Ed News, Tuesday, May 25, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
       Monday is the Memorial Day Holiday
       Inline image 1
 
  [The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the Memorial Day weekend. 
Look for the next issue on Friday, June 3rd.]
             
               “Getting an education is an awfully wearing process!” 

― Jean WebsterDaddy-Long-Legs

 
Teacher Evaluations
Add Hawaii to the list of states dropping student test scores from it teacher evaluations according to a story in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.  “Formerly, teachers in Hawaii were beholden to curriculum and standards developed with little or none of their input by entities [Hawaii State Teachers Association] Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso described as ‘corporate philanthropists.’ These entities,” it reports, “namely the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, have had sway in setting teacher performance standards, developed testing for those standards and profiting from the system, she said.  Teaching effectiveness, then, was rated on student understanding of curriculum teachers themselves didn’t develop but were forced by the administration to implement.  Performance of teachers was also rated on aggregated test scores of every student participant — the majority of whom individual teachers never had in their own classrooms.”
 
Ed Tech
How do teachers feel about education technology in their classrooms?  That’s the question addressed by a new survey sponsored by the online education resources provider Edgenuity that polled a random sample of 400 middle and high school teachers in grades 6 to 12 in March.  Findings are featured in an article in the “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Ninety-one percent of teachers agree that technology gives them more ability to tailor lessons and homework assignments to the individual needs of each student,” it explains, “but only 16 percent of teachers give their schools an ‘A’ grade for incorporating it into their classrooms, according to a new national survey. . . .  According to the survey, the top three roles teachers felt technology should play in the classroom are providing a variety of learning tools or modalities, making the learning experience more engaging, and differentiating the learning experience.”  The item includes a link to the full study titled “Teachers’ Dream Classroom Survey.”  For an infographic summarizing the findings from the poll click here (the article includes a small portion of that infographic).
 
Poem About Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog once again plays host to “Some DAMpoet” who turns his pen on those corporate “reformers.”  His offering is titled “The Path Not Taken” with apologies to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” which you can read or listen to being recited (1:16) by clicking here.  Here’s the first stanza of the parody to whet your appetite: 
 
“Two paths diverged in a public school,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, help and tool
I looked down one, like a teaching fool
To how it lent to the student growth”
The Teaching Profession
Florida is experiencing a mass exodus of teachers as this school years ends  Reasons for the phenomenon include a lack of respect from the legislature, an overemphasis on standardized testing and lousy salaries among others.  The Orlando Sentinel has the depressing details.  Why is the story so depressing?  Because we’ve heard these reasons so often before.  “The exodus is so intense that state records show that 40 percent of new teachers leave within five years after they start,” it notes,  “Florida’s attrition rate for new teachers is 15-20 percent higher than the national average, depending on the year.”               Are American teachers the only ones who are fed up and frustrated with the misuse of standardized tests, low morale, lack of respect for the profession, poor pay and working conditions?  Apparently not.  A teacher in the U.K. has written an open letter on The Girl on the Piccadilly Linewebsite announcing her reluctant resignation from her teaching job after 6 year in the classroom.  “In some ways I don’t feel like a teacher at all any more. I prepare children for tests and, if I’m honest, I do it quite well,” she relates.  “It’s not something I’m particularly proud of as it’s not as if I’ve provided my class with any transferable, real life skills during the process.  They’ve not enjoyed it, I’ve not enjoyed it but we’ve done it: and one thing my children know how to do is answer test questions.” Her complaints are amazingly similar to the reasons why educators in this country are leaving.  The note is addressed to the Secretary of State for Education of the Conservative Party.              Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, makes the case for why the public school system in this country needs more teachers of color.  “Black students relate to black teachers.  White students relate to white teachers.  It’s just human nature. We identify most with people like us.  It doesn’t mean kids can only be taught by teachers of their own race. That’s silly,” he argues.  “But it’s just as ridiculous to pretend like this doesn’t matter at all.  Fact: Roughly 48% of our nation’s public school children are children of color.  Fact: Only 18% of our nation’s teachers are persons of color.  We’re missing a tremendous opportunity!”  Singer proceeds to explain what that opportunity is and why it’s important.
 
Testing and Common Core
In 2o10 Kentucky became the first state to adopt the Common Core and to begin using assessments aligned to the standards.  At first student scores dropped in the Bluegrass State and have only recently begun to creep up.  More troubling is the fact that the achievement gap between Black and white students continues to widen based on a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “In spring 2015, in the elementary grades, 33 percent of black students were proficient in reading, versus 58 percent of white students; in math, the breakdown was 31 percent to 52 percent, according to Kentucky Department of Education figures.  And those gaps, in many cases,”  it mentions, “have widened, according to an analysis of state testing data by The Hechinger Report and the Courier-Journal.”               Did Campbell Brown just step in it again?  Brown made a statement in a video with “advice for the next president” about future education policies and how she interpreted some recent NAEP scores.  When Tom Loveless, a former Harvard professor and expert on school reform and student achievement, challenged her on her assertion the Twitter world lit up with a back and forth that drew in a few other commentators.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, invites Carol Burris to describe the situation.  Burris was directly involved in the social media exchange regarding the  skirmish.  “Another day, another fight in the education world,” Strauss begins.  “This one is worth delving into because it is really not about who said what but about fundamental understandings — and misunderstandings — of standardized testing data and how it drives policy.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, attempts to “school” Campbell Brown (see above) onthe intricacies of NAEP scores and their ratings.  Brown doesn’t seem to understand concepts like “proficient” and “grade level” so Schneider makes an effort to set her straight. “Based upon Brown’s bizarre response, I think we might reasonably expect her to continue to willfully misinterpret NAEP proficiency.  She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, and she doesn’t care.  But readers can take a lesson: Don’t be like Brown.  Remember that NAEP ‘proficient’ and ‘at grade level’ are not to be used interchangeably,”she dutifully explains, “nor are NAEP ‘proficient’ and ‘grade level proficiency.’  One should not even imply that students must achieve NAEP proficient in math or reading in order to be considered at grade level in math or reading.”             The controversy over a Columbia University professor who published May 7th a critique on her blog of the 4th grade PARCC English assessment by a teacher (highlighted extensively in the last couple of editions of the “Ed News), sparking a ferocious reaction from the CEO of PARCC, is the topic of a story in The New York Times.  The piece is titled “Leaked Questions Rekindle Fierce Debate Over Common Core Tests” and once again reviews the situation and identifies some of the key players.  “Ever since most states adopted the Common Core — guidelines for kindergarten through high school reading and math — parents and teachers have pushed back,” the reporter notes, “with many parents choosing not to have their children take the exams.  Although a new federal education law has lowered the stakes for testing, the viral response to the anonymous teacher’s critique highlights the strong feelings that standardized testing continues to evoke.”              Leonie Haimson has a commentary on the NYC Public School Parents website with an analysis of the New York Times article and what it left out.  She also reviews the case and includes lots of links to important articles, blogs and essays about the issue.  “What’s the next chapter in this saga?  Stay tuned,” she speculates, “for possible legal challenges if PARCC continues its attempt to evade accountability for the flawed nature of these exams through censoring any critiques that contain excerpts from the exam.”
 
Charter Schools
The most recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an op-ed in Thursday’s L.A. Times that suggested that charter schools were not detrimental to the LAUSD.  That piece prompted two letters in today’s paper.  Both were quite skeptical of the author’s premise.  “Because traditional schools serve everyone, their per-pupil costs are significantly higher than charter schools.  Charter schools can effectively cherry pick their students,” the writer of the first letter concludes, “leaving children with the greatest needs in traditional schools.  Charter schools are indeed siphoning money from traditional schools.”  The second letter questions the op-ed author’s motives, pointing out that she “was a senior consultant to Bill Gates, the billionaire who, along with others like him, wants to replace public schools with his corporate-style education model.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Sue Desmond-Hellman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has a first annual newsletter out touting the many “successes” of the organization in the realm of education. She points to Kentucky as a prime example of how things like the Common Core are working wonders in that state.  Unfortunately, she seems to ignore the factual evidence (see the first item under the “Testing and Common Core” heading in this edition of the “Ed News”).  That would seem to call for “STRIKE ONE!” against the foundation.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, points out the problem with touting Kentucky as a success story and mentions a couple of other less than successful endeavors that Desmond-Hellman conveniently leaves out of her accounting.  “The Gates Foundation has no shortage of experiences to reflect upon, and should be able to muster a bit of humility to match the task.  Unfortunately we have yet to see this disposition applied to K12 education,” Cody scolds.  “Thus far, the interventions promoted by the Gates Foundation have caused more harm than benefit for teachers and students. This latest letter from Desmond-Hellmann does not suggest that much reflection is underway.”  Taken together does this make for “STRIKE TWO, THREE, FOUR and . . . .” on the Gates Foundation?
 
Education Funding
Two law professors, one from Harvard Law and the other from the University of Richmond, write on EDUCATION WEEK about “The K-12 Funding Crisis.”  They mention some of the other attempts at reform, i.e., the Common Core, teacher evaluations and passage of the ESSA to replace NCLB, but suggest that none of those will ever be successful if schools are not funded at proper levels “What is often missing from education reform conversations is how these reforms can create sustainable changes to the education system.  We believe the system’s very foundations are broken,” they maintain, “and school funding is one of the most pressing issues in need of repair.  Most states have failed to create school funding systems that provide the necessary foundation for all children to receive equal access to an excellent education. The nation’s children deserve no less, particularly in view of evidence that money spent wisely on education matters.”  The essay offers some suggestions for boosting school funding to adequate levels.
 
Comparing the U.S. School System to the One in China
And finally, Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, who spent some time studying the school system in China.  As a result of that research he believes we should stop comparing American students to those in China.  China’s scores on various international exams have been hailed as miraculous and China has been singled out as having an exemplary school system.  However, Harvey’s main contention is that the Chinese government severely restricts student access to its school system which results in rather skewed international test results.  He explains how all this plays out.

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Friday, May 20, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
        “So what indeed! The lesson I myself learned over and over again when teaching at the college 
          and then the prison was the uselessness of information to most people, except as entertainment. 
     If facts weren’t funny or scary, or couldn’t make you rich, the heck with them.” 
 
Common Core
ALOED member Larry Lawrence alerted the “Ed News” about thisdocumentary (39:08 minutes) on the Common Core State Standards.  It’s titled “BUILDING THE MACHINE” and appears onYouTube.  If you are not sure you want to view the full film you can check out the official trailer (2:51 minutes) first.  Larry calls the film “one of the best analyses of the Common Core I’ve seen.”
 
Protecting Transgender Students in California
The rights and protection of transgender people have become a key issue in the country.  The “Education Watch” column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has a discussion, in the form of a Q & A, that looks at how those rights and policies are being protected fortransgender students in California and the LAUSD.               On Monday the Times ran a front-page story about a 9-year old transgender girl and her experiences as a 3rd grader at her LAUSD elementary school in West L.A.  You can find that item by clicking here.  This is one example of what “T” (the name given to protect her privacy) goes through: “One friend asked T if she was a boy or a girl.  T said she was a girl.  ‘But you were a boy last year,’ the friend said.  ‘I’m a transgender girl,’ T replied.  The friend asked what that meant.   T’s response?  ‘Google it.’   The next day, the friend came back and said that she and her grandmother had done just that.  Now they both know what transgender means, she said.”               The article about the 9-year-old transgender girl (see above) prompted one letter-to-the editor in yesterday’s paper.  “The article addresses how Los Angeles Unified School District staffers had to be trained on how to deal with T; it appears the adults are handling this well.  Unfortunately,” the author writes, “it also appears there are all sorts of politicians, such as those in North Carolina, who also need training.”
 
Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly in December, Senate Republicans immediately announced that no matter who Pres. Obama nominated they would not hold hearings on the appointment until the next president was chosen.  When Obama picked Judge Merrick Garland in March GOP Senate leaders reiterated their position of not holding hearings.  Despite all that posturing, are their any clues as to Garland’s positions on K-12 issues?  An interesting piece in EDUCATION WEEK reveals that Judge Garland has so far left a very limited track record.  He did clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan for a short time in the late 70s.  Therein can be mined a few clues about Garland’s education positions.  The high court’s 1978-79 term had some key education cases.  “But anyone looking for clues about what Garland—President Barack Obama’s pick to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the high court—was thinking during that year, or what advice he gave Brennan, will find the record frustratingly bare.  While some justices preserve their law clerks’ memos for posterity, Brennan,” it reveals, “mostly didn’t. . . .  Still, just looking at the cases that a law clerk encounters during his or her year serving a justice provides some sense of perspective.”
 
Battle for School Funding Continues With Possible Dire Consequences
Tuesday’s “Ed News” described some budget battles in Chicago, Detroit and Pennsylvania that were reaching crisis proportions.  Things are getting so bad that one district in Erie, PA, is contemplating closing all its high schools.  Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, has the incomprehensible details.  His commentary is titled “PA: Erie and the End of Public School.”   “Erie, Pennsylvania– not exactly a teeming metropolis, but not exactly a one horse town, either– is considering closing all of its high schools.  Yes, at a meeting [Wednesday] afternoon, the leaders of the Erie School District will meet to decide if it might be more doable to just send all of Erie’s teenagers to neighboring school districts.  The district is looking at a $4.3 million gap, and like many districts in PA, it has no possible response except to cut, ‘including eliminating sports, extracurricular activities, art and music programs, district libraries, and the district’s police department.’  Plus cutting various administrative positions out the wazoo.”               You can add North Carolina to the infamous list of cities/states (see above and there are too many more) that are starving their public schools to death by failing to adequately fund them.  Stuart Egan, author of the CAFFEINATED RAGE blog, is a National Board Certified high school English teacher in the Tar Heel State and he chronicles the damage done by a Republican governor and legislature to the public schools in North Carolina.  “When the GOP won control of both houses in the North Carolina General Assembly in the elections of 2010, it was the first time that the Republicans had that sort of power since 1896.  Add to that the election of Pat McCrory as governor in 2012, and the GOP has been able to run through multiple pieces of legislation that have literally changed a once progressive state into one of regression,”  he complains.  “From the Voter ID law to HB2 to fast tracking fracking to neglecting coal ash pools, the powers that-now-be have furthered an agenda that has simply been exclusionary, discriminatory, and narrow-minded.  And nowhere is that more evident than the treatment of public education.”  Egan provides a litany of education policies that have severely degraded teaching and learning in his state.   Texas has a convoluted funding systemfor its K-12 schools that no one seems to be able to figure out, least of all the legislature that doesn’t really want to provide adequate financial support to its schools.  An article in The New York Times attempts to sort out all the competing arguments.   A recent state supreme court ruling only seems to have made matters more complicated.  “The [GOP] lieutenant governor and many Republicans in the state Legislature seized on the ruling to push for increasing ‘school choice’ in the form of expanded charter schools and voucher programs.  Outnumbered Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, said 2017 should bring a major effort to strengthen traditional public schools — though that will be a tough sell.”  [Ed. note: Why is “strengthening traditional public schools” such “a tough sell” in Texas?  Good question.  Your guess is as good as mine!]
 
Election 2016
The author of this commentary in THINKPROGRESS believes that Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton haschanged the conversation about teachers for the better.  “But[Clinton’s] interest in bolstering the teaching profession,” the piece explains, “by urging that states work on increasing teacher pay, improving recruitment, and provide more funding for public schools is the part of her education platform that represents a bigger change in how Democrats talk about teachers.”
 
Teacher Evaluations
 Have you been trying to keep up with the latest news on teacher evaluations?  It’s not easy, is it?  Things seem to be in constant flux.  The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK features two recent reports that attempt to bring readers up-to-date on the latest happenings on the teacher evaluation front.  The author of the article offers a very brief overview of each one.  “There’s a lot more in both reports, so check them both out,” he urges.  “But above all else, these papers try to make it clear that evaluation is only going to be as good as the quality of the observations and feedback that are offered, and the time and attention that both administrators and teachers put into it. The new systems pose significant logistical challenges—as well as opportunities to really improve instruction for the better.  The bottom line: Teacher evaluation isn’t something you can do purely for compliance’s sake, on a Friday afternoon, or on the cheap—as had been the practice for so long.”  The piece includes links to both reports.
 
Questioning Some Test Questions is Becoming Personal
The May 17th and 20th editions of the “Ed News” highlighted thebattle between the PARCC CEO and various education writers over the former’s attempt to silence a number of bloggers over their carrying of a column by an anonymous 4th grade teacher who had some major concerns about the company’s 4th grade English/Language Arts assessments. Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, picks up the debate with a focus on the nondisclosure agreements many teachers are required to sign regarding discussion of the exams in an essay titled “The First Rule of Test Club Is We Don’t Talk About Test Club.”  “We know the federally mandated high stakes assessments public school children must take are poorly constructed, culturally and racially biased, and ultimately unfair.  But if we speak up in public with any kind of specificity,” he suggests, “we’re threatened with steep fines.  And if we write about it on-line, those articles will be taken down, censored or otherwise disappeared.”               Jonathan Pelto, writing on The Progressive website, frames the attempt by PARCC officials to censor various bloggers for publishing a piece by an anonymous 4th grade teacher who was critical of the company’s English exam (see above), as a free speech issue.  He titles his essay “Beware: The Education Reform Industry is Watching You!”  He reviews how the whole story developed and who are the key characters involved.  “PARCC’s attack on citizen journalists and public school advocates is a perfect case study of the corporatization of public education.  As the corporate elite extend their influence over the country’s institutions and elected officials,”Pelto charges, “they threaten legal action to silence those who push back.  But citizen journalists and education advocates refuse to be silenced.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column inThe Washington Post, joined the chorus of critics of PARCC’s actions against a number of bloggers for posting certain copyrighted items from the company’s 4th grade English assessment. She, too,reviews the story and mentions a number of the people involved.  In addition, she reprints letters and other correspondence that are germane to the case.  “The Common Core testing group called PARCC Inc. has been waging an aggressive campaign,” Strauss reminds readers, “to take down several dozen social media references to the PARCC test being administered to students this spring — items that include questions from the exam and some that don’t.”
 
New California History/Social Studies Framework
A very brief item in EDUCATION WEEK reports that the Instructional Quality Commission will consider forwarding a new proposed California History/Social Studies Framework to the State Board of Education this week.  “Debate about the plan over the past decade has been painstaking and emotional,”  it notes, “peppered with testimony from ethnic groups who want something different in how their people are presented in textbooks and discussed in classrooms.”
 
School Desegregation Finally Ordered
How long does it take to desegregate a school district?  If you’re a rural town in Mississippi the answer is over 50 years!  A federal court ordered the integration of the middle and high schools in theCleveland, Mississippi, School District in a case that dates back to July, 1965, according to an article in The New York Times.  “A Justice Department motion filed in 2011 illustrated the inequities between the poor and well-off in Cleveland, a Mississippi Delta town with a population of about 12,000.  Before 1969,” it mentions,  “schools on the west side of the railroad tracks that run through Cleveland were white and segregated by law.  Schools on the east side of the tracks were originally black.”   Tuesday was the 62nd anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court case that declared the separate but equal doctrine that had been the law of the land since 1896 to be unconstitutional.  Given the recent court order to desegregate the middle and high schools in Cleveland, Mississippi (see above), THE HECHINGER REPORT reviews the history of desegregation efforts over the past 6 decades.  A recent Government Accountability Office report (highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News”) found that the percentage of Black and Latino students attending segregated schools has actually increased.  “What is more alarming is that the Cleveland School District is likely not alone in its maintenance of separate educational systems,” the story points out.  “Many students still attend segregated schools, and research shows that racial segregation is on the rise, accelerating most rapidly in the South.”
 
Charter Schools
Yesterday’s L.A. Times has an op-ed from Marguerite Roza, the Director of the “Edunomics” Lab at Georgetown University, who tries to make a case for how charters are not detrimental to the LAUSD.  She seems to gloss over the whole idea of economies of scale and the unique fixed costs of schools.  “While LAUSD has lost revenue in recent years, those funds were for the students it no longer serves.  And if a system educates fewer students,” she assumes, “shouldn’t it operate on a smaller budget?  Some will say that economies of scale work such that the district can’t be expected to operate with proportionately fewer dollars when it loses students.  But that argument doesn’t hold water.  There are 14,000 or so districts in this country that can and do operate at all different sizes.  And most are much smaller than the urban districts perpetually in fiscal trouble.”  Take a 5% drop in student enrollment (her hypothetical figure). Schools still need to retain a custodian, bus driver, librarian, nurse and other staff (one can’t reduce one of those by 5%) and heat and air conditioning don’t get reduced by the percentage enrollment drop.  Those are known as “fixed costs” in economics and are also a familiar concept in business.  Roza also tries to make the case that smaller districts (she mentions Lindsay Unified) do just fine with their size.  However, she seems to assume their enrollments remain static so they aren’t faced with enrollment (and revenue) drops.  That’s not even like comparing apples to oranges.  That’s more like comparing apples to cows!  It’s a bit disingenuous to compare large, urban, often poor districts that are loosing enrollment to charters, to small, suburban and often wealthier districts with static or growing enrollments.               Talk about auspicious timing, The NPE (Network for Public Education) posted a brand new video (3:48 minutes) on Tuesday titled “The Impact of Charters on Neighborhood Schools. Simply Told” that makes the case for how choice, vouchers and charters are doing major damage to the traditional public school system.   Thanks again to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for alerting the “Ed News” to this latest item.               Additional research that refutes Roza’s contention (see first item under this headline) comes from the NATIONAL CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF PRIVATIZATION IN EDUCATION (NCSPE) out of TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.  The group posted a paper (50 pages) on Tuesday titled “The Effect of Charter Competition on Unionized District Revenues and Resource Allocation” by Jason B. Cook, doctoral student in economics at Cornell University.  In his “Conclusions” Cook writes (p. 31) “I find that charter competition directly decreases TPSD [traditional public school district] revenues in excess of the mechanical loss of state resources due to lower enrollment.”  He finds other areas of impact on public school budgets as well.  You are encouraged to read a one page review of the full paper titled “The Impact of Charter Schools on District School Budgets” by the NCSPE.   “At once crisply written, grounded in careful statistical analysis, and buttressed with a rich appendix” it concludes, “Cook’s study promises to be a significant addition to the literature on charter schools and their impact on school districts.”  After that, set aside some time to read the full report.  [Ed. suggestion: Read Roza’s op-ed, view the video and read the short review and Cook’s paper  and see what you think.  What else do you have to do?]
Does Education Reform Include Improving School Infrastructure?
And finally, Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, raises an interesting question.  Amid all the discussion and debate over education “reform” there’s a glaring lack of focus on improving campus infrastructure.  What does he mean by that?  Allocating enough funds to improve classroom facilities and environment including heating and air conditioning, bathrooms, playgrounds, transportation, school grounds and, most importantly, increasing pay and benefits of school personnel.  Bryant describes terrible conditions in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Boston.  “In some school districts, the physical state of the buildings has gotten so bad,” he mentions, “community groups organize to take on the maintenance tasks governments won’t provide. In one Kansas community, a high school student resorted to a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to fix his school’s bathroom.”

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, May 17, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
      “Congress and state legislatures should not tell teachers how to teach, 
       any more than they should tell surgeons how to perform operations.”

― Diane Ravitch,     The Death and Life of the Great American School System: 

This comic strip appeared in Saturday’s L.A. Times:
 
 LA CUCARACHA   By Lalo Alcaraz
 
Inline image 1
 

When Celia Oyler, on her personal blog, had an anonymous 4th grade teacher describe her concerns about the PARCC English/Language Arts test, she didn’t bargain for the blow back she would receive from testing officials which led to a tempest on the blogosphere.  (See the May 13th edition of the “Ed News” for original details.)  PARCC CEO Laura Slover ordered her to remove the post from her blog and to reveal the name of the offending teacher.  When Diane Ravitch included a link to the blog she, too, ran into trouble from PARCC officials about it and her related Tweets.  Other authors who commented on the original post also received threatening correspondence from testing representatives.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, reviews the situation and expresses his outrage that it occurred in the first place and that members of the mainstream media have pretty much ignored the story.  He titles his piece “Ed Bloggers Take On PARCC Test, Defying Intimidation Efforts.”             On hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, Peter Greene was equally outraged at the bullying tactics of PARCC officials over a post about the 4th grade English test (see above).               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, writes an open letter to the Laura Sloverwho threatened a number of people with various legal actions over publishing or republishing the piece about problems with the 4th grade PARCC test.  Schneider has some questions and clarifications she’d like Slover to provide.              Diane Ravitch’s blog chimes in on the kerfuffle over PARCC’s test.  Ravitch is one of the prime characters in the whole drama and suggests she and others won’t be intimidated by PARCC’s corporate riches and legal tactics.  “They have the money.  We have the numbers.  There is power in our numbers,” Ravitch defiantly concludes.

 
Impact of Student Poverty

Once again the debate returns to an impassioned plea that “Student Poverty Isn’t an Excuse; It’s a Barrier” which happens to be the title of a piece in EDUCATION WEEK.  As has been chronicled many times in past issues of the “Ed News,” corporate “reformers” want to ignore the impact of poverty on student learning as they rush to scapegoat “poor” teachers and their unions for the problems facing education today.  However, things may be looking up as the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act  begins to shift the focus, according to the 4 co-authors of the article.  “Education policy in the United States has taken a turn in a new direction, and anyone with a stake in public education should celebrate this. Policymakers increasingly recognize that stresses related to student poverty—hunger, chronic illness, and, in too many cases, trauma—are the key barriers to teaching and learning,” they maintain.  “And calls for tending not only to the academic but also the social, emotional, and physical needs of children are gaining ground across the country. Indeed, the inclusion of the whole-child perspective in the Every Student Succeeds Act shows that this mindset has moved from the margins to the mainstream.”  Bravo.  It’s about time!  [Ed. note: You may want to explore more about what the authors’ organization, the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), is doing to address the issues of poverty and educational achievement. You can find their website by clicking here.] 
 
“No Excuse” Charters
Want a peek behind how those “no excuse” charter schools deal with student misbehavior?  The Progressive has a article by Ashana Bigard, a parent and social justice advocate, who provides a portrait of how discipline operates in the nearly all-charter New Orleans Recovery District.  She has a couple of students describe how the system works and Bigard has some suggestions about how to make it a bit more humane.  “I work as a student advocate and trainer in New Orleans schools,” she mentions.  “My daughter Brandon Bigard and I give regular talks to students around the city about strategies to navigate the school district’s  punitive, ‘no excuses’ charter school system.  . . .  At one recent talk  we told the young people we were sorry about the lack of freedom and tolerance in New Orleans schools, and that we thought they deserve better.”

Teacher Training Program Blasted
Peggy Robertson is beside herself that the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) approved the Relay Graduate School of Education to train teachers in her state.  Guest posting on theBust*ED pencils website she refers to the RGSE as a “fake graduate program” and is dumbfounded that no voices were raised around the state in protest.  “One of the greatest news stories of the year.  The destruction of the teaching profession making progress in Colorado.  And why didn’t anyone speak up?  Where was the state union? Where were the colleges of education in Colorado?  Where were the educational researchers?  No where to be found,”she rails.
 
The Teaching Profession

The rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Detroit Public Schools(DPS) that let teachers in that city to hold a two-day “sick-out” that closed almost 97% of the city’s campuses is the topic of a “Back Story” column in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The walkout was yet another troubling episode for a long-beleaguered school district that is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt,” it notes, “and behind on payments to its retirement system.  It was also another reminder of how the destiny of schools is guided by shifting demographics, the growing charter-school sector and poor economics, though Detroit is an extreme example.”  If you thought things were bad in your district, after reading this story just be glad you don’t teach in Detroit.               Based on this next item fromEDUCATION WEEK, you may not want to teach in the Chicago Public Schools either.  “Long Building, Chicago Schools’ Fiscal Crisis Reaches Boiling Point” is the title of another depressing article about a financially starved public school district, the nation’s third largest.  “Chicago’s situation echoes the education finance woes of Detroit, Philadelphia, and other urban areas.  But as a flagship urban district with some 392,000 students, most of them students of color,” it reports, “Chicago is in a class of its own.  Its financial situation is unique even in Illinois, where political wrangling has delayed a new budget for nearly a year.  Schools in Chicago are now increasingly relying on goodwill to raise money for everything from toilet paper to instrument repairs.”               All this battling over adequate funds for schools in Chicago and Detroit has a terrible impact on students, teaches and parents as this follow-up story in ED WEEK on the crisis in Chicago indicates.  It focuses on a couple of campuses and how severe budget shortfalls are effecting teaching and learning.               Well, this edition of the “Ed News” has reports on the poor working conditions for teachers in Detroit and Chicago (see above) due to budget battles but wait until you read how Pennsylvania is addressing its funding problems–by blaming teachers!  Yes, the Keystone State, faced with funding shortfalls for education has decided to ignore the question of providing adequate money for its schools and instead, the legislature voted to to strip teachers of tenure in order to make it easier to fire them.  You read that correctly.  Legislators, not willing to fund the schools adequately, shift the blame to the classroom teachers.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG,describes what’s taking place in Harrisburg, the state capitol.  Fortunately, he reports, Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto the bill.               Teachers don’t often confront ethical dilemmas in their classrooms but occasionally they do and don’t always know how to react.  Meira Levinson, a Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Jacob Fay, an advanced doctoral student at the HGSE, offer some suggestions on how to deal with those ethical issues that sometimes crop up in classrooms.  Their article appears on the HARVARD EDUCATION PUBLISHING GROUP website.  The authors present a typical situation that occurs in an elementary classroom with a disruptive student and offer some ideas on how to deal with it.  Their article is titled “Ethics in Everyday Teaching Practice.”                The U.S. seems to constantly face a shortage of teachers of color in its classrooms.  Why is it important to have a diverse teaching corps in this country and what can be done about this chronic problem?  Those issues are addressed by Travis J. Bristol, a former high school English teacher in New York City and teacher educator with the Boston Teacher Residency program who is now a researcher with the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.  His commentary appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  “As a nation, we are faced with the challenge of a teacher workforce that does not represent our country’s increasing racial/ethnic diversity,” he writes.  “With changes to current practices and policies, we have a chance to make progress on ensuring our children have teachers who look like them.  In so doing, we move closer to honoring that most sacred ideal—out of many, one.”
 
Election 2016
You can tell the 2016 race for president is heating up and becominga rather nasty affair when you read a headline like this one: “Hillary Clinton is Not as Bad as Donald Trump–She’s Worse.”  BTW, it’s by Steven Singer on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG.  He semi admits he wrote it in order to get your attention and it does a pretty good job of that (“On the face of it, the title of this article is pure bull crap,” he begins.)  Singer proceeds to list a number of ways the two candidates are not the same but then quickly conflates the two.“There is an area where both candidates have significant overlap.  If you remove the names and the personalities, if you ignore political affiliation and past history,” Singer suggests, “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton begin to look very similar.  Who does Trump represent?  The 1%.  Who does Clinton represent?  The 1%.  It’s really that clear.” Singer, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, goes on to make the argument about why a progressive third party is desperately needed.               If Donald Trump is elected president, he may have some difficulty tapping Republican officials with K-12 experience to serve in his Department of Education and other related positions according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Faced with the prospect of working on education policy in a presidential administration headed by Donald Trump, some veterans of past Republican education departments, aides to GOP members of Congress, and other old policy hands are saying, ‘No thanks.’  After eight years working outside of government during President Barack Obama’s presidency,” it relates, “many had pondered joining the U.S. Department of Education under a Republican administration or advising a GOP president—perhaps one headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or another of Trump’s former rivals for the White House.  But these same policy experts say Trump, now the presumptive Republican nominee, is simply too unpredictable, offends their personal beliefs about presidential conduct, or hasn’t expressed the kind of grasp of or interest in education policy that would provide a clear sense of direction for those under him.”  While some GOP hands see an opportunity to guide education policy after spending most of the last 8 years on the sidelines under Pres. Obama, a few would serve under a sense of obligation to assist a fellow Republican.  However, a number of figures quoted in the article simply find Trump too much of a loose cannon and someone who they’d rather not be associated with.  
 
Letters to the Times
Two letters appear in Sunday’s L.A. Times reacting to a piece the paper ran on Thursday about how college counselors at different schools assisted two teens from similar backgrounds to get into college (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”).
 
Brown v Board of Education Anniversary 
Today is the 62nd anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  Diane Ravitch’s blog marks the occasion and notes that school segregation is again on the rise as she links to the latest UCLA Civil Rights Project research brief on the subject.  “The most intensely segregated states,” she notes, “are New York, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and California.”               A new report from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempts to quantify the trend to more high-poverty and racially segregated schools in the U.S.  It’s highlighted in an article in the “Politics K-12” column inEDUCATION WEEK.  “The percentage of U.S. schools in which students are mostly  black and Hispanic  and also from low-income backgrounds has risen in the last several years,” it points out, “a condition associated with schools that have fewer resources and important academic opportunities for students, a congressional watchdog agency reported [today].”
 
Another Sexual Abuse Settlement for the LAUSD 
And finally, in the second largest settlement in district history theLAUSD agreed to pay $88 million to 30 students and their families at two campuses to settle sexual abuse cases.  A story in today’s L.A. Times has the sordid details.  “The cases at De La Torre Elementary in Wilmington and Telfair Avenue Elementary in Pacoima, emerged in the aftermath of better-known sexual misconduct at Miramonte Elementary, south of downtown,” it reports.  “Altogether, a spate of prosecutions and lawsuits led to huge settlements and spurred the district to announce a raft of reforms at the nation’s second-largest school system.”

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Friday, May 13, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
 
“The task of teaching has never been more complex and the expectations
that burden teachers are carried out in antiquated systems
that offer little support—and yet, teachers are finding success every day.” 

― Tucker Elliot*

The “Ed News’ Hits a Milestone

It’s not quite in the same league as Diane Ravitch’s blog (26 MILLION page views in just over 4 years) but Tuesday the “Ed News” blog (https://tigersteach.wordpress.com) reached a nice milestone with 2 thousand views in slightly more than 40 months.  The entire endeavor is aimed at supporting teachers, unions and the public schools of this nation and although it takes a major effort to produce each edition, I will keep doing it as long as you keep reading.  Thanks to all of you and don’t forget to spread the word about the “Ed News” to everyone who you think might enjoy and benefit from reading it.
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Opt Out Movement
Is the opt out movement spreading to other countries?  An op-ed intheguardian (UK) describes a father’s frustration with testing in Great Britain and his plan to take his seven-year-old son and eleven-year-old daughter out of school soon to protest what’s happening to education in his country.  “It’s not a decision any parent would take lightly, especially one who strongly believes in the importance of learning (and spends five mornings a week hurrying their children into school).  But it’s an act of protest against a government agenda that’s putting undue pressure on children,” he complains, “subjecting them to a narrow, joyless curriculum, shutting out parents’ democratic rights and, ultimately, forcing every school to become an academy, effectively putting all of state education into private, democratically unaccountable hands – or rather, pockets.”  [Ed. note: Is it just me or are his complaints very similar to what a lot of people are upset about in respect to what is taking place in this country?]
 
Narrow Ruling in Lederman Case
It wasn’t anywhere near the victory teachers were hoping for but it was still a win for veteran fourth-grade teacher Sheri Lederman in her suit challenging the legitimacy of the controversial teacher evaluation system in New York that made extensive use of student test scores.  A short item in The New York Times describes the decision.  Lederman, who was represented by her attorney husband in the suit,  was rated “effective” in 2012-13 only to see that downgraded to “ineffective” the following year.  She challenged the effectiveness of the entire evaluation system.  “Justice Roger D. McDonough of State Supreme Court in Albany,” the story reports, “vacated Ms. Lederman’s 2013-14 growth score in part because of the difficulty in measuring growth for students who already perform above grade level on state tests.  The court’s decision does not extend beyond Ms. Lederman, in a sense because she had so much company in her opposition to the evaluation system.”   The judge resisted throwing out the entire evaluation system since the State of New York is moving to replace it.                 Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, has a more lengthy report and analysis of the decision in the Lederman case.  She explains how Lederman’s suit was essentially a challenge to the controversial value-added models (VAMs) that many corporate “reformers” have been pushing for inclusion in teacher evaluation systems like the one adopted in New York.  “A judge has ruled that a New York teacher received an evaluation that was ‘arbitrary’ and ‘capricious”’ as part of an assessment system that was developed when John King, the new U.S. education secretary, was the New York State education commissioner,” Strauss notes.  “New York Supreme Court Judge Roger McDonough said in his decision that he could not rule beyond the individual case of fourth-grade teacher Sheri G. Lederman because regulations around the evaluation system have been changed, but he said she had proved that the controversial method that King developed and administered in New York had provided her with an unfair evaluation.  It is thought to be the first time a judge has made such a decision in a teacher evaluation case.”                Carol Burris, writing a short time later on Strauss’ column in The Washington Post, explains the impact of the ruling on the teaching profession.  “The Ledermans knew they were fighting against the testocracy that is destroying the schools that they love.  Across the country, students are laboring over unfair tests that are too long in order to produce enough ‘data’ for a teacher score.  News agencies have printed these invalid scores, humiliating teachers across the nation. . .  It is time for the madness to stop,” Burris demands.  “It is time for other teachers to stand up and legally challenge their scores.  And it is past time for taxpayers to stop these silly measures that cost them millions while enriching test companies and the research firms that produce the teacher scores.”               Daniel Katz, chair of the Department of Educational Studies at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, and a former high school English teacher, offers a scholarly analysis of the ruling in the Lederman case with a detailed dissection of the problem with using VAMs to evaluate teachers.  His comments appear on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog.  “VAMs promise to remove some of the subjectivity of teacher evaluation by relying solely upon tests that large numbers of students take and by calculating how well a teacher’s students did all things considered – literally.  VAM formulas claim to account for differences in students’ socioeconomic backgrounds and home life,” he writes, “and only hold teachers accountable for students’ predicted performance.  Sounds great.  Trouble is that they don’t work.  The research base on VAMs continues to grow, but the evidence against them was strong enough that the American Statistical Association strongly cautioned against their use in individual and high stakes teacher evaluation in 2014.  So, of course, New York took its already VAM heavy evaluation system and doubled down hard on the standardized testing component because Governor Andrew Cuomo decided that the evaluations were finding too many teachers competent.”  
 
Testing
In a sign that harsh beliefs toward testing may be softening, the newly appointed chancellor of the New York State Regents, Dr. Betty Rosa, who happens to be a veteran educator, recently told a Manhattan forum of parents and community leaders that she believes that standardized testing can be “abusive” for special needs students and ELLs.  How refreshing.  A short article in the New York Daily News describes her feelings on the matter.  “Rosa, an outspoken critic of state tests,” it points out, “spoke of her own challenges as a youngster in city schools after living for several years in Puerto Rico.”              A public school teacher who wishes to remain anonymous offers his/her critique of the 4th grade English PARCC test in the Outrage on the Page blog hosted by Celia Oyler, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University.  The anonymous educator has two major complaints about the assessment which he/she goes into detail to explain and provides 3 actual prompts from the spring, 2016, PARCC exam.  First, “The PARCC Test is Developmentally Inappropriate” and second, it “Does Not Assess What it Attempts to Assess.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog, which included a mention of the item above about the PARCC test, got an email from an official at PARCC telling her to remove certain “copyrighted material” from her post.  Celia Oyler basically got a cease and desist order from the same official demanding that she delete the post about the PARCC test from her blog and reveal the name of the teacher who wrote it. Ravitch goes on to describe how things got even worse than that when she tweeted her complaints about the exam.  You can read all about the tempest created, with copies of pertinent documents provided and links to other items by clicking here.  It’s a great illustration of what happens when certain toes get stepped on and a real eyeopener as to how far certain groups will go to protect their turf.  Interesting stuff!  If you get a chance, check out some of the comments added to Ravitch’s post.
 
Is Somebody Trying to Hide Something?
A little over 2 weeks ago Media Matters published an expose by Pam Vogel purporting to provide a long list of philanthropists and foundations that provided much of the funding behind the corporate education “reformers.”  Only problem according to Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, is thenumerous prominent omissions from the tally.  Names like Gates, Broad and Walton were missing along with groups like Teach for America and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).  Why might that be? In this instance it’s not just a case of “follow the money” but also “follow the politics.”  David Brock is the founder of Media Matters and is a campaign operative for Hillary Clinton’s current presidential run in addition to having close ties to Pres. Obama.  “But there are reasons why the Vogel report glaringly omits mention of Gates, Walton, Broad, DFER, and Ed Post, and it has to do with the White House– both who is there now,” Schneider asserts, “and who hopes to be there soon.  Obama and Clinton, respectively.  Both Democrats.”  Schneider proceeds to offer some intriguing reasons why those names and groups were missing from the original Media Matters story. 
 
Is “Grit” What Poor Students Really Need?
The idea of teaching “grit”  and “character” to students was bought to the fore by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth and has been in vogue for a number of years.  Paul Tough, in his 2012 book “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” (an ALOED Book Club selection several years ago) connects the two concepts to low-income students.  However, Ethan Ris, a doctoral candidate in education at Stanford University, now questions the concept of “grit” and offers an interesting history of how it developed among education “reformers.”  His comments appear on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post and are headlined “The Problem With Teaching ‘Grit’ to Poor Kids?  They Already Have it.  Here’s What They Really Need.”  Ris references Tough’s book in his analysis and describes an interesting reversal Tough has made in his latest book out later this month.
 
Rich vs Poor
The proverbial divide between rich suburban school districts and poor urban ones is made clear by a teacher who works at a prime example of the latter.  The author is a member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) and draws a stark contrastbetween his poor school and the rich one barely 10 miles away.  “Barely ten miles from where I teach, there is a brand new, 85 million dollar high school, fully staffed, equipped, and ready.  Each day its students arrive and are buoyed by all the support that money can buy.  If a student there has trouble learning something,” he relates, “no resource is spared to help them.  Their parents likely have advanced degrees, and have experienced academic success themselves, so even if they can’t help their kids, they can afford to hire tutors who can.  The students at this wealthy school have been steeped in the expectation of success since pre-school,” he continues, “and most of them will go on to college and high earning potential for the rest of their lives.  So why are my poor, urban students less deserving of opportunity than their wealthy, suburban neighbors?  The accident of birth that separated them by ten miles.”               A front-page story in yesterday’s L.A. Times takes a fascinating look at how two teens from  similar backgrounds took very divergent paths to college.  One attended Roosevelt High School (LAUSD) in Boyle Heights while the other matriculated at the very exclusive private Chadwick School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  Their routes through high school and applying for colleges with help from campus counselors are chronicled in the Times’ article that illustrates the rich vs poor divide described in the item above.  “The well-documented ‘achievement gap’ in grades and graduation rates that separates rich and poor students at once affects and is affected by who gets into college,” the piece explains.  “And by and large, those on one side of the gap get richer and those on the other get poorer, because people with college degrees make an average of 1.67 times as much money each week as those who don’t, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  In the U.S., about 49% of high school graduates from low-income families enroll in college soon after receiving a diploma, compared with 80% of students from high-income families.”
 
The Teaching Profession
A new poll from the Center for Education Policy (CEP) of a representative sample of 3,328 public school teachers asked 67 questions last fall about their attitudes toward their profession, standards, assessments and teacher evaluations.  It found that educators are both concerned and frustrated with constantly changing policies, an over emphasis on student testing and the lack of a voice in decision-making.  You can peruse a Press Release (3 pages) summarizing the report or access the full piece (68 pages), titled “Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices.”  From the former: “The survey found a majority of teachers expressing satisfaction with their own school, but about half or more agreed with statements indicating diminished enthusiasm, high stress and a desire to leave the profession if they could get a higher-paying job.  Particularly striking are teachers’ views about their limited impact on certain decisions.”                 Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, comments on the CEP poll (see above) about teachers’ attitudes toward their profession and other surveys of how educators are feeling about their jobs.  He offers some suggestions for improving the low morale and poor working conditions of teachers and concludes:“The reality is teachers’ work conditions are inextricably connected to their ability to engage in quality instruction and to develop cultivating relationships with students.  Teachers know this, but people in charge won’t until they start listening to them.”               Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week and most people were singing the praises of educators for the difficult and important jobs they do.  Henry A. Giroux, Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, prolific blogger and author, takes that appreciation quite a bit farther.  He believes K-12 teachers and college and university professors may the last bulwarkagainst a number of problems facing our society today.  His extended essay for truthout is titled  “Why Teachers Matter in Dark Times.”  “For the most part, public school teachers and higher education faculty are a national treasure and may be one of the last defenses available to undermine a growing authoritarianism, pervasive racism, permanent war culture, widening inequality and debased notion of citizenship in US society.  They can’t solve these problems but they can educate a generation of students to address them.  Yet, public school teachers, in particular, are underpaid and overworked, and lack adequate resources,” he charges.  “In the end, they are unjustly blamed by right-wing billionaires and politicians for the plight of public schools.  In order to ensure their failure, schools in many cities, such as Detroit and Philadelphia, have been defunded by right-wing legislators.”  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for mentioning this item to the editor.
 
Charter Schools
As if Eva Moskowitz and her network of Success Academy Charter Schools weren’t in enough hot water as it is, comes this story of possible cheating on standardized tests and other problems.  POLITICO NEW YORK was able to obtain a series of internal reports that raise some serious questions about cheating, high staff turnover and toxic relationships among teachers due to a SA rating system.               After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 decimating the New Orleans school system, officials decided to have the state take over control and now more than 90% of the students in the district attend charters.  The Louisiana legislature recently passed a bill that would return the 52 campuses the state administers back to the control of local school boards.  A story inThe Washington Post describes what’s taken place since the hurricane and what’s in store for the future for the first nearly all-charter district in the country.  “In the decade since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and swept away its public school system,”it begins, “the city has become a closely watched experiment in whether untethering schools from local politics could fix the problems that have long ailed urban education.”
Ed Tech
A new study by researchers at Michigan State University has found that 1-to-1 computer programs do help to increase student test scores and boosted their technology skills. EDUCATION WEEK’s“Digital Education” column explores the recent findings.  “One-to-one student computing was first introduced to K-12 schools in the United States in the late 1990’s,” it mentions.  “In 2002, Maine became the first state to launch a statewide program.  The trend has since gathered steam: In 2013 and 2014 alone, schools purchased more than 23 million laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks for use by students and teachers in the classroom (and sometimes at home.)  Generally, the goal is to enable teachers and software to deliver more personalized content to students, to boost students’ technology skills, and to empower children to do more complex and creative work.”  [Ed. note: For extra credit, can you find the veiled, though unidentified reference to the LAUSD’s disaster with “iPads-for-all” plan?]
A New Report and Some Interesting Statistics About ELLs
EDUCATION WEEK has a new special report (in English and Spanish) titled “Teaching America’s English Language Learners.”  An overview of it in the form of a Q & A can be found by clicking here.  “Nearly 3 in 4 American classrooms now includes at least one English-language learner, and these students make up roughly 1 in 10 public school students,” the article begins.  “While their numbers continue to rise quickly, the evidence on what works best to help non-native speakers become proficient in English—particularly the more formal academic language needed for school success—has been harder to come by.”   A sidebar to the story has links to the 6 separate chapters of the report. In addition, ED WEEK has a map and a graph with some interesting information about ELLs.  The map illustrates the percentage of ELLs by state.  California is “10% or higher” and the graph presents the “30 most common reported home languages of ELLs in the country.”  Spanish is number 1 at 76.5%, Arabic and Chinese are tied at number 2 with 2.2%.
Are Students Wasting Their Senior Year?
If you have ever taught high school seniors [Ed. note: I did for almost 26 years] you’ll be aware of high much the students tend to coast as graduation approaches.  A piece from THE HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at the phenomenon and at how some schools are tackling the problem.  High Tech High is one of the campuses featured for some innovative ideas about how to keep seniors’ noses to the grindstone right up until they have that diploma in hand.  “Policymakers are urging schools to put the 12th grade to better use, teaching students skills that many haven’t learned, as a way of improving college enrollment and college graduation.  Senior year in most schools,” the article suggests, “is ‘a laissez faire period that offers little challenge, motivation, or direction,’ according to the nonprofit group Jobs for the Future.”
 
Murky Water at Several South LA Schools
Concerns in other cities over problems in the water that plagued Flint, Michigan, have been highlighted in the “Ed News” with a particular focus on schools.   Now comes word that 5 elementary campuses in South L.A. and Watts are experiencing “murky” water emerging from the taps and local residents what answers and corrective actions taken.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Timesdescribes the situation.  “At Grape Street Elementary, meanwhile, plastic bags covered water fountains to discourage students from drinking the tap water.  The Watts school,” it notes, “with 660 pre-K to fifth-grade students, is awaiting the results of water quality tests.   Grape Street is one of five schools to raise concerns over water safety.  Administrators at Compton Avenue, Florence Griffith Joyner, 96th Street and Lovelia Flournoy elementary schools have also complained of murky tap water in recent weeks.”
 
Corporate “Reform” Debate Parts 2 & 3
Whitney Tilson, a wealthy hedge fund manager and important figure in the corporate “reform” movement, and Diane Ravitch engaged in an email debate about a number of key issues.  The April 26th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted their first encounter.  Whitney Tilson’s School Reform Blog now has part 2 of the dialogue in which they discuss who is considered the educational statue quo, charter schools and how tests should and shouldn’t be used.  (You can find a link to part 1 in the “Previous Posts” sidebar, at the beginning of Tilson’s latest post or by clicking here.)  Part 3 which delves into who is the underdog in the education debate, the tone of that discussion and the implications of the Vergara case can be found on Tilson’s blog by clicking here.
 
SFUSD Dumps TFA
More bad news for Teach for America.  The San Francisco Unified School District has terminated its contract with TFA for the 2016-17 school year according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle “The city’s school board made clear this week that staffing some of the city’s neediest classrooms with recent college graduates who are on a two-year teaching stint and with just five weeks of training is no longer acceptable,” it notes.  “The board had been set to vote Tuesday night on a new contract to obtain 15 teachers for the upcoming school year — after reaching similar agreements each of the last eight years with the national nonprofit, which receives federal grants, private donations and fees from districts.  But before the vote, Superintendent Richard Carranza pulled the contract from consideration, acknowledging he didn’t have support despite a statewide teacher shortage and a local need to fill at least 500 teaching jobs by August.  The 15 teachers would have been placed in science, math, special education and bilingual education classrooms — the hardest positions to fill, Carranza said.”
 
How to Teach About the 2016 Election
Presidential elections often introduce some controversial and difficult issues.  2016 is no different and may even present some especially troublesome ideas and policies for students. A guest column in EDUCATION WEEK offers some strategies and resources teachers can use in middle and high school classes to discuss the critical question of immigration which can touch students in a very personal and uncomfortable way.  The piece includes a list of online resources that teachers and students can make use of as they research and become knowledgeable about these important issues.  
 
New School Accountability System Coming to California
The California State Board of Education is in the process of completing a new system for holding schools in the state accountable that it aims to implement in the 2017-18 school year.  Gone is the old reliance on the the AYP and API numbers and in their place are things like suspension rates, attendance and graduation figures.  Student test scores will likely still be part of the mix.  Additional criteria could be added when the board meets again in July according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “The changes come as California revamps its method for measuring schools, and how it intervenes in those deemed to be performing poorly,” it mentions.  “They follow years of reliance on the now-suspended Academic Performance Index, a measure that depended on test scores that, in the words of board member Bruce Holaday, make real estate agents so happy’ in its simplicity.  The index, many say, was far too simplistic and did not provide a cumulative glimpse of what happens inside schools.”
 
Feds Intervene in Transgender School Bathroom Issue
 Today the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education jointly issued a letter to all the nation’s public school districts requiring that they allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker room facilities that match their gender identity.  The “Rules for Engagement” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the details on this latest, sure to be controversial in some corners, action.  “Civil rights guidance from the agencies does not carry the force of law, school law experts have said, but it serves as a warning of possible enforcement actions,” it notes, “including loss of federal funding, for schools that run afoul of the agencies’ interpretation.”              Sure enough, [Ed. note: You could almost predict this] Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly announced that his state would sacrifice federal funds rather than comply with the new federal guidelines on transgender bathroom access.  KEYE TV, the CBS affiliate in Austin, has the defiant news from Texas.                And there’s more.  The Gov. of Arkansas is suggesting districts in his state ignore the newly promulgated government regulations on restroom use.  A brief item in ED WEEK has the sad details.  I wonder which states are next?
 
“Is There a Teacher in the House?”
And finally, Diane Ravitch calls this segment from npr “a wonderful story.”  See if you agree. [Ed. note: Spoiler alert: you may want to have a box of tissue close at hand.]  As a plane was circling in an attempt to land in Melbourne, Australia, a call went out over the intercom that if a teacher was on board he/she was needed to assist with a young special needs boy who was in distress.  You can listen to the audio (3:56 minutes) and/or read the transcript of what took place on that plane by clicking here.  “This was not just me.  This was what teachers do.  This is what they do in their classrooms every day.  They problem solve,” Sophie Murphy, the teacher/hero of this story, unassumingly relates, “and they connect with children on a daily basis.  And any one of my colleagues and friends who are teachers would have done exactly the same.”  Where did I put that tissue?
 
 
*Tucker Elliot is a former teacher for the United States Department of Defense in Korea and Germany. He has visited schools on four continents and more than twenty countries as a volunteer or an invited speaker/lecturer.

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
     “A good education helps us make sense of the world and find our way in it” 

― Mike RoseWhy School?

 
Charter Schools

Ever wonder how an urban charter school compares to a wealthy suburban traditional public school?  Well, you’re in luck since Emily Kaplan has been an elementary teacher in both settings plus she has the added bonus of working in an urban public school.  She’s the guest author on the EDUSHYSTER blog and compares her experiences in the first two in a piece titled “How Parental Power(lessness) Distinguishes Suburban Public Schools from Urban Charters.”                From our “charter school scandal of the day” comes TWO scandals.  The first is from Pensacola, Florida whereNewpoint Education Partners and 3 other companies have been indicted by a grand jury on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime relating to their management of 4 campuses in Pinellas County.  The Tampa Bay Times has the details. “In recent weeks as parents and volunteer board members at each of the schools have started to raise questions, Newpoint officials have disappeared from the scene,” it points out.  “No one at the schools or the school district has been able to reach them, leaving parents and others to sort out bank accounts and legal issues.”  Wonder where they went?  Wonder why?               In the second scandal, the North Carolina Attorney General has sued a charter company that literally took the money and ran.  The Kinston Charter Academy received $666,000 from the state and closed 10 days into the school year.  The Raleigh News & Observer has the grim details on this case.  “The suit, filed in Wake County Superior Court on Tuesday,” the article points out, “claims that school CEO Ozie L. Hall Jr. and Demyra McDonald-Hall, his wife and board chairwoman, illegally obtained and misused state money.  They knew the academy would not survive the 2013-14 school year, yet made imprudent or self-interested business transactions, and misled students by persuading them to enroll, the suit said.”  You’ll need to hold onto your hat when you hear that Mr. Hall, the former CEO of Kinston, is now RUNNING A DIFFERENT CHARTER and claims the suit is without merit.  The LAPD is investigating a case of possible student grade tampering at New West Charter in West L.A.  The University of Miami alerted officials after noticing some possible funny business on a transcript submitted to the school.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times reviews what’s happened so far.  “After the university alerted New West Charter in West Los Angeles about apparent grade tampering,” it reveals, “the charter filed a report in March with the LAPD suggesting that a student or students may have obtained a counselor’s password and logged into the school’s computer system several times to change the course grades of three students, two of whom are brothers.               A parent in New Jersey describes herdisappointing experiences when she enrolled her 5th grade son in a brand new middle school in her town that was part of the “highly touted”  North Star Academy Charter network.  Her observations appear courtesy of the parentingthecore blog.  “The idea of Charter school was appealing to me,” the mother relates.  “We had such a great experience his fourth grade year at East Orange Charter School and we wanted more.  North Star Academy was a nightmare and a decision I will always regret.”               A new report from Civic Enterprises, in partnership with several other organizations, titled “Building a Grad Nation”  has some very poor statistics comparing high school graduation rates between regular high schools and alternative, charter and virtual schools.  EDUCATION WEEK’s “High School and Beyond” column provides the disconcerting data.  “Charter, virtual, and alternative schools account for a disproportionate share of U.S. high schools with low graduation rates,” the story begins, “according to a study released Monday. Even though they enroll only a small slice of students, they account for more than half of the U.S. high schools that graduate 67 percent or less of their students in four years.”  You can access the full report (94 pages) titled “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates” by clicking here.               A report commissioned by UTLA takes a look at how much money charter schools bleed from traditional public schools in the LAUSD.  The study, produced by MGT of America Consulting with analysis and a separate policy brief provided by In the Public Interest, was presented to the board at their meeting today.  The L.A. Times was given an advanced copy and has a story about it in today’s paper.  “The study calculates that services to charters encroach on tax money the district intended to use for traditional schools,” the article notes, “adding up to at least $18.1 million a year and growing.”  A follow-up item appears on the Times’ website this evening with reaction to the report from district officials and a local leader of the California Charter Schools Association about how much charter schools were costing the LAUSD (see above).  

 
Testing

As more and more students take their standardized tests on computers there’s a growing concern about the increase in havingcomputers grade students’ written responses on those exams.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Leonie Haimson, co-founder of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, who looks at the issue in a piece titled “Should You Trust A Computer To Grade Your Child’s Writing on Common Core Tests?”  “The issue of computer scoring — and the seeming reluctance of the states and companies involved in the PARCC and SBAC consortia to be open with parents about this — is further evidence that the ostensible goal of the Common Core standards to encourage the development of critical thinking and advanced skills  is a mirage,  Haimson charges.  “Instead, the primary objective of Bill Gates and many of those promoting the Common Core and allied exams is to standardize both instruction and assessment and to outsource them to reductionist algorithms and machines, in the effort to make them more “efficient.’”                Texas was one of a number of states experiencing standardized testing problems this year and yet the state Education Commissioner was going to proceed with reporting the results anyway  (see Friday’s “Ed News”).  A scathing editorial in the San Antonio Express-News called for a moratorium on the assessments until the problems were totally cleared up.  “There are inherent problems in any massive project, but this is no simple undertaking.  The STAAR test — the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness — is high stakes,”  it maintains.  “The scores impact schools, teachers and students.  Failing grades can cause students in the fifth and eighth grades to be held back, and high school students who don’t pass three of the five end-of-course exams will not get a diploma.  Teachers’ evaluations will be based in part on how well students perform on the STAAR test.”
 
Election 2016
Donald Trump, presumptive Republican presidential nominee, may be appearing in court some time after the election in November related to a class-action suit filed against his Trump University.  “Citing concern Friday that a ‘media frenzy’ would ensue if a trial were held before the November presidential election, the judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit against Donald Trump over a real estate ‘university’ accused of defrauding students scheduled a late November date for the years-old litigation. . . .  U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel in San Diego,” the story in Saturday’s L.A. Times reports, “said his top priority was making sure jurors would be able to evaluate the case and render a verdict based strictly on evidence rather than on influences related to events surrounding the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.  Plaintiffs claim that they paid thousands of dollars for a program that was worthless, something Trump denies.”                Valerie Strauss uses her blog in The Washington Post to point out a few“misstatements” offered by Donald Trump regarding K-12 education policy.  She points specifically to things he’s said about American students’ rankings on international assessments, doing away with the Common Core, per pupil funding as compared to other countries and local versus federal control of education .  “This isn’t the first time that I, or other writers, have pointed out Tramp’s incorrect and exaggerated claims about education,” she exasperatingly concludes.  “Something tells me it won’t be the last.”               Now that the 2016 presidential race is looking more and more like a battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, speculation has turned to who they might pick as their vice presidential candidates and, if elected, who could be selected for their cabinet.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK features a survey of some education “insiders” from the Whiteboard Advisors group who offer their expertise on who the respective candidates might pick to head the Department of Education.  Some of their choices may, or may not, surprise (shock?) you.  “The survey of roughly 50 to 75 current and former White House and U.S. Department of Education leaders, current and former congressional staff members, state education officials, and think tank leaders,” the article explains, “also found that a slight majority of them believe that over the next two years, more states will stop participating in two consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) that were originally funded by Washington and create tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards.”  A copy of the full survey (27 pages), titled “Education Insider: Assessment Trends, Higher Education, and the Presidential Campaigns,” is included at the end of the piece.   It covers a number of topics besides possible future secretaries of Education.
 
The Teaching Profession
It’s the second week of May and the school year is beginning to wind down.  Justin Minkel, a 15-year veteran elementary school teacher in Arkansas and teacher of the year in his state in 2007, offers some practical advice on “How to End the School Year Right” in a “First Person” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “So as the days get warmer, the kids get crazier, and we are overcome with that impending sense of nostalgia, panic, contentment, and bone-deep relief that the end of the year brings,” he explains, “here is my countdown checklist for a good home stretch.  Teachers, I’d love to hear your additions to the list.”  Minkel starts with some concrete suggestions on what to do “One Month Out,” “One Week Out” and the “Last Day of School.”  Check out the comments at the end and maybe add a few of your own.               Have you heard of the Relay Graduate School of Education (RGSE)?  In a nutshell, it’s a non-traditional graduate school of education created by three charter chains in New York City to prepare teachers to work in charter schools.  It has no affiliation with any college or university and all the course work seems to be aimed at one goal: raise student test scores.  Peggy Robinson, on her Peg with Pen blog, reprints the testimony of Amy Achtermann, an elementary school teacher, who is against certifying the RGSE before the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE). Achtermann has a principal who graduated from the RGSE and relates what now takes place at her school: “No more do we hear things like let’s do what is best for children or how can we make our teaching more engaging or how can we provide the services needed to help these students be successful.  Gone were the years we dedicated to inquiry and deeper thinking.  These were all replaced by thinking about test scores and drill and practice. . . .  These are my concerns,” she continues, “and why I feel so strongly that Relay is not a solution for struggling students.  My students are not just a test score or a set of data to collect.  They are human beings who have differing needs and abilities.”  Robinson adds her two cents worth at the end to express her disgust at the approval of RGSE by the CCHE.               A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the announcement of the National Teacher of the Year.  The winner, Jahana Hayes, a veteran history teacher from Connecticut, and a number of other exemplary educators were feted at the White House last Tuesday.  A piece in the “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK has details about the celebration.  “Hayes plans to use her year-long tour of schools across the country to call for better recruitment of minority teachers and to promote service learning,”  it mentions.  “In his speech, Obama praised Hayes’ commitment to her students and called for higher teacher pay to elevate the teaching profession.”  Hear!  Hear!  I’ll drink to that last proposal.              When you first started teaching, what are some things you wish you’d known?  That’s the topic again tackled by Larry Ferlazzo inED WEEK in the second of his three-part series on the issue (he includes a link to part 1).  In this segment, Ferlazzo solicits advice from 4 veteran educators.  Here’s just one example of the suggestions Ferlazzo’s contributors offer:“Model, model, model.  Never ask learners to do something they haven’t seen you do first.  Demonstrate and think aloud as you go, show students how to approach learning tasks–how to craft their writing, how to read with expression, how to turn facts into interesting sentences.  Let your demonstrations fuel the fire of new learning.”  That’s great advice.  Whether you’re a veteran or new to the profession, be sure to check out all the other ideas.                Anthony Cody, on hisLIVING in DIALOGUE blog, received a note from a reader of his column about a test this person was required to take upon applying for a position with the Downey USD that claimed it could predict the impact of future teachers on student achievement.  Are you kidding me?  The candidate, who Cody chose not to identify by name, describes the test in detail and his thoughts about the entire experience.  Cody adds his disgusted reactions to the whole crazy idea.  “School districts that turn their hiring process over to systems like this will spend many thousands of dollars to make themselves ‘data-driven’.  In so doing, they are likely to make choices influenced by factors that may have little bearing on that which makes teachers most effective,” Cody fumes.  “Just as many of the most important aspects of student learning are not measured by tests, the qualities that make a great teacher cannot be captured by a test.”  You have to watch the video Cody includes from the company that created the test, TeacherMatch, that explains the development of their inventory. Unbelievable!!!  Check out the comments added at the end of this piece.  One respondent simply wrote “Chilling.”
 
Finland Does it Again 
And finally, the education system in Finland has been held up, time and again, as an exemplar of how to do the job right.  Fulbright Scholar William Doyle spent a semester last year as a lecturer in rural Finland and enrolled his son in a Finnish elementary school while he was working in the country.  His observations and suggestions go beyond “Finland does it better” to providing some concrete ideas about HOW the U.S. might learn from this Nordic educational powerhouse. They appear courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post.  “Finland’s education system continues to be an inspiration to teachers around the world,” he raves.  “If you asked them which system comes closest to getting childhood education right, many would automatically say ‘Finland.’”  Doyle lists a few of his ideas for improving education in this country.  Here’s just one example: “Don’t waste time and money on mass standardized testing of children.  Instead, test students correctly on a daily basis, with assessments and observations designed by their own classroom teachers and used for diagnostic purposes to improve learning.”
I

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Friday, May 6, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
   Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Don’t forget mom!
 
          Inline image 1
  “He never reckoned much to schooling and that. He said you could learn most what was worth knowing from keeping your eyes and ears peeled. Best way of learning, he always said, was doing.” 

― Michael MorpurgoFarm Boy

 
And now to the news.
 
Charter Schools
Do you every get the impression that some charter schools like toplay by a different set of rules compared to those  the traditional public schools follow?  If you are not yet convinced of that than you need to read this expose from The Center for Media & Democracy’sPRWATCH.  This organization has been keeping a close eye on the charter system and they just uncovered another example of an unfair playing field.  To wit, it seems the KIPP charters have asked for AND been granted an exemption from the U.S. Dept. of Education from making public certain documents and information that it would rather not provide.  That sounds like a different set of rules to me.  “The Education Department complied with almost all of KIPP’s instructions, despite how contrary they are to public policy and even to publicly available information.  These black marks come at a time,” it reveals, “when cracks are starting to show in KIPP’s once beyond-reproach veneer.  KIPP is the largest and most lauded charter school chain in the United States and the recipient of many millions of dollars in taxpayer grants, foundation gifts and handouts from billionaire charter school enthusiasts.”  Just one example of the type of data KIPP wants to keep under wraps: “Graduation and College Matriculation Rates.”  Gee, I wonder why they’d want to keep that hidden?               The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a commentary in the Wall Street Journal by Nina Rees defending the foundations and philanthropists who donate millions of dollars to the charter school movement and demanded that critics of that largess consider backing off from their complaints.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, couldn’t wait to confront the author of that piece.   “In her WSJ ad,” Schneider complains, “Rees doesn’t even hint at the ‘balance’ farce.  She considers the charters-are-swell sale as important and the boosting of the uber-rich morale, imperative.  No scandals.  No mismanagement.  No exploitation.  No negative consequences.  None whatsoever.  But it is nonetheless a lie.  And Rees knows it.”   The “Ed News” will remind everyone, as we did in our Tuesday edition, that Nina Rees is the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  There is certainly no conflict-of-interest there.               Ready for a story that supports charter schools?  U.S. News & World Report has a commentary titled “Charter Schools Stack Up Well” by none other than Nina Rees.  Not sure who she is?  Name sound familiar?  See the item directly above.  “The best high schools in America are preparing students not just for college, but for life,” she concludes.  “Charter schools are helping thousands of low-income students have a shot at the American dream by giving them a customized, first-rate education.”  Sounds pretty good, huh?  However, is it just me, or did she leave out some key factors from her laudatory essay?  Diane Ravitch’s blog has a very brief critique of the above item.  Ravitch uncharacteristically limits herlist of criticisms of charters to just a few.  I would add to her tabulation things like a lack of accountability and transparency, fraud and corruption, poor performance, financial support from foundations and philanthropists, the draining of resources from traditional public schools, the forced closure of neighborhood campuses, their possible contribution to the re-segregation of U.S. education and on and on.  This is still a free county so Rees is entitled to her opinion.               For a diametrically different point-of-view regarding charters check out an item from NEVADA PUBLIC RADIO that takes a nuanced look at the impact of the charter industry on traditional public education in The Silver State.  “Charter schools are publicly funded, but privately operated.  The result is a charter-school industry,” it points out, “encompassing what can be a dizzying array of arrangements and contracts between the schools, their unelected boards, state agencies, property developers, for-profit management companies, nonprofit arms of private companies, hedge funds and investment firms, and myriad consultants, contractors and education-industry vendors. Virtually every dollar everyone in the charter-school industry makes is provided by the taxpaying public.”  I don’t know about you, but that description of charters doesn’t sound quite as appetizing as the one provided by Nina Rees (see above).  True the author is describing schools in Nevada but the picture is generic enough to be applicable to charter in just about every state.                Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, suggests that parents would be better off having their children skip school then enroll them in a cyber, virtual or online charter.   He titles his commentary rather disdainfully “Make Tons of Money Doing a Terrible Job–Start a Cyber Charter School.”  “Nowhere else is the goal of corporate education reform as starkly clear as in the cyber charter industry,” Singer complains.  “Nowhere else can such terrible academic results reap such tremendous financial gain.”  He goes into great detail about the poor quality of education cyber charters provide and the great deal of money one can make starting one.              Charter opponents held a nationwide “walk-in” (as opposed to a walk-out) to protest charter school expansion and the impact it is having on traditional public schools.  A story in Mother Jones has the details.  “In nearly 75 cities across the country,” it begins, “students, parents, and teachers marched at their public schools on Wednesday, protesting inadequate funding and charter school takeover, issues that especially affect black and Latino students in urban areas.  The organization Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools is behind the ‘walk in’ demonstrations, and it’s made up of large-scale organizations, such as teachers unions, and local community groups.  The walk-ins began last spring and have doubled in size since February.”  Particular actions in Oakland and San Francisco are featured in the article.
 
The Teaching Profession
Teachers in Detroit returned to their classrooms on Wednesday after two days of “sick-outs” in protest of a possible plan by the district to not pay a large number of teachers over the summer for work they’d already done.  A press release from the aft (American Federation of Teachers) has details of the action and its resolution.  “Over the weekend, the DFT heard a rumor that the school system would not guarantee educators at least some salaries from as early as April 28 through June.” it explains.  “This would especially affect the people who have their pay spread across 26 weeks of the year—about two-thirds of the city’s 3,800 educators.”                “Late Night” host Seth Meyers does an extended segment (6:59 minutes) about the Detroit “sick-outs” earlier this week on his NBC show.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, includes the video, summarizes the content and adds her own comments to it.  “Clearly there is something wrong with the way our society values the work teachers do,”Meyers states, “and yet when teachers object to budget cuts or ask for increases in pay, they are dismissed and the politicians who dismiss them are often celebrated as straight-shooters.”  It’s a perfect piece for National Teacher Appreciation Week “Watch the video,” Strauss urges.  “It is worth your time.”                Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, take the occasion of Teacher Appreciation Week to ask a question “If You Were Secretary of Ed For a Day, How Would YOU Elevate the Teaching Profession?”  “We should be clear on what WOULD elevate the teaching profession, and push for it.  I want to see changes in policies that would be obvious to anyone who spent a week or two in a school,” he writes.  “I posted this question on my Facebook wall: If you were made Secretary of Education for a day, what are three things you would do to truly ‘elevate the teaching profession’?”  Cody proceeds to share many of the suggestions that he received.  Here’s just one example: “Free teachers from evaluations based on test scores and bogus VAM calculations.”  That sounds pretty good.  Check out the other ideas he got.
 
Testing
Add Georgia to the growing list of states experiencing “glitches” in its online standardized testing program.  The “Market Brief” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the latest disappointing details.  “Technology issues have caused disruptions to Georgia statewide assessments, and the state board of education will decide on Thursday,” it notes, “whether the tests will count for retention and promotion, a spokesman for the state’s education agency said.  While the high school testing window is open until May 6, the problems in lower grades with the Georgia Milestones tests—including an inability to save responses and issues with connectivity—were sufficient that the education department has asked the state board to waive Georgia’s promotion retention rule for students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades.”               The San Diego Unified School District is cutting back significantly on its standardized testing program.  Superintendent Cindy Marten made the announcement earlier this week.  You can read the official statement regarding testing on the SDUSD website by clicking here.  “A major factor behind the changes . . .  was the recent study showing the overuse of standardized testing is harmful to area students,” the announcement mentions, “according to some 90% of San Diego’s teachers.  The study was conducted by the San Diego Education Association.”  How refreshing.  A superintendent who actually listens to her teachers!  NBC7, the network affiliate in San Diego, has a short report and video (1:30 minutes) about the changes in testing.               What types of tests seem to be the most effective?  A Gallup poll of 4,200 parents, students, teachers and administrators placed greater value on classroom and formative assessments as opposed to those year-end summative tests.  A story in the “Curriculum Matters” column for EDUCATION WEEKfeatures the results from the survey “Teachers told the researchers that they valued different kinds of assessments for different kinds of things,” it indicates.  “Statewide testing is useful in figuring out whether students are meeting ‘critical benchmarks,’ they said, but not very helpful in identifying students who need extra support, or even in closing the achievement gap.  Formative assessments get the highest marks for helping teachers figure out which students need more support, and classroom tests and quizzes are most valuable to teachers as a gauge of what students are learning.”  You can read the full report (56 pages), titled “Make Assessments Work For All Students: Multiple Measures Matter,” commissioned by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) with polling conducted by Gallup by clicking here.               “Testing in Texas is a Big Fat Mess–But Scores are Going to Count Anyway” is the headline on a piece by Valerie Strauss on her blog for The Washington Post.  This isn’t Texas’ first brush with testing woes.  “In Texas, officials had hoped it would be a problem-free testing season.  There were so many glitches in 2015 that officials fired the testing vendor, Pearson, and hired the Educational Testing Service to administer the STAAR tests, formally known as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness  program, which were first implemented in 2012 to hold students, teachers and schools accountable’ for academic progress.  Things didn’t go as well as hoped.”  Strauss reprints a letter from nearly 50 superintendents in the Houston area to the Texas Education Commissioner who outline specific problems they experienced with the assessments and another letter from a group called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment.
 
Teacher Appreciation Week
As previously noted in the “Ed News,” May 2-6 (this week) is designated as National Teacher Appreciation Week and Tuesday was Teacher Appreciation Day.  Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), has a commentary for the occasion titled “Want to Appreciate Teachers This Week?  Stand Up to Those Seeking to Destroy Our Profession and Public Education.”  Hear!  Hear!  “So, I have a charge for the general public as we end Teacher Appreciation Week.  Stand up, and look with eyes wide open,” she implores, “at what is happening to your public education system.  There needs to be a recognition that the teaching profession is being destroyed and that our public education system will one day be extinct.    Want to appreciate teachers?  Stand up and fight against those seeking to destroy our profession and public education!  That is how you can show teachers you appreciate them.”               As it turns out, this week was BOTH Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter Schools Week and Pres. Obama issued proclamations celebrating both.  Leave it to Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, to compare the wording of the two to see if he can detect any bias, one way or the other.  What do you think Greene discovered?   “So, bottom line,” he compares.  “Charter schools got some unambiguous praise, a list of specific things they’re doing right (which public schools also do), and honor for being dedicated professionals who made this calling their life’s work (even though they are loaded with TFA folks and others who have no intention of making teaching their lives’ work).  Teachers got a list of administration policies (including the failed ones), a reminder of how much we are to blame for what hasn’t happened in schools, and a list of things we haven’t achieved yet, finished off with an ambiguous line on  the order of ‘We hope you get exactly what you deserve.'”   
 
Common Core
Is the Common Core and the push for digital education simply a veiled plot to replace teachers with machines?  That’s the intriguing theory behind a piece titled “Is The Digital Revolution Turning Education Into a Ponzi Scheme?” appearing in truthout.  “The myth of social progress that was a source of hope for individuals has now been reduced to the new myth of technological determinism that serves the interests of computer scientists, technologists, venture capitalists and ideologues in the larger society,” it asserts.  “With the merging of neo-social Darwinism and technological determinism that are now central features of the digital revolution, students hoping to find meaningful long-term employment and the opportunity to pursue a career and practice a craft are simply driven by forces now out of their control.”  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for forwarding this.               How about a story supporting the Common Core?  U.S. News & World Report has a piece titled “A Hidden Benefit to Common Core–High Education Standards Prevent Unprepared College Students and Help the Economy.” It argues that students who arrive unprepared for college due to poor educational achievement caused by low standards have a negative impact on the economy.  “Clearly, better educational achievement should be a priority,” the article maintains.  “The most effective way to improve achievement is to utilize educational standards.  Educational standards are written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at specific stages of their education. However, the use of education standards is at a crossroads.”  Most educational experts wouldn’t argue with the first sentence of that quote.  Where the author may run into trouble is the assumption included in the second sentence.
 
Election 2016
After the primary election results in Indiana on Tuesday, it now appears almost certain that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president.  Given that reality, what has Trump said during the campaign regarding his policies towards K-12 schools?  EDUCATION WEEK offers a glimpse in its “Politics K-12” column.  [Turmp] hasn’t spoken at great length about the topic at any one time,” the piece points, “and he doesn’t have the kind of record on the issue that say, a former governor would.  But over the course of the campaign, we have followed his statements about K-12.”  Here’s one example from the article: “Trump says he hates the common core, and says he’ll get rid of them. But, thanks in part to the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal government does not have the power to do that.”               With Trump now close to wrapping up the GOP nomination for president, you may be interested in a bit of history involving his real estate group and the LAUSD school board who engaged in a protracted and acrimonious battle in 1990 over the former Ambassador Hotel property on Wilshire Blvd.  A story from ED WEEK describes the clash and you may be surprised to learn that the school district emerged triumphant although the battle was not finally resolved until 2001.  The hotel was razed in 2006 and the site now houses the RFK Community Schools, a K-12 complex.  
 
Corporate “Reform” 
Want a peek behind the curtain of what happens to a school district when the corporate “reformers” spend millions of dollars to take control of the local school board?  You have to look no farther thanwhat’s happening in Denver.  Jeanne Kaplan, on her Kaplan for Kids blog, titles her extended piece “Disruption, Disenfranchisement and Drama in District 4” and that pretty much sums up what took place.  “This is a saga about Disruption (school closings and openings, extraordinarily high teacher and principal turnover, destruction of neighborhood schools), Disenfranchisement (two board resignations in four years, two representatives chosen by the Board of Education, not the voters), and Drama (the most recent Board vacancy replacement appears to never have undergone the most basic background check which is mandatory for all Denver Public Schools – DPS – employees and volunteers.  The seat became vacant in February 2016 and remains vacant as of May 2.)”  [Ed. note: Kaplan provides an update regarding the vacant seat that was filled shortly after she posted her piece.]
 
Student Addiction to Cellphones
 And finally, yes, the author of this article in EDUCATION WEEKreferred to it as an “addiction” to cellphones and that may be too strong a characterization but it’s not far from the truth.  Steve Gardner is no neophyte to a classroom.  He’s a 28-year veteran educator, a high school English teacher in Montana, National Board Certified and was selected as teacher of the year in his state in 2008.  [Ed. note: That qualifies him as an expert on the subject in my mind.]  He’s not against the use of the devices in class for certain lessons and projects but recounts a number of stories about how teenagers simply cannot stay off them for even a short period of time.  “Yes, addiction is a strong word, but physically, mentally, and emotionally, a high percentage of teenagers are addicted to their cellphones.  We have incentives to promote attendance and graduation, but many teenagers need help,” he concludes descriptively, “because their bodies are in the classroom, but their minds are inside their cellphones.”  How many of you would concur with that sentiment?

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 Edition

 The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
  This week is “National Teacher Appreciation Week”
and today is “Teacher Appreciation Day.”
The “Ed News” joins in proudly expressing its appreciation
to each and every educator out there (active or retired).
            Inline image 1
                This Google Doodle appeared on Teacher Appreciation Day today:
          Inline image 1
 
          “In large part, we are teachers precisely because we remember what it was like to be a student.
Someone inspired us. Someone influenced us. Or someone hurt us. And we’ve channeled that joy (or pain)
into our own unique philosophies on life and learning and we’re always looking for an opportunity to share them—
with each other, our students, parents, or in our communities.”

― Tucker Elliot

And now to the news.

Testing
What is the connection between a backhoe in Kansas and cancelled standardized testing in Alaska.  Trust me, there is a direct connection but you’ll have to read a brief item by Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 to find out what it is.  You may be surprised or, then again, you may not.  👿               Alaska isn’t the only state fed up with its standardized testing vendor.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” chronicled some major testing glitches in Tennessee that caused the state to delay and ultimately cancel the second half of its assessment program.  The Volunteer State then abruptly ended their contract with the vendor that provided their testing materials.  EDUCATION WEEK explains what happened. “The state of Tennessee on Wednesday abruptly terminated a $107.7 million contract with a testing company,” it reports, “following repeated failures with the rollout of the new assessment called TNReady. . . .  The company’s contract was terminated after it revised its deadline for shipping the tests to students three times in April.”  [Ed. note: I wonder which other states will follow in the footsteps of Alaska and Tennessee and say “goodbye” to those unreliable vendors.]
 
Lead in the Water in Schools
By now the lead-in-the-water disaster in Flint, Michigan is well known.  That situation has raised questions about similar problems in schools.  The PBS NEWSHOUR weekly program “Making the Grade”on April 19th had a segment titled “Why Safe Drinking Water is No Safe Bet for Some U.S. Schools.”  You can view the video (7:37 minutes) and/or read the full transcript by clicking here.  Unfortunately, Los Angeles was one of the cities identified with a lead contamination problem in some of its schools’ water. 
 
Teacher Evaluations
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles, studies, editorials and reports about how to improve the teacher evaluation process.  EDUCATION WEEK provides a forum for another commentary on the subject.  This one comes from a vice president of the Aspen Institute and the executive director of its Education and Society Program.  That organization has a brand new report (24 pages), issued in March, titled “Teacher Evaluations and Support Systems–A Roadmap for Improvement.”  It contains 10 strategies for improving teacher evaluations of which the article from ED WEEK features 3 that hold particular promise.  The story also includes a link to the full report.  “States and districts are entering a new era in education policy, and they face the important—but not impossible—task of focusing on improvement,” the author of the article concludes.  “Just as teacher evaluation calls for feedback that improves teacher practice, states need to learn what’s working and what’s not to improve policy.  By clarifying their vision for education and learning from best practices around the country, leaders can ensure that their policies and systems—including those around evaluation—move in the right direction under ESSA, supporting educators and students on their paths to success.”
 
Charter Schools 
Many charter schools proudly tout the fact they are “no excuse” campuses that deal harshly with discipline in a rather authoritarian manner.  They claim that’s exactly what low-income and minority students need to learn in order to succeed in college and beyond.  How accurate is that assessment?  Jennifer Berkshire, aka theEduShyster, interviews a researcher, a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Princeton University, who spent almost 2 years observing a “no excuses” charter and recounts her experiences and how this type of behavior model is impacting its students.  The school is never identified.  It’s referred to as the “Dream Academy,” a middle school in a Northeastern city with about 250 Black and Hispanic students.  In response to a question to summarize her conclusions, the woman responded: “The school failed to teach students the skills and behaviors to help them succeed in college.  In a tightly regulated environment, students learned to monitor themselves, hold back their opinions, and defer to authority.  These are very different skills than the ones middle-class kids learn—to take initiative, be assertive, and negotiate with authority,” she continues.  “Colleges expect students to take charge of their learning and to advocate for themselves.”               Is Boston about to be “charterized” or “privatized?”  Could your district be next on the list?  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, got his hands on the “Private and Confidential” report prepared by an outside consulting group, McKinsey, to “improve” the Boston Public Schools and make them more efficient and cost effective so investors can make more money.  The study was initiated at the behest of Boston’s mayor.  Greene lays out for all to see what’s possibly in store for Boston.  It’s not a pretty sight but one that’s been implemented in several other cities and could be headed your way in the near future.  “If there is ever a doubt that these guys[authors of the report] are corporate money guys and not educators,” Greene charges, “their language choices make it clear.  The plan suggests that BPS can right-size by ‘consolidating’ 30-50 schools.  It is so worth noting that this report is dated March of 2015, which was roughly nine months before Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was whining about all the dirty liars accusing him of wanting to close 36 Boston schools– exactly what the McKinsey plan calls for.”  Big city school district.  Close a bunch of schools.  Here we go again!             All those billionaire philanthropists who give millions of their dollars to support charter schools are starting to feel picked on.  And guess who’s taking their side?  None other than the Wall Street Journal in an op-ed piece titled “The Union War on Charter School Philanthropists.”  Wow.  No kidding.  A “war” on those poor billionaires?  The original item requires a paid subscription and the editor of the “Ed News” is not a millionaire and can’t afford it (he’s a retired teacher, for heaven’s sake).  Fortunately, Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints the piece in full and you can read it by clicking here.  It is, incidentally written by the president and CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.  I wonder why she would be standing up for those mistreated philanthropists?  Your guess is as good as mine!
 
Pearson Decides Not to Change its Testing-based Business Model
The publishing behemoth, Pearson PLC, rejected a call by several unions, who happen to own shares in the company, to move away from its heavy reliance on producing standardized testing materials for the U.S. market.  A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a letter from several unions, including the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund and a couple of large labor organizations in Great Britain that supported a resolution presented to a recent Pearson shareholders meeting.  Valerie Strauss, writing on her “Answer Sheet” blog forThe Washington Post, includes a link to the resolution and a short recap of what happened at the meeting.
 
Latest 12th Grade NAEP Scores
The L.A. Times has two articles about the latest 12th grade math and English scores on the NAEP exams (National Assessment of Education Progress–aka the “Nation’s Report Card”) that were highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News.”  The first one appears in Sunday’s “Back Story” column and reports the disappointing results and what can be done about them.  “The scores came as the country continues to teach and test Common Core State Standards,” it reminds readers, “a set of learning benchmarks intended to make school more demanding and lessons more consistent among states.  The scores also follow years of money and energy being poured into what’s become known as the education reform movement, an effort to revamp how teachers are hired and fired and to make schools more efficient.”  The second story is in yesterday’s paper and pretty much concentrates on the test results.  “The scores come against the backdrop of major change in the governance of schools: Late last year, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act,” it points out, “marking the end of the No Child Left Behind Act, the much-maligned federal law that required regular standardized testing and doled out consequences in accordance with test results.  As a result of the new law, California — along with all other states — must now devise a new way to rate its schools, and to communicate those ratings to parents.”  [Ed. note: Curiously the latter article appeared on the Times’ website on April 26, while the former was posted on their website on May 1.  You’ll have to ask them about the order that they appeared in the print editions.  It may be a case of poor editing.]                Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Postover to Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, to interpret the latest 12th grade NAEP scores in math and English.  “The newly released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for twelfth graders found that reading results, a measure that has remained consistent over the years, were the same in 2015 as they were in 2002,” he reviews.  “NAEP math scores are flat compared with 2005, the earliest reported date for that exam.  That means that a decade of test-driven school ‘reform’ resulted in no academic progress. . . . Parents and educators who have built the national testing resistance and reform movement know well that test-driven schooling is junk food education, Neill concludes.  “Ensuring the nation moves away from failed test-and-punish policies will require the already impressive movement to grow even stronger.”
Where Did Cursive Writing Go?
Most educators are aware by now that the Common Core State Standards make no mention of teaching cursive handwriting.  In this age of computers, cursive writing may seem like an anachronism but its abandonment has also raised the ire of a number of teachers and experts.  A Missouri teacher and member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) raises the issue once again in a very informative and entertaining way.  She includes a number of pictures, illustrations and even a cartoon to make her point about the absence of cursive instruction.  The author thankfully reports that Missouri decided just last month to resurrect the teaching of cursive writing in the 2nd and 3rd grade English Language Arts Standards.  “No Child Left Behind led to a test prep take over of our lesson plans, leaving no time for cursive handwriting.  The Common Core State Standards ignored handwriting entirely,” she complains.  “The result is a generation of children who can type better than we ever imagined they would, but they can’t sign their names.  Was eliminating cursive handwriting a good idea?  I believe most teachers think cursive is an essential skill and want to see it returned to our elementary classrooms.  Has Missouri done the right thing by bringing cursive back? We will find out soon enough.”
 
Common Core
Many states were quick to join the Common Core bandwagon but upon deeper reflection have since been backing away from the standards in various ways.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog in The Washington Post, writes about a bill that recently passed a Michigan Senate Education committee that would see the state drop the standards but in their stead Michigan would adopt the highly praised standards Massachusetts abandoned prior to the Bay State’s adoption of the Common Core 6 years ago.  If that sounds a little convoluted or even bizarre to you, join the club.  If all of this is not strange enough, Strauss further reports that “in Massachusetts, Core critics are scrambling to get a referendum on the 2016 ballot asking voters to return to the standards that used to be in place.”  What?  Now I’m totally confused.  Strauss does an excellent job of sorting all this out for you.  Give her a chance.
 
National Teacher Appreciation Week
Diane Ravitch’s blog has some timely and thoughtful comments on the occasion of National Teacher Appreciation Week “What does it mean to appreciate teachers?”  she asks. “It means respecting their professionalism.  It means turning to teachers as experts on their work, not to people who study teaching or think about teaching.”  She includes a link to a piece from theHUFFPOST EDUCATION blog by John Ewing, a fellow educator, mathematician and President of Math for America, who titles his essay “Appreciating Teachers.”  It’s well worth reading, too.               Well, it seems most people know it’s National Teacher Appreciation Week EXCEPT Pres. Obama.  A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blogpoints out that Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation on April 29th, making May 1-7, National Charter Schools Week.  Don’t believe it?  Ravitch includes a link to the White House website with the full, official proclamation for one and all to see.  Unbelievable!  And wait until you peruse the brief comments the reader of Ravitch’s blog has to say about this.                Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, offers her 2 cents worth on Teacher Appreciation Week in a piece headlined “It’s Teacher Appreciation Week.  Why Some Teachers Don’t Exactly Appreciate It.”  She points out that all the free offers and proclamations of teachers as “heroes” are not what most educators need and want.  “If that sounds good to you, it doesn’t to many teachers, who say that what they really need isn’t free food and a once-a-year exercise in flattery,” Strauss suggests.  “What they want, they say, is for their profession to be respected in a way that accepts educators as experts in their field.  They want adequate funding for schools, decent pay, valid assessment, job protections and a true voice in policy making.”
 
Granada Hills Charter High Wins National Decathlon Title Again
Some positive news for the LAUSD.  Granada Hills Charter High School claimed the national Decathlon championship for the second year in a row and the fifth time in the past 6 years.  A campus in Texas placed second in the competition that took place over the past weekend in Anchorage.  Since the national event began in 1982, LAUSD schools have dominated with 17 titles.  A story in Sunday’sL.A. Times has details about this year’s event.  “Students were tested in 10 events: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science and speech,”it reviews.  “The study topic this year was India.”  It is interesting to note that the initial concept of an academic competition for high school students began in Orange County, California in 1968.  California high schools have won the national championship 23 times, including the last 14 in a row; Texas has won 11 times and Wisconsin once.
Student Blogging
If you read the “Ed News” and other blogs, you must be a fan of this particular medium.  Have you ever thought of having your students blog?  The author of the “Finding Common Ground” column (blog) in EDUCATION WEEK is an author, presenter and former K-5 public school principal who asks in the title of his piece “Why Aren’t Students Allowed to Blog?”  He provides some answers to that question and presents 6 justifications for having students blog as part of a class.  “One great aspect of blogging is that not all the rules of standard writing apply.  We live by so many compliance measures these days, that blogging offers an artistic freedom that no other forms of writing may offer.  Bloggers can play with words,” the author maintains, “or use one sentence instead of worrying about making sure there are 4 or 5 sentences in a paragraph.  Blogging is awesome that way.  Unfortunately, not everyone sees the benefits of blogging; especially when it comes to students.  They feel as if there are more important things to be completed during class time, and that student blogging should be left for free time, homework, or random weekends.  Blogging deserves a better place in the classroom.”
 
Education Writers Association
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a piece on Diane Ravitch’s blog by a reader who blasted the Education Writers Association (EWA) for its biased, pro-Common Core reporting as he wondered where their journalistic responsibility was to be fair and balanced.  Another reader on the same blog has a possible answer as to why the EWA takes the positions it does.  As is too often the case, he suggests, “follow the money.”  He proceeds to list thephilanthropists and foundations that provide much of the funding for the EWA and, guess what, it’s the usual suspects.  “The Education Writers Association claims that it provides ”’high-quality education coverage.’  Sometimes, it probably does.  Many times it doesn’t come close,” writes the author of the comment.  “Which begs the question, why not?  Perhaps it’s because it’s ‘generous support’ comes from The Gates Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Kern Foundation and the Walton Foundation, among others.  The Gates Foundation is neck deep in education ‘reform,’ corporate-style.  SO are the others.”
 
Student Privacy

Is the National PTA selling out to the folks who want to collect as much data (individual information) from students as they can?  That’s the serious charge leveled by Peter Greene on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog.  The group has joined forces with a movement called The Data Quality Campaign (DQC).  Greene reviews some of their policy objectives and concludes “DQC is about data-mining the living daylights out of students.”  So how does the DQC legitimize their push to collect student data?  Get a nice warm and fuzzy family oriented group like the national PTA to endorse what you are doing.  BINGO!  That’s exactly what has happened.  “So this is what the National PTA has climbed in bed with this time,” Greene groans.  “It’s worth noting, as always, that many state and local chapters of the PTA have stood up and been feisty for public education, and the students and teachers therein.  But the National PTA seems bent on letting itself be turned into an astroturf group.”


Corporate “Reform”

If you think things are bad in California . . . . wait until you read about the educational disaster taking place in North Carolina.  Stuart Egan, a high school English teacher in the Tarheel State, was invited by Diane Ravitch’s blog to write about what the governor and legislature have done to K-12 schools in that state.  It is worse than ugly as you will discover upon reading his discouraging narrative.  Keep in mind these types of assaults on public education are taking place in many other states, too.  “North Carolina’s situation may be no different than what other states are experiencing,” Egan explains, “but how our politicians have proceeded in their attempt to dismantle public education is worth exploring.  Specifically, the last five year period in North Carolina has been a calculated attempt at undermining public schools with over twenty different actions that have been deliberately crafted and executed along three different fronts: actions against teachers, actions against public schools, and actions to deceive the public.”  Egan proceeds to offer a number of specifics under each of those 3 categories.                Things are not much better in Detroit whereteachers held a “sick-out” yesterday to protest the possibility they won’t be paid this summer for work they’ve already done.  A story in the Detroit Free Press describes what’s going on in the Motor City.  “The union staged a sick-out Monday that closed 94 of the district’s 97 schools.  Hundreds attended a rally,” it relates, “in which they called for a guarantee that they would be paid this summer for work they’ve already completed.”  [Ed. note: The sick-out continued in Detroit today according to a piece inEDUCATION WEEK.]

 
Teacher Accidentally Stabbed by Her Own Pencil
And finally, the “Ed News” reluctantly leaves you with this sad tale of woe.  It seems a teacher was leading a group of students to the Eaton Canyon waterfall on Monday when . . . . It’s best to let this very short item in today’s L.A. Times tell the rest of the story.  It does not end happily as you can tell from the headline.  However, the victim of the accident was apparently OK but it was a close call as you will read.  

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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