers they are measuring amounts of time for recess and PE and whether there is a nurse on campus.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK focuses on how this is playing out in Colorado.

Peter Greene on his CURMUGUCATION blog features HBO comedian John Oliver who has a hilarious extended segment (16:16 minutes) on student debt.  He describes the amounts of money many students owe upon graduation and calls out, in particular, the for-profit colleges as prime culprits.  Be sure to read Greene’s brief comments about the “edubiz” and how it’s attempting to turn public education into a private business.

Stephen Krashen, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, takes on Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) who is a strong advocate for the Common Core.  Krashen is not against standards, per se, but has a specific problem with the way the Common Core are designed.  “Educators have pointed out that the standards themselves are developmentally inappropriate,” Krashen warns in no uncertain terms, “were created without sufficient consultation with teachers and research on learning, and their validity has never even been investigated. In a recent article in US News, the standards are described as a ‘poison pill for learning.’  In addition,” he continues, “the CCSS imposes more testing than we have ever seen on our planet, despite research showing that increasing testing does not increase achievement.”

The HECHINGER REPORT delves into the critical issue of too many American elementary schools not having adequate internet connections.  The item is titled “When Schools Can’t Get Online.”  “The federal government estimates,” it reports, “that fewer than 30 percent of K-12 schools nationwide have adequate broadband infrastructure, and has pledged financing to help improve the situation.”

Patt Morrison (Oxy, ’74) in her interview column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times featured new UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl.  Her first question to him was “How would you rate the superintendent?”  The rest of the Q & A is just as provocative.  

An extended and substantive Oxford-style debate was held on Tuesday in New York City to argue a motion to “Embrace the Common Core” sponsored by an organization called Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US).    You can find a transcript of the discussion (55 pages) here and/or view the video (103:42 minutes) here (click “See Full Debate Video” red button).  The pre-and post-debate results were markedly different.  The studio audience was 50% in favor before which increased to 67% afterwards.  However, online respondents were 89% against the motion upon the conclusion. You can view a graphic of the complete results here (click “See Results” gray button).

A bevy of education stories appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  The first was a front-page article about the large number of unaccompanied minors recently arriving at U.S. borders from Central America and their impact on school systems in states along the border and beyond.  It focuses on what’s been happening in Houston.  “Nowhere is the impact of the recent surge of immigration felt more strongly,” the story indicates, “than in Texas.  More than 66,000 unaccompanied young immigrants crossed into the U.S. illegally in the past fiscal year, most entering through Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.”               The second was a page 2 column by George Skelton who reports that issues like school quality, teacher tenure and other job protections have finally taken center stage in the California races for governor and State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Those questions caused some heated exchanges during a debate last week between Gov. Brown and his opponent Neel Kashkari.                Next was a piece about a labor hearing in which 12 former Crenshaw High School (LAUSD) teachers claimed they had been targeted and removed from their positions by the district due to their union activities.  One of those 12 was UTLA rep at the time and now head of the union Alex Caputo-Pearl who testified at the inquest on Wednesday.                 The final one raises some suspicions regarding a new policy to delete LAUSD emails after one year.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District took steps this week [Tuesday] to enforce rules under which emails are deleted after one year,” it begins, “raising concerns about whether important public records would be destroyed in the process.  The school board approved a contract to license a Microsoft product that would make it easier to retrieve emails, but also would automatically destroy them according to a schedule set by L.A. Unified.”  In light of several emails that were made public recently regarding the involvement of Supt. Deasy and a former assistant superintendent in “iPadgate,” this smells fishy.  Sniff, sniff!!               NPR station 89.3KPCC reported that the board decided a day later to back-track on its decision to delete emails after one year.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District said Wednesday,” the station explained, “the board will revisit its email archiving policy a day after the board approved the purchase of new software that would automatically destroy one-year-old internal emails.   No emails will be deleted until the school board makes a final decision.  School board member Monica Ratliff,” it continued, “called for changes to the school district’s policy for retaining those records.”               An editorial in today’s L.A. Times called for the board to rescind its recently enacted policy to delete emails after one year.  “The requirement that most emails at the Los Angeles Unified School District be destroyed after one year may not be legal under California public records law,” it begins.  “But even if it is, it’s a terrible policy. The emails that are now under so much scrutiny — electronic discussions, in effect, between Supt. John Deasy, his then-deputy and the company that hoped to sell half a billion dollars worth of iPads to the district — might never have come to light if the district had implemented this rule earlier.”

The author of this opinion piece in The HECHINGER REPORT was a founding teacher of the Avalon School in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she is now a program coordinator and advisor.  She argues that the recent decision in the Vergara case demonstrates the necessity of a new “teacher-powered education strategy.”  “The Vergara v. California ruling,” she begins, “that every student has a Constitutional right to learn from an effective teacher has been labeled bold — but it actually mirrors the counterproductive strategy long dominating reform efforts that ignores teachers’ professional expertise and then blames them for poor student outcomes.  This decision pits unions against reformers. However, we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t believe that every student deserves an effective teacher and high-quality education.”  She goes on to detail what she means by a “teacher-powered” strategy.  It has some refreshing new ideas as exemplified by her own campus compared to some of the top down mandates about running schools like businesses.

EDUCATION WEEK features a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [Ed. note: You might need to take this with a grain of salt] that looks at academic progress on an A-F scale state-by-state.  “A caveat,” the article warns, “is that some will find ideological or other reasons to be critical of the organizations and indicators used by the Chamber. The group relies on a variety of assessments and K-12 policy organizations for its rankings, including the National Council on Teacher Quality and Education Next magazine. Some have questioned NCTQ’s research practices, for example, and Education Next publishes articles supporting school choice. The Chamber also praises the states for adopting ‘higher standards,’ a reference to the Common Core State Standards.”  The Ed Week story contains a link to the full report (100 pages) titled “Leaders & Laggards: A State-By-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness.”  The Chamber published a similar report in 2007.

Oooo!  Things are getting nasty in regards to “iPadgate.”  With the release of emails last week that tended to show a rather cozy relationship between Supt. John Deasy and his former Assistant Supt. Jaime Aquino with Apple and Pearson comes news that Deasy has requested any emails or other communications between members of his board and any of the technology companies involved in the bidding process to provide tablets for everyone.  Today’s L.A. Times provides all the juicy details.  

A story in EDCATION WEEK describes how education issues like Common Core and school funding could play a role in several key U.S. Senate races that could possibly tip control of that body to the Republicans.  The three states: North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa.  A sidebar to this item summarizes the important issues and reviews the candidates’ positions on them.

A new report from the California Attorney General’s office using data from the State Department of Education indicates that low-income students in the state have higher truancy rates than their more affluent peers with the highest truancy rates in the earliest years of school.   The results came from a voluntary survey of 32 districts statewide that enrolled 150,000 students.  The story from today’s L.A. Times includes a link to the full report titled “In School + On Track 2014–Attorney General’s 2014 Report on California’s Elementary School Truancy & Absenteeism Crisis.”  

The HECHINGER REPORT has an interesting Q & A with the founder of Venture Academy, a nontraditional grade 6-12 charter in Minneapolis, about some of the challenges of starting a new school and some of the lessons learned from the experience.  

A new federal study of teacher retention and mobility finds that half the teachers who leave the profession discover better working conditions in their new jobs.  EDUCATION WEEK has a brief article on data from the National Center for Education Statistics.  

And finally, here’s a rather odd story.  A graduate of Newport Harbor High School is suing the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to revoke the diploma she was awarded after suffering a traumatic brain injury when she was hit by a car.  The young woman and her family claim she was denied the proper completion of her education when the school changed some of her grades in order for her to graduate with her class.  The details of the rather complicated case are covered in a piece in today’s L.A. Times.

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

Ed News, Tuesday, September 9, 2014 Edition


“Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men 
–the balance wheel of the social machinery…It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich; 
it prevents being poor.”
Horace Mann
Here’s an age old education question: Does holding students back a year aid them academically?  To help with the answer we turn to Paul Thomas an Associate Professor of Education at Furman University in South Carolina.  “Back in 2012, 14 states plus the District of Columbia had policies in place that hold students back a year on the basis of their reading ability,” he begins.  “New efforts to reverse the trend, in states such as Oklahoma, remain rare. This is despite research showing that holding children back a grade – known as grade retention – causes more harm than good.”  He proceeds to review a lot of the recent research on the topic.  His comments appear on THE CONVERSATION–Academic rigour, Journalistic flair website.
American students are constantly compared, often unfavorably, to their compatriots around the world.  When it comes to many U.S. school lunches, however, there is no doubt we come in second best.  This interesting piece from AlterNet takes a look at what pupils in France eat for lunch as opposed to what American kids consume.  After reading the article, which meal would you choose?  [Ed. note:  You may not want to check this one out if you're hungry.  It comes with pictures of a typical weekly French  school lunch menu which you can click on to enlarge for a better taste, oops, view.]
The Saturday L.A. Times feature “Numbers and Letters” logged 554 “printable” letters to the editor between Aug. 29 and Sept. 5.  Of those, 35 “mentioned LAUSD Supt. John Deasy and the district’s iPad program, the runner-up topic” for the week.
Thanks to Nancy Kuechle for sending this item from the The Wall Street Journal.  Dana Goldstein, author of the new book The Teacher Wars, wrote a commentary for the paper titled “Four Ways to Spot a Great Teacher.”  With the new school year still rolling out around the country, it’s generally a guide for parents who might want to find the best teacher for their child but also presents Goldstein’s ideas of what constitutes an excellent educator.  “Parents shouldn’t be the only ones looking for these four traits,” Goldstein concludes.  “Principals and policy makers should focus less on standardized test scores than on these more sophisticated measures of excellence. Together, we can create a groundswell of demand for great teaching in every classroom.”  What do you think of her list?
As faculty and staff return to their campuses for the new school year they will, once again, be faced with PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.  What do they think of it and is is at all helpful?  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, turn her column over to the CEO of the largest online provider of PD who takes a took at the state of the art today and ties teacher training to the ongoing debate over tenure and other job protections.  “Good teachers want to be great teachers,” he maintains.  “But no one – not even the most ardent supporters or detractors of tenure – can argue that many teachers are getting the support and training they need to be effective and efficient in many of today’s classrooms.  Unfortunately, the structure of teacher professional development is letting them – and us – down. In truth, the situation is far worse than many realize.”
The superintendent of the Madison (Connecticut) Public Schools wrote a commentary for his district’s website in which he decries the campaign being used by proponents to sell the Common Core to the public. “Perhaps the most prevalent persuasive technique among common core enthusiasts,” the author begins, “is an appeal to fear, namely, fear of economic doom, fear of our students being outperformed on tests by other nations, fear of falling behind the rest of the world. Although this can be an effective technique, this particular approach lacks intellectual honesty.”  He goes on to explain why he believes this approach is not supported by the facts.
David Kirp, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and author of a new book Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for American Schools, will be speaking at Occidental on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.  EduShyster has an interesting interview with him that touches on a recent article he wrote in which he made the case for why teaching is not a business (which was highlighted in a previous “Ed News”).
The New York Times Magazine, in it’s “Education” issue, ran an extended piece on Eva Moscowitz who runs the Success Academy charter schools in New York City.  It is quite laudatory and explains how her chain of campuses has expanded from Harlem to other parts of the city, hence “Harlem” was dropped from the title.  It also delineates her battles with various city politicians and other officials over education policy.  Diane Ravitch was highly critical of the item and even spoke by phone with the author about it.  She recounts her conversations with him on her blog.                Another article in the same issue describes a course in World History that Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates) has created and is marketing to high schools around the country.  
A total of 5 letters appeared in the Sunday L.A. Times reacting to a couple of stories in Thursday’s paper about the LAUSD iPad fiasco and Supt. Deasy’s possible culpability.   Another letter in the same paper commented on the heartwarming article in Tuesday’s print edition about people in the LAUSD donating their sick days to a fellow teacher who had used hers up recuperating from breast cancer treatments.                 Ellen Lubic on the CITYWATCH blog thinks events have progressed enough that a grand jury should be empaneled to look into possible criminal involvement by Supt. Deasy in “iPadgate.”  She also calls for an independent audit and lists a number of Deasy’s “shortcomings” as reasons for him to be terminated by the board.               The author of a piece in EDUCATION WEEK offers 3 important lessons to be learned from LAUSD’s iPad experience.  “For many in the field,” he write, “the LAUSD’s effort—beset last school year by a series of implementation problems—remains an object lesson in how not to bring 1-to-1 digital computing to K-12 classrooms.”
Katie Osgood on her Miss Katie’s Ramblings blog warns everyone not to be so quick to celebrate Teach for America’s push to recruit more diverse candidates (a story that was highlighted n an earlier edition of the “Ed News”).  “TFA’s overall mission, actions, and impact,” she charges, “absolutely negate any benefit from their inauthentic push for diversity. Over the past five years, this darling of the media has come under increasing attacks and criticism even from within their own ranks.  As a result, TFA has used ‘diversity’ as a way to rebrand.  But their core mission which undermines public education and increases inequality remains unchanged.”
Here’s another problem with some charters.  They sometimes close abruptly leaving students, parents, faculty and staff high and dry.  An elementary campus in Pasadena serving some 300 students closed its doors suddenly when the fire department found the location to be “dangerous and unsafe.”  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the
I know some of the these posts begin to sound a little repetitive, however, they represent the feelings of many educators out there in the classroom and need to be heard.  A 25-year elementary school teaching veteran in Ohio has her piece reprinted on Valerie Strauss’ blog.  It’s titled “No Longer Can I Throw My Students to the ‘Testing Wolves.'”  “In this powerful post,” Strauss introduces, “[the author] explains how her work as a teacher has been skewed by mandated standardized testing and how students are reacting.”
Diane Ravitch and LAUSD Supt. John Deasy appeared separately on the PBS program the “Tavis Smiley Show” last night.  You can view Ravitch’s segment (11:16 minutes) here.  Today, on her blog, she commented briefly on the appearance.   Be sure to read the comments posted under her blog.  John Deasy followed Ravitch and you can watch his segment (12:23 minutes) here.   Both addressed the Vergara case, the issue of tenure and other pertinent topics related to education today.
Sandy Banks’ column in today’s L.A. Times deals with a group of Garfield High School (LAUSD) boys who wore  an overtly sexist shirt to school and the reaction it got from one English teacher who wasn’t going to let the incident pass.  Banks describes how the teacher’s actions got the offensive shirt pulled from a store’s shelves and the manufacturer agreed to discontinue making it.
And finally, the Urban Teacher Education Consortium is a group of educators who are working hard to improve the teacher preparation programs for city school districts around the U.S.  They recently issued a Position Paper describing the state of teacher training: where it is now and where they’d like it to be in the future.  Valerie Strauss kindly reprinted their statement on her blog.  It’s signed by 40 professionals including 4 from California.
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog. 

Ed News, Friday, September 5, 2014 Edition

                                      The ED NEWS

“Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know.
It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.” 
 John Ruskin
Why do many of the so-called education “reformers” belong to what Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, calls the “Cult of Order?”  Not exactly sure what he’s driving at?   Check out what he has to say.  Here’s a hint: “Many, many, many reformsters are members of the Cult of Order, he begins.  “The Cult of Order believes in blind, unthinking devotion to Order. Everything must be in its proper place. Everything must go according to plan. Everything must be under control.”  Still mystified by his point?  Read the whole story.
The title of this commentary from EDUCATION WEEK is “Charter Activists Suffer from Truth Deprivation.”  “It is truly difficult to comprehend the escalating commitment to, and major infusion of federal and state funds for, [the charter] movement—especially in the absence of supportive data on its effectiveness in the education of young people,” the author argues.  He goes on to chronicle a number of reports and studies that show that many charters do worse or only as well as similar public schools, despite what advocates continue to claim.
David B. Cohen, a Nation Board Certified teacher, blogger and author, takes time to deconstruct some of the arguments in favor of doing away with tenure on the InterACT website.  He focuses, in particular, on a column by Frank Bruni in The New York Times titled “The Trouble With Tenure.”  “You’ve heard this all before: too few teachers are fired because it’s too hard to fire them,” Cohen relates, “and since they know they can’t effectively be fired, they don’t worry about their job performance. Those assumptions are, at best, difficult to support and to apply broadly – and at worst, they’re just wrong about teachers and organizational management.”
The latest trend in physical fitness is to get Americans to stand up more than they sit down.  Research shows that standing burns more calories than sitting and contributes to a person’s improved health.  How might that relate to education?  Are you ready for standing desks in the classroom?  EDUCATION WEEK describes an experiment at Bryan Collegiate High School in Texas where 13 classrooms tried out the idea.  The results were quite positive regarding student attention and reducing childhood issues with obesity.  To keep with the concept, why don’t you try standing up while reading the piece.  Better yet, stay on your feet while perusing this edition of the “Ed News.”  Remember, it’s for your health! 

Larry Lawrence forwarded the following article just prior to the time the Aug. 29th edition of the “Ed News” was being sent out and the editor didn’t see it until I had already hit the “send” button.  John Thompson, in the first of two posts on Anthony Cody’s LIVING in DIALOGUEblog, writes about the political agenda of the Dept. of Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan and the negative effects it is having on public education.   Thompson titles his piece “Arne Duncan’s Edu-Politics 101.”   If nothing else, check out the great caricature of Duncan that accompanies the article.
A conservative think tank, Bellwether Education, just published a paper with their take on how to improve teacher evaluations.  You can read the full report (40 pages) titled “Teacher Evaluations in an Era of Rapid Change: From ‘Unsatisfactory’ to ‘Needs Improvement'” here.  [Ed. note: Interesting.  Nobody, apparently, gets rated above "Needs Improvement" in their system.  Says a lot about what they think of the teaching profession today!]                 Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, does a detailed analysis of the paper and finds two major shortcomings.  “So,” he harrumphs, “having an argument about how to best make use of teacher evaluation data based on student achievement is like trying to decide which Chicago restaurant to eat supper at when you are still stranded in Tallahassee in a car with no wheels. This is not the cart before the horse. This is the cart before the horse has even been born.”
Diane Ravitch reports that the Lee County, Florida, school board which voted last week to become the first district in the state to opt out of all standardized tests met on Tuesday and reversed that decision.   Ravitch got the news from Bob Schaeffer of FairTest who lives in the county and passed along the brief story.                The Florida state Dept. of Education could end up playing hardball with districts that want to opt out of standardized tests.  In addition, a memo from the Florida School Boards Association warned districts they could face sanctions for taking such actions or risk the loss of state money.  NPR and PBS station WLRN in South Florida provided the details in a piece titled “Opting Out of Testing Would Come at a Cost to Florida School Districts.”
The U.S. requires more standardized tests more often than any of the top -10 performing countries on the PISA exams.  That finding comes from a study done by the Center on International Education Benchmarking.  The article contains three charts comparing when tests are administered and what is tested in countries like Canada, China and Taiwan as well as Finland, Poland and Korea.  The latter 3 countries were featured in the last ALOED book discussion of The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.               Here’s anothergraphic that presents the information mentioned in the article above.  
A district in North Carolina voted to terminate its relationship with Teach for America.  The school board in Durham criticized the TFA’s minimal two-year commitment and the fact it placed brand new, inexperienced teachers, in high-needs schools.  The story from The Durham Herald-Sun explains further why the district took the action.
The L.A. Times had a number of items over the extended Labor Day weekend.   The first was a Sandy Banks column on Saturday in which she addressed the “iPadgate” issue and other fiascoes in a larger context.   She sees it as a rebuke of the top down management style of LAUSD Supt. John Deasy.  “So instead of a groundbreaker,” she complains, “the district has become a national model of the tensions that stifle public school reform. Our technology projects were stranded between high-minded ideals and grass-roots realities; tripped up by jockeying over priorities, politics and power.”                      Yesterday’s Times published two letters reacting to Banks’ column.               A second item in Saturday’s paper had to do with the 550 publishable letters the paper received between Aug. 22-29.  35 of them “commented on the problematic LAUSD iPad issue and Supt. John Deasy.” That happened to be the number 1 topic for the week.                 Monday’sTimes reported that Gov. Brown had filed an official appeal of the controversial Vergara case that had determined teacher tenure and seniority rights were unconstitutional in a decision announced in June.  The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers, the two largest teachers unions in the state, are expected to support the appeal.   The action has political implications as both Brown and state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson support the appeal while their opponents, Neel Kashkari and Marshall Tuck support the original court ruling.                 On Wednesday the CTA and CFT both filed official appeals of the case according to a story fromEDUCATION WEEK.               In July, the Compton Unified school board unanimously approved the carrying of high-powered AR-15 semiautomatic rifles by school police in order to adequately protect students from possibly well armed campus intruders.  If you find that rather surprising, you should be aware that at least 6 other districts around the state have a similar policy.  That story appeared in the same paper.                The LAUSD board voted to increase funding for early childhood education programs in the district that had faced severe cuts during the last couple of years according to a story also in Monday’s Times.               Here’s a definite feel good story from Tuesday’s paper.  When a sixth grade teacher at Jaime Escalante Elementary (LAUSD) in Cudahy missed a number of days of work as she recovered from breast cancer treatment her husband, a fellow teacher at the school, appealed for fellow employees to donate some of their sick days as his wife had exhausted hers.  The outpouring of support was overwhelming.  Check out the story in Tuesday’s paper to see how many days she received.  It will help make your day!               In a follow-up to a story covered a while ago in the “Ed News,” Coachella Valley High has decided to eliminate its “Arab” mascot that many found offensive.  In a compromise with critics the school will retain the “Arab” nickname and will develop a more positive logo.  That story also was published in Tuesday’s Times.                How important is attendance to a child’s academic success?  A new study found that California 4th and 8th graders had better attendance than pupils in 40 other states and that was reflected in their performance on national math and reading tests based on a piece in Tuesday’s Times.    You can find the full report (16 pages) from the group Attendance Works titled “Absences Add Up: How School Attendance Influences Student Success”  here.           And finally another article in the same paper describes a plan to introduce a much more extensive computer science curriculum in K-12 schools statewide.  The nonprofit Silicon Valley Education Foundation explained what it had in mind to a number of school and business leaders last week.  “The purpose of the round table discussion,” the story points out, “was not to take action but to identify what students should learn, how to raise awareness about computer science courses and how to increase access to them.”
How is the largest online charter school in Ohio faring as compared to large urban districts in the Buckeye state?  According to an Ohio blogger on PB Plunderbund, it ranks below the 8 largest districts despite getting almost $100 million in taxpayer funds last year.  How is the founder of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, William Lager, able to continue doing this in lieu of the poor results?  He’s wealthy enough to make HUGE campaign contributions to the politicians who make the decisions about keeping his program open and funding it.  “Let’s just say that Lager is living pretty well,” the author remarks, “thanks to Ohio’s Republican legislators who keep the money flowing.  While Ohio’s public schools are pinching pennies due to funding cuts and most public school employees are seeing modest (if any) raises, Lager’s companies take is increasing at a rate of nearly 15% per year.  Lager is living large off of public education funding.”
As the new school year continues to open for districts around the country EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at the impact of new standardized assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards that nearly all states are required to make use of this year.  “For four years, schools in nearly every state have been working to put the Common Core State Standards into practice in classrooms,” the author points out, “but few have put them to the test—literally. This year, that changes.  The 2014-15 academic year is when nearly every state must have assessments in place to reflect the common core, or other ‘college- and career-ready’ standards they have adopted.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, provides you with all sorts of statistics regarding the new school year.  As school commences around the country she looks at figures regarding number of students and teachers, number of school districts and funding among other categories for both K-12 and post secondary education.  She headlines her piece “Back to School 2014-15–By the Numbers.”  Her figures come from the U.S. Dept. of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
Here’s another review of Dana Goldstein’s new book The Teacher Wars.  This one appears in The Atlantic and comes with the provocative title “Why Do Americans Love to Blame Teachers?”  “America hates teachers,” it rather boldly begins.  “That’s not exactly the thesis of Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, but her account of 200 years of education policy provides plenty of evidence for it. ‘The history of education reform,’ she notes, ‘shows … recurring attacks on veteran educators.'”                The award-winning Social Studies and English teacher at Luther Burbank High School and EDUCATION WEEK columnist Larry Ferlazzo conducts a Q & A with Dana Goldstein about her new book. 
A veteran English and Journalism teacher in Los Angeles believes that the Vergara case might just prove to be an opportunity for the profession despite the widespread belief that it was a major policy defeat for teachers and their unions.  The final ruling in the case was issued by the superior court last week.  The original decision was made public back in June.  “In the legal precedent laid out in the controversialVergara decision relating to teacher tenure in California,” the author indicates, “I see a potential window of opportunity opened for all of us to rethink our current conceptions of accountability and advocate for something that will serve both students and teachers better.”  Check out his piece from EDUCATION WEEK and see if you agree with what he perceives to be a silver lining.
“iPadgate” returns.  LAUSD Supt. John Deasy sent the school board on Tuesday a 6-page memo outlining his involvement with Apple and Pearson regarding the iPad for all program.  “No violations of any legal requirements took place,” he wrote.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has the details of his note.                  An editorial in the same paper calls for transparency in getting to the bottom of the issue.  It also suggests the district release a previous report put together by the district’s inspector general into the computer for all program.  “There is no room for secrecy,” it begins, “when it comes to the billion-dollar technology project undertaken by the Los Angeles Unified School District and its superintendent, John Deasy.”               Yesterday’s Times had a front-page feature recapping “iPadgate” and quoting more extensively from the memo Deasy sent to the board (see above).  Critics of the superintendent’s actions were also skeptical of a promotional video he made for Apple back in 2011 among other things.             Here’s a novel idea.  UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl recommends that LAUSD Supt. John Deasy report to teacher jail until he’s fully cleared of any legal or ethical wrongdoing involving the bidding process with Apple and Pearson.  Deasy has been doing the same with any teachers accused of inappropriate behavior or activities regarding students.  This item, from yesterday’s paper, also includes a short video (2:00 minutes) from KTLA channel 5 about Caputo-Pearl’s suggestion.
What do you guess happened to Walter Stroup, an associate professor at the University of Texas College of Education, who testified before a state legislative committee that what standardized tests in that state measured was not what students learned but how well they took tests?  To further attempt to cloud your answer what if you discovered that Texas just signed a VERY lucrative contract with Pearson to supply assessments to that state AND Pearson’s philanthropic foundation had created a $1 million endowment at the college which gave it some very powerful leverage.  Sure enough, the school challenged Stroup’s tenure based on what they said was his lack of publishing and presentations at scholarly conferences.  The Texas Observer retells the entire story and describes where Stroup stands.  The piece is headlined “Mute the Messenger.”  It’s not a pleasant picture.  ““Stroup had picked a fight with a special interest in front of politicians,” it explains.  “The winner wouldn’t be determined by reason and science but by politics and power. Pearson’s real counterattack took place largely out of public view, where the company attempted to discredit Stroup’s research. Instead of a public debate, Pearson used its money and influence to engage in the time-honored academic tradition of trashing its rival’s work and career behind his back.”
Why are the hosts of the Fox News program Fox & Friends pushing for the arming of school teachers and staff?  That’s the point-of-view they were promoting on a segment about a school district in Texas (where else?) that posted a sign warning that the staff were armed. MediaMatters has the chilling details.  It provides some statistics about the impact of armed personnel on campus and their ability to halt campus shootings.
Is this what experts mean when they complain about the overuse of standardized testing and the amount of instructional time it replaces?  The Miami Herald reports that the Miami-Dade school board approved its testing calendar for this school year and it showed tests being administered during every day of the 180-day school year except 8!  It goes on to explain that not all students are tested 172 days a year but . . . . enough is enough!  “Though not every student will take every test,” the article points out, “the number and consequences of testing are facing a growing backlash from parents, teachers and even some district officials.”
And finally, all four of the public and private post-secondary education branches in California have pledged their support for the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that goes along with the standards.  That position came in a letter they jointly sent to the state board of education at the end of August.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK explains how the UC, CSU, Community college and independent college and university systems in the state plan to align their admissions and teacher preparation programs with the Common Core.
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71)
That’s me working diligently on the blog 

Ed News, Friday, August 29, 2014 Edition


Monday is the Labor Day Holiday
[Ed. note: The "Ed News" will be taking a short break over the holiday.  
Look for the next issue on Friday, Sept. 5]. 
“To quote the exceptional teacher Marva Collins, “I will is more important than IQ.” 
It is wonderful to have a terrific mind, but it’s been my experience that having outstanding intelligence
 is a very small part of the total package that leads to success and happiness. 
Discipline, hard work, perseverance, and generosity of spirit are, in the final analysis, far more important.” 
― Rafe EsquithThere Are No Shortcuts
[Ed. note: The author of the above quote spoke to an ALOED gathering in September last year].
And now to the news.
Remember the idea of a FREE public education.  Ever wonder how free it really is?  A Wisconsin parent whose son will start high school in early September adds up the “costs” of his attendance and pens an article in the Daily Kos titled “The Price of a ‘Free’ Public Education Turns Out to be Damn Expensive.”
Robert Reich, on his Robert Reich blog, discusses the widening gap in educational achievement in this country and traces it to family incomes. “American kids are getting ready to head back to school,” he notes.  “But the schools they’re heading back to differ dramatically by family income.  Which helps explain the growing achievement gap between lower and higher-income children.”
One often used statistic to measure child poverty is the number of children on the free or reduced federal meals program.  Now some researchers are beginning to question the accuracy of that metric.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK reviews the history of the statistic, why some experts worry about how precise a measure it is and explores some possible alternatives
The author of this column in the Walworth County, Wisconsin, GazetteXtra, explains why “Testing is a Lousy Way to Hold Schools Accountable.”  He, too, challenges the use of value-added models (VAMs) to rate schools and teachers.  “We’ve been using bubble tests to hold schools and students accountable for a long time,” he maintains, “mostly without anyone asking tough questions about whether the scores were valid measures. Controversy over student testing was slow to develop and then mostly concerned the number of tests and the harsh consequences. We never asked whether the thermometer really measured the temperature, even though our education system is based upon the validity of these tests.”
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending a commentary from truthout that begins by reviewing key federal government pronouncements about the state of education over the last 30 years.  It then proceeds to demonstrate how the so-called education “reformers” place the blame for the “crisis” in public education at the feet of parents, teachers and unions.  This conveniently sets up their solution–privatize the schools.  Run them like a for-profit business.  Guess who is waiting to begin collecting those profits?  You got it, the so-called education “reformers.”  The authors of this piece, two education activists from Massachusetts, titled it, appropriately, “Education, Inc.”
The controversy surrounding “iPadgate” deepens.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times had 4 different items.  The first was a front-page story recapping the latest news and noting that several sources were suggesting that an independent investigation be convened to look into a number of issues involved with the program.  “A day after Los Angeles Unified abruptly suspended the contract for its controversial iPad project,” it begins, “there were growing calls for a more thorough investigation into whether the bidding process for the $1-billion program was improperly handled.”              The second was a page 2 Steve Lopez column wondering if LAUSD Supt. John Deasy could maintain his position in light of the growing scandal and his possible involvement in/responsibility for it.  It includes several other problems that have cropped up under his stewardship.  It’s titled “Can Supt. Deasy Survive LAUSD’s iPad Fiasco?”                 The third item was an editorial urging the district and all involved to get to the bottom of the controversy quickly and suggests that dropping the contract with Apple and Pearson doesn’t solve the problem.                  The fourth was several letters published in the paper reacting to Supt. Deasy’s decision to pull the plug on the contract with Apple to provide the iPads.  A couple of them commented on his spelling ability.                Thursday’s Times printed an editorial cartoon about Deasy’s roll in the affair.  You can read the cartoonist’s comments and view it here.                Former LAUSD deputy superintendent Jaime Aquino, who was heavily involved in the discussions that led to the Apple/Pearson contract with the district and was employed by a Pearson subsidiary prior to working in L.A., denied that he did anything illegal or unethical in an article in today’s Times.                 All 5 letters printed in today’s paper were critical of Supt. Deasy and his close ties with Apple and the contract the district signed to provides iPads for everyone.               NPR station 89.3 KPCC continues it’s investigative reporting into the bidding process that led to the partnership between the LAUSD and Apple/Pearson.  Last Friday they were the first to release some of the emails that hinted at the cozy relationships between the 3 principals.  In a piece today KPCC divulges some additional documents that show some of the members of the district’s bid committee received free iPads with Pearson curriculum loaded on them as well as free attendance at a Palm Desert resort for a Pearson conference.  This item also includes a number of key emails and documents related to the growing scandal.
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, once again reprints a powerful column from award-winning New York principal Carol Burris who, this time, attempts to make sense of the latest test results in her state.  “It is time for . . . . the Board of Regents to alter the course, re-examine the Common Core standards and its tests, and courageously stand for the children of New York,” Burris concludes.  “The original embrace of the Race to the Top reforms was understandable and forgivable. The continuation of the reforms — despite the mounting evidence of failure — is not.”
A short item in EDUCATION WEEK previews two recent books that were highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News.”  Building a Better Teacher by Elizabeth Green and The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein are compared.
On Wednesday, the Lee County, Florida, school board voted 3-2 to opt the entire district out of all statewide standardized tests, becoming the first district in the state to reach that decision.  The Southwest Florida News-Press has the details.  It includes a brief (39 second) video of the audience reaction as the motion was officially approved.                Valerie Strauss reacted to the decision in Lee County on her blog.  She quotes one of the board members who was in favor of the boycott: “It’s an act of civil disobedience. We stood up for what we thought was right.”  Strauss includes an extended video segment (76 minutes) of the debate on the proposal.                Another county school board in Florida is contemplating following in the footsteps of Lee County and opting out of all standardized tests in the state.  Palm Beach County is studying the action according to a piece in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.  [The School Board]  “says testing has gotten out of control and creates too much pressure for students and teachers,” the story begins.  “After discussing the opt-out idea at a recent meeting, board members asked their lawyers for further study. They will discuss it again at a workshop in the next few weeks.”
A newly released book finds that although women are highly represented on local school boards they often don’t always make their voices heard in policy debates.  “School boards have more equitable representation of men and women than any other governing group in the United States,” the item in EDUCATION WEEK begins, “but new studies suggest women’s voices still often aren’t heard.  Women make up more than 40 percent of school board members nationally, more than double the average female participation in other governing groups in the United States. But unless they make up a supermajority of a board, women don’t comment and endorse motions as often as men do.”
Oh, no.  More grief for the LAUSD.  An internal audit by the district’s inspector general discovered that over $2 million in computers could not be accounted for.  Based on the methodology used in the report the losses could be much higher according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  These findings, fortunately for the beleaguered district, were not related to the “iPad for everyone” program.  “For the most part,” the article mentions, “the missing devices covered by the audit did not include iPads that were part of last fall’s rollout of a $1-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator.  However, 96 devices included in that effort also were lost or stolen, with 36 eventually recovered.”
Here a book that’s sure to stir the pot of education reform.  It’s called Badass Teachers Unite and contains a series of essays by Mark Naison, a co-founder of the BATS (BadAss Teachers  Association).  Naison focuses on how the so-called education “reformers” attempt to divert the discussion about what ails education by concentrating on “bad” teachers, their unions  and tenure instead of issues like poverty, racism, hunger, homelessness and income inequality among others.  truthout has a short preview of the book and an excerpt from it.  “Essentially, current school reform policies represent a brilliant tactic to avoid dealing with the real causes of poverty and inequality in society,” the short excerpt concludes, “while finding a convenient scapegoat in public school teachers and their unions. These policies are transparent, ill considered and immoral. And over time, people in the communities most targeted by these reforms will rise up in protest.”
The charter school industry is gearing up a new, slick public relations campaign titled “Truth About Charters.”  Jeff Bryant at the Education Opportunity NETWORK complains that they don’t need an advertising program but more regulation if they want the “truth” to come out about what they do.  He reviews many of the negative stories that have come out recently about charter malfeasance and financial irregularities.
Can teachers be compared like athletes?  Sports have always had a wide array of statistics and numbers to measure individual performance.  Some education “reformers” like to use value-added models (VAMs) as a way to chart teacher effectiveness but that metric has come under increasing pressure for lack of accuracy and consistency.  The author of this piece in EDUCATION WEEK, who is a math teacher in Philadelphia, argues that teaching is not like baseball and VAMs are not at all comparable to the latest sabermetrics being utilized in America’s pastime.  “All teachers are not equal and any system that says otherwise is lying,” he concludes.  “But just because a system mathematically shows differences doesn’t make it better. Blindly firing teachers using flawed data without context doesn’t give students the best possible teachers. Nor does it help teachers grow. Value added-models, as they are currently constructed, feel much more like a war on teachers.”
The HECHINGER REPORT describes, in a lengthy piece, how one middle school in North Carolina could serve as a national model for how to go digital.  It purchased Apple MacBook Air laptops for each of its 600 students as part of a district wide project with money from a federal grant and is making use of the computers in all of its classes.  This item offers specific details about how the conversion to digital learning was accomplished.
And finally, the author of this instructional piece from EDUCATION WEEK is a social studies teacher and department chair at a high school in East Lansing, Michigan.  He has students from many different countries in his classes and describes how he learns about their cultures through writing activities that he assigns early in the year.   “Trying to get to know students is probably one of the best classroom-management techniques there is,” he concludes.  “It’s a long process that takes time. But by starting the year off with a student-centered assignment, teachers can be confident that they will engage students and gain insight into their personal lives in a nonthreatening manner.”
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Tuesday, August 26, 2014 Edition


“Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity,
but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity.
Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself.
Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. 
Let him not be taught science, let him discover it.
If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; 
he will be a mere plaything of other people’s thoughts.” 
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau
BREAKING NEWS:  LAUSD Supt. John Deasy announced in a memo to the school board yesterday that the district was suspending it’s contract with Apple to provide iPads to all students.  Recent revelations that he and Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino had close ties to the company were a major factor in the decision.  A front-page story in today’s L.A. Times has all the latest details.                 EDUCATION WEEK also covered this important story.  Click here for their coverage which includes a link to the above item.               For quite some time now the editor of the “Ed News” has referred to the program as “iPadgate” because he suspected, as many others did, that there was something fishy going on.  Apparently, there was.  For more information about what led up to this latest action see the following stories.                 Friday’s L.A. Times published leaked portions of an internal investigation that was highly critical of the LAUSD’s bidding process and other issues regarding its “iPad for all” program. NPR station 89.3 KPCC reveals some internal emails they obtained that indicate LAUSD “Superintendent John Deasy personally began meeting with Pearson and Apple to discuss the eventual purchase of their products starting nearly a year before the contract went out to public bid.”  The station also indicates  that the internal report reveals that some district officials raised questions about the use of bond construction money to pay for curriculum materials.  Thanks to Randy Traweek for sending this along.               A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times shed more light on the relationship between LAUSD officials and representatives from Apple and Pearson in the run-up to the granting of the very lucrative contract to provide tablets and software to students.  Based on emails released to the paper, contacts between the three sides involved began up to two years prior to the signing of the deal.  The piece includes comments and reactions to the growing controversy made by Supt. Deasy on Sunday.
The husband and wife who wrote this commentary in the Raleigh, NC, News & Observer make a strong case for public education.  They should know, since they have two sons who graduated from North Carolina public schools.  “We remain deeply committed to the success of public education in North Carolina,” they argue.  “We believe not only in the ABCs for each child, but also in the CDEs of strong public schools — essential to our Community, Democracy and Economy.”
The title of this piece from IN THESE TIMES pretty much cuts right to the chase: “The Con Artistry of Charter Schools.”  It’s subtitled “Once An Effort to Improve Public Education, The Charter School Movement Has Transformed Into a Money-Making Venture.”  The author, who is the editor of “The Progressive” magazine, begins by listing a number of instances where charter management companies are under investigation by various law enforcement entities for various nefarious activities.  “Over the last decade,” she charges, “the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.”              The author of this commentary on CITY LIMITS addresses the issue of why there seems to be such high teacher turnover in New York City charter schools.  “According to data from the New York State Department of Education, charter schools in New York City lose far more teachers every year than their traditional school counterparts. In some schools, more than half of faculty ‘turn over’ from one school year to the next, according to NYSED school report cards.”
Anthony Cody turns his new personal blog LIVING in DIALOGUE over to veteran Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson who describes how educators in the Windy City have organized their own standardized testing boycott.  She offers a series of specific ideas on how you can duplicate their actions in your district.
How do the so-called education “reformers” plot to corporatize/privatize the public school system?  They first pour lots of money into local school board races in order to win a majority.  Then they push through rules to turn the schools over to charter management companies and, presto, no more traditional public schools.  Sound far fetched?  This extended investigative piece from IN THESE TIMES illustrates how just such a scenario is playing out in the Dallas Independent School District.  Scary stuff! 
Lily Eskelsen Garcia will officially take over as president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, on Sept. 1.  In the lead up to that she’s been getting a lot of media attention (much of it highlighted by the “Ed News”) for her up-by-the-bootstraps biography and passionate defense of public education, teachers and unions.  Sandy Banks, in her Saturday column for the L.A. Times, had a conversation with her while Garcia was visiting schools in the state.   “She hopes her story, and her moxie,” Banks relates, “will inspire millions of teachers and parents to push back against high-stakes testing, regimented lessons and what she calls ‘stupid rules.'”               In a letter published in today’s Times, a retired teacher who worked in the classroom for 44 years gave a big “thumbs up” to the comments of Lily Eskelsen Garcia that appeared in Banks’ column.  
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reprints a commentary that offers a strategic plan of 9 steps to help save public education.  
On Friday, George McKenna was sworn in to fill a vacant seat on the LAUSD school board.  He won the post in a special election held on August 12  for the District 1 position.  A story in the Saturday L.A. Times recaps the election and what the implications are of McKenna’s win.  “McKenna could prove a pivotal vote,” it suggests, “in the nation’s second-largest school system on issues such as contract negotiations, teacher evaluations and the use of technology in schools. He had the backing of the teachers union.”
truthout offers a cartoon graphic to explain how Bill Gates is able, through the millions of dollars behind his foundation, to manipulate the discussion about what’s wrong with education.
Two letters in Sunday’s L.A. Times commented on the paper’s story on Thursday about the rocky roll-out of the new LAUSD “My Integrated Student Information System” (MiSis) that one described as a “MiSiS crisis.”               More bad publicity for the LAUSD.  Yesterday students at Jefferson High staged a sit-in to protest major problems with the districts new student information system MiSis.  School started on Aug. 12 and student programs were still not correct, some class sizes were huge, attendance was difficult to take and the master schedule was fouled up among other issues.  An article in today’s L.A. Times lays out what the students were upset about. 
Nancy Kuechle, the guru of the ALOED book club, sent along this New York Times review of an intriguing new book by Dana Goldstein titled “The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.”  “Ms. Goldstein’s book,” the reviewer offers, “is meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced, serving up historical commentary instead of a searing philippic.”

The U.S. has recently been experiencing an influx of unaccompanied minors entering the country from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of stories on this issue and how it impacts local schools.  EDUCATION WEEK illustrates the experiences of one such 12-year-old boy who left his home  in Honduras and made the perilous journey to this country to rejoin his family who he hadn’t seen in 8 years.  He was scheduled to begin school in the District of Columbia yesterday.   The article also describes how districts around the country are preparing for these latest young immigrants.
According to employers, what country seems to be doing the best job at preparing college graduates for entry into the workforce?  A story from The HECHINGER REPORT suggests educators look to Germany for some key insights.  “U.S. colleges that consider themselves part of the greatest higher-education system in the world,” the article declares, “are importing the German model of career and technical education to keep up with a demand they can’t fill: for Americans with the right skills to work in mid-level fields.”  The piece goes on to detail the dual system being used in  Germany and how it could be duplicated here in the states.
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a drastic 10% pay cut for teachers in Detroit along with some other draconian cost saving measures.  Today the city’s state-appointed emergency manager cancelled the salary reduction along with a plan to increase class sizes in the bankrupt city.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK has the news.
With more and more experts leery of the use of student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, the New York Board of Regents is proposing that new teacher assessments be made up of 40% of student standardized exam results.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, finds this difficult to accept.  “Unlike the state of Vermont, which refuses to rate teachers and principals by test scores,” she concludes, “New York’s Regents will plunge ahead, regardless of the damage they do to teachers, principals, students, and communities.”
After a number of years of K-12 school budget cuts/stagnation, the new school year is looking up as far as funding goes.  EDUCATION WEEK looks at the guarded optimism regarding increased funds for new hiring and long delayed programs.  “For fiscal 2015, the budget year covering the school year that is just beginning,” the author points out, “the appetite for more spending on public schools was evident in governors’ proposed budgets. Chief executives in all but three states—Alaska, Illinois, and Nevada—proposed general- fund spending increases for K-12, according to a survey published by the National Association of State Budget Officers, in Washington.”  California, by the way, was described as the only state to dramatically increase spending this year due to the passage of Prop. 30.
Bullying is a major problem in schools these days.  It has always been around but awareness of it has moved front and center as it has been traced to the cause of some school shootings and other anti-social behavior.  The author of this piece from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley is a licensed social worker, school counselor and writer.  She offers “Eight Keys to End Bullying.”  These are from her newest book of the same title.
And finally, Vermont is the latest in a growing list of states and districts that are concerned with the misuse of standardized tests.  The Green Mountain state’s board of education released a list of guiding principles regarding the exams that was a thinly veiled attack on many aspects of the testing regimen.  EDUCATION WEEK outlines what’s going on.  

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

Ed News, Friday, August 22, 2014 Edition


“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking
for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind
that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” 
Diane Ravitch prints a commentary on her blog titled “It’s Time to Reform the Reformers.”  It’s written by two educators, one a former superintendent of a school district in Georgia and the other a Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia.  They make use of schools and statistics from the Peach State to bolster their thesis but you’ll find that their argument is universal.  “Schools, like any complex social institutions,” they conclude, “require continual maintenance and rethinking; we hope that in our careers as teachers and school administrators we contributed to that challenging project. But the current “reform” movement, we believe, is not solving actual problems, and in contrast is manufacturing new ones with each dedication of funds to corporations instead of schools. Reforming the ways of the reformers would make better sense to us.”
According to a story in EDUCATION WEEK, for the first time ever the percentage of minority students in American public schools will become a “majority.”  The number of Latino, African-American and Asian students is projected to hit 50.3% this school year based on figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.  “It’s a shift that poses a plain imperative for public schools and society at large,” the article suggests, “demographers and educators say: The United States must vastly improve the educational outcomes for this new and diverse majority of American students, whose success is inextricably linked to the well-being of the nation.”  This item is actually part of a package of stories about the change in demographics that you can find links to in the sidebar.               Jeff Bryant on the Education Opportunity NETWORK comments on this historic milestone and how some people will refuse to see themselves as a “minority” in the schools after being in the “majority” up until now.
A front-page feature in Wednesday’s L.A. Times elaborates on a brief item highlighted in the previous “Ed News” about a new policing policy in the LAUSD that will refer students who commit minor offences to counseling rather than issuing a citation or arrest which would then involve them in the juvenile justice system.  “The decisive step back from punitive law enforcement actions reflects growing research that handling minor offenses with police actions does not necessarily make campuses safer,” the article describes, “but often push struggling students to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law.”                 An editorial in yesterday’s paper supported the district’s new school police policies.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District this week took a welcome step away from a longstanding disciplinary system,” it begins, “in which police issued citations to students ages 13 to 17 who committed minor offenses, a system that effectively criminalizes what is often merely coming-of-age behavior while emphasizing punishment over education.”
An article from POLITICO is headlined “A Bad Week for Common Core.”  It features two polls (and some other news) that show the standards declining in popularity.  The first poll, from EducationNext, was highlighted in the Tuesday edition of the “Ed News.”  A new survey, released Wednesday, from the Gallup Organization and Phi Delta Kappa finds similar reactions.  The article does a good job of comparing the results of the two polls and what it all means for the Common Core.  You can read the full PDK/Gallup poll (12 pages) titled “Try It Again, Uncle Sam” here.  It contains responses on a number of interesting topics besides the standards.  California’s EdSource had a prompt response to and analysis of the latest poll.                 The oft cited Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, has some theories about why teachers have shown such a major decline in support for the Common Core as discovered in the EducationNext poll.  (Teacher support dropped from 76% to 46% from 2013 to this year.)                       Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, looks at the results of the two polls and tries to explain why Common Core support continues to plummet.               In a later blog, Greene refers to a third poll released by Rasmussen Reports earlier in the year that found support for the Core among parents of school-aged children had dropped from 52% in November, 2013 to 34% in June of this year.  Anyone spotting a trend here?
If you think things are/were bad in Los Angeles, wait until you read about the plight of educators in financially troubled Detroit.  The state of Michigan approved a 10% pay cut for teachers, an increase in class sizes and the closure of 24 schools or buildings over 4 years commencing with the next academic year.  The Detroit News provides the details and how the parents, school staff and the community are fighting back. 
As the “Ed News” previously highlighted, last week the LAUSD rolled out a new $20 million student database when classes resumed.  It immediately ran into trouble on some district campuses as students were not issued class schedules or were placed in incorrect classes, attendance was difficult to take and some classes were vastly oversized among other problems.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times outlines the difficulties and the criticisms they engendered from UTLA.
EDUCATION WEEK is sponsoring a free live webinar this coming Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon PDT titled “Personalizing Math Through Technology and Differentiated Instruction.”  The featured presenter is a founding math teacher and instructional coach at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School in New York City.  For more information and to RSVP (required) click here.               Here’s another free live webinar hosted by the same publication that might be particularly useful for the LAUSD in light of their troubled “iPad for All” program.  It will be broadcast on Monday also from 11 to noon PDT and is aptly titled “Helping Teachers Manage iPads in the Digital Classroom.”  For more information and to preregister (required) click here.
Yesterday a local superior court judge in North Carolina ruled that the state’s voucher program was unconstitutional and any funds already distributed had to be recovered.  An item from NC POLICY WATCH outlines the court’s ruling and what the implications are for the state.
George Skelton, in his Thursday column for the L.A. Times, takes Gov. Brown to task for not proposing a fix for the school construction bond situation.  Skelton points out that Brown has complained about the current system for several years but has failed to offer any alternatives.
There’s a new book out that might make a good selection for the ALOED book club.  It’s titled “Building A Better Teacher”  and is written by Elizabeth Green.  A review of the book appeared on the Andrea Gabor website.  “By the time I finished reading the nicely written,” Andrea Gabor wrote, “highly detailed descriptions of some of the latest efforts to improve teaching, I was alternatively gratified, intrigued and more-than-a-little frustrated.”
U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan announced yesterday that most states would get an extra year before they will need to include student test results as part of new teacher evaluations.  That was pretty straightforward.  But what else he said about testing was pretty surprising.  He made some comments about complaints he’s heard from teachers about the number of tests, the time set aside for test prep and other issues pertaining to the assessments.  EDUCATION WEEK reports on what he had to say and includes the full text of his remarks (3 pages) so you can read and digest them for yourself.               Reaction to Duncan’s comments was swift and a little doubtful of its sincerity.  Anthony Cody on his own new Living in Dialogue blog thought the secretary was being a little disingenuous.    Duncan’s announcement of the one year delay reflects that “the Department of Ed is closely listening to the Gates Foundation,” Cody suggests, “which called for such a moratorium just two months ago. It is an acknowledgement of the fast-growing rejection of Common Core and associated tests, and in particular, an effort to shore up support among teachers by providing some level of reassurance that they will not be punished immediately by these tests.”               Peter Greene checked in with some potent observations of Duncan’s remarks on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  “Reading Duncan’s words,” he groans, “always induces an odd sort of vertiginous disorientation as one tries to take in the huge measured-in-light-years distance between the things he says and the policies he pursues.”
An internal investigation of the LAUSD “iPads for All” program was highly critical of the bidding process, lack of transparency and issues over conflicts-of-interest among other things.  A portion of the report was leaked to the L.A. Times and their story appeared as a front-page feature in today’s paper.
And finally, we end on a sad note.  James Foley, the photojournalist executed by ISIS earlier in the week, was a former teacher and an alumnus of Teach for America.  He taught at an elementary school in Phoenix from 1996 to 1999.  He went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism in 2008 reports this short memorial from EDUCATION WEEK.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time. 
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog

Ed News, Tuesday, August 19, 2014 Edition


 “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life” 
― Plato
The lid has been lifted on some major charter school scandals in Detroit and Florida (all highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News.  Are we on top of things, or what?)  Now an item in The Washington Post, by a statistician and blogger based in Los Angeles asks the pertinent question “How Will Charter Schools Deal With Their Corruption Scandals?”  The author lays out, in some detail, the problems in Michigan and Florida.  “The charter school systems [in those two states] were set up under the explicit assumptions that choice and market forces could allow a massive government funded set of private companies to run with only minimal oversight and regulation. With Michigan’s public-policy experiment starting 20 years ago and Florida’s beginning not much later,” he concludes, “it is time to start questioning the effectiveness of these policies and their cost to both taxpayers and, more importantly, to students.”
Do you ever wonder about the history of educational innovation and technology?  The author of this item from HACK EDUCATION [Ed. note: That IS the title.  Check it out if you don't believe it.]  investigates the new GOOGLE  student management program called “Classroom” and uses it as a jumping off point for a review of some earlier “breakhroughs.”  You have to check out the 1926 ad for “A New Automatic Testing Machine for Testing and Teaching” (price: not over $15) that he includes in his piece.  It’s a hoot!
With students returning to classes in LAUSD last week a number of writers picked up pen and paper and sent notes to the L.A. Times on some previous stories in the paper.  Friday’s Times included 3 letters about the paper’s piece on Thursday regarding George McKenna’s win in last week’s school board race.  3 additional writers reacted to the paper’s op-ed item on Wednesday about  Advanced Placement scores and the design of the U.S. History exam.               Two letters published in the next day’s Times commented on the paper’s story on Wednesday about the first day of school.   Last week the Times published a detailed, front-page investigative piece about how crime statistics had been manipulated by the LAPD.  One letter posted in Saturday’s edition questioned the paper’s decision to publish test data and the names of individual teachers and their value-added scores.  (Thanks to Larry Lawrence for that one.)               Two more missives were published in Sunday’s paper regarding the Friday article about the suspension of the “parent trigger” law.
The Washington Post has an excellent profile of Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the new president of the National Education Association who takes office Sept. 1.  It’s titled “Lunch Lady Rises to Teachers Union Leader and Takes On All Comers, Bluntly.”            Valerie Strauss added to this article with an interview of the feisty leader-elect of the NEA.  “To call the woman who is about to take the helm of the National Education Association ‘outspoken’ would be something of an understatement,” Strauss explains in the introduction to her Q & A.
Campbell Brown is still making waves but this time for a slightly different reasons.  Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote a letter to Brown warning her about an organization started by Brown that is using a slogan created by the AFT.  The executive director of Brown’s group, Partnership for Educational Justice, promptly issued a curt response.  Both items were included in a column from Valerie Strauss.
Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity NETWORK offers up his take on the big news last week regarding Michelle Rhee stepping down as CEO of her organization StudentsFirst.  He recaps the story and reviews some of the key articles related to it and presents his ideas on who might be her “Rhee-placement.”  [Ed. note:  That's his phrase.]  Campbell Brown is mentioned prominently as the one to fill Rhee’s shoes.  
Thanks to Randy Traweek for sending along an op-ed from Sunday’s New York Times.  It’s from a professor at UC Berkeley who makes a very compelling argument why “Teaching Is Not a Business.”   “The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then,” he concludes, “that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.”               Diane Ravitch called this “a truly wonderful article” and you can read some more of her more specific comments about it here.
Paul Thomas of Fordham University, on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog, identifies 2 phases so far in the resistance movement to the corporatization of public education.  He describes each but suggests it may be time to move to a new Phase 3 which he thinks is akin to the young adult stage.
The last edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new blog called Lace to the Top which the editor had not seen before.  This week Diane Ravitch featured the blog in her column.  Lace was founded by two dads, who are both teachers, from Long Island who were concerned about the overuse/misuse of standardized testing and wanted to do something about it.  Ravitch includes a link to their website so you can check it out.
Some school districts have yet to begin classes but the UC system opened it online application process on Aug. 1 for the first time ever.  That provides students with 3 extra months to complete the forms, hone those essays and collect letters of recommendation before the filing deadline on Nov., 30.  An article in Sunday’s L.A. Times details the process and why it’s been opened early.
The state of Washington made the decision not to seek a waiver from the onerous 2014 requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.  Because of that choice nearly all schools in the state will be designated as “failing” under NCLB.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, describes the “absurdity” of that outcome.               EDUCATION WEEK has a glossary of key terms related to NCLB waivers to help you navigate through the legislation.  The same publication has an interactive map showing the current state-by-state waiver status.  California is among 7 states in the “no waiver” category.
The seminal report “A Nation At Risk” came out in 1983 during the Reagan administration.  It identified a number of shortcomings in the field of education in this country and offered  plenty of suggestions to remedy the problems.  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT traces some of the reform ideas circulating today to that report.  It uses 2 schools as examples to illustrate it’s point, one in New York and a charter in Boston. 
More positive news for the LAUSD.  Two students from South L.A. won an essay contest about Charles Dickens and that got them invited to an international conference at UC Santa Cruz sponsored by the Dickens Project.  A piece in Sunday’s L.A. Times describes their efforts and why they got involved.
Yesterday Diane Ravitch’s blog passed 14 million page views since it debuted in June, 2012.  She described her pride in reaching that milestone in an entry in the column.
The highly regarded director of the award-winning Crenshaw High School (LAUSD) choir was returned to her classroom when classes started last week after spending 8 months in “teacher jail” for unspecified allegations.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times has the details.
The nine authors of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History framework that was first published in 2012 issued an open letter defending their work in the face of conservative criticism of it.  Recently, the Republican National Committee came out against the program.  EDUCATION WEEK has a short story about the letter and a link to the full text which includes the names of all 9 of the scholars who wrote it.
The latest Common Core test results were released by New York last week.  They showed English scores were “flat” and math scores increased slightly.  A story from The  HECHINGER REPORT argues that only detailing proficiency rates masks just how much the actual results changed and suggests students did better than the reporting may indicate. 
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, prints a commentary from a professor of Education at Boston College, who wonders “What’s the Real Purpose of Educational Benchmarking?”  He provides an historical definition of the term “benchmarking” and details how it is being used in education today.
California has gotten a $10.7 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to assist low-income students in paying for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International exams.  39 other states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands received a total of $28.4 million in  grants from the DoE.  A piece in yesterday’s L.A. Times outlined the program.
A new poll published today, conducted by the  group EducationNext out of the conservative  Hoover Institute At Stanford University, found support for the Common Core slipping but it’s still favored by a 53% of all respondents.  The biggest decline in support from last year to this was among teachers whose backing declined from 76% to 46%.  The survey questioned 500 adults in the spring and the results were featured in a story from EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a link to the full poll (12 pages) titled “NO COMMON OPINION ON THE COMMON CORE” where you can see the other issues surveyed.
Diane Ravitch is touting a new organization on her website.  It’s called Democrats for Public Education and she includes the press release they issued announcing their debut.  In it the group delineates their “core principles” and it has a link to their website.  
5 professional women, two of them educators, took a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) from the University of Pennsylvania last fall titled “Creativity, Innovation and Change.”  They decided to collaborate on a list of their own and developed “The Five Habits of Creative Teachers” which is the title of their piece in EDUCATION WEEK.  It became the idea for another MOOC which the 5 of them developed and will be presented again starting on Oct. 6.   A link to the course description and information about signing up is included in the article.
A 2-part investigative series in the (South Florida) Sun Sentinel takes a critical look at charter schools.  Part 1 details the lack of accountability and oversight for charters and explains how easy it is to start one and weak state laws.  “Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system,” it begins, “collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.  A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity.”   The first segment includes a video (4:48 minutes) illustrating some of the issues covered.   Part 2 describes an educator who was banned in New Jersey for financial improprieties but landed on his feet in Florida.  “New Jersey authorities banned educator Steve Gallon III from working in their public schools,” it explains. “Five months later, three South Florida charter schools welcomed him.  The struggling schools gave Gallon’s company $500,000 in taxpayer dollars over two years, allowing him to give jobs and double payments to his cronies.”
And finally, a new policy for LAUSD police will discourage the issuance of citations or arrests for certain offenses and students will be referred to counseling instead.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK outlines the new guidelines.  
          Dave Alpert
          (Occidental College, ’71) 
                 That’s me working diligently on the blog.