Ed News, Tuesday, September 27, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Education is a weapon that doesn’t create destruction, that creates peace” 
LAUSD Offers Community College Courses on Some High School Campuses
The LAUD board last Tuesday approved a plan to partner with several community colleges to offer college-level classes to studentson some of the district’s high school campuses.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times explains the program.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved an agreement [Sept. 20] with the Los Angeles Community College District,” it notes, “that will let high schools enter partnerships with their local community colleges to offer classes on campus, during the regular school day.  The schools hope to serve 15,000 L.A. Unified students a year. . . .  About 4,000 students last year had concurrent enrollment, which means they took some community college classes either on the community college campuses or at their high schools, said Jesus Angulo, director of the L.A. Unified’s academic and counseling services.  Some high schools, he said, already have agreements in which community colleges offer classes before or after school.”
 
Election 2016
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has been closely following Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot in November which would expand the cap on charter schools in the state (several previous editions of the “Ed News” have also highlighted the measure).  She is particularly intrigued by the vast sums of money being poured into the campaign supporting the issue and where the dollars are coming from.  In her latest post she updates the most recent contributions and notices that much of the money is coming from New York City hedge fund managers.  “The grand total spent on Q2 as of September 20th,” she points out,  “is $19.3 million– over 5.5 times the amount of money spent to date on the question of legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts– and more than 3.5 times the money spent on the other three ballot measures combined.”  Why is this question drawing, by far, the largest contributions as compared to the other 3 facing Bay State voters?  And why is a major chunk of the money originating in New York?  [Ed. note: Both good questions and, hopefully, readers of this blog can provide some very good answers.]              Charter schools have been poaching traditional public school students and classroom space over the years and now they are taking aim at school construction bonds in California.  The Bond Buyer details how this is taking place and the threat it poses to the traditional public schools.  Unfortunately, the item is behind a pay wall.  However,Diane Ravitch’s blog kindly makes it available for you to read in full.
Starting School Later in the Day
An op-ed in the Sunday, Sept. 17th L.A. Times made the case for starting the school day later for middle and high school students (see last Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  The “Mailbag” feature in Saturday’s paper included excerpts from 4 letters and a brief comment from a member of the Letters to the Editor department. 
 
The “Secret” to Finland’s Success
Finland is often held up as an example for its successful education system.  Proponents then go on to identify several factors in attaining that achievement.  The author of this piece intheguardian believes he can point to one characteristic that leads to Finnish success: the importance of “play” in early childhood development.  “The main aim of early years education is not explicitly ‘education’ in the formal sense but the promotion of the health and wellbeing of every child,” it suggests.  “Daycare is to help them develop good social habits: to learn how to make friends and respect others, for example, or to dress themselves competently.  Official guidance also emphasizes the importance in pre-school of the ‘joy of learning’, language enrichment and communication.  There is an emphasis on physical activity (at least 90 minutes outdoor play a day).”
 
Lawsuit Challenges School Conditions in Detroit
7 school children recently filed a lawsuit challenging thedeteriorating conditions of their Detroit classrooms, claiming they don’t allow students to receive an adequate education. Laurence Tribe, a well-known author and professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, pens an op-ed describing the suit and the conditions being challenged.  His commentary appears in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “Like the historic litigation leading to Brown vs. Board of Education,” he writes, “the Detroit lawsuit has the potential not only to improve the opportunities afforded to poor children of color in one community, but also to make good nationally on some of our most fundamental and cherished constitutional obligations.  Although the Brown ruling ended legally sanctioned segregation, it has not in practice eliminated separate and inferior schools for many students of color.  The conditions in Detroit will sound all too familiar to those acquainted with school-system failures across the country.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacts to the suit filed in Detroit by a group of students complaining about the poor conditions in their classrooms (see above).  “Like New Orleans,” he concludes, “Detroit is a reminder that what some reformsters say (‘Let’s try creative new solutions to provide education’) and what they actually do (‘Let’s avoid spending any money on Those People– at least not any  that we can’t at least recoup as revenue’) are two different things.”
 
Chicago Teachers Vote to STRIKE
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) held a strike vote last week and yesterday they announced the results in a brief statement on their website.  Over 90% of the votes cast were in favor of going out on strike for the second time since 2012.  The last walk-out lasted 7 days.  The CTU is required to give a 10-day strike notice to the Chicago Board of Education before they can go out.  “The Union’s Rules & Election Committee reported that on a 90.6 percent turnout, 95.6 percent of votes cast voted in favor to strike,” it states.  “This should come as no surprise to the Board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions.”
 
Ed Tech
The next big thing in education hardware appears to be the 2-in-1 device.  “This class of devices,” a brief item from EDUCATION WEEK explains, “feature detachable or convertible keyboards that can be used either as a traditional laptop or as a tablet.”  Some districts are debating whether to provide tablets to their students or laptops.  The 2-in-1 computer seems to solve that dilemma.  Be sure to click the “Enlarge” button on the “Poised for Growth” sidebar to see 2 sets of graphs about the growth of hardware sales in the U.S. and globally.             What about those specialized STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) campuses?  Are they only geared to elite students who are good in those fields or can they help the general student body including low-income and minority students?  THE HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at that second question and uses several science and technology high schools as an example (High Tech High in San Diego is not among them).  “While there is no hard data on the number of these schools, a reasonable estimate would be somewhere between 250 and 500,” it suggests.  “These new high schools, which rely on open admissions instead of competitive criteria like tests and grades, have multiplied to meet the exploding demand for workers with math, science and technology skills.”
 
Testing
How do standardized test score results impact individual students and their families?  Sharon Murchie, a self-described Michigan “teacher-mother-writer-arguer-runner-vegetarian,” describes, in great detail, what was on her daughter’s 4th grade assessments report card and why she’s rather disappointed, not in her child’s results, but in how they are presented.  Her remarks appear on herMandatory (a)Musings blog.  “You will be happy to know that my daughter is 100% adequate.  Or, to be specific, she is making ‘adequate progress.’  I was surprised at the naming of this progress indicator,” she points out, “since her scores are in the ‘Advanced’ range in Math and English Language Arts, and at the very top edge of the ‘Proficient’ range in Science.  But, for a 4th grader approximately 1/3 of the way through her K-12 education, her progress is deemed as adequate.  One must suppose then, that her teachers have also been adequate and her school is pretty adequate.”              Rhode Island is contemplating adopting the SAT as the state’s high school exit exam despite the fact that is not what it was designed for.  Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What? blog, is appalled that the governor and state education officials are even considering this action.  “As numerous academic studies have revealed, grade point averages, not standardized test scores are the best predictors of college success.
In fact, these studies show,”
he complains, “that the SAT correlates with the income of the student’s parents and does not predict how a student will do in College.”
 
Charter Schools
You can add Alabama to the almost complete list of states that have charter laws on their books, according to a short article on the “Charters & Choice” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  The Alabama Public Charter School Commission voted last week to authorize the Accel Day and Evening Academy in Mobile to open next year serving students 16 years of age and older.  A second charter in Huntsville is awaiting a judge’s ruling on a desegregation order and a third application was rejected.  There are now only 7 states that have no charter law in place.  Care to guess which ones? (Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont.)
 
Heat Wave’s Impact on LAUSD Classrooms
How hot has it been where you live/work?  The current heatwave has seen temperatures soar into the triple digits in most areas of L.A.  [Ed. note: My wife and I live near the L.A. airport, about 5 miles from the ocean.  Yesterday it was 101 and today is supposed to top out at 93.]  The LAUSD and many other districts have been in session now for over a month.  How do temperatures over 100 effect local classrooms?  A story in today’s L.A. Times reports that all classrooms in the LAUSD are supposed to have functioning air conditioners.  However, it notes that almost 700 complaints were received about systems that weren’t working properly or not at all.  Long Beach Unified is also mentioned.  Not all of its classrooms are air conditioned but there is a local bond measure on the November ballot to remedy that situation.
 
Mindfulness
And finally, the current (Oct. 3) edition of TIME magazine has a feature on mindfulness training for elementary school students.  Some experts believe it may be helpful in getting the kids to concentrate more, improve behavior and even boost test scores.  The article focuses on a 5th grade class in Louisville, Kentucky and explains how the classes work there and what is being taught.  “That mindfulness is taking its place alongside math in elementary school says something about the stressed-out state of kids’ brains these days,” it points out.  “Educators increasingly believe that mindfulness can be an antidote to three of the biggest mental-health challenges that kids face: anxiety, trouble paying attention and bullying.”
 
                                                                                                     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, September 23, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   “Knowledge is a unique kind of property, indeed: you can share it with others,
    while still possessing it.” 

― Eraldo Banovac*

LAUSD Board Approves Plan to Start School Year Later
The LAUSD board voted 5-2 Tuesday to begin the school year laterthan it has the last couple of years.  Classes commenced on Aug. 16th this year.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reviews how the vote came about and what changes are to be implemented over the next couple of years.  What the board approved was actually a compromise measure introduced shortly before voting on the original proposal.  “The nation’s second-largest school system on Tuesday moved away from its brief experiment with an earlier school start,” the piece explains, “edging back closer to the traditional day-after-Labor Day schedule.  Starting next year, school will start a week later than it did this year.  In 2018, classes will begin later still, one week before Labor Day.”              The LAUSD board’s vote this week to delay the start of the school year (see above) prompted 3 letters that appear in today’s Times.  Only the last one was opposed to the decision.
 
School Integration
The NPR program “This American Life” takes a look at school integration and finds it to be one of the best, if not the best, tool for closing the achievement gap.  Host Ira Glass talks with New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones about her many years of writing about school reforms and what works and what doesn’t.  She relates how she is the product of a school busing integration program in Waterloo, Iowa, when she grew up. The segment (61:32 minutes in a Prologue and 2 parts) is titled “The Problem We All Live With” and focuses on a successful integration program at a district in Missouri and the battles that took place to achieve it.
 
Corporate “Reform”
Marion Brady, veteran educator, author and activist, doesn’t believe our traditional public schools are “failing,’ but suggests the failure lies with the corporate “reform” movement and its advocacy for Common Core and standardized assessments.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, invites Brady to comment about the current state of education in the U.S. today.  “The core curriculum has major problems,” Brady complains.  “The core subjects are important, but they’re being dumped on kids many years too soon.  Their number, specialized vocabularies, differing conceptual organizers, varying levels of abstractness, and their disconnectedness from each other and from life as kids live it, create a confusing mental mish-mash.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
Anthony Cody raises a very interesting question on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog: “Is Competency/Computer Based Education Co-opting the Opt Out Movement?  If that doesn’t seem to make sense at first or sounds a little confusing, read what he has to say about the issue.  “So while I agree that we need to raise awareness about the limitations of educational technologies, and the dangers posed by Competency Based Education, ‘personalized’ learning, and the like,” he suggests, “I do not think we should leave behind the opt out effort.  Technology can be a useful tool, but it should be used to give students and teachers greater power.  When it is used by a top down ‘learning system’ to rank and sort students and teachers, then it is time to opt out once again.”
 
Charter Schools
When a charter school opens in a small, tight knit community, what impact does it have on the local traditional public school district, the town and the people and what happens when it proposes to expand?  Jennifer Garcia is a resident, business owner, parent of 3 public school children and activist in Red Bank, New Jersey (population 12, 213 in 2013).  She paints a vivid picture of how her community changed as a result of the arrival of the charter in 1998, which now serves almost 200 students in a Pre K-8 school, and her fears of its proposed expansion in an article on the app(dot)com(Asbury Park Press) website.  “Everything came to a head last year when the charter school asked to expand.  We were faced with the already existing negative effects multiplying — less funding, deeper segregation.  Our community was floored,” she explains.  “But we pulled together to block the expansion.  As we did, we had a chance to educate our larger community even more about the negative effects the charter school has on our district.”             Is thepopularity of charter schools beginning to decline?  That’s the intriguing premise of an analysis from truthout titled “A Turning Point for the Charter School Movement.”  It discusses Measure 2 facing voters in Massachusetts in November that seeks to lift the cap on charter schools in that state along with several other events that indicate to the author that the corporate “reform” movement is in decline.  “The entire mission of the modern charter movement, allegedly, is to end educational inequality.  It premises itself fundamentally on the notion that public schools are failing,”she relates, “and that a marketplace of choices will give students and families better options.  A better education, as goes the American way of thinking, is the way out of poverty.  But that rhetoric just doesn’t hold up against the onslaught of stories of fraud, theft, civil rights violations, student push-out and a call to action by the nation’s most important movement for racial justice in a generation — a movement led by Black youth with an immediate stake in the fight for equality.”               Mark Weber, theJERSEY JAZZMAN, ventures far afield to Massachusetts where voters are facing Measure 2 (see above) on the November ballot.  He looks at “attrition rates” in the state’s charter schools as compared to the traditional public schools.  The conventional wisdom is that the latter have much higher rates of student attrition than the Bay State’s charters.  Not true, says Weber, who supports his findings with a number of statistics, graphs and charts.  “In the last decade, Boston’s charter sector has had substantially greater cohort attrition than the Boston Public Schools,” he states.  “In fact, even though the data is noisy, you could make a pretty good case the difference in cohort attrition rates has grown over the last five years.”              Recently the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives both urged a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  Up until then, most civil rights groups had been in favor of vouchers, choice and charters, arguing that those were important civil rights issues for their constituencies.  Yohuru Williams, Professor of History at Fairfield University in Connecticut, author and education activist, makes the case why the NAACP’s decision is a critical step towards saving traditional public education.  His commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “The Civil Rights Movement was about inclusivity,” Williams maintains, “while those who appropriate its language to buttress corporate education reform do so largely in support of programs that promote exclusivity at the public’s expense.  Charter school advocates nevertheless persist in the mythology of trickle down edu-nomics, the idea that charter schools and high stakes testing can somehow deliver educational outcomes that will not only level the playing field but save the nation’s inner cities.”            Venice resident and public school parent activist Karen Wolfe attended (along with ALOED member Larry Lawrence) the pro-charter “Rally in the Valley” on Saturday in Pacoima.  She has a brief comment about the event and a short video (7:19 minutes) posted on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website.  [Ed. note: Larry is the gentleman with the red t-shirt promoting public schools who can be seen on the video very briefly around the 1:13 mark.)
 
Student Privacy and A “Bill of Rights”
The PARENT COALITION FOR STUDENT PRIVACY issued a press release this week announcing their approval that the “Safe Kids Act” (S. 1788) was pulled from consideration from the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee just prior to it being marked up.  The PARENT COALITION’S statement quoted Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters and the co-chair of the organization, “We would like to work with Senators Daine and Blumenthal and the other members of the Commerce Committee on improving this bill to ensure that student privacy is strengthened rather than further eroded, given the push from some sectors of the ed tech industry to exploit our children’s personal information and to treat them as consumers rather than as students.”           Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog takes exception to an editorial in the Chicago Tribune that offers a “Schoolchild’s Bill of Rights.”  Klonsky is not at all surprised at what the paper, a pro-corporate “reform” mouthpiece, proposes.  “The only thing surprising here is the Trib editors’ use of Bill of Rights lingo to promote their extreme right-wing reform agenda.  Remember it was the same board members who, in a previous editorial, called for [Chicago Public Schools] to be taken over by an autocrat with ‘Mussolini-like powers’ to execute and implement that agenda.”   He includes a link to the original editorial and concludes with a list of rights he’d like to see implemented.  Be cure to check out the picture of who Klonsky thinks the Tribune would like to see as school chief.
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, identifies a “predator” that’s loose in our schools.  “He is reading her homework assignments, quizzes and emails.  He is timing how long it takes her to answer questions, noting her right and wrong answers.  He’s even watching her body language to determine if she’s engaged in the lesson,” Singer maintains.  “He has given her a full battery of psychological assessments, and she doesn’t even notice.  He knows her academic strengths and weaknesses, when she’ll give up, when she’ll preserver, how she thinks.   And he’s not a teacher, counselor or even another student.  In fact, your child can’t even see him – he’s on her computer or hand-held device.  It’s called data mining, and it’s one of the major revenue sources of ed-tech companies.”  Singer proceeds to discuss the very important issue of student privacy and some of the legislation passed to deal with it and whether its effective or not.  In addition, he looks at how ed tech companies are hoping to expand the reach of data mining and how they do that in order to INCREASE THEIR PROFITS!
 
The Teaching Profession
A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK reports that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) began a strike authorization vote on Wednesday that will run through today (Friday).  Results of the voting won’t be make public right away.  The CTU contract expired in June, 2015.  “The union needs 75 percent support, which is expected.  A similar vote in December,” the piece points out, “garnered support from roughly 88 percent of the voting members.  Union members say the second vote offers legal cover.  If the union goes on strike, they have to give the district 10 days notice.  The earliest a walkout could take place is mid-October.”  The union last went out on strike for 7 days in 2012.              How important is the role of the principal in the retention of teachers?  According to a new study, featured in the “Teacher Beat” column in ED WEEK, finds that not only is it important but it is VERY important.  Susan Burkhauser, research associate at Loyola Marymount University, is the paper’s author.  “Burkhauser bases her work in part on the intuitive assumptions that working conditions are a prime factor in a teacher’s decision to stay or go and that principals may be in the best position to shape working conditions,” the item suggests.  “Principals, she says, can influence a teacher’s perception of the job by changing actual conditions—by offering more academic and moral support, more opportunities to develop teaching skills and advance their careers, more say in school policy, and the like.”  The article includes a link to the full report (20 pages) titled “How Much Do School Principals Matter When it Comes to Teacher Working Conditions?”              How does a teacher, a school and its students cope when the father of one of the pupils at the school is shot by police in Tulsa last Friday?  Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to a very moving account by Rebecca Lee, a teacher at the KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory school (grades 5-8), who describes what took place as she was facilitating 3 small group discussions about the incident.  Her piece is titled “Teaching Through Tears in Tulsa After a Student’s Dad is Killed by Police.”  “I want to share what I experienced with the kids today,” she writes by way of introduction, “because I am convinced that if you can put yourself in the shoes of a child of color in Tulsa right now, you will have a clearer understanding of the crisis we’re facing and why we say black lives matter.”               The “Ed News” has recently highlighted several items about the teacher shortage facing a number of states this year and how it is only going to get worse in the future.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews some of the stories and features a new report about the problem (see the Sept. 16th edition of the “Ed News).  He’s a little surprised that a few skeptics out there continue to deny the existence of a teacher shortage.  “Regardless of the evidence, studies finding deep and intractable problems in the teacher workforce always seem to draw the doubting crowd,”  he reports incredulously.  “Republicans, in particular, have always been resistant to the idea there is a teacher shortage.”
 
California Judge Rules Against Mandating Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers
And finally, in another victory for teachers unions in California, a Contra Costa County judge rejected a suit filed, once again, by the group “Students Matter” that would have required districts to makestudent test scores a major component of teacher evaluations.  The opinion in Doe v Antioch was released Monday and is reviewed in a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Teachers unions argue that judging teachers by test scores,” it notes, “overlooks the effects of poverty and other external factors on student achievement.  They also challenged the focus on test scores as a uniquely important measure of student progress.”
   

* Eraldo Banovac is an energy expert and a university professor. He was born in 1955, in Pula, Republic of Croatia.

 
                                                                                                     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, Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Fall officially begins at 7:21 a.m. on Thursday.
         

“If an education does not teach the person how to live right, 
then the fact is that it is also not teaching how to make the right living.” 

― Anuj Somany

Charter Schools
Ever wonder what happens when a charter abruptly closes it’s doorsin the middle of the school year and what becomes of the students and staff?  Well, wonder no more!  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times describes what happened in real life when the L.A. City Charter (LAUSD) suddenly went “out of business” on Friday, a month into the school year.  The unforeseen shutdown strands 116 high school students plus faculty, staff and administrators.  “L.A. Unified assembled a transition team for students,” the article reports, “after City High informed the district [last] Tuesday that the school was ceasing operations, spokeswoman Shannon Haber said in an email Thursday. . . . The closure also leaves teachers in the lurch.  They will receive severance through the end of October and school leaders are trying to help them find new jobs.”  [Ed. note: How often does this scenario play out with traditional public schools?  But I repeat myself!]       From the “charter-school-scandal-of-the-day” file comes this item:  A charter network with 3 campuses in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona was sued in federal court for using taxpayer money to teach religion.  “Attorney Richard Katskee, legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said that specifically includes teachings of founder, president and teacher Earl Taylor Jr.,”according to a story in the Arizona Capitol Times, that the Ten Commandments, including those that mandate the worship of God, must be obeyed to attain happiness.  Other teachings, he said, include that socialism violates God’s laws.  And Katskee said the school engages in a form of proselytizing by telling students ‘they are duty-bound to implement and instruct others about these religious and religiously based principles in order to restore the United States to freedom, prosperity and peace.’”              Why is it that charter schools suspend and expel many more students than the traditional public schools and a high percentage of those suspensions and expulsions are of African-American children?  Answers to that question are provided in an article in The Atlanticthat offers data and statistical analysis from New York, Washington, D.C. and Boston.  “The perceived harm that charter schools are disproportionately causing to black students through intense disciplinary practices has started to spark political pushback.  In late July,” it reports, “delegates attending the NAACP national convention passed a resolution supporting a moratorium on any further expansion of privately managed charter schools, citing their role in furthering segregation and ‘psychologically harmful environments.’”
 
The Teaching Profession
The working conditions in your classroom or office may leave much to be desired but they probably pale in comparison to what teachers and staff experienced after the devastating floods that hit Louisianalast month receded. In many districts the high water either delayed or interrupted the start of the new school year.  An article in The Washington Post describes the difficult situation faced by students, faculty and staff in the aftermath of the event as they faced damaged homes, classrooms and communities.  Some people in the hardest hit parishes literally lost everything. “Although some districts remain closed indefinitely — and the superintendent of one hard-hit district is living in an emergency shelter — the majority plan to welcome students back within the next two weeks, according to John White, the Louisiana state superintendent,” the item describes.  “But school leaders are far more worried about making sure they have enough teachers than they are about the physical condition of classrooms, White said. . . .He estimated that 4,000 teachers and other staff members who are critical to the schools’ operation — including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals and janitors — have been displaced by the flood.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Megan Thompkins-Strange, writing on the Transformation blog, hits the nail on the head with a very simple question: “Why Should Bill Gates Decide How Our Children Should be Educated?”  She uses Gates as a stand-in for all those individual billionaires and wealthy foundations who throw their money around influencing politicians and dictating education policy as if they are experts.  Her essay is subtitled: “Billionaire philanthropists are imposing their views on the rest of society with little accountability for their actions.”  She explains how education is and needs to continue to be treated as a public good and not turned into a private commodity to be funded and controlled by the moneyed philanthropists and their foundations.  “The best way for foundations to contribute to society is by listening, learning and placing their resources at the service of the public,” Thompkins-Strange concludes, “not using them to pursue their own narrow views of what they think the public needs.  After all, it’s never too late to get an education, even for a billionaire like Bill Gates.”              Erik Mears is a military veteran and a teacher who lives in New York City.  Writing on theProvocations Blog, he finds that the corporate “reform’s” core beliefs are terribly elitist.  “America’s corporate education reform movement has been a marketing success.  Reformers,” he complains, “have popularized slogans that promote a radically new public school system; one where tenure and bargaining rights are abolished or severely degraded; where CEOs and administrators, who may have backgrounds in business, politics or public relations rather than education, make hiring and firing decisions; and where data-based accountability — necessarily driven by test scores — perpetually imperils schools, tenure- and union-less teachers, as well as students who must conform to onerous protocols and codes of conduct under charter school contracts.”  Mears proceeds to identify “3 unutterable beliefs” of the corporate education reform movement.  To illustrate, here is his Unutterable belief #1: Though we cannot destroy teachers’ and students’ rights through democracy, we can destroy them through charter school proliferation.”               Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post, features a new book titled “Learning From the Federal Market Based Reforms–Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”  It’s published by the NEPC (National Education Policy Center) out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-edited by the managing director of the NEPC and an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. “For years the United States has embarked on an effort to reform its public education system, a civic institution, that has been based on market principles and the belief that standardized testing is the best way to assess students, teachers, principals, schools, districts and states.  The results?  Not exactly what market reformers had hoped,” Strauss writes by way of introduction before turning her space over to the two editors.  “The promise of ‘market-based’ reforms just didn’t pan out,” they suggest matter-of-factly.  “The invisible hand of the market was to be the solution primarily through charters and privatizing schools.  Even if we gave full weight to the market-based claims, these efforts fell far below what we staked out as our goal.  A growing body of literature shows that charter schools do not perform better than traditional public schools and they segregate schools by race and by socio-economic status.”
“Why is the State of Florida Trying to Destroy its Own Public Schools?” is the title of an extended item from the FLORIDA VIEWPOINT blog.  The author is a member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) from the Sunshine State and provides a litany of answers to the question posed.  Former Gov. Jeb Bush is identified as the “proud sire of ‘reform’ and ‘accountability” in Florida.”  “The legislative dismantling of public education in Florida accelerated about six years ago,” the author adds, “when the Florida legislature started enacting statutes designed to hasten the demise of Florida’s public schools, as well as the teaching profession itself.  By simply ignoring political opposition and public outcry, anti-public education lawmakers have accomplished what many would have considered impossible just a decade ago.”               Jennifer Berkshire interviews the two authors of a new study that looks into the growing phenomenon of the need for marketing and branding as the concept of “school choice” and competition expands rapidly.  The millions of dollars that are poured into convincing parents to send their children to this charter or that charter and the ramifications of all that salesmanship are covered in the course of the conversation. Berkshire’s Q & A appears on herEduShyster blog.  Marketing strategies and dollars are not only being used to attract students but, interestingly, also teachers as her piece indicates.  “If you’re doing, say, a national search for non-unionized teachers, who can potentially come from anywhere, marketing is going to be really important,” one of the authors of the study responds.   “If you look at some of the videos online you can find teachers talking about why teaching at one of these schools is so great.”  You can find a short overview of the study and/or the full paper (31 pages) which is titled “Perceptions of Prestige: A Comparative Analysis of School Online Media Marketing.” They are published by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education out of Teachers College, Columbia University
 
Texas Districts Spend Millions on High School Football Stadiums 
But Skimp on Special Ed Services
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a shocking investigative piece from the Houston Chronicle about how the State of Texas deliberately and quietly put a cap on the number of special education students it would fund thus eliminating services for tens of thousands of special ed students in the Lone Star State and saving millions of dollars.  The “Ed News,” putting 2 and 2 together, can speculate about what those funds go for–MILLION DOLLAR HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL STADIUMS!!!  Saturday’s L.A. Times has an incredible piece about how one district spent $60 million on a brand new, state-of-the-art, HIGH SCHOOL football stadium which was, at the time, the most expensive in the state only to see a rival district, playing one-upmanship, fork over $70 million for a new stadium and earn bragging rights for having the biggest and most expansive one.  The arms race on building high school stadiums dates back at least 15 years.  “The trend appears to have taken root in 2001,” the article mentions, “when Carroll High School in Southlake built a stadium holding about 12,000 for $15.3 million.  A handful of high school stadiums seating about 10,000 or more have since sprung up, mostly around Dallas, though down south in Katy, a suburb of Houston, a $62.5-million stadium is under construction.” Apparently, in Texas, at least, size matters!  And anyway, what’s more important:  football stadiums or special ed services?  [Ed. note: Please excuse me, I’m going to be sick to my stomach.  This is UNBELIEVABLE!]               An item in Saturday’sTimes about a growing “rivalry” between high schools in Texas to build the biggest and most expensive football stadium possible (see above) drew the ire of 4 letters-to-the-editor in today’s paper.  Each one was incredulous at the choice to build such palaces instead of spending the money on more necessary and important things.
Election 2016
What is Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s record on education?  If his policies as governor of Indiana are any indication, you can see him being a strong advocate of privatization and charters despite their very poor results in the Hoosier State.  ALTERNET outlines Pence’s close relationship to ALEC and his penchant for vouchers and charters.  “A recent National Public Radio profile of Pence’s education record,” it explains, “noted that he has been one of the leading governors pushing K-12 privatization. ‘Under Gov. Pence, the growth in the number of charter schools and the use of private school vouchers have exploded,’ it said.  ‘After the voucher program survived a state Supreme Court challenge in 2013, it’s grown into one of the largest in the country.  Pence helped to do that by advocating to expand the program to include middle-income, not just low-income families, and also by removing the cap on how many students qualify.’  Yet this May, when WTHR, Indianapolis’ NBC-TV affiliate, looked at the charter school experiment, it found that ‘nearly half of the state’s 76 charter schools are doing poorly or failing.’ The scores were based on the state’s new accountability standards.”               In 2012, voters in California temporarily approved a measure to boost the state’s income tax rates on incomes over $250,000.  A portion of the increased revenue was earmarked for K-12 schools and community colleges in the Golden State.  Prop. 55 on the November 8th ballot would continue those increases until 2030.  A recent USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll shows the new measure being approved by 55% of voters with 35% apposed according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times. “Supporters of the initiative,”  it points out, “which include the California Teachers Assn., California Hospital Assn., Service Employees International Union and the California Medical Assn., have raised more than $45 million.  By contrast,opponents have not reported raising funds.  The quiet campaign for Proposition 55 is a stark contrast to the one in 2012, when the income tax hikes were first introduced and business groups spent heavily against it.”               Donald Trump has a new 60-second TV ad about education.  You can view the ad, courtesy of  YouTube, by clicking here.   Diane Ravitch’s blog briefly critiqued the spot.               Peter Greene, writing onThe Progressive, looks at the possible impact on education policywhen Donald Trump/Mike Pence or Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine are elected and take office next January.  “We know that no matter who’s President,” he complains, “the policies will favor charter schools, testing, and rhetoric about saving the non-wealthy and non-white students—while simultaneously pursuing policies that cut their schools off at the financial knees.”  Greene suggests that the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will shift key battles over education policy to the state level so that’s where traditional public school proponents need to focus their attention, resources and effort.              As the Nov. 8th election approaches, both major party candidates for president are beginning to look beyond that event and plan for a possible transition to a Trump or Clinton administration.  Who they select for their transition teamscan give a big hint as to what types of education policies they will pursue.  An article in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK profiles two people Trump recently tabbed to be on his education transition team.  “The Trump campaign has been creating a decent amount of education-related news recently,” it mentions, “after several months in which Trump mostly made only cursory mentions of the topic.  On Sept. 8, Trump outlined his plan to create a $20 billion federal school choice program for students in poverty, and also backed merit pay for teachers.  And on Sept. 13, he unveiled a suite of child-care policies that include six weeks of paid maternity leave and tax credits for child-care costs, among others.”  Peter Greene discussed a couple of the folks on Clinton’s team (see item above).
LAUSD School Scrambles to Boost Enrollment as “Norm Day” Approaches
The Santee Education Complex (LAUSD), south of downtown, faced a problem as “norm day” approached on Friday, Sept. 16.  It was 3 students short of its target enrollment and the district would pay for more teachers if it could track down those 3 pupils.  A front-page story in Saturday’s L.A. Times describes how the school’s dean and other staff trekked across the campus’ attendance area in an attempt to enroll 3 more high school students.  “Santee’s enrollment stood at 1,779 students in the general education program.  (Students with special needs are counted separately.)  Although this was a significant improvement over past years, it still was shy of principal Martin Gomez’s goal of 1,782, and time was running out.  Like most L.A. district schools, Santee had until Sept. 16, “’norm day’ in education jargon, to increase its enrollment.  For the district to pay for more teaching positions, all the school needed was three more students.  A one-time head count taken on Friday would decide which schools got more teachers and funding, according to a predetermined ratio, and which had to face the unpleasant reality of losing staff and redistributing children.  Until then, a ritualistic scramble would take place, largely invisible to the public, but with real consequences.”  [Ed. note:  Sorry, but you’ll have to read the story to find out if Santee met their target.  I will say this: it’s a real cliffhanger.]
 
Starting School Later in the Day
An op-ed in Sunday’s L.A. Times makes the case for starting school later in the day for middle and high school students.  The “Ed News” has highlighted this issue several times in the past.  The author of the current piece, Lisa L. Lewis, is a freelance writer who specializes in education, parenting and public health issues.  She lives in Redlands where the local high school begins at 7:30 a.m.  “It’s well known that teens who don’t get at least eight hours of sleep a night,” she begins, “face a slew of problems.  That’s why both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control recommend shifting middle- and high-school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.  Yet during the 2011-12 school year — the most recent statistics available — only 17.7 % of the nation’s public middle, high and combined schools met the 8:30 a.m. guideline, and nearly 40% started before 8 a.m.  In California, the average start time was 8:07 a.m.”  [Ed. note: Huntington Park High School (LAUSD) where I worked for 27 years before retiring in 2009, was on a year-round, extended day schedule.  Period 1 began at 7:25 a.m.]
 
Student Protests During Pledge of Allegiance
You may have read or heard about San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of games as a protest against racial injustice.  A 14-year-old Native American teen in northern California has been conducting a similar action for a number of years.  She’s been refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in protest of how her ancestors were treated.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times features her and the actions of other students around the country.  It includes a video segment (2:41 minutes) from KPIX Channel 5, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, featuring the young woman explaining why she’s protesting and what are the ramifications of her action.              As those national anthem protests spread from NFL sidelines to high schools (see above), how should districts respond?  The “Rules for Engagement” column forEDUCATION WEEK reviews some similar actions from the past and offers some suggestions for ways to make them “teachable moments” rather than handing out punitive responses.
 
Connecticut to Appeal Judge’s Ruling Ordering Sweeping 
Overhaul of State’s Education Funding System
Connecticut will appeal a Superior Court judge’s recent ruling that the state’s school funding system was arbitrary and irrational and particularly harmed low-income children.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times has the details.  The judge “gave lawmakers and Gov. Daniel P. Malloy’s administration 180 days to devise a new funding formula for public schools. . . .  He also directed the Legislature,” it mentions, “to devise a new way of evaluating and compensating teachers, principals and superintendents, as well as instituting a graduation test for high school seniors and revising the way special education services are delivered.”
 
LAUSD Board Considers Starting the School Year Later
And finally, as the new school year was kicking off last month, the “Ed News” highlighted an article in the L.A. Times about why most school districts in California had moved the traditional beginning of the school year up from some time after Labor day to mid-August.   A story in today’s paper describes how the LAUSD board is considering a motion to go back to a post-Labor Day start and why they are contemplating that action.  “Under the proposal, the school year would shift from a mid-August start to after the Labor Day holiday,” it points out, “which is the first Monday in September.  The year would end in the latter part of June rather than early in that month.
 
 
                                                                                                     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, September 16, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

         “The walls of the school can’t stop the education.” 

― Tanmaya Guru

Charter Schools
California’s network of charter schools is increasing being scrutinized for its lack of transparency and accountability.  The results are not encouraging.  Joel Warner, author of an investigative piece for CAPITAL & MAIN, cites Carol Burris’ recent exposè of financial and management problems with many charters in the state (highlighted in the Sept. 9th “Ed News”) and places some of the blame on Gov. Jerry Brown’s pro-charter policies.  “Part of the problem, says Burris, is Governor Brown’s pro-charter stance; last year he vetoed a bill that would have banned for-profit charter schools in the state,” Warner writes, “a restriction that even many charter school advocates support.  Another factor, says Burris, is that the California Charter Schools Association, which did not respond to a request for comment for this article, has become a powerful lobbying force against many reforms, thanks to major funding from deep-pocketed charter advocates.”              Charles P. Pierce also cites what’s been uncovered about the charter industry in California (see above) in an article for Esquire, which he titles “The Charter School Movement is a Vehicle for Fraud and Corruption As it is Presently Constituted.”  He’s from Massachusetts and the voters there are facing Measure 2 in November which would lift the cap on charter expansion.  Pierce mentions what’s going on in California as a good reason why voters should reject Measure 2.  “There’s now a bill before Governor Jerry Brown that would tighten the public accountability standards for charter operators within the state,” he concludes.  “The evidence is now abundantly clear in a number of states: As it is presently constituted, the charter school movement is far better as an entry vehicle for fraud and corruption than it is for educating children. The fact that the charter industry is fighting to maintain its independent control over taxpayer funds is proof that the industry knows it, too.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, compares the money spent to try and pass Measure 2 in Massachusetts (see above) with the dollars raised in opposition to it AND, maybe more importantly, where the money comes from.  The proponents, supported by heavy contributions from out of the state have easily out-raised the opponents whose funds come mostly from within the Bay State.  You can find lots of figures and analysis and what it all means by clicking here.             Here we go again!  An online Ohio charter is battling in court over millions of dollars of taxpayer funds and how students log-in for attendance purposes.  EDUCATION WEEK attempts to sort this conflict out for you.  “Ohio’s largest online charter school wants taxpayers to give it $106 million in annual funding regardless of whether students log in or regularly participate in classes,” it notes, “the state argued in court.  State attorney Douglas Cole’s remarks came as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and the Ohio Department of Education battle in court this week over the school’s request for a preliminary injunction barring a requirement to provide log-in durations.”  [Ed. note: The arguments offered by the charter are awfully disingenuous. I’ll ask my usual question again: Could a traditional public school get away with this BS?]               Despite having one of the worst charter networks in the country, the federal Dept. of Education (DoE) just released a $71 million charter school grant to Ohio.  They did attach some “high risk special conditions” to the aid which you can read all about, and much more, on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  “When asked,”she reveals, “federal officials admitted that they hadn’t quite realized just how scandal-ridden Ohio’s charter sector was, and decided that it would investigate.”  That inquiry uncovered an awful lot of financial malfeasance and mismanagement but, apparently, not enough to terminate or limit  the financial support.  The feds did add some tough restrictions to the grant and only time will tell if charters in the Buckeye State can get their house in order.  Strauss includes copies of a letter from the DoE to the Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction and one from Sen, Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to the DoE.             There is lots of room to debate the efficacy of attending charter schools versus traditional public ones.  You can now add another area of contention: whose graduates earn the most money during their careers?  The answer, based on research in Florida and Texas, is predictably mixed.  In the study from Florida, charter graduates did better than their non charter peers.  However, the findings in Texas report the opposite.  If this is confusing, check out a story in EDUCATION WEEK that attempts to make sense of it all.  “The reason there has been so little research on long-term outcomes of charter schooling—such as earnings—is because charter schools simply haven’t been around that long,” the article mentions.  “The first law creating charter schools was passed in Minnesota 25 years ago this summer.  Texas passed its law in 1995, and Florida in 1996.  In many states, charter graduates are just starting to enter the workforce in large enough numbers to study.  But other hurdles remain for researchers. . .  Many variables could account for the studies’ opposing findings, from small differences in methodological approaches to differences in student populations and even in schools.”  The item includes links to both studies, however the Texas one requires a subscription.
 
Corporate “Reform”
You can add Chris Christie’s name to the list of governors who seem bent of trying to destroy traditional public education in their states.  Eric Sheninger writes on his A Principal’s Reflections blog about all the things Christie has done or is doing to accomplish that aim.  “Instead of developing rational strategies based on sound research to support districts, schools, and educators who need the help the most, Christie has implemented a one-size-fits-all approach that goes against the tenets of good pedagogy,”  Sheninger contends.  “The NJDOE [New Jersey Dept. of Education] has done his bidding long enough and need to begin to push back against his destruction of public education in NJ.  It would also be wise of the NJ State Board of Education to take a hard look at how their rubber stamp on Christie’s education agenda has not a shred of supporting research or evidence of success.”
 
School Leaders
“Our Schools Need Leaders, Not Managers” is the provocative title of an op-ed in the “K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  The author, Dave Powell, is a former high school teacher and currently an associate professor of education at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.  In discussing the qualities of an excellent leader he cites a recent incident in which the manager of the L.A. Dodgers pulled his starting pitcher after 7 innings Saturday night despite the hurler having a perfect game up to that point.  Powell uses this decision as an example of the important trait leaders possess of risk taking.  In Powell’s telling, the Dodger manager was sorely lacking that characteristic.  “So what makes a person a good leader?  We threw around a lot of the standard stuff: good leaders are purpose driven and goal oriented; they listen well; they understand that effective leaders are good collaborators; they’re emotionally intelligent,” Powell relates.  “Check, check, check, check.  But there’s another trait that I look for in good leaders: a willingness to take risks.  Now, I know this is not what most people look for in a leader—and the last thing many leaders want to do is take unnecessary risks.  I would agree that taking unnecessary risks is undesirable but I balk at the idea that careful, cautious leadership is what people in positions of authority should strive for, especially in schools.  In fact I wouldn’t call that leadership at all.  I’d call it stewardship.”
 
Students Serenade Teacher Battling Cancer
How about this for an uplifting story?  Several hundred high school students and faculty members at a parochial school in Nashvilleserenaded a popular teacher who is battling an aggressive form of cancer.  The amazing story appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST and includes a short video (58 seconds) posted by country music star Tim McGraw on his Facebook page.  
 
Election 2016
As of today (Friday) the Nov. 8th election is only 55 days away.  Teachers are finding it a little daunting to present such a bizarre campaign to their students. EDUCATION WEEK once again comes to the rescue.  Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted some suggestions, by grade level, as to how to deal with the personalities and issues of this election from the same publication.  This one also offers some specific ideas and provides a list or resources, with links, that educators may wish to make use of in a sidebar titled “Teaching Election 2016.”   “If Donald Trump were in school, many of his comments would earn him a trip to the principal’s office,” it begins (only partly in jest).  “That’s according to many educators across the country, who say they are struggling with how to teach an election cycle that has inflamed racial and ethnic tensions, sparked name-calling between the Republican presidential nominee and Democratic standard-bearer Hillary Clinton, and drawn stark lines between—and even within—the parties. . . .  Despite the myriad of challenges of teaching the 2016 election, however, many teachers also see it as a unique opportunity.”               Alan Singer, writing on THE HUFFINGTON POST, dissects Donald Trump’s policies for K-12 education that he unveiled at a Cleveland charter school last Thursday (covered extensively in Friday’s and Tuesdays editions of the “Ed News.”) You can tell from his title what Singer thinks of them: “Trump’s Plan to Destroy Public Education.”  He outlines the schools that Trump attended (all private and expensive) as well as where Trumps children went to school (also all private and expensive.)  “All of this makes The Donald as much an expert on public education as he is on the military, foreign policy, or life on the economic margins,” Singer replies disdainfully.  But that isn’t stopping Trump from promoting his education plan, one designed to destroy public education in the United States.  The basic Trump proposal is to divert $20 billion in federal grants from public school districts to charter, private, parochial, and online schools, effectively bleeding public school systems to death.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, has a rather different take on Donald Trump’s education policies.  His piece asks “Is Donald Trump the Charter School Industry’s Worst Nightmare?”  Bryant believes that Trump’s speech has now made charter schools into a partisan issue.  The Democrats, under Hillary Clinton, may decide to move away from their lukewarm support of charters and oppose them outright because of their now identification as part of the right wing Republican agenda.  “Thanks to Trump’s proposed giveaway to these schools,” Bryant suggests, “the political left will quite probably regard conservative support for charters as an attempt to ‘gut public schools.’”             In November, Georgia voters will be asked to approve an amendment to the state constitution that would create an Opportunity School District.  It would allow the state to take over districts with low test scores, thus eliminating local control.  The measure is modeled after a system in Tennessee which has done little to turn around schools there.  Michigan and Louisiana also have programs that have produced little in the way of positive results.  Myra Blackmon is a columnist for the Athens Banner-Herald and her piece appears on the paper’s OnlineAthens website.  She writes about a number of local school boards that are opposed to the amendment and have drawn a great deal of flak for taking that position.  Blackmon believes the whole concept of a state takeover of certain districts is a very poor idea from the get-go and sees the proposal for what it really is.  “The so-called ‘Opportunity School District’ is among the worst,” she argues, “of a long string of dangerous ideas and policies forced on local school districts in Georgia.  It is a power grab, pure and simple, moving control of local schools from those closest to them to an unaccountable gubernatorial appointee who, from on high in Atlanta, will dictate local education policies and practices.  The language both on the ballot and in the enabling legislation sounds like a plan for everyone to hold hands and happily work to improve education.  But that’s a lie.  These self-styled rescuers of poor children want to turn education over to their buddies in the privatization movement.  They want accountability for everyone but themselves.”
 
How to Make (Lots of) Money From Public Education
The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has a little-know program called Pay for Success (PFS), aka Social Impact Bonds.  How does it work?  The federal government partners with the private sector to help fund successful community programs in many areas including schools.  That’s the theory.  However, the devil is in the details according to Kenneth J. Saltman, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at UMass, Dartmouth.  Opining on the counterpunch website, he titles his extensive investigative piece “Wall Street’s Latest Public Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success.”  After discussing his “5 Myths,” Saltman concludes: “Pay for Success/Social Impact Bonds ought to be understood as simply one of the latest efforts of the private sector to exploit and to pillage the public sector for profit at a historical moment of uncertain economic growth and a crisis of capital accumulation.  New legislation and policy,” he calls for, “must be developed to limit the access of investment banks to determining, running, and profiting from social programs.”              Valerie Strauss also featured Saltman’s article (see above) on her website for The Washington Post and had this to say by way of introduction to it: “If it sounds as if [Pay for Success is] a way for the private sector to make money off investments in public education, that’s because it is.  Supporters say it is a great way to get private entities to invest in schools that need resources.  Critics say it is more likely to help the private entities earn a lot of money than do much for children.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Over the past several months the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles pointing out states with various degrees ofteacher shortages.  A new analysis by the Learning Policy Institute, led by Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond, looks at federal data and predicts the shortfall will continue nationally for several more years.  There are several reports in the package and they are featured in an article in EDUCATION WEEK.  “The shortages are being driven” it says, “by both an increase in demand and a decrease in supply: Schools are beginning to lower student-teacher ratios and reinstate classes that were reduced or eliminated in the 2008 recession.  But teacher attrition rates are high, and teacher-preparation program enrollments have fallen 35 percent nationwide in the last five years, the report says.”  Be sure to enlarge the chart in the sidebar titled “Teacher Supply and Demand Projections” for a graphic illustration of the problem.  The article includes a link to all the reports and you can find a very interesting 50-state interactive map with ratings of each state by various indicators that will help you understand why each state is facing a teacher shortage by clicking here.  There is also a link to it at the very end of the article.               Why is it so difficult for teachers who are licensed in one state to teach in another?  That question is addressed in a piece in ED WEEK. Some states have reciprocity with others but it still requires individuals to navigate what can be a circuitous route to obtain a credential in their new state.  “Most licensed professionals can move across state lines with little more than their licenses in hand,”the story begins.  “This is not the case for teachers, who discover that a license is often not worth the paper it’s written on.  For them, a move across state lines frequently entails red tape to be negotiated, new tests to be passed, new courses to be taken, and a new license to be obtained.”               Peter Greene is now writing forThe Progressive in addition to the regular work he pens for his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  In this entry he reflects on his thoughts as he prepares to go back to school after the summer break.  If you’ve taught for more than one year (he’s starting his 38th) I’m sure you will be able to relate to what he writes.  [Ed. note: I can especially relate to his “Teacher Nightmare” scenario. It afflicted me almost every time I went back to school.]  “All this means that every new year is exciting because my students are new and the work is new,” he explains, “even as certain foundational factors remain the same.  That is just one reason my job is so cool—the awesome mix of growth and stability.  Tomorrow is going to be a great day.  Curtain up.”
 
Texas Denies Special Ed Services to Eligible Students
 The Houston Chronicle has a shocking extended investigative article outlining how Texas has deliberately denied tens of thousands of students the special education services they need and deserve.  Why did state officials do this?  To save millions of dollars in order to keep taxes low, why else?  The state quietly set an arbitrary cap of 8.5% on the number of students who could receive special ed services.  This callous decision caused a number of students to be denied the services they need.  “Over a decade ago, the officials arbitrarily decided what percentage of students should get special education services — 8.5 percent — and since then,” the story reveals, “they have forced school districts to comply by strictly auditing those serving too many kids.  Their efforts, which started in 2004 but have never been publicly announced or explained, have saved the Texas Education Agency billions of dollars but denied vital supports to children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries, even blindness and deafness. . . .  Texas is the only state that has ever set a target for special education enrollment, records show.  It has been remarkably effective.  In the years since its implementation, the rate of Texas kids receiving special education has plummeted from near the national average of 13 percent to the lowest in the country — by far.  In 2015, for the first time, it fell to exactly 8.5 percent.”  Shame on Texas for this heartless policy and all in the name of saving money!
 
Education Reform
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about one particular philanthropy that was spending its money IN SUPPORT of traditional public schools. Diane Ravitch included a link to the original item on her blog.  She received some sharp criticism for promoting a company that her son had invested in.  Anthony Cody took umbrage at those critics and fired off a response on hisLIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “This latest barrage fits into a pattern among some activists that is quite destructive to the movement,” Cody complains.  “A strong social movement is marked by respect among activists for one another.  We go out of our way to lend support to one another’s work.  Diane does this every day through her blog – where she brings to light the writing and events of many others – including some of those now attacking her.  If we have differences, we can highlight our views in our posts.  If we have serious concerns, we can communicate directly, and do our best to express them.  We save our fire for those trying to destroy public schools, those promoting segregation and busting our unions.  That is how we build solidarity and trust, the two things that are indispensable to any strong movement.”
  
High School Redesign Competition Winners Announced.
The “XQ Super School” contest to redesign the high school of the future announced 10 initial winners who will each get $10 million to implement their projects over the next 5 years.  3 of the winning teams were from California (Oakland, Vista and Los Angeles–see the next item below for more about the L.A. winner).  A story in the “High School & Beyond” column for EDUCATION WEEKdiscusses the contest and briefly summarizes the winning teams’ proposals.  “Each of the winners of XQ: The Super School Project,”the article relates, “will have $10 million over the next five years to undertake ambitious projects centered on innovative, engaging approaches to learning.  All projects serve student populations that are predominantly low-income and/or racial minority.”              A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times features the winning proposal submitted by two L.A. teachers who are profiled in the piece.  Their plan is called RISE (Revolutionary Individualized Student Experience) and they want to open a charter school that serves homeless and foster youth.  “XQ officials, in announcing the winners on Wednesday, described RISE as a ‘completely new’ model,” the piece reports.  “The idea is to have three to four physical sites sharing space with existing nonprofits as well as an online learning system.  A bus will also be turned into a ‘mobile resource center,’ to bring Wi-Fi, a washer/dryer and homework help to the neediest students.  That way, if a student suddenly moves or can’t get to school, he or she will have various options to get tutoring or the day’s lesson.”  The article includes a short video (1:23 minutes) in which the 2 teachers outline how RISE will work.
Teacher Preparation Programs
More and more criticism is being leveled at traditional college and university teacher preparation programs.  Some of it is deserved but most is unfounded and unsupported by any credible evidence.  A number of independent, alternative teacher training programs have sprung up recently with little evidence that they can provide a superior experience.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, invites Kenneth Zeichner, a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington, Seattle, to comment on the attacks on the traditional teacher training programs and the impact those other programs are having.  His remarks are from the Executive Summary of the full report that he authored.  “Teacher education provided by U.S. colleges and universities,” he begins, “has been routinely criticized since its inception in the early nineteenth century, sometimes deservedly.  These programs, like non-university programs, are uneven in quality and can be improved.  What makes today’s criticisms different is an aggressive effort by advocacy groups, and self-proclaimed educational entrepreneurs to deregulate the preparation of teachers, and to expand independent, alternative routes into teaching.  This effort to ‘disrupt’ the field of teacher preparation in the United States has gained considerable momentum and legitimacy, with venture capitalists, philanthropy, and the U.S. Department of Education all providing sponsorship and substantial funding.”  You can find Zeichner’s full report (29 pages), titled “Independent Teacher Education Programs–Apocryphal Claims, Illusory Evidence,” from the NEPC (National Education Policy Center) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, byclicking here.
 
Textbook Controversy in Glendale
A group of parents in Glendale has complained about the adoption of a Spanish language textbook because several passages reinforce negative stereotypes about Latinos.  The book is intended for middle and high school students who are studying Spanish as a foreign language according to a story in today’s L.A. Times. The Glendale USD board is reconsidering its decision to adopt the text.  “Officials are also looking to give parents a seat at the table during future textbook-adoption considerations,” the item points out.  “Their input would be considered before a book goes to a textbook committee or piloted in the classroom, and in advance of the school board weighing final consideration.”
 
Ethnic Studies Curriculum Becomes Law In California
And finally, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that makes California the first state to develop a curriculum guide for the teaching of ethnic studies according to an article in the “Curriculum Matters” column for EDUCATION WEEK.   “More than two dozen California schools and districts are already offering ethnic studies courses,” it explains.  “And a group of researchers at Stanford University found that ethnic studies courses were associated with improved academic outcomes and attendance for students in San Francisco.  . .  The California law does not require high schools to offer the class.  Once the model curriculum is finished, schools will be ‘encouraged’ to offer an ethnic studies course as an elective.”
 
                                                                                                     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, Tuesday, September 13, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             “Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.” 

― George Savile

Election 2016
An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”) urged the passage of Prop. 58 by California voters and the resumption of bilingual education in the state.  It prompted 5 letters that appeared in Saturday’s paper.  The first is from Stephen Krashen, emeritus professor of linguistics and also education at USC.               Marc Tucker, the author of an opinion piece in EDUCATION WEEK, is the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy and has written extensively about countries with the best educational systems.  He poses an interesting question in the title of his essay: “Are the Republicans Abandoning Public Education?”  Tucker provides a history of how both political parties have, in the past, been major boosters of public education in the U.S.  He targets the beginning of the GOP’s drift away from support for the public schools to the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  “The famous Reagan-era federal report on education, A Nation at Risk, had made it abundantly clear that the education establishment had presided over a catastrophic decline in student performance (which, incidentally,was not true).  The charge,” Tucker suggests, “was that the professional educators had stolen control of the schools from the public to benefit themselves.  They were acting as monopolists, driving up the price while providing a product of increasingly shoddy quality.  The appropriate response to monopoly providers is competition.  The market will do what it does best, raise quality and responsiveness, while lowering cost.  Enter, stage right, vouchers and charters.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reacts to Donald Trump’s education policy speech that he delivered at a Cleveland charter school on Thursday (covered extensively in Friday’s “Ed News.”)  You can tell pretty quickly what she thinks of his proposals by the title of her piece, which happens to be a quote from Diane Ravitch: “If This Guy is Elected, You Can Kiss Public Schools Goodbye.”  “Trump declared his intent to use public funds for students to attend private schools and to promote the growth of charter schools,” Strauss writes, “employing the language of Republicans who refuse to call public schools public schools and instead refer to them as ‘government-run education monopolies.’”               Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), weighed in on Donald Trump’s speech in Cleveland on Thursday in which he laid out some specific education policies (see above and Friday’s “Ed News”).  Her reaction appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Weingarten focuses on his plan to divert $20 billion from the federal education budget as a block grant to the states to be used for choice programs.  Trump’s speech on education[last] week repeats the same message the anti-public education zealots have been shilling for years.  As far as we can tell,” she complains, “Trump never bothered talking to educators to find out what support they need in order to give every kid a great education.  His rhetoric . . . was just one more sound bite from a reality TV star turned presidential nominee.”               How should a teacher present the issues and candidates of this presidential election?  Valerie Strauss invites Elliott Rebhun, editor-in-chief of Scholastic Classroom Magazines, to offer some practical advice to educators in her column for The Washington Post.  He breaks his discussion down to different grade levels: K-2, 3-6 and 6-12.  “For educators, the 2016 election is proving trickier than most to talk about with students,” he begins.  “From nasty debates to controversial positions on the issues, this election can be a tough one to discuss in classrooms at any grade level.  But educators across the nation don’t want to miss this chance to teach kids about how our democracy works, and to engage them in the democratic process.  Teachers have only four opportunities, at best—from the time students start kindergarten until they graduate from high school—to let their kids experience a presidential election.  And the civics of this election doesn’t need to be lost in the circus.  Like any controversial topic, the election can be taught as long as it’s handled appropriately for each grade level.”
 
Charter Schools
Can a taxpayer supported charter school kick out a student due tothe actions of his parents?  Apparently, the answer is a resounding, “yes!”  If you don’t believe this could take place you need to read a column in the Saratoga Herald-Tribune because just such a scenario happened to a well-behaved second-grader who loves the school.  “It was done without a hint of due process or so much as a warning,”  the paper’s columnist writes.  “Technically, it was called a reassignment, a word that just does not fit the facts. The kid was given the boot.”  [Ed. note: Could this type of situation play out at a traditional public school?  Just asking.]               How much influence do billionaire philanthropists have on school policies?  Would you believe almost $2 million in favor of Measure 2 facing Massachusetts voters in November that would expand the number of charters in that state.  That’s how much Alice and Jim Walton of Arkansas have contributed according to an investigative piece by Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29. That’s only part of the story.  Schneider further reveals that 4 individuals and 2 non-profit lobbying groups, all from out of state, have donated over $8 million to the “Yes on 2” campaign.  “Astounding and disgusting all at once,”  she concludes.
 
ELLs
Under threat of a lawsuit and pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, education officials in California agreed to guaranteeEnglish language services to all 1.4 million English learners in the state.  Saturday’s L.A. Times has the latest developments.  “Up and down the state,” it reports, “for at least a decade, according to the federal government, tens of thousands of English learners in elementary, middle and high school received no services to help them learn the language and keep up academically while they did, even though the law required that they get it. . . . The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department echoes the earlier resolution of a lawsuit covering the same ground, but goes further in establishing the state’s role to ensure that these students receive high-quality instruction.”
 
School Names Tied to Slave Owners
The president of the San Francisco School Board, Matt Haney, wants to change the name of any school in his district that is tied to slave owners.  That would include George Washington High School, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Francis Scott Key Elementary and James Monroe Elementary.   A story in the San Francisco Chronicle has the details.  “Under Haney’s proposal, schools would be encouraged to form committees consisting of students, parents, teachers and administrators to study the issue,” it explains.  “If the committee favored a name change, the school board would consider it.”   The idea has not met with universal approval, as you might imagine.  The full board has the ultimate authority to change any school name.
Education Reform
Not all the billionaire philanthropists and foundations support the corporate “reform” agenda of choice, charters, union busting and test scores.  It only seems that way.  The Inside Philanthropywebsite has actually identified one business, the San Francisco Bay area high tech company Salesforce.com, that has made a major [Ed. note: And we MEAN major] commitment to supporting the traditional public schools in the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts.  “Salesforce started with a $2.7 million gift to SFUSD in 2013.  Then, in 2014, it gave $5 million.  In 2015, it raised the amount to $6 million.  Much of this grant support,” the item points out, “went to fund infrastructure and technology improvements, an area where the school district is particularly weak.  But Salesforce also made $100,000 available to each middle school principal through an innovation fund to spend as they see fit.   Now, Salesforce has increased its commitment further, putting another $8.5 million behind its successful partnership with San Francisco Unified School District, and adding their neighbor across the Bay, Oakland Unified Schools.  The primary focus of the new funding will be supporting computer science education, with Salesforce sticking to an area it knows well.”
School Spending
A new poll (parts of which were highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”) from the Rossier School of Education at USC and Stanford University’s Policy Analysis for California Education finds that many parents in California are unaware that they can have a say in how funds are spent at their local school under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that was passed in 2013.  The survey was conducted at the end of August and queried 1,202 California voters regarding their attitudes toward a number of education issues.  A piece in Saturday’s L.A. Times features responses to several questions from the poll.  “Gov. Jerry Brown hailed the law [LCFF] as fairer than the system it replaced.  One of its eight priorities is parent engagement.  Specifically,” the story relates, “districts and schools must ‘promote parental participation’ in special-needs programs and include parents in decisions concerning spending.”                A new draft proposal on spending regulations under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was unveiled recently.  The key issue addressed was the fear that some districts would use the new federal money to supplant rather than supplement state and local funds.  An analysis inEDUCATION WEEK attempts to bring clarity to the proposals.  “Overall, the proposal, which has been highly anticipated for months, doesn’t seem to have shifted the political landscape on the debate over supplement-not-supplant.  Superintendents, state chiefs, and others still say the department has put forth something unworkable,” the article maintains.  “But civil rights groups and ESSA’s Democratic sponsors—Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia—argue the new rule strikes the right balance in ensuring the poorest students get access to their fair share of resources, while giving local leaders the flexibility they need.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Monday’s L.A. Times included an op-ed about improving the teaching profession by training, mentoring and supporting teachers rather than firing them (highlighted in the “Ed News”).  It prompted7 letters-to-the-editor that appear in Sunday’s paper.               Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  THE HECHINGER REPORT demonstrates how one New Jersey school district teachers its students, many of whom don’t remember those events or weren’t even born yet, about what took place on that tragic day.  The article is titled “9/11 is Now a History Lesson for Most School Kids–In a New Jersey School District, the Way Teachers Talk About 9/11 in the Classroom is Changing.”  “Teachers across the country now have access to a bank of free, online lesson plans and teaching guides through the Newseum website,” the story suggest.  “The way those materials were curated is representative of a shift in how the education world is handling 9/11 in the classroom.  Talking about and commemorating 9/11 on the anniversary is no longer enough to help many students understand why this event is such a painful memory for so many people, and why it continues to have a lasting political impact.  Someone has to teach them.” Have you ever noticed that when corporate “reformers” close schools they are almost always located in low-income, minority communities and the teachers most impacted are Black and who most likely live in the neighborhoods being targeted?  Kristina Rizga, author of “Mission High” about an underfunded and poorly supported public school in San Francisco that was able to turn itself around and is, by the way, the ALOED Book Club selection for the summer of 2017, writes about the phenomenon of Black teachers disappearing in the September/October issue of Mother Jones.  Her piece is titled “Black Teachers Matter” and focuses on what happened to several educators in Philadelphia.  According to figures she cites in her extended piece, between 2000 and 2012 New Orleans lost 62% of is Black faculty, Chicago lost 39%, Cleveland 34%, Los Angeles, 33% and San Francisco 32%.  “In all, that means 26,000 African American teachers have disappeared from the nation’s public schools—even as the overall teaching workforce has increased by 134,000,” Rizga reports.  “Countless black principals, coaches, cafeteria workers, nurses, and counselors have also been displaced—all in the name of raising achievement among black students.  While white Americans are slowly waking up to the issue of police harassment and violence in black communities, many are unaware of the quiet but broad damage the loss of African American educators inflicts on the same communities.”               The concept of tenure was challenged in the Vergara case in California.  The initial court decision found it to be unconstitutional.  That outcome was overturned on appeal and the state Supreme Court recently upheld the appellate court’s ruling.  Hence, tenure still exists in the Golden State.  That hasn’t deterred other states from attempting toeliminate teacher job protections.  The latest–Kansas.  That state’s supreme court heard oral arguments today challenging the constitutionality of a law passed in 2014 that strips teachers of tenure protections.  The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the details about this latest assault on teacher rights.  “The Kansas National Education Association is challenging the law on technical grounds,”  it notes, “contending that the legislature passed the measure in a manner that evaded proper legislative review by attaching it to an omnibus education appropriations bill, House Bill 2506.”               If you are a ‘veteran” teacher [Ed. note: I’ll leave the definition of that phrase up to you for the purposes of this item] you probably taught before technology became ubiquitous in U.S. classrooms.  What is it like working with students in what the author of this piece for the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for ED WEEK refers to as the “Web. 2.0 Era?”  She’s a 7-year veteran of 7th and 8th grade English and Language Arts classes in North Carolina.  “When I attend a tech-heavy professional development session,” she confesses, “I still leave with my head in a cloud and experience the same amount of panic all of us feel when something new is put on our plates. What I have learned about the benefits of embracing these tools is that I just need to always be on the hunt for technology that will make me a more effective and more efficient teacher. . . .  I must admit that I truly owe a great amount of my job satisfaction to Web 2.0’s contributions to the teaching field.  I can’t wait to see what is going to be available next to improve my work as an educator.”
 
2 Single-Sex Schools Debut in the LAUSD
The “Education Matters” column in Sunday’s L.A. Times featurestwo single-sex schools for girls that opened for the first time this year.  One emphasizes athletics  and is located in Panorama City and the other math and science in the Mid-City area of L.A.  “Title IX, a federal law best known for the provision requiring schools to allow boys and girls to equally participate in sports,” the piece points out, “initially barred single-sex schools. But as more people asked, regulations softened.  In 2006, the government explicitly allowed the creation of a school for one gender as long as its district also provided a ‘substantially equal school’ for the other one.”  The article includes a short video (1:39 minutes) about one of the campuses.
Corporate “Reform”
Jesse Hagopian, the Seattle Social Studies teacher, civil rights activist and one of the first educators to lead an opt-out movement of his faculty against standardized testing, believes the Black resistance to corporate “reform” is just beginning.  He cites recent decisions by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools as a pivotal starting point.  His op-ed on the subject of the future of Black education appears on the truthout website and is titled “Black to School: The Rising Struggle to Make Black Education Matter.”  “A world where Black lives matter and Black education is empowering will not come easily.  It won’t be funded by benevolent philanthropists.  It won’t be promoted by corporate lobbyists or legislated by the politicians they own.  It will only happen,” he predicts, “with an uprising beyond even the scale and militancy of the last century’s civil rights and Black Power movements.”  [Ed. note: ALOED member Larry Lawrence and I heard Hagopian speak to a group of education students at Antioch University’s satellite campus in Culver City last year.  He was quite dynamic and engaging.]
Student-Centered Learning
Student-centered learning is helping to transform and modernize two public high schools in Massachusetts and Maine.  The author of this article in EDUCATION WEEK believes that “Our Education System Isn’t Broken; It’s Outdated.”  He proceeds to describe how the technique works and why he thinks it’s best suited to our 21st century education system.  “The transformation of our high schools will not happen overnight.  But make no mistake: It will change the face of public education for the better,”  he concludes, “with the help of dedicated teachers, administrators, and communities working together to equip our students with the critical-thinking and 21st-century skills needed to achieve at high levels for the rest of their lives.  Our system of public education is not broken—it just serves a different purpose than it did 100 years ago.  It is well past time for an upgrade.”
 
Schools of Opportunity
Do schools have to be rated by test scores?  Many rankings use that as their primary criteria with some adding other characteristics like graduation rates or AP classes taken.  A new program called Schools of Opportunity, that began as a pilot project in 2014, is rating schools on very different measures.  Valerie Strauss, on her  blog forThe Washington Post, has two entries about the award.  The first one explains the philosophy and methodology of the Schools of Opportunity program.  “Now there is a high school honors list that has a different set of priorities.  It’s the Schools of Opportunity, a project launched by educators who wanted to highlight public high schools,” Strauss explains, “that actively seek to close opportunity gaps through 11 research-proven practices and not test scores, which are more a measure of socio-economic status than anything else.  What kind of practices? They include health and psychological support for students, judicious and fair discipline policies, high-quality teacher mentoring programs, outreach to the community, effective student and faculty support systems, and broad and enriched curriculum.  [Ed. note: Those sound a whole lot better than using test scores.]  Schools submit applications explaining why they believe their school should be recognized.”  The second posting is written by the two founders of the program and a third person involved with it.  They announce the 20 winners of the gold and silver awards for 2015-16 and why they were selected.  Two schools from California are on the list; one earning gold and one earning silver.  “Schools that applied for recognition,”the 3 authors write, “submitted information about six different education-opportunity practices that they are successfully implementing. They needed to show, for example how they create and maintain healthy school culture; broaden and enrich school curriculum; use a variety of assessments designed to respond to student needs; and support teachers as professionals. Then the applications went through four levels of screening, including rubric-based ratings and in-person evaluation visits to the potential ‘gold’ schools.” 
 
PBS Program Alert
Tomorrow night (Wednesday) PBS station KOCE will broadcast at 9 pm a 2-hour NOVA special with the title “School of the Future.”  Nancy Bailey is a former special ed teacher who has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Florida State University.  She has been writing her pro-public school blog NANCY BAILEY’S EDUCATION WEBSITE for almost 3 years and is a bit skeptical of the program’s seemingly innocuous title.  She’s concerned the program will push the corporate “reform” agenda of digital learning as the way to close the achievement gap.  “The advertisement [for the special] tells us much.  They are warning that the future for children demands that students need better preparation to succeed due to globalization.  What they probably won’t tell us,” “Bailey warns, “is that this future will likely continue to be manipulated by corporations.  . . . This abstract, strange future they speak about (possibly puzzling to the smartest among us), will be about technology, of course. . . .  Technology isn’t bad.  It can benefit teachers, students and parents.  But it should not be made to appear like it will miraculously improve the way students learn used alone.”                The influential group “Parents Across America” is also raising concerns about the growing reliance on education technology in America’s classrooms.  EDUCATION WEEK conducted an interview with Julie Woestehof, the current interim executive director of the organization, regarding her group’s misgivings about the proliferation of ed tech.  As an example of their conversation, here’s the last question and Woestehof’s response: “Parents Across America has actively opposed what you describe as the ‘corporate reform’ agenda, including common core, standardized testing, test-based teacher evaluation, and charter school expansion.  To what extent are your warnings about education technology and personalized learning an extension of those fights?  Just look who is behind it all.  Look who is selling the merchandise.  It’s still Pearson, still Bill Gates and his foundation, still all the same usual suspects.  We’re just peeling back the layers and trying to show parents what’s behind the hard sell.”
 
9/11 Memorial at Occidental Vandalized
And finally, The Occidental College Republican Club sponsored a memorial marking the 15th anniversary Sunday of the 9/11 attacks.  It included the placement Saturday of 2,997 American flags on the campus quad to represent the number of people that died on 9/11.  Sometime early Sunday morning the memorial was vandalized when a many of the flags were kicked over, some were broken and a number of them were tossed into trash cans.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes what took place on the Eagle Rock campus and varying reactions to it.  “The incident prompted a flurry of statements by student groups, “it mentions, “as well as a pledge by university administrators to investigate the incident.”
                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                     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, September 9, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

     “Our experience of the governments of the world, 
     our knowledge of the weapons at their disposal, 
     and our awareness of our own limitations justify pessimism. 
     But some mysterious factor deep in the human psyche 
     has produced a countervailing conviction that educating, 
     organizing, uniting, and acting will make a difference. ” 

― David T. Dellinger

School Reform
Many education experts cite Finland as an example of a country that provides an exemplary education for its students.  Some people get tired of hearing about comparisons between the U.S. and the Finnish system.  If corporate “reforms” think choice, charter schools, union-busting, standardized tests, Teach for America and others are such great ideas, why aren’t the Finns adopting them?  That’s the premise of a column in USA TODAY by William Doyle, a best-selling author and award-winning TV producer who spent the past year as a visiting scholar and lecturer on education and the media at the University of Eastern Finland as a Fulbright Scholar. “Why Finland is Rejecting U.S. School Reforms” is the title of Doyle’s op-ed.  “Finland’s reforms were based on research and evidence and developed by educators, with lots of input from parents and children,” he writes.  “Its latest education vision could hardly be less like the one that ill-informed politicians are imposing on public schools in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.  In the U.S., this has exacerbated widespread system failure and confusion.”               Who benefits most from school choice?  Corporate “reformers” like to tout the concept as especially appealing to low-income and minority parents whose children attend “failing” schools.  Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, suggests that may not be the case.  He uses as his example what’s taking place in Denver. “Certainly, you can’t criticize parents for wanting to navigate to the best of their abilities any system of education,”  Bryant maintains, “whether it’s based on choice or not.  But it’s hard to see how a system based on school choice – that so easily accentuates the advantages of the privileged – is going to benefit the whole community, especially those who are the most chronically under-served.”             The group Parent Revolution, founded in 2009, was behind the legislation in California that created the parent trigger law.  How successful has the organization and the legislation been?  Karen Wolfe turns her PSconnect blog over to Caroline Grannan, a copy editor at The San Francisco Chronicle and a public school activist, who profiles Parent Revolution (PRev) and its founder Steve Barr.  “Despite the fanfare . . . .  PRev has succeeded in turning only one school into a charter school – Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto (San Bernardino County), Calif., in 2012,” Grannan recounts.  “That effort ripped the school community apart — splitting up friendships, creating deeply hostile factions and even leading to schoolyard fights among the kids.  Reports on the results of the charterization are wildly mixed, and the mainstream media, which descended on Adelanto eagerly to cover the battle, lost interest in following up afterward.”
Ravitch’s Blog & ED WEEK Reach Milestones
Diane Ravitch’s blog hit 28 million page views on Tuesday.  The “Ed News” is approaching 2,200 (that’s 2.2 thousand) in about the same time period.  “We will not simply preserve public education,”Ravitch holds in her post.  “We will stand together to make American public education better than it has ever been, for every child in every zip code.”  [Ed. note: We don’t have quite the reach that she does but we do have similar goals and I’ll be willing to bet that she doesn’t have any more fun and enjoyment in creating her blog than I do in creating mine.]              EDUCATION WEEKmade its debut on Sept. 7, 1981, making this year its 35th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, the publication’s “Education and the Media” column discussed briefly what’s taken place over those 3-and-a-half decades.  “After 35 years,”  it concludes, “the debates over standards and accountability, school governance, teacher preparation, and the proper role of the federal government, have not been settled.  And Education Week is still around to help lead the coverage and the conversation.”  The current piece includes a link to the lead story from 35 years ago about the changing role of the Federal government in education.
Back to School
[Ed. note: I taught for 37 years and my first day(s) back each year before the students returned was/were never like this:]  Check out how the faculty at the Bay Shore, Long Island, New York, districtbegan the 2016-17 school year.  The video (4:12 minutes–its says it’s 13:59 minutes, but it’s not) comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post. It references Common Core, testing, opt-out and  NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  Strauss includes the lyrics if you want to follow along.  Enjoy!
 
The Teaching Profession
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News’ highlighted an op-ed in the L.A. Times about providing support for teachers rather than firing them.  Walt Gardner, on his “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK, agrees with that position.  Gardner taught for 28 years in the LAUSD and was a lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education.  “The percentage of bad teachers is estimated to be between 1 percent or 5 percent.  Let’s try to help them improve,” he suggests, “before seeking to immediately fire them.  Rehabilitation is far more cost-effective and fairer than punishment.”              As a new school year commences, many students will be returning to classrooms that don’t have a regular teacher yet due to teacher shortages that are plaguing states nationwide.  FAST COMPANYoffers a “2 minute read” that looks at the problem.  “Simply increasing teacher pay to unrealistic levels is probably not the answer that can scale-up.  But from growing teacher shortages around the country,” the piece concludes, “it’s clear that governments need to do something to make teaching a desirable profession once again.  At least it’s got one thing going for it: it’s one of the few jobs that robots aren’t going to take over anytime soon.”  [Ed. note: I hope they’re right!]                The “Ed News” has previously highlighted several stories about some states that are experiencing various degrees of  teacher shortages (see above). EDUCATION WEEK explores the issue and reviews how some states are easing teacher licensing rules to deal with the problem.  It focuses on the situation in Utah, Oklahoma, New York and Wisconsin but other states face similar difficulties.  “With policymakers across the country increasingly worried about teacher shortages,” it begins, “one after another, state licensing authorities have been loosening certification rules.”               Some teachers are having so much trouble making ends meet on their meager salaries that they are resorting to moonlighting as Uber drivers.  The next time you make use of the ride service, the driver may be a fellow educator.  A story in THE Nation features a high school history and economics teacher [Ed. note: That’s what I taught!] who works in San Jose.  It’s titled “Teachers are Working for Uber Just to Keep a Foothold in the Middle Class.”               A new poll by two researchers at the USC Rossier School of Education finds California voters strongly support teachers and would urge young people to join the profession.  1,202 voters were questioned about various attitudes toward education in the Golden State in August.  The “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEKfeatures a summary of the survey that was conducted by the group Policy Analysis for California Education.  “In other interesting results: Nearly all respondents said it was important for teachers to contribute to students’ learning and get students to work hard and try their best.  Most respondents also said it was important for teachers to maintain classroom discipline,” the story describes, “and provide students with a love for learning.  Just 59 percent said it was important for teachers to help improve students’ scores on standardized achievement tests—a much lower percentage than those who supported teachers’ skills regarding classroom environment and students’ social and emotional health.” The article includes a link to the full poll.  
 
Election 2016
In November, California voters will be selecting a president, U.S. Senator, members of the House and a number of state and local offices.  In addition, there will be a number of state propositions.  Prop 58 would restore bilingual education in the Golden State.  Prop 227 passed by voters in 1998 ended such programs.  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times supports the resumption of bilingual education and urges a “yes” vote on the measure.  “Proposition 58 seeks to overturn the 1998 edict, providing more flexibility to schools and parents to choose how to teach English learners,”  it reports.  “Schools would no longer be required to teach them in English-only programs unless parents specifically requested otherwise, but could offer a variety of programs, including bilingual ones.  Parents of English-language learners would no longer need to sign waivers to allow their children to participate in bilingual programs.”               Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a Cleveland charter school yesterday and outlined some of his education policies including choice, Common Core and merit pay, according to a piece in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK “The charter school that Trump visited—and where he spoke to a group of students prior to his speech—does not exactly have a stellar academic record, according to its most recent report card,” it reports.  “The Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy got an F for overall progress, achievement gap-closing, and received a D and an F on two achievement measures.”   The New York Timeshas a more detailed look at the Trump proposals on education that he unveiled at a Cleveland charter school (see above).  “Mr. Trump’s release of his education plan marked the second consecutive day that he laid out concrete policies along traditional conservative lines,” it points out, “after calling for expanded military spending on Wednesday.  It also reflected a new push by Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, to broaden his appeal outside his traditional base of support.  On Saturday, he visited a black church in Detroit.  Critics say his outreach is aimed less at black voters than at attracting whites who may have been turned off to his candidacy by the racially tinged remarks he has made in the past.”                          THE HECHINGER REPORT dissects Trump’s call for more school “choice” that he mentioned during his stop at a Cleveland Charter school (see 2 items above).   “The philosophical basis for Trump’s policy should sound familiar.  It seems to come out of the playbooks of both Republican and Democrat reformers,” the author of the item suggests, “who advocate for vouchers and/or charter schools.  Charter and voucher advocates may distance themselves from the nuclear Trump and his policies, but they will have a hard time distancing themselves from his rhetoric, which reveals how gamey the word ‘choice’ is.”           Diane Ravitch has been hoping to meet with Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton and talk with her about her education policies. Ravitch got her (very brief) chance on Aug. 28th at a Clinton fundraiser in New York City.  She recaps the encounter on her Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “I had a few minutes to talk to her privately,” Ravitch reports.  “I gave her my ‘elevator speech’ about the disaster of the privatization and testing policies of the past 15 years, and the need for a revival of support for public schools.”   [Ed. note: Ravitch is a strong supporter of Clinton for president and has written about that position several times.]  Be sure to check out the series of photos of Ravitch’s meeting with Clinton.  Ravitch explains they were taken on her cellphone by a Clinton staffer.               Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, got a chance to amplify on theRavitch/Clinton meeting and got the former to add some comments beyond what she wrote on her blog about the encounter (see above).  “Ravitch has been a sharp critic of some of the positions that Clinton holds,” Strauss explains, “such as her support for the Common Core State Standards, and has noted that some of Clinton’s top aides have been part of the reform movement.”  Strauss includes one of the Clinton/Ravitch photos.
 
Common Core
Diane Ravitch was interviewed on “The Brian Lehrer Show” yesterday morning on NPR station WNYC about the Common Core State Standards as part of  its 30 election issues series.  This one is titled “What’s So Good (or Bad) About Common Core?”   The segment runs 32 minutes.
 
School Police
The growth of school police on many of the nation’s K-12 campuses has been pretty dramatic.  The Obama administration is urging districts to cut back on the use of school police, often referred to as school resource officers (SROs), to enforce school rules.  Many examples of school police overreacting to student misbehavior have gone viral and are mentioned in a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “Over the past two decades, the number of police officers stationed in K-12 schools has risen dramatically in the name of student safety,” it recounts.  “The federal government has contributed to this rise in school-based police officers . . . . by funding between 100 and 150 such positions each year through DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.  The vast majority of the roughly 19,000 school resource officer positions in K-12 institutions, however, are funded on the state or local level.”
 
New School Evaluation System Approved
Yesterday the California State Board of Education approved a new system for evaluating schools in the state.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes the new program which replaces the old Academic Performance Index (API) and its single number based on student test scores with multiple criteria.  “The state Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday,” it reports, “to rate schools using an evaluation that includes many more factors — among them academics, graduation rates, college preparedness and the rates at which non-native speakers are learning English.  The evaluations will incorporate scores on new science tests when those tests are ready.  Attendance data also will factor in eventually.  But unlike in the past, schools will not get an overall rating.  Instead, they’ll receive results on how they’re doing across the new categories, for different groups of students. The results will focus not just on how they’re doing now but how they’ve progressed from year to year.”
 
The Next Sec. of Education?
Education experts have been speculating about who might be the next U.S. Sec. of Education.  Of course, that decision depends totally on which candidate is elected president in November.  However, it doesn’t do any harm to play the guessing game.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, has tapped author C.M. Rubin to interview 6 prominent people in the field of education about what they would do if they were selected to head the U.S. Department of Education.  Her first Q & A took place while the “Ed News” was taking a break at the end of August.  It was with Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, on Aug. 24th and you can find it by clicking here.  The second in the series is with Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.  In response to a question about how to make the teaching profession more prestigious Weingarten answered: “Prestige begins with properly preparing, inducting, supporting, paying and respecting teachers.  It includes ensuring teachers have the time, tools and trust they and their students need to succeed.  And we need a higher bar for entry into the profession, along with much better support and mentoring for new teachers than most now receive.”  Part 1 and 2 both include a list all six people in the series.
Charter Schools
And finally, if you thought Ohio, Utah or Pennsylvania had the worst statewide charter system in the nation, you may want to reevaluate after reading Carol Burris’ first in a 4-part series on charters in CALIFORNIA that appears on Valerie Strauss’ blog inThe Washington Post.  Burris is an awarding winning former New York principal who is currently the executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE).  Strauss adds some introductory comments about the sad state of charters in the Golden State before turning her column over to Burris.  “California has the most charter schools and charter school students in the nation,”Burris relates.  “In 2000, there were 299 charter schools in the Golden State.  Last year there were 1,230.  Twenty-percent of the students in San Diego County attend its 120 charter schools. . . .  Sixteen percent of the students in Los Angeles attend charters, which has cost the district half a billion dollars in the last 10 years. . . . Over 25 percent of all students in Oakland attend charters, in which African American students are dramatically underrepresented.”  Burris provides a litany of ways the charters in California are “messed up” including an exposè of the California Charter School Association (CCSA).  The next 3 parts of her series should be real barn-burners!  Stay tuned!  Diane Ravitch suggests you “please sit down before you read this column.”
                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                           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, Tuesday, September 6, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                “I grew up in libraries, and I hope I’ve learned never to take them for granted. 
             A thriving library is the heart of its community, providing access to information 
             and educational opportunities, bringing people together, 
                leveling the playing field, and archiving our history.” 

― Josie Brown

School Calendars
When you were in elementary or secondary school when did the year commence?  If you are over 30 if was probably after Labor Day, right?  Not anymore, as a growing number of districts now kick off the year in August.  Some examples of starting dates for the current school year in L.A. County: Glendale and Pasadena Unified, Aug. 8, Alhambra,USD, Aug. 11, Beverly Hills, Aug. 15 LAUSD, Aug. 16, Culver City, Aug. 22.  Why are districts pushing up the school year?  A Q & A in the “Education Watch” column in the Aug. 15th L.A. Times provides some answers.
 
Skewering John Deasy and Arne Duncan
John Deasy was the highly controversial superintendent of the LAUSD from 2011 to 2014 who was forced to resign after the disastrous roll-outs of the “iPad-for-all” program and a new student information system.  Joshua Leibner, a 25-year veteran of the district and a National Board Certified Teacher, uses the form of an open letter to author Ta-Nehisi Coates to excoriate Deasy’s tenure as leader of the nation’s second largest public school district.  His comments appear on the LA Progressive website.  “Looking back, the leadership of John Deasy at LAUSD was one of the most arrogantly destructive eras of my pedagogical lifetime,” Leibner complains.  “His tenure at LAUSD was marked by a raging autocratic management style where he took unilateral actions to further the corporate education agenda of Big Business—all justified under a mask of civil rights ‘urgency.’”  Leibner reviews Deasy’s professional career and finds that it consistently includes connections to prominent billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad.  The piece includes a short video (6:52 minutes) of testimony before the school board from a substitute teacher at Washington Prep who was abruptly fired while Deasy observed her class shortly after he was appointed superintendent.                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, skewers former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, for his effusive support of charter schools in a piece for The Atlantic.  Duncan is reviewing a new book-length article that promotes charter schools [Greene includes a link to the story.]  Greene wonders how Duncan, as the Sec. of Education, could be such a supporter of charters at the expense of traditional public schools.  “There was never any doubt that Duncan was a charter fan, but this piece puts him in line with some of the most pie-eyed charter lovers,” Greene concludes.  “All pretense is gone, and in a way, it’s impressive that Duncan could pretend to be even semi-supportive of public education for as long as he did.  But now he can stop pretending, and be the charter-loving, public school dismissing PR flack he always wanted to be.”
 
Charter Schools
John Oliver, on his comedy show “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, did an extended segment on charter schools on Aug. 21st to mark the start of the new school year.  You can view the piece (18:12 minutes) courtesy of YouTube.              Later in the week, Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, commented on Oliver’s piece (see above).  He included links to several other articles from Valerie Strauss, Rolling Stone and Mitchell Robinson among others, some of which were critical of Oliver’s take on charters.  “None of Oliver’s critics seriously refuted the crux of his argument,”  Bryant points out, “that there might be something fundamentally wrong by design, rather than by implementation or intent, with the idea that  a ‘free market’ of privately operated and essentially unregulated schools is a surefire way to improve education opportunities for all students.”               Here’s another bizarre tale from the charter school world.  The new leader of a troubled charter school in Woodbury, MN, Bert Strassburg took a payout from his previous administrative position.  In addition, he  moonlights as a psychic!  Perfect credentials for a charter principal, don’t you agree?  This item comes from the Twin Cities PIONEER PRESS.  “Strassburg’s hiring is the latest move in a tumultuous year for the school,” the article explains, “where many board and staff members have resigned and parents and the state have pressured the school to improve its governance. . . .  Strassburg added that no one from the charter school has expressed concerns to him over his departure from his last job or his work as a psychic.”              Two African-American civil rights groups, the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives, recently called for amoratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  Despite strong support for charters from low-income Black and Latino families, the two organizations make a strong case for why “charter schools aren’t good for Blacks.”  A story in EDUCATION WEEK looks at the issues involved and what’s at stake.  “The NAACP’s proposed moratorium,” it spells out, “which still has to be approved by the group’s national board in October, cites increased segregation, high rates of suspensions and expulsions for black students, fiscal mismanagement, and poor oversight in charter schools as reasons to hit pause on the sector’s growth.”               Karen Wolfe, writing on her PSconnect blog, dissects the trouble facing the El Camino Real Charter High School (LAUSD) whose principal has been charging his personal expenses and lavish life style on the school’s credit card.  The school then had the chutzpah (that’s Yiddish for audacity, cheek, nerve) to turn around and blame the district for a lack of oversight and supervision.  Her piece is titled “Qué syrah, syrah: Whatever Will Happen to LAUSD’s El Camino Real Charter High School?” [Ed. note: She explains the title in her opening sentence.]                “National Labor Relations Board Decides Charter Schools are Private Corporations, Not Public Schools” is the title of an article in The Washington Post that formalizes what most education experts have been contending for a long time.  The decision is based on two cases the NLRB ruled on at the end of August.  “Charter school advocates have long argued that charters are public schools,” the story mentions, “because they are tuition-free, open-enrollment institutions funded primarily with tax dollars.  But union leaders and other critics describe charters as private entities that supplant public schools, which are run by elected officials, with nonprofit and for-profit corporations that are run by unelected boards that are unaccountable to voters.”                 Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive Turkish cleric who resides in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, is connected to one of the largest charter chains in this country.  Until the failed coup in Turkey this summer, in which he was accused of being involved, most people in the U.S. knew next to nothing about his relationship with schools in the U.S.  Gene Bruskin, a long-time labor activist, now retired, has a profile of Gülen and his reach into the education industry in America.  His profile appears on ALTERNET.  “The lack of transparency of the Gulen charter network,”  he concludes, “and the failure of federal and state oversight are warning signs of the dangers involved in turning over taxpayer dollars for public education to private charter operators.  In the case of the Gulen network, the amount of money involved is enormous—hundreds of millions of dollars.  Shouldn’t there be government investigations? A moratorium on adding more schools to these networks?”              
 
Vergara v California Redux
On Aug. 22nd a 4-3 majority of the California Supreme Court declined to hear the pivotal Vergara v California case which challenged teacher tenure, seniority and firing policies, thus handing a major victory to teachers unions.  The original case was heard in 2014 and the judged decided in favor of the plaintiffs ruling that such job protections violated the state constitution by not providing a proper education to poor and minority students.  In April of this year a 3-judge appellate court tossed out that finding.  A front-page story in the Aug. 23rd L.A. Times reviews the case and describes the impact of this latest development.  “The outcome left some union opponents looking for a different battlefield in the ongoing wars over public education,” it notes, “while others said they should try the courts again.   The Vergara litigation was closely watched across the country as a test of whether courts would invalidate rules that protect teachers on the argument that they violate the rights of students.”               A follow-up Timeseditorial appeared on Aug. 25th and agreed with the court’s decision but urged that the legislature take up the “problematic” tenure rules and make some changes.  “The teacher protection laws are riddled with problems.  They too often allow uncaring or incompetent teachers to stay in their jobs,” it reads, “which has a direct effect on learning and engagement.  But the lawsuit’s contention — that such rules were so harmful to California’s students as to be unconstitutional — bordered on the silly.  Even supporters of the suit estimated that the number of teachers who ought to be fired was just a few percent of the entire educational force.  Of all the things that prevent California students from succeeding — lack of preschool seats, large class sizes, minimal physical and arts education and so forth — teacher protections are hardly the worst offenders.”               2 letters appeared in the Aug. 27th edition of theTimes in reaction to the paper’s editorial about the court decision in the Vergara case (see item above).  The first took exception with the paper’s conclusion and the second, from a veteran teacher, points out the important role played by administrators in allowing ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom.              What’s next for Students Matter, the non-profit group behind the originalVergara suit?  A new case is being reviewed by a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge that claims districts in California are not following the law when they fail to use student test scores in teacher evaluations.  The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK has details about this latest challenge:  “The lawsuit, Doe v. Antioch, targets 13 school districts [Ed. note: not including the LAUSD] that it claims are violating the Stull Act, a decades-old state law that, in the plaintiffs’ view, requires districts to judge a teacher’s job performance at least in part on standardized student-test scores.  The districts cited, including Antioch Unified, Chino Valley Unified, and Inglewood Unified, serve about 250,000 students. The case was filed on behalf of four parents and two students, each from a different district in the state.”  The 13 districts targeted in the suit include: Antioch Unified, Chaffey Joint Union, Chino Valley Unified, El Monte City, Fairfield-Suisun Unified, Fremont Union, Inglewood Unified, Ontario-Montclair, Pittsburg Unified, Saddleback Valley Unified, San Ramon Valley Unified, Upland Unified and Victor Elementary.  Stay tuned to the “Ed News” for more information on this case as it develops. 
 
Corporate “Reform”
Many advocates of corporate “reform” like to propose that schools be run more like businesses.  Stuart Egan, on his CAFFEINATED RAGE blog, turns that concept on its head and humorously suggests that businesses ought to be run like schools!  It’s an interesting concept and he makes a thought provoking point.  “I invite you to try and see if you could run a business like a public school.  Maybe the differences between a public service and private enterprise might become more apparent because you’re not even comparing apples to oranges,” he maintains.  “You’re comparing apples to rocks.”               What is the odd connection between hedge fund managers and local school board elections?  Not sure?  Check out the piece in The AMERICAN PROSPECT titled “Hedging Education, How Hedge Funders Spurred the Pro-Charter Political Network.”  It’s a real eye-opener!  “The hedge fund industry and the charter movement are almost inextricably entangled.  Executives see charter-school expansion as vital to the future of public education,” the author describes, “relying on a model of competition.  They see testing as essential to accountability.  And they often look at teacher unions with unvarnished distaste.  Several hedge fund managers have launched their own charter-school chains.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a hedge fund guy who doesn’t sit on a charter-school board.”              Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, compares corporate “reform”in education to dental floss.  You’ll have to read his piece to catch the connection but it will be worth your effort.  “The problem is the very banality of corporate school reform.  After almost two decades of these strategies pushed on both sides of the aisle,” Singer concludes, “they’ve become the status quo.  It’s just the way we do things.  They’re as common as… well… dental floss.  The federal government saw through the vapidity of that practice.  Isn’t it time the administration does the same for corporate school reform?”
 
New Science Standards
18 states (including California) and the District of Columbia, have adopted what is referred to as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The “Curriculum Matters” column inEDUCATION WEEK offers an article titled “Here’s What We Know About the Next Generation Science Standards Tests.”  Students are scheduled to he tested on the new standardsbeginning in the spring of 2018 so it’s time to get prepared for their implementation.  
 
The Teaching Profession
A number of education experts have pointed out the flaws inherent in using test scores to evaluate teachers.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of them over the years.  So what does New Jersey do?  It TRIPLES, from 10% to 30%, the weight assigned to test scores in its latest teacher evaluation system.  A story fromnj(dot)com has the details.  “Student performance on standardized tests was added as a factor in some teacher evaluations beginning in the 2013-14 school year,” the article reports, “as part of New Jersey’s landmark tenure reform law.   The weight of student test scores in teacher evaluations was dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent in 2014-15 when New Jersey switched to the new PARCC exams, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.”               An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times makes the case that the best way to  improve the teaching profession isn’t by firing lots of “bad” teachers but by creating and keeping “good” ones.  The author, Karin Klein, is a freelance writer in Southern California who writes often about education issues. “Creating better teachers is more complicated — and more expensive — than claiming we can drastically improve education with pink slips,” she suggests.  “But in fact, pretty great teachers can be made.  Finland does it, in part, by requiring not one but three levels of practical teaching experience for would-be educators, according to a 2010 Stanford University report, carefully overseen by master educators.  (Finland also draws great teaching candidates because the society deeply respects teachers as professionals, on a par with doctors or lawyers.)”  Klein describes a program run by the Cotsen Foundation for the Art of Teaching that provides funding to improve teaching at 23 schools in L.A. and Orange counties including several in the LAUSD.  Diane Ravitch described this as a “sensible article” on her blog.
[Ed. note: My wife and I just returned from a 2+ week vacation to the Pacific Northwest, i.e., Seattle, the wine region in British Columbia and Vancouver.  While we were window shopping in an historic neighborhood of Vancouver I noticed, and bought, the following plaque.  It expresses my feelings toward school teachers to a tee:]
Inline image 1           
 
Testing & Common Core
The latest batch of California student standardized test scores for the 2015-16 school year were released at the end of August.  This is the second year the state made public results from the newly revamped  assessments that are supposedly aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  A front-page story in the Aug. 25th L.A. Times discusses the scores and how students showed measurable improvement.  “Across the state, 48% of students met English language arts standards and 37% met math standards,” it notes, “according to the test results released [Aug. 24th].  That compares with 44% in English and 34% in math last year. . . . Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District had lower average scores but increased their scores slightly more  than their peers statewide.”               An analysis in yesterday’s Timescompares test scores of students who attended LAUSD charters, magnets and regular district campuses.  Guess which ones came out on top?  If you said “charters,” you’d be wrong.  The correct answer: LAUSD magnets.  “Students in L.A. Unified’s magnet schools performed far better on state tests than did students at other district schools or charters,” the article reports.  “The district often touts magnets as examples of academic excellence, especially in comparison to charter schools.  Part of its plan to maintain enrollment is to increase the number of these themed schools.”
Still not clear on what the Common Core State Standards are or what the latest news is about them?  The EDUCATION WEEK“Explainer” has a short video (2:30 minutes) with some information that you, a colleague or a friend might find useful about the standards. It’s narrated by one of the publication’s education reporters.
 
Election 2016
Don’t be fooled by the group Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).  The “Ed News” has highlighted items about them in they past.  They are a neoliberal political group that wants to convince Democrats to embrace the corporate “reform” agenda, particularly charters.  They recently announced they will help fund Democratic candidates’ run for office but ONLY if they support charter schools.  An article in the Albany Times-Union focuses on how this is playing out in New York.  The story is behind a paywall.  That’s the bad news;  the good news is Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints it for free.
 
Chronic Absenteeism
And finally,chronic absenteeism is a major contributor to poor student achievement, dropping out and other academic related problems.  The “Rules for Engagement” column in EDUCATION WEEK features data from a new federal study that pinpoints which districts are plagued by this issue and what some of them are and can do about it.  Interestingly, the phenomenon of chronic absenteeism troubles both inner-city, low-income districts as well as suburban and wealthier ones the authors of the report found.  “While nine out of 10 school districts experience some level of chronic absenteeism,” the article notes, “around half of the 6.5 million students who were chronically absent in the 2013-14 school year are enrolled in just 4 percent of the nation’s districts, according to researchers Robert Balfanz and Hedy N. Chang.”  You can find the full study (36 pages) titled “Preventing Missed Opportunity: Taking Collective Action to Confront Chronic Absence” by clicking here.  

                                                                                                   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.             

                 
You will be removed promptly from the mailing list.