Ed News, Friday, January 29, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking a short break.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, February 9.]
 
“The essence of education is, in the words of William James, to teach a person what deserves to be valued,
 to impart ideals as well as knowledge, to cultivate in students the ability to distinguish the true and good 
from their counterfeits and the wisdom to prefer the former to the latter.” 
― William J. BennettChoosing the Right College: 
Single-Sex Schools
An op-ed in Mondays L.A. Times, highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News,” that discussed the drawbacks of single-sex schools, drew the ire of a single letter-to-the-editor that appears in Wednesday’s paper.  It was written by the director of girls education at the Young Women’s Leadership Network.  “Providing inner-city girls a choice to pursue a rigorous single-sex public education,” she argues, “with supports similar to the best private schools, means that they too now have access to an outstanding education and better future.”
 
Election 2016
Peter Greene’s CURMUDUGUCATION blog has a 2-part analysis of Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s newly released education plan.  Part 1 of the “Jebucation Follies” is titled “The Conservative Conundrum” and can be accessed by clicking here.  It includes a link to the original document (10 pages).  Part 2 is titled “The Nuts, Bolts and Screws.”  “To me it looks like rehashed reformsterism with a side order of Same Old Thing We’ve Had for the Past Decade.  There’s not a new idea in sight, and not a single old idea that comes equipped with an example of how well it worked anywhere,” Greene concludes.  “I suppose Bush can get points for having scrubbed Common Core from his resume, but it’s going to take a lot more than that and sucking up to all the venture vultures who want their slice of money baked in an edu-charter pie to resuscitate the Bush shot at the Presidency.  Certainly, I don’t see anything new and exciting or worn and practical about which to get edu-excited.”
 
Something REALLY Scary
Were you aware that the unelected emergency manager, appointed by Michigan Gov. Scott Snyder, who made the unilateral decision to switch the City of Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the polluted and highly toxic Flint River causing that city’s ongoing water catastrophe is now the unelected head of the Detroit Public Schools?  Teachers in that school system staged a one day walkout recently to protest unsafe conditions that include, among others, large class sizes, under staffing and rat and mold infested and crumbling classrooms.  DEMOCRACY NOW! has a short video segment about this scary (how could this happen?) story!  You can view the video (4:41 minutes) and/or read the transcript by clicking here
 
Value-Added Models (VAMs)
The PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA (PAA) website is calling for an end to teacher evaluations that rely on student test scores andvalue-added models for rating teachers.  They believe the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens the door to this outcome.  This piece also includes a link to the full, 2-page report with references and a link to a 2-page “Fact Sheet” on VAMs.               Several weeks ago the “Ed News” highlighted the video of a talk delivered by David Berliner in Australia about the many pitfalls ofusing student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on her VAMboozled blog, believes it to be such a valuable source of information about using test scores to rate teaches and valued-added models that she transcribed the key elements of the speech so everyone would have a hard copy of it.  Berliner offered 14 reasons why using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers was “nearly worthless.” which she includes in her piece.  Amrein-Beardsley also has a link to his original speech (it’s about an hour long) if you’d like to access it again or for the first time.
 
Friedrichs v CTA
A high school math teacher in New York City pens an “open letter” in the “PROVE IT” column in EDUCATION WEEK to the plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case explaining how their position coulddo harm to students and the teaching profession.  “The plaintiffs in Friedrichs,” he maintains, “would have you believe they are working to end political speech in education, but the real impact of their success would be to ensure that politics move to have a more direct impact on schools’ and students’ day-to-day lives.”
 
The Teaching Profession
John Merrow recently retired after a long and distinguished career in education journalism.  He’s still a strong proponent of public education and teachers.  At his own expense, he’s created some bumper stickers promoting teachers (see below) which he’s selling at cost on his THE MERROW REPORT website.  “One of every 100 Americans is a public school teacher,” he notes in a brief piece accompanying his pitch, “1% of the population.  Of course, teachers are not ‘The One Percent’ that possesses most of our wealth, et cetera.  But teachers ARE the 1% that deserves our support.”  Merrow has one of the stickers on the front bumper of his car and one on the back.  [Ed. note: The “Ed News” makes it a policy not to promote commercial endeavors but I’ve made an exception in this case as the sentiment is so worthy of our attention.  If anyone want to complain, tough!]
 
                                                                                   
 
 
 
 

Arkansas doesn’t fund its schools at nearly the level they need but the Governor just announced that the state will spend $3 million to hire Teach for America candidates to staff schools in the south and eastern part of the state.  In addition, private donors have added $3 million to hire TFA people to work in schools in Little Rock, the capital.  This is all included in a story in the ARKANSAS TIMES.    [Ed. note: I guess that’s one way to save money so that you can cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations like Walmart.  I mean, what’s more important?]                When teachers get sick they require a substitute to take over their class.  There’s not many professions that do that.  Preparing to be out for a day means leaving lesson plans and preparing materials in advance.  What happens when you are going to be out for an extended period of time?  Karla Duff is a middle school teacher in Iowa and has a practical guide for what to do when you need to be out of your class for more than a day or two.  Her suggestions appear on the “CTQ Collaboratory ” column inEDUCATION WEEK where she answers the question: “How should a teacher get ready for a long-term absence?              EDUCATION WEEK has a new special report titled “Teacher Recruitment: New Challenges, New Strategies.”  “This special report,” the introduction explains, “explores the factors behind the recent teacher shortages in many areas and highlights initiatives designed to improve district hiring processes and tap new pools of prospective educators.  Intended to give education leaders actionable intelligence on the teacher-recruitment landscape today, the stories examine both larger policy issues and more discrete school human resource practices.”  The ED WEEK article highlighted includes links to stories on the topic.

 
Passage of ESSA
Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, concludes her exclusive conversation about the new Every Student Succeeds Act with David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.  In Part 9 of the Q & A she asks: “How does ESSA affect Common Core?  Some say ESSA ‘locks in’ CCSS.  True or false.”  Cleary responds in his “short” answer: “States are completely, totally, 100 percent free to set their standards on their own and relegate the Common Core State Standards to history, if they choose.”  He provides much more detail to Ravitch’s query in his “long” answer.  Ravitch includes links to all 9 parts of her interesting conversation with David Cleary or you can also find them in the Jan. 19, 22 and 26 editions of the “Ed News.”
 
Common Core and Testing
States around the U.S. have been raising the scores on their Common Core assessments to mark the level where students are considered “proficient.”  A new study from EducationNextfeatures the intriguing data.  “Since 2011, 45 states have raised their standards for student proficiency in reading and math,” it begins, “with the greatest gains occurring between 2013 and 2015.  Most states set only mediocre expectations for students for nearly 10 years after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Now, in the wake of the Common Core campaign, a majority of states have made a dramatic move forward.”               EDUCATION WEEK has a handy interactive map with standardized test results from 2014-15 for all the states that have reported scores.  It indicates which test they used, PARCC, SBAC or other and by clicking on an individual state you can view the test results.  “The 2014-15 school year marked a big change for many states,” it points out, “because they switched to tests that for the first time reflect the Common Core State Standards.”                TheDA–District Administration website publishes a newsletter for K-12 administrators nationwide.  It’s January edition features a poll about attitudes regarding Common Core and Testing.  In answers to a query about whether the opt-out movement will grow in their state, 60% either strongly agreed or agreed while only 24% strongly disagreed or disagreed.  Some of the other responses were equally surprising.  “Resistance and frustration over standardized assessments and learning standards,” the introduction to the survey suggests, “may have reached critical mass,” at least as far as administrators are concerned.  
 
The Case Against School Choice
The corporate “reformers” and some billionaires and their foundations (Gates, Walton, Broad, et. al.) have, as one of their main goals, the idea of school choice as a way to cure what ails the public schools.  That, along with vouchers, charters and privatization constitute their main agenda.  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG, dissects the idea of school choice in an essay titled “Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice.”  “On the surface of it, school choice sounds like a great idea.  Parents will get to shop for schools,” he begins, “and pick the one that best suits their children. . . . .  But that’s not at all what school choice actually is.  In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.”  Singer proceeds to list 10 reasons why school choice is not good for parents, students or the public schools.               Tomorrow marks the end of National School Choice Week (Jan. 24-30), an annual celebration of things like charters, vouchers, online schools, magnets, private schools and homeschooling.  You can read all about it on the National School Choice Week (NSCW) website.             In response to the above event, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette has an editorial against vouchers in that state.  Despite the claims of success of the program by supporters “though the number of voucher recipients grew by 13 percent this school year, there is no evidence tax dollars are being spent effectively.  Instead of approving two voucher expansion bills, lawmakers should instead call for a comprehensive and independent study of Indiana’s five-year-old entitlement program,” the piece continues.  “Do they truly believe support of private schools is an effective use of tax dollars, or do they fear that data on Indiana’s program will reveal the same results as voucher evaluations elsewhere?”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a peek at who and what is behind the National School Choice Week organization and event.  He reviews what some other writers have discovered about the group and finds some rather enlightening things “The reality is that what most people really want, the guarantee of a high quality public school accessible to all students,” Bryant concludes, “is a rapidly diminishing opportunity in this country.  Any staged political event trying to sell you a product called ‘school choice’ is just an empty song and dance.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Next Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 heralds the end of this year’s football season.  The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) has created a graphic that they title the “Ed Reformers Playbook.”  Here’s what it looks like:
 
Inline image 1 
 
If you need some verification of this list check out number 2–“Starve Schools of Funding.”  Don’t think that’s taking place?  The Washington Post features a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics that notes that per pupil funding for K-12 public schools fell in 2013 for the third year in a row.  If schools don’t get the money they need class sizes increase, school conditions deteriorate, experienced educators quit, test scores decline and the corporate “reformers” are quick to scream how the schools are “failing” and we need more charters, vouchers and school choice.  Don’t believe that’s taking place?  See the items under the heading “The Case Against School Choice” above.  Check out the map at the beginning of the Washington Post article and the chart at the end to see how California (or any other states you might wish to) fares.  You can read the full report (52 pages) from the NCES titled “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2012-13 (Fiscal Year 2013) First Look” by clicking here.  Page 7-9 of the study has per pupil spending by the largest districts in the country. 
 
New LAUSD Supt.
Howard Blume has an extended front-page profile in yesterday’sL.A. Times of new LAUSD Supt. Michelle King.  It follows her career from kindergarten in LAUSD to Palisades High, to UCLA, to teaching stints at Porter Junior High and Wright Middle School, vice principal and then principal at Hamilton High and finally into administrative positions at the district’s downtown headquarters.  She’s been connected to LAUSD almost her entire life as a student, teacher, administrator and now superintendent.  “If there’s not much recent public evidence by which to evaluate King’s suitability for one of the most important positions in education,” the reporter explains, “it’s because 10 years ago the district swallowed King into the upper reaches of its labyrinthine bureaucracy.  In a home movie of her life, that would be the point at which we switch from vibrant color into grainy black and white.”
 
Student Earns Perfect Score on AP Calculus Test
A 17-year-old Lincoln High School (LAUSD) senior, Cedrick Argueta, earned  a perfect score on his AP Calculus test according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Of the 302,531 students to take the notoriously mind-crushing test,”  it notes, “he was one of only 12 to earn every single point. . . . Cedrick and his classmates took the AP Calculus AB exam, a 3-hour and 15-minute test administered by the nonprofit College Board for possible college credit, in May.  Cedrick learned over the summer that he had scored a 5 – the top score – on the exam but had no idea he’d gotten every single question right until last week.”  The item includes a brief video profile (1:32 minutes) of Cedrick.
 
Charter Schools Versus Magnets
Anyone curious as to why charter schools in L.A. are getting more federal dollars than magnet schools?  That’s the rather startling reality as reported by a federal lobbyist for the LAUSD, Joel Packer, to the district’s school board.  The LA SCHOOL REPORT has the disquieting details.  “For all the successful magnet schools in LA Unified and elsewhere, they are not attracting as much federal support as charter schools,” the item begins.  “That was a stark message from the district’s federal lobbyist, who told a district board committee this week that Washington is increasing national support for charter schools by nearly 32 percent but by only 6 percent for magnet schools, a difference that surprised some of the school board members.”  Packer suggested the reason this is happening has to do with money and political clout in Washington.  Isn’t that always, or nearly always, the case?
 
Porter Ranch Gas Leak
A report in today’s L.A. Times indicates that all schools within a 5-mile radius of the SoCalGas company’s Porter Ranch gas leak with be getting air purifiers provided by the utility. 18 schools are affected with the largest being Granada Hills Charter High School.  “The school requested the purifiers even though the telltale odor has not reached the campus,” the article relates, “according to administrators. The gas company also is providing active carbon filters that will be installed in all heating and air conditioning units.”
 
Over-Worked Students
And finally, are parents, teachers and society, in general, over-burdening children with too many activities and overloading students with too much work?  That’s the premise of an op-ed in today’s L.A. Times by Vicki Abeles, author and documentary film director and producer.  [Ed note: Several ALOED members viewed a screening of her film “Race to Nowhere” several years ago as part of the group’s Educational Film Series.]  Her piece is titled “How Not to Raise a Workaholic.”  “Parents and educators tend to fear that less homework and more down time will make things ‘easy’ for students,” she concludes, “removing challenge, rigor and purpose from their academic lives.  Let us free ourselves of that false notion.  There are many ways to succeed in life and many paths to a sufficient and satisfying livelihood.  None of them require childhood burnout.”
 
 
                                                                                                         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, January 26, 2016 Edition

    The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
                   “Why don’t we want our children to learn to do mathematics? 
         Is it that we don’t trust them, that we think it’s too hard? 
         We seem to feel that they are capable of making arguments
           and coming to their own conclusions about Napoleon. 
              Why not about triangles?” 
                   ― Paul Lockhart*A Mathematician’s Lament: 
                           How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating 
     
Financial Funny Business in Newport-Mesa
It’s a great job if you can get it.  A deputy superintendent and chief business officer in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District has aseparate retirement account created for him that totals over $273,000.  Why?  The district wanted Paul Reed to stay on longer as he contemplated retiring.  He will also get a regular retirement from the state.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times reports on the financial shenanigans.  “The district’s former director of human resources, John Caldecott, said the lack of specifics related to the retirement contributions raises red flags and questions about transparency,”it explains.  “Information about the retirement fund was obtained by Caldecott after he filed a state public records request.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Peggy Robertson, a teacher at Jewell Elementary,a “turnaround” school in Colorado, conducts an interview (in both English and Spanish) with a parent whose child went through the “turnaround.”  The parent, who requested to remain anonymous, describes theimpact on his/her child of that action.   The Q & A appears on Robertson’s Peg With Pen blog.     Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, has a very interesting comparison between different types of athletic coaches and classroom teachers.  Are you familiar with the differences between “transactional” and “transformational” coaches and how those terms apply to the business world and teaching?  “The terminology was borrowed from the business world, and it transfers nicely to the classroom as well,” Greene explains.  “Most of us went into teaching precisely because we imagined becoming transformational teachers, making a difference in students’ lives by helping them become their best selves, helping them transform themselves into more fully whole and human persons.  But advocates of education reform have, intentionally or not, worked to redefine teachers as transactional coaches.  We are supposed to be there just to get that good test score out of each kid.  We should use test prep, rewards, threats– whatever works to get the student to make the right marks on the Big Standardized Test so that we can have that easily measured, numerically-coded win.”   Valerie Strauss on her blog in the Washington Post called this “a thoughtful new piece.”             Have you heard of “social justice unionism?”  It’s a new concept that promotes the idea that all teachers union members become involved in working for educational change not just the union leadership.  An article in SALON describes what it is and how it’s working in Philadelphia.  Social justice unionism “seeks to drastically change the modus operandi of the teachers union,” the story explains, “from one in which union members pay dues and trust that the big decisions are being made by the leaders and lawyers at the bargaining table to one in which every single teachers union member actively participates in grass-roots educational change.  This new approach . . . . comes with a track record of success in cities like Chicago, St. Paul, Seattle and Portland.”               A number of experts have complained about the use of student test scores for evaluating teachers for many reasons.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a lot of their points over the past several years.  The New York Times has a concrete example of why this is not a good idea.  Over 200 educators in the state gotinaccurate scores on their evaluations because of an error in how students scores were reported.  Aren’t we glad certain salary and hiring and other aspects of the job aren’t based on these reports.  They are? OMG, that’s a travesty and totally unfair!  “More than 200 teachers and principals,” the piece begins, “received erroneous scores from New York State on a contentious measurement that ties their performance to how well their students do on tests, according to state documents obtained by The New York Times.  The error, which affected a small percentage of scores for the 2014-15 academic year, could be another blow to the practice of linking educator performance to student exams, a system that has come under fire in recent years.”  Why do the corporate “reformers” and certain politicians keep pushing this junk?               Could U.S. teacher training institutions learn anything from those countries that have students outscoring ours on international tests of academic achievement?  A commentary in THE HECHINGER REPORT suggests we can learn quite a bit from how teachers are trained in British Columbia, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.  “Professional development of American teachers costs up to $18 billion a year with at least half of that spent on workshops for teachers.  But no matter how much we spend, it doesn’t seem to result in much improvement in student achievement.  Several other countries,” the author maintains, “are doing a better job than the U.S. in developing teachers.”  Is he on to something?  
 
Election 2016
Rafael Cruz, father of Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, claims that America’s public education system was started by a member of the Communist Party.  He gets John Dewey right as one of the founders of the public school system but was he a Communist?  Not even close according to a piece in RIGHT WING WATCH.  It includes an audio segment (2:38 minutes) of the elder Cruz’s comments about Dewey.              Over the past 7 years has the Obama administration and its education policies enabled the privatization of the public school system by the corporate “reformers” and some billionaire philanthropists?  That’s the theory laid out in a sure to be controversial piece in ALTERNET.   “One might think that the U.S. Department of Education would be a major line of defense for America’s public schools educating the most underserved students or even a bold investor in sustainable community schools that are truly public.   One would be wrong,”the author proclaims.  “The U.S. Department of Education, as with the education agencies of many states, has been co-opted by the spending frenzy of the billionaire class.”               With less than a week to go to the Iowa caucuses, the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK checks in with a look at some of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) education policies.  In the week ahead it plans to follow-up with some of the other key candidates’ views.  The “Ed News” will pass them along to you.
 
The Opt-Out Movement
Has the opt-out movement had any impact on education policy?  The SOCIALIST WORKER has a piece titled “An Opt-Out Victory in New York” that describes how relentless parent, teacher, student and community pressure forced Gov. Cuomo to back down from his standardized testing and teacher evaluation policies.  “Just last year, the Democratic governor made himself a national leader in the corporate ‘education reform’ movement,” it relates, “by imposing a dramatic increase in the weight given standardized testing to evaluate teachers–from 20 percent to an incredible 50 percent–in addition to other proposals aimed at dismantling tenure protection and increasing charter schools across the state.”The story goes on to detail how the coalition of grassroots activists swung into action and ultimately forced the governor to retreat from his plans.                The Democratic leader of the Florida House isurging parents to opt their children out of the state’s standardized exams in the spring.  The Tampa Bay Times has a brief story about the action which includes a short video (1:56 minutes) of Rep. Mark Pafford’s comments about opting-out.  “As you might expect,”the article reports, “the Opt-Out Florida Network is widely sharing the support of perhaps its most high-profile statewide official.”
 
Passage of ESSA
Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, continues her exclusive conversation about the new Every Student Succeeds Act with David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.  In Part 5 of the Q & A she asks about how the ESSA affects the testing of disabled students.  “The law allows students with the most significant cognitive disabilities,” Cleary begins his response, “to take alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards.”  Parts 1 to 3 of the interview are in the January 22nd edition of the “Ed News.”                Part 6 of her discussion about the ESSA focuses on how the new law will affect teacher evaluations and inquires about alternate certification programs.               Part 7 wonders if the new law expands the regulation of charters in regards to funding, selection of students and financial transparency and accountability.  “The Every Student Succeeds Act makes several updates to the federal public charter school program,”Cleary notes in his response, “to modernize the program and ensure public charter schools are held to the same standards as other public schools.”               Ravitch asks in Part 8 about the role of the U.S. Dept. of Education under ESSA.  In his “short answer” David P. Cleary responds: “The role of the department under the new ESSA will be significantly scaled back from the role it has had under NCLB and the waivers. The Department still has a role in ensuring compliance with the law and monitoring state implementation of state plans, but the level of authority the Department has given itself over the past 14 years is significantly scaled back.”  Check out his “long answer” for much more detail on this important query.
 
Charter Schools
Most charter networks are anti-union.  Some are more anti-union than others.  Urban Prep Charter Academy in Chicago has gone so far as to make union busting part of its teacher professional development.  Mike Klonsky, on his SMALL TALK BLOG, provides a series of two anti-union PowerPoint presentations that were surprisingly part of Urban Prep’s staff development,  He adds a very brief commentary about the situation.  [Ed. note: “ACTS” stands for Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff, an affiliate of the AFT; “INCS” stands for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.  Tim King is the founder and CEO of the 3-campus Urban Prep Academies.]               Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academy charters in New York have been getting a lot of publicity (both positive and negative) lately, but how has the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) charter network been faring?  They were once the darling of the corporate “reformers” but very little has been heard about them in recent years.  What’s up?  Gary Rubinstein’s Blog decided to take a peek.  What he discovered was not particularly encouraging.  Maybe that explains why they haven’t been so prominently on display as of late.  Rubinstein compared the 3rd grade standardized test results from all 110 New York City charters last year and what he found had to be disheartening for KIPP and its backers.  “The KIPP network, founded by two 1992 TFA alumni, was once considered the ‘gold star’ of charter chains,” he suggests.  “For a while their growth seemed inevitable, almost exponential.  They were all over the press, on Oprah, in Waiting For Superman, even present at the 2000 Republican National Convention.  But over the past two or three years, we haven’t been hearing that much about them.  Their growth seems to have flattened out and there has not been much press coverage of note.”                No-excuses charter schools follow some very strict and, some would say, very negative student behavior models.  The former dean of just such a school in New Orleans raises some serious questions about what these policies are doing to the psychological development of their students.  His essay is in the form of “An Open Letter to Teachers and Staff at No Excuses Charter Schools.”  It appears on the Edushyster blog.  “I believe that it is time for a thorough examination of the psychological and emotional impact of No Excuses policies and school cultures. It is time,” he urges, “for everyone involved to start asking some critical questions.  Stop being fearful.  Let your voices be heard.  Ask questions, push back, critically engage, and transform your school and your workplace.”
 
California Teacher Shortage
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles about teacher shortages around the country.  California is not immune to that problem.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, features a new report titled “Addressing California’s Emerging Teacher Shortage: An Analysis of Sources and Solutions” from the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute.  The paper is co-authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, a previous ALOED Book Club author.  Strauss reprints the “Executive Summary” of the study that includes a “Prognosis for the Future” and “Policy Recommendations” in addition to providing a link to the full report (49 pages).  “Increased demand for K–12 teachers in California comes at a time when the supply of new teachers is at a 12-year low,” the introduction to the report points out.  “Enrollment in educator preparation programs has dropped by more than 70 percent over the last decade, and has fallen below the number of estimated hires by school districts around the state.  Many signs point to shortages.”
 
Friedrichs v California Teachers Association
Two teachers, one a member of NEA and the other of the AFT, wereeyewitnesses to the oral arguments presented before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Jan. 11, in the case of Friedrichs v CTA.  They describe their historic outing in fascinating detail and include a link to the full transcript of the oral arguments.  Their report appears courtesy of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs)website.  “In this piece, we would like to share what we thought were some of the most poignant moments of this case,” they write.  “At the core of this case is the overturning of the four-decade-old case of Abood.  Abood is the Supreme Court case that protects agency shop fees and thus holds up the ideals of ‘collective’ bargaining.   We would also like to address some of the comments that the Justices, Mr. Carvin [plaintiff’s attorney], and the Union side made.  Our observations, once again would come from the experience, and lens, of working teachers who have had unions working for them.”
 
New LAUSD Supt.
The LAUSD has a new superintendent.  The “Education Watch” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides a primer in the format of a Q & A about different aspects of her job.  The online version of this item contains a few more questions and answers than the print edition.
 
What’s Up At The U.S. DoE?
Arne Duncan stepped down as Sec. of the DoE last month.  So what’s been happening now that acting Sec. John B. King Jr. is at the helm?  EDUCATION WEEK has a report on the new chief’s activities during his first month in office.  “Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. has made it clear over the first few weeks of his tenure,”  it provides, “that he will keep up the rhetorical drumbeat on the importance of educational equity for all students, no matter how the complicated process of regulating ESSA turns out.  And he urged states to rethink educator-evaluation systems if they’re not actually helping teachers improve their practice.”  The item goes on to list some of the other policies and ideas King has been talking about.
 
Standards and Testing
Do high stakes tests have to follow high standards?  If you are part of the testing industry or corporate “reform” your answer is a resounding “yes!”  What about everyone else?  Those questions are addressed in  “The K-12 Contrarian” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  The author, a former high school teacher and current professor of education at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, makes a pretty strong argument that the answer to the first question is “no.”  How does one separate standards from assessments?  “A first step might be to decouple standards and high stakes tests,” he proposes.  “Doing that would allow us to re-envision education as a cooperative enterprise, not a competitive one.  See, when standards are attached to high stakes tests, students, teachers, and the standards themselves are pitted against one another, especially when accountability is held in such high regard: pass the test or someone pays.  When the test is removed from the equation, teachers and students are free to work together to accomplish a shared goal without any more pressure than the pressure of meeting a challenge.  Isn’t that what getting educated is all about?”  Food for thought.
 
Student Tracking Still a Problem
The issue of the tracking of students was the topic of a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  It uses the past experiences of newly appointed LAUSD Supt. Michelle King to illustrate the issue.  “The problem . . . .has been well-documented, and it’s referred to as tracking.  Students of color, especially black and Latino students,”the article explains, “are kept out of higher-level classes because of entrance requirements such as grades, admission tests, teacher recommendations and other factors that are out of their control.”
 
Single-sex Schools
One of the policies that newly appointed LAUSD Supt. Michelle King mentioned she might promote is that of single-sex schools.  An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times argues that single-sex campuses might not be such a good idea.  The writer, Juliet A Williams, is a professor in the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA and author of an upcoming book on the subject of single-sex education.  Her commentary is titled “What Wrong With Single-Sex Schools?  A Lot.”  “Yes, there are some terrific boys-only and girls-only public schools out there,” she maintains.  “But are they great schools because they are single-sex?  The evidence suggests not.  Research shows that successful schools do certain things — such as creating strong mentoring relationships and keeping class sizes to a manageable level — that benefit students whether boys and girls learn together or apart.  Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that single-sex education can do real harm by perpetuating limiting gender stereotypes.”
 
The California Lottery and Schools
The recent $1.6 billion Powerball lottery jackpot reminded lots of people of the connection between the games of chance and school funding.  However, as a story in today’s L.A. Times points out, themoney from lottery sales goes almost equally to rich school districts and poor ones, this, despite the fact that low-income communities tend to buy many more lottery tickets than middle and upper-income ones.  Under California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, monies are allocated to school districts not on a strict per pupil basis but based on need such that low performing districts are now getting more money  than high performing ones.  “EdBuild, an organization that focuses on ways to pay for public education,” the article explains, “says the state’s distribution of lottery money is unfair. . . .  Districts statewide got about $163 for every student, as determined by average daily attendance — regardless of how much money is made from lottery ticket sales in those districts.  That distribution, said Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild’s chief executive and founder, runs counter to California’s recent efforts to address inequity in the way it pays for public education.”
 
Another Important Milestone
And finally, the “Ed News” likes to mark important milestones in the education blogosphere.  Yesterday was the third anniversary of Mercedes Schneider’s always entertaining and informative “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  As always, her entry marking the occasion is entertaining and informative.  If nothing else, check out her “financial disclosure” forms with which she leads off her column and if you have a little more time she lists her top 5 blog posts for the past year and for the past 3 years.               Diane Ravitch’s blog captured why Schneider is such a gem and a valuable addition to independent education journalism in noting the anniversary.
 
*Paul Lockhart became interested in mathematics when he was 14 (outside the classroom, he points out). He dropped out of college after one semester to devote himself exclusively to math. Based on his own research he was admitted to Columbia, received a PhD, and has taught at major universities, including Brown University and UC Santa Cruz. Since 2000 he has dedicated himself to “subversively” teaching grade-school math at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York.
                                                                                                              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 of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

                 

 

Ed News, Friday, January 22, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
                 “Sometimes, the way around prejudice is education.” 
― Liza MundyMichelle: A Biography

Friedrichs v CTA

If you are not quite sure what a ruling in the Friedrichs v California Teachers Association case will mean, check out this item from THE Nation titled “This Supreme Court Case Could Be Very Bad for Unions.”  ” Back in the old days, unions could get crushed easily with police crackdowns and armed thugs,” it begins.  “These days, business conducts its union busting the civilized way, in court and at the bank.  The question before the Supreme Court earlier this week in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association wasn’t about free speech or workers’ rights on the job so much as it was about the right of unions to exist as financial and legal institutions.”              After reviewing the arguments in the Friedrichs case and some of the questions and comments from the justices, EDUCATION WEEK publishes a piece titled “High Court Hearing in Fees Case Has Unions on Defensive.”  “The case is a high-stakes battle between non-union groups and public-employee unions,” the item suggests.  “Although the proportion of fee-payers in the 23 states that authorize such fees is relatively small, a decision against the unions would lead some full members to quit, since they would no longer face the alternative of having to pay the agency fee.  That would hurt the unions’ treasuries, and potentially their political clout (even though agency-fee payers have never been required to support unions’ outright political activities).”               You just knew that sooner or later Jeff Bryant would weigh in on the Friedrichs case on the Education Opportunity NETWORK blog.  Well, here it is. He titles his commentary “A Ruling in Favor of Friedrichs Will Hurt Education.”  He reviews the issues and some of the previous comments about the case and wraps up: “So a month or so from now, when you hear about the court has decided to uphold the plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case, and not the teachers union, as many expect will happen, please understand the judges’ decision won’t just hurt teachers’ paychecks and their rights to organize and speak out.  It will hurt our children’s education.”
 
Suspensions/Expulsions Decline in California
The rate of student suspensions and expulsions continues to decline in California as local districts adopt alternative strategies for dealing with student misbehavior.  EdSource highlights some new data from State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Dept. of Education.  Keeping kids in school can be beneficial to their academic achievement, Torlakson notes.  “Improved data reporting at the California Department of Education,” the story explains, “that began in 2011-12 drew increased attention to the high numbers of suspensions and expulsions in schools across the state, particularly for African-American students, the department said.  The data prompted a new law, community actions and school district policy changes, the state said.”
 
Charter Schools
A group of parents in New York has filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights claiming that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Network has been discriminating against students with disabilities for years.  A story in the New York Daily News provides the details.  “Critics of Success Network have long suspected its astounding test scores — among the highest in the state — are made possible by its shedding of children with disabilities.  Those scores have greased the network’s rapid growth to 36 schools,” the reporter concludes, “garnered it tens of millions of dollars in private donations, and won effusive support from politicians in Albany.  But when your charter network gets to be as big and wealthy as many suburban school districts, what’s the excuse for not appropriately servicing your special needs students?  Maybe a federal probe will find out.”   If you want to read the full legal complaint (23 pages), click here.  It is posted on the Scribdwebsite.
 
Metal Detectors in Schools
Do metal detectors in schools do more harm than good?  That’s the interesting issue raised in a story from ProPublica.  It focuses on how the program works in the New York City School system but applies to any district that utilizes such a security program.  “Almost as many New York City students run the gauntlet of x-ray machines each day as pass through the scanners at busy Miami International Airport,” the article explains.  “And the procedure is numbingly similar.  Students must remove belts, shoes, and sometimes bobby pins as the wait stretches as long as an hour.  A ProPublica survey found that the daily ritual is borne disproportionately by students of color; black and Hispanic students in high school are nearly three times more likely to walk through a metal detector than their white counterparts.”  The item describes the history of metal detectors in New York and how crime rates have dropped since they were installed.
 
Diane Ravitch’s Blog Hits Another Milestone
Diane Ravitch’s blog passed 25 million page views on Wednesday.  She started writing it in April, 2012, and has been a strong and steady voice for public education and teachers for many years before that.  She has a brief item on her blog about the accomplishment.  Congratulations are certainly in order and here’s to the next 25 million.
 
GOP Plan to Declare Chicago Public Schools Bankrupt
Republican state legislators in Illinois have hatched a plan to push legislation that would declare the Chicago Public Schools bankruptand trigger a state takeover of the district.  If that action were to take place it would likely lead to the abrogation of the union contract in the city, which might be the GOP’s target all along.  CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS describes the plot.               What are the implications of this action in Chicago?  Mike Klonsky, on his SMALL TALK BLOG, peeks at what’s behind the attempt to declare the CPS bankrupt.  What he sees is not pretty.  “The move is also [Illinois Gov.] Rauner’s way of heading off a budget compromise and a contract agreement between CPS and the CTU,”Klonsky charges, “and cutting the heart out of collective bargaining rights for teachers public employee unions, statewide.  It’s their alternative to raising taxes on their wealthy and corporate patrons to pay for the operation of a predominantly black and Latino school district.”
 
Passage of ESSA
Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, continues her exclusive conversation about the new Every Student Succeeds Actwith David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.  In Part 2 of the Q & A she wonders if the law will still require part of teachers’ evaluations to include student test scores.  Cleary again provides a “short” and “long” answer.  In the former he states: “The federal mandate on teacher evaluation linked to test scores, as created in the waivers, is eliminated in ESSA.”  Cleary expands on that in his latter response: “ESSA ends the waiver requirements in August 2016 so states or districts that choose to end their teacher evaluation system may.  Otherwise, states can make changes to their teacher evaluation systems, or start over and start a new system.  The decision is left to states and school districts to work out.”               Part 3 of Ravitch’s give-and-take with David P. Cleary is about how ESSA deals with the bottom 5% of low performing schools.  “ESSA does not require states to close the schools in the 5 percent category,” Cleary explains, “or convert them to charters, or fire the teachers or the principal, or any of the sanctions required under NCLB.  States will now have the flexibility to determine what to do about these schools.”               Part 4 asks about how ESSA deals with the Opt-Out Movement.       What do different organizations think the federal role should be under ESSA?  The U.S. Dept. of Education opened up the question to the public.  Individuals and groups were invited to submit their ideas to the DoE via the Internet.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a piece summarizing some of the ideas that were offered.  “You probably won’t be surprised to learn that accountability took up a lot of the oxygen in the comments,” the author of the item relates.  “And testing issues like how to handle opt-outs were also expounded upon.  Plus, school turnaround issues and funding got some attention.”
 
Passing of Former Oxy Pres. Richard Gilman
An obituary in yesterday’s L.A. Times notes the passing of former Occidental College Pres. Richard Gilman.  He died at his Pasadena home on Friday.  He was 92 and the longest serving president in the college’s history from 1965 to 1988.  “In addition to increasing the school’s endowment and faculty,” the story relates, “Gilman also called for the establishment of new academic programs, including American studies, urban studies and biochemistry.  Occidental’s national profile grew under his leadership, The Times noted in a 1988 news article.”
 
Ethics and EDUCATION WEEK
The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a complaint about the L.A. Times accepting money from foundations and billionaires to help its coverage of education issues and that raised some serious issues regarding journalistic ethics.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reveals that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave almost$2 million to EDUCATION WEEK “to broaden education digital media capacity in the U.S. to share analysis, best practice, and current innovation in public education.”  “I wish the billionaires would keep hands off the independent media. Can EdWeek,”Ravitch rightly worries, “be independent of the man and the industry that underwrites their coverage?”                Given the twoissues of journalistic ethics at the L.A. Times and ED WEEK addressed above, Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUEblog asks: “Will Ethical Walls Protect Education Journalism From Billionaire Influence?”  He features a commentary by Alexander Russo who thinks the whole issue is a “tempest in a teapot.”  Cody includes a link to Russo’s piece and raises some good questions about its conclusions.  “Undoing the corporate influence on the newsrooms of America is not going to be easy,” Cody surmises.  “But acknowledging we have a serious problem would be a valuable first step.”
 
GED Is Lowering Passing Score
The GED (General Educational Development) is reducing the passing score on its tests for high school graduation equivalency.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains the change. “The scoring change comes two years after the national testing company rolled out a more rigorous exam,” it notes, “aligned to national standards such as Common Core, that led to fewer people taking the test and fewer passing it.”
 
Detroit Teachers Call in Sick
A massive sick-out by teachers in Detroit on Wednesday caused the closure of a number of campuses in the beleaguered city.  Educators were protesting poor working conditions, large class sizes and other issues.  The action took place the same day Pres. Obama was visiting the North American International Auto Show in Detroit according to an article in the Detroit Free Press.  “Teachers have been using rolling sick-outs in recent weeks,” the story reports, “to spotlight the poor conditions of dilapidated schools.  Many say they’re also concerned about stagnant wages, super-sized classes and Gov. Rick Snyder’s controversial plan to divide DPS into two, one to pay off the district’s debt, the other to educate children.”               Want some idea of how bad conditions are in Detroit Public Schools?  A counselor at a school in the city provided the PBS NEWSHOUR with a description of some of the terrible problemsteachers and students are faced with.  “Exposed wires hang from missing ceiling tiles.  Watermarks from leaks abound.  Kids either sit in freezing classrooms with their coats on or strip off layers because of stifling heat,”  she complains.  “How can you teach or learn in conditions like these?”  Her account lists many other problems at her school.
 
Most Educated City in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently came out with its rankings of themost “educated” city in this country.  Any guesses before I spill the beans?  [Spoiler alert: Cover your eyes if you don’t want to see the results.]  Number 1 is Washington, D.C.; number 2 is San Jose.  One other city was in the top 10 with San Francisco checking in at #3.  Valerie Strauss has a brief item about the data on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  She pointed out  “that 2014 marked the first time that more women than men held a bachelor’s degree or higher — 30.2 percent to 29.9 percent.”
 
Testing
Standardized testing and materials publishing behemoth Pearson is shedding over 4,000 jobs or about 10% of its worldwide workforce in an effort to cut costs as profits have continued to decline.  BBC NEWS has the latest developments.  “The restructuring will include merging all Pearson’s businesses producing courseware material for teachers,” the item reveals.  “Its assessment businesses in North America will also be integrated.”
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, the “Ed News” has featured, over the course of its life, a number of items explaining what it means to be a teacher.  Here’s another one titled “Just A Teacher!” that appears on the PUBLIC ED blog.  It ties into the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday holiday from earlier in the week.  “We are not ‘just teachers’, but we are advocates and activists standing for the students of our schools and our peers who teach them,” the author concludes.  “So, before you say, ‘just a teacher’ again, remember the charge that lies with the phrase.”             A California teacher is under fire for buying laptop computers for her students.  Find out why in a story fromThe Fresno Bee.  She certainly meant well but ran afoul of district procedures regarding approval of equipment purchases.  If you were the superintendent of her Chowchilla Union High School District, how would you react?
 
   Have a great weekend, everyone!
                                                                                                              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 of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, January 19, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
                “Your life can be different, Young Ju. Study and be strong. 
                  In America, women have choices.” 
                    ― An Na*, A Step from Heaven

Charter Expansion in LAUSD

Great Public Schools Now, the recently formed nonprofit that’s fronting for the Broad Foundation’s plan to turn up to 50% of LAUSD schools into charters by 2023, named its first executive director last week.  She’s Myrna Castrejon, a strong proponent of charters who is leaving her post as senior vice president of government affairs for the California Charter Schools Association.  She’ll take over her new position on Feb. 22, according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “The goal of charter advocates, Castrejon said, is not to undermine traditional public education,”  the article notes, “but to support a range of successful schools.  United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the appointment of a non-educator was evidence that the nonprofit’s focus would be on creating charters at the expense of traditional public schools.”               An editorial in Sunday’s Times mentions that the original Broad Foundation plan to covert up to 50% of LAUSD campuses into charters has been scaled back and the amount of funding has been reduced.  The goals have now shifted to a more inclusive plan.  “The controversial Eli Broad-backed initiative that was designed to double charter-school attendance in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been shape-shifting ever since an early draft was leaked months ago,” the editorial begins.  “The goal of enrolling half of the district’s students in charter schools within eight years has been dropped.  Now, those involved in the planning say, no specific enrollment goal will be included in the eventual plan.  Seed money would be disbursed not just to open more charter schools, as originally intended, but to help fund new high-performing district schools of all types — including magnets, pilot schools and neighborhood schools — using successful existing schools as models.”  The piece also addresses some of the reasons why the plan is being altered–much of it based on the strong opposition it has elicited.               Karen Wolfe, who was one of the panelists discussing the most recent ALOED Education Film Series screening of “Ed, Inc.” in November, has ascathing rebuttal to the Times editorial (see above) about the changing nature of the Broad plan to charterize the LAUSD.  Her commentary appears on her PS connect website.  “In its ongoing effort to convince the city that a huge public entity should be handed over to a private group of titans,” she complains, “the LA Times now suggests inviting the public official to the table to give the effort some credibility. This is the superintendent, who was appointed by the democratically elected board, to lead the public entity the titans seek to control.”               Charles Kerchner, writing the “On California” column for EDUCATION WEEK, comments on the unanimous LAUSD board vote last week to oppose radical charter expansion in the district.  He suggests that the charter movement is not really about improving education but is more about politics and substituting market based ideas for sound education policy. “The 7-0 vote was a political marker,” Kerchner points out, “directing the new superintendent Michelle King to examine the effects on the district of substantially increasing the number of charter schools, and it underscores an important missing element in the charter school debate.  It has been an article of faith among school choice advocates that by providing charters and other choice mechanisms the hidden hand of the market will replace political conflict and interest groups.  Problem is: it’s not true.”                The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog has a brief video (3:16 minutes) summarizing some of the public’s comments and LAUSD board member reactions to the proposal to limit charter expansion in the district.  The vote was 7-0 in favor of the resolution that was passed by the board last Tuesday.  
 
The Teaching Profession
The “Ed News” has highlighted several classroom management techniques over the years.  This may be a new one.  It’s called “no-nonsense nurturing.”  The use of the word “please” is not part of a teacher’s vocabulary when using the system as explained by NPRwhich has an audio segment (3:51 minutes) and a slightly edited transcript about the technique and how it is being used in a school in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Not all education professionals are enamored of no-nonsense nurturing.  “In ‘no-nonsense nurturing,’ directions are often scripted in advance, and praise is kept to a minimum,” the story points out.  “The method is, in part, the brainchild of former school principal Kristyn Klei Borrero.  She’s now CEO of the Center for Transformative Teacher Training, an education consulting company based in San Francisco.  Klei Borrero says the foundation of the program isn’t new.  It just puts into practice what she’s observed from high-performing teachers — that is, keeping expectations high by only praising outstanding effort.”               Paul L. Thomas, Professor of Education at Furman University, on his the becoming radical blog, was “horrified” (that’s his word) by the NPR story about no-nonsense nurturing (see above).  He was not only upset with the technique itself but the apparent endorsement of it by NPR.  “These harsh and dehumanizing methods,” Thomas mentions, “are yet more of the larger ‘no excuses’ ideology that targets primarily children in poverty and black/brown children.  In other words, there is a general willingness to endorse authoritarian methods as long as the children are ‘other people’s children’—code for the poor and racial minorities.”               Related to the above two items is a piece on classroom management that takes a radically different approachthen does “no-nonsense nurturing.”  It appears on the Smart Classroom Management blog and is titled “Why Gentleness Is A Strong Classroom Management Strategy.”  It’s written by Michael Linsin,a veteran educator who has taught every grade level from K to 12 over the past 25 years and is the author of 3 bestselling books about classroom management.  “21st-century students,” he posits, “respond best to a calm, even-handed approach to classroom management.  They appreciate honesty and kindness.  They respect it, and thus, are quick to listen and please their teacher.  The older the students are, the more this is true.”
 
Friedrichs v California Teachers Association
Could the CTA pull the proverbial rabbit-out-of-a-hat and prevail in the landmark Friedrichs case?  Could dyed-in-the-wool conservative justice Antonin Scalia actually provide the key vote that allows the union to prevail?  Bill Blum, a former judge, death penalty attorney and author of several legal thrillers lays out just such a scenario.  His intriguing and detailed commentary appears in truthdig.  If you’re feeling a little discouraged about a possible adverse outcome in the case, check this out.  It’s titled “Public Sector Unions Pin Their Hopes on Antonin Scalia Going Rogue.”  On her blog, Diane Ravitch called this article “a clear and direct explanation of the Friedrichs vs CTA case.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Jeff Bryant, writing in SALON, believes 2015 was a bad year for those corporate “reformers”  and their ideas regarding charters, privatization, teacher accountability, etc..  “For years, an out-of-touch establishment has dominated education policy.  A well-funded elite has labeled public education as generally a failed enterprise and insisted that only a regime of standardized testing and charter schools,” he writes, “can make schools and educators more ‘accountable.’  Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum have adopted this narrative of ‘reform’ and now easily slip into the rhetoric that supports it without hesitation. . . .  The education counter-narrative is that public schools are not as much the perpetrators of failure as they are victims of resource deprivation, inequity in the system and undermining forces driven by corruption and greed.  In other words, it wasn’t schools that needed to be made more accountable; it was the failed leadership of those in the business and government establishment that needed more accountability.” Bryant provides a litany of areas where the corporate “reformers” and privatizers have met their match and includes many links to other articles that describe what went wrong.  On her blog, Diane Ravitch called this “an excellent article.”
 
Charter Schools
Some semblance of accountability and transparency is beginning to shed some light on the charter school movement, at least at the federal level.  At the end of December the U.S. Dept. of Education released a list of schools that have received funding since 2006 under the federal Charter Schools Program and the amount involved.  It is a start, but as the story on the “PR Watch” column from The Center for Media and Democracy points out, the report still has some major informational gaps.               From the “charter-school-scandal -of-the-day” comes this item:  Steve Van Zant, a former San Diego County school superintendent (he’s now the chief of a district in northern California), was arraigned on one felony count of conflict of interest for his dealings with charter schools in San Diego.  The San Diego Union-Tribune has the sordid details.  “Van Zant, 53, has been a controversial figure among San Diego County educators.  Long before he faced legal troubles,” it reports, “Van Zant stirred animosity among school districts for years as he brokered deals with charter schools to operate in their districts — often without providing the notice required by law.  Some of the charters that Van Zant ushered through soon hired his consulting firm for support services.” Oops!  That’s a no-no.               Another disgruntled teacher has left the Eva Moskowitz chain of Success Academy charters in New York.  She wrote a note explaining why she had to leave which is printed on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “I left my job at Success Academy because I couldn’t, in good conscience, be the teacher they wanted me to be,” the woman begins.  “I have a lot of trouble writing and talking about my experience with Success because it truly makes me ill.  Thinking about the way teachers spoke to children, with such disgust in their voices, makes my stomach churn.  Thinking about the way my leaders spoke to me, with that same disgust, leaves me feeling just as sick.” That’s pretty difficult to read but, unfortunately, the rest of her account is just as painful, if not more so.
 
New LAUSD Superintendent
An editorial in Friday’s L.A. Times approves of Michelle King’s selection as the new LAUSD superintendent.  It goes on to suggest some ways she might try to improve the “contentions and often polarized district.”  “King will need to be more than just cooperative and collegial; to succeed in such a troubled district,”the piece suggest, “she’ll have to be a strong leader, willing to set an agenda and speak forcefully on behalf of students.”               A single letter from Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of education at USC, appeared in Sunday’s Times in reference to the editorial above.                 Steve Lopez’s column in Wednesday’s Times about King being the “safe choice” but not necessarily the “best” one drew 3 letters that were printed in Friday’s paper.  The first is from a retired LAUSD teacher, the second from the founder of a charter school in the city and the third from a professor emerita at CSU Dominguez Hills.  Another letter in the set commented on the last female superintendent to lead the district in the 1920s.
 
Testing
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, uses the Martin Luther King holiday to argue that “High Stakes Testing Doesn’t Protect Civil Rights–It Violates Them.”  “As a middle school teacher, I’m well aware how our public schools judge our children, and it’s not by the content of their character,” Singer paraphrases King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.”  “It’s by their standardized test scores.  High scores mean you’re learning.  Low scores mean you’re not.  And if you’re not learning, that’s your teachers fault and we’re going to close your school or turn it into a charter.”  He, once again, looks at how standardized testing is doing more harm than good.
Sexual Violence on the Rise in K-12 Schools

Most educators are well aware of the issue of sexual harassment and assault on college and university campuses but flying under the radar may be the fact that sexual violence is on the increase at the nation’s K-12 schoolsThe Washington Post has a disturbing report on the situation.  “Sexual assault has become a dominant topic on the nation’s college campuses in recent years, as student activists have spoken out and the Obama administration has pushed for institutional change,” the story notes.  “But it has largely remained a hidden issue in elementary, middle and high schools, where parents assume their children are supervised and safe.  Now there are signs that the problem is receiving more attention, including a sharp rise in the number of federal civil rights complaints alleging that K-12 schools have mishandled reports of sexual violence.”  This chart accompanies the article and illustrates the extent of the problem:

The Post’s feature uses several specific cases to illustrate the matter and how it’s being addressed.
 
Ethics and the L.A. Times
Several months ago, the L.A. Times began accepting money in support of its education reporting from a couple of foundations and philanthropists, among them Eli Broad.  The paper continues to report and editorialize about education, in general, and Broad’s support of charter expansion in the LAUSD, in particular.  Does that raise any questions of journalistic ethics?  A person who belongs to a Facebook discussion group on education brought up the issue.  ThePS connect website describes what happened when the situation was presented to a journalism ethics expert.  “The Times has given up the right to expect any trust or credibility for its journalism on education.  They are trapped in a massive conflict of interest,” the expert maintains, “and no amount of pro forma disclosure will fix that.  It’s so sad to see what has happened to that once-great publication.”
 
Election 2016
A commentary in THE HECHINGER REPORT raises some serious issues with the just released education policy platform of GOP presidential hopeful, Dr. Ben Carson.  “Carson’s presidential campaign,” the piece concludes, “seemingly didn’t do its homework on education policy of recent past so how can he prepare us for the future?”
 
Passage of ESSA
The signing into law of the Every Child Succeeds Act in early December ushered in a new era in the relationship between the federal government and state and local education programs.  Many people are curious (worried?) about what the ramifications of the new law will be.  Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog,  submitted a serious of specific questions about the law to Sen. Lamarr Alezander’s (R-TN) office (he is the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and one of the co-authors of the original bill).  David P. Cleary, Alexnader’s chief of staff, responded to the questions and Ravitch begins publishing them today.  She plans to continue printing his additional exclusive responses over the next 2 weeks.  Her first question: How does ESSA effect testing and what limits does it place on the exams?  Read the piece to get both Cleary’s “short” and “long” answers.  “In many ways, ESSA is just the beginning of the story,” Cleary notes by way of introduction to his answer, “because states will now need to figure out what to do with all of this new flexibility and responsibility.”  Hopefully, this ongoing Q & A will help make that task easier.
 
Students in Flint, Michigan, Face Toxic Water Crisis
And finally, have you been following the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan?  If not, this item in EDUCATION WEEK catches you up on the details and discusses how the problem is impacting students in the beleaguered city.  It’s a sad and tragic 21st century tale of how some uncaring state politicians, in trying to save money, can wreak havoc on a city and its unwary citizens.  “City and school officials are dealing with the fallout of a contaminated-water crisis,” the article grimly reports, “after it was discovered several months ago that hundreds of children in the financially strapped city have high levels of lead in their blood, in part because of the state’s decision to switch Flint’s water supply.”
*An Na was born in Korea and grew up in San Diego, California. A former middle school English and history teacher,
she is currently at work on her third novel. She lives in Vermont.
                                                                                                         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 of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

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Ed News, Friday, January 15, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
              Monday is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
  Birthday Celebration.
 Happy Holiday
             
                      Inline image 1
 
       “Unless education promotes character making, unless it helps men to be more moral, 
        more just to their fellows, more law abiding, more discriminatingly patriotic and public spirited, 
              it is not worth the trouble taken to furnish it.” 
― William Howard Taft

New LAUSD Supt.

Now that the LAUSD board has selected its Chief Deputy Supt. Michelle King to take over the reins of the district the reactions are beginning to come in.  A front-page story by L.A. Times education reporter Howard Blume on Wednesday described in some detailhow the process played out and how the board settled on one of its own.  “King also emerged as an unlikely consensus candidate, it notes, “in a district mired by divisive issues such as charter school expansion, teacher evaluations and technology investment.  The powerful teachers’ union believed it could work with her, as did charter school advocates — groups often at odds with each other.”  This piece includes a very short video (43 seconds) of the board’s announcement of the appointment.                Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column in the Times wondered if the “safe” choice of King is the “best one.”  “What’s clear is that LAUSD board members made the safe choice,” he opines.  “They decided on someone who has been a good, low-profile soldier rather than a strong,independent voice, and for now at least, I find that disappointing.  The 7-0 vote by board members suggests that they’re comfortable with King.  But their comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing for anyone but themselves.”                Michelle King is the first African-American to lead the LAUSD but not the first woman.  To discover the last woman superintendent of the district one needs to go back to the 1920s.  Susan B. Dorsey led the Los Angeles City School District (that’s what it was called back then) from 1920 to 1929 according to a fascinating historical piece in Wednesday’s “California Retrospective” column in the L.A. Times.  “Dorsey’s district was very different from the one over which King will preside,” it explains.  “At that time,Los Angeles had two districts: Dorsey’s was for elementary and junior high school students, and there was another for high schools.”  The article includes a copy of the front page of the Times after Dorsey resigned.               Theredqueeninla blog was pretty pleased with the selection of Michelle King as the new LAUSD superintendent calling it “The Right Jewel for LAUSD’s Crown.”               District insider or someone from outside the LAUSD for superintendent?  That question looms whenever the district is selecting a new leader.  Over the past 45 years, what’s been the origin of LAUSD’s chief?  The “Education Matters” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times notes that of the previous superintendents going back to 1971, 8 have been promoted from within the district and 5 were outsiders.   Michelle King, the latest selection is a REAL insider.  She started kindergarten in the district and matriculated at district schools through graduation from high school.  For the past 30 years she’s been a district teacher, school-site and then “downtown” administrator.  Now that’s an insiders insider!               New LAUSD Supt. Michelle King sat down with the L.A. Times for her first extended  interview yesterday.  An article in today’s paper reports on what her philosophy of leadership is and some of her goals for the district.  “King talked more about the ‘listening’ she intends to do in coming weeks than specific decisions she may make,” it describes, “suggesting that she’ll take a cautious, measure-twice, cut-once approach to problems at the Los Angeles Unified School District.”
 
Charter Schools
Most charter schools insist they don’t cherry-pick their students or try to get rid of troublesome kids, i.e., ELLs, special ed or behavior problems, who might bring down their test scores.  When one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy principals in New York City was quoted as having a “Got to Go” list of students he was trying to get rid of, things began to get interesting, especially when some parents of students on that list filed a lawsuit.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, reports on the suit and and uncovers some interesting details about the specific school and Success Academy in general.                “From Walton to Zuckerberg: HowEducation Philanthropy Has Changed” is the title of a piece in the “Charters & Choice” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a conversation with Jeffrey R. Henig, political science and education professor at Teacher College, Columbia University and co-editor of the book The New Education Philanthropy. 
 
Testing
A column in the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald argues that the current emphasis on standardized testing takes away from the benefits of a good education.  ” We simply must stop the severe over-testing and give students real-life opportunities to be prepared for life after high school graduation,” the author concludes.  “We must trust teachers to evaluate their students’ understanding using portfolios, simulation and other assessment techniques.  If we truly want our high school graduates to be ready for the next steps in their lives, we have to let go of over-testing and support helping them learn and experience the things that will prepare them for life.”               Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, is nearly apoplectic over a piece written by a Chicago charter school kindergarten teacher, Bailey Reimer, about how she got her 5-year-olds to “love testing.”  Greene includes a link to Reimer’s original piece.  “I don’t know if Reimer is full of it when she says her students love testing,” he concludes in near despair.  “But there’s no reason on earth to report that as if it’s a good thing.  This is the kind of clueless amateur that reformsterism has set loose in classrooms.  May Heaven help our children.” Diane Ravitch, on her blog, was equally troubled by Reimer’s words: “This article by Bailey Reimer is one of the most horrible statements I have ever read.  She needs help in learning about the purposes of education.”
 
Passage of ESSA
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in early December and the U.S. Department of Education has been gearing up for the transition to it from NCLB.  Previous Secretary Arne Duncan ended his tenure at the end of the year and the new interim Sec. John King has assumed the top post at the department.  EDUCATION WEEK speculates on some of the changes coming to the DoE as a result of the new legislation.  “The new Every Student Succeeds Act,” it maintains, “does more than just give states and districts a big say over accountability—it contains a laundry list of prohibitions aimed at preventing the U.S. secretary of education from issuing marching orders on standards, teacher evaluation, school turnarounds, and more.”               The new ESSA is requiring states to re-evaluate how they grade schools and hold them accountable.  Under NCLB, most states relied on standardized test scores to rate how schools were doing.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes how the California State Board of Education is approaching this issue.  “In addition to measures of academic progress,” it mentions, “under the new law states must take into account at least one out-of-the-classroom factor, such as suspension rates, attendance or school climate, a sense of how safe students feel in school.”
 
Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association
Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in the case that bears her name that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, sat down with Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four website in Washington , D.C., on Tuesday for an interview about how she became involved in the case and how her day in court went.  In response to a question about how she thought the oral arguments went, Friedrichs replied, “I was very pleased – you could tell that [the justices] have heard our message.  They seemed to understand.  I felt things were done very fairly and I really enjoyed learning the process, just watching it all happen.  I felt very hopeful at the end.”              Harold Meyerson, writing in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, is a little confused about the Friedrichs case.  39 years ago, in the case of Abood v Detroit Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that unions had the right to charge “agency fees” to employees who did not wish to be a member of a public sector union.  Why, then, has that issue come up again?  Meyerson has some intriguing and insightful ideas: “What’s changed is the conservative justices’ assessment of unions—reflecting, I’d argue, the changed assessments of both business and Republican elites.”             If the Supreme Court rules against unions in the Friedrichs case, as is widely speculated, the power and influence of all public sector unions could be vastly diminished.  If that happens how would the teaching profession be affected?  John Thompson, the author of a piece on the LIVING in DIALOGUEblog, likens the profession of the future under a Friedrichs ruling to the expanding “gig economy:” temporary, part-time, low-wage, non-unionized jobs. He sees some of the same forces in action that Harold Meyerson identifies (see above).  
 
LAUSD Charter Expansion
With the business of choosing a new superintendent now behind them, the LAUSD board tackled another key issue: charter expansion.  At their regular meeting on Tuesday, the board approved, on a 7-0 vote (!),  a resolution (highlighted in a recent edition of the “Ed News”) by member Scott Schmerelson that opposes charter expansion according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “Board members have traditionally been divided on charter school growth,” it reports, “but on Tuesday they voted 7 to 0 in support of a resolution opposing initiatives that ‘view our communities as a public education marketplace and our children as commodities.’  The board then directed new Supt. Michelle King to analyze how the outside plan, which was developed by the Broad Foundation, will ‘affect the district’s enrollment, fiscal viability and ability to provide an outstanding public education.'”  Upon hearing of the board’s action in this matter, Diane Ravitch exclaimed “Will wonders never cease!”               The California Charter Schools Association sued the LAUSD this week claiming that bond money for construction of charter campuses was reduced by almost half by the district.  A piece in today’s Times explains the details.  “L.A. Unified’s general counsel, David Holmquist,” it reports, “said that the bond measure does not require that a specific amount be spent on charters and that the school board is free to move funds to projects identified as priorities.  He said charters have benefited from those shifts in the past.
 
Obama on Education
Pres. Obama delivered his seventh and final “State of the Union” address on Tuesday night.  THE HECHINGER REPORT reviews the several points he raised regarding education “The President’s remarks about education were brief, largely promises to build on existing success,”  it begins.  “He highlighted five areas of concern: expanding early childhood education for all, improving high school graduation rates, attracting more American students into studying the sciences, recruiting and supporting more teachers, and making college more affordable.”               The “Politics K-12” column inEDUCATION WEEK also reviews what the president said in his speech.  In addition, it adds a recap of the Republican response to the speech.             How have the president’s previous “State of the Union” initiatives on education fared over time?  EDUCATION WEEK recaps some of the proposals he’s made since 2010 and how they’ve worked out.  
 
Schools and the California Lottery
When California voters were faced with a proposition in 1984 to create a state lottery, one of the key selling points was it would raise money to help the schools.  So, how has that panned out over these past 30+ years?  Not as well as you may think.  With the Powerball jackpot on Wednesday passing $1.6 billion (that’s billion, with a “b”), lottery frenzy had gripped the state and people began to wonder what impact all that money would have on the public schools.  A piece in Wednesday’s L.A. Times titled “Lottery Fever Won’t Be A Big Win for California Schools; Never Has, Never Will” provides the somewhat disappointing details.  “While the numbers fluctuate slightly, over time the California Lottery has provided slightly less than 2 cents of every dollar in what’s spent to operate K-12 schools,” the story mentions.  “In fact, two pennies of every dollar is the high-water mark.  Data compiled by the independent legislative analyst’s office shows that for most of the past decade, the lottery has been closer to 1% of school funding.  In the 2016-17 budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, K-12 education is slated to receive a total of $86.5 billion from all sources; the lottery’s share is about $1.1 billion [1.27%].”
 
Election 2016
Ironically, the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last month could push the issue of education further off the table as a topic for discussion during the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns.  The primary season commences with the Iowa caucuses less than 3 weeks away.  EDUCATION WEEKexplores this development.  “School policy—already an underdog topic in the 2016 presidential campaign—could be further marginalized as an issue by recent developments in Washington,” it suggests, “not the least of which is the newly minted Every Student Succeeds Act, which is expected to scale back the direct federal role in K-12 education. . . .  And the new law resolves, at least for the next several years, some big questions about federal power over such issues as testing and teacher evaluations.”              Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a major policy pronouncement on Monday evening at the Iowa Brown & Black Forum regarding school funding  He is suggesting that the federal government provide a major chuck of K-12 school funding rather than relying on state and local taxes to supply the dollars.  Steven Singer, on his GADGLYONTHEWALLBLOG, describes Sanders’ position and what it means to the campaign dynamic.  “That is going against the political tide.  Who would vote for such a thing?  Probably not Hillary.  Or any of the Republican candidates.  Or more than a handful in Congress, either.  But it’s exactly the right thing to do.  The reason?  The biggest problem with America’s public school system isn’t test scores, lazy students, or teachers unions. It’s poverty, segregation and inequitable funding.”  
 
Opt-Out Movement
The opt-out movement may have gotten a boost from the passage of ESSA and how it deals with student numbers required for taking the standardized tests.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK discusses how the landscape has changed and what might be in store in the future.  “Several leaders within the so-called testing opt-out movement,” it points out, “which has gained considerable traction in New York and also found a foothold in states like Colorado and Connecticut, say they will continue to push parents to refuse to allow their children to take standardized exams, particularly state tests, for as long as it’s necessary.”
 
Ethnic Studies
Some school districts/states are adopting ethnic studies courseswhile others are doing away with them.  Do these classes have any kind of impact on students?  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, uses a recently adopted curriculum in San Francisco as a positive example.  “In San Francisco,” he begins, “a recently implemented Ethnic Studies course has been startlingly successful in boosting student attendance, GPA, and earned credits. That is the conclusion of a Stanford University study.”  Cody includes a link to that study.
 
Teach for America Turns 25
And finally, TFA celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.  EDUCATION WEEK has produced a special report on the organization as it marks an important milestone.  You can read an overview of that report by clicking here.  You’ll find an annotated table of contents of the full package, titled “New Realities: TFA at 25” by clicking here.  “Conceived in an undergraduate thesis in 1989,”  it states in the introduction, “the controversial teaching organization now commands a budget of some $300 million and has 40,000 alumni, many of whom have become influential leaders in K-12 education.  But the group has also faced criticism and internal challenges.  In this special package, we look at recent changes TFA has embarked on as it enters a new era and the questions they raise about its model, impact, and future course.”
                                   
                                                                                               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 of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, January 12, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
Upcoming Event Reminder:  The next ALOED Book Club discussion will take place on Monday, February 1, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the home of past ALOED president Jill Asbjornsen.  The title this time is The Giver by Lois Lowry.  Even if you haven’t read the book you’re invited for dinner, provided by ALOED, and a stimulating evening of discussion.  For more details and to RSVP please click here.

            “We do not trust educated people and rarely, alas,
        produce them, for we do not trust the independence of mind
              which alone makes a genuine education possible.”
             ― James BaldwinNobody Knows My Name
 
Friedrichs v California Teachers Association

Oral arguments were heard yesterday before the U.S. Supreme Court in the pivotal Friedrichs v California Teachers Associationcase.  It involves a challenge to the agency-fee concept by which public employees who do not wish to belong formally to their union can opt-out of paying full dues, that include political activities, by paying a partial agency fee to cover collective bargaining and administrative costs.  A group of Orange County teachers make up the plaintiffs in the case led by Rebecca Friedrichs from Anaheim.  Both The New York Times (click here) and The Atlantic (click here) lay out the issues in the case.  Read one or both and you’ll get a good preview of what’s at stake.  “The court’s decision, expected by June, will affect millions of government workers of all kinds.”  the Times reports, “and may deal a sharp financial and political blow to public unions.  (The ruling is unlikely to have a direct impact on unionized employees of private businesses, as the First Amendment restricts government action and not private conduct.)”  The Atlantic points out the significance of the case to public employee unions this way: “A decision against unions in Friedrichs could severely weaken unions’ bargaining and financial power.  Under federal law, if a majority of employees decide to form a union, the union must represent all employees for bargaining purposes.  But if some people decide not to join (whether because of genuine political disagreement or merely to save money on the fees),” it continues, “the union has less leverage because it represents fewer members.  It also has less money to pay for the things that keep it strong, like bargaining and organizing.  But it still has an obligation to do things such as bargaining and organizing since, in many states, public employers are required to bargain with unions.”               Richard Kahlenberg, writing on The Century Foundation (TCF) website, maintains the stakes in Friedrichsv CTA are much bigger than just for public employee unions.  A defeat for the unions would challenge the foundations of our system of government.  His extended essay is titled “How Defunding Public Service Unions Will Diminish Our Democracy” and it makes a strong case for why the Court should support the union’s position.  “Historically, labor unions have been recognized, by Democrats and Republicans alike, as essential actors that help our democracy flourish,” he concludes.  “Imposing a harsh right-to-work regime on public sector workers nationally would not just be a political power grab; it would severely weaken a key set of institutions that make our democracy work.”                Here’s a poster on the Badass Teacher Association (BATs) website about theFriedrichs case [Ed. note: The “Rebecca” reference is to RebeccaFriedrichs, lead plaintiff in the case.  “I Stand With Rebecca” was the poster supporters of her position held aloft in front of the Supreme Court building during oral arguments yesterday.]         

 
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Yesterday’s L.A. Times reviewed the Friedrichs case and its possible impact in other areas.  “A free-speech ruling in favor of the anti-union teachers could have an impact in other areas,”  it suggests.  “For example, the court upheld mandatory state bar fees for lawyers in 1990 and did so by citing its earlier ruling upholding mandatory fees for unionized teachers.”              Anextended editorial in yesterday’s Times supported the position of the California Teachers Association in the Friedrichs case that teacher should continue to have to pay “fair share” fees.  “The case of Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn. is the latest installment in a long legal campaign to undermine public-employee unions, and it comes at a time when those unions are under fire for the generosity of the benefits they negotiate (especially in relation to those available in the private sector) and for their political influence.  Teachers’ unions in particular — and not just in California — are being faulted for inflexibility and resisting reform. . . .  But the issue before the court,” it argues, “isn’t whether teachers’ unions are beneficial or harmful. It is whether the 1st Amendment prohibits California and other states from requiring public employees who choose not to join the union — but who benefit from agreements the union negotiates — to help defray the costs associated with collective bargaining.”               Charles Kerchner, in the “On California” column for EDUCATION WEEK, titles his opinion piece about the case, prior to it being heard: “Is This the End of Teachers’ Unions?”  He describes it as“one of the most important labor cases in a generation.”                 The New York Times reports on what took place in Washington, D.C.,  yesterday as the U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in the Friedrichs case.  It summarizes some of the arguments presented by attorneys on both sides and tries to gauge how the individual justices might vote.  “The Supreme Court seemed poised on Monday to deliver a severe blow to organized labor,” it begins.  “The justices appeared divided along familiar lines during an extended argument over whether government workers who choose not to join unions may nonetheless be required to help pay for collective bargaining.  The court’s conservative majority appeared ready to say that such compelled financial support violates the First Amendment.”             The “School Law” column in EDUCATION WEEK describes how the oral arguments wentyesterday.  The piece is titled “Teachers’ Unions Get Cold Reception at U.S. Supreme Court.”               Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG just couldn’t pass this story up.  He has come up with a parable about the Friedrichs case that involves an airplane, some parachutes and a woman who doesn’t want to pay for anything.  Sound familiar?  His story would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad and dangerous.  It’s titled “F is for Friedrichs. . . . and Freeloader: A Supreme Court Nightmare.”               A story in today’s L.A. Times reviews the case and the oral arguments and speculates, like most other sources, that the union was headed for a stinging defeat “The Supreme Court sounded ready Monday to deal a severe blow to public employee unions,” it begins, “by striking down laws that require all workers to help pay for collective bargaining.  In its tone and questioning, the argument resembled more of a congressional hearing at which Republicans took one position, Democrats argued the opposite, and there appeared little chance to sway either side.”                Keep your eyes on this case, folks.  It could have a major impact on the power of public employee unions throughout the country!  It’s HUGEEEEE
 
Charter Expansion in LAUSD
With plans afoot to possibly boost up to 50% of schools in theLAUSD into charters by 2023, one member of the district’s school board believes it’s time to seriously discuss the roles of charters and traditional public schools in the LAUSD.  Scott Schmerelson is one of the two most recently elected members to the district school board and he’s introduced a resolution, after several revisions, that will attempt to cut back on charter expansion.  It’s set for debate before the board at today’s meeting.  The LA SCHOOL REPORTprovides the details about the sole sponsor of the resolution and why he’s introduced it at this time.  “The resolution, as now written, outlines nine points for the district with the goal to improve public education,”  it points out,” and to keep students in traditional schools.  Those points include ensuring equitably-funded arts and music education, helping young students who ‘endure the disadvantages of poverty’ and encouraging parent involvement in student achievement.”   If you are into these kinds of things, you can peruse the board’s agenda for today’s meeting and read Schmerelson’s resolution (it’s item #25 on p. 8-10) by clicking here.               An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times by the director of research at the UCLA Community School challenges the aggressive attempt to turn up to 50% of LAUSD schools into charters by 2023.  She questions the idea that entrepreneurs and billionaire philanthropists, through the development of charters, want to use the market place to create successful schools.  “My point is not that one method of reform trumps all others,” she concludes.  “Rather, it’s that to ensure high-quality schools for all children requires recognizing that public education is both an individual good that helps people get ahead — ‘the great equalizer,’ as Horace Mann put it in 1848 — and a collective good that defines how we together determine our shared fate.  Edupreneurship is designed to unleash creative energy into conservative school systems and disrupt longstanding patterns of underachievement.  But if that comes at the expense of our common good, it threatens the very foundation of public schooling.”
 
School Reform
David Kirp,  a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, who spoke at Oxy in Sept., 2014 (ALOED members Larry Lawrence and Dave Alpert attended the event), has an op-ed in The New York Tmes titled “How to Fix the Country’s Failing Schools. And How Not To.”  He compares the corporate “reform” hurry-up approach to the slow-and-steady method and uses two New Jersey cities as his case studies–Newark and Union City.  You can probably guess which strategy Kirp favors.  “There’s no miracle cure for what ails public education,” he writes.  “What business gurus label ‘continuous improvement,’ and the rest of us call slow-and-steady, wins the race.”  Diane Ravitch called this one a “smashing article”on her blog.               Ready for some really entertaining and enlightening reading?  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to [former ALOED Book Club author] Yong Zhao who explains the connection between the giant stone heads on Easter Island and dangerous corporate education “reform.”  “Today’s education reform movement in many parts of the world resembles the Easter Islanders’ race to erect stone statues in many ways.  . . .  Countries engaged in this reform movement,” he suggests, “have embarked on a race to produce students with excellent test scores in the belief that scores in a limited number of subjects on standardized tests accurately represent the quality of education a school provides, the performance of a teacher, and students’ ability to succeed in the future, not unlike the chiefs and priests on Easter Island who believed that the statues represented the health and power of their clans, the performance of their members, and promise for a more prosperous future.”  What do you think of Zhao’s comparison?  Intriguing, no?               Gary Sasso, the dean of the College of Education at Lehigh University, asks a question that many people have probably pondered.  Instead of pouring billions of dollars into charter schools, why don’t those billionaire philanthropists, he refers to them as the “1 percent,” spend the money on the schools that most students already attend–traditional public schools?  Good question and Sasso offers a few ideas as to why those philanthropists choose to fund schools the way they do.  His commentary appears in SALON.  He phrases his question like this: “So, why are wealthy school reform funders so squarely focused on identifying teachers and their unions as the cause of public education’s decline and advancing charter schools as the best solution?”  Have you ever thought of that question?  What do you think of his answers?
              In September the Washington State Supreme Court declared that state’s charter law unconstitutional.  Corporate “reformers” and privatizers were dealt another blow when a Nevada State District judge recently ruled the state’s extensive voucher program violates the Nevada constitution.  The program was set to begin next month but the ruling puts the entire plan on hold.  The ELC (EDUCATION LAW CENTER) website details the decision.  “The case challenging the voucher law was filed by parents of Nevada public school children from across the state,” the item explains.  “They argued that the program would divert scarce funding from public schools, triggering cuts to essential programs and services for their children and all other children attending Nevada’s public schools.”
 
Charter Schools
What happens when a report about charter schools in your state produces a rather unflattering picture?  If it’s North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest attempts to suppress it.  The Charlotte News & Observer reviews the study and describes what the Lt. Gov. wants to do with it.  “A report showing the student population at state charter schools is wealthier and whiter than student bodies at traditional public schools was pulled Wednesday from the State Board of Education’s consideration.  Lt. Gov. Dan Forest argued that the report, intended for the legislature and full of data on charter school enrollment, demographics and costs, was too negative.  ‘The report, to me, did not have a lot of positive things to say,’ he said.’  Apparently, the truth hurts and if it paints the charter schools in a poor light you don’t want the public to know about that!  What a great (arrogant?) position for an elected official to take.               North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest was so upset with a report about charters in his state that was too “negative” he wants it rewritten.  The CBS  television affiliate  in Raleigh, WRAL5, provides the disconcerting details.  “State education leaders sidetracked a report describing the overall student population at North Carolina’s charter schools as whiter and more affluent than student bodies at traditional public schools after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest complained it was too negative.  Forest said Thursday he wanted the State Board of Education’s annual report on the status of charter schools rewritten because it lacked sufficient balance. The board was scheduled to approve the report to state lawmakers on Thursday ahead of a deadline next week specified in state law. However, school board members decided Wednesday to postpone a vote.  Forest, [is] a supporter of the alternative form of public school.”  [Ed. note: I wonder if the fact Forest is a supporter of charters has anything to do with his attempt to suppress the report and have it rewritten?  Just asking.]
 
Opt-Out Movement
A letter recently went out from from the office of the new acting Sec. of Education John King to 13 states (including California) that had higher than normal opt-out rates on last spring’s standardized assessments.  It basically threatened them with possible loss of federal funds if their opt-out numbers did not decrease.  You can read that 3-page letter by clicking here.  American Federation of Teachers Pres. Randi Weingarten was not a happy camper after reading the letter and dashed off a 2-page note to the DoE in response.  “Make no mistake,” she indicates, “the opt-out movement—the reason that so many states did not meet the 95 percent participation requirement in 2014-15—was a referendum on this administration’s policies that created the culture of overtesting and punishment.”  If you don’t feel like reading both missives, you can get a brief overview of the back-and-forth fromEDUCATION WEEK.
 
2016 Election
The topic of education doesn’t come up too often in presidential debates, speeches or town hall gatherings but the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog has a brief comment (1:03 minutes) from a Bernie Sanders campaign event in New Hampshire in which the candidate responds to a question about charters.  [Ed. note: Full disclosure–Anthony Cody, founder of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, recently came out in support of Sanders for president.]              EDUCATION WEEK offers a guide to the Republican presidential candidates’ policy on the Common Core.  It’s titled “The Common-Core Voters Guide to Choosing A Presidential Candidate: Republican Edition.”  For the Democratic Edition click here
 
LAUSD Supt. Search Ends; Michelle King Selected
As the LAUSD board continues its behind-closed-doors search for a new superintendent, an article in yesterday’s L.A. Times identified the two top choices that have emerged. They are current district Deputy Supt. Michelle King and the head of the St. Louis school system Kelvin Adams.  “Besides King and Adams, a third person, whose name has not emerged publicly, also is under consideration,” the piece reveals, “according to sources close to the process who were not authorized to speak.  King and Adams are considered favorites, but the third candidate could prevail as a compromise choice, especially if that pick would enable the board to make a unanimous selection.”               The LAUSD board yesterday evening selected Deputy Supt. Michelle King in a unanimous vote as the district’s next superintendent.  A front-page article in today’s L.A. Times heralds the choice.  “For months, a high-profile head-hunting firm searched the nation for a new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District,” it notes.  “On Monday evening, the Board of Education gave the job to a candidate who was part of the district all along: Chief Deputy Supt. Michelle King.”  A companion article in the same paper provides a profile of Michelle King, the new superintendent.  “King’s experience in L.A. Unified began when she entered a district school in kindergarten. . . .  King became a secondary school life sciences teacher in 1985 at Porter Junior High School,”  the piece details.  “She also taught at the Porter magnet school for gifted students and at Wright Middle School before becoming an assistant principal at Hamilton High in 1997.  When she became that school’s principal, she won praise from teachers for bringing stability and evenhanded leadership to the campus after the departure of a controversial predecessor.”
 
Porter Ranch Gas Leak
Students and staff in the LAUSD returned to their campuses from their winter break yesterday.  However, two schools in the Porter Ranch area of L.A. were displaced from their regular schools due to the ongoing SoCalGas Company leak in the Alison Canyon area of their neighborhood.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes what the abrupt move is like and how it is impacting students, teachers, parents and other school staff.  “The students from the schools, Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School,” it explains, “are moving after a gas leak that has lasted more than 70 days, resulting in reports of nausea, headaches, and nosebleeds.  The L.A. Board of Education decided in December to move students from the community school, which is kindergarten through eighth grade, to Northridge Middle School, and students from Castlebay to Sunny Brae Avenue Elementary School in Winnetka.”  The online item has an excellent map displaying key locations related to the story.             Who ends up footing the bill for costs related to the leaking gas well?  The LAUSD, SoCalGas, the city of L.A.?  The school district currently estimates the cost of relocating two of its impacted campuses to be over $5 million and rising.  An item in the same paper reviews the mounting costs and who, ultimately, is responsible for paying for them.  “The gas company has covered moving and related living costs for residents,” the item points out, “but has not come to terms with L.A. Unified.”               As LAUSD students and staff returned to their classes yesterday pupils and teachers from 2 schools in the Porter Ranch area of L.A. got an extra day to prepare as their campuses had been relocated due to the ongoing natural gas leak in their neighborhood.  An L.A. Times reporter wrote two stories about the two campuses that were moved because of the disaster.  The first one is about Porter Ranch Community School moving to Northridge Middle School and the second describes the move of Castlebay Lane Charter Elementary to Sunny Brae Avenue Elementary.
 
High School Exit Exams
And finally, the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog has a two-part series on “Why High School Exit Exams, Not Students, Are Worthless.”  It’s written by a former foster child, current parent and researcher of the education reform movement.  In Part 1 she describes how she took and failed her high school exit exam and how that event impacted her life.  Last year the California legislature passed a law eliminating its exit exam and in Part 2 the author makes the case for why it should not be resurrected.  “No one is suggesting students in high school be given a diploma that is not worthy of receiving.  However,” she argues in her second essay, “if a student attends regularly, and if they did the work and received the grades, then they should receive their diploma.  This is how it should work.  Do the work, get the grades, you get your diploma. And, this is how the new law is written in California.  Students still must do the work, they must still get the grades, and they must still attend regularly, meeting all the requirements to graduate, minus the exit exam.”
                                      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)
ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

                 

Ed News, Friday, January 8, 2016

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
“The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown; 
you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote, 
the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.” 
― Donna QuesadaBuddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
 
The Ongoing War on Public Education
Last week the L.A. Times had an editorial in their print edition titled “The Ongoing War on Charters” (it bore a different title online) that the editor of the “Ed News” objected to (see the Jan. 5th edition of the ‘Ed News”).  He was incredulous that anyone would consider charters the “victim” of a war against them.  The real “war,” as many pundits have pointed out, is aimed at traditional public education.  Here’s another example of how some of the powers that be are targeting public education.  In Chicago members of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board of education are appointed by the mayor.  So what does Mayor Emanuel do to stick it to traditional school advocates and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)?  He appoints Jaime Guzman, a Teach for America alumnus and Illinois Charter School Commissioner, to the city board of education.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints the press release issued Wednesday by the CTU decrying the selection.  “With the mayor’s selection . . . more than half of the Board of Ed’s members are now unabashed charter supporters,” the statement complains.  “Considering that charter schools only serve 15 percent of CPS students while taking in 18 percent of the district school-based funds—not to mention the additional funding and support received from CPS’ Central Office—it is clear that the mayor and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool intend to greatly expand charter schools in Chicago.  The public, on the other hand, has shown time and time again that it chooses publicly run neighborhood schools over privately run charters.”  Just one more example of the ongoing war on public education, despite what that Times editorial wants people to think.               The Catalyst CHICAGO website also reported on the latest appointment to the CPS board.  It found both critics and supporters of Mayor Emanuel’s pick.                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, is puzzled by Mayor Emanuel’s appointment of a pro-charter advocate to the CPS school board, especially given all the other trouble he’s provoked with various constituencies in Chicago.  She headlines her piece “Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel Is On the Ropes–and Now He Does This?”   Strauss reviews some of the actions taken by Emanuel that have alienated large voting blocs in his city with emphasis on several of his more controversial decisions regarding the schools.               The Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) is not taking these shots across their bow lightly.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints another press release in which the union calls for Mayor Emanuel and Cook’s County State Attorney Anita Alvarez to step down in light of their actions covering up the police shooting of LaQuan McDonald and other decisions undermining the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).  
 
Charter Schools 
An editorial in the Tampa Bay Times points out the poor “return on investment” taxpayers are getting for their dollars spent oncharters in Florida “Florida has invested heavily in privately run charter schools for years,” it begins, “and the payoff for taxpayers has been uneven at best.  While some successful charter schools fill particular needs in local communities, too many have failed and research shows they have not outperformed traditional public schools in the state.”               The Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame) has pledged $1 billion (that’s with a “b”) over the next 5 years in support of current and future charter schoolsaccording to a story from the AP (Associated Press).  “The foundation has spent more than $1 billion on K-12 education over the past 20 years,” it mentions, “including $385 million to help start charter schools in poor communities. The new money will be spent in places where the foundation already has ties — creating new schools and developing ‘pipelines of talent.'”               In light of the September ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court that the financing system for charter schools in the state was unconstitutional, the state legislature has been scrambling to make needed changes to save the charter system in Washington.  A second bill was introduced to retain the state’s charter campuses according to an article in EDUCATION WEEK.  “This second bill would amend the law so that charter schools draw from a different pool of money, which includes lottery revenue, whereas the bill filed earlier this week would require charter schools to be overseen by local school boards,” it points out.  “Although making charter schools accountable to school boards may tweak the law enough to pass constitutional muster, it’s not necessarily an ideal solution for many charter advocates who support the schools because they are independent from local districts.”
 
Restorative Justice
The “Ed News” has highlighted several items about the disciplinary technique known as “restorative justice.”  If you are still not well versed on it, here is another piece that explains what it is and how it works using a New Hampshire high school to illustrate.  The story appears in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “In traditional school discipline programs, students face an escalating scale of punishments for infractions that can ultimately lead to expulsion.  But there is now strong research that shows pulling students out of class as punishment can hurt their long-term academic prospects,”the article relates.  “What’s more, data show that punishments are often unequal.  Nationally, more black students are suspended than white students, for example.  As a result, alternative programs like restorative justice are gaining popularity in public schools from Maine to Oregon.  Early adopters of the practice report dramatic declines in school discipline problems, as well as improved climates on campuses and even gains in student achievement.”  It almost sounds too good to be true but the proof is undeniable.
 
2016–The Year Ahead in Education
The Atlantic magazine asked a number of education experts what gives them cause for hope and despair in the coming year in the field of education.  Among the contributors are Linda Darling-Hammond and Amanda Ripley, former ALOED Book Club authors, Anya Kamenetz, a future Book Club author, Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the NEA and Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT and Diane Ravitch.  No current teachers or administrators were included.  As an example from the article, here’s what Diane Ravitch wrote: “Reason for hope: The reasons for hope are two-fold: first, the public doesn’t want to abandon its community public schools.  No district or state has ever voted to privatize its schools.  Second, every so-called ‘reform’ has failed to promote better education or equal opportunity for the neediest children.  Neither charters nor vouchers consistently get better results for children,” she continues, “unless they exclude the weakest students.  Measuring teachers by student test scores has been a costly failure.  The great majority of the public admires their public schools and their teachers and wants them to be better, more equitably funded, not eliminated.  If democracy works, these misguided ‘reforms’ will be consigned to the ashcan of history.”               Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, lists “5 Education  Storiesto Keep Your Eye On In 2016.”  “Given widespread concerns over terrorist attacks and an economy careening toward troubled ground,” he predicts, “education will be relegated to a backbench at best.”  His broad topics include “Charter Schools, The Test Rebellion” and the “Friedrich’s” Supreme Court case among others.  These are important stories with major ramifications and he concludes: “Hold on to your seats.”
 
ESSA Implementation
Now that the Every Students Succeeds Act is the new federal law on education, states and school districts are scrambling to understand its ramifications and to begin implementation.  EDUCATION WEEK has created a “special report” on the new legislation which you can review by clicking here.  “Big questions loom,” the article notes, “about just where states and districts will take the leeway granted to them under the newly minted Every Student Succeeds Act—and just how their decisions will affect the perennially foundering schools and traditionally overlooked groups of students and schools the NCLB law was designed to help.  It’s equally unclear just how much power the U.S. Department of Education will have [under] the law, the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”  The last part of this story reports on how California is considering how to implement ESSA.  To access the full report, with links to a number of articles about ESSA, click on the “Complete Coverage” item in the upper-right-hand-corner of the Ed Week story or click here.               The new ESSA makes some significant changes to how the federal government wants states to evaluate teachers and it loosens some of the requirements for teacher certification.  An article in ED WEEKanalyzes some of the revisions.  “The new law does not require states,” the story explains, “to set up teacher-evaluation systems based in significant part on students’ test scores—a key requirement of the U.S. Department of Education’s state-waiver system in connection with ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Education Journalism
Are you familiar with the EWA (Education Writers Association)?  If not, you should check out their website.  They include a number of “working journalists” who are employed as education reporters.  They do not include independent education bloggers.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, believes that degree of exclusivity is bothersome (especially since it excludes him).  He wonders why the EWA isn’t open to a wider field of education writers.  His piece is titled “The Crucial Debate the Education Writers Association Refuses to Hold.”  “Every reporter covering education need not be a former teacher,” Cody concludes. “But the professional organization that brings these reporters together should make efforts to include, rather than drive away, education writers with firsthand understanding of the issues faced by public schools.  The Board of Directors of the EWA should revisit this issue as soon as possible.”
 
The Homework Debate
A former teacher and current parent tackles that perennial topic for discussion–homework.  Sarah Blaine has some serious concernsabout the matter which she writes about on her parentingthecoreblog.  “Homework has become a monster,” she laments, “devouring childhood.”
 
Common Core
The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article, under the “Common Core” headline, from FORTUNE magazine about how corporate America has invested its resources in helping to promote the Common Core and standardized testing.  The focus of my item was a statement from ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson regarding students as “products” and the VERY negative reaction it engendered from a number of writers.  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is a little tardy in joining the bandwagon of criticism of Tillerson’s comment but he personalizes his reaction to it by relating it to his just turned 7-year old daughter.  “That little girl is my pride and joy.  I love her more than anything else in this world.  Make no mistake – She is not anyone’s product. . . .  And somehow Tillerson, this engineer turned CEO, thinks she’s nothing more than a commercial resource to be consumed by Big Business,” Singer laments.  “He thinks her entire worth as a human being can be reduced to her market value.  It doesn’t matter what she desires for herself.  It only matters if she fills a very narrow need set by corporate America.”  The rest of his piece is full of passion, too.  Diane Ravitch describes it as a “terrific post.”
 
State Education Report Cards
For the 20th year EDUCATION WEEK has published grades for the U.S., each state and the District of Columbia based on several education criteria.  The national average (74.4) for the “Quality Counts” ratings was a solid “C” grade.  No state achieved an “A” but Massachusetts (86.8) earned the only “B+” followed by New Jersey (85.1) and Vermont (83.8).  Nevada (65.2) was the lowest with a “D” grade.  Mississippi (65.6) was the second lowest followed by New Mexico (65.9).  California (69.8) ranked 42nd with a grade of “C-.”  You can read an overview of the complete report with links to the full document, individual chapters and an interactive map byclicking here.
 
Election 2016
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) offered some of his most detailed positions on education of the campaign during as address in October before a gathering of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.  Anthony Cody, on hisLIVING in DIALOGUE blog provides a transcript of Sanders’ remarks.  “I am for better or for worse – you’ll have to judge – a product of public education,” Sanders noted by way of introduction. “I believe in public education and I believe that public education is one of the strongest democratic institutions in our country, and we’ve got to fight against the privatization of public education, and I intend to do that.”  As a follow-up to the above piece and several others that he’s penned, Cody came out in support of Bernie Sanders for president in an essay on his blog.  “Our students and schools have suffered as the concentration of wealth has accelerated over the past decade.  President Obama has not confronted or curtailed this trend, and, sadly, there is little to indicate that Hillary Clinton will either,” Cody sums up.  “Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has rejected support from super-PACS and spurned Wall Street.  His education platform could be stronger, but he is not captive to the wealthy donors that have controlled both parties for years.  Our students need a president who confronts the scourge of poverty, and I believe Bernie Sanders is the best for that task.”
 
The Corporate “Reform” Movement
Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to veteran educator Marion Brady who provides a primer on the corporate “reform” and privatization movement over the last 30 years.  What can be done to thwart this juggernaut?  Brady responds: “A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.”
 
Student Privacy
And finally, a new U.S. Dept. of Education database with lots of detailed information about individual students is not passing muster with privacy groups.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, describes the complaint the organization filed against the DoE.   “The Electronic Privacy Information Center[EPIC], a Washington D.C.-based non-profit public interest research group that focuses on civil liberties issues and the First Amendment,” she writes, “has sent the department a formal objection to the system.” Strauss’ piece contains a copy of the governments new program and a copy of EPIC’s complaint regarding it.  [Ed. note: The Jan. 5th, edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new California law that took effect Jan. 1, that contains stringent protections for student information.]
                                         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)
ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.