Ed News, Friday, April 24, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “There is, on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school. To begin with, it is a prison. But in some respects more cruel than a prison. In a prison, for instance, you are not forced to read books written by the warders and the governor. . . .In the prison you are not forced to sit listening to turnkeys discoursing without charm or interest on subjects that they don’t understand and don’t care about, and therefore incapable of making you understand or care about. In a prison they may torture your body; but they do not torture your brains.”
George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance
LAUSD Board Approves Union Agreement
  The LAUSD board on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the tentative 3-year agreement negotiators reached late on Friday with UTLA.  The next step is for union members to ratify it.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reviews some of the key provisions of the pact.  “The agreement would fund smaller classes and more counselors,” the paper reports, “and soothe several months of labor tensions — including talk of a strike in the nation’s second-largest school system.”
 
Testing
If you think there’s too much testing wait until you read this one.  Darcie Cimarusti, who writes the MOTHER CRUSADER blog, is a New Jersey parent who did some (very) simple digging on the Pearson website and discovered they are field testing a PARCC assessment for SECOND GRADERS in several districts in her state!  Why might they be doing that?  It doesn’t take a second grader to figure out the more tests and related materials you can develop the more MONEY you can make.  Can anyone think of a good, sound educational reason why second graders need to be formally assessed?  “ The state of NJ is potentially allowing Pearson,” she complains, “a multi national, multi billion dollar company, to have a monopoly, not only on testing our children in grades K-11 but also in preparing them for the tests and offering remediation products based on test results.”               Heidi Hayes Jacobs, on the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) website, lists some of the more obscure vocabulary on the 6th grade ELA exam in New York and wonders how 11 and 12 year olds might fare when confronted with them.  How would we do?  “What were these test makers thinking?” she laments. 
Reauthorization of NCLB
Where would the public education world be without the tireless work of Mercedes Schneider?  She wrote 6 different columns (all highlighted in the “Ed News”) taking a line-by-line look at the Alexander-Murray bipartisan compromise of the NCLB rewrite.  Now, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, she delves into the 29 amendments offered to the bill.  Part 1 covered the first 10 amendments and can be found by clicking here.  She is reviewing them alphabetically by title name, in case you were wondering.  Part 2 examines the next 10 and she promises one more to complete the process.  All the “Ed News” can say in awe of her effort is “You go, girl!” 
 
LAUSD Budget Cuts
In her Tuesday column in the L.A. Times, Sandy Banks is upset that even with an improving economy and the prospects of more money coming to the district the LAUSD has proposed cutting 4,000 preschool positions at 138 elementary schools.  When the Great Recession was in full sway several years ago the board made some big reductions in the adult education program.  Now they are turning to the littlest students to help make up for a proposed shortfall.  “In a district with a $7.3-billion budget and high-schoolers who can’t read, that seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to me,” Banks argues.  “Educators, economists, social scientists and even politicians agree that a quality early learning program is the best way to prepare low-income children to succeed.  It’s particularly important in a district like Los Angeles, where one in three students begins school speaking little or no English.”  The school board will ultimately decided the fate of the program when it approves the budget for the 2015-16 school year.  That could come as late as June.               3 letters were published in today’s Times in response to Sandy Banks’ column Tuesday (see above) regarding the LAUSD possibly cutting preschool programs next year. 
 
Race and Student Misbehavior
Does a student’s race have any affect on how a teacher deals with his/her misbehavior?  That’s the interesting issue addressed by two new studies from Stanford University featured in EDUCATION WEEK.  244 K-12 teachers were presented with the disciplinary records of fictional students that were labelled with either stereotypically black or white names.  How they proposed to deal with the students was recorded in the studies.  “Taken together, the authors [of the reports] say, the studies’ results suggest that teachers tend to respond to patterns of misbehavior rather than students’ individual actions. According to the researchers,” the article points out, “that matches up with the real-world data. They found that racial disparities in school suspensions were even larger when looking specifically at students who had been suspended more than once.”
 
Opt-Out
Arne Duncan and the Federal Dept. of Education must be getting worried,  In an interview in Chalkbeat NEW YORK, the secretary mentioned that if the opt-out movement continues to expand the federal government may be forced to intervene.  “Estimates suggesting that more than 15 percent of students refused to take the tests [in New York] have raised questions about the consequences for districts,” the item explains.  “Federal law requires all students in grades three to eight to take annual tests, and officials have said districts could face sanctions if fewer than 95 percent of students participate.  On Tuesday, when asked whether states with many test boycotters would face consequences, Duncan said he expected states to make sure districts get enough students to take the tests.”               A story in THE BUFFALO NEWS queries 3 parents who are leaders in their local opt-out movement to find out what the whole thing is about.  “I wanted a better idea of the motives behind the movement.  These parents didn’t strike me as irrational, uninformed or overprotective,” the reporter relates.  “Quite the contrary.  They have a huge – and, it seems to me, justifiable – problem with their kids being force-fed these now-annual exams of questionable content.  The results are being more heavily tied by the governor into grading teachers and schools.  At worst, it feeds a teach-to-the-test culture that undercuts learning, handcuffs teachers and disregards the strengths and interests of each kid.”               News of the spreading opt-out movement is making it into some interesting sources.  The Socialist Worker has a commentary that asks “Who Will Test the Testers?”  It’s written by a New York city school parent.  He questions the validity of the tests and their grade-level appropriateness and wonders how the results can be used to evaluate teachers or fairly rank schools and districts.  These kinds of problems and distrust of the corporate “reform” agenda are what is fueling the opt-out phenomenon.   “The growing opt-out movement has the potential to undermine the whole anti-public school agenda misleadingly known as education ‘reform’,” the author points out, “a project that aims to replace the public education system–which, for all its inequities, is still based on concepts of democracy and community–with a business model in which schools compete to produce the highest test scores. . . . .Meanwhile, the tests themselves–created by corporations like Pearson and held up as scientifically absolute measurements of student performance and teacher competence–have turned out to be riddled with shoddy questions,” he continues, “and grade-inappropriate material–from the infamous pineapple question of 2012 to this year’s ELA exam, which expects sixth-grade students to know the meaning of “paroxysm.”               The opt-out situation in New York took a new turn this week.  As the numbers of students refusing to take the tests rose, portions of the state’s ELA exam, administered last week, appeared on a Facebook group’s page Wednesday morning, but quickly disappeared 24 hours later.  The math portion of the test commenced Wednesday.  EDUCATION WEEK describes the latest details.  “Unless you’ve been hiking in Antarctica, or cut off from the news in some other way,” it begins, “you know that New York has become something of a hub for the testing opt-out movement. Until now, the central strategy has consisted of voting with one’s feet: simply refusing to take the test. But today [Thursday] we learn of a new strategy: undermining the test by breaching its security.”               Not one junior at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle showed up to take the SBAC standardized test this week according to a brief item from KING5 television, the ABC affiliate in Seattle.
 
Vaccinations
An editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times urged the legislature to pass a pending bill (SB 277) that would require vaccinations for almost all California public school students.  The proposed law had been withdrawn under pressure from anti-vaccine parents.  “Anti-vaccine parents are well-meaning and their fears are heartfelt,” the piece concludes, “but their concerns aren’t rooted in valid science. That’s where the Legislature’s job comes in: It must pass laws for the common good, based on facts.”               Two letters published in Wednesday’s Times supported the paper’s editorial on vaccinations (see above).               A revised bill that would remove most exemptions for vaccinations of California students passed the State Senate Education Committee on a 7-2 vote on Wednesday.  The latest details appear in an article in the L.A. Times.  “More than 13,500 California kindergarten students have waivers due to their parents’ personal beliefs,” it notes, “including 2,764  based on religious beliefs, state health statistics show.”                George Skelton, in his Thursday column for the Times, strongly supports the vaccination bill making its way through the California legislature.   His basic argument: “ parents who won’t permit vaccinations because of a personal belief, well, you’re free to practice that belief any way you’d like — as long as it doesn’t threaten other people’s kids.”
      
The Teaching Profession
Fewer high school students are contemplating a career in teaching according to a report released Tuesday from ACT Inc., the folks that offer 57% of high school students their college entrance exam.  The information comes from an annual survey of students taking their test.  “In 2010, seven percent of test-takers expressed interest in education majors. In 2014, that number dropped to five percent.”  EDUCATION WEEK features the results of the report.  It lists 4 key findings and 3 recommendations for increasing student interest in the teaching field and includes a link to the full survey(18 pages) titled “The Condition of Future Educators 2014.”               Several times in the past the “Ed News” has highlighted articles about “teacher-led” or “teacher-powered” schools.  The author of this item from EDUCATION WEEK is a National Board-certified teacher with 25 years of teaching experience who helped found a teacher-powered school in Denver.  “These schools put decisionmaking in the hands of those who know students best: teachers.  And when teachers are able to make important management and learning decisions,” she explains, “while being held accountable for student results, they embrace the opportunity to take responsibility for student learning.  Teachers in teacher-led schools take on higher levels of accountability because they are collectively responsible for student outcomes.”  She goes on to provide 7 steps for creating a teacher-led school and points out there are already more than 70 of them in existence in the U.S.
Atlanta Cheating Scandal
The Atlanta standardized test cheating scandal is fading into history, but the ripples from that event are still having a strong impact.  The author of this op-ed from The Progressive suggests the educators who were caught up in the cheating were given overly harsh sentences as the judge was under the mistaken belief that teachers can and should be able to rectify the scourge of poverty among their students.  “What was clear to me as I listened to the judge, the defense attorneys, and one of the defendants who spoke eloquently,” he carefully explained, “is that the truth is more complicated than the facts that are supposedly exposed in a trial. . . . Our test-and-punish education philosophy says that it’s the teacher’s fault when scores in very poor schools are low,” he continues.  “Others have pointed out that there is something about concentrated poverty that undermines the situation for children and teachers alike.”  The author goes on to quote several experts who make the connection between poverty and low academic outcomes.                Jon Stewart, on his “Daily Show” from Comedy Central, has an eye opening segment (7:23 minutes) comparing the Atlanta test cheating scandal and the 2008 Wall St. meltdown.  He juxtaposes the crimes committed and the punishments meted out and comes to a shocking conclusion.  You can view the item on YouTube.  It is well worth your time.  Stewart, who is stepping down from his hosting position on the show in August, will be dearly missed.               Valerie Strauss recommended the Jon Stewart segment in her column in The Washington Post.  She includes the video in her piece and adds some commentary about it to prepare you for what you’re going to see.  [Ed. note: Just like a good teacher.]  “This is one of those videos that make you want to laugh and cry at the same time,” she begins.  “If you didn’t watch it, take a few minutes, and if you did see it, watch it again and see what you missed amid the layers of deep analysis for which ‘The Daily Show’ is known.”
 
Education Reform, California Style
Searching for a possible alternative to the highly questionable corporate “reform” agenda?  Jeff Bryant, at the Education Opportunity NETWORK, suggests looking no farther than what’s taking place in CALIFORNIA!  “It would seem that at a time, such as now, when the nation’s education policy is in such disarray, and incoherence rules the day, it would be good to pivot to alternatives that might provide a more positive path forward,” he proposes.  Indeed, such an alternative approach is at hand.  California – the state with by far the most K-12 students, one in eight – has started to take education policy in a different direction.”  Bryant goes on detail the Golden State’s “outlier” approach to testing, school funding, accountability and teacher evaluations and, he concludes, “as the rest of the nation plunges further into the conflict over NCLB-era accountability, California is showing us an alternative is available – if we want one.”
 
Common Core
One Florida high school principal, Jayne Ellspermann, recounts her very positive experiences with the Common Core and the recently concluded ELA assessments.  She reports that not one single student at her school opted-out and both students and parents seem pleased with the Common Core Standards so far.  Her comments are part of an ongoing exchange with New York principal Carol Burris, who is an outspoken critic of the Standards and the tests, in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  This latest response is titled “Parents Become Supporters of Common Core When They See It In Action.”  It includes a link to the 6 previous back-and-forth letters between Ellspermann and Burris.  “Our state has been deep in discussion regarding the new assessments,” Ellspermann explains.  “In response to concerns about test validity, state leaders have agreed to a full review of the assessments before the results are used for teacher evaluations or school grades. New limits to ensure that we do not spend more than 5% of our instructional time on state testing have been established and the use of test results in educator evaluations has been reduced from 50% to 33%.”
Freemon to Be Sworn In Monday, 
And finally, ALOED’s own Jennifer Freemon will embark on an new chapter in her life when she’s officially sworn in as the newest member of the Glendale Unified School District board on Monday.  In an exclusive email exchange with the editor of the “Ed News” she reported to feeling both “excited and a bit terrified” of what she’s gotten herself into but plans to “take off running” in her new job.  She is most gratified by her success this time around which she attributes to the hard work everyone put into her campaign.  She came in a very strong second place among 5 candidates for the two available seats on the GUSD board.  That nearly doubled the third-place finisher and was only a scant 200 votes (out of a total of 35,399 cast, based on final, official returns) behind an incumbent who finished in first place.  With her wide ranging experiences as an Oxy student, wife, teacher, coach, mother of three, PTA representative and, of course, an ALOED member, the Glendale community is fortunate to have Jennifer serving as a strong voice for education policy and she will certainly provide wise leadership.  ALOED and the “Ed News” are most proud of Jennifer’s achievement.  Congratulations to her and Io Triumphe!
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Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)
That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”

 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, April, 21, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along 

without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions.”
―  Karl Marx
Tentative Contract Agreement Reached in LAUSD
After going 8 years without a pay increase, things will be changing for teachers in the LAUSD.  A tentative contract settlement was announced late Friday night that includes a 10% increase over two years, class size issues and clarifications over teacher evaluations.  The agreement came after UTLA had declared an impasse in the negotiations and a state mediator had stepped in.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times has some of the details with more information to follow.  “The deal could end more than a year of strained relations and organized agitation by United Teachers Los Angeles, whose members have not received a raise for eight years,” it mentions.  “The pact must be ratified, however, by both the union membership and the Board of Education.  The apparent breakthrough, after a long mediation session on Friday, will halt, at least for now, talk of a possible strike.”               The UTLA website has some more details about the tentative agreement with links to the full text (26 pages)  and/or a Summary of it (5 pages).
 
New Burbank Superintendent 
The Burbank Unified School District board selected a new superintendent at a lengthy and contentious meeting Thursday night.  The vote was 4-0 and the new head, Matt Hill, is a former LAUSD administrator.  The Friday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the story but Saturday’s L.A. Times provided some additional details and context.    “Hill has never been a teacher,” it points out, “nor headed a school system, but for six years he was a central figure in the nation’s second-largest district, which made academic gains over that time. As a senior aide to former Supt. John Deasy, Hill was closely associated with the district’s now-abandoned $1.3 billion iPads-for-all program and the flawed rollout of a new online student records system. Deasy resigned under pressure last fall.”               A group of parents and teachers, backed by the Burbank Teachers Association, vigorously protested the nomination of Hill for superintendent.  The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog contains a video (12:31 minutes) showing some of the comments they made to the board in opposition to Hill.
 
Testing
The Suffolk (NY) Times, which happens to be Diane Ravitch’s local weekly paper, has a guest commentary titled “State Testing Will Hurt Public Education.”  The author is a former local “educator of the year.”  “As a seasoned educator, I strongly believe that well-designed tests are a valuable educational tool,” he begins.  “When used properly, tests provide timely feedback about student progress.  Rather than adding to the diagnostic value of tests, however, the NYS Common Core assessments are used solely to rank students, evaluate teachers and label schools as ‘failing,’ slating them for takeover by privately run charters.”  He concludes by stating his own children will be opting-out.               For a slightly more nuanced discussion of the testing issue, the McClatchyDC website has an interesting article titled “How Much Student Testing is Too Much?”  “What’s new this year is that for the first time most states are using new computer-based tests that require more critical thinking,” the author writes.  “What’s not are the complaints.  Some parents worry that schools base their lesson plans on what the tests focus on.  Poor test-takers are at a disadvantage. Critics say too much money is spent on testing.  The consequences of failure can mean closed schools, lost jobs and an impact on student progress.”               Carol Burris, award-winning principal of South Side High School in New York, demonstrates why there’s so much criticism of the new standardized ELA tests.  Her comments appear on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  Burris offers specific examples of reading samples and questions from the grades 3-6th and 8th grade exams.  “With these exams, the testing industry is enriching itself at the expense of taxpayers, all supported by politicians who self-righteously claim that being subjected to these Common Core tests is a ‘civil right.’  Nonsense.  It is clear,”  she concludes, defiantly, “that none of this will stop unless the American public puts an end to this.  I have only two words left to say—opt out.”              How important is the testing business to those companies that have a stake in it?  When one is talking about millions of dollars, the answer is “VERY IMPORTANT!”  A major battle in California offers ample evidence.  The Golden state just awarded a tentative 3-three contract to provide testing materials and support to ETS (Educational Testing Service) over its rival, Pearson.  EDUCATION WEEK has all the juicy, blow-by-blow details about this fight between education titans.  “The California dispute,” it relates, “is just the latest example of the legal and procedural scrapes playing out as state testing goes through a period of enormous change, shaped by such factors as the shift from print-based to online testing and the adoption of new assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards.”        With the standardized testing season in full swing, THE HECHINGER REPORT asks a simple, but significant question: “Are The Common Core Tests Turning Out to Be a Big Success or a Resounding Failure?”  The answer, as usual, is not an easy “yes” or “no” and it’s still too early to provide a definitive response. 
 
Education Reform
If you have about 82 minutes to spare, you should view this video, from YouTube, of a discussion on education reform held at Fairfield University in Connecticut.  It’s titled “Add Tests and Stir: Education Reform in the 21st Century.”  Diane Ravitch called this one “A must watch. . . . [as] some of our heroes explain reform.”                EDUCATION WEEK pints an interesting commentary about improving the teaching profession.  It’s written by an assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts who thinks a national approach is the best tactic.  “If we want a teacher-centered reform that might actually succeed,” he suggests, “we need to begin by ending the misguided attack on those in classrooms. And then we need to get down to work on a much more challenging and essential set of tasks—overhauling the profession so that all teachers can realize their full potential.”  The author offers a number of concrete proposals for improving the profession.
 
Opt-Out
TIME magazine has an item on its website about the growing opt-out movement titled “Thousands of Kids Opt-Out of Standardized Common Core Tests Across U.S.” It focuses on what’s been taking place in New York but does include this quote about California: “In California, home to the nation’s largest public school system and Democratic political leaders who strongly endorse Common Core standards, there have been no reports of widespread protests to the exams — perhaps because state officials have decided not to hold schools accountable for the first year’s results.”  The piece includes a short video (1:53 minutes) about the movement.               Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a commentary from the Albany-Times Union [Ed. note: The original is, unfortunately, behind a paywall.] that urges politicians and so-called corporate “reformers” to wake up to the fact that the opt-out movement is growing in strength and can no longer be ignored.  “That’s not just an opt-out movement anymore,” the author maintains.  “It’s civil disobedience, and a step away from a growing stampede.  That should make elected officials squirm, and they deserve it.”  He, too, makes reference to the large numbers of students refusing to take the tests in New York but also cites similar actions across the country.               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, highlights a report from a group called The New York State Allies for Public Education that found that over 175,000 students (and still climbing) or about 14% opted-out of the English/Language Arts tests in that state last week.  The previous year the figure was less than 5%.  Exams in math are scheduled for this week in the Empire State.  “The opt-out movement has been growing around the country.” Strauss writes, “as fatigue with high-stakes standardized tests and their impact on public education escalates.  Many parents, teachers, principals and even superintendents are expressing concern about the quality and validity of the assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards or similar standards, and the use of the scores to evaluate educators through assessment methods that experts have warned against using for such purposes.”               CNN joins the parade of media sources to report on the burgeoning opt-out movement.  The network’s correspondent also happens to be a parent and one of her daughters is taking the tests for the first time this year so it has a little more of a personal point-of-view.  The article cites the same report from the New York State Allies for Public Education (above) although it has a slightly earlier version and it discusses how the movement is spreading to other states.                The DEMOCRACYNOW! television program has a segment on the opt-out movement.  It includes a discussion with a New York superintendent and a parent who both comment on testing and opting-out.  You can watch the video (20:22 minutes) and/or read the transcript by clicking here.  This item is titled “Tens of Thousands of New York Parents Revolt Against Standardized Tests.”               An article from The New York Times left the distinct impression that the opt-out movement is being led by the teachers’ unions.  It’s titled “Teachers’ Unions Fight Standardized Testing, and Find Diverse Allies.”  “After several years in which teachers’ unions have been hammered on the issue of tenure, have lost collective bargaining rights in some states and have seen their evaluations increasingly tied to student scores,” it claims, “they have begun, with some success, to reassert themselves using a bread-and-butter issue: the annual tests given to elementary and middle school students in every state.”   Peggy Robertson, founder of United Opt-Out, quickly responded to the implications in the NYT article (above) in a post on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Opt out is led by parents, teachers, students and citizens,” Robertson explains in opening. “When United Opt Out National began over four years ago we were simply a facebook page with a file for each state.  Within hours our FB group page was flooded with opt out requests and now we have opt out leaders all over the country and grassroots opt out groups popping up everywhere.”                Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, was also incensed by the Times piece about the opt-out movement.  Ravitch explains how she provided names of parent leaders of various opt-out groups to the reporters of the Times’ article, apparently to little effect.  “The Times manages to ignore parents’ genuine concerns about the overuse and misuse of testing,” she maintains.  “Not a word about the seven to ten hours of testing for children in grades 3-8.  Not a word about the lack of transparency on the part of Pearson.  Not a word about data mining or monitoring of children’s social media accounts.  To the Times, it is all politics, and the views of parents don’t matter.  The great mystery, unexplored in this article, is why the parents of 150,000 to 200,000 children refused the tests.  Are the unions so powerful as to direct the actions of all those parents?  Ridiculous.  How could they get it so wrong?”
 
Letters to the Editor
An L.A. Times story last week (highlighted in the “Ed News”) featured a poll with voter attitudes towards teacher tenure.  Well over half of the respondents were against it or wanted the length of time extended for its achievement.  The piece drew four letters that appeared in Saturday’s paper.  In addition, the “Numbers and Letters” feature in the same paper noted that “649 letters to the editor were received between last Friday and this Friday.  103 were written abut the drought, the week’s most-discussed topic.  51 readers discussed The Times’ poll on teacher tenure, the runner-up topic of the week.               A letter published in today’s L.A. Times actually reacted to one of the letters referenced in the item above.   The author of this one believes that tenure protects lazy teachers.              A story last week in The New York Times had a rather negative take on the methods and policies of the Success Academy schools in that city.  The paper invited current and former parents to share their stories about their experiences with the charter chain and published a sampling of 7 of them.  This piece includes a link to the original article if you missed it in a previous “Ed News.”               3 letters appeared in today’s L.A. Times commenting on a story the paper ran last week about proposed legislation in California that would limit the number of reasons that parents could cite for exempting their children from being vaccinated. 
 
Reauthorization of NCLB
Mercedes Schneider wraps up her exhaustive review of the Alexander-Murray bipartisan compromise bill to rewrite NCLB.  This is part 6 and previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted the first 5 parts.  This one covers pages 429-601 and appears, as always, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  The image she appends to this final effort is most apt.
 
Atlanta Cheating Scandal
The harsh prison sentences meted out to educators in the Atlanta standardized test cheating scandal continued to draw shocked reactions from many sources.  EDUCATION WEEK reviews the case again and lists the individuals and their sentences.   “The high-profile case,” it indicates, “has raised larger questions about the role of high-stakes testing in K-12 education and why prosecutors sought to convict the former teachers, principals, and administrators under state racketeering laws.”               Three administrators who received the harshest punishments in the Atlanta cheating case, 7 years in prison and 13 years of probation, have been granted a resentencing hearing on April 30, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.   
 
Granada Hills Wins National Academic Decathlon
Granada Hills Charter High School (LAUSD), located in the San Fernando Valley, won the national Academic Decathlon for the fourth time in the last five years.  The 2015 competition took place over a 3-day stretch last week in Garden Grove and included 46 other schools and over 450 students.  The story appeared in Sunday’s L.A. Times but the piece on the website posted late Saturday afternoon was much more detailed.  You can read the latter by clicking here.  “The team members, who are winnowed from a group of about 50 who try out over the summer,” the article explains, “spent more than 30 hours a week studying.  Most skipped school dances, sports, student government and other campus activities in their all-consuming fervor to master the material.  They sacrificed time with family and friends.  As the pace intensified, they deleted Instagram from their phones and blocked their own access to Facebook.”
 
Silencing Teachers
In all the discussion and debate over education reform the voices that are most often ignored belong to the classroom teachers.  In some instances it’s a case of benign neglect and others it’s a deliberate attempt to disregard what they have to say.  In extreme examples it amounts to fraud and deceit.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on her VAMboozled blog, chronicles what’s taking place in New Mexico where teachers are being contractually and legally silenced.  She titles her piece “The Silencing of the Educators: A Shocking Idea, and Trending.”  “New Mexico now requires teachers to sign a contractual document that they are not to ‘diminish the significance or importance of the tests’. . . .  or they could lose their jobs,” she reveals.  “Teachers are not to speak negatively about the tests or say anything negatively about these tests in their classrooms or in public; if they do they could be found in violation of their contracts.”  She goes on to describe a similar situation in her home state of Arizona.               Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, describes some even more egregious cases in which teachers were invited to write a report on “a new vision of accountability” for K-12 education.  After the report was submitted several of the authors complained that some of their words and ideas had been altered or deleted WITHOUT their knowledge.  Cody dug deeper and discovered that the consultants behind the report were actually funded by the Gates and Walton Family Foundations  You probably don’t need to be told what their agendas are all about.  At the end of his posting  is a list of 6 stories by 6 separate teachers of what they experienced in the course of writing and submitting their reports and ultimately discovering things did not come out exactly as they intended.  Click on any one or all of them to get the full story.  As Audrey Amrein-Beardsley would say (see above): “This is SHOCKING!”               The BadAss Teachers Association published an account by Dr. Mitchell Robinson about how teachers are being silenced and threatened if they make any detrimental comments or take any negative actions regarding high-stakes tests in their states.  “While there is no doubt that these moves are indeed a ‘chilling’ development in the education ‘reform’ movement,” he suggests, “I believe that they also reveal a quickly growing sense of fear and confusion among those in the reform community regarding the viability of their agenda. . . . If there is a silver lining to these threats it may be the impending crumbling of the reform agenda under the increased scrutiny from the public, the media and teachers.”               Steven Singer, on the gadflyonthewallblog, discusses how students and teachers are prohibited from commenting on the tests.  His piece is titled “This Article May Be Illegal–Lifting the Veil of Silence On Standardized Testing.”  “Isn’t it time to throw back the Iron Curtain of standardization,” he asks, “and look at these tests in the cleansing light of day? Isn’t it time to evaluate this process as well as the product? Do we really want to support a system that encourages silence and snitching from our children and educators?”
Election 2016
And finally, Hillary Clinton was touring Iowa last week when she was asked about the Common Core at a roundtable discussion on education issues at a local community college.  Her comments are contained in Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post.  It includes a review of what some of the other declared and undeclared GOP candidates have said about the issue.  The story also includes a link to the full transcript and a video from C-SPAN.
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Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)
That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”

 

 

Ed News, Friday, April 17, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

 The task of the modern educator is not
     to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Abolition of Man 
“iPadgate” Redux And Software Purchases
The ill conceived and poorly implemented $1.3 billion“iPad-for-all” program that was one of the key policy initiatives of former LAUSD Supt. John Deasy has been cancelled, mostly over problems with the Pearson supplied software.  The district will demand a refund from Apple and if it’s not provided has threatened to sue.  NPR station 89.3KPCC broke the story on their website on Wednesday.  “District officials purchased Pearson’s software even though it was unfinished,” the article explains, “and teachers complained the material seemed rushed: lessons were missing math problems and reading material and included errors. The software also lacked many interactive elements that were promised, teachers said.”               A more detailed article appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times regarding the decision by the LAUSD to terminate it’s ill-fated iPad program.  “Under the contract, Pearson was to provide English and math curriculum,” it adds.  “The district selected Pearson based only on samples of curriculum — nothing more was available.  L.A. Unified made the deal anyway; it wanted to bundle the curriculum and the device into a single price. A three-year license to use the curriculum added about $200 to the $768 cost of each iPad. The entire purchase then was financed through school construction bonds, which can be used to purchase computers.”            More possible legal fall-out from the iPad program for the LAUSD?  The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is looking into the question of whether the district properly used voter-approved bond money to purchase the computers and software.  That story is in today’s L.A. Times.  “California law allows school construction bonds to be spent on technology; districts also list the intended uses of bond funds in ballot materials available to voters,” the article explains.   “L.A. Unified clearly designated funds for technology, but did not mention tablets. At the time of the district’s most recent bond issue, in November 2008, iPads were still two years away from entering the marketplace.  But officials have maintained that tablets are a modern equivalent of the traditional computer lab and therefore a legal and appropriate use of bond funds.             When it comes to purchasing software, should the final decisions be made at the district or individual school level?  That question is tackled by a story from EDUCATION WEEK.  “As with most big-ticket items, school district central offices like to control the purse strings when it comes time to shop for new blended learning software,” it begins.  “But school procurement experts, education technology vendors, and school leaders alike are increasingly convinced that a more bottom-up approach offers a better chance for solid implementation—and, they hope, big learning gains.”  The piece provides two case studies.  One district in Colorado where schools make their own individual software purchases (bottom-up) and Washington, D.C., where the central office makes decisions for the entire district (top-down).
Opt-Out
Kentucky has discovered a fool-proof way to keep students from opting-out of high stakes testing in the Bluegrass State: make the action illegal.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog describes this latest maneuver in the opt-out controversy.  [Ed. note: Whatever happened to the concept of parental “choice” that is such an important watchword of the so-called corporate “reform” movement?]               Diane Ravitch labels Long Island as the “epicenter of opt-out.”  The Long Island Press backs up that claim with a story titled “Record-Shattering Numbers of Long Island Students Opting Out of Common Core Testing.”  “Parents across Long Island have spoken in an unmistakable roar of defiance,” it reports, “determined to disrupt what they believe to be an unacceptable system delivered by government officials they do not trust—with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the top of the list.”  The article goes on to provide the number of students who have made the decision to skip the tests this year.              Duchess County,  located in southeastern New York, is also reporting large numbers of students opting out.  The Poughkeepsie Journal’s article is titled “Duchess Test Refusals Soar; NY Says Data Will Still Be Used.”  “The ‘opt-out’ movement appears to have gained momentum,” it, too, points out, “despite warnings from the state Education Department that districts could face sanctions if their participation rate drops below the federal standard of 95 percent.  The goal of the movement’s leaders is to cripple the data-collection apparatus by reducing the pool of student results until it is statistically invalid.”                Juan Gonzalez, in the New York Daily News, put the extent of the opt-out movement in New York this week  into context in a piece titled “It’s Not Multiple Choice, It’s a Resounding No As Fed-Up Parents Revolt Against New York’s Standardized Exams In Historic Fashion.”  “The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday,” he begins, ” as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.  This ‘opt-out’ revolt has been quietly building for years, but it reached historic levels this time.  More than half the pupils at several Long Island and upstate school districts joined in — at some schools in New York City boycott percentages neared 40%.”  Gonzalez proceeds to chronicle a number of schools and districts in the Empire state and reports the numbers of students who refused to take the exams.               Diane Ravitch debated Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, on Tuesday on the issues of high-stakes testing and the opt-out movement for the “All in With Chris Hayes Show” on MSNBC.  The video  runs 9:29 minutes.                Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post critiques the debate, includes a transcript of it and has a slightly abbreviated video version (6:53 minutes–It eliminates Hayes’ brief introduction to the segment).  “The event was remarkable, and not because Tisch agreed to sit down with Ravitch, as fierce a critic of hers as there is (and there are many),” Strauss notes.  “What was so striking was the way Tisch repeatedly countered — or, rather, didn’t — Ravitch’s direct critiques of the New York testing and teacher evaluation regime as well as the growing opt-out movement in which parents are choosing to disallow their children from taking the state-mandated exams.”                Peter Greene, this time writing in the “View From the Cheap Seats” column for EDUCATION WEEK, also reviewed the Ravitch/Tisch debate.  “New York Chancellor of the Board of Regents Meryl Tisch stopped by All In with Chris Hayes to avoid answering some pointed questions about high stakes testing and the opt out movement in New York,” he dismissively begins.  “She had the additional disadvantage of sitting beside Diane Ravitch, who did answer questions and made Tisch look even slipperier by comparison, but I think Tisch’s appearance is a quick, capsuled look at what promoters of high stakes testing get wrong.”              
New Burbank Superintendent
The Burbank Unified School District is seeking a new superintendent.  The search is stirring up a hornet’s nest based on one of the proposed candidates.  He’s current LAUSD employee Matthew Hill who had key roles with the “iPad-for-all” and MiSIS computer information system fiascoes.  If that’s not enough to disqualify someone, the fact that Hill has never worked as a teacher or principal should raise some more red flags.  He comes from a business background and is a graduate of the Broad Academy that trains non-educators to assume school district leadership positions.  The Burbank Teachers Association is leading the opposition to Hill according to an item in the Burbank Leader.  The current BUSD superintendent is retiring at the end of the this school year.               The BUSD board voted late last night to appoint Hill as the new district superintendent.  The details are courtesy of NPR station 89.3KPCC.  “In 2011 former L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy hired Hill,” the story explains, “to push initiatives such as the massive iPads for students project and the district’s new student data system, know as MiSiS.  Both projects encountered serious setbacks.  But the Burbank school board liked what Hill said he’d done to fix the problems.”   The piece includes a brief audio segment (2:27 minutes) about the appointment that was broadcast prior to the board’s vote.
 
Cheating Scandals
In light of the cheating scandal in Atlanta (covered extensively in the “Ed News”) people might believe that these kinds of activities only take place at K-12 schools and only involve high-stakes testing.  No so!  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes how new technologies are challenging long-standing honor codes and codes of ethics at even some of the most elite colleges and universities around the U.S.   Campuses like Stanford, Dartmouth, Harvard and the Air Force Academy have experienced widespread episodes of student cheating recently.  “Studies find that students feel under more pressure than ever to succeed and increasingly see cutting corners as nothing serious,” the piece points out.  “And they are being aided by cheating-friendly technology.”               The “Back Story” column in today’s L.A. Times takes an excellent, in-depth  look at the issue of using a state version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes to charge the Atlanta educators in that city’s standardized test cheating scandal.  The law’s original intent was to go after organized crime figures.  It was later used, surprisingly against the “Roman Catholic Church, Major League Baseball, antiabortion activists, the Los Angeles Police Department and Wall Street financier Michael Milken.”  The recently concluded Atlanta case was the first, and only time, that it’s been used in an academic setting to convict elementary school teachers and administrators.  “Veteran Atlanta criminal defense lawyers expressed concern this week that a law intended for gangsters,” the story points out, “had been used to prosecute educators.  The state RICO statute, modeled after the federal law, was used by prosecutors ‘as a large club designed to get people’s attention and to beat people over the head with it if they didn’t succumb to the prosecution’s plea offers,’ said defense attorney Steve Sadow.”               
 
Testing
A problem with a computer server caused students in Missoula and other districts around Montana to not be able to log-on to the state’s SBAC standardized assessments this week.  This is the first year tests in the state have been taken on computers.  NBC MONTANA has a short video (3:45 minutes) and a transcript about what’s happening.               Diane Ravitch’s blog has an interesting and significant post from a long-time lawyer, Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, who “represents public schools in education matters.”  Freedman addresses the issue of whether high-stakes assessments aligned to the Common Core are a valid tool for evaluating teachers.   She points out that the tests were never intended to serve as an evaluative tool for teachers and concludes “This test validity issue needs to be fully aired and resolved satisfactorily before we can begin to tackle the larger issues about the multiple uses of testing. Otherwise, in our litigious land of opportunity, the ensuing battles may be costly and not pretty. Let’s not go there.”  Freedman’s piece elicited a number of comments.  If you have the time, check them out.               
 
Letters to the Editor
One letter was published in yesterday’s L.A. Times from a mother whose son is “a middle school teacher in a South Bay district” regarding the paper’s story on Monday (highlighted in the “Ed News”) about a poll that showed California voters were in favor of school breakfast programs.
NCLB Reauthorization
The Senate Education Committee wrapped up day two of dealing with the Alexander-Murray bipartisan compromise to reauthorize NCLB on Wednesday.  A relatively quiet debate over most of the 87 amendments offered for the bill became a little more heated over two proposals to deal with bullying and harassment, particularly of LGBT students.  EDUCATION WEEK provides a good overview of the committee discussion so far with specific information about the disposition of a number of amendments.               In a rare show of Washington, D.C., bipartisanship, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed, by a 22-0 vote yesterday, the NCLB reauthorization bill.  EDUCATION WEEK again offers a description of what took place and what is in store for the future.  “Over the course of three days, committee members considered more than 50 amendments out of the 87 that were filed,” it sums up, “most of which were either adopted via voice vote with little controversy or withdrawn out of respect for maintaining the bipartisan nature of the legislation.”               The NSBA (National School Boards Association) was strongly in favor of the passage of the Alexander-Murray bill by the Senate Education Committee.  They promptly issued a press release lauding the action as “A Great Victory.”                Jeff Bryant at the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews the course of the rewrite of NCLB so far in both the House and the Senate.  He surveys some of the reactions to the compromise bill that passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday and suggests what both political parties need to do in order to achieve a “worthy revision” in the end.                Now that the Alexander-Murray compromise bill has been approved by the Education Committee, what’s in store for it as it moves to the full Senate for action?  EDUCATION WEEK takes a detailed look at the possibilities.  “But getting the bill to the floor may be a challenge in and of itself,” it concludes skeptically.  “The current legislative backlog includes an anti-human-trafficking bill, the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the U.S. attorney general, a congressional response to the Iran nuclear-deal framework, and a looming vote on a fiscal 2016 budget.  And while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has mentioned education as something the chamber might address in this legislative work period, which ends May 22, the ESEA reauthorization has yet to be specifically scheduled for floor time.”
 
Vaccination Legislation
The measles outbreak at Disneyland last year ignited a renewed discussion over school vaccinations.  A bill introduced in the California Senate that would require more kids to be vaccinated ran into trouble earlier this week over a couple of issues.  A vote on the proposed law (SB 277) was delayed in the Education Committee amid predictions it would fail to pass.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the latest details.  “. . . . when many parents don’t immunize their children,” the article notes, “it increases the risk to other children who have immune-compromised systems. . . . Some panel members . . . . said they want to preserve California’s exemption allowance for those with religious objections to vaccination.”
 
Carol Burris to Retire Early  
Award-winning South Side High School (New York) principal Carol Burris announced Tuesday she is retiring early because of the anti-education policies of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  Burris has been a outstanding champion of public education and has published several books and numerous columns, letters and blogs extolling the virtues of the public school system and the dedicated educators who work there.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post, where many of Burris’ writings appeared, had the sad and shocking news.  In a speech to a group of music teachers Burris explained why she is taking this action: “We are now turning our backs on the very experiences that build on our children’s natural strengths in order to pursue higher test scores in this era of corporate reform.  We have become blind to indicators of quality that can’t be demonstrated on a scan sheet. . . . I will not participate,” she continues, “in an evaluation system such as the one designed by the governor  or legislature. It is morally and ethically wrong.”
 
Academic Decathlon Competition
And finally, today’s L.A. Times has a feature about Granada Hills Charter High School as it prepares for the national Academic Decathlon competition.  “After reclaiming the state and Los Angeles Unified city titles earlier this year,” it explains, “the Granada Hills team is aiming to win another national championship in the three-day competition that began Thursday in Garden Grove. This year’s theme is alternative energy.”
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Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)  

That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”             

Ed News, Tuesday, April 10, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “Learning is by nature curiosity… prying into everything, 
reluctant to leave anything, material or immaterial, unexplained.” 
― Philo of Alexandria
New Polls on Teacher Tenure, Testing, Breakfast Program
A prominent front-page story in Saturday’s L.A. Times features a new USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll about public attitudes towards teacher tenure and other related issues.  The survey questioned over 1,500 voters by phone between March 28 and April 7.  “In California, nearly half of voters surveyed. . . .  favored a longer period to earn tenure than the two years granted under state law,” the article notes.   “Among those who favored some form of tenure, the largest group wanted teachers to earn it after seven to 10 years. More than a third opposed any form of tenure.”  The use of seniority in determining who to lay off was not particularly popular among the public either.  “In the poll,” the story continues, “nearly three-quarters of voters said it was very or somewhat important to make it easier to fire underperforming teachers.”  Be sure to click on the sidebar titled “Voters’ Views of Teachers for several more questions from the poll including one about teacher pay.               Another front-page article about the poll in Sunday’s Times discussed public attitudes towards testing.  Latino voters were much more supportive of the standardized exams as compared to their white counterparts.  “A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state,” this item relates, “by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information.  Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.”  Several other issues in the piece were broken down along racial lines.               A new California Field Poll of 1,251 registered voters found overwhelming support for classroom breakfast programs.  Two-thirds of those surveyed were in favor and “three-fourths said breakfast would improve academic performance and favored using existing federal funds to pay for the meals,” according to a story in yesterday’s Times.  
 
Atlanta Test Cheating Convictions, Sentences
The Friday edition of the “Ed News” had extensive coverage of the convictions of 11 of 12 Atlanta educators for cheating on standardized tests in that city back in 2009.  John Merrow, on his Taking Note blog looks at some of the wider issues of the whole sordid episode in his piece titled “What Can We Agree On, After Atlanta?”  He’s not looking to place blame or point fingers, per se, but wants to see what reasonable people can agree on so that everyone can move forward and, hopefully, prevent a recurrence of the problem.  He cites a number of sources with some good ideas on how to achieve that.                A commentary in SALON charges that “Our educational system stacks the deck against Black children — now we’re throwing their teachers in jail” in light of the cheating scandal in Atlanta in which all the convicted educators were African-American.  The author teaches Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University.  “The pictures that emerged last week.” she laments, “of handcuffed Black schoolteachers being led out of Southern courtrooms in one of the country’s largest urban Black school systems were absolutely heartbreaking.”               Today two of the eleven convicted educators accepted very lenient sentencing deals  while the others were given terms of from one to seven years in jail.  An item posted on the L.A. Times website shortly after noon today has the latest details of this story (look for it in tomorrow’s print edition).  “For the two educators who accepted a deal,” the piece explains, “[Judge] Baxter followed the state’s recommendations and gave one former teacher one year of home confinement and a former testing coordinator six months of weekends spent in jail.  Some of the convicted teachers refused to accept responsibility for the cheating and some wanted to continue fighting their convictions on appeal, lawyers said afterward.”              CNN has a similar story but it briefly discusses what each educator was found guilty of and summarizes the sentence they were given.  “There was nothing routine about a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Atlanta,” it begins, “that wrote the final legal chapter of one of the most massive school cheating scandals in the country.”
 
Testing
Want another peak at an ad for test scorers that appeared on Craigslist from a small company called Measurement Incorporated?  This one, with accompanying acerbic commentary, is courtesy of Peter Greene and his CURMUDGUCATION  blog.  “I expect we’ll continue to see many of these smaller companies scarfing up sub-contracts for the Big Guys and handling the business of hiring part-timers to help make decisions about the fate of America’s children, teachers, and schools.  Only one of two things can be true here– either the system is so simplified and so user-proof that it doesn’t really matter who’s doing the scoring work (in which case it’s a dopey system that gives back very little information and is easy to game) or it does matter who’s doing the scoring (in which case, the use of part-time temps who are available only because they couldn’t find a real job is not exactly comforting).  Either way,” Greene concludes disdainfully, “this is one more big fat reminder that the Big Standardized Test is a dumb way to assess any part of America’s education system.”                Want a behind-the-scenes look at how Pearson hires professional test scorers for its PARCC exams?  A parent and former elementary school teacher in New Jersey decided to apply for a position and she writes about her experiences on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post.  “Pearson’s offer of employment came to me even though I never actually spoke to anybody at the company,” the applicant explains.  “The offer is conditional upon verification of my college degree, completed project training and signature on a confidentiality waiver. The company, valued at well over $10 billion, did not verify my information before its offer of employment, and seems interested only in verifying my college degree.
 
Tips for Teaching
Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, reprints a fun piece from Scholastic Magazine that includes “50 Great Apps for Teachers.”  It’s broken down by subject (Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, etc.) and also has general topics like “Special Needs,” “Communication and Organization” and “Classroom Management.”  Whether you are a current teacher, an aspiring teacher or retired you’ll probably find something you can use on Monday.  [Ed. note: As a retired secondary social studies teacher I was intrigued by an app titled “Futaba.”  It encourages “kids to use this multiplayer quiz game as a study aid.”  It contains “quizzes already created for geography, civics, economics, and history for most grade levels.”  Wow, can’t beat that!]            The GGSC (Greater Good Science Center) out of UC Berkeley offers a primer titled “Seven Ways Mindfulness Can Help Teachers.”  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of “mindfulness,” this item explains what it is in simple terms and mentions how it can be a useful tool for teachers to deal with the modern stresses of the classroom.  “How does mindfulness [help us feel better about our jobs]? By training our minds consciously to become more aware of our inner and outer experience, and learning how to manage our emotions.”  Feeling a little burnt-out, unable to cope or on edge?  Give this one a try.               “5 Philosophies for Inspiring a Love of Reading ” is the title of a column in EDUCATION WEEK with some tips and strategies for teachers.  It’s written by a middle school literacy coach in North Carolina who also co-teaches 6th grade English/language arts and social studies.  “No matter how my students perform on the impending standardized exams,” she insists, “I’ve seen evidence that many of them will at least walk away from my class with a renewed or newfound love of reading.  To teachers, what could matter more?”
Opt-Out
The Seattle chapter of the NAACP has urged parents in the area to opt-out of standardized tests in the city this year.  It called for a merger of the anti-testing and Black Lives Matter movements into a larger social justice crusade according to Jesse Hagopian’s I AM AN EDUCATOR blog.  “Their simple, yet mighty, proposition,” he writes, “is that the movement to oppose high-stakes standardized testing and the Black Lives Matter movement (and other struggles against oppression) should and can unite in a great uprising in service of transforming our schools into an environment designed to nurture our children, in body and intellect, rather than to rank, sort, and reproduce institutional racism.”                Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence who send along this provocative item from Steve Nelson, head of the Calhoun School in New York City, who makes a strong case for the opt-out movement in a commentary for the HUFF POST EDUCATION blog.  “‘Opt-out’ may be the most important political movement of this generation.  It may seem, at first glance, a small ripple in the education reform debate — an understandable reaction to the frustration over increased testing and test-prep in America’s schools.  I suggest that it is much more important than meets the eye. . . . This growing struggle over the future of American education,” he argues, “may be proxy for the future of our democratic republic.”  Those are pretty powerful sentiments.  Read his piece and see if you agree with him.                A group of teachers from the BadAss Teachers Association in New York has come up with a novel idea for contacting parents in their state about the opt-out movement.  What if they put together a robocall to every parent in New York to invite them to opt their children out of the high-stakes exams in the Empire State?  They decided to crowd-source for funding and set out to work.  4 of the activists have written a piece on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog about how to organize a grassroots campaign like theirs.  “We have, in a little over a week, come very near to achieving what seemed like the impossible.  At the time of this writing,” they reported, “we are on the final push to our funding goal.   We did a tremendous amount of work, sometimes going without sleep or meals, and hope that our action inspires others.   We have raised enough funds to place robocalls to strategic areas throughout New York, and our ultimate goal is to call the entire state,  so donations are urgently needed at this time.  Our ripple in New York will add to the wave being felt throughout the nation.  To donate and help us complete our mission, go to www.crowdrise.org/refusethetestsrobocall.”
 
Union News
An attempt to unionize the largest charter chain in Los Angeles has elicited an unfair labor practice charge against the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools network.  UTLA, on behalf of teachers working for the charter, filed the complaint last week after nearly a month of unionization activities alleging that “charter school leaders have started an anti-union campaign, blocked emails to employees and denied organizers access to school buildings after work hours” according to the filing with the state Public Employees Relations Board.  The article appeared in Saturday’s L.A. Times.               While the “Ed News” was on hiatus for the holidays, the LAUSD and UTLA announced a tentative agreement on health benefits for district employees that would be part of the union contract through 2018.  Agreement on issues like salary, class size and others have still not been reached amid ongoing negotiations.  A story on the L.A. Times website early last week has the important details.               Teachers unions are making a comeback in New Orleans almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated both the traditional public school system in that city and the labor organizations that had been a fixture there for years.  THE HECHINGER REPORT has the details in a story that focuses on how the now all-charter Recovery School District is seeing the resurgence of union activity one campus at a time.
Reauthorization of NCLB
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, continues her line-by-line reading of the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill to rewrite NCLB.  In parts 1 and 2 of her analysis (which she includes links to) she was able to cover the first 162 pages of the 601 page omnibus bill.  In part 3 she begins by looking at provisions regarding funding for eligible private school students and adds a look at teacher training, Teach for America and the issuance of waivers.  She calls it quits for now at page 269 and you should check out the very apt photo she ends this installment with.  Part 4 runs from page 269 to page 373 (over half way through).  [Ed. note: I wonder if the members of the Senate Education committee have given the bill as careful consideration as Schneider has?]    Part 5 of her microscopic analysis can be found by clicking here.  It covers page 373-427 and covers topics like school choice and charters.               A story in The Washington Post reports that U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan is, overall, pleased with the bill the Senate Education Committee is scheduled to take up today despite the fact that it reduces his power and influence over federal education policy.  “Duncan was generally positive about the Alexander-Murray bill,” the author maintains, “but said the Obama administration wants a final law to expand early childhood education and to place stronger demands on states to improve their worst-performing schools, among other things.”               Valerie Strauss turns her education blog in The Washington Post over to the executive director and an assessment reform analyst, both from FairTest, who take a look at the Alexander-Murray proposal for rewriting NCLB.  They are deeply troubled by the retention of the annual testing mandate but are pleased that the punitive sanctions that went along with those exams have been jettisoned.  “Despite proposing important steps to reduce the harmful uses of standardized exam results driven by No Child Left Behind,” they begin, “this month’s Senate committee draft legislation – “Every Child Achieves” – fails to address the law’s deeply destructive annual testing mandate. To fix this, Congress must respond to the growing grassroots movement calling for less testing and more learning.”               Arne Duncan was interviewed on Friday on the “All In With Chris Hayes” show (6:52 minutes) on MSNBC.  The secretary addressed issues like Common Core, NCLB and student debt.                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, couldn’t wait to dissect every word uttered by Duncan in his conversation with Hayes.  Greene wasn’t buying much of what Duncan said.  “Kudos to Chris Hayes for pressing Duncan a tad harder than anybody else at MSNBC is ever inclined to, thereby adding to our gallery of ever-changing Common Core narratives. But this was still largely a baloney-delivering conduit for Arne,” Greene complained in summation, “who should be limited to only so many stretchers per tv appearance, and he was once again over his limit.”               Steven Singer, aka the gadflyonthewallblog, is concerned that the NCLB rewrite does NOT “do a single thing to limit or reduce standardized testing.  It keeps annual testing in place, untouched.”  In fact, he titles his piece “No TEST Left Behind–Why the Senate ESEA Reauthorization  is Unacceptable.”
 
Election 2016
Unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton officially declared her candidacy for president in 2016 on Sunday.  The “Ed News” continues highlighting potential nominees’ record on education as they become announced candidates.  EDUCATION WEEK steps up this time to review her curriculum vitae on the subject.              An item on the BadAss Teachers Association website congratulates Clinton on the announcement of her candidacy and reviews some of her pronouncements regarding education policy.  “In short, we welcome you to the presidential race,” the note challenges, “and hope you will be the champion public education needs right now and not someone who will continue the same Neo-Liberal policies that have been destroying the future for our children and our nation.”
 
MOOCs
Remember those massive open online courses (MOOCs) that were the “wave of the future” just a couple of years ago?  So far, they’ve proven to be nothing but a “massive” flop, at least in California.  An item from THE HECHINGER REPORT reviews the whole theory behind them and how they were going to save the state massive amounts of money.  “We spent a lot of money and got extremely little in return,” complained a member of the California Academic Senate which represents faculty members in the UC system.
 
All-Girls School For LAUSD?
And finally, the LAUSD board will take up a proposal at their meeting today to create an all-girls academy specializing in the STEM subjects.  If approved it would become the second such campus in the state.  A very brief item in EDUCATION WEEK talks about the plan.  “A recent study of federal data,” it mentions, “found that fewer high school girls than boys reported liking science and math. Among 2009 high school graduates, male students had higher average math and science scores then female students who took specific math and science classes.”
 

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Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)  

That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”             

Ed News, Friday, April 10, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“Schools assume that children are not interested in learning and are not much good at it, that they will not learn unless made to, 
that they cannot learn unless shown how, and that the way to make them learn is to divide up the prescribed material
 into a sequence of tiny tasks to be mastered one at a time, each with it’s appropriate ‘morsel’ and ‘shock.’ 
And when this method doesn’t work, the schools assume there is something wrong with the children — 
something they must try to diagnose and treat.” 
― John Holt  
 
While We Were Off–Atlanta Cheating Scandal, Interview With Diane Ravitch, Silencing Protests and Other Topics Not to be Missed
One can’t seem to take any time off these days without missing some key events in the field of education.  In a story the “Ed News” has been following since it began, 11 of 12 Atlanta Public School elementary teachers and administrators were found guilty of cheating  involving standardized tests in that city.  A story in last Thursday’s L.A. Times chronicles “one of the largest school cheating trials in U.S. History.”  The situation goes all the way back to 2009 when questions were raised about suspicious test results that sparked an extensive investigation by the governor at that time. 4 years later 35 educators were indicted on a variety of charges.  Since then 21 of the defendants had reached plea agreements in order to avoid prison time and 2 had died including the former superintendent, Beverly Hall, who passed away last month.  “After eight days of deliberation, jurors in the landmark case found 11 of 12 defendants guilty of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act[RICO]” the article notes, “a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.  Some of the defendants were also found guilty of other felonies — influencing a witness, theft by taking, false swearing, or making a false statement or writing — that carry lesser sentences.”               EDUCATION WEEK also had an extensive piece on this story which you can read by clicking here.  “. . . . the jury found,” it points out, “that the educators, including former teachers, administrators, and testing coordinators, had conspired to artificially inflate test scores by changing answers or guiding students to fill in the correct responses on a 2009 Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, the state’s annual assessment. It includes a list of other articles from ED WEEK related to the issue.               Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending this detailed item about the case from The New York Times.  The case unfolded at a time of pushback against what some see as the excesses of standardized testing.  While the Atlanta scandal fueled some criticism,” it states, “those who oppose testing also argue that the exams force teachers to narrow their lessons and may not represent what students learn. Coming amid a political groundswell against academic standards known as the Common Core, the scandal was just one factor in an increasing debate over testing and its role in education.”              Steven Singer, on his gadflyonthewall blog, thinks the conviction of the 11 educators was correct but takes exception to the fact they were found guilty on federal RACKETEERING  charges that are normally  used against organized crime figures.   Due to those counts they could fact up to 20 years in prison which he finds “absurd” for what they did.   He titles his piece rather provocatively “Atlanta Teacher RICO Conviction is Blood Sacrifice to the Testocracy.”             A follow-up story from EDUCATION WEEK to the convictions titled “Convicted Atlanta Educators Draw Empathy, Condemnation” reviews some of the reactions from various sources to the case.   “The conviction of 11 former Atlanta educators,” it begins, “on state racketeering charges that could land them behind bars has ignited debate about whether the punishment fits the crime in the case and fueled already heated discussions about the role of high-stakes standardized tests in K-12 public schools.”           On a different note, many of you know who Diane Ravitch is.  The editor of the “Ed News” uses information from her blog quite extensively.  The ALOED book club read one of her books.  The Teacher Educator website, forwarded to the “Ed News” by ALOED member Larry Lawrence, has an extensive interview with her titled “Leader of the Resistance: An Interview with Diane Ravitch” that goes into detail about her training and background.  You may be surprised to learn that she was an Assistant Secretary of Education in the Pres. George H. W. Bush administration and initially was a strong supporter of No Child Left Behind.  In the late 1990s she actually testified in favor of charter legislation in New York.  You can read all about her 180 degree turn away from these earlier positions and other topics in the interview.  “Diane Ravitch has emerged as one of the most powerful forces for real education reform.  She is a tireless crusader against the baseless claims that drive current educational policy and a clear-eyed visionary of what needs to be done.” The interviewers mention by way of their introduction.  “Although some may question the attention she garners as prodigal daughter of educational research, there is no denying the scholarship of her work and the contribution she continues to make.  However, at 75 with the occasional health issue, she wonders how long she can fight the fight, and who will step up as the new leaders for the education of our children.”               Educators are forever protesting against budget and salary cuts, increases in class sizes, lay-offs and  a myriad of other issues.  The state of Arizona apparently doesn’t approve of that (and apparently doesn’t believe in the 1st Amendment) so the state House  of Representatives passed a bill that outlaws such actions.  Don’t believe they would do such a thing?  Check out the details from the Daily Kos.  “SB 1172, which passed the House this week,” it explains, “doesn’t do a damn thing to help schools, but it does make it illegal for education officials, including superintendents, principals and teachers, to speak for or against bills, plans or citizen referenda that affect their funding, that affect their ability to do their job.”   Fortunately, the legislation failed to advance but just the thought of it sends shivers down the spine.               Pasi Salhbert, writing about teacher training in a commentary for theguardian (UK), titles his piece “Q: What Makes Finnish Teachers So Special? A: It’s Not Brains.”  The Finnish education expert and visiting professor at the graduate school of education at Harvard notes that only 10% of applicants are accepted into teacher preparation schools and he goes on to outline what types of people get into the highly selective programs.  “The academically best students are not necessarily the best teachers,” he maintains.  “Successful education systems are more concerned about finding the right people to become career-long teachers.”               David Greene, on his DCGEducator: Doing the Right Thing blog, reacted to Sahlberg’s piece (above) and to another item about how best to evaluate those people who become teachers.
 
Charter Schools
Some charter schools have shown dramatic standardized test results.  Sometimes those have been due to some rather questionable practices and policies.  The Success Academy (SA) Charter Chain in New York City has consistently improved test scores but, as this item from The New York Times demonstrates, their techniques can be “polarizing” and unconventional.  The reporter was given an opportunity to peek behind the scenes at what is taking place.  “In a rare look inside the network, including visits to several schools and interviews with dozens of current and former employees,” she writes, “The New York Times chronicled a system driven by the relentless pursuit of better results, one that can be exhilarating for teachers and students who keep up with its demands and agonizing for those who do not.”  If you’d like to get an inkling of how some charters are run, both from the point-of-view of teachers and students, check this one out.  Thanks again to Randy Traweek who has access to the Times, whose website lies behind a pay wall.               Eva Moscowitz, founder and CEO of the Success Academy chain, responded to the New York Times article (above) in an email to her employees calling it “slanted” and “unfair” about her schools.  The CAPITAL website provides the details.                 Can’t we just agree and report on the facts?  The New York Times story reported that teacher turnover at Success Academy schools was a whopping 50% while the charter network claims it’s only 17%  Who to believe?  Matthew Di Carlo at the Shanker Blog comes to the rescue.   He provides statistics that demonstrate the true rate is close to 33%.  “All this back and forth about SA teacher turnover is a little strange,” Di Carlo concludes.  “High profile charter chains such as the Success Academies are constantly trumpeting how central to their approach are selective retention and demanding working conditions when it comes to their teachers.  They also rely heavily on programs such as Teach for America, with its short term teaching commitments.  Not all teacher turnover is ‘bad,’ and higher churn is in many respects baked into key elements of SA’s approach. It seems inconsistent to quibble over levels or imply otherwise.            Diane Ravitch on her Diane Ravitch’s blog had an opportunity to talk with a former Success Academy teacher (who wishes to remain anonymous) and they had a very candid conversation about what it was like to teach for that charter chain.  Ravitch makes note of the above New York Times story at the very end of her piece.               Yesterday a Calfiornia Supreme Court ruling found that the LAUSD must revise its policies regarding how it allocates classroom space to charters that share regular district campuses according to an item in today’s L.A. Times.  “The court said L.A. Unified violated a state regulation,” the piece indicates, “by allocating space to charters based on the number of classrooms staffed by teachers across the district. The law requires other space — including rooms used for study halls or libraries — to be part of the equation, the court said.”               Peter Greene is certainly not a big fan of charter schools.  He takes a rather jaundiced view of them and believes they have failed at their perceived goal of becoming centers of educational improvement.  He recently wrote that the “Charter Laboratory is Failing” on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  “Here’s my challenge for charter fans– name one educational technique,” he writes, “one pedagogical breakthrough, that started at a charter school and has since spread throughout the country to all sorts of public schools.  After all these years of getting everything they wanted, modern charter schools have nothing to teach the public schools of the US.”
 
Freemon Gains School Board Seat
ALOED member Jennifer Freemon won a seat on the Glendale Unified School District board in Tuesday’s election on her second try.  In a field of 5 candidates, with two seats up for grabs, Freemon slotted into second place with 29% of the votes, just behind the incumbent (30%) and almost doubling the votes of the third place finisher (15%).  The “Ed News” would like to extend a hearty “congratulations” to her and note that her experiences in ALOED should serve her in good stead!  The final tally can be found on the City of Glendale website by clicking here (scroll down after the city council results).  The Glendale News-Press had two articles about the election.  The first one has a great picture of Jennifer and the second one discusses the race and what she sees as her goals.
 
Rewrite of NCLB
The Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and the ranking minority member, Patty Murray (D-WA) made public this week a bipartisan bill to reauthorize No Child Left Behind.  The 600+ page compromise addresses issues like accountability, standards, teachers, charters and early-childhood education among others.  EDUCATION WEEK has an extensive look at some of the key provisions and some early analysis and reaction.  It also includes links to a summary of the bill (5 pages) and a copy of the full text (601 pages) titled “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”  The committee is scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday.               Diane Ravitch’s blog had a brief critique of the proposal and included a press release that accompanied the unveiling of the bill.  “What do I think? I would have been thrilled to see annual testing banished,” she noted, “but President Obama made clear he would veto any bill that did not include annual testing. The cascading sanctions of NCLB and Race to the Top are gone.”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog saw some positive aspects of the bill.  He was particularly happy with the diminution in power of the U.S. Secretary of Education.  He titled his piece “Senate Proposal Cuts Duncan Off at Knees.”  “But most of all, a new ESEA completely chops the back-door lawmaking of USED  [U.S. Education Department] waivers off at the knees,” Greene concludes.  “If Congress can actually pull this off, it will be a gamechanger.  There’s much to hate about the new game, but there are some pieces of hope as well.  Let’s just see what happens next.”               The ever meticulous Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” for deutsch29, is taking on the daunting task of reading every single line of the (601 page) bill!  Her initial analysis is of the first 136 pages and she, interestingly, makes reference to both the Diane Ravitch and Peter Greene articles (see above).  Stay tuned for more of her insightful commentary.  Here is part 2 of her continuing analysis of the draft proposal.  This one covers pages 1-152.  There’s more to come.                An editorial in today’s L.A. Times reviews some of the provisions of the NCLB reauthorization proposal unveiled in the Senate this week (see above).  It finds both positive and negative aspects.  “This rewrite of No Child Left Behind should help ease the fretful anxiety and teach-to-the-test mentality that have overtaken too many schools.  That’s good,” it relates.  “But the bill would allow so much flexibility that it’s unclear what would happen in states that don’t try hard to reduce achievement gaps.  If no one intervenes when schools founder year after year, what recourse is there for families?”               Alan Singer brings up a very interesting point.  Pres. Obama, who is a strong advocate for high-stakes testing and including student test scores on teacher evaluations, sends his two daughters to a private school that eschews both.  In a sense, he points out, the Obamas have joined the opt-out movement in a big way.  You can read Singer’s comments and more about “opt-out” in Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post by clicking here.             A major aspect of NCLB was a strong emphasis on standardized testing as a way to improve student achievement.  Has that goal been reached?  Not according to a story on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog titled “Hocus Pocus and the History of High Stakes Tests”  which suggests “that NCLB and subsequent NCLB-type testing caused more harm than good for students.”                A list of 17 superintendents who make up the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium expressed their views to members of Congress about updating NCLB in a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “We welcome Congress’ aggressive new approach to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the No Child Left Behind Act),” they write, “and urge lawmakers to take advantage of this opportunity to establish a more-balanced relationship among the federal, state, and local education systems—a relationship that places considerably more trust in the informed judgment of those working with students every day.”  A list of the districts included in this organization is included at the end of the article.  The only representative from California is Poway Unified.               If you are having trouble making sense of the renewal of NCLB, EDUCATION WEEK has a primer with some FAQsabout the law, its history, and its policy implications.”  Included is a list of important “NCLB Terms to Know” and some critical research and resources about the topic.  The entire item is excellent if you want to be “in the know.”
Role of Education
The spring, 2015, issue of DEMOCRACY, A JOURNAL OF IDEAS, has an extended article by Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, about the role of public education in today’s world. It’s based on a speech he gave at the school in the fall of last year.  “The purpose, challenge, and substance of education in a democracy.” he suggests, “are defined by two questions: How ought we to live, side by side, not as lone individuals but as citizens? And how can we, through education, help individuals answer that question?”  Diane Ravitch called it “a brilliant essay . . . . about the democratic and civic purposes of education.”
 
Education Reform
A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the story of Jorge Cabrera who was heavily involved in the corporate “reform” movement until he became “disillusioned” and decided to go public with his concerns.  Jennifer Berkshire, who writes the EduShyster blog, was able to locate Cabrera and conducted an interview with him about “what’s wrong with the education reform movement.”                 What does all the corporate school “reform” mean to the students who it, ultimately, impacts the most?  The author of this commentary from the Huffington Post, is a prolific writer of non-fiction science books for children, tackles that question.  Her piece is titled “What Will Be the Legacy of Today’s School ‘Reforms’?”  She finds that, in fact, all we are doing with so much testing is to teach kids to “dislike school.”  Pretty sobering stuff.
 
New Lawsuit Challenges Teachers Unions
A new lawsuit was filed in federal court last week by StudentsFirst, the same group that brought you the Vergara case.  This one deals with the ability of teachers unions to charge an agency fee for instructors who do not wish to be full members of the union.   “In the suit,” the item in the L.A. Times explains, “four teachers, including two from the Los Angeles Unified School District, assert that union rules and state laws violate their 1st Amendment rights to free speech because they cannot belong to the union unless they allow a portion of their dues to be spent on political activity.  The teachers claim they should be able to join without subsidizing viewpoints they may oppose.”             An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times discusses the new lawsuit (see above).  “The implication is that the Constitution not only protects workers’ speech but also guarantees them the right to every benefit the union offers to its members, even if those benefits were not negotiated with the company,” it concludes.  “It’s a creative argument but not, in the end, convincing. The 1st Amendment prevents employees from having to join a union, and even guarantees them the fruits of collective bargaining, but it’s hard to see how it allows them to join but not follow the rules.”
 
Gifted Students Left Out
And finally, “No other country in the industrialized world pays so little attention to its gifted children as the U.S.” is how Walt Gardner begins his brief commentary in EDUCATION WEEK titled “Gifted Students are Still Stepchildren.”
 
 

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 “Ed News.”

 

Ed News, Tuesday, March 31, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

[Ed. note: This is the spring break season for students and teachers.  The “Ed News” will be going on hiatus in order to fully enjoy the holidays.  Look for the next issue on Friday, April 10.  Happy Easter or Passover to everyone.]
[Ed. note: The editor inadvertently sent this edition out yesterday morning.  Below you will find what you received at that time plus new material from yesterday and today.  He wishes to apologize, profusely, for any inconvenience this may have caused.] 
  “In sum, then, “thinking about thinking” has to be a principal ingredient
of any empowering practice of education.”
Jerome S. Bruner, The Culture of Education
New Book
Diane Ravitch’s blog is touting a new book from the United Opt-Out organization that describes how to protect the public school system and fight the overuse of high stakes tests.  It’s titled An Activist Handbook for the Education Revolution: United Opt Out’s Test of Courage.   “I have not read this book yet, but it looks like a must read,” Ravitch enthuses. “People are always asking, ‘What can I do to save our public schools? What can I do to stop the hideous explosion of testing?’  This book offers answers.”
Police on Campus
In light of a series of school shootings and the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, more and more communities are confronting the issues of student discipline and how it should be dealt with.  In many districts budgets have been increased to provide for a more visible armed police presence on campuses nationwide.  However, some activists are questioning whether that’s the best solution especially in poor and minority communities.  An article from Reader Supported News looks at the issues involved and offers some solutions other than more armed police.  “Traditionally, police stepped on school grounds to respond to emergencies, such as those involving threats or major acts of violence, or to provide security, such as at arrival and dismissal times and at special events,” it explains.  “What’s new is the growing trend of having police stationed in schools full-time. In other words, schools have become some officers’ beat. And like traditional policing, many officers walk this beat armed.”
Common Core and Testing
A teacher, parent and activist draws some interesting comparisons between the popular movie franchise “The Hunger Games” and what she refers to as “The Testing Games” on her blog Welcome to the Testing Games.   “The obvious comparison is the idea that education is some form of competition,” she posits.  “We know this concept is a popular one, just based upon the fact that our own US President named his education reform, The Race to the Top.  In this race, states are encouraged to create education policies based on test scores.  Student promotion, teacher evaluations, and school grades are all based on test scores.  Funding is then tied to the student achievement.  In simple terms, how well the students race decides how much money the schools get in funding.”              Were some critical security procedures surreptitiously circumvented in New Orleans for the new PARCC standardized test in order to make it easier to cheat or for unethical teachers/administrators to get an advanced look at the questions in order to prepare students to answer them?  Might there be a political motive for this type of activity to take place?  Those are a couple of the unsettling questions raised in an investigative piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “Those concerns are only the latest to be aired in the most controversial and politicized public school testing period that Louisiana has seen in years,” the story reports.  “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to Common Core and the national tests, and a vocal but small test-boycott movement, put extra pressure on educators.  Low test scores may mean that charter schools close, voucher schools get cut off and conventional schools get taken over by the state.”               With the advent of Common Core and the assessments aligned to them more and more school materials are shifting from print to digital formats reports a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  The information is based on a survey of ed-tech companies and publishers nationwide by the firm Education Market Research.  “In 2014,” the article notes, “companies reported using either a digital or online medium for product delivery 83 percent of the time, a jump from 41 percent five years ago and marking the first time digital delivery of products has surpassed print.”               Toney Jackson has created a poem (rap?) against testing called “It’s No Walk in the PARCC. . . .”  You can watch a video of him reciting it (3:02 minutes) and you can follow along with the words [Ed. note: Kind of karaoke style] included on his own TONEY JACKSON website.  Enjoy!                There is such a concentration on Common Core English and math, test prep in those subjects and the assessments themselves that other important subjects, like Social Studies, are getting frozen out for lack of time.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, includes a statement from Gorman Lee, president of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, who believes that “social studies education is “acing a ‘serious civic crisis.'”  “Lee’s message discusses the reduction — and in some cases elimination — of Social Studies departments at many schools,” Strauss notes, “and he notes that in “
‘some elementary schools, social studies instruction has been reduced to no more than 20 minutes per week’ so that classes can spend more time on what are considered core subjects.”  Please read Lee’s full statement and, whether you teach social studies or any other subject, weep!  [Ed. note:  Many of you know the “Ed News” editor was a social studies teacher with the LAUSD for 37 years before he retired in 2009.  Please pass the tissue!]               Need more evidence that there are millions (billions?) of dollars to be made in the Common Core and high-stakes testing business?  A new report, highlighted in Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post, looks at the large amounts of money being spent on LOBBYING and political contributions by the four biggest publishing companies to keep their cash cow alive and well.  “The analysis, done by the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy agency based in Wisconsin that tracks corporate influence on public policy,” she points out, “says that four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill—  collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.”                 Are the Common Core State Standards leading to the obsolescence of the traditional textbook?  That question is tackled by a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT and the short answer is “yes.”  “The new Common Core standards for kindergarten through 12th grade,” it points out, “were widely expected to be a boon to textbook publishers, making it easier to market the same books in the 40-plus states that have fully adopted them.  Instead, the standards may be rushing what many now see as the inevitable disappearance of the textbook.”
 
Defending Public Schools
The SOUTHERN EDUCATION FOUNDATION has produced an excellent video (2:58 minutes) explaining how vouchers and tax credits for private school scholarships are undermining the public school system by syphoning off taxpayer money.  Most of the states, it points out, that have these programs are in the southern U.S.   For a different take on the idea of school choice check out this Badass Teachers Association short video (1:36 minutes) on YouTube titled “School Choice!?”  Go ahead.  It’s only a minute-and-a-half!            Many corporate education “reformers” favor school choice and vouchers.  How popular are the latter with the voting public?  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a piece from the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy in School Funding that shows that since 1970 the public has not approved one single voucher initiative.  So why are the privatizers so quick to advocate for them?  Good question.               An editorial in the Houston Chronicle suggests that vouchers are really just a diversion from the more important issue of how to fully and fairly fund the public schools.  “The voucher issue,” it maintains, “distracts from the fact that public schools, whatever their problems, are the backbone of every Texas community. They require attention and investment.”   The Lt. Gov. of Texas is pushing a voucher plan that the piece opposes.  A state representative is trying to focus on the issue of providing enough funding to help the public schools.                Both Democrats and Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature recently got behind a bill that would expand a school choice tax credit (read voucher) program in the Keystone State.  The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the details.               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, debunks the contention of many school choice and voucher advocates that public money belongs to the individual student and should be portable enough for that child to take those dollars wherever he/she wants to attend school: charter, private, even, in some cases, parochial schools.  One of the foundational assertions of the charter movement.” he asserts, “is that public school tax dollars, once collected, should be attached to the child, maybe in a backpack, or perhaps surgically. . . .  The money belongs to the student.  I’ve resisted this notion for a long time. The money, I liked to say, belongs to the taxpayers, who have used it to create a school system that serves the entire community.”
The Teaching Profession
Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi Community School District, near Detroit, pens a piece titled “How To Kill A Profession” in which he lists the steps of how the corporate “reform” movement has managed to demonize teachers to such an extent that the much of the public believes they are to blame for the “failure of the public schools.”  His incisive remarks appear on The Superintendent’s Chair website.  “Some might argue that what I should focus on is the students,” he concludes.  “Student needs are the most important.  I agree.  But unless you create a meaningful, respected profession – who will teach the students?”  RIGHT ON, BROTHER!!!
A Disillusioned Reformer
What happens when a veteran of the education “reform” movement becomes disillusioned with what he sees is being accomplished?  He comes clean and describes just what it is that he finds objectionable in a commentary for the Connecticut Post titled “A Repentant Reformer’s Reflections.”  Jorge Cabrera was employed as a community organizer for 3 years by the “education reform” group Excel Bridgeport.  His tale is one of deviousness, deception and power!  It’s not pretty.  “My nearly three years in the ‘movement’ in Bridgeport revealed to me the incredible lengths that private, often unseen and unaccountable power will go to in order to create and capitalize on a crisis.” he reveals.  “In Bridgeport, that crisis in our public education system was created by powerful forces at the local and state level who systematically starved the school system by withholding necessary school funding (Shock #1) which then created a crisis that set the stage for a takeover (Shock #2) of the Bridgeport board of education on the eve of the fourth of July in 2011.  Essentially, these forces were engaged in a form of social engineering under the guise of ‘urgency’ and ‘reform.’”  Diane Ravitch’s blog calls this item a “remarkable and candid story . . . . It’s incredible [and]  confirms your darkest suspicions.”
 
Charters
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles about the need for more accountability, oversight and transparency of charter schools in a number of other states.  Now the focus is swinging to the same kinds of things in California.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times features a new report from several groups that was quickly countered by the California Charter Schools Association.  “State and local leaders rely too heavily on self-reporting through whistleblowers or audits paid for by charter school operators,” the article notes.  “Local leaders also lack the staff and training to monitor charter schools and identify fraud, according to the report.”                According to the DAILY KOS, a group of teachers at the Alliance Group, the largest charter chain in Los Angeles, started a drive to unionize.  They thought they’d gotten the chain’s management to stay neutral in the effort.  NOT A CHANCE.  Alliance quickly set up an anti-union website “as part of a broader effort to keep teachers from joining together to get collective bargaining and other union rights.  Not exactly neutral,” the article continues, “though I guess Alliance management isn’t yet saying teachers don’t have the right to unionize, they’re just saying they really don’t think teachers should exercise that right.  Since Alliance is publicly funded, these anti-union messages are being paid for with public money; teachers are enlisting community support in the request for true neutrality.”  This item includes a brief video (1:19 minutes) from the teachers about why they want to organize.  
 
Teacher Evaluations
Many of the new teacher evaluations include value-added models (VAMs) that use student test scores to rate how teachers are doing.  If you’d like a concrete example of the limits of using VAMs check out an article and video (5:09 minutes) on the VAMboozled website.  It includes one Florida teacher, Luke Flint, telling his story in front on his local school board.  If you have a moment, read some of the comments added at the end of this piece.
 
Book Club
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday column for the L.A. Times, tells about a student book club on the campus of the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School for College and Career Preparation (LAUSD) in Boyle Heights.  The group was formed last year by an English teacher and the campus librarian and now has 20 members and is still growing.  The students have been involved in the citywide “Big Read” program and are planning to attend the Times’ Festival of Books in mid-April.  “They meet on Mondays at lunch,” Lopez begins.  “They remove their earbuds, hide their smartphones and communicate without the aid of electronic devices.  They are the coolest kids at Mendez High School in Boyle Heights.  They are the Reading Club.”
 
Education “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a teacher’s list of 10 ways that “reform” harms children.
New Immigrant Students
Last year the “Ed News” highlighted several articles about a large influx of unaccompanied young children fleeing unrest in Central America who crossed into the U.S. and often entered schools in Texas, Arizona New Mexico and California.  This migration created some unique challenges for the individual campuses, the new students, teachers and parents.  Sunday’s L.A. Times features an interview with the principal of the Las Americas Newcomer School in Houston who describes how her school has dealt with the myriad issues that have arisen.  “For Principal Marie Moreno, it means dealing with students who suffered violence, are sometimes unschooled even in their native tongues, and are still adjusting to life without parents who left them behind years ago to work in the United States. ”  This article includes a link to a previous piece the Times published in September about the same principal and her campus as the new school year was commencing.
Some First Amendment Court Cases
A situation where a group of high school students wore t-shirts with American flags during a Cinco de Mayo celebration may reach all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on 1st amendment grounds.  The case began in 2011 at Live Oak High School (Morgan Hill Unified School District) near San Jose when an assistant principal ordered the students to turn their shirts inside or go home.  They chose the latter.  A suit was brought by several parents of the t-shirt wearing students and it may be selected for review by the nation’s highest court.  Sunday’s L.A. Times has all the legal issues and details of what could be a very interesting case.                Yesterday the high court announced that it had declined to hear the case thus upholding the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that supported the school’s decision to ban the t-shirts.  This latest action is described in an article from EDUCATION WEEK.
Can a public school teacher take Good Friday off in order to attend church?  Her employer in Rhode Island said ‘”no,” requiring “documentation that church attendance was mandatory during the workday.”  The local teachers union sued on behalf of several hundred educators claiming the district was violating their civil rights.  On Friday a judge issued a preliminary injunction that allowed union members to take the day off.  The details and issues in this case on covered in a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  The lawsuit comes as public schools across the country,” it indicates, “grapple with how to determine which religious holidays to recognize on their calendars. This month, New York closed its public schools in observance of two Muslim holy days: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.”               In the fall of 2012, the Little Oaks School in Thousand Oaks adopted a Christian curriculum and requested each faculty member provide a pastoral reference verifying how often they attended church, the degree of their faith and whether they could be endorsed to teach at a Christian school.  Two educators refused and  their contracts were not renewed.  They filed a lawsuit in 2013, based on religious discrimination and wrongful termination.  Last week the judged issued a ruling and you may be surprised by the decision.  I’ll let you read all about the case in a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.
 
Opt-Out
The opt-out movement is growing in strength almost daily.  Yesterday, the president of the New York State United Teachers union, Karen Magee, called for a statewide boycott of the assessment partly as a protest against Gov. Cuomo’s plan to include student scores as 50% of a teacher’s evaluation and other education related issues.  The latest news on this developing story can be found at the Capitol Confidential website.                Jesse Hagopian, the U.S. History teacher from Seattle, published a book last year called More Than A Score that tells the story of the testing industry (the “testocracy”) and the opt-out movement.  Hagopian was one of the very first  to promote the latter.  truthout has an excerpt from his volume.            A group of 30 juniors at Lake Oswego High School in Oregon has refused to take the SBAC standardized test and they are trying to convince their fellow students to do the same.  “It’s not that we want to cause trouble for the school district or the parents or anything,” said Shaheen Safari, a junior and Student Union member. “It’s just what we personally believe in. We’re exercising our democratic right to speak our voice.”  She was quoted in the article from the Portland Tribune.
 
Parent-Trigger Law
And finally, the first parent-trigger law in the nation was passed in California 5 years ago.  On the anniversary of that event EDUCATION WEEK conducted an interview with the author of a series of stories on the topic in that publication.  She discusses how the law has been used over the last 5 years and how it has expanded into other states.  You can listen to the audio of the Q & A (4:35 minutes) and/or read a transcript of it by clicking here.
 
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Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)  

That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”

Ed News, Friday, March 27, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

“An educated mind is a questioning mind. Or is it?” 
―  T.S. Welti The Fifth Specter
Opt-out
Jonathan Pelto on his Wait? What? blog singles out a teacher in Connecticut for standing up for the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing in the state despite efforts by the governor, the current Commissioner of Education and local district superintendents who all took great pains to point out there is no law that allows it.  (Needless to say, there is no law that prohibits opting-out either.)               Jacky Boyd on the CRUNCHY MOMS [Ed. note: That’s not a misprint) website offers “Eleven Reasons to Refuse Standardized Testing for Your Children.”  She’s a parent in Maine which is using the same high-stakes exams developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) that California signed up for.  “Adults remember standardized testing as an occasional interruption in the curriculum.  The low stakes culture kept the test in check.  Aside from the SAT,” she concludes, “we didn’t stress over these exams, and certainly about factors beyond ourselves.  I never once worried my scores would harm my teacher or school.  But today’s youth do have this concern.  Even if teachers aren’t explicit, students determine the test’s importance by how much time and preparation it demands.  You can remove your child from this toxic testing culture and inform others along the way.”              Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALL blog takes a similar, though much more personal approach, then Jacky Boyd (above) in his piece titled “Not My Daughter–One Dad’s Journey to Protect His Little Girl from Toxic Testing.”  Unlike Boyd, Singer is a national board certified teacher who has taught in the public schools for over 12 years.  “Standardized testing is destroying public education.  It’s stressing kids out by demanding they perform at levels they aren’t developmentally ready to reach,” he insists.  “And its using these false measures of proficiency to ‘prove’ how bad public schools are so they can be replaced by for-profit charters that will reduce the quality of kids’ educations to generate profits.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Despite all the attacks on teachers by the corporate “reformers” and the discouraging words from others about getting into the profession there are still idealistic young people who want to become educators.  A group of them have formed an organization called the Young Teachers Collective and you can read about their goals and objectives on their website.  With all the negative news about teachers and education there are some rays of hope out there.  It just may be that they are harder to find!  ” The current climate of the education system is not inviting,” the author maintains .  “We constantly see poor reforms implemented by people the most distant from the classroom. We constantly hear ‘don’t go into teaching.’  Regardless, we see the profession as something worth fighting for. In order to win this struggle, we understand the importance of coming together to support each other and lift each other up–even if it’s only through an online community.”   You may also want to read another entry (dated Jan., 2014) from the same site titled “To All The Teachers Telling Us Not to Go Into Teaching, Stop.”
Want some (disheartening?) idea of what “teaching” might entail in the future (5, 10, 20 years from now)?  Thanks to Stephen Mucher for sending along a piece from The Atlantic titled “The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher.”  It’s subtitled “When Kids Can Get Their Lessons from the Internet, What’s Left for Classroom Instructors To Do?”  The author, Michael Godsey,
an English teacher and writer from San Luis Obisbo, does not paint a very pretty picture but the so-called corporate “reformers” are probably going to be most pleased.  “I’ve started recognizing a common thread to the latest trends in teaching,” he notes.   “Flipped learning, blending learning, student-centered learning, project-based learning, and even self-organized learning—they all marginalize the teacher’s expertise. Or, to put it more euphemistically, they all transform the teacher into a more facilitative role .”  [Ed. note: I was all excited for the future of teaching after reading about the Young Teachers Collective.  Now I’m back to being depressed again.  We may all need to take a Prozac after reading this one.]
Pearson, PLC (Public Limited Company)
Want an inside look at Pearson, the education behemoth, that is publishing most of the Common Core materials and the assessments supposedly aligned with the standards?  ALJAZEERA AMERICA has a very interesting investigative piece about the company that has been likened to an octopus for the control it has over education in this country and others around the world.  “ Who stands to gain from education reforms such as the controversial Common Core standards,” it asks?   “One big winner is the British publishing company Pearson, which delivered 9 million high stakes tests to students across the United States in 2014, including the PARCC Common Core assessments. Pearson has an especially tight hold on New York’s education system, which one critic has compared to the grip of an octopus. Pearson runs the edTPA program, which certifies New York teachers, and the company has a $32 million contract to administer the state’s end-of-year tests. And it offers a wide variety of services to implement the Common Core, including curriculum models and tools to measure student understanding.”  Octopus?  Indeed!  What you might find most enlightening is the author’s analysis of a book by the company’s chief academic officer describing his philosophy of “Deliverology.”  Scary stuff!
Special Ed.
A new report, two years in the making, urges sweeping changes in K-12 education policies in California toward students with disabilities.  The study was presented to the state board of education on March 11.  EDUCATION WEEK provides the details.  ” Virtually every major element of education policy—including early-childhood education, special education finance, teacher training, and accountability—was wrapped into the final report,” the story notes , “from California’s statewide task force on special education.”  The piece includes a link to the full report (98 pages) titled “One System: Reforming Education to Serve ALL Students.”
Public Education and the Presidential Election, 2016
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog wonders “When Will ‘Progressives’ Defend Public Education?”  He points out that most Republicans take great pleasure in attacking “the failing public schools” while Democratic Pres. Obama and his Sec. of Education Arne Duncan seem clearly on the sidelines when it comes to supporting the public school system.  
Remember, public school teachers are more than five million in number,” Cody reminds his readers.  “The membership in the NEA and AFT combined is more than four million. That is the largest organized bloc of voters in the nation. If we act together, and communicate effectively with parents and students about these issues, we could be a determining factor in many races.”            The NEA, the nation’s largest teachers union, is getting a head start on the presidential election next year.  It will soon be sending out a questionnaire regarding individual positions on education policies to a fairly extensive list of 19 potential candidates: Republican, Democratic and even one Independent.  The piece from EDUCATION WEEK includes all the names who received the questionnaire.  [Ed. note: Spoiler alert, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was not among them.  You’ll have to read the item to figure out why.]
School Reform
A lot of corporate experts would like to institute market-based reforms to the education system.  Do they have any real life case studies of how this might work other than in the corporate world?  The answer is “yes.”  Since the 1980s Chile has embarked on a privatization model for their school system that relies on choice, charters and vouchers.  Sound familiar?  How successful has it been?  Check out  an  analysis from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution written by a professor in Chile and one from the University of Georgia to see how it has fared.  They offer seven facts about the experiment that raise some serious questions about the whole concept.  “The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all,” the authors indicate.  “Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.”               A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog, upon seeing the above item, wrote in to her column and described some similar things taking place in Colombia.  “It’s not like our education policy leaders would have to go far to see what NOT to do: Colombia’s a mere four hour flight from Miami,” the person warns.  “There are none so blind as those who will not look, much less see.”               Want some idea of how market-based ideas would apply to education but don’t want to have to travel all the way to Chile or Colombia?  Check out how things are going in the almost-all charter Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina.  The competition to attract students has led to practices like erecting billboards, hiring local celebrities to push your campus, bus-stop ads and handing out leaflets at neighborhood grocery stores.  In some cases principals have even admitted carefully selecting only certain types of students for their campuses.  Can public schools do any of these things?  THE HECHINGER REPORT features a newly-released study that looks at how competition is impacting the RSD and it invited several principals to react to the findings in the report and offer their own take on what’s happening.  The article includes a link to the full study (41 pages) titled “How Do School Leaders Respond to Competition?  Evidence from New Orleans” written by an assistant professor of education at the University of Texas, Austin.
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reminds readers that 2 years ago 3 different organizations produced separate documents proposing a progressive agenda for education reform that stressed ” ‘equity of opportunity’ and adequate financial and instructional support for every child, among other principles.”  He revisits those manifestos and wonders what has happened since they were issued.  ” Now two years later,” he laments , “what we see instead of a unified education agenda based on equity of opportunity is an education policy landscape mired in controversy and fraught with politics.  What went wrong?  Bryant proceeds to provide a number of answers.  Be sure to check out his relatively detailed analysis of what’s been happening in California.
Interview with Education Sec. Arne Duncan
EDUCATION WEEK has a Q & A with U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan.  He takes on topics like the 50th anniversary of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act), testing, NCLB and teacher evaluations among others.  With less than 22 months left in the Obama administration, Duncan’s tenure is also coming to a close.  The final query addressed that issue: ” Last question (asked off the cuff, after the official conclusion of the interview): You going to stick around for the end of the [Obama administration]?
(Laughs). Day at a time, baby, day at a time.”  [Ed. note: For those of us who are not big fans of Duncan we can only hope it’s not too many more days!]
Student Discipline Policies
More and more large urban school districts are abandoning “zero-tolerance” policies regarding student discipline as about all they’ve achieved is to boost the suspension and expulsion rates particularly among students of color and ones with disabilities.  An article in The Atlantic looks at why these harsh, no-questions-asked programs have not been very successful.  It discusses several more progressive, child-centered approaches that have worked in the past and features a couple of new books and research that bolsters the trend. 
Computers in Schools Worldwide  
Despite the “iPad-for-all” fiasco in the LAUSD and a few disasters in other districts the growth in what is referred to as “1-to-1 computing” is growing rapidly around the world.  Globally the number of devices provided to students is expected to grow by 12% in 2015 over the previous year according to a report from Futuresource Consulting, A U.K. based company, highlighted in a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “In the United States, the push to provide digital devices for online assessments has fueled rapid growth in the market for mobile devices in the past year,” the article concludes.  “There was a 40.5 percent growth in 2014 compared to 2013, driven by the technology requirements associated with the common-core standards and tests, according to Futuresource. In the U.S., deployments are carried out from district to district, rather than on a national scale.”
Teacher Evaluations
An art teacher in New York clearly explains one of the biggest drawbacks to evaluating teachers by including student standardized test scores.  What happens when no assessment exists in the subject taught by a teacher?  You may not believe this but in some districts educators are being rated using students or even results from subjects they don’t teacher!  Keep in mind that decisions about salary and job retention are often pegged to those questionable evaluations.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to a veteran teacher who illuminates this odd state of affairs for you.  “New York City takes Common Core math and English Language Arts test scores,” he rightly points out, “and attributes them to teachers who teach different subjects, even though they are not certified to teach those subjects, and even though they may never have met the tested students. Tens of thousands of teachers of science, social studies, all the arts, physical education, foreign language, technology and other subjects have at least 20 percent of their evaluation based on math or English Language Arts test results. (Because I am now required to have an “improvement plan,” I am curious to hear how teachers can improve the scores of kids we don’t teach.)  [Ed. note: In light of the above it’s even more difficult to fathom why Gov. Cuomo is proposing to make student scores 50% (!) of a teacher’s evaluation.]  Crazy!
Seniority
And finally, Peter Greene, this time writing for EDUCATION WEEK, tackles the issue of seniority using his wife, who is at the bottom of the seniority ranks, and himself, at the top, as examples along with the budget situation in Pennsylvania where they both work.
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71)