Ed News, Friday, June 26, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think,
than what to think – rather to improve our minds,
so as to enable us to think for ourselves,
than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.”
James Beattie
Opt-Out
If you are looking for a good overview and history of the opt-out movement you can’t go wrong with an item from truthout.  It’s titled “Testing Wars: Opt-Out Movement Gains Momentum and Critics.” 
Election 2016
GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush took up his “pen” and wrote an op-ed piece in the NEW YORK POST laying out his proposals for education should he win the election.  It is strong on parental choice and vouchers and quick to blame teachers’ unions for what ails public education in Bush’s view.  “As president of the United States,” he writes, “I will reduce the power and authority of the federal Department of Education, sending more money and flexibility back to the states so greater school-choice opportunities can be made available to parents and their children.”               Current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal became the 11th, no, 12th, no, 13th official GOP candidate for president in 2016 with an announcement Wednesday.  EDUCATION WEEK continues its analysis of prospective contenders’ education policies as they formally enter the race.  Jindal who, at first, was a supporter of the Common Core is now counted among the more vehement opponents.  In addition, he’s a strong advocate for vouchers and parental choice.  [Ed. note: If you are having trouble keeping current on which candidates, both Republican and Democratic, are in the presidential election chase, The New York Times has an excellent, up-to-date feature listing who is in, who is out and who may be contemplating a run that will help to keep your head from spinning.  You can find it by clicking here.]
 
Vouchers, Charters and School Choice
If you’d like to see the detrimental impact of vouchers and school choice on the public school system, look no further than what’s happening in Wisconsin.  GOP Gov. Scott Walker and a Republican controlled legislature have made it their policy to siphon much-needed funds from the public schools and divert them to a voucher program.  The “PR Watch” blog at The Center for Media and Democracy describes what’s taking place.  “At a time when other states are reinvesting in public education,” it begins, “Wisconsin continues to slash and burn.  The Wisconsin Budget Project says that the state is now spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008 and more funds are slated to be siphoned off as Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposes an unprecedented voucher expansion, draining funds from public education and directing them to for-profit and religious schools.”                A group of teachers from the I Can charter chain in Cleveland, Ohio disrupted the National Charter Schools Conference earlier this week in New Orleans when they challenged the chain’s CEO for firing teachers who attempted to organize a unionEdushyster has all the details.               A new report singles out the Walton Family Foundation for its support of charter schools and suggests that support needs to include more accountability and transparency.  “A quarter-century ago, when progressive educators and teachers union leaders first proposed creating charter schools as a way to innovate and improve public schools,” the article from ALTERNET begins, “they never imagined that one of the nation’s biggest conservative foundations would hijack their idea and leave a trail of profiteering and financial crimes, political corruption, lawsuits blocking audits, and lobbying against basics as simple as installing fire extinguishers in schools or offering lunch to poorer students.  But those and other problems,” it continues, “are the legacy of the Walton Family Foundation’s billion-dollar effort to create a parallel school system—charters mostly funded by tax dollars—that has become known for a stunning lack of transparency and accountability.”  Along with the criticisms was an 11-point list of ways the situation should change.  The piece includes a link to the full report titled “Cashing in on Kids, Brought To You By Wal-Mart?  How The Walton Family Foundation’s Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling.”              Why are charter schools over 90% non-union and what happens when teachers at those campuses want to join a union?  Those 2 questions are addressed in a piece in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT titled “When Charters Go Union.”  It will appear in print in the summer edition of the magazine.  “In recent years, as growing numbers of charter school teachers have sought to unionize,” the story notes, “both the AFT and the NEA have stepped up their efforts to organize them.  Since 2009, the AFT has been flying teacher activists from across the country to meet one another, share stories, and strategize national campaigns.”
Ed Tech
What criteria should districts avail themselves of when deciding which digital learning devices they wish to purchase?  That’s a key question in lieu of well chronicled fiascoes in the LAUSD (“iPad-for-all” disaster) and other districts.  This feature, from EDUCATION WEEK’s “Technology Counts, 2015″ report, breaks down the qualities to look for by grade level, i.e., Pre-K/Elementary, Middle School and High School.  If you or your district are contemplating a 1-to-1 purchase you should definitely review these recommendations.  “Everyone always says it’s not about the device, it’s what you do with it,” the author begins.  “But the truth is, educators need a good device to accomplish their goals, and there’s no shortage to choose from.  Still, getting to the point of purchase is far from easy.”
Rafe Esquith
The LA SCHOOL REPORT has new details about the possible class-action lawsuit that Esquith’s attorney plans to file on behalf of hundreds of LAUSD teachers who have been condemned to “teacher jail” for alleged “misconduct.” The number of educators involved in the action is not known but the case will raise serious questions surrounding issues of due process and the district’s questionable disciplinary procedures.  “Esquith’s case is thrusting the issue of ‘teacher jail’ into the spotlight once again,” the piece notes, “where it has been numerous times since the Miramonte Elementary sex abuse scandal broke in 2011 and former teacher Mark Berndt was ultimately convicted of multiple counts of committing lewd acts on his students.  The Miramonte case also led to the district’s record-breaking $170 million in civil lawsuit payouts.”               The Esquith case takes a strange turn.  According to a story in today’s L.A. Times the district is looking into a claim that Esquith abused a young boy while Esquith was a teenage counselor at a summer camp over 40 years ago.  Esquith’s attorney responded that this was all part of a “smear” campaign against his client. 
She’s Back!
Former CNN news host Campbell Brown is back according to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.  She’s starting a non-profit education news site called “The Seventy Four” (for the 74 million students in our K-12 system) that is set to debut July 13.  “The creation of the site is likely to stir controversy.  Since turning to advocacy in the years after she left CNN in 2010, Ms. Brown became a lightning rod for criticism from the teachers’ union and its supporters who have seen her efforts – most notably a push to reform tenure rules in New York – as part of a thinly-veiled campaign aimed at union busting.”               That curmudgeon on the CURMUDGUCATION blog, aka Peter Greene, is not impressed with Brown’s intentions“At any rate,” he intones, “brace yourselves boys and girls– here comes the next wave of faux progressive teacher bashing and charter pushing by privatizers who will not rest until they’ve cracked that golden egg full of tax dollars.  Because that’s the other reason they’re willing to sink $4 million into something like this– because while that may seem like a lot of money to you or me, to them it’s peanuts, an investment that they hope will pay off eventually in billions of tax dollars directed away from public education and to the private corporations that are drooling at the prospect of cashing in on education.”
New LAUSD Budget
The LAUSD board voted Tuesday evening to approve a $7.8 billion budget for the 2015-16 school year.  For employees of the district there is good news and bad news.  The good news: a 10% pay increase spread over the first 2 years of the contract.  That’s the first raise in almost 10 years.  The bad news:  There will still need to be hundreds of lay-offs, mostly in adult education programs, in order to balance the budget.  94 elementary and secondary educators will also receive pink slips although some of the lay-offs may be rescinded as state spending on schools possibly exceeds current predictions.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “The budget reflects an $850-million increase over last year, the biggest gain since before the latest recession,” it notes.  “Even so, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines warned that the spending plan is tenuously balanced for the fiscal year that begins July 1.”
LAUSD Supt. Cortines Says He’s Leaving in 6 Months
When Ramon Cortines was selected to replace the fiasco-prone John Deasy as LAUSD superintendent in October, he was adamant about not wanting the word “interim” as part of his title.  The district acquiesced.  The board even extended his contract recently to the end of the 2015-16 school year.  During the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Cortines made the surprising announcement that he will be leaving at the end of this December.  The Los Angeles Daily News has the story.  “Cortines, who turns 83 in July, has twice before served as LAUSD’s superintendent,” it notes.  “He also served as superintendent of schools in Pasadena, San Francisco, San Jose and as chancellor in New York City from 1993 to 1995.  Additionally, he previously worked as an adviser to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.”
Hints for Principals
Are you a principal?  Do you happen to know one?  If you answered “yes” to either of those questions you may want to take a close look at this piece from EDUCATION WEEK titled “5 Things Principals Can Do Differently Next School Year” and take it to heart personally or share it with that administrator you know.  “As soon as the last bell of the school year sounds, educators begin reinventing themselves,” the author commences.  “So principals, while you are enjoying the quiet that only comes when both teachers and students are out, consider some things you can do right now to make teachers’ lives (and by extension, your own) easier.”
 
What Was He Thinking?
The governor of Texas just appointed a woman to become chair of the State Board of Education who has never sent her own children to a public school.  She at first home schooled her 3 sons before sending them to a private high school according to this item from RAW STORY.  The controversial appointment prompted this comment from Republican State Board member Thomas Ratliff (as quoted in the article): “Public school isn’t for everybody, but when 94-percent of our students in Texas attend public schools I think it ought to be a baseline requirement that the chair of the State Board of Education have at least some experience in that realm, as a parent, teacher, something.”
 
The Teaching Profession
A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog, Joanne Yatvin, who has been a teacher and school administrator, has an interesting suggestion for evaluating teachers: ” ask the students.”  Before you dismiss her idea out-of-hand, read what she has to say.  It may not be a perfect solution but it certainly has promise over what some other states and districts are proposing.  Yatvin describes how her idea would work and offers some sample questions to ask the students.  A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted Steven Singer’s technique, on his GLADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, of having his students fill out a class evaluation at the end of the school year.  He described it as “the only teaching evaluation that matters.”               Speaking of Steven Singer, his latest effort on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG accuses some members of the Pennsylvania House of hypocrisy for voting to let teachers go without regard to seniority.  What’s wrong with that, you ask?  The chamber’s own leadership format is largely based on, you guessed it, seniority!  “Everything from preferential treatment for committee assignments to better office space and even seating closer to the front of the assembly is often based on seniority,” Singer points out.  “Leadership positions are usually voted on, but both Republicans and Democrats traditionally give these positions to the most senior members.  And these same folks have the audacity to look down their noses at public school teachers for valuing the same thing!?”               An article from The Atlantic looks at the issue of teacher retention and why up to 50% of educators leave the profession after less than 5 years in the classroom.  The problem is especially acute at the lowest preforming campuses.  The author describes his extremely difficult first year working at a middle school in Louisville, Kentucky.  He offers some suggestions on how to ease the task many new teachers face.  “When I think back to my first year,” he concludes,  “I’m no longer bitter.  I’m now completing my 11th year as a teacher; I mentor new educators and advocate for better support and working conditions.  But unless those resources are in place, I wouldn’t voluntarily work in another struggling school.”
Ed Reform New Orleans Style
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a look at how Hurricane Katrina impacted the public school system in New Orleans 10 years after it devastated that city.  His piece is titled “Lessons to be Learned From New Orleans Style Education Reform.”  “ As the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches,” he begins, “you can count on seeing a lot of glowing stories about the great education progress made in New Orleans since a natural disaster killed nearly 2,000 people, emptied a beloved city, and gave public school reformers what they always wanted: a ‘clean slate’ to have their way unencumbered by the messiness of school boards, local politics, and the voices of teachers and parents.”  Bryant goes on to say that “progress” is certainly open to how one interprets the data that’s been generated and he concludes: “When someone comes to your community to sell you on the education reform model created for New Orleans, don’t buy it.”
Class Size Matters
And finally, Leonie Haimson who founded the group “Class Size Matters” in 2000 talks about how she got involved in the issue and why reducing class size makes a difference in a short video (4:06 minutes) featured on Anthony Cody’s LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.

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

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

 
 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 23, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“In every French village there is now a lighted torch, the schoolmaster;
and a mouth trying to blow it out, the priest.”
Victor Hugo
Rafe Esquith
Two letters appeared in Sunday’s L.A. Times in response to the paper’s reporting on the removal of renowned LAUSD teacher Rafe Esquith from his classroom for “misconduct.”  Both were highly critical of the district’s handling of the matter.              Esquith broke his silence regarding the charges against him (they seem pretty innocuous) and the impact the entire matter has had on him personally and his students in a front-page story in today’s Times.  It also mentions that his attorney has filed a claim against the district ahead of a possible class-action lawsuit representing a number of teachers who have been pulled from their classrooms without proper due process.  “We overreact to everything. That’s the American way and I’m a victim of that overreaction,” Esquith is quoted in the article.  “I want to fix this system.  I want to make sure that teachers do not have to go through the same thing that I went through.”                A follow-up piece appeared on the Times website early this afternoon.  It reported on a number of Esquith supporters who urged the LAUSD board at their meeting today to reinstate the popular educator.
Charter Schools
It’s not that difficult to find stories about charter school scandals these days.  They seem to be occurring on a nearly daily basis.  In the course of researching material for this edition of the “Ed News,” the editor ran across the Charter School Scandals website that maintains a list of problems reported among individual campuses and multi-school chains.  The author, Sharon Higgins, includes links to each item in her inventory in order to provide all the details.  She describes her blog this way: “A compilation of news articles about charter schools which have been charged with, or are highly suspected of, tampering with admissions, grades, attendance and testing; misuse of funds and embezzlement; engaging in nepotism and conflicts of interest; engaging in complicated and shady real estate deals; and/or have been engaging in other questionable, unethical, borderline-legal, or illegal activities. This is also a record of charter school instability and other unsavory tidbits.”  Check it out and you’ll be shocked (maybe not) at how extensive it is.  Click on the white arrow in the red box at the bottom of the page for older posts to get the full extent of what she’s chronicled.  Also click on the blue down arrow in the white box in the upper right hand corner of the HOME page to see additional topics on the subject.               Why all these scandals, you may ask?  The author of the A Teacher on Teaching blog is a now retired 33-year veteran of the public schools in Ohio.  His answer is simple: ” Greed and More Greed.”  He reviews a number of recent, well-publicized charter scandals around the country (many of them previously highlighted in the “Ed News”) and suggests this is what you get when you want to privatize the public schools and turn them into for-profit entities.                The original intent of charter schools was to have them serve as sites to experiment with new teaching techniques and philosophies that could then be carried over to the public schools.  That theory has now morphed into what some describe as all out war between charters and public schools.  The author of this piece from the NPQ (NONPROFIT QUARTERLY) uses what’s taking place in Chicago to highlight that point.  “What is happening in Chicago illustrates well the debate going on nationally,” he concludes,  “between those who believe that the solution to our educational challenges lies in creating a more robust educational marketplace where every parent and child has the ability to choose the school that is best suited to their needs, interests, and talents, and those who believe that ensuring a quality education for all children requires dealing with issues of proper school funding, poverty, race and community.  The struggle in Chicago seems to indicate that the advocates for a market-based strategy are winning this tug of war.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is upset with a couple of science fiction offerings these days on fantasy television.  He believes they are taking subtle potshots at teachers and public schools.  If you have seen the programs he cites you may be aware of what is going on.  If you haven’t, you may be surprised (shocked/angered?) at what he viewed.
Education Blogs (Like This One)
Paul Thomas on his the becoming radical column quotes prolific blogger Susan Ohanian who is cutting back on her writing: “Everybody blogs. Nobody reads.”  She believes that there is so much material out there that no one has time to read it and it just gets lost in the flood. 
Opt-Out & Testing
The opt-out movement has been gaining significant momentum over the last couple of years but statistics about who exactly is participating are rather scarce.  EDUCATION WEEK features a brand new research paper published by the Brown Center for Education at the Brookings Institution that provides some detailed numbers and analysis about just who is opting-out.  The author of the report looked at data from districts in New York State to come up with some tentative conclusions.  The ED WEEK piece includes a link to the full paper titled “Who Opts Out of State Tests?”               The “Fox News Sunday” program had a segment with the PARCC’s (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) CEO singing the praises of her Common Core-aligned assessment and the standards.  You can view that video (3:26 minutes) from FOX NEWS by clicking here.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, was quick to critique some of the comments that were presented.  “This is just a three-minute advertisement for PARCC masquerading as news,” he concludes.  “A long time ago, television personalities used to pitch products in advertisements during their own programs, but they stopped doing it because it was undignified and hurt credibility.  Would that modern news channels (not just Fox) would have another such epiphany.”            The Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, signed a bill yesterday that would allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing in her state.  At the same time of her announcement about the new law she made it clear that she was not in favor of parents making that choice.  The (Portland) Oregonian has all the details.  “Brown said she wants Oregon educators to make the case to parents that taking part in state tests is valuable so that they will opt for their children to keep taking the exams,” it notes.  “The new law means that, beginning next spring, schools will have to notify every family at least 30 days before state testing begins about what the tests will cover, how long they will take and when results will be delivered.  Those notices will also tell parents they can exempt their child from the tests for any reason.  Oregon’s current law allows families to opt students out of testing only for religious reasons or due to a disability,” it continues.  “About 5 percent of students skipped testing this spring, Oregon Department of Education officials say.”               Rumor has it that Delaware may be next to pass an opt-out bill but it faces a possible veto from the Democratic governor of that state who strongly opposes the legislation.  The Wilmington News Journal provides the details.                The New York Times has an interesting feature about who grades the standardized tests and how the process works.  On second thought, you may not want to know.  The article focuses on one test center in San Antonio, Texas.  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending it to the editor.  [Ed. note: The NYT and many other sources require a paid subscription.  As a retired teacher from the LAUSD I don’t get that much in a monthly pension, although it’s not bad.  I do pay for the L.A. Times and EDUCATION WEEK.  That’s about all I can afford, so (to paraphrase Blanche DuBois in “Streetcar Named Desire) “I have to rely on the kindness of strangers–” read friends.  But, I digress.]  “Parcc said that more than three-quarters of the scorers have at least one year of teaching experience,” the story points out, “but that it does not have data on how many are currently working as classroom teachers. Some are retired teachers with extensive classroom experience, but one scorer in San Antonio, for example, had one year of teaching experience, 45 years ago.”               Peter Greene, he of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, checks in on the NYT’s story (see above).  He begins by stating that the reporter does a good job of making the subjects of her piece “look ridiculous.”  Greene proceeds to offer page and verse to buttress his point.  “So the take-away from [the] piece,” he concludes, “is not just that these tests are being graded by people who don’t necessarily know what the hell they’re doing, but that test manufacturers have created tests for which graders who don’t know what the hell they’re doing seems like a viable option.  And that is just one more sign that the Big Standardized Tests are pointless slices of expensive baloney.  You can’t make a test like McDonalds and still pretend that you’re cooking classic cuisine.”  [You’ll need to read his entire column to get the reference to hamburgers.  It’s well worth your time.]               THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION is putting together a “Coalition of Education and Civil Rights Groups to Oppose High-Stakes Testing.”  You can read the announcement on their website and what their goals are and see a list of organizations in support by clicking here.  Anyone belong to a group that would like to join?
Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core
Arkansas became the 14th state, plus the District of Columbia, to adopt, with some minor modifications, the Next Generation Science Standards.  At this time the vote was only to approve the K-8 portion of the standards.  A story from the “Curriculum Matters” column in EDUCATION WEEK briefly describes the action.  The State Board of Education in California voted to formally approve the standards in Sept., 2013.  For a look back at the official “News Release” about the adoption from the California Department of EDUCATION’s website, click here.                Long Island’s Newsday newspaper questioned a number of high school valedictorians about what they thought about the Common Core State Standards.  The original article is behind a paywall but Diane Ravitch’s blog was kind enough to print it.  Interestingly (or not) their opinions varied on the subject.  “Understand that Long Island has some of the best high schools in the state and in the nation,”  Ravitch notes.  “These students have their pick of elite colleges and universities; they are super-smart and super-accomplished.”                Controversy over the Common Core engulfed a number of states around the country but one that was conspicuously absent from much of the debate was California.  A piece from EDUCATION WEEK attempts to answer the question “Why?”  Most of the powers that be in the Golden State support the standards.  “Gov. Jerry Brown and California’s elected K-12 schools chief are united in their support of the embattled benchmarks,” the story points out.  “The heads of the state’s teachers’ unions, universities and business groups are on board, too.  More than one-quarter of the 12 million students who were supposed to take new online tests linked to the standards this spring were Californians, but the technical glitches and parent-led opt-out campaigns that roiled the exams’ rollout elsewhere did not surface widely here.”                THE HECHINGER REPORT features an elementary class in New York where theater arts are being used to help ELLs tackle the English/Language Arts Common Core.  The curtain rises on Kelly Budde’s class in Port Chester.  Please hold your applause.
New Documentary Film
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, features a new documentary out August 12, titled “Education, Inc., For Profit. For Kids?”  It explains how money and politics are infiltrating the public schools and the growing attempts to privatize them.  “If you are frustrated by what you see happening in your local schools,” Cody writes, “if your school board is beset by billionaire-sponsored candidates, and charter schools are starving neighborhood schools of funding, this film might give you a much needed rallying point.”  The film’s website includes the official trailer (3:13 minutes). 
Another One Bites the Dust
John Deasy in the LAUSD.  Cami Anderson in Newark (from The New York Times) and now Mike Miles in Dallas (from WFAA the ABC affiliate in Dallas) and some others.  What do they all have in common?  Each was a “highly touted” corporate “reformer” who was selected to be the superintendent of their respective districts and now no longer hold those positions.  Could the pendulum be starting to swing back to where it belongs when it comes to attempts to privatize the public school system? 
Teaching in Arizona
And finally, a previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the difficult condition of the teaching profession in Arizona.  Due to a number of factors, teachers are leaving classrooms and the state in droves.  A segment (2:03 minutes) from ABC Channel 15 in Phoenix features a new study from the Arizona Dept. of Education that reports on a serious looming teacher shortage in the Grand Canyon State and pinpoints some of the reasons why.  The video is courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.

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

 

Ed News, Friday, June 19, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute,
the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed.”
Alfred North Whitehead
Sunday is Father’s Day–Don’t Forget Dad
Inline image 1
Summer begins officially at 9:39 am on Sunday.
Image result for happy summer images
And now to the news.
Common Core
Prolific and informative education blogger Mercedes Schneider has a brand new book out titled Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?  The “Ed News” highlights her columns often so readers know what she creates.  Diane Ravitch’s blog has a very brief note about the book which came out June 12.  If you are looking for some good education-related reading for the summer, check this one out.  Ravitch includes a link to Amazon for information about the volume and mentions “I think you will find it a fascinating read.”              What happens when states decide to drop the Common Core, as several have, and adopt their own set of standards?  What, if anything, changes?  According to Paul Thomas of Furman University and his the becoming radical blog the answer is “very little.”  “Careful examination of both adopting Common Core and then the backlash resulting in dropping Common Core, he writes, “reveals that states remain firmly entrenched in the same exact accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing that has overburdened education since the 1980s.  The names and letters change, but not much else—except for throwing more money at a game of wasteful politics labeled ‘reform.’” 
Magnet Schools and Charters
Amid all the discussion/debate/controversy these days regarding charter and public schools whatever happened to magnet schools?  This item from EDUCATION WEEK revisits them and looks at the difficulties they are having as they attempt to diversify their student bodies.  It features a new study from the American Institutes for Research and provides some interesting facts and figures for charters and magnets.   “In some ways, magnet schools have been overshadowed by the rapid growth of charters,” the article notes, “with 5,700 charters nationwide compared to 4,000 magnet schools.  However, magnet programs still enroll more students, with 2.1 million enrolled in charters versus 2.6 million in magnets, federal data show.”  The ED WEEK story includes a link to the full AIR report (197) pages titled “What Happens When Schools Become Magnet Schools?  A Longitudinal Study of Diversity and Achievement.”                Despite a number of articles, reports and investigative pieces about mismanaged taxpayer money and a serious lack of financial oversight by charters, the U.S. Congress is set to increase spending on the federal Charter Schools Program by a whopping 48%.  The Center for Media and Democracy’s “PR WATCH”  adds Part 6 of its series on charter schools.   “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General has major nationwide probes underway into closed charter schools and suspected waste and financial mismanagement within the program,” the piece notes.  “The program is designed to create and expand ‘high-quality’ charter schools, but it has been repeatedly criticized by the watchdogs at the department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the past precisely because there is no way of knowing whether the money has gone to ‘high quality’ schools.”
 
Poverty and Learning
A new study from the Economic Policy Institute looks at 5 factors that affect learning outcomes for poor children and wonders why they are being ignored.  “All [these] factors drag down the academic performance of a child, but education policies address none of them.  Efforts to improve academic outcomes for the increasing number of poor children in public schools focus too heavily on incentives aimed at teachers and schools instead of taking on the underlying conditions that hamper children even before their formal schooling begins,” one of the co-authors of the report writes.  The study is featured in an article in The Washington Post.  It includes a link to the full document titled “Five Social Disadvantages That Depress Student Performance.  Why Schools Along Can’t Close Achievement Gaps.”
Education “Reform”
The author of this commentary in The Salinas Californian is a fifth grade teacher of high-needs students in Castroville.  He believes the corporate “reformers” are seeking solutions that are really only silver bullets or magic.  Things like Common Core, grit, an over-reliance on more and more data and standardized tests are NOT going to fix the public schools.  He has some concrete suggestions on how to approach the problems.                Want to know why the corporate “reformers” (aka “privatizers”) are so influential in getting state legislators to pass legislation that undermines public education?  Could it have anything to do with the millions of dollars of campaign contributions these groups make to politicians?  That’s the conclusion of a brand new report from COMMON CAUSE that compares the amount of spending by the “reformers” and pro-public education groups like teachers’ unions.  Guess which side is way out ahead.  You can read the full report (53 pages) titled “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Education Policy” by clicking here.  Diane Ravitch wrote this about the report on her Diane Ravitch’s blog: “Please read this report and send it to everyone who cares about the future of public education in the United States.  Send it to your friends, your school board, your legislators, your editorial boards, and to anyone else who needs to know about the money that is committed to demolishing public schools and turning the money over to private hands.”
2016 Election
The last time the “Ed News” checked (like 5 minutes ago) there were 12 officially declared Republican candidates for president in 2016.  They are entering the race faster than most people can keep up with them.  Jeb Bush threw his hat in the ring on Monday and was quickly declared one of the favorites.  EDUCATION WEEK has been providing quick reviews of the candidates’ positions on education issues as they jump into the race.  SALON has a much more detailed look at Bush’s positions in a piece titled “Everything You Need to Know About Jeb Bush’s Dangerous Education Agenda.”  “During his eight years as governor, Jeb Bush was a leader in dismantling public education. . . . [His] push for for-profit education has been the former governor’s passion,” it notes, “and those looking to profit on children will likely fall in behind him as presidential candidate.  By all accounts, Bush appears to truly believe that the sort of reform he advocates is the answer to a flagging American education system. But his genuine passion and conviction doesn’t mean his “solution” isn’t dangerous.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a much broader view of the upcoming election.  He discovers and describes a growing divide among the Republican and Democratic parties when it comes to education issues and they now provide “clear choices” for voters as the 2016 vote approaches.  “As prospective and declared candidates in the 2016 presidential race kick off their campaigns, what we’re hearing on education policy is a clear division between Republicans and Democrats.  So far, one party is doubling down on continuing failed accountability policies, while the other party calls for an investment agenda to relieve years of grueling austerity and ineffective policy branded as ‘reform.’  Can you guess which party is promoting which?”  On the GOP side he looks at policies being promoted by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.  He compares them to positions taken by former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rafe Esquith Removed From Class for Undisclosed “Misconduct”
Acclaimed LAUSD elementary teacher Rafe Esquith was removed from his class at Hobart Blvd. Elementary School in March for, so far, undisclosed “misconduct” that apparently had to do with a class reading of an excerpt from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, according to Esquith’s attorney.  Esquith, who addressed an ALOED group in the past, is known for putting on Shakespearean productions with his students and several books that he’s written about classroom techniques.  His attorney has threatened to sue the LAUSD for its actions against the educator.  A piece posted on the L.A. Times website Wednesday evening provides the details.  A follow-up story appeared in today’s print edition of the Times with some additional information.                Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post, is outraged at how the LAUSD is treating award-winning teacher Rafe Esquith.  “I consider Rafe Esquith of the Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles to be the best classroom teacher in the country,” he begins.  “So when I learned that he has been barred from teaching since March for telling a joke about nudity in Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ I wondered if the education world had finally, inalterably, gone crazy.”                 Karen Wolfe, a parent-activist who lives in L.A., published a brief “Open Letter to LAUSD Leaders” on the Badass Teachers Association website that deplores the treatment of teachers for alleged “misconduct” in general and the Esquith situation in particular.  “But enough is enough,” she conclude disgustedly.  “This is the ultimate in those ‘adult conflicts’ that leaders grandstand about stopping.  These political disappearances of teachers make LAUSD look like a banana republic.  Unfortunately, it is the students who are hurt the most.  I implore you to use urgency to fix this policy once and for all.”
The War Against Teachers and Public Education
Former Sec. of Labor in the Clinton administration and current professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, Robert Reich, was the subject of a Q & A with CAPITAL & MAIN regarding “the war against teachers and public education.”  “We have gone way overboard on testing,” Reich responded to one query about Pres. Obama and Arne Duncan.  “Many students now are learning to take a test rather than to think.  Teachers are being promoted or given raises based upon their ability to teach students to succeed on the test rather than to teach students how to solve problems and to come up with new ways of viewing problems.”
Two Different Views of Schools in New Orleans
September, 2015, will mark the 10th anniversary of the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrecked on the city of New Orleans.  The city has undergone some significant changes since then.  One area has been its school system.  New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD) is now an all-charter system.  How have things changed over the decade since the storm struck?  Well, it depends on who you talk to.  A report released Wednesday from the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University is featured in a story from the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “‘The academic performance of New Orleans’ schools has improved remarkably over the past 10 years,’  authors Patrick Sims and Vincent Rossmeier write in the anniversary edition of the institute’s annual evaluation,” the article notes.  It goes on to mention some sources that take an opposing view.           Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 takes exception to the rosy conclusions of the Cowen Institute.  She takes a detailed and critical look at graduation rates and finds the results very disappointing.  “The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) hides information and releases delayed or partial information,” she charges, “in an effort to keep the public ill-informed regarding the state of education in Louisiana and especially as concerns the now-all-charter Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans.”
1-to-1 Computer Initiatives
Computers-for-all programs are also know as “1-to-1 initiatives.”  The “Ed News” covered extensively the “iPad-for-all” fiasco in the LAUSD and also some other districts’ attempts to provide computers/tablets to students.  In light of those previous failures some districts have taken a go-slow approach to their 1-to-1 initiatives as they attempt to learn some of the painful lessons suffered by earlier efforts.  An item in EDUCATION WEEK uses Miami-Dade County as a case study of a district that is learning from previous attempts.  Sadly, LAUSD and districts in Texas and North Carolina are held up as examples not to follow.
California School Funding
An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times calls for more oversight of how new funds are being spent by California’s school districts.  A recent article in the paper (highlighted by the “Ed News”) featured a report critical of how the LAUSD was using those dollars.  “The state needs better, independent oversight of how the money is spent.  Above all,” the editorial concludes, “it needs to demand results. . . . The entire funding system should be assessed in several years to see whether it is bringing about better results. Educational history is full of examples of expensive, well-intended programs that never helped impoverished students.”
Ed Tech
In order to be successful these days students need to be able to connect to the internet not only at school but also at home.  That can pose a significant obstacle for poor students.  Not only are their campuses less likely to have up-to-date technology but their homes are even less so.  It’s an issue that’s referred to as the “homework gap.” A new Federal Communication Commission program may provide the answer to this problem.  “The Federal Communications Commission,” notes a story from THE HECHINGER REPORT, “voted Thursday to include broadband connections in a $1.8 billion federal program that subsidizes telephone services for low-income people.  This program isn’t reserved for families with school-aged children, but supporters say the change will inevitably help the neediest students get online at home.”
 
Ethnic Studies Bill in California
And finally, Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, describes a bill (AB 101) before the California legislature that would direct the state superintendent to create elective classes in ethnic studies.  Besides being important to students of color, Cody adds “ethnic studies is also of great potential benefit to all of society, in that learning about systemic racism allows us to confront it directly.  Research has shown that ethnic studies and diversity courses benefit students of color and whites as well.”
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 Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 16, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“Admission of ignorance is often the first step in our education”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Powerful Lessons in Personal Change  
 
High School Exit Exam  

Two letters in Saturday’s L.A. Times commented on an editorial the paper ran on Wednesday (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”) about the state legislature possible dropping the California High School Exit Exam.  One of the writers was David Tokofsky, former Social Studies teacher at Marshall High School and LAUSD board member for 12 years.

The Teaching Profession
Why would anyone want to teach in Arizona?  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, comments on a story in the New York Times about the sorry state of the teaching profession in Arizona.  The Grand Canyon State has some of the lowest, if not THE lowest teacher salaries, per pupil spending and test scores among other measures in comparison to the rest of the nation.  However, it gets high marks for being a great place for charters.  He titles the piece “Arizona’s Teacher Desert” and includes a link to that NYT article.                 How did your school year go?  The author of this piece in EDUCATION WEEK offers 10 tips for “How Teachers Can Recharge This Summer.”  She’s a National Board certified teacher who’s taught English/Language Arts at a high school in Massachusetts for 20 years and, in addition, is an adjunct professor at Emmanuel College in Boston.  Many educators, she notes, will be doing education-related tasks during the summer break.  “Despite all that,” she suggest, “it’s incredibly important for teachers to recharge those batteries before heading back to school in August or September.”  Her tip #2? “Read That Book” and join in the discussion with the ALOED Book Club.  [Ed. note: That latter suggestion was my idea, but I think she’d go along with it.]
Opt-Out
The governor of New Hampshire vetoed a bill on Friday that would have allowed students in the Granite State to opt-out of standardized tests.  A very brief item in EDUCATION WEEK (via the AP) explains her decision.
Common Core
The Common Core State Standards have sparked a lot of debate on both sides of the issue since they were presented 5 years ago this month.  One of the questions raised is whether they are age and grade-level appropriate.  This item from The Boston Globe even wonders “Is the Common Core Killing Kindergarten?”  “Opponents say teaching some academic skills too early can be counterproductive,” the author suggests.  “They cite research suggesting that reading and math advantages in kindergarten are fleeting.  Furthermore, they say, the pressure to meet academic standards will lead to lecture and work sheet style teaching, foster rote memorization, and snuff out the inquiry and play-based instruction that can instill a love of learning.”
The Best Teacher Evaluation?
Steven Singer on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG offers what he calls “The Only Teacher Evaluation That Matters.”  What might that be?  At the end of the school year he asks his students to fill out a class evaluation.  (Didn’t most of our professors at Oxy do that?)  No names; no identifying marks; just the honest truth about what his students feel about his class and what they would suggest to improve it.  He reports on some of the results and even reprints his simple survey if you’d like to try something like it yourself.  [Ed. note: Throughout most of my 26-year career teaching high school Social Studies I did the same thing. Upon reading Singer’s blog I agree with almost all of what he wrote.  The results I got, like Singer’s, were most gratifying and many of the suggestions I got from my students helped to make my teaching even better.  The students felt good about it, too.]  [Giving my surveys is] not something I’m required to do.  I don’t share the results with administration.  The responses don’t go on file,” Singer relates, “increase my pay or get recorded in the newspaper.  They don’t become part of the district’s ranking in the Business Times.  No one is going to withhold funding from my district or close my building and convert it into a charter school based on these results.  No one ever will be on television decrying the state of public education referencing these surveys.  They are low stakes, class-based, teacher-centered and personal.”
Some Truths About Those International Assessments
Some corporate “reformers” are constantly throwing up their hands in despair over how “poorly” American students are doing as compared to pupils in other countries on those international exams.  Mitchell Robinson on his Mitchell Robinson blog points out some important truths about those tests.  “The issue here is that the PISA test scores are usually not disaggregated–that is, the scores are not parsed out by poverty rates, but instead are all lumped together,” he explains.  “Many in the corporate reform community are fond of reporting these international scores without sharing the fact that US poverty rates are nearly 30%, while countries like Finland are at 5% or less  There is a strong correlation (not causation) between SES [socio-economic status] and test scores (and zip code and test scores, for that matter)–which is not to say that wealthy kids are smarter than poor kids. They aren’t. Its just that kids with more financial resources have more opportunities and advantages than their less -advantaged peers.”  Mitchell proceeds to provide some scores for U.S. students that are disaggregated for poverty levels.  You might be surprised (or maybe not) at how well American kids do. 
Controversy Over Yoga Classes
A long-running battle over the offering of yoga classes in an elementary school district in northern San Diego County has come to an end with a decision by the attorney who brought the case to forgo an appeal of an earlier ruling.  The “Ed News” has periodically highlighted the details of this weird case.  The K-6 district has been offering twice-weekly, 30-minute yoga classes to encourage exercise and healthful eating according to the story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “The parents of two students had sued,” it explains, “alleging that the yoga program promotes Hinduism while the district discourages any display of Christianity.  The school district hired the yoga instructors and controlled the curriculum, the appeals court said.  Parents can have their children opted out of the yoga instruction.”
Charter Schools
Opponents of charter school have criticized the high turnover among their faculty as cause for concern.  This item from EDUCATION WEEK looks at the issue and how charters are addressing it.  “High rates of attrition,” the author concedes, “are a common criticism of the publicly funded, privately managed schools.  And despite contested data about the phenomenon, some charter leaders acknowledge teacher turnover as a liability for the movement.”                Does it just seem like Ohio charters are constantly in the news about one scandal or another?  The “Ed News” has covered a number of irregularities in the Buckeye State’s numerous charter companies.  Well, here’s another one.  It has to do with the board of Imagine Columbus Primary School.  All of the members promptly resigned when presented with a lease contract they were told they had no power to negotiate, among other issues.  You can catch up on all the details in this piece from the PB (Plunderbund) website.  “Unfortunately, the terms charter school and conflict of interest are becoming synonymous,” the author relates.  “And redundant.  Just mentioning both in the same sentence exposes one of the fatal flaws in the DNA of charter schools and school privatization.  That most fatal of charter schools flaws is called governance.”                Need more proof of the sorry state of charter schools in OhioThe Columbus Dispatch leads off a recent story with this: “A former Dayton charter school owes taxpayers nearly $1.2 million after padding its attendance rolls and receiving state aid for students who never attended.”  It notes that getting the money back may be impossible as the campus closed its doors a year ago.  Is this kind of activity an isolated incident.  At least in Ohio, the answer is an emphatic “no!”   “The Dispatch reported today,” the article concludes, “that the Department of Education is continuing to withhold or reduce payments to schools for about 1,700 charter-school students because they cannot verify where the students lived or what schools they attended.”
 [Ed. note: I’ll repeat a question I’ve posed many times in the past: How often does this happen with public schools?]               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, reports that things have gotten so bad with charters in Ohio, that they “have become a joke–literally.”  She refers to several newspaper articles from the Buckeye State and includes links to each.  “Yes, some charter schools are great, but others are a mess — especially in Ohio,” she begins, “where academic results across the sector are far worse than in traditional public schools and financial and ethical scandals are more than common.”  [Ed. note: I’m not picking on Ohio out of any sort of bad feelings towards the state.  I was born in Cleveland and happen to be very proud of that fact.]                Enough of all the bad news about charters.  Diane Ravitch’s blog is featuring a newly released report
that, she says, both sides of the charter debate can take heart from some of the findings.  Ravitch describes the co-sponsors of the survey, The Spencer Foundation and Public Agenda, as ” completely non-political” and “non-ideological.”  She includes a link to the full report titled “Charter Schools in Perspective.”  “Nationally, there is very little evidence that charter and traditional public schools differ meaningfully in their average impact on students’ standardized test performance,” it finds.  “In some states charter schools have had positive impacts on student learning, in other states they have had negative impacts, while in others charters have had no differential impact compared with traditional public schools.”  The survey has some interesting statistics.  As of the 2013-14 school year there were 6,440 charter school in the U.S. that enrolled 2,514,000 students.  [Ed. note: That probably includes those phony enrollees in Ohio but that’s an unfair shot.  I apologize!  NOT]
Happy Birthday to the BATs
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) celebrated their second birthday on Sunday.  You can read all about their accomplishments so far and what they hope to achieve in the future on their BATs website.  In just 2 years they’ve already stirred up the education establishment.  Their name got peoples’ attention from the get go.  [Ed. note: Could they possibly be approaching those “terrible twos?  Here’s hoping so!]  “Perhaps our greatest accomplishment in 2014 is that we continue to give support to teachers across the nation,” they proudly relate, “and provide them with a clearinghouse of what is happening to public education across the nation. We continue to fight for equality and equity in both society and education. We look forward to 2015 and to our continued effort to win back great public education for all our children, and return classrooms back to teachers and their communities.”
LAUSD Spending Criticized
California’s year old “local control funding formula” earmarks new state funds to K-12 students who are low-income, learning English and in foster care.  A new study from UC Berkeley found that large portions of those dollars are not being spent as they were intended in the LAUSD.  In response, the district claims the system is new, the kinks are being worked out and the rules are being followed.  All the details are found in a story in today’s L.A. Times.
Election 2016
And finally, a quick quiz.  With former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush jumping into the Republican presidential race yesterday, how many officially declared candidates are there on the GOP side?  Answer in a moment.  EDUCATION WEEK continues to review where the candidates stand on education issues as they enter the race.  Quiz answer: eleven.  Whoops! Hold the phone.  Since I wrote that yesterday, Donald Trump entered the fray TODAY making a total of 12 GOP candidates.  ED WEEK didn’t have anything up on Trump’s education policies as of the publication time for this edition of the “Ed News,” but stay tuned.                   Valerie Strauss in her column for The Washington Post has a slightly less positive take on Jeb Bush’s education policies.  Her piece is titled “Here’s What Jeb Bush Really Did to Public Education in Florida.”  “Did his Florida reforms, she begins, “really accomplish what he says they did? When he talks about helping schools, which ones is he talking about?  Here’s what you won’t hear — and what is vital to know to fully assess Bush’s education reform record and to understand why his critics call him a privatizer — and not a reformer — of public education.”  Strauss proceeds to offer chapter and verse regarding Bush’s claimed “accomplishments” related to education in the Sunshine State.
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Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Friday, June 12, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“Some people drink deeply from the fountain of knowledge.
Others just gargle.”
Grant M. Bright
LAUSD Rolls Back Graduation Requirement
The LAUSD board backed off of its previous high school graduation requirement that students pass classes with a “C” grade or better.  With projections showing that over 50% of this year’s sophomores were in danger of not earning a diploma because of the requirement, the panel voted to reduce the grade needed to “pass” to a “D.”  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reports on the board’s action.  “The board previously had required students, starting in 2017,” it notes, “to receive a C or better in a set of college preparatory courses required for admission to four-year state universities.  The goal was to ensure that all L.A. Unified students were eligible to apply for the University of California and Cal State systems.”
Charter Schools
Here’s some bad news for cyber-charters, those online, usually for-profit outfits that provide an “education” via computer.  They are facing a cut in funding from the new governor of Pennsylvania.  The always entertaining and informative Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, titles his item “PA: Cyber Whine Party.”  Gov. Wolf wonders why online programs should get the same per-pupil funding as brick and mortar campuses.  He’s proposing a reduced flat fee for students enrolled in cyber-charters.  The operators of those schools are crying “wolf.”  [Ed. note: Pun intended].               An Arizona Supreme Court ruling upheld a lower court decision in that state that charter schools are not entitled to the same funding as district schools.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK (via the AP) explains the ruling.               The charter school movement has morphed a long way from its original intent as explained in this opinion piece from ALJAZEERA AMERICA titled “Saving the Charter School Movement From Itself.”  “Advocates of charter schools argue that they are innovative laboratories of experimentation,” the author begins.  “But the reality is that over the past decade, the policies that led to the creation of these schools have been used to advance a political agenda: putting public resources into private hands, reducing accountability over how those resources are used and scapegoating teachers for the many problems that plague public education.  In doing so, many charter advocates have threatened to transform public education into a resource-scarce system that relies on philanthropy to function.  That’s a shame,” she continues.  “If charters were reimagined to respect their original objectives — to allow educators to experiment with new ideas, advance teachers’ voice in education and strengthen the public school system as a whole — they could yet live up to their potential.”  The author proceeds to offer some specific proposals for how charters can return to their original purpose and singles out some particular campuses that are achieving that goal.
 
The SAT and Test Prep
Earlier this month the College Board, which administers the SAT, announced a partnership, amid much hoopla, with the Khan Academy, which produces online materials for students.  The two organizations would create interactive SAT training resources that would be accessible  to all students for free. The “Ed News” highlighted this new program earlier this month.  The author of this piece in The Atlantic is more than a little skeptical of the motivation behind the College Board’s latest initiative.  The unveiling occasioned the expected cheers and doubts, but to evaluate the Khan Academy’s ‘Official SAT Practice’ resources one must understand that they are part of a much bigger plan.  It’s a plan that may help get thousands of poor students on track to success.  But it will also give the College Board an even larger role in America’s high schools and the lives of students. . . .There’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of [College Board President David] Coleman’s commitment to helping poor students.  It’s important, however, to recognize that the one party that is certain to benefit quite handsomely by these efforts is the College Board.”
Testing, Parental Choice & Opt-Out
Several civil rights organization and some corporate ‘reformers” have made the case that standardized tests can be a valuable tool for achieving social justice.  Paul Thomas of Furman University, on his the becoming radical blog, takes that premise to task.  “The accountability era over the past thirty years—based significantly on standards and high-stakes testing—has not confronted and eroded race and class inequity,” he suggests, “but in fact, and notably because of the central roles of standardized testing, race and class inequity has become even more entrenched in our schools and society.”  Diane Ravitch describes Thomas’ essay as “eloquent” and urges “Read it all.  It is thoughtful and important.”               Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, responds to some of the those civil rights groups that support high-stakes testing.  His commentary appears in EDUCATION WEEK and continues an online debate with some of those leaders and others who agree with their position.  Tucker includes links to all the pertinent sources that he references if you need/want to catch up with the discussion.               The federal government is apparently ready to play hard ball with any state that makes it easier for parents to opt their children out of standardized tests if a situation in Oregon is any indication.  Television station KOIN 6 in Portland has a segment reporting the U.S. Dept. of Education is threatening to withhold millions of dollars in federal funds if the state legislature passes a bill easing parents’ rights to opt their kids out of the tests.  You can read a brief article on the issue and/or view the video segment (2:40 minutes) by clicking here.               Jeff Bryant, on the Educational Opportunity NETWORK looks at the battle lines being drawn over testing and the opt-out movement.  He reminds readers of what’s happening in Oregon (see above) where the legislature passed a bill to make sure parents are informed of their rights to remove their children from standardized testing and the federal government’s response of a threat to cut off funding.  “Unfortunately, the standoff over standardized testing in Oregon is not an isolated event,” he sums up.  “As members of Congress on Capital Hill struggle with revising federal education policy, testing mandates continue to be regarded as some sort of valiant stand for our most underserved students, while deep inequities in how states support those students continue to get ignored.  So what really matters in education policy continues to take a back seat to a sad and ineffectual proxy battle over testing – and our more disadvantaged students are worse off for it.”                 The opt-out movement is increasing by leaps and bounds and is becoming a national trend.  Proponents can no longer be ignored urges two professors from Miami University in Ohio.  Their commentary appears in EDUCATION WEEK.  “The opt-out movement is evidence that education policymakers need to find new ways to engage with families and communities.  Perhaps instead of jumping to conclusions about who these parent activists are, or what they believe,” they conclude, “we should begin by slowing down and listening to what they have to say.  Working with the public is the only true way to create sustainable educational change.”  Be sure to click on the sidebar titled “INSIDE OPT-OUT” for a variety of opinions on the movement from parents, teachers and researchers.       The “Ed News” has chronicled how teachers, parents, administrators, politicians and occasionally students have reacted to high-stakes tests.  Here’s something completely different.  Christina Chang is a high school art teacher in Massachusetts.  She tasked her students to create some pieces of art that answer the question “How do you feel about standardized tests?”  She posted nine of the works on her MS CHANG’S ART CLASSES web page.  The collection is a poignant insight into the impact the exams are having on the victims, oops, I mean students.  Here’s one example:
Picture
By Alyssa Healey
 
Diane Ravitch expounds on her beliefs about parental choice and schools on her Diane Ravitch blog.  “The public has a civic obligation to support public education.  Even if you don’t have children, you pay taxes to educate the children of the community,” she spells out simply.  “Even if your children are grown, you pay school taxes.  Even if you send your children to private school, you pay school taxes.  Public schools are a public responsibility.  If you don’t like the public schools, you are free to choose a private school, a charter school, a religious school, or home school.  That’s your choice.  But you must pay for it yourself.”              
High School Exit Exam
The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) was put into place in 2006.  As now written it is not aligned with the Common Core.  The state legislature is considering dropping the test entirely.  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times calls for revising the assessment rather than doing away with it completely.  “ SB 172, which passed the Senate last week,” the item explains, “would eliminate the test for at least three years while an advisory panel examines whether the state should have any kind of exit exam at all, and if so, what minimum standards it should set for high school graduation and how a new test would be designed.”
Some Myths Surrounding Government Education Policies
Dr. Pasi Salhberg, prominent Finnish educator and currently a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, addresses a few myths related to government policies and the field of education.  One has to do with the fallacy that one can get more out of schools and especially teachers when you provide them with less funding.  Salhberg’s comments are on The Alberta Teachers’ Association website.  “When the going gets tough in our wealthy societies, the powers-that-be often choose quick fixes,” he maintains.  “In search of a silver bullet instead of sustained systemic improvement, politicians turn their eyes on teachers, believing that asking them to do more with less can compensate for inconvenient reductions in school resources.  With super teachers, some of them say, the quality of education will improve even with lesser budgets.”
The Teaching Profession
The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an op-ed in Thursday’s L.A. Times that decried the AltSchool’s model that place an over reliance on technology at the expense of traditional teacher roles.  Two letters appeared in Wednesday’s paper reacting to the piece.  One was from an LAUSD principal and the other from a teacher in that district.                Teacher tenure has been around for over 100 years.  It has come under attack recently in California, Vergara v. California, New York and other states.  Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, has an extended, heavily footnoted article on the aft website.  It also appears in the current Summer, 2015, edition of the union’s publication, the “American Educator.”  Kahlenberg reviews the history of tenure, explains exactly what it is and makes the case for why it’s good for both teachers and students.  [Ed. note: He quotes quite extensively from Dana Goldstein’s book Teacher Wars, which is the next selection of the ALOED book club to be formally discussed later this month.  See the following quote.]  “Amidst this sea of negative publicity for educators,” Kahlenberg notes early in his piece, “journalist Dana Goldstein wrote that ‘the ineffective tenured teacher has emerged as a feared character,’ like ‘crack babies or welfare queens’ from earlier eras.”   Diane Ravitch made this comment about the article on her blog: “Arm yourself with a thoughtful discussion of the history and politics of tenure for teachers.  This is a good place to start.”               The technique of “blended learning” has been touted as the ideal way to marry technology and the classroom.  Not every one is convinced.  Canadian Phil McRae, an executive staff officer with the Alberta Teachers’ Association and adjunct professor in the School of Education at the University of Alberta, on his Philip McRae, Ph.D. blog, tackles the myth and hype surrounding the idea and reviews some of the research regarding it.  “To what extent,” he questions early on in his piece, “is this a new model of learning in a digital age?  How are private corporations employing old rhetoric to advance new avenues into public education?  Most importantly, is blended learning becoming yet another overhyped myth on the crowded road of technology-as-education-reform panacea?”                In a similar vein, EDUCATION WEEK has a story headlined “Why Ed Tech is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach.”  It looks at some of the obstacles that arise in introducing more technology into 21st century classrooms.  “Researchers have identified numerous culprits,” it lays out, “including teachers’ beliefs about what constitutes effective instruction, their lack of technology expertise, erratic training and support from administrators, and federal, state, and local policies that offer teachers neither the time nor the incentive to explore and experiment.”               Need a close-to-home case study of the pitfalls of introducing technology into classrooms?  Look no further than the LAUSD.  ED WEEK offers a Q & A titled “A Hard Look at L.A.’s Troubled Digital Learning Initiative.”  The guest is Jessica B. Heppen principal investigator for the American Institutes for Research (AIR) which has been monitoring and evaluating the district’s poorly planned and implemented technology programs.  She responded in a phone interview to several critical issues regarding the roll-out and training of the “iPad-for-all” plan.                 YEAH!  Summer vacation is here or rapidly approaching.  Time to pack up the classroom and get ready to enjoy another 3-month summer break.  The author of this article is a special education instructional coach and new teacher mentor on Long Island.   In the same publication she offers “3 Things You Can Do this Summer To Be a Better Teacher in the Fall.”  One item of particularly special note to the ALOED Book Club is her suggestion to “Create or participate in a book club that can provide you with a balance of professional and personal genres and topics.”  Obviously, good advice!  She goes on to provide a number of other practical hints for new and veteran teachers.               Here are some more things educators can do during the summer.  These suggestions come from none other than Peter Greene who is offering his opinion in his column for EDUCATION WEEK.  He believes this is an ideal time for teachers, who are very busy during the school year, to get involved in policy issues and contact legislators about items of concern.  “Teachers can (and should) channel time and effort into contacting their elected representatives,” he urges.  “Tell them what you think about the various assaults of testing and evaluation and charter takeovers and the rest of the mess of reformsterism.  Do it on a regular basis.  If it’s hard to get everything you want to say into one email or letter, write twelve.  Call them up.  Make sure that policy makers have every opportunity to hear your voice.  Teachers can (and should) take the time to read up on issues and learn about the policy discussions going on,” Greene continues.  “I am still astonished at the number of teachers who just don’t know much about what’s happening, who know that something’s going on that is making their job harder, but they don’t know what’s being done, by whom it’s being done, or where it’s being done. The days when teachers could ignore policy and politics and stay happily cocooned in their classrooms are gone.”  [Ed. note: Peter, thanks for promoting the “Ed News.” You have identified the major reasons why I put it out.]
Poverty’s Impact on Brain Development
An intriguing essay in THE NEW YORKER looks as some recent research on the effects of poverty on infant brain development.  It raises some critical issues regarding poverty and education.  “Over the past decade, the scientific consensus has become clear: poverty perpetuates poverty, generation after generation, by acting on the brain,” it ominously notes.  “The National Scientific Council has been working directly with policymakers to support measures that break this cycle, including better prenatal and pediatric care and more accessible preschool education.”
 
Market-Based Education Reform
Many corporate “reformers,” whose expertise is in market-based concepts of economics, like to apply those free enterprise ideas to education.  “If schools were just run like businesses,” is a common mantra.  Peter Greene, this time wearing his EDUCATION WEEK columnist’s hat, takes a look at a paper from the conservative American Enterprise Institute that tried to apply the simple concepts of supply and demand to school choice and charters.  Greene, in his unique style, isn’t buying it.  “I get the rosy picture of free market fans like the AEI crew– a world where there is a robust field of varied, high-quality independent schools,” he concludes dismissively, “and parents sort through them by consulting clear, rational, fact-filled materials to make sensible decisions and select the school that will best serve their children.  I myself like to imagine a picture in which I live in a beautiful mansion surrounded by a huge lawn that never has to be mowed, am regularly invited to travel the world to play tailgate trombone, and have a full head of hair.  Also, I would like to own a unicorn farm.  I think my dream is more closely connected to reality.”
 
The High Cost of High School Senior Year
And finally, the previous edition of the “Ed News” had a story about the high cost of high school for seniors that ran in Monday’s L.A. Times under the headline in the print edition “Diploma Shock.”  It cited prom, grad night, class ring and college admission costs among many items that added up to a hefty bill.  Wednesday’s paper ran a single letter reacting to the piece.
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Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 9, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “Education is the preparation of a child intellectually, emotionally,
spiritually, and physically for life and for eternity.”
Kevin Swanson, Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child    
EduShyster Opens Up About Why She Blogs
Jennifer Berkshire is the author behind the EduShyster blog and is an excellent source of material for the “Ed News.”  On the third anniversary of her column, she decided to write about the origins of her blog so she shared a chapter on that topic from a previous book she’d written.  She titles her contribution “The Education of EduShyster (A Comedy).”  “If humor was my weapon of choice,” she writes, “it was also my way of staying sane.  Poking fun at the ridiculous claims that were made by reform advocates on an hourly basis made me feel better, and it seemed to make my readers feel better too—we were laughing through our tears.”
 
Choice, Testing & Opt-Out
Standardized tests were touted as a way to close the achievement gap between rich and poor schools.  What if they were actually contributing to the expansion of that gap?  That’s the premise of an article from ALTERNET.  “Using the data provided by standardized tests to argue that wealthier neighborhoods have ‘better’ schools,” the author maintains, “further entrenches that inequality.  Wealthier neighborhoods simply have wealthier schools.”               Walt Gardner, on his “Reality Check” blog from EDUCATION WEEK, comments on the recent law in Nevada that will provide a state voucher for almost every student and the threat that presents to public education in that state.  That story was extensively covered in Tuesday’s edition of the  “Ed News.”  “What’s important to note is that parental choice – at least in the form of vouchers or their variants – has been rejected by voters by sizable margins in 28 referendums between 1966 and 2014. It’s only in state legislatures that parental choice has become law,” he points out.  “. . . . I support parental choice.  But I’ve repeatedly warned that there will always be students whose parents are not involved enough in their education to take advantage of the opportunities open to them.  As a result, they are left to languish.  Ideally, all traditional public schools would offer a quality education, obviating the need for choice.  However, that is not the reality.”  Gardner questions the idea that taxpayer generated money should be used by parents to send their children to private or parochial schools.               By now we’ve heard from all sides of the opt-out movement but one voice that hasn’t been featured that much is that of the students.  Opt Out Orlando tells the story of one third grader whose parents decided to opt him out of Florida’s high-stakes assessments and guess what?  He survived!  He tells his local Brevard County School Board that he’s going to fourth grade because he was successful in learning what he needed to and not because of any standardized tests.  If you don’t read anything else in this edition of the “Ed News” check this one out for a fresh perspective on the issue.  The video of Sammy Addo’s remarks only runs 1:45 minutes.  [Ed. note: Sammy says John Lewis is one of his heroes.  Sammy Addo is one of mine!]
Education Technology
More and better technology has been offered as a panacea for all that ails public education today.  However, the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of expensive school district fiascoes that involved misguided or poorly planned technology projects.  [Ed. note: Looking at you, LAUSD (and others)].  The author of this piece in The Atlantic is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information.  His commentary is excerpted from a soon to be released book he wrote.  The article is titled “Why Technology Alone Won’t Fix Education.”  “What the U.S. education system needs above all isn’t more technology,” he relates, “but a deliberate allocation of high-quality adult supervision focused on those who need it most.  The specifics are daunting and complex, but inequity in educational opportunity isn’t a problem that technology can fix.  Without addressing the underlying socio-economic chasm, technology by itself doesn’t bridge the gap, it only jacks it further apart.”
 
The Goal of Education
Is “global competitiveness” what we truly want for the children of this country?  Many corporate “reformers” are quick to cite statistics showing how “poorly” American students are doing compared to ones from other nations.  But, as Mitchell Robinson asks on his eponymous blog, is that really the goal of an education?  He answers an emphatic “no” and offers a number of things we should be aiming for.   As a parent,” he concludes, “I have a message for the reformers: Stay out of public education and stop obfuscating parents and community members with distracting propaganda like ‘global competition’ and ‘college and career readiness’, which is only designed to further the false rhetoric of ‘failing schools.’  The vast majority of public schools are wonderful, and our children’s teachers are doing what can only be described as heroic work under very difficult conditions.  And let’s stop using ‘competition’ as a solution for the problems that have been caused by…’competition.'”
High School Graduation Rates
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the increasing high school graduation rate.  It went up nationwide by 2% for the class of 2013 to 81%.  California increased by 4% over the 2011 rate to 80%.  NPR dug into the statistics and offers a detailed analysis of what the numbers mean and how the states achieved them in an item titled “High School Graduation Rates: The Good, the Bad and the Ambiguous.”
The 2016 Election and Beyond
Want a peek at the state of education 13 years from now?  Diane Ravitch’s blog features a fictional item about what might happen after the 2028 presidential election.  (Spoiler alert: It reports on the newly inaugurated Pres. Duncan and his Sec. of Education Michelle Rhee.)  Before you contemplate committing suicide, remember, it’s FICTION!!!  In the tale, Rhee has just unveiled the new Pearson Corporation’s third grade standardized test.  (Just remember, its FICTION, FICTION, or is it?)  Want to throw your teaching colleagues into a major panic?  Present this at the next faculty meeting.  It is guaranteed to cause group apoplexy.                 A future as described above could be closer than you think.  Vicki Cobb, a prolific author of children’s science books, describes the impact the era of high-stakes testing is having on new teachers who have entered the profession since that period began.  Cobb’s remarks are courtesy of the Huffington Post.  “The business and government suits, who have hijacked educational policy in a top down approach,” she complains, “are not professional educators.  Their knowledge of education comes primarily from what they themselves survived (endured?).  Most do not know what good education looks like.  Their idea of a well-ordered classroom is rows of desks with students quietly bent over a test.”  Cobb suggests we get back to the idea of the “artist-teacher” and we need to do it fast! 
 
Senior Year in High School Sticker Shock
Remember your senior year of high school?  Coming to the end of your K-12 education, planning for the future, prom, graduation.  Big milestone in your life.  Do you have any recollection of how much it all cost?  An interesting item in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes all the events and activities for seniors in high school today and provides a run down on the money spent on things like college applications and visits, prom, college admission test prep and fees, graduation, senior portraits, grad night, class ring, yearbook and more.  Online the article is headlined “Ending Senior Year With a Bang Isn’t Cheap at Many L.A.-Area High Schools.” 
Unequal School Funding
Many people like to identify the civil rights issue of our time in education.  Whether it’s Common Core or testing or well trained teachers they claim it’s the one problem that needs to be addressed above all others.  The reporter of this story in The Washington Post features two new studies that indicate that the unequal funding of our public schools is the real issue that needs to be dealt with.  The first report (55 pages) is from the Education Law Center and is titled “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” and the second (36 pages) is from the same group but is co-written with the Leadership Conference Education Fund.”  It’s titled “Cheating Our Future: How Decades of Disinvestment by States Jeopardizes Equal Educational Opportunity.” The article provides links to both studies as well as including them at the end of the story.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline
If you are not aware of the term “school-to-prison pipeline,” Steven Singer turns his gadflyonthewallblog over to a discussion of the topic.  The “Ed News” has publicized the attempt by many corporate “reformers” to privatize public education because there are huge PROFITS to be made.  Prisons are in much the same boat.  Private prison management companies would love to take over the public prison system because there are huge PROFITS to be made.  What is the connection between schools and prisons?  Singer lays it all out for you.  “Look at the so-called education reforms of the last decade: increasing standardization, efforts to close schools serving poor and minority children, cutting school budgets and narrowing the curriculum,” he points out.  “All of these serve to push kids out of school and into the streets where they are more likely to engage in criminal activity and enter the criminal justice system.”  Singer even notes a common denominator between schools and prisons: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Don’t believe it?  Read the story.
California Drought and the Schools
California is in the throes of a severe drought.  Even the climate change deniers can’t argue with that fact.  Most Golden Staters are aware of the need to cut back on the use of water in their homes, businesses and farms.  How is the drought impacting  schools and districts up and down the state?  EDUCATION WEEK takes a look.  The Central Valley is particularly hard hit as wells run dry, “dust days” are declared and enrollments decline as farmworker parents are unable to find work. 
The Teaching Profession
Is the traditional role of the teacher going by the wayside in this digital age?  A high school English teacher in California profiles a new series of private K-8 schools called “AltSchool” that is tailoring teaching and learning to the new technological reality.  Campuses are currently located in San Francisco and will soon be expanding to Brooklyn, N.Y. and Palo Alto.  Each student has a tablet or laptop and they spend up to 30% of class time on them completing assignments called “playlists.”  An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  It should be noted that the author of the piece is quite skeptical about these changes to his profession.  “As a high school teacher, I’ve followed these developments with trepidation.” he worries.  “Whether or not AltSchool meets lofty expectations, it epitomizes the increasingly popular belief that human instructors must cede to computers as the font of knowledge.  That’s a profound shift that educators have barely begun to contemplate.”               Are today’s schools of education preparing their students to be 21st century educators or 20th century ones?  Peter DeWitt is a former public elementary school principal and current writer and presenter.  His commentary appears in EDUCATION WEEK.  “The field has changed faster than the university system,” he suggests.  “Many universities, like schools, prepare students for a time that has already passed, and not for a time that is present or in the future.”                The superintendent of the Clark County School District (Georgia) who is the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year offered his teachers a free day off if they had perfect attendance.  At the end of last month he paid off his promise and writes about how hard it was teaching a 7th grade middle school life science class.  The experience gave him a new appreciation of the difficult task of his and all teachers as he details in an opinion piece in the ATHENS BANNER-HERALD.  “I made it through the day, exhausted, and having developed an even deeper understanding and appreciation for our teachers,” he writes.  “I tried to make my teaching interesting, interactive and relevant, but I could see that there was something that only the regular classroom teacher could offer: the foundation of strong relationships.”  [Ed. note: He’s the kind of superintendent I wish I could have worked for.]            Want to try out a new online game called “180 Days: The Challenge” that attempts to portray what it’s like to be teacher or principal?  You might also want to pass it along to a skeptical friend or neighbor and let them walk in your shoes for a change.  It’s part of a PBS series that aired a second season in which a camera crew followed life in a school district for an entire year.  The game is described in a brief piece in EDUCATION WEEK.  You’ll find a link, the “Try it Out” phrase, at the end of the piece if you are “game.”               A new national poll of 700 teachers nationwide found that a majority of them found that poverty was a major deterrent to student learning.  The survey, conducted by Communities in Schools and Public Opinion Strategies, is highlighted in a story in ED WEEK that includes a link to the full pollIt recorded online responses May 8-12.
Charter Schools
And finally, Sandy Banks, in her column in today’s L.A. Times, revisits an LAUSD elementary charter in downtown that she first wrote about 3 years ago when it was only in the planning stages.  Metro Charter will be winding up its second year in operation at the end of this school year.  It is currently a K-3 campus with plans to add fourth grade.  Enrollment is projected to go from 75 students when the school opened to over 200 in the fall.  “The halls are lined with essays and art projects.  First-graders conduct debates and poetry readings to practice logic and public speaking,” Banks marvels.  “Kindergartners study the abstract art of Kandinsky to prepare for geometry.  Third-graders ride public buses to Chinatown and Olvera Street, then write essays comparing and contrasting the two cultures.”  Banks’ piece includes a link to the original column she penned about Metro.               What happens when a for-profit charter company doesn’t earn a profit?  Why, it just up and closes the only high school in the district and leaves the students high and dry to scramble for spots in neighboring districts.  Couldn’t happen!  It isn’t true, you say.  Read the case of the Highland Park School District in Michigan and see for yourself.  The details are provided by a rather shocking story from the World Socialist Web Site.  The for-profit Education Management Organization (EMO), Leona Group LLC, which holds the Highland Park Schools contract,” the piece notes, “said it was no longer ‘feasible’ to operate a high school.  The abrupt closure follows a pattern among for-profit charter operators who experience higher expenses with the upper grades.”  [Ed. note: Would a public school district do this and force students to attend a nearby district?]

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Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Friday, June 5, 2015

The ED NEWS

“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”
Diogenes of Sinope

Teacher Prep Program Ratings Questioned
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) was set up by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2000 to promote alternate forms of teacher certification.  Amid a hail of criticism they developed and began publishing in USA TODAY in 2004 a controversial set of ratings of teacher prep programs.  The organization agreed to have their system independently verified by a partnership between the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University who found very little correlation between NCTQ’s rankings and overall teacher effectiveness.  Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 reviews the independent study and includes a link to the full report (10 pages) titled “Measuring Up: The National Council on Teacher Quality’s Ratings of Teacher Preparation Programs and Measures of Teacher Performance.”
Teacher Evaluations
A veteran 30-year music teacher in Michigan looks at the issue of teacher evaluations in a commentary in EDUCATION WEEK.  She presents 6  questions about the purpose and structure of teacher evaluations that you might find of interest.  “I’m not saying that we can’t do a better job of providing teachers with feedback to continuously fine-tune their practice,” she states.  “Nor am I denying that some teachers need to improve or be counseled, swiftly, out of a job.  Only this: we might be granting shiny new teacher evaluation protocols a lot more power and veracity than they deserve.”
Education By the Numbers
U.S. News is highlighting a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics that has some interesting statistics about education in the U.S.  Here’s one item to whet your appetite: “1 in 5: Proportion of school-age kids living in poverty in 2013, compared with 1 in 7 in 2000.”
Common Core, Opt-Out & Testing
California is one of 18 states that uses the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) exams that are aligned to the Common Core.  Wait, make that 17 states.  Missouri just voted to discontinue the SBAC for the 2015-16 school year according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Missouri has had an increasingly complicated relationship with the Smarter Balanced test,” it indicates, “which the state administered this spring.  Earlier this year, a state judge upheld anti-common-core activists’ claim that Smarter Balanced was an ‘unlawful interstate compact.’  However, at the time the department said that the ruling wouldn’t ultimately stop the state from administering the test this spring.”                emPOWER magazine has a piece titled “5 Myths About Standardized Testing and the Opt-Out Movement” written by a member of the United Opt Out National group.  “No amount of wishful thinking or rational conversations is going to stop the testing industrial complex.  All of the major players who have millions if not billions invested in standardized testing are not going to pack up and go home because we ask them to,” the author concludes.  “In fact they will do whatever they can to ensure that the testing stays in place; even if it means closing schools, bullying parents, students, and teachers who opt out, and locking up teachers who try and cheat the testing industrial complex.  Now we must do what we can to save public education.  We must expose the myths and lies for what they are and educate the public to the truth.”               The 3 authors of this commentary on THE HILL website take exception to the stance of some civil rights organizations that high-stakes testing is a civil right for poor students and for students of color.  “We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty,” they suggest, “and while NCLB did take us a step forward by requiring schools to produce evidence that students were learning, it took us several steps backward when that evidence was reduced to how well a student performed on a standardized test.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is gratified that education is becoming a key issue in the upcoming election.  However, he thinks focusing on the Common Core is the wrong target“To thrust support for Common Core – or opposition to it, for that matter – into the center of the education debate,” he concludes, “is an enormous distraction from what really matters.” 
 
Charter Schools
Here’s the “charter school scandal-of-the-day:”  Two school board members and the superintendent were convicted Tuesday of bribery and conspiracy charges in conjunction with their work for the Aspire! Academy, a charter campus in Dayton, Ohio, according to an article in the Dayton Daily News.  “Arise, which was housed at the former St. Elizabeth Hospital campus,” it explains, “was started in 2004 to serve hundreds of drop-out and at-risk high school students but the school was plagued with financial problems.  A state audit of the 2006-07 academic year raised concerns over poor accounting and record keeping and a failure to file state reports on time.”  The school was closed in June, 2010, due to financial irregularities and poor academic results.               More negative news for Ohio charters.  “No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.  A Beacon Journal review of 4,263 audits released last year by State Auditor Dave Yost’s office indicates charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.”  That’s how an expose in the Akron Beacon Journal commences.  A big part of the problem is a lack of resources to oversee charter spending.  How has Ohio dealt with that problem?  They’ve turned over the auditing of taxpayer money to private accounting companies.   Why should that be a cause for concern?  “Last year, these private firms found misspending in one of the 200 audits of charter schools they conducted,” the piece continues, “or half of 1 percent, while the state’s own police force of auditors found misspending in one of six audits, or 17 percent of the time.”  So now it seems to be easier to get away with fraud and malfeasance.  How convenient!
Graduation Rates Continue to Climb
On-time graduation rates nationwide continued to creep up and recorded an all time high for the class of 2013.  They completed their high school educations in 4 years at an 81% rate.  That’s a 2 point increase from the class of 2011.  Unfortunately, not all groups showed similar progress.  EDUCATION WEEK provides the latest data.  Iowa recorded the highest results at 90% while students in the District of Columbia brought up the rear at 62%.  California?  80%, up from 76% 2 years earlier.  The article includes several sidebars with links to a map with state-by-state data, different student subgroup results, and a discussion of the national graduation gap.
2016 Election
Since Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News,” two more candidates have joined the race for president in 2016.  Former Rhode Island senator and Gov. Lincoln Chafee became the fourth Democratic contender on Wednesday.  EDUCATION WEEK continues to profile the candidates’ education policies as they enter the race.  Chafee was a Republican early in his career and then became an independent and is now a Democrat.                2012 presidential contender and ex-governor of Texas, Rick Perry, joined the very crowded and likely to get even more so, Republican field yesterday.              Karen Wolfe is a parent activist in Venice, California and a member of the Badass Teachers Association.  With a national election only 18 months away she is leery of a group of Democrats who she thinks may be sheep in wolf’s clothing whom she refers to as possible “education assassins.”  Who might she be thinking of?  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately come to her mind.
The Teaching Profession
Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending along this item from Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  She provides a transcript of the speech delivered by Richard Rothstein to the graduates of the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in New York on May 14.  He is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and a senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law.  Several years ago a group of ALOED members heard him take part in a panel discussion as part of the taping of the Larry Mantle “Airtalk” show on NPR station KPCC. Rothstein spoke to the graduates about some of the ethical challenges facing teachers today as if their jobs were not tough enough already.  “Ethical lives are comprised of compromises, of considering where to take stands and where not to make waves.  Throughout the careers on which you are about to embark,” he imparts to the graduates, “you will frequently have to decide when to resist, in both tiny and big ways, when to compromise, in both tiny and big ways, and when to capitulate, in both tiny and big ways.  You will often have to decide whether you can do more good by going along, or more good by taking a risk, perhaps just a small one, sometimes a large one, with your security and career.”               Raise your hand if you remember the old “K-W-L Chart” for teaching kids how to think and learn.  If you don’t recall it, don’t feel bad.  It was first introduced as a powerful, yet simple, technique almost 30 years ago.  Valerie Strauss turns her blog in The Washington Post over to Alfie Kohn who makes the case of why it’s still useful today.  He discusses how it can be properly used and how, unfortunately, it is misused.
The End of Public Education in Nevada?
Could a new law in Nevada spell the end of public education in that state?  The legislation, signed into law by the governor on Tuesday, would grant an education voucher to just about every student in Nevada.  EDUCATION WEEK has the disturbing details about why it is such a threat.  “Because the level of school choice this law will permit in Nevada is unprecedented: All parents of public school students will be allowed to use state funding earmarked for their child toward tuition or other expenses related to a nonpublic education,”  it explains.  “That includes religious private schools and even home schooling.  By comparison, in the handful of other states that offer similar-styled programs, they’re reserved for certain small populations—mostly students with disabilities.  Those states also have caps on how many students can participate, while Nevada does not.”               Peter Greene was quick to react to this development on his CURMUDGUCATION blog with a piece titled “Nevada Abandons Public Education.”  “Nevada was already well-positioned for the Race to the Bottom prize, consistently ranking among the bottom ten states for education funding,” he complains.  “With this bold step, they have insured that even that little bit of money will be spent in the most inefficient, wasteful manner possible.  Not only will they be duplicating services (can you run two households with the same money it takes to run one?), but by draining funds away from public schools, they can guarantee that those public schools will struggle with fewer resources than ever.”                Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, is also worried about the future of public education and not just in Nevada.  He describes a multi-pronged attack on the foundations of public schools and teachers.  “Public schools are in the midst of a war of attrition over their control – and even the very institution of public education is in danger,” he relates.  “There is a sort of pincer assault under way, with billionaires on the far right pushing for complete de-regulation, and others, like the Gates Foundation, pursuing top-down systemic control of every public school in the nation.”
Cafeteria Worker Fired for Giving Poor Kids Food!
And finally, you need to read this brief item to believe it.  The cafeteria manager at an elementary school in Colorado was fired last Friday after she gave away free lunches to students who couldn’t afford them.  Nation of Change has the disgusting details.  What have we come to in this country?

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Dave Alpert

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