Ed News, Tuesday, July 25, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Do not just accept but dare to question.” 

― Lailah Gifty Akita

Betsy DeVos
The July 18th edition of the “Ed News” mentioned how rarely Sec. DeVos holds press conferences or even sits down for a one-on-one interview.  A short item on the Poynter website details her avoidance of members of the media.  [DeVois] not in the news much.  She’s like a 5th grader avoiding eye contact with a science teacher whose test she flunked.  [On July 9] she did what was hailed by NBC as her first ‘network news interview on Megyn Kelly’s show,” it relates, “offering what appeared to be a brief and banal set of comments on charter schools.”               Betsy DeVos likes to tout how well school “choice” is working in Florida.  Only problem is the reality of the situation is much different than the Sec. of Education’s perceptions.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, describes how “The K-12 education system in Florida . . . is in chaos” but DeVos keeps promoting charters and vouchers.  Looks like those “alternative facts” are alive and well in the Trump administration.  “You don’t hear DeVos talking about the fact that Florida has for years had one of the highest annual charter closure rates in the country,” Strauss grumbles, “schools that were closed after financial and other scandal.  Or that there is no substantive evidence that voucherlike programs that have channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private and religious schools has boosted the students’ academic trajectories — even while there are no mandated consequences on these schools for poor results.”              The July 21st edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a rhetorical war that commenced last week between DeVos and AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten over various issues emanating from the Sec. of Education.  The conflict moved to the Twittersphere as outlined on Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog who features some Tweets from both sides.  Klonsky tries to make sense of the squabble for his readers.  “I admit, it’s not much of a war,” he confesses.  “For those who have a hard time making any sense of this tweetspat,  let me try and break it down. Under the direction of Betsy DeVos, the DOE has become little more than an engine for driving school privatization, religious fundamentalism, racism and gender discrimination.  Trump’s appointment of DeVos to oversee this country’s public education system threatens a roll-back of every hard-won gain by the Civil Rights Movement in the past 70 years.”
 
Charter Schools
Get this.  Utah is contemplating a law that would allow charter management companies to acquire property for school sites or to expand existing ones through eminent domain. The Deseret News has the details.  “While schools operating under charter are considered public education, the charter developers are often private entities that own the school facilities,” it explains, “leaving the question of whether such an arrangement could fit within the state’s definitions for where eminent domain is permissible. . . .   The problem in a number of cases for charter schools has been with them seeking to use eminent domain to gather a small property to complete their planned footprint, where cities do not wish to exercise eminent domain for such a small purpose.”               The Phoenix New Times has an extended profile of how at least one charter school operates in the wild west of Arizona.  Allow me to introduce you to the Metropolitan Arts Institute, the topic of the exposé.  The charter, founded in the late 1990s, serves 250 students in grades 7-12 in Phoenix.  Be prepared for a long litany of problematic issues with policy, personnel and some bizarre behavior.  “In Arizona, there are two kinds of public schools: traditional and charter.  Traditional schools are governed by boards of directors elected by voters who live within a school district’s boundaries.  Charter schools are governed by boards whose members are appointed — sometimes by the person who runs the charter school.  And that’s a setup for plenty of conflicts of interest, nepotism, and secrecy.”  Matthew Baker, founder of the school, president of the board of directors and a poetry teacher is a real trip according to his description in the article.  Why is he dressed as a wizard and photographed washing a teenaged girl’s feet?  Beats me.               Shannon Ergun, a member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), makes a convincing case against charter schools and she cites several research studies to bolster her position.  She’d like to see more taxpayer resources earmarked for the local traditional public school rather than to charters and vouchers.  “What I see currently happening across the nation,” she writes, “is that schools for generations have been starved of funding while being asked to do more and more.  Educators and public schools are then blamed for failing based on a system of tests originally designed to prove that black and brown people are intellectually inferior (side note, do some research on the history of standardized testing and we can talk further on this issue).”  Be sure to check out the graphic that leads off her piece.         In some states influential charter associations are able to get favorable legislation passed because of significant campaign contributions to local and state legislators.  In Florida, things work a little differently.  It seems 3 powerful legislators themselves stand to profit from the charter industry so they’re only too happy to vote for bills that favor charters.  Doesn’t that raise some ethical and conflict-of-interest issues, you ask?  Absolutely, but the Sunshine state seems to turn a blind eye to that type of chicanery according to an investigative item in the Miami Herald titled “Some of Your Legislators are Profiting at the Expense of Public Education.”  “Florida’s broad ethics laws are a joke.  If they weren’t, they would protect Floridians,” it begins, “from legislators who profit from the charter-school industry in private life and have been actively involved in pushing — and successfully passing — legislation to fund for-profit private schools at the expense of public education.  Some lawmakers earn a paycheck tied to charter schools.”  Diane Ravitch writes: “This article . . . . describes the flagrant abuse of power that typifies charter legislation.”               Mark Weber, aka the Jersey Jazzman, knows why one “miracle” charter school is so “successful.”  Boys Latin Charter School in Philadelphia gets more funding than a comparable traditional public school and is able to get rid of students who don’t measure up. “Many charters have high student cohort attrition rates,” Weber points out, “meaning students leave the school before graduation — often returning to the public, district schools, which must take them no matter when they arrive at the schoolhouse door.  These same charters don’t backfill, so their cohort sizes shrink as they move toward their senior years.”  Be sure to check out the cartoon at the end of the article.  Diane Ravitch said this about Weber’s post: “You too can create a miracle school.  Pick your students carefully; create a few hurdles to winnow out the slackers; bid farewell to those who can’t keep up; get some deep-pocketed funders.  Simple.  A miracle!”
 
Trump and Education
Questions have been raised recently about how vigorously the Trump/DeVos team with enforce civil rights regulations in the Dept. of Education.  An assistant secretary for civil rights in Pres. Obama’s administration, Catherine Lhamon, is highly critical of what she’s seen so far and quite worried for the future.   Lhamon sits down for a Q & A with EDUCATION WEEK about her concerns regarding civil rights oversight in DeVos’ DoE.  “Under DeVos’ leadership,” it notes in the introduction, “the Education Department has halted the previous administration’s practice of regularly expanding probes into individual civil rights complaints to look for larger, systemic violations.  Early in her tumultuous tenure, DeVos joined Attorney General Jeff Sessions in rescinding Obama-era guidance on the rights of transgender students, and she recently said she plans to re-examine the previous administration’s guidance on sexual assault.”
 
Inglewood USD to Get New Superintendent
The troubled Inglewood Unified School District, under state control since 2012, will be getting a new leader according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  The district has seen a revolving door of 4 leaders in that period of time.  A veteran LAUSD administrator, Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, will be taking over the helm of the 12,570 student district which is 58% Latino and 39% Black. “Meléndez, 59, has been serving as head of the Office of Educational Services in the L.A. Unified School District.  She was also superintendent of Pomona Unified and Santa Ana Unified,” the item explains, “and she served as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education in the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama.  Before joining L.A. Unified, she worked as the top education advisor to Mayor Eric Garcetti.”
 
Student Enrollment Projections
The “State EdWatch” column for EDUCATION WEEK features state-by-state elementary and secondary public school student enrollment projections through 2026 based on data supplied by the U.S. Dept. of Education.  19 states are looking at declines (California is one of those with a projected 2% drop).  32 states and the District of Columbia are anticipating increases of from 2% to 42%.  New Hampshire and Connecticut will experience the largest overall decrease of 14% while the District of Columbia (42%) and North Dakota (28%) will see the biggest gains.  You can find the full report (4 pages) titled “Elementary and Secondary Enrollment” by clicking here.  Both the ED WEEK article and the report feature a map with state-by-state projections.
 
Some Questionable State School Rankings
ALEC ( the American Legislative Exchange Council) the right-wing group that brings together conservative state legislators with business lobbyists to craft “model” legislation, issues an annual state-by-state “Report Card on American Education.”  Ratings are obviously skewed by the criteria used to determine the rankings.  ALEC uses 6 characteristics: “Academic standards, charter schools, homeschool regulation burden, private school choice, teacher quality, and digital learning – two of the factors composing the new education policy grade, charter schools and private school choice, were weighted more heavily because they represent the parent-centered, choice-driven future of education in the 21st century.  Our new GPA-based grading and ranking system compares the states based on how their education policies measure up to the demands of that bright future.”  You can find ALEC’s 21st annual report card (60 pages) by clicking here.  Arizona ranks #1, Florida #2 and Indiana #3.  California came in at #25 (page 12).  Diane Ravitch’s blog was highly disturbed by the ratings.  She went so far as to call them “hilarious” and asserts that “The world according to ALEC is upside down.”  Ravitch recommends readers check out “A 50 State Report Card”  (31 pages) from the NPE (Network for Public Education) which you can find by clicking here.  On it (page 5) Arizona earned an “F” (#48), Florida also earned an “F” (#44), Indiana “F” (#46).  California checked with a “D” (#31).  Here’s how the NPE determined its rankings: “Each state received an overall grade, as well as grades on each of the following six criteria: No High Stakes Testing, Professionalization of Teaching, Resistance to Privatization, School Finance, Spend Taxpayer Resources Wisely, and Chance for Success. The six letter grades, which ranged from “A” to “F”, were averaged to create the overall GPA and letter grade for each state. States are ranked by their GPAs in the list.”  Which rankings do you think are more reliable?
 
Testing
“Middle School Suicides Double as Common Core Testing Intensifies” is the very alarming headline on Steven Singer’s commentary for his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG.  Nations like South Korea and China, that score higher than American students on international tests, have similar problems.  “Here’s a high stakes testing statistic you won’t hear bandied about on the news,” he writes.  “The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014 – the same period in which states have increasingly adopted Common Core standards and new, more rigorous high stakes tests.  For the first time, suicide surpassed car crashes as a leading cause of death for middle school children. . . . To be fair, researchers, educators and psychologists say several factors are responsible for the spike, however, pressure from standardized testing is high on the list.”
 
Vouchers
And finally, none other a publication than the venerable SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, in its most recent issue (Aug., 2017), takes up the subject of vouchers and the Trump administration’s plan to create some type of federal program to allow the spending of taxpayer dollars to send students to private or parochial schools.  The article reviews some of the scientific research on vouchers and concludes, as they did, that they don’t improve math and reading scores and, in most cases, the test results actually decline.  So why are Pres. Trump and Sec. DeVos so committed to vouchers?  Excellent question!  In addition, the story reviews voucher programs in different states and cities in the U.S. and even ventures far afield to Chile to assess how its extensive experiment with vouchers fared.  “To be sure, educational outcomes are a devilishly difficult thing to measure with rigor.  But by and large,” the piece maintains, “studies have found that vouchers have mixed to negative academic outcomes and, when adopted widely, can exacerbate income inequity.  On the positive side, there is some evidence that students who use vouchers are more likely to graduate high school and to perceive their schools as safe.”
 
 
                http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Friday, July 21, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 
“Knowledge shows us a direction; education gives us power to walk.” 

― Debasish Mridha

New Commission to Look Into Improving L.A. Schools
A prominent, above-the-fold, front-page story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times talks about a new committee made up of business, civic and philanthropic leaders tasked with improving the schools in the LAUSD.  The advisory panel has already met in May and June and has so far been focusing on how to improve student attendance.  Its mandate will expand to other areas of district policies and procedures in the future.  The article goes on to speculate about any hidden agendas possibly regarding the continued tenure of Supt. Michelle King and also provides a list of the 11 members of the commission, none of whom represent teachers, administrators or other employees of the LAUSD.  “The lack of representation from any district labor groups concerns Juan Flecha, head of the administrators union,” it notes.  “The panel, he said, also seems ‘anemic’ in terms of strong educators and weighted with affluent Westsiders who might lack ‘knowledge of the mental health, social, and economic realities of the majority of the students the district serves.’”   I sure hope this isn’t just another thinly-veiled, charter expansion front group. 
 
Betsy DeVos
Malcolm, a special needs student with Down Syndrome who just completed third grade in North Carolina, “writes” a letter (with LOTS of help from his high school teacher dad) to Betsy DeVos about her seeming lack of knowledge about special education policy and his worry that she won’t be a strong advocate, as the head of the U.S. Dept. of Education, for students like him. (See Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” which highlighted DeVos’ first major speech regarding special ed., delivered earlier this week).  Malcolm’s dad, Stuart Egan, is the author of the CAFFEINATED RAGE blog.  Here’s an excerpt of what Malcolm “wrote” to Sec. DeVos:  “I am worried about some of the things that have happened in public schools since I have started going.  I am also worried about how students like me are being treated since you and President Trump have been in office.”  Certainly check out the photos of Malcolm that dad added at the end of this piece.  Diane Ravitch writes: “I hope she reads [the letter].”               Why are the billionaire Koch brothers supporting Betsy DeVos’ plan to eliminate public education?  The July 11th edition of the “Ed News” profiled the Koch brothers’ financial and political backing of a campaign in Colorado for vouchers and “school choice” which they would certainly like to see expand nationwide.  Jim Hightower, writing for SALON, outlines the alliance between DeVos and the Kochs in a commentary titled “Betsy DeVos’ Plan to Sell Out Public Schools is a Koch Brothers Dream Come True.”  “The DeVos couple are pushing plutocratic policies that reject our country’s one-for-all, all-for-one egalitarianism,” Hightower maintains.  “In particular, Betsy DeVos has spent years and millions of dollars spreading the right-wing’s ideological nonsense that public education should be completely privatized.  She advocates turning our tax dollars over to for-profit outfits — even to private schools that exclude people of color, the poor and the disabled, as well as to profiteering schools known to cheat students and taxpayers. . . .  As Wall Street banksters, drug company gougers, airline fee fixers and so many others have taught us over and over, most corporate executives are paid big bucks to take every shortcut, cheat and lie to squeeze out another dime in profits.  Why would we entrust our schoolchildren to them?”               DeVos delivered a much anticipated speech in Denver yesterday to the annual gathering of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) the organization that brings together conservative state legislators and corporate lobbyists to help craft model legislation on a variety of conservative topics.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a summary of DeVos remarks to the ALEC convention.   “DeVos’ presence in Denver drew protests: On Wednesday, a crowd of protesters gathered in Denver outside the Hyatt Regency where the conference was being held, holding signs criticizing both ALEC and DeVos,” it explains.  “But at ALEC’s conference, DeVos was speaking to a sympathetic audience, and she emphasized their common ground.”             Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, was quick to analyze the address and was particularly struck by the comparisons DeVos invoked between herself and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  DeVos believes the two have similar philosophies of governing.  “To DeVos, public institutions are impediments to individuals who want freedom to access opportunities,” Strauss suggest, “and the traditional public education system, which has been the most important civic institution in America since its creation, is a failure that can’t be fixed.”  Strauss provides a full transcript of DeVos’ speech at the end of her column.               A teacher in Los Angeles, who goes by the pseudonym of “Jack Covey,” offers frequent comments on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  He turns his attention to an almost  line-by-line examination of DeVos’ talk yesterday to the ALEC convention (see 2 items above).  “You can’t celebrate Maggie Thatcher’s every man for himself, dog-eat-dog, rat-eat-rat Survival of the Fittest political philosophy at the beginning of your speech,” Covey complains, “and then, at the end of that same speech, state that you’re goal is to make it so that ‘every child in America – every single child – has an equal opportunity to a world-class education.’  The former directly contradicts and is opposed by the latter.  If there are going to be X number of winners, that means that there are also going to be approximately the same X number of losers.”               The exact date that DeVos was to address the gathered members of ALEC (Thursday) was not made public ahead of time.   A large group of protesters marched outside the hall on Wednesday to oppose her appearance and her policies on charters, vouchers and school “choice.”  Jeannie Kaplan, on her Kaplan for Kids blog, describes the rally and march organized to resist DeVos’ programs.  “Yesterday’s rally and march focused on the unqualified DeVos and her privatization and corporatization policies. . . .  With the help of Colorado’s unions, Colorado Resistance groups, and many other community groups,” Kaplan writes, “teachers from across the state joined with other union members, community supporters, students and parents to demonstrate and express their opposition to the direction ALEC-led lobbyists are pushing public education.”                Jennifer Berkshire believes that both Betsy DeVos and ALEC are working in lockstep to destroy public education.  “The ALEC agenda, indistinguishable from DeVos’ own, prizes school choice as an end unto itself,” she remarks.  “They envision a future where parents are freed—from the education monopoly, from regulation, from greedy unions, and most importantly, from schools—to navigate an education marketplace that abounds in choices.  It is also replete with money making opportunities, but that is not something that appears on the ALEC press releases.”  Berkshire also takes notice of the fact that resistance to the corporate “reform” and privatization movement is gaining steam.              AFT (American Federation of Teachers) Pres. Randi Weingarten took the gloves off in a blistering attack on Sec. Betsy DeVos at the union’s annual convention in Washington, D.C., yesterday.  DeVos used part of her talk to the ALEC conference to answer Weingarten’s blast.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, has selections from both womens’ speeches.  Their exchange neatly summarizes the two warring sides in the public schools versus privatization battle which is rapidly heating up.  “Earlier this month, the president of the country’s largest labor union, Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association, told delegates at her organization’s annual gathering,” Strauss notes, “that they would not work with the Trump administration because the president and DeVos could not be trusted to do what is in the best interests of children.  She also labeled DeVos ‘the queen of for-profit privatization of public education.’  The two major teachers unions, which together represent several million people, have been quick to oppose the Trump administration.”  Strauss includes a transcript of Weingarten’s talk at the end of her article.
 
More Scrutiny for Credit Recovery Courses
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a grant given to the LAUSD to study the efficacy of its credit recovery program.  Apparently, more questions are being raised about the classes beyond the LAUSD.  The NEA (National Education Association), at its recent national convention, held at the start of the month, approved a “new business item” to probe the value of online credit recovery programs (OCRP).  The “Digital Education” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a brief story about the growing concerns regarding OCRPs.  “There’s a real hodgepodge of actual online credit recovery offerings.  No one really knows how many students are enrolled in such programs,” it points out.  “Research to date has been decidedly mixed.  And even proponents of online learning have had some harsh things to say about the practice.  The education media is clearly starting to pay attention, too—in May, Columbia University’s Teacher Project and Slate.com published a harshly critical 8-part series on the topic.”  [Ed. note: The ED WEEK article has a link to the 8-part series in Slate.]
 
Testing and Value-Added Models
How fair is this?  According to Chalkbeat New Yorkover half of New York City teachers were evaluated using subjects and/or students they didn’t directly teach.  New York is not the only state where this is happening.  “New York’s evaluation system has gone through a number of substantial changes since it was first codified in state law in 2012,” it explains, “part of a nationwide push to connect teacher performance to student test scores, spurred by federal incentives.  Student assessments have comprised anywhere from 40 percent of the evaluation to essentially 50 percent, under a matrix system pushed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015.  Most recently, New York stopped using grades 3-8 English and math state tests as part of the system, but teachers must continue to be judged based on some assessment.”                Is the use of student standardized test scores  and VAMs (value-added models) as a way to evaluate teachers losing favor?  A recent court ruling in May supported the Houston Teachers Union challenge to the use of VAMs as a way to evaluate teachers.  A story in the AMERICAN PROSPECT suggests that the use of those VAMs is beginning to fade.  The author of the item has an interesting history of the teacher accountability movement and believes it may take a slightly different approach in the future.  “WHILE THE FUTURE of using value-added measures in teacher evaluations is unclear, some researchers have been advocating alternative ideas.  One would be to use the statistical growth measures as a diagnostic tool,” she writes, “a preliminary screening test to help identify which districts, schools, and classrooms warrant closer attention.  The idea would be to think of using VAM like a doctor who diagnostically screens for major diseases.  If patients fail the screening test, they are given another, more careful measure.”
 
New High School Building Design
When Farmington High School in New Mexico needed a new main building and campus, the design company selected to build the project had one thing in mind: security.  They also wanted to make sure a welcoming atmosphere was also incorporated into the plan so it wouldn’t look like a prison or fortress to faculty, staff, students, parents and visitors.  A story in the Farmington Daily Times describes what is being created and, possibly, it can become a model for the future.  “Guests [walk] through a still-under-construction main building that thoroughly addresses those security concerns by funneling all visitors through a tightly controlled check-in point from which administrators can monitor the actions of everyone coming and going.  But once visitors to the building proceed past the main entry,” it lays out, “they enter a structure that features an abundance of warm, inviting spaces that make optimal use of natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows and open floor plans. The main hall, in fact, looks more like the headquarters of an ambitious Silicon Valley web start-up than a traditional American high school.”  [Ed. note: As a former high school teacher, it sounds VERY inviting!]  Construction is scheduled to be completed in December so that classrooms can be occupied after winter break in January.
 
Rafe Esquith
Acclaimed Hobart Ave. Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith was removed from his classroom in April, 2015, and fired by the LAUSD in Oct., 2015, for allegedly using sexual language in front of his students.  Esquith claimed the action was retaliation for his criticism of various district policies and attempted to sue the district in Aug., 2015.  Mark Mooney, an L.A. Superior Court judge, upheld Esquith’s intent to sue and yesterday an appellate court panel confirmed the lower court ruling.  A piece in the L.A. Daily News reviews Esquiths’s case, explains the details of his lawsuit and discusses the 2 court rulings.  “Mooney’s ruling,” it points out, “meant that Esquith’s claims of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, the taking of items from his classroom, retaliation, age discrimination and unfair business practices remained in the case.  He also is seeking reinstatement to his teaching position.”  [Ed. note: Esquith spoke to an ALOED gathering on the Occidental College campus several years ago.]
 
Every Student Succeeds Act
Under the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) states are required to submit plans for implementing certain aspects of the law for approval by the federal Dept. of Education.  A number of states have complained about the scrutiny their proposals are getting from the DoE amid charges that the federal government is getting overly involved in aspects of education policy that ESSA promised to reserve to the individual states.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK details the complaints from certain states about the oversight.  “The back and forth between states and Washington over the Every Student Succeeds Act,” it begins, “has become more complicated than many had expected.  Although U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took office in February pledging to let states seize control of key education policy decisions under the new federal K-12 law, her department’s responses to states’ ESSA plans have surprised—and in some cases irritated—state leaders and others.”
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, wonders why the school “reform” movement has lots of suggestions for improving education but almost never mentions INCREASING TEACHER SALARIES.  How unique and unusual is that concept!  “There are many suggestions for improving America’s public schools:  More standardized tests.  New academic standards.  Increase charter schools and/or allow kids to attend private schools with public money,” he lists.  “But one reform you hardly ever hear about is this: pay teachers more.  Isn’t that funny?  We’re willing to try almost everything else but that.”  Singer proceeds to review how much new teachers are paid currently and suggests what they should get paid.  Be sure to check out the photo that leads off his piece.  
           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Edition

 The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“True education is the ultimate secret of a successful life.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Corporate “Reform”
Remember those astonishing “reforms” achieved by Michelle Rhee when she was chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools?  The corporate “reformers” like to tout what she achieved as proof of their agenda.  They still like to think she worked miracles during her tenure as head of the district.  The current issue of The Washington Monthly revisits those “successes.”  Unfortunately, most of the points made by the author, Thomas Toch, are questionable according to John Merrow in his THE MERROW REPORT and thus cast some doubt on the whole corporate “reform” movement.  Toch downplays the amount of cheating that took place on standardized tests in the DCPS and Merrow sets the record straight on that point.  “The fantasy that top-down, data-driven, test-centric ‘reform’ works is perpetuated by articles like Tom Toch’s.  Sadly, his piece has been widely distributed,” Merrow complains, “by the editorial pages of the Washington Post, influential blogger and co-founder of Democrats for Education Reform Whitney Tilson, and others.”  Merrow and a coauthor will provide a full rebuttal to Toch’s claims in the next issue of The Washington Monthly.  That should be interesting!  Merrow includes a link to the Toch article in his story.  Diane Ravitch calls Merrow’s piece a “marvelous post.”
Betsy DeVos
U.S. Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos will be speaking this week at the annual convention of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the conservative group that brings state legislators together with representatives from the private business sector to draft model legislation it favors.  The gathering is in Denver and runs tomorrow through Friday. An article on the Chalkbeat Colorado website discusses DeVos’ appearance.  “While DeVos will find a friendly audience at ALEC,” it notes, “she’ll get a different greeting from liberal activists and union leaders who are seizing on the chance to protest DeVos’s agenda. . . .  DeVos shares ALEC’s support for charter schools and the use of tax dollars to pay for private school education through vouchers, tax-credit scholarships and education savings accounts.”  One of the groups DeVos founded helps fund ALEC and the organization has representatives on one of its task forces.               Jennifer Berkshire, writing on ALTERNET, has an important caveat regarding Betsy DeVos: focus on what she does, not on what little she says.  The head of the U.S. Dept. of Education holds very few press conferences and conducts limited interviews.  When she does, DeVos offers non-answers and engages in diversionary tactics.   DeVos only speaks before friendly audiences (see above) where she offers platitudes and few specifics.  “Her substance-free performances,” Berkshire bemoans, “are all the more remarkable given the fierce urgency with which DeVos has pursued her agenda since arriving in Washington.  Sidelining federal civil rights enforcement, rolling back protections for students who have been defrauded by shady for-profit colleges, meeting with a steady stream of ‘edupreneurs’ and flogging school choice at every turn—these have been busy days for the Secretary.”               The June 27th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a letter sent by a number of Democratic U.S. Senators to Sec. DeVos  questioning her commitment to enforcing civil rights rules and regulations in her department.  DeVos responded in a letter to Sen. Patty Murray last Tuesday in which she explained how she planned to return the Office for Civil Rights to a more “neutral, impartial, investigative agency.” Murray sent a second letter on Friday again requesting some information from DeVos who had failed to provide it previously.  Their back-and-forth is reviewed in a piece on the POLITICO website.             Diane Ravitch’s blog was indignant at DeVos’ backing away from civil rights enforcement (see item above) claiming: “It is at a time like this that DeVos’s ignorance of education policy and history becomes embarrassing.  OCR is the Office FOR Civil Rights.  It was never a ‘neutral’ agency.  It led the way in the 1960s in forcing the integration of Southern schools.  It didn’t just investigate.  It threatened Southern districts that did not produce hard data about students and faculty integration.  No integration, no federal funding.  One can’t be ‘neutral’ about civil rights,” Ravitch concludes.  “The Office for Civil Rights is meant to enforce the law and protect the vulnerable–not to feign indifference.”             Betsy DeVos delivered her first major speech on special education at the Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference yesterday in Arlington, Virginia.   One has to seriously wonder if she knows what she’s talking about and whether she can truly be an advocate for students with disabilities.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, analyzes the speech and provides a full transcript for you to read.  “DeVos has promoted charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — most of which do not enroll as many students as traditional public schools, percentage-wise, and many of which are not equipped to deal with special needs students.  Many charter schools,” Strauss notes, “counsel out students who can’t meet the academic demands, which is far from the promise of trying to ensure that every child gets a free and fair education.”
 
Trump and Education
The Trump administration’s voucher plan may be fading for this year.  A budget proposal in the House is missing several key components of the initiative as explained in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  Prospects in the Senate seem equally dim.  “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came to Washington primarily to do one thing: Use the power of her office to expand school choice, her passion for decades.  Members of her own party appeared to deal a major blow to that goal Thursday,” it begins, “when the House panel charged with overseeing education spending approved a bill that doesn’t include two of DeVos’ big budget asks: using an education research program to offer school vouchers, and allowing Title I dollars to follow students to the school of their choice.”               Pres. Trump rolled out his fiscal 2018 budget earlier this year.  It proposes a 13% cut for the U.S. Dept. of Education.  For a brief refresher on some of the highlights, the “Politics K-12” column for ED WEEK has a graphic and a short video (58 seconds) outlining the plan.  
 
LAUSD to Scrutinize Credit Recovery Courses
Are they a legitimate avenue to allow students to make up credits or a scam to help the district boost its graduation rate?  That question, probably not in those terms, is the focus of a $3.26 million grant from the federal government to assist the LAUSD in studying the efficacy of the its credit recovery classes.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes the grant and how the research will be carried out.  “L.A. Unified has dramatically expanded its online and in-person credit recovery programs since 2015,” it explains, “to come closer to its goal of a 100% graduation rate, drawing concern that not all graduates have achieved the same level of subject knowledge.  The results of this study, which will focus on roughly 3,000 students from about 15 high schools throughout the district, could answer some questions that critics have about how rigorous the online courses are.”
 
Personalized Learning is BAAACK
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, views the newfangled Personalized Learning for what it really is:  a renamed idea for a failed technique from the past.  Only difference?  Now it has students learning from computers.  Singer views Personalized Learning as nothing more than warmed over correspondence classes from the 1980s.  “Sometimes it seems that education policy is nothing but a series of scams and frauds that becomes untenable in one generation only to pop up again 10 or 20 years later with a new name.  Take Personalized Learning, the latest digital product from the ed-tech industry to invade your local public school.  It’s cutting edge stuff.  Except that it isn’t,” he rails.  “It’s just the same old correspondence school nonsense of the 1980s thrown onto an iPad or a laptop.  It was crap back then, and it’s crap today.  But it sounds nice.”
 
Charter Schools
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, like to tout the successes of the KIPP charter school network.  However, more detailed analysis yields some different results. KIPP would like to expand its presence in Philadelphia and triple its enrollment in the city.  So, how is it fairing in the City of Brotherly Love?  To be totally honest, not so well!  KIPP has 5 campuses in the city, 2 elementary, 2 middle and 1 high school.  Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, discovered the high school earned the lowest possible rating and some of the “positive” statistics quoted by KIPP don’t provide the complete data.   “I looked at the recent school report card for their one and only high school, KIPP DuBois High School.  Though they don’t have letter grades,” he writes, “they do have six levels with different symbols that are essentially an A to F scale.  That school got the lowest possible rating, essentially an F.  Not only were their test scores low, but they also got the lowest possible rating in ‘growth’ in math and reading, in other words the value-added for the school which reformers claim to take very seriously.”
 
Florida School District Ends Homework
The 42,000 student Marion County school district in central Florida, west of Daytona Beach, will be ending traditional homework for elementary students when they return in the fall.  Instead, Heidi Maier, the newly appointed superintendent, decided to encourage kids to read for 20 minutes each night.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, profiles Maier and her new action.  “The policy will apply to all elementary school students in the district — about 20,000 — but not to middle or high school students,” Strauss indicates.  “Maier, an expert on reading acquisition who started running Marion schools in November after serving as lead professor of teacher education at the College of Central Florida, said she is basing her decision on research showing that traditional homework in the early years does not boost academic performance but reading — and reading aloud — does.”
 
Testing
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is up in arms this time about test-based accountability and those politicians and corporations who promote it.  The former for not adequately funding and supporting traditional public schools and the latter for creating the materials based on high stakes standardized tests that students are bound to fail due to the lack of proper resources in the first place.  Now schools are labeled as “failing.”  It all becomes the proverbial vicious circle:  school budgets are cut by politicians, students do poorly on corporate designed tests so those same politicians divert even more money to charters and vouchers and in the end the traditional public schools cease to exist.  The “cowardly politicians and unscrupulous corporations,” as Singer portrays them, win in the end.  “In short, we need to stop worshipping at the altar of test-based accountability,” he implores.  “Schools can and should be held accountable.  But it cannot be done with standardized tests.  Moreover, we must stop ignoring the role of policymakers and business in this system.  They must also be responsible.  We are allowing them to get away with murder.”
 
California Teacher Pensions
Republican controlled states are more and more looking to whittle away at those traditional guaranteed teacher pensions like we have in California.  They’d like to transition educators into 401(k) plans.     Why make such a change?  GOP lawmakers are constantly looking at ways to save money at the state level, most likely so that they can provide more tax cuts to the wealthy 1%.  Nari Rhee is the director of the Retirement Security Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center and co-author of a report comparing pensions to 401(k)s and how they would effect teachers in California.  She writes in an op-ed in today’s L.A. Times that the transition would take a serious bite out of teachers’ retirement pay.  “We compared current levels of CalSTRS benefits with the yield from an idealized 401(k),” she reports from her paper.  “We found that 86% of working teachers in California will get higher retirement income from the existing pension than they would from even a best-case-scenario 401(k).   In fact, a 401(k) plan would provide 40% less retirement income for the typical California classroom teacher compared with the current pension, which is consistent with rigorous studies in other states, including one commissioned by the Colorado legislature and another conducted in Texas.”
 
An Extended Examination of the PBS Documentary “School Inc.”
And finally, a number of PBS stations carried the one-sided, pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-traditional public school documentary “School Inc.”  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted the outcry from public school proponents who assailed the biased nature of the film and demanded PBS provide equal time to air opposing points-of-view.  Valerie Strauss turns her blog in The Washington Post over to Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris who offer a detailed rebuttal to the original program.  “PBS (‘The Public Broadcasting System’) is known for its high standards and for its thoughtful documentaries that explain issues in a fair and well-informed manner.  But in this case, PBS broadcast ‘School Inc.,’ three hours of content funded by right-wing foundations and right out of the privatizers’ playbook.  The program was partisan, inaccurate and biased against public schools,” they point out.  “Not every PBS station aired this documentary, but many did.  The timing was fortuitous for Trump and DeVos, whose ‘school choice’ agenda aligns neatly with the philosophy expressed in ‘School Inc.’”
 

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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  

Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             

Ed News, Friday, July 14, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“A teacher can kindle your mind and let you memorize information, 
but true education is often self-education.” 

LAUSD Board Pay Raises

Last Friday’s “Ed News” highlighted a story in the L.A. Times that day about an up to 174% pay increase for members of the LAUSD board of education.  An editorial in Wednesday’s paper urges readers not to be too angered by the increase because it believes the board deserves the raise “A very big pay raise is long overdue; in fact, this page said as much four years ago.  L.A. schools aren’t what they were a couple of decades ago,” the piece suggests.  “The board isn’t just responsible for the six or seven hours of daily lessons the district’s schools provide to more than 600,000 children and teenagers — a big job on its own.  It also oversees after-school care, parent centers and some basic healthcare.  It’s a major feeder of kids too, supplying more than half of the weekday’s nourishment for many of its students through the lunch program and the largest breakfast program in the nation.”  Question: I wonder how vociferous the editorial board of the Times will be in advocating for a substantial raise for LAUSD teachers?  I’m not holding my breath!               2 letters appear in yesterday’s Times in reaction to the paper’s story on Friday about the 174% salary increase for LAUSD board members (see above).  The first, like me, wonders if teachers, who also put in long hours doing critical work will get a similar substantial increase.  “While I appreciate the importance of providing a raise to Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education members because they have not seen an increase in years, what I do take umbrage with is not only the incredible jump in some of the salaries, but also some of the reasoning that I’ve heard involving the long hours these board members work, including nights and weekends.  Having been a full-time teacher,” the author pens, “I know that any passionate, responsible teacher’s day is often 10 hours long or more, and every weekend involves some sort of preparation and grading as well.  However, I also know I was never compensated with the wages one would expect for working these long hours.”  Hear! Hear!                2 additional letters appear in today’s Times regarding the sizable pay increase for LAUSD board members (see both items above).  The first one, from the wife of a former district board member, believes the increase is justified.  The second, from a retired teacher, is appalled at the amount:  “So, board members put in hard work day in and day out and therefore deserve an obscene salary increase of 174%.  They should try teaching.”
 
Self-Driving School Vehicles?
The era of self-driving vehicles may be fast approaching.  How might this major innovation in transportation effect education?  Can you envision a self-driving “bus” bringing students to and from their school?  Tom Vander Ark, on his “Vander Ark on Innovation” column for EDUCATION WEEK takes a peek into the not too distant future to predict what’s in store for student transportation.  “Considering the trends in autonomous vehicles, we can begin to imagine the rather dramatic ways that will impact education.  Here’s a plausible scenario of how urban pupil transportation will work in forward leaning districts in 2025.  The yellow buses have been sold off,” he envisions.  “The district contracts with the regional transportation districts for self-driving buses and vans (6-12 passenger) and with transport companies for pool cars (think Uber Pool with a background check hauling 3-6 passengers). . . .  For dedicated pupil transport, the vans and buses will have a monitor (usually a high school student or parent) riding along, trained to keep the peace and deal with emergency situations–student, transport or otherwise.  (You can remind the troublemakers that with facial recognition you can run, but you can’t hide).” Vander Ark refers to this as “swarm transport” and predicts how it will change schools of the future.
 
Betsy DeVos
3 letters appear in Wednesday’s L.A. Times in reaction to an editorial in Monday’s paper that upbraided Betsy DeVos for favoring for-profit colleges over students who were being exploited by predatory lending practices and other actions.  All 3 were very critical of the Secretary of Education over her decision to delay protections instituted by the Obama administration that were aimed at providing relief to students who were taken advantage of.  “Not only is DeVos not qualified on any level to propose educational policy,” the first one charges, “but by suspending Obama administration rules intended to provide relief to debt-laden students who were essentially defrauded by for-profit colleges, she also has proved herself prejudicial against students and honest institutions of higher learning everywhere.”               Is Betsy DeVos leaning toward instituting Dept. of Education regulations that offer more protections to the perpetrators of K-12 and college sexual assault over the victims?  It’s a tough call and highly speculative but a series of recent “listening sessions” she held offers some clues.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post is worried about where the Sec. of Education is headed on this critical issue.  “DeVos is considering rolling back guidance issued in 2011 which detailed how K-12 schools and colleges must handle sexual assault allegations,” Strauss explains.  “That guidance was, the Obama Education Department said, a clarification of the obligations that schools already had under federal law, known as Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funds.  Sexual assault survivors hailed the administration for providing them with long-overdue protections, while critics accused the Obama administration of federal micromanaging and pushing colleges to find students guilty.”               The term “vouchers” has a rather negative connotation as of late so proponents have taken to calling them “Education Scholarship Accounts” or tax credits.  Those terms  are much more palatable to the uninformed public.  Only problem is, whatever you call them, they still work like vouchers.  An article in The Progressive is titled “Four Things Betsy DeVos  Doesn’t Want You to Know About Education Tax Credits.” The author explains what tax credits are and how they compare to vouchers.   Upon reading the 4 items they sure sound like vouchers to me.  Here’s one example from the list: “#4 Education tax credit programs divert public money to religious indoctrination.”
 
Charters
Here’s a novel concept.  The newly appointed superintendent of the struggling Detroit Public Schools is recommending the district stop authorizing new charter schools and instead concentrate on improving the traditional campuses in the district.  DPS currently has 13 charters each of which are authorized for 5 years.  The Detroit Free Press has the story. “The push to focus on traditional public schools is happening during a time of academic turmoil in the district.  Students have been the worst-performing in the nation,” it notes, “among big-city school districts on a rigorous national exam.  On the state’s standardized exam, they don’t perform much better, with wide swaths of the student population failing the annual exam the last time results were released last summer.  Charter school students serving primarily Detroit students haven’t performed much better.”
Charter schools were originally conceived as incubators for educational innovation and experimentation.  They were going to operate under different rules than the traditional public school system and successful techniques and styles would be demonstrated for all to adopt.  Mark Naison, professor of History and African-American Studies at Fordham University, writing on the With A Brooklyn Accent blog, finds just the opposite is occurring in a brief essay titled “How Charter Schools Have Stifled Educational Innovation and Fought the Opt Out Movement.”  He focuses on the effect charters have had in New York City but his criticisms can certainly be applied nationwide.  “Although charter schools were originally promoted as a vehicle to encourage educational experimentation,” Naison begins, “their meteoric growth in influence has actually coincided with a REDUCTION in innovation in schools because those promoting them most have also pushed for national testing and test based accountability measures for rating schools.”               Why do charter schools seem to have inordinately high teacher turnover?  Rann Miller, a former charter school teacher in New Jersey, provides some answers and postulates, rather surprisingly, that charters actually like it that way.  ALTERNET provides the platform for his story.  “Teachers leave charters at significantly higher rates when compared to traditional public schools.  Among urban charter schools,” he acquaints, “it’s not uncommon to see teachers turning over at a rate of 30, 40 or even 50% a year.  I’ve witnessed first hand—and experienced—why this is such a problem, and what causes teachers to flee.  But I’ve also seen for myself that there are charter schools and networks that don’t mind high levels of teacher turnover.  Turmoil and churn work for organizations that are determined to control both the makeup and the mindset of their faculty.”  Diane Ravitch says about this item: “Read it all.  Quite a story.”               A controversy is brewing in New York over a proposal to allow charters to certify their own teachers, thus bypassing traditional state credentialing requirements.  If the regulations are approved, charters authorized by SUNY (State University of New York) could set their own qualifications for teacher certification.  Daniel Katz, chair of the Educational Studies Department at Seton Hall University, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. website, discusses the plan and why it’s not such a good idea.  “This system almost certainly appeals to charter school chains who rely upon a rapidly turning over cohort of new teachers,” he suggests, “some of whom stay if they adapt quickly to the in-house system, but most of whom eventually leave teaching altogether [Ed. note: See item above].  Shortening teacher preparation into 30 instructional hours and 100 classroom hours certainly makes it easier for these schools to recycle teachers at a rapid clip while not having to worry about regulations requiring them to retain teachers whose preparation experiences make them far more likely to want to stay in the profession – and whose accumulated coursework and classroom experiences may give them ideas of their own about how teaching and learning happen that might contradict the in-house model.”
 
Spotlight on Community Schools
Community schools, also known as “whole-child” initiatives, are gaining adherents as a way to deal with student poverty and the concomitant problems of absenteeism, lack of social and medical support and poor academics.  A profile in EDUCATION WEEK spotlights P.S. 123, a K-8 campus in Harlem, that adopted the community school model in 2013.  “Flooding impoverished schools with a range of services and resources is not new, and there’s still lively debate in education circles about whether it’s something schools should take on. . . .  The approach has been used in districts from Tacoma, Wash., to Cincinnati for several years,” it points out, “but the movement has picked up steam more recently amid a backlash against single-measure, test-based accountability and as an alternative to closing long-struggling schools.  It’s gotten robust support from the nation’s teachers’ unions.  And some states are looking to incorporate the features of community schools in their plans required by the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
 
New Style Parent-Teacher Conferences
Most of you are familiar with the traditional format of parent-teacher conferences: mom and/or dad show up for a formal meeting with the teacher of their child.  They discuss how junior is doing in class and teacher offers some suggestions how son/daughter can improve.  Mom/dad asks questions, teacher responds and the meeting is concluded.  As students/parents/teachers, we’re all aware of the routine.  However, a new style of parent conference called Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT) debuted in classrooms in Phoenix in 2009.  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK explains how APTTs work and how they were created by a former teacher.  The piece is titled “This Isn’t Your Mom’s Parent-Teacher Conference.”  “The revamped version of the parent-teacher conference,” it describes, “swaps private meetings for three 75-minute group meetings and one 35-minute individual meeting over the course of a school year. Teachers inform parents about the skills students need in order to master their particular grade, like subtraction or reading comprehension, and parents learn how their child is doing on those skills compared with other students.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Are you aware of what a high impact learning environment is?  It has to do with jettisoning traditional classroom setups and introducing a mixture of technology, innovative classroom design, teacher creativity and even importing some new furniture.  Is it possible that all of this could boost student engagement and improve achievement?  An item in the “Education Futures” column for EDUCATION WEEK introduces you tohigh impact learning environments.  It focuses on one school district in Texas that partnered with an educational services company to transform the way it teaches students and demonstrates how classroom surroundings can effect student achievement.  “It’s interesting how something as simple as an innovative approach to furniture creation coupled with the right technology has such a huge effect on student achievement.  As a result of this experiment,” the article concludes, “students can perform at a higher level, and teachers can enjoy the success that accompanies it.”              The teacher lecture is a standard of much pedagogy at the high school and college level.  Alfie Kohn, an ALOED Book Club author, explains why the technique can be deadly and what educators can do about it on his Alfie Kohn blog.  “To question the effectiveness of lectures is not to deny that teachers know more than students do, a common straw-man objection offered defensively by traditionalists.  Rather,” he writes, “it suggests that having someone with more information talk at those who have less doesn’t necessarily lead to that information’s being retained by the latter.  And the more ambitious one’s goal, cognitively speaking, the less likely one is to reach it by having students sit and listen. This is true because we are not empty receptacles into which knowledge is poured; we are active meaning makers.”
 
Are Our Schools Truly “Failing?”
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a major problem with the characterization that our traditional public schools are “failing.”  He decries the use of standardized test scores to rate U.S. schools.  He believes that focusing solely on those results diverts attention from the larger issues of under funding and poor support (Singer labels it “strategic disinvestment”).  When corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies panic and fixate on test scores they tend to offer drastic solutions.  “The argument goes like this: Our Kids Are Failing!?  Quick!  Standardize and Privatize Their Schools! . . . .  The sad fact is that there are an awful lot of poor children attending public school. The U.S. has one of the highest child poverty rates in the industrialized world.  And despite spending a lot on our middle class and wealthy students,” Singer reminds readers, “we’re doing next to nothing to actually help our neediest children.  A large portion of U.S. public schools have been left to their own devices for decades.  What’s worse, when they struggle to meet students’ needs, we don’t swoop in with help.  We level blame.  We fire teachers, close buildings and privatize.”
 
Interview With Lily Eskelsen García
And finally, NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García sat down with EDUCATION WEEK for a wide ranging Q & A on a number of key issues facing her union including relations with Betsy DeVos, a looming Supreme Court case about agency fees and the NEA’s policy toward charter schools.  In response to a question about working with the head of the U.S. Dept. of Education, the union head answered this way: “We don’t trust these people.  We look at what they did to Michigan public schools.  DeVos destroyed them on purpose to create customers, so they were joyless, underfunded, overcrowded places that people didn’t want to work in, and they didn’t want their kids in those schools.  It was only to create a demand for what she calls the private charter industry.”  Sounds like fighting words to me!               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, analyzes NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García’s comments about not being able to “trust” Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos which she delivered during her keynote address to her organization’s annual convention earlier this month and in a recent interview with ED WEEK (see above).  Bryant agrees she shouldn’t be trusted either as he headlines his essay “Why Teachers Don’t Trust Betsy DeVos, and Neither Should You.”  “Does Garcia’s contention that DeVos is simply not to be trusted have any validity? . . .  There are, in fact,” he answers, “numerous concerns that cast doubt on DeVos’s trustworthiness.”
 
 
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.                                                                          

 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Tuesday, July 11, 2017

                        

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Education lifts a people to greater ability and achievement.” 
Betsy DeVos
18 states, including California, and the District of Columbia are not going to take Betsy DeVos’ policies sitting down.  They’ve filed suit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., against her recent delay of regulations implemented by the Obama administration and set to take effect July 1, that would protect college students from predatory loan practices.  Several consumer groups filed a separate suit on similar issues.  POLITICO provides the details.  “Both lawsuits argue that DeVos’ delay of the rules violates the Administrative Procedure Act,” it explains, “and ask a federal court to order the administration to enforce the rules.”               An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times takes DeVos to task for delaying regulations from the Obama administration that would protect students at for-profit colleges from fraudulent and unfair loan policies (see above).  It wonders why she is protecting the interests (and profits) of private companies over those of students.  Of course DeVos has always seemed to favor those private profits over consumer protections.  “Even the leaders of a wholly dysfunctional administration must recognize that fraud is fraud.  Out-and-out cheating, lying to potential customers, isn’t just unethical,” the piece reminds readers.  “It’s illegal.  And the worst fraud in the higher education world during recent decades has been perpetrated by for-profit colleges that grossly overstate their graduates’ ability to land good jobs, that talked students into applying for loans they would almost certainly be unable to repay and that bamboozled them into signing away their right to sue should they discover how dishonestly they had been treated.”                Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has an analysis of the lawsuit filed against DeVos regarding the delay of regulations pertaining to predatory student loan practices (see first item above).   Schneider has several excerpts from the suit brought by the Attorney’s General of the 18 states and the District of Columbia and a breakdown of the key points.  “And so, as is par for the course in corporate ed reform,” she concludes, “America once again waits to hear from the court.  As for Betsy DeVos: She would rather put money in the crooked corporate pocket than enforce any sensible legislation regulating corporate greed.”             DeVos is planning to take a hard line on the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) that was signed into law by Pres. Obama in Dec., 2015.  A story in The New York Times is titled “DeVos’ Hard Line on New Education Law Surprises States.”  “In the Education Department’s feedback to states about their plans to put the new law into effect,” it notes, “it applied strict interpretations of statutes, required extensive detail and even deemed some state education goals lackluster. . . .  After more than a decade of strict federal education standards and standardized testing regimes, the Every Student Succeeds Act was to return latitude to the states to come up with plans to improve student achievement and hold schools accountable for student performance.”                   MAD magazine (how many of you out there remember MAD magazine?) has a “Betsy DeVos Poster We’d Like to See.”  Check it out; print it off; share it with your friends and colleagues and post it in a prominent place.
The Teaching Profession
What’s the best way for principals to fairly and honestly evaluate the teachers on their staff?  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK takes on that question by reviewing a recent report on the topic that studied how 100 principals in Miami-Dade County schools rated their teachers.  One key finding: remove the high stakes that are attached to so many evaluation systems.
School Choice and Vouchers
It’s no secret that the Trump administration strongly favors school “choice” and vouchers.  How would those policies effect rural schools?  Simple answer?  They could be devastating as a video segment (3:14 minutes) from CBS News demonstrates using Kentucky as an example.  Interestingly, Trump got much of his support in the election from voters who would be impacted the most.                The billionaire Koch brothers are throwing their substantial financial and political clout into a battle for school “choice” and vouchers in Colorado.  An article in The Denver Post describes the Koch’s influence and what it could mean in the Centennial State and beyond.  “Five states currently offer [education savings] accounts as a school-choice option,” it points out, “according to the bipartisan Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.  The program allows parents to use taxpayer dollars for private school tuition, online learning programs, books or tutoring.  And Colorado, which doesn’t yet offer ESAs, is one of five states where the Koch network is looking to expand or establish the program through legislation or a ballot measure.”               Emmanuel Felton, an African-American who, as a student, came from a relatively well off family in New Orleans that could afford to send him to private schools and pay full tuition, wonders what a federal voucher program like the one promoted by the Trump administration will to do the communities that students leave behind.  What happens to the traditional public education system if some of the most highly motivated families pull their children out in order to send them to a private or religious school in a different neighborhood?  He’s not particularly encouraged by what he foresees.  His commentary appears in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  Felton revisits his hometown of New Orleans and also reports on the impact of vouchers in Milwaukee.  “School choice by its very nature,” he points out, “uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.”
KIPP High School In New York City Submitted Suspicious Data
A couple of previous editions of the “Ed News” reported on the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of the “Best High Schools in America.”  They also included two items from Gary Rubinstein’s Blog that noticed some discrepancies and suspicious data regarding AP test results submitted by one KIPP high school in New York.  U.S. News must have reviewed Rubinstein’s findings because they have removed the offending school from their most recent ratings.  Several publications touted the “success” of this particular KIPP school.  “In my years of blogging and uncovering things like this,” Rubinstein writes, “this is a nice tangible ‘victory.’   I’m pretty sure that if I had never discovered this discrepancy, this correction would have not happened.  KIPP had done the same thing with this school for a few years and have surely been using it in fund raising materials and maybe even grants.  In the scheme of things it is a pretty small victory but still worth feeling good about. “
 
Teacher-Written Blogs vs Corporate Media
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG, has a bone to pick with the corporate media.  For various reasons, which he delineates, he doesn’t believe they can fairly and accurately report on education issues.  Who does he think can do a better job?  Teacher-written blogs from people who are in the classroom now or in the past.  [Ed. note:  That describes me 100%!]  Singer believes the corporate media is too beholden to the bottom line.  “These are the reasons why teacher-written education blogs are superior to the competition.  They aren’t beholden to corporate money or influence,” he maintains.  “They have first-hand experience of the subject.  Journalists have a hard job and they deserve our respect. But they can’t compare to the expertise of practicing educators.  If editors included our voices more, perhaps the mainstream media wouldn’t be so skewed towards corporate interests.”
 
New LAUSD Board Majority
2 letters in Sunday’s L.A. Times reacted to the story in Friday’s paper about the new pro-charter majority on the LAUSD  board.  The first was encouraged by that situation, the second, a current district teacher, was disheartened.  “It’s outrageous that the pro-charter school board members,” the author of the second letter deplores, “would suddenly ask for unity and to turn away from the divisive politics of yesterday when they themselves have been so truculently divisive.”
 
Charter School “Scandal of the Day”
This one is beyond comprehension.  Lori Bergeron, a convicted felon (for arson, fraud and writing bad checks), was selected as the board president of Manatee School of Arts and Sciences, a small elementary charter in Bradenton, Florida, and now she’s headed back to prison for stealing over $27,500 from the school.  This is the kind of story you find in a fictional Hollywood movie but this one is pure fact.  One has to truly ask how this could happen.  These are the kinds of events that take place when certain types of schools lack accountability and transparency, which most charters seem to insist on.  The Bradenton Herald has all the shocking details about Ms. Bergeron.  “Bergeron is a convicted felon with multiple arrests in her history.  She spent close to four years in prison from 2003 to 2007 after pleading no contest to charges of grand theft and arson, according to the state department of corrections.  She was ordered to pay $100,171 restitution in the grand theft case. . . .  The school district provided a background check on Bergeron to previous school administrators, but she was allowed to serve on the board anyway.”  She sounds like the perfect person to head the board of a charter school.  I don’t know about you, but this kind of news make me sick to my stomach.  
 
More Money for LAUSD’s Neediest Students
The LAUSD board approved a settlement of a lawsuit that will send more funds to the district’s low-income students.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times discusses the board’s action.  “Community Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, filed a complaint with the California Department of Education and sued the district in 2015 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union,” it explains, “alleging that the district was misspending up to $450 million meant for low-income students, English learners and foster youth.”
 
Testing
Roy Turrentine, a current teacher who frequently comments on Diane Ravitch’s blog, has a concise response to why standardized testing is so bad for kids.  Be sure to read the even briefer comment from SomeDam poet at the end of the piece titled “What Testing Destroys.”  “Why is it so impossible,” he asks plaintively, “to convince some of our leaders of the deleterious effects of testing?”
 
Segregation Returning to Southern Schools
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s, the schools in the South were the most segregated in the U.S.  For a time after these 2 events integration arrived in the South and their schools were no longer the most segregated in the country.  Now, it seems, all that is changing once again and it’s not for the better.  An interesting article on The BITTER SOUTHERNER website discusses the resegregation of southern classrooms and asks “Are These the Schools Southerners Want?”  “Within the current political and cultural climate, there looms a growing sense of separation, where private interests replace democratic interests,” it laments, “and the rich and powerful profit while the poor and underserved continue to struggle.  You might think we were living in the 1930s or 1940s.  This is, however, 2017, and the resegregation of public schools is increasing at an alarming rate.”  Diane Ravitch calls this “a soul-searching article.”
 
Few Foreign Language Classes Found in K-12
The number of foreign language classes in the U.S. in K-12 education can be summed up like this: few and far between.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK describes the state of foreign language instruction in this country.  It features surveys by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Councils for International Education.  Their reports found only about 1 in 5 students enrolled in a foreign language course in 2014-15.  What languages are those students learning? The top 3 were Spanish (69%), French (12%) and German (3%).  “Researchers say the shortcomings are most glaring in so-called critical-need languages, such as Arabic, that are considered crucial to national security, but are among the least commonly taught and also considered the most difficult to learn. . . .  Arabic is also the second-most spoken home language for English-language learners in the nation’s K-12 public schools,” it surprisingly notes, “trailing only Spanish, according to 2013-14 federal data.  That adds up to nearly 110,000 students in the nation’s classrooms who report Arabic as their home language.”  Links to the two papers are included in the ED WEEK article.
 
What’s It Like to be the Parent of a Special Needs Child?
Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it may not be possible to understand what it means to be the parent of a special needs child.  Teaches sometimes have a special needs student in their classroom but what is it like to be the parent of that child?  Melissa Tomlinson, writing on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website, offers some observations about her experience with her young son Jharid.  “Special needs parenting is highly emotional and highly complicated,” Tomlinson begins.  “We have to develop really thick skin.  At home, our kids are normal.  In the street, it sometimes surprises us how different our babies are.”
 
LAUSD Board Members Get HUGE Pay Increase
And finally, members of the LAUSD school board will be getting up to a 174% pay increase in 60 days.  A little-known city commission voted on Monday to give the 7 elected officials the pay increase.  Salaries for board members had not been raised since 2007 according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Board members who have no other outside employment will see their pay increase to $125,000 a year from $45,637.  Board members who receive any salary or honorarium elsewhere,” it reports, “will receive $50,000 a year, compared with the old figure of $26,437.  Under the city charter, Board of Education compensation is set every five years by the LAUSD Board of Education Compensation Review Committee.  The seven-member body is appointed by local officials outside the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Mayor Eric Garcetti has two appointees, as does City Council President Herb Wesson.”  Question: In light of this news, LAUSD teachers should be in line for a substantial increase also, yes/no?
 
Hope everyone is surviving our scorching temperatures!
 
                                                                                                                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk 

.                                                                          

 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Friday, July 7, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Education helps you to find beauty, but you are responsible to see it.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Charter Schools
An editorial in last Friday’s L.A. Times is critical of the CTA (California Teachers Association) for some of its actions in battling the expansion of charters in the state.  The paper lists some undertakings it hopes the union would back off from while, at the same time, noting there are areas where charters need oversight that the union can provide.  The item is titled “It’s Time For the Teachers Union to Stop Tilting at Charter School Windmills.”  “CTA resistance to charter schools, when well thought out and well-played, does have an important role in setting policy,” the editorial board points out.  “The union serves as a counterweight to a movement that has been allowed to grow without the necessary safeguards and oversight.”  Thanks to reader Don Hagen for sending this along.               On Independence Day the NEA (National Education Association) passed a resolution supporting accountability and transparency for charter schools at their 2017 Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly in Boston.  You can find the statement on the nea website by clicking here.  “The growth of separate and unequal systems of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools threatens our students and our public education system.  The purpose of this policy statement is to make plain NEA’s opposition to the failed experiment of largely unaccountable privately managed charter schools,” it reads, “while clarifying NEA’s continued support for those public charter schools that are authorized and held accountable by local democratically elected school boards or their equivalent.”               The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a guest blogger attending the NEA Annual Meeting and reporting on some of its actions.  Stephen Sawchuk, an associate editor of ED WEEK, offers an analysis of the Policy Statement the organization passed regarding its stance on charter schools (see above).  “Under its new policy, the National Education Association will accept only charters that look a lot more like traditional public schools.
The policy statement,” 
he writes, “approved by delegates to the union’s annual convention July 4, allows the NEA to support only those charters that are authorized by school districts and are subject to the same open-records laws, safety rules, and accountability measures as other schools.  It would effectively rule out any charters run by private entities, including those operated by major networks of charters, such as KIPP, Achievement First, or Uncommon Schools.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, uncovers the scam that are charter school lotteries.  Does the fact that some charters hold lotteries for admission prove that they take any and all students?  Not according to what Singer reports and even when they do, he demonstrates how they make a major effort to discourage certain types of students from entering their lotteries in the first place.  His commentary is titled “Charter School Lotteries–Why Most Families Don’t Even Apply.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, thinks it would be a wise move for Democrats to call for a charter school moratorium in order to get in step with their labor and civil rights allies.  He reviews some of the previous actions by various groups and discusses what a moratorium would achieve.  “Democrats who continue to support charter school expansions under current circumstances,” Bryant concludes, “risk muddying the waters at a time when there should be clear differences with what Trump-DeVos want.  A moratorium on charter schools draws a bright line between a political regime intent on serving the privileged and a Democratic party that seeks to uphold labor and civil rights.  Democrats should step across that line.”
 
Forgetting and Remembering
How does the act of forgetting and remembering effect our memories?  A op-ed in The New York Times looks at the latest brain science to offer some insights.  Now please try to remember them.  The piece is titled “Forgot Where You Parked? Good.”  “The notion that forgetting is a hidden educational virtue goes back a century or more.  In a series of studies, the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus found that when people relearn information, they’re more likely to recall that information in the future,”  the piece notes.  “Research explains why forgetting delivers this memory boost.  Memories don’t fly out of our brains like sparrows from a barn.  Instead, our brain will make memories more or less accessible.  Some recollections, like the name of a close friend, are easily recalled.  Other details, like the color of your childhood bedroom, have been tucked into deep storage and are much harder — if not impossible — to retrieve.”  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for unearthing this and remembering to send it to me.
 
New LAUSD Board Members Take Seats 
This week marked an important milestone in the history of the LAUSD school board.  Two new pro-charter members took their seats giving the panel a 4-3 charter proponent majority for the first time.  An article in Saturday’s L.A. Times offers a Q & A with Kelly Gonez who shares her ideas for education reform of the district.   The piece also includes “Gonez’s To-Do List.”  Here’s one example: “* Bringing different factions together for the sake of students.”  Gonez represents District 6 which covers the east San Fernando Valley and was formerly the seat of Monica Ratliff.  [Ed. note: The June 13th edition of the “Ed News” highlights a similar interview with new board member Nick Melvoin.]               This week, for the first time, charter proponents will hold a 4-3 majority on the LAUSD school board.  What does that shift portend for the board’s relationship with Supt. Michelle King?  The “Education Watch” column in Wednesday’s Times offers some key issues, in the form of 4 questions, to look for in the future between King and the board.  Here’s one of those questions: “What’s ahead for the teachers union?”               What kinds of issues will the new pro-charter majority on the LAUSD board be facing?  That question is addressed in an extended editorial in the same paper which explains what it expects from board members in regards to several critical issues including charter schools, the budget, board meetings and defining a clear vision for the future.  “Charters have stirred up most of the controversy [on the board in the past], but budget planning is by far the bigger area where the new board majority needs to step in,” the item suggests.  “The district is expected to face serious shortfalls within a couple of years, and kicking the can down the road, as it’s been doing, is not an acceptable strategy.  If the district wants to retain students, it needs the money to offer reasonable class sizes and enticing programs.”                It was big enough news to make the front page of yesterday’s Times.  Two new LAUSD board members Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, who were strongly backed by charter proponents, officially took their seats yesterday giving pro-charter members a 4-3 majority on the board.  What might be in store for the nation’s second-largest school district?  “Near the top of the pro-charter agenda is likely to be an easier process for approving new schools,” the item suggests, “and renewing existing charters, which advocates have long decried as too difficult.  They also want charters to take over more space on district-owned campuses.  Some hardcore charter backers have favored a more radical agenda: a massive charter school expansion or even using charters as the vehicle to dismantle the school system entirely.”               It didn’t take long for the new pro-charter majority to stamp their authority on the LAUSD school board.  Yesterday, at the panel’s first official public meeting of the 2017-18 school year, they chose charter proponent Ref Rodriguez as the new board president on a 4-3 vote as well as directing Supt. Michelle King to take a “students first” approach to any future initiatives.  A story in today’s Times describes what took place at yesterday’s meeting.  “The board’s charter-backed bloc,” it lists, “consists of Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, who were elected in May; Monica Garcia, who was reelected by winning a majority in the March primary; and Rodriguez, who was not on the ballot this year.”  George McKenna, Richard Vladovic and Scott Schmerelson are the other members of the board.
 
Public Education Heroes
Diane Ravitch’s blog chose the July 4th holiday to provide a list of groups and individuals who she believes are standing strong in support of public education.  You should recognize a number of the names as they have been highlighted on numerous occasions in the “Ed News.”  Here are just a few: “The BATs (Badass Teachers Association), Valerie Strauss, Mercedes Schneider, Carol Burris, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Jeff Bryant, FairtTest, Opt-Out New York and many others.   Ravitch has this comment about some of those heroes in Los Angeles: “Carl Peterson, Robert Skeels, Karen Wolfe, Ellen Lubic, Scott Schmerelson [she spelled his name wrong–I corrected it], and all the other parents and educators in Los Angeles who keep hope alive for the survival of public schools in that billionaire-ridden city.”
 
LAUSD’s “Credit-Recovery” Courses Questioned
An extended “Education” investigative feature in Sunday’s L.A. Times explores the murky world of “credit-recovery” courses being offered in the LAUSD to assist students who fall behind on the road to graduation.  The Times has been skeptical in the past about the program and several previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted stories and editorials in the paper about it.  This one goes into depth on the subject and emerges still unconvinced of the efficacy of the classes.  “Schools Are Boosting Graduation Rates by Offering ‘Credit Recovery.’  But What Are Students Learning?” the headline asks.  The story focuses on one student at Garfield High and his experiences with the program.  “Since 2015, [the student’s] sophomore year, the Los Angeles Unified School District has poured $30 million into intervention programs such as online and compressed ‘credit-recovery’ courses,” the item reveals, “to give students more, and often much speedier, ways to pull their grades up from failure.  But it’s hard to know whether students in these classes are getting the same level of education as they would in a regular class, or even as their peers in other credit-recovery courses.  The district lacks such records as how many students tried and failed to complete such courses, and how long it took them to finish a class.  Measuring the rigor of credit-recovery methods is difficult, too, because of a lack of consistency in how the programs are run from school to school.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The National Education Association (NEA), at its annual convention this week held in Boston, predicts a serious drop in membership for the near future.  The U.S. Supreme Court could take up a case that may make matters even worse according to a story in the “Teacher Beat” Column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “The National Education Association,” it explains, “is projecting a significant membership dip over its 2017-18 budget year.  And that may be only the beginning. . . .  The union anticipates legislation in the statehouses that would, for example, strip collective bargaining rights or prevent union dues from being automatically deducted from teachers’ paychecks, and as a result projects losing 20,000 full-time-equivalent active teachers and paraprofessionals.”               Despite an anticipated drop in union membership by teachers (see above), another story in ED WEEK offers a glimmer of hope.  It seems more and more teachers at charter schools are looking to join unions.  “Of the 6,900 charter schools nationally, only about 1 in 10 have unions.  That percentage has stayed steady in recent years,” it spells out, “even while charter enrollment has risen.  While largely symbolic for now, the recent big-city union victories could energize similar campaigns in other nearby charter schools, experts say.  Chicago, Philadelphia, and Sacramento have also seen upticks in organizing efforts among charter school teachers.”
 
Trump and Education
Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA (National Education Association), delivered the keynote address at the group’s 96th Representative Assembly in Boston this week.  One of her key themes was her mistrust of the education policies of the Trump administration.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, analyzes the speech and reprints the full text.  “The president of the country’s largest labor union, Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association, told delegates at her organization’s annual gathering,” Strauss begins, “that they would not work with the Trump administration because the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could not be trusted to do what is in the best interests of children.”               Here’s a short Q & A about the Trump administration’s plans for school choice.  It appears courtesy of the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  There are still few specifics at this points but some information can still be gleaned from various sources.   “President Donald Trump’s budget includes some new initiatives aimed at ramping up school choice,” it explains, “including $250 million for a private school voucher demonstration program, and allowing $1 billion in Title I money to follow students to the public school of their choice.  But, again, there are ton of questions—both big picture and nitty-gritty—about how those proposals would work.”
 
Proposed LAUSD Budget Cuts Restored
Last week the LAUSD board approved a budget that includes some $40 million in cuts to some programs (see the June 23 edition of the “Ed News).  This week almost all those reductions were restored.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times discusses the latest budget developments and wonders why the cuts were made in the first place.  “The planned $40-million reduction would have affected more than 700 campuses, about 70% of district schools.  The cut in the anti-poverty funds was about 16.5% at each affected campus,” it points out, “about $113 per student at most schools.  Now, all but 2% of the cut will be restored, officials said Friday, and the remainder could be added later as well.”
 
Personalized Learning Questioned
If you’re getting a little tired of READING articles in the “Ed News,”  you may wish to LISTEN  to co-hosts Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider discussing with a guest how personalized learning is disrupting public education on their podcast HAVE YOU HEARD.  The segment runs 35:24 minutes and is titled “Putting the ‘i” in Personalized Learning and the Disruption of Public Education.”               Sorry, back to the reading.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, is not enamored of personalized learning either (see above).  He likens the technique to a “bait and switch.”  “Personalized Learning is getting the hard sell these days.  It’s marketable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that nobody really knows what Personalized Learning is.  What it suggests,” Greene complains, “is something appealing, like Individualized Education Programs for everyone. . . .  An educational program custom designed for each individual learner.  Custom designed like a meal at a restaurant where you can choose the protein and spices and sauces and dishes and means of cooking and order exactly what you are hungry for.  But as Personalized Learning rolls out, that’s not what it’s like at all.” 
   
Lynwood USD Singled Out for AP Success
The Lynwood Unified School District, located south of downtown L.A., has a growing number of  minority and low-income Latino and Black students taking and PASSING Advanced Placement classes and exams.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes the district’s success and how it was achieved.  It focuses one one Lynwood High senior who has taken and passed a number of AP tests and is headed to Columbia University in the fall.  Her parents only progressed to the sixth grade.  “This year, Lynwood became one of two L.A. County school systems named to the College Board’s honor roll,” the story relates, “for significantly increasing their number of students taking and passing AP exams.  (The other was comparatively prosperous Arcadia Unified School District.) . . .  In 2013, 427 students at the district’s two comprehensive high schools took a total of 849 AP tests. This year, 823 students took 1,554 tests.  The scores aren’t yet in for this year, but the student pass rate has improved somewhat over the first seven years of the effort, from 20% to 25%.  The average pass rate in the United States is 22%.”                Advanced Placement news is not all rosy for students in California.  It appears over 840 exams taken by 540 students at Scripps Ranch High School in the San Diego USD will need to be retaken due to an inappropriate seating arrangement at the testing site.  Yes, you read that correctly. The students were not accused of cheating  but they were not seated per College Board and Educational Testing Service protocols according to a story in The San Diego Union-Tribune.  “Among new requirements [instituted 2 years ago], students taking the tests must be at 8-foot-long tables,” it describes, “so they have space between one another, and partitions are not allowed on the tables.  At Scripps Ranch this year, many students were at 6-foot tables with partitions, which previously had been allowed.”
 
Pasadena USD Battles Declining Enrollment
The Pasadena Unified School District has been trying to reverse declining enrollment for a number of years.  It is trying some innovative solutions to stem the decline including dual-language programs, an International Baccalaureate program at the high school and middle school level and more emphasis on the arts.  A piece in yesterday’s L.A. Times has the details.  “For many, the tinkering is paying off.  The number of families requesting to enroll children in the district rose last year — 365 out-of-district students were permitted to enroll and 169 students received approval to leave, according to Pasadena Unified spokeswoman Hilda Ramirez Horvath.   While overall enrollment, like that in other California districts, continues to decrease,” it mentions, “the rate of decline in Pasadena began to flatten about three years ago — a positive sign, said board member Scott Phelps.”
 
The U.S. Supreme Court and K-12 Education
The U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up its 2016-17 term at the end of June.  EDUCATION WEEK offers a review of the court’s decisions as they relate to education issues.  Among the topics covered include special education, religion and public schools, free speech and private schools.  “The U.S. Supreme Court had one of its most significant terms for K-12 education in several years,” the item points out, “even after it decided to remand to a lower court a case it had decided to hear about transgender rights in education.”  The drawings that accompany the article are well worth a gander.
School Diversity Pays Off
A new study out of UCLA finds that students who attend more racially diverse campuses feel safer and more comfortable with their peers.  The report is featured in a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “The study is based on surveys from about 4,300 sixth-grade students in public urban schools in Northern and Southern California, including some in L.A. Unified.  A ‘diverse’ school is defined as one that has a relatively equal number of students in each of several racial groups,” it notes.  “That student body makeup may create a balance of power, the study suggests. . . .  Other studies have examined the effects of diversity on academic achievement.  But focusing on the emotional effects on children is important because their state of mind affects their ability to learn, the study’s authors say.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Humorist Andy Borowitz takes a pot shot at Betsy DeVos in his satiric column for The NEW YORKER.  He suggests that she’s the only person who can deal with the nuclear threats emanating from North Korea by devastating their math and science education.  Remember: this is comedy and purely for humor.  It’s short.  Try not to laugh too hard. “DeVos, who is expected to arrive in Pyongyang later this week,” Borowitz deadpans, “plans to throw a monkey wrench in North Korea’s swiftly advancing nuclear program by replacing its current system of training scientists with a dizzying array of vouchers, sources said.”
 
School Segregation Stubbornly Continues
You might believe that school segregation has been gradually fazed out after the U.S. Supreme court’s decision in Brown v Board of Education in 1954.  In fact, segregation seems to be getting worse!  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, surveys what’s happened over the past 60+ years and why integration is going backwards in a piece titled “Where Did All the Integrated School Go?  Why Segregation is Still Bad.”  “After initial progress, our traditional public schools have been allowed to slip back into segregation.  In many parts of the country, they are actually more segregated today than they were at the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s,” Singer painfully explains.  “According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, from 2000 to 2014, school segregation has more than doubled nationwide.  That’s twice the number of schools comprised almost entirely of students living in high poverty and/or students of color.”  Singer includes a segment John Oliver did about school “Segregation” (17:58 minutes) on his show “This Week Tonight” back at the end of October.  It was highlighted in the Nov. 1, edition of the “Ed News” which goes to show how cutting edge and topical this blog is.  
 
School’s Out!
And finally, the 2016-17 school year is now over.  EDUCATION WEEK offers an album of images from students and educators illustrating impressions of that important day.  2 of the photos are from California.               Now that summer break is in full swing, 2 educators, writing on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website, identify “The 5 Phases of Summer” as seen through the eyes of a classroom teacher.  Does their view of “vacation” match your experiences?
                                                                                                                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk 

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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 27, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The Independence Day holiday is next Tuesday, July 4.
The United States will be 241 years old.
       Inline image 1
[The “Ed News” will be taking a short break to enjoy the holiday. 
Look for the next issue on Friday, July 7.]
 
And now to the news.
“There is no nobler profession, nor no greater calling, 
than to be among those unheralded many who gave and give their lives 
to the preservation of human knowledge, passed with commitment and care 
from one generation to the next.”
Montebello USD Awards Questionable Painting Contract
A investigative piece in Saturday’s L.A. Times raises some questions about the awarding of a $2.5 million painting contract last year by the Montebello Unified School District to a company that didn’t submit the lowest bid.  “An internal document obtained by The Times,” it reveals, “shows that a district finance manager had become alarmed by what he saw as pressure to reward certain companies in the contract bidding. Kevin Lee wrote in notes of a meeting with other officials that he told them they were ‘very close to breaking the law’ as they discussed ways to structure the bid so Castlerock Environmental Inc. and another company would get the work.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Gail Collins is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.  She recently conducted a reader poll to discover the “worst Trump cabinet member.”  The results are in.  The envelop please.  And the winner is  . . . . none other than the Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos [ wild applause].  “DeVos really hates public schools — something you don’t find often in a secretary of education,” Collins points out.  “Her goal seems to be replacing them with charter schools, none of which will need much oversight because, you know, the choice thing.  Many readers noted that our secretary of education does not seem to be … all that bright.”  Collins includes a number of remarks from readers about their various choices. Most are hilarious.  [Ed. note:  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending this out to all the Discussion Group participants.  I added this item for people who read the “Ed News” on the internet.]               Jennifer Berkshire turns her HAVE YOU HEARD blog over to Alicia, an educator who assists students at different levels to become better writers and consumers of information.  Alicia, interestingly, blames herself for the appointment of Betsy DeVos to head the federal Dept. of Education.  Her rationale for that position is rather intriguing.  “How are you or I responsible for the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?  It was President Trump who picked her, which makes sense, as his own for-profit education company defrauded thousands of students.  But you and I also helped DeVos get to her position,” Alicia suggests.  “We’re implicated too, despite our protest of the selection of a woman who has used her financial and social capital to undermine public education.  My contribution to Betsy DeVos’ appointment is that I consistently failed to pay attention to what was occurring in public education.”  She goes on to further explain why she places the blame for DeVos’ appointment on herself. 34 Democratic U.S. Senators have serious concerns about how Betsy DeVos may or may not enforce civil rights policies in her Dept. of Education.  They’ve sent her a strongly worded letter expressing their apprehensions.  The Politics K-12″ column for EDUCATION WEEK discusses the note.  “The Democratic lawmakers point to recent actions taken by DeVos’ department.  Those include,” the story mentions, “a new policy surrounding Office of Civil Rights investigations announced by acting assistant secretary for civil rights Candice Jackson.  That policy, announced in an internal memo first obtained by ProPublica, calls for a lot less emphasis on examining individual complaints for evidence of  systemic discrimination.”  You can find a full copy of the 6-page letter by clicking here. Both California senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris signed the letter.
 
Health Care and Education
Last week, Senate Republicans made public their secret health care bill.  How will it impact education if passed in its current form?  That question is tackled by the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  It discusses several areas where the legislation could have a direct effect on education policies and issues including special education funding, teacher health plans and mental health coverage.  “The Trump administration and congressional Republicans,” it begins, “are in the midst of trying to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—better known as ‘Obamacare’—with big implications for the nation’s schools when it come to special education funding, teacher benefits, and more.”
 
Gov. Christie Removes State Board of Ed. Pres. and VP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be out of office due to term limits after the Nov., 2017, gubernatorial election.  Ahead of that event he removed the president and vice president of the State Board of Education.  Observers interpreted this action as an attempt to keep control of the board after Christie leaves office according to a story on the NJ Advance Media website.  “The controversial moves on Monday and Thursday [last week] come as Christie attempts to remake the board with a flurry of nominations,” it reports, “before he leaves office, a tactic that has raised concerns about transparency and confounded the board’s former leaders. . . .  The state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, accused Christie of attempting to ‘stack the board’ before he leaves office.”
 
Acute Teacher Shortage Plagues Arizona
An analysis by the Arizona Republic finds that 22% of teachers in Arizona lack the proper qualifications.  The problem is a severe teacher shortage that is causing many states to fill classroom positions with unqualified candidates.  “Many in that 22 percent did have a college education and teacher training, but had less than two years in the classroom, a time frame when they don’t qualify for the state’s full credential — a standard certificate.   Many others lacked even more basic qualifications,” it notes.  “Nearly 2,000 had no formal teacher training.  Dozens lacked a college degree.  Parents, educators and advocates argue the proliferation of teachers with less than full credentials harms student performance.”  The story describes one principal’s futile attempt to recruit qualified candidates and also profiles problems faced by a small rural school district.  
 
Vouchers
An opinion piece in U.S. News and World Report makes the argument to avoid investing taxpayer dollars in vouchers and instead direct the money to the public schools in order to improve education for all students in this country.  The author, Scott Sargrad, is the managing director for K-12 education policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization.  The op-ed is simply titled “Don’t Gamble on Vouchers.”  “The argument that policymakers should continue to experiment with vouchers is also a dangerous one.  While some studies have found some benefits for some groups of students,” he writes, “the most recent high-quality research has shown that vouchers have clear – and large – negative impacts on students.  From Indiana, to Ohio, to Louisiana, to the District of Columbia, voucher schemes have, on balance, harmed students – not helped them.”  Sargrad proceeds to review the research into voucher programs in those states and the District of Columbia.
 
Jay Mathews Admits Errors in His High School Rankings
Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post, has been compiling his “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” list for almost 20 years.  But Carol Burris, a former high school principal in New York and current executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), pointed out some errors in the data supplied by the IDEA Public Schools charter network in Texas that had boosted their ratings on Mathews’ list.  Burris’ findings ware highlighted  in the “Ed News.”  Matthews issues a mea culpa for the misinformation and explains how it all came about in his column for the Post, giving proper credit for the sleuthing Burris did to uncover the inaccuracies.  “The IDEA Public Schools charter network in Texas told me it provided incorrect numbers of Advanced Placement tests at six of its schools for the 2017 list published in May,” he writes.  “As a result, the five IDEA schools that were in the top 10 have dropped several places on the corrected list.  ‘We messed up,’ said IDEA founder and chief executive Tom Torkelson.”     A blogger who writes under the moniker “Democracy” agrees with Carol Burris’ criticisms of Jay Matthews’ high school rankings (see above) but reckons she didn’t go far enough. He believes that using AP classes and test results is not a true indicator of high school excellence.  “Democracy’s” essay appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  He dissects the content and quality of AP courses and questions the academic level of the exams.  “The primary reason many students take AP is not to ‘learn’ or to gain ‘college readiness,’ but to game the admissions process,” he suggests.  “Students feel like they have to put AP on their transcripts or they won’t get into the college of their choice. It’s all about ‘looking good,’ and boosting the grade point average.”
  
New Study Compares Charters and Traditional Schools
There are things for both sides in the debate between charters and traditional schools to hang their hats on in a new study about both types of schools in Oakland.  The findings were produced by Education Research Strategies out of Massachusetts based on data from the 2014-15 school year.  An article about the survey appears in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The research commissioned by a coalition of educational and philanthropic organizations focused on charter schools in Oakland.  It determined that they have received less public funding than Oakland’s traditional public schools,” the article suggests, “but that traditional schools have had a more challenging student population to educate.”  [Ed. note: The article in the print edition is much more detailed than my link to what appears on the paper’s website. I’m not quite sure why.]
How Are Schools Dealing With Students’ Social Media?
A short item on the “Ed Week Video” column for EDUCATION WEEK provides 2 videos (the first runs 8:09 minutes and deals with high school pupils.  The second lasts 2:03 minutes and talks with 2 middle school students) on how schools are monitoring their students’ social media posts without infringing on free speech and privacy rights.
Supreme Court Rules in Church-State Case
In a highly anticipated ruling regarding the 1st Amendment and the separation of church and state, The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, the final day of its 2016-17 term, on a 7-2 vote decided in favor of a Missouri church.   The church wanted state funding to resurface its school playground.  The “Ed News” has closely followed this case and its possible ramifications for church-state relations.  The “Courts & Law” column for The Washington Post provides the details of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.  “Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., brought the case because it was excluded from a state program that reimburses the cost of rubberizing the surface of playgrounds.  The church scored high in the grant process,” it explains, “but Missouri’s state constitution, like those in about three dozen states, forbade government from spending public money on ‘any church, sect, or denomination of religion.’” The article includes a video (3:54 minutes) reviewing the decision.               For additional analysis, the “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK also reports on the key U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued yesterday regarding the separation of church and state (see above).  It’s titled “Supreme Court Issues Narrow Ruling in Case With Voucher Implications.”  “The court decided the case on relatively narrow grounds,” it suggests, “that left the implications for state barriers to religious school vouchers and other school choice measures unclear.  The farther-reaching question underlying the case was whether state constitutional provisions that strictly bar government aid to religion violate religious freedom protections in the First Amendment.  Those state-level measures are considered among the last legal barriers to expanding vouchers and tax credits for use at private religious schools.”   Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented in the ruling.               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, weighs in on the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (see items above) as it relates to vouchers.  “Supporters of school voucher programs,” she points out, “are already cheering the decision as boding well for the expansion of school choice.  They are looking for that opportunity in a Colorado case the justices may agree to hear, Taxpayers for Public Education v. Douglas County School District.  In 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a school voucher program, saying it violated  . . . . the state constitution.”               An editorial in today’s L.A. Times supports the Supreme Court ruling in the church-state case (see 3 pieces above) and was glad it was a narrow decision.  The item is titled “The Supreme Court Rules a Playground Isn’t a Pulpit.”  “On Monday, the Supreme Court decided a case that despite its mundane subject matter — the resurfacing of a preschool playground — was viewed by some conservatives as an opportunity for the court to radically redefine the constitutional relationship between church and state.  Fortunately,” it begins, “the court did no such thing.  That’s good news at a time when the culture wars over the role of religion in public life have become inflamed.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, offers his analysis of the court decision in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.  He headlines his commentary “Supremes Breaking Down Church State Wall.”  He reviews some of the language contained in the opinions and discusses the implications of the decision for vouchers and other policies.  ” The Supremes just punched a huge hole in the wall and a bunch of voucher-loving religious private schools are about to start sucking up public tax money through that breach.  A bunch of public tax money is about to disappear into a black hole,” he laments, “and we won’t know where it went or how it was used.  Education, religion, law, and American society will all be a little bit worse for it.”               Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, has doubts whether the court’s decision regarding the use of public funds to help pave a church’s preschool playground (refer to items above) will open the door to vouchers or similar programs.  She believes the narrowness of the ruling could prevent such an outcome and she quotes from a footnote [#3] of the court’s ruling to support her case in her commentary for THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “In a 7-2 ruling, the justices ruled that while Missouri could not refuse a playground grant to a church solely due to the fact that the church is a religious institution,” she writes, “the court was not ‘address[ing] religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.’  In other words, the ruling was not a green light for school vouchers.”  You can read the entire opinion (53 pages) in the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer case by clicking here.  Footnote #3 is found on p. 14 of the main opinion (p. 18 of the complete document).               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a different perspective on the significance of the key U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the separation of church and state.  He makes the plausible argument that if churches can accept taxpayer money for various reasons, that could open the door to taxing church property, let’s say, or controlling what’s taught in church schools.  Think about it.  The court’s decision in the case could cut both ways as he clearly explains.  “Now that the state has been shown to be responsible to support the church, the reverse has also been proven: the church has responsibilities to support the state.  That’s right.  No more tax free status for houses of worship. . . .  What conservatives seem to forget,” he reminds readers, “is that the wall of separation between church and state wasn’t erected just to protect the state from influence by religion.  It also was set up to protect religion from the state.  Once you have money flowing from one to the other, regulations are soon to follow.”
 
Michigan’s Achievement District to Close
Michigan’s 6-year experiment with a state-run district for low achieving schools will close down at the end of the current school year due to  unproductive results.  The 15 campuses in the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) will revert back to the Detroit Public School Community District according to a report from Michigan Radio, part of the NPR digital network.  “The EAA was created in 2011 to turn around Detroit’s lowest performing schools,” it describes.  “But, according to Michigan State University education professor David Arsen, it fell far short of that goal.   ‘The EAA could fairly be regarded as a train wreck of educational policy,’ Arsen said.   Arsen says a rushed policy process, plus a lack of state investment, meant the EAA had little chance of turning around Detroit’s failing schools.   In the state’s latest rankings, two-thirds of the EAA’s schools were in the bottom five percent.”  So much for that failed corporate “reform” undertaking.  Tennessee, Nevada and a few other states have similar state-controlled achievement districts.
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, which state in the union is doing the best job of destroying public education within its boundaries and  deprofessionalizing the job of teaching?  Stuart Egan, on his CAFFEINATED RAGE blog, makes the case for North Carolina.  He talks about the latest transgressions from the Republican controlled legislature, making veteran teachers extinct, by way of policies that are aimed at reducing salaries and benefits to the point that long-time teachers are pretty much forced to leave the profession.  “In the last four years, new teachers entering the profession in North Carolina,” Egan explains, “have seen the removal of graduate degree pay bumps and due-process rights. While the ‘average”’ salary increases have been most friendly to newer teachers, those pay ‘increases’ do plateau at about Year 15 in a teacher’s career.  Afterwards, nothing really happens.  Teachers in that position may have to make career-ending decisions.”               What happens when first and second-year teachers are provided with a mentor?  Well, for one thing their students’ outcomes in math and English Language Arts improve considerably according to a new study.  A story in the “Teaching NOW” column for EDUCATION WEEK features the report from SRI Education, a nonprofit research institute headquartered in Menlo Park, California.  “In the evaluation, SRI studied teacher and student outcomes over a three-year period (2013-14 to 2015-16).  Researchers compared a group of teachers who received NTC [New Teacher Center] induction mentoring to a group of teachers who received the usual new-teacher supports provided by the district.   Both groups of teachers,” the piece explains, “had similar retention rates and ratings on instructional effectiveness.  The major difference was their students’ achievement—the students in grades 4-8 of teachers who received NTC mentoring for two years outperformed their peers in both English/language arts and mathematics.  Those students performed better than expected on state standardized tests, representing gains of about two to three-and-a-half additional months of learning in ELA, and two to four-and-a-half months in math, depending on the student’s grade level.”
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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.