Ed News, Friday, August 29, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

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

The ED NEWS

“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

The ED NEWS

“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 ED NEWS

 “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.

Ed News, Friday, August 15 Edition

The ED NEWS

“It is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read.” 
Whoppi Goldberg recently jumped into the deep end of the tenure debate without a life jacket on the ABC talk show that she cohosts called “The View.”  The reaction to some of her comments was swift and rather unkind.  The “Ed News” highlighted the give-and-take in a previous edition.  Two teachers from New York joined the fray on the Due Process, Explained blog and in an extended piece titled “Tenure=Due Process” they try to set the entertainer straight.  “The subject of teacher tenure and teacher unions has recently been a recurring topic on your show, The View,” they begin.  “We understand and appreciate that you are pro-teacher and pro-education, but believe that your perception of due process (aka “tenure”) is incorrect and are taking the liberty of writing you to correct any inaccuracies.”               What would the teaching profession be really like in the absence of tenure protections?  That question is addressed by Peter Greene, in light of Whoppi Goldberg’s comments, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  “Civilians need to understand– the biggest problem with the destruction of tenure is not that a handful of teachers will lose their jobs,” he suggests, “but that entire buildings full of teachers will lose the freedom to do their jobs well.”
JOB OPENING: The L.A. County High School for the Arts is looking to fill its principal position.  The school is located on the campus of Cal State University, Los Angeles and includes 29 academic and 82 arts faculty in the fields of Music, Dance, Visual Arts and Theatre. Application deadline is Aug. 29.  For more information go to the job listing from EDUCATION WEEK by clicking here.
The author of this commentary for EDUCATION WEEK is a Professor of Physics at the New York Institute of Technology and served for 40 years as the head of a nationally recognized accrediting agency.  His essay is titled “Let’s Be Honest: We Don’t Know How to Make Great Teachers.”  He opens his piece this way: “Well-intended efforts [to identify teaching quality] are based on reasonable theoretical constructs, and on the assumption that we know what constitutes great teaching.  The fact is, however, we don’t really know. We are choking on data,” he continues, “but there are few if any properly validated experiments, and therefore no real knowledge.”  Maybe this entire debate boils down to the famous Justice Potter Stewart quote regarding obscenity in a U.S. Supreme Court opinion: “I know it when I see it.”
The Michigan State Board of Education voted on Tuesday to ask the legislature to make major changes to the way the state oversees charter schools in regards to educational quality, accountability and transparency.  The Detroit Free-Press reprints the specific recommendations from the Board in its story.
 
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday that California had failed to live up to state and federal laws that require it to provide proper educational support to ELLs.  The ACLU of Southern California website explains the court’s decision and the ramifications for California.
 
In the closely watched special election to fill a vacant seat on the LAUSD school board, veteran district principal and administrator George McKenna won a decisive victory over his opponent Alex Johnson.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times provided details of the early unofficial results.                 A follow-up story in yesterday’s paper had semi-official results, a brief recap of the campaign and an analysis of why McKenna won (53%) over Johnson (47%) who outspent McKenna by almost 3-to-1.
 
This may be a new twist in opposition to charter schools.  A school board in Louisiana is suing the state school board over that body’s decision to divert substantial funds from the local district to pay for the newly created charter.  The Iberville Parish School System would lose almost a quarter of its annual budget in order to provide for the charter start up.  THE ADVOCATE (Baton Rouge) describes the case and why it’s being filed.  
 
Michelle Rhee announced Wednesday that she is stepping down as CEO of the organization StudentsFirst that she founded 4 years ago.  The article in the Sacramento Bee  contained the statement from Rhee and went on to explain what she plans to be doing in the future.  The Huffington Post also reported the story and offered some additional details including a short video segment (2:05 minutes) about Rhee’s decision.                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacted promptly to the news.  He penned a “Dear Michelle” letter bidding her “a fond” farewell.  “So I’m glad to read that you and education are breaking up,” he concluded.  “You were bad for education, and it will be better off without you. Good luck in your new endeavors; may they take you far away from American schools.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, commented on Rhee’s stepping down.               The author of this extensive analysis on POLITICO digs deeply into the reasons WHY Rhee stepped down from her post as CEO.  “As she prepares to step down as CEO,” it asserts, “she leaves a trail of disappointment and disillusionment. Reform activists who shared her vision say she never built an effective national organization and never found a way to use her celebrity status to drive real change.”  In addition, one anonymous reform leader stated in the article: ““There was a growing consensus in the education reform community that she didn’t play well in the sandbox.”

School opened Tuesday in the LAUSD and the news was generally positive.  The biggest budget increase in 7 years greeted the over 640,000 students who showed up on the first day of classes.  The district was able to hire almost 1,600 new teachers, administrators and support staff.  The picture was not totally rosy for the nation’s second largest school district based on a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “L.A. Unified also launched an expanded online student information system this month,” it noted, “but it ran into some problems logging attendance and assigning students to teachers.”               Another area unfortunately plagued by continuing budget cuts is for school crossing guards.  “Since 2008,” a story in the same paper reported, “the guard ranks have declined 37% to 358 this year, according to data compiled by a city union group. Much of that is due to attrition: A hiring freeze that began in 2009 prevented the city transportation department from replacing guards who retired.”

 
A school district in Florida is looking into the idea of “opting-out” of all standardized tests.  A story in the (Fort Myers) News-Record describes the proposed action in the Lee County schools.               The Oklahoma PTA at their annual convention last month voted unanimously to request a ban on all high stakes testing and to refrain from using student scores from those tests as a way to evaluate teachers.  The very brief announcement of their action appeared on the Oklahoma PTA website.
 
Campbell Brown’s appearance on the “Colbert Report” on July 31st will not go away easily.  The former CNN anchor took a lot of flack for refusing to divulge who funds her organizations and her support of several Vergara-like cases in New York.  She decided to fire back and chose Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog on The Washington Post as her platform.  She again addresses issues like tenure, teacher dismissal rules and attacks on her personally but makes no mention of those mysterious groups that provide her funding.               Peter Greene jumped into the fray and responded to Brown’s latest comments in a “Dear Campbell Brown” letter.  “You’ve disseminated your talking points pretty clearly at this point,” he lectures in conclusion, “and those of us out in the cheap seats have pointed out repeatedly where the gaps in your argument lie. Simple repetition will not move the conversation forward. You need to fill in those gaps if your claims to concern about students and education are to be taken seriously.”
 
The LAUSD was recently touting increased numbers of Advanced Placement classes and students taking the exams.  However, a former high school history teacher with the LAUSD and a current doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education, was not totally excited by the figures cited.  He discussed a number of drawbacks to the whole system in an op-ed in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “As AP courses have expanded,” he laments, “and as universities depend on them to separate and sort applicants, high schools have developed their own skill sets to ensure higher success and pass rates in both the courses and their associated exams. Sadly, the space for more inquiry- and discussion-driven, deeper and more complex learning is all but disappearing.”
 
Teachers in North Carolina will be getting, on average, a 7% pay increase based on a bill signed into law by the governor last week.  However, the new raises will come with a pretty steep price: “a radical revamping of the state salary schedule and the specter of new differentiated-pay plans” according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK that points out why the 7% is not exactly what it appears to be.
 
Rhode Island hopes to become “the first state to fully blend technology into all schools” using a partnership with a California-based nonprofit to help achieve that lofty goal.  The HECHINGER REPORT conducts a Q & A with the state’s Education Commissioner who defines her ambitious plans and the steps to reach it.  “Critics of increased use of technology in classrooms,” the author maintains, “say it doesn’t necessarily lead to more positive student outcomes and is a poor replacement for a teacher. Supporters say when properly used, technology can greatly improve achievement and empower students to progress at their own pace.”
How many of you have ever attended a local, state, national or even international convention?  In the days before PowerPoint how did the presenters hold your attention and get their information across?  The author of this piece in EDUCATION WEEK titles his work “Goodbye PowerPoint: How Education Conferences are Branching Out” and he tackles the issue of how to engage attendees in this already tech-heavy age.  “With so many conferences for educators to choose from,” he maintains, “finding new ways to engage potential attendees—and keep those who do show up coming back—remains a priority for organizers.”  He offers several innovative ideas as solutions to the issue.  What do you think of them?
New York released its 2014 test scores yesterday.  This was the second year under the new Common Core assessments.  The numbers for English Language Arts were flat and only a small improvement was registered in math.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK detailed the latest results.               An activist group of parents and educators was outraged at the quality of the tests and the accuracy of the scores.  They issued an immediate press release which Diane Ravitch reprinted on her blog.               Another item explains that the only reason the scores in New York remained “flat” or were “up slightly” was due to the fact that the state lowered the cut scores this year.  Lacetothetop demonstrates what’s going on.
The “Ed News” covered the story in a previous edition about the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border into the U.S. from countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.  As school years commence those children are beginning to show up for classes at districts all over the nation and this feature in yesterday’s L.A. Times illustrates how the LAUSD is greeting these immigrants with open arms.
If poverty rates have a significant impact on student learning than the latest figures from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 25th annual “KidsCount” survey don’t bode well for the future.  It discovered that increased child poverty rates, as a result of the latest recession, are having a bigger effect on the youngest pupils.  The figures on this issue appear in an article in The HECHINGER REPORT.  “There has been a recent uptick in the single most important factor for predicting a child’s school readiness and life outcomes generally: whether or not he or she lives in poverty.  After recessions end,” the story points out, “the child poverty rate tends to continue climbing, and current circumstances appear no different.”
The “Education Week Research Center” released the results of an online poll yesterday of 457 educators in states that had adopted the Common Core.  It sought responses to a number of aspects of the new standards ranging from training, preparedness, curricular resources and awareness of the standards and the accompanying assessments.  Some of the results were published in EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a link to the full survey (37 pages) titled “FROM ADOPTION TO PRACTICE–Teacher Perspectives on the Common Core.”
 
Through a legal interpretation of a federal law, the LAUSD has determined that the state parent trigger law does not apply and is on hold for a year.  That contention is not universally accepted by all circles as detailed in a story in today’s L.A. Times.
 
Not only did the Gates Foundation spend millions of dollars creating, promoting and helping to implement the Common Core, now, POLITICO reports that the organization is helping to fund a new nonprofit that plans to rate textbooks and other curricular materials related to the new standards.  Does that seem like a conflict-of-interest to you?  (Only the first two paragraphs in POLITICO  are related to this story.  The rest are on other education-related topics.)
 
And finally, when the new school year started on Tuesday the LAUSD rolled out its computerized  “My Integrated Student Information System” (MiSiS).  It was doing just fine until it went live and then all sorts of problems cropped up.  Student programs were missing or not correct, attendance had to be taken on paper and records were inadvertently deleted among other glitches.  The system was quickly jettisoned until the bugs could be worked out according to a story in the L.A. Daily News.   CBS Los Angeles Channel 2 had a report and video segment (2:26 minutes) on the problems that was broadcast this morning.  How many of you are old enough to remember the district’s new computerized payroll fiasco from about a decade ago?  Then, there’s the recent “iPad for everyone” disaster and the Obamacare website snafu.  Anyone spotting a trend here?  Oops!  That last one was not the district’s fault.  Sorry.
 
Enjoy the weekend if you are back in school and the rest of your summer if you’re not!
 
 
 

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

Ed News, Tuesday, August 12, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educators:
 ‘that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. 
Of the two kinds the latter is by far the more desirable. 
Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. 
It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. 
What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.” 
― Carter G. WoodsonThe Mis-Education of the Negro
Diane Ravitch prints a note from a reader who forwards a blog from 4LAKIDS that offers a number of endorsements of George McKenna for the vacant LAUSD school board seat in the special election being held today.               Ravitch also posted the endorsement of McKenna by current LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer.  
Whoopi Goldberg (yes, that Whoopi Goldberg) stepped in it the other day when she joined the anti-tenure battle on her show “The View.”  Because of the size of her audience her remarks drew immediate fire and she was forced to issue a quick, if brief (24 second)  video clarification.  A piece from the DAILY KOS describes what precipitated the clash and how viewers to the show responded.  A second video (6:23 minutes), from a veteran public school teacher, attempts to provide some factual background for Ms. Goldberg. 
One of the key changes that many so-called education “reformers” want to make is to run schools more like businesses.  The author of this commentary in the Greensboro (North Carolina) News-Record is a master teacher and is National Board Certified.  She’s taught for 25 years so she knows of what she speaks.  She explains, in a rather novel way, why schools ARE NOT businesses and can’t be run like them.
 
One of the key issues in the recent Vergara case in California was how to distinguish between a “good” and a “bad” teacher.  A similar case has been filed in New York and the lead plaintiff offered a rather novel answer to that question.  Valerie Strauss explains what he said in her “Answer Sheet” blog  for The Washington Post.  It includes a video (10:01 minutes) of a discussion between Campbell Brown and the plaintiff discussing his point.  Strauss titles her piece “A Strange Definition of a ‘Bad’ Teacher.”
 
The American Statistical Association earlier this month published a 5-point rebuttal to the (in)famous study by Chetty, Rockoff and Friedman that touted the use of value-added models (VAMs) as highly reliable measures of teacher effectiveness.  One of the authors of this latest ASA report is none other than Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of the VAMboozled blog (featured quite often by the “Ed News”).  Diane Ravitch reprinted the ASA’s trenchant points.  It includes an impressive list of references and sources for the research.
 
Why do some so-called education “reformers” insist on making the Common Core into a civil rights issue?  That’s the key question addressed by Anthony Cody and Alan Aja on Cody’s new blog Living in Dialogue.  They title their essay “Civil Rights or Civil Wrongs: A Closer Look at the Common Core.”
 
One of the key “reforms” instituted in the Washington, D.C., public schools by Michelle Rhee when she was chancellor there was the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.  That concept is rapidly losing favor as Rhee’s handpicked successor decided to temporarily end the practice.  Surprisingly the decision was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!   Are you shocked?  The details can be found in an article in SALON.
 
With teacher tenure under attack from many different sources a 5th grade teacher at Castroville Elementary School in California offers a short rebuttal titled “Tenure Gives Teachers Freedom to Teach.”  His comments appear on the San Francisco Chronicle website.
 
Wednesday the Sacramento Bee ran an op-ed that claimed California was lowering the requirements for teaching credentials in the state.  You can read that commentary here.  “Recently,” the authors claimed, “the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, asserting it was raising standards, voted for a special teaching authorization that would lower credentials for some teachers.  The revisions eliminate five of the seven current requirements for teaching an academic subject,” they continued.  “The most critical elimination: removing the requirement that teachers have bachelor’s degree.”  A number of readers of Diane Ravitch’s column were incredulous at this assertion and wrote to her about this action. Ravitch reached out to a number of her reliable sources and got to the bottom of the claim by printing an official response from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.               To continue to clarify the situation, Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, explains exactly what took place regarding ROTC credentials ONLY and sets the record straight.  Her follow-up commentary appeared in the same paper. 
 
WalletHub, a financial services provider, has come out with its 2014 rankings of school systems by state.  Top three: New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont.  Bottom three: Alabama, Mississippi and the District of Columbia.  California ranked 39th.  The organization uses 12 factors to develop its ratings.  A number of charts and tables accompany this article.  
 
Newt Gingrich (remember him?) wrote an opinion piece for CNN in which he argues that the traditional model of educating students needs to be replaced by some of the technological breakthroughs of the 21st century.  He titles his piece “Get Schools Out of the 1890s.”   Diane Ravitch had some choice comments about the former Speaker of the House of Representatives proposals on her blog.
 
Is U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan changing his spots?  After following a “reform” program advocated by people like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Sam Walton, he now identifies as his “new top advisers” outstanding teachers and principals that he’s met in his travels around the country.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, is more than skeptical and she explains why.  “A problem for Duncan,” she concludes, “is that many teachers and principals  don’t think the answer lies with his reform policies or his embrace of alternative teaching programs.”
 
Here’s some positive news for LAUSD.  Advanced Placement participation in classes and students taking the exams has increased significantly from 2006-07 according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  Course offerings have increased 34% in that time period and the number of pupils sitting for the tests has climbed by 62% in the past 7 years despite overall enrollment declines.               Speaking of Advanced Placement classes, the Republican National Committee has come out against the College Board’s new AP U.S. History framework complaining that it “”deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events” and “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”  A story in EDUCATION WEEK explains in more detail what the RNC is so upset about.                   In response to complaints about the new APUSH Framework, the College Board quickly released a sample test question and will soon issue a “clarification” of what the curriculum contains.  ED WEEK again has the follow-up.
 
Why are people skeptical of some charter schools?  Check out these two stories.  The New York Times describes what happened when former pro football star Deion Sanders was allowed by the Texas Board of Education to open a charter that quickly turned into a sports academy with dubious academic standards among other problems.                    A charter in Chicago run by the reclusive Turkish imam Fetullah Gulen is planning to open in a building owned by a bank headed by the president of the Chicago School Board.  How convenient (and probably profitable)!  The Chicago Sun-Times details this seeming impropriety.
 

“Our wise friend Edward Berger took some time off from blogging, did some serious reflection, and has returned with some blockbuster posts,” Diane Ravitch begins on one of her blog entries.  “This one is called ‘Never Again! Now the Evidence is Irrefutable.’ He describes three groups of reformers.”  Berger has boiled down what the “Ed News” refers to as “so-called education reformers” into three distinct groups.  This is pretty scary stuff as he describes each group and what they hope to achieve through their “reforms.”  This item should not be missed!  As an example, here’s his description of just the first group: 

 
“Group one, the most damaging, is motivated by gaining access to the tax dollars citizens pay for public education. They hide behind a pretense of serving children 
and building America’s future. They are ruthless pirates who have no allegiance to anything but their own wealth and power. They are often hedge fund managers. 
Many are successful entrepreneurs who believe that because they created or inherited wealth, they are experts in every field…..”
 

Campbell Brown continues to draw fire for her appearance on the “Colbert Report” on July 31st.  David Sirota, writing for his new home at the INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES, takes the former CNN news anchor to task for failing to disclose the groups that provide her funding particularly since one of the organizations she founded is called the “Parents Transparency Project.” (Emphasis added).  “The founder of a high-profile group seeking to weaken teacher tenure laws refuses to reveal who is funding her efforts,” the article begins, “despite her organization’s stated aim to ‘bring transparency’ to education policymaking. ”              Mercedes Schneider couldn’t resist commenting on Brown’s recent efforts in a piece on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 titled “Pretty Campbell Brown and Her Ugly, Misguided Anti-Due-Process Crusade.”  You can’t get much more descriptive than that!   Schneider includes a very interesting and detailed biography of Brown as part of her commentary.

 
Jury selection began yesterday for a trial predicted to last between 4 and 6 months of 12 educators accused of cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta Public Schools.  The former superintendent at the time of the scandals has serious health issues and is not among the defendants at this time.  The story appears on the WJCL News website (via the Associated Press).
Teach for America is making a concerted effort to increase the diversity of its recruits.  Up to 50% of its latest class are people of color, reports the organization.  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT explains the changes and what else may be in store for TFA.
Today the State Board of Education in Michigan began debating a new set of rules for strengthening oversight of charter schools in that state.  They would require the same transparency as public schools and toughen conflict-of-interest rules for companies that manage charters.  Upon reading what’s being proposed one is struck by the fact that these rules need to be applied nationwide.  “Casandra Ulbrich, vice president of the State Board and chair of the legislative committee, said it falls within the board’s responsibility to ensure ‘the same levels of transparency, accountability and high standards as traditional schools.'”  The Detroit Free Press has all the details.
And finally, we’ll end on an up note.  Here’s a BIG success story to help get the new school year started today in the LAUSD.  The Academic Decathlon coach at Fremont High was recently voted coach of the year by her fellow team leaders.  So far, so good.  Her back story, however, is remarkable.  She dropped out of school in the 9th grade but ultimately returned, graduated, earned a degree and a credential and has been teaching history at Fremont for the past 4 years.  Her decathlon team has made great progress, too, finishing 13th last year after placing 47th three years ago.  Sandy Banks, in her Tuesday column for the L.A. Times, introduces you to this amazing young woman.
 
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71–That’s me happily working on the blog)

Ed News, Friday, August 8, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

“Ignorance is the parent of fear.” 
 
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for informing the editor that the highly respected teacher and blogger Anthony Cody will be ending his column “Living in Dialogue” for EDUCATION WEEK.  He recaps his 6 year stint for the publication and reports that he will be debuting an independent blog also called “Living in Dialogue.”  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of his pieces and has found them to be insightful and informative and looks forward to featuring even more of his work as he makes this move.  For those of you who are big fans of Cody you can find his new home here.
 
Michelle Rhee constantly touts the “great success” she had boosting standardized test scores in Washington, D.C. when she was chancellor of schools there.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, looks at student results since 2009 (Rhee served as DCPS chief from 2007-10) and finds them less than stellar.  In fact, according to a chart she includes in her piece the only group of kids who gained over that period of time (and it was only 1.5 points) were “whites.”  Why do the so-called education “reformers” continue to trot her out as an exemplar of how to fix the public schools?  
 
The battle over teacher tenure continues.  AFT President Randi Weingarten and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaragosa appeared on the “Morning Joe” show on Tuesday on MSNBC to support tenure and seniority rules.  The video runs 8:14 minutes.  They appeared to counter the previous day’s program that featured Campbell Brown and famed trial lawyer David Boies who argued against tenure and seniority.  This segment runs 8:16 minutes.  Watch them and you’ll get a good discussion of the issues from both sides.              The Jersey Jazzman deconstructs the  comments of lawyer David Boies, the latest celebrity to adopt the anti-tenure position and become a spokesperson for that side of the debate.                 The author of a piece in EDUCATION WEEK suggests the fight over tenure may come down to who can win the battle for public opinion.  “At this rate,” he implies, “teacher tenure may exceed the Common Core State Standards as an education policy lightning rod, even as a possible wedge issue in the midterm and 2016 elections.  One thing’s for sure: There’s a war out there to win public opinion on the merits, or demerits, of tenure laws.”                The legal team that supported the suit brought in the Vergara case has signed on to represent plaintiffs in one of the two tenure cases filed in New York.  They have cited many of the same research reports used in the California case.  A copy of their amended petition is included in this story, also in  EDUCATION WEEK.              Campbell Brown continues to gain attention with her recent appearance on the “Colbert Report” and her support for a couple of Vergara-type lawsuits filed in New York.  In this profile of her in Esquire the author asks “Who the Fck is Campbell Brown?”  The answer is not flattering: “Quite simply, Campbell Brown is not in this for the kids. She’s running a con on behalf of some pretty shady people.”
 
Students will return to classes in the LAUSD on Tuesday.  This past Tuesday Supt. John Deasy addressed district principals and administrators in a formal presentation at Garfield High School.  He touted increases in graduation rates and more robust funding but challenged the gathered minions to continue to reduce the dropout rate and to concentrate on those students most in need of help.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times outlines what he spoke about.
Daniel Willingham, a former ALOED book club author, looks at traditional student disciplinary practices and finds them very ineffective.  He titles his piece “Suspensions, Expulsions, Arrests Don’t Work: On Student Discipline, We Can Do Better” and it appears on REAL CLEAR EDUCATION.  He highlights a new report from the School Discipline Consensus Project that suggests a more positive atmosphere in classrooms and on school campuses will work much better.  “The overarching principle emphasized in the report,” he concludes, “is the creation of more positive environments in schools and classrooms, and more supportive relationships among students, teachers, and administration.”  Willingham summarizes 6 out of 60 of the suggested alternatives and includes a link to the full report (462 pages) titled “Strategies From the Field To Keep Students Engaged In School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System.”
The “Ed News” recently highlighted a new publication that might make for an interesting ALOED book club discussion.  It’s titled “50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools” written by David Berliner and Gene Glass.  Larry Ferlazzo of EDUCATION WEEK conducted an interview with the authors in which they discussed a few of the “myths and lies” about education in the U.S. referred to in their work. 
 
A Teach for America member was hired to work at a charter school in financially troubled Detroit.  She describes her experiences in an article in JACOBIN magazine. Unfortunately, she found the charter was more interested in making a profit than helping students, one of whom she features.  “As I’d eventually discover,” she laments, “mismanagement and opportunistic ‘education entrepreneurs,’ more than pedagogical excellence, defined the charter school system that was supposed to be serving students.”  This was the second of a 2-part series in the magazine exploring charter schools in New Orleans and Detroit.  Part 1, focused on the switch to an all-charter system in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina, and found the results “devastating.”  “The state of education in New Orleans is often presented as a sort of grand bargain:” it begins, “on the one hand, the neoliberal transformation has been undemocratic and has marginalized community members, parents, and educational professionals; on the other hand, advocates of reform are quick to cite higher test and state school performance scores as evidence that the reforms have been successful. While the former is true, the claim that there has been substantial improvement in the educational experiences of young people is unfounded.”
 
California is in the process of retooling its school accountability system.  The state is trying to come up with a process that downplays student test score results as it redesigns the old Academic Performance Index (API).  How successful has the state been so far?  An article in EDUCATION WEEK looks at the status of reform in the Golden state.  It begins with an excellent review of what’s gone on in the past, what the new legislation hopes to accomplish by the mandated deadline of May, 2015, and where things stand as the new school year commences.               An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times commented on the overhaul of the API system and offered some suggestions on what should and should not be included in the new accountability formula.
 
Diane Ravitch is promoting a “Bold New Website for Teachers and Their Allies.”  It’s called “The Teacher Advocate” and can be found here.   She invited the creator Randy Hoover, a long-time public school social studies teacher and a Professor Emeritus at Youngstown State University, to describe what his goals and aims are for his new blog.  He gladly complied in Ravitch’s column.
And finally, California is in the midst of rolling out its unique Local Control Funding Formula, adopted in June, 2013, which features a new method for distributing state money to individual districts and schools based on student need.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK provides background to the legislation, where it stands currently and what is planned for the future.  Be sure to peruse the 3 sidebars which explain key terms, provide a timeline and offer some pertinent numbers and statistics.
 
   
 

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