Ed News, Friday, August 21, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

    
[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking a brief break.  Look for the next edition on Friday, August 28.]
 
“For many years I have been asking myself why intelligent children act unintelligently at school. The simple answer is, ‘Because they’re scared.’  I used to suspect that children’s defeatism had something to do with their bad work in school, but I thought I could clear it away with hearty cries of ‘Onward! You can do it!’  What I now see for the first time is the mechanism by which fear destroys intelligence, the way it affects a child’s whole way of looking at, thinking about, and dealing with life. So we have two problems, not one: to stop children from being afraid, 
and then to break them of the bad thinking habits into which their fears have driven them.
First Day of School
Wednesday’s L.A. Times has a relatively benign account of the first day of school Tuesday for some 650,000 students in the LAUSD.  A year ago the district was plagued by a disastrous student information system, troubling questions about the “iPad-for-all” program and a controversial superintendent.  As of yesterday the computer system was working the tablet plan had been scrapped and Supt. John Deasy had left under a very dark cloud in October and was replaced by Ramon Cortines.  There are other positive signs, as well, which the article recounts and it includes a brief video (51 seconds) titled “The District By the Numbers.”               The new school year has already begun for millions of students or will start shortly for millions more.  Mitchell Robinson, on his Mitchell Robinson blog, takes the opportunity of the start of the new school year to once again decry the accountability and standardizationbeing pushed so forcefully by the corporate “reformers.”   “There is nothing about [our] schools–or our students–that is standardized.  Schools are not fast-food franchises,” he reminds us, “engineered for consistency and similarity of ‘customer experience.’   The differences in our schools, and among our students, are to be savored, treasured and celebrated, not targeted as ‘issues’, or ‘problems’ to be solved, or ‘variables’ to be accounted for in the construction of a standardized exam.  The diversity in our schools is not a ‘bug’, it’s a feature. . . .  Education is not simply about constructing efficient delivery systems for the transfer of information–books and computers can do that. Education is about the building of relationships–between students and teachers, and among learners themselves,” he continues.  “And schools, in all of their messy, noisy, confusing chaos, do this spectacularly well.”  VERY wise words, indeed!                  What is the optimal time for the school day to begin?  According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most states start too early, especially for middle and high school students.  EDUCATION WEEK features a new study from the CDC about when school should start.  It suggests an 8:30 start is ideal.  Schools in Louisiana have the earliest average starting times, 7:40 am, while in California the bell rings to start the day at 8:07.  Only Alaska and North Dakota begin after 8:30.  “Too little sleep has been proven in studies to lead to an increased prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders, use of stimulants (coffee, for example), drowsy driving-related crashes, and subsequent risk of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic dysfunction,” the piece explains.  “By starting later, studies have shown students’ academic achievement improving, less absences, and better end-of-year test scores.”   This article includes a interactive state-by-state list of stating times.
Charging Fees for “Free” Public Education
The corporate “reformers” are at it again.  In their push to privatize the public school system by getting state legislatures to slash K-12 education budgets to the bone they are forcing more and more schools to charge fees for things that were previously part of a “free” public education.  Participating in sports or cheerleading, going on field trips and some elective courses are among the items now costing students to take part in.  Even transportation to and from school is costing parents according to this commentary from theOTHER words blog.  “Public schools themselves have steadily been shifting from free education toward what amounts to fee education,” the author contends.  “This is a product of the budget slashing frenzy imposed on our schools in the past 15 years or so by the convergence of Koch-headed, anti-public ideologues and unimaginative, acquiescent education officials. Beset by tight budgets, too many school systems are accommodating the slashers by shifting the cost of educating America’s future from the general society to the parents of students who are presently enrolled.”
 
New Education Issues Poll
EducationNext is out with its annual poll on school reform.  The group, sponsored by the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, the Harvard Kennedy School and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, has been described as “a propaganda outlet for corporate reform policies such as charter schools, school vouchers and merit pay,” so you may need to take their findings with a grain of salt.  It does report that majorities of parents and the general public support annual testing; teachers were split on the issue.  All three groups had little sympathy for the opt-out movement.  EDUCATION WEEK has an analysis of the survey and a link to the full report.                 Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, took the “Ed News” editor’s advice and didn’t buy many of the findings of the EdNext poll (see above).  However, he did zero in on two items–perceptions about failing schools and poor teachers.  Greene discovered that the general public only believed that 6% of the nation’s schools were “failing.”   “There are certainly aspects of these data that are unbragworthy.  But it is still worth noting that the reformsters narrative of terrible schools staffed with horrible teachers,” his analysis concludes, “is not what most folks see– certainly not the level of disaster needed to really jumpstart a good round of disaster capitalist roulette.  Perhaps that’s why some folks have to work so very hard to create the impression of educational disaster.”
 
The Teaching Profession
A 10-year veteran teacher in Philadelphia, who is National Board-certified, describes her first year experiences working in a “teacher-led school” in a piece for EDUCATION WEEK.  She explains what she learned and what she had to “unlearn” after working in a more traditional setting.  “Sometimes I still crave a quick, clear-cut answer.  But I’m learning that at a teacher-led school, I co-create the answers.  I’m becoming more comfortable with the process of seeking answers together.  My first year at a teacher-powered school was far from a smooth transition,” she confides.  “But heading into the second, I’m confident that I am exactly where I want to be.”                     Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted the significant upcoming U.S. Supreme Court caseFriedrichs v CTA which contains a pivotal challenge to the concept by which public unions collect “agency shop” fees from people who do not want to be full dues-paying members.  Experts have predicted that an adverse ruling could be a major blow to the influence and even existence of public employee unions.  The Tuesday, Aug. 18th edition of the “Ed News” presented Part 1 of an analysis of the case by the BadAss Teachers Association.  You can read Part 2, titled “The Deception Goes Deeper,” by clicking here.  A link to Part 1 can be found in the sidebar titled “Blog Archive.”                 If you are not back at school yet or have some extra time this weekend you can read ALL the affidavits submitted in the New York case of Lederman v King that is challenging the New York State teacher evaluation system that makes heavy usage of value-added models (VAMs) to rate teachers.  Diane Ravitch’s blog is touting the one written by psychologist Brad Lindell who writes about the unreliability of VAM scores.  If you don’t wish to read his full affidavit you can read a (very) brief note he sent to Ravitch explaining his view in ‘layman’s terms” by clicking here.  
 
Election 2016  
Campbell Brown’s education blog “The Seventy Four” hosted separate discussions on the future of K-12 education with six of the GOP candidates for president in 2016.  Gov. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Scott Walker, Gov Bobby Jindal and Gov. Chis Christie were each  questioned Wednesday in Manchester, New Hampshire for approximately 45 minutes by editor-in-chief of T74 Brown.  A second “Education Summit” will take place in October in Iowa and will feature Democratic leaders who will address how to meet America’s education challenges.                 For a slightly different take on the New Hampshire education discussion (see above) we refer you to Peter Greene and his CURMUDUCATION blog and Jennifer Berkshire over at EDUSHYSTER who reports on one teacher who preregistered for the event and had a ticket but was denied entry.  [Ed. note: Why was she refused?  Your guess is as good as mine.]  Check out the brief video (1:25 minutes) of the confrontation.                Members of the National Education Association including teachers from New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut protested outside the “Education Summit” event hosted by “The Seventy Four.”  EDUCATION WEEK has a description in the form of a timeline with summaries of some of the candidates comments and some of the actions that took place outside.                Yesterday’s L.A. Times also reported on the “Education Summit” from New Hampshire (see above).  Their story focused on Jeb Bush’s comments about the Common Core and briefly reviewed what some of the other candidates said on the topic.   “Bush has watched his onetime signature issue — education reform — transformed into the thorniest of topics,” it points out.  “As his campaign struggles to win support in a crowded field, the standards have become a test of his ability to win over conservatives, or keep them from pulling him too far to the right.”
 
Hunger Strike in Chicago
A group of 11 parents, teachers and community members are engaged in a hunger strike in a South Side neighborhood of Chicago in a desperate attempt to reopen their local high school that was among 50 campuses closed by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel a couple of years ago. Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, provides the details of why these activists are resorting to such drastic actions. “If the Emanuel administration has its way,” he complains, “this mostly black community will have to choose between sending their children to a failing charter school or a failing public school run by a private company – all while the neighborhood’s historic Walter H. Dyett High School is closed.”
 
Teacher Jail
In lieu of a recent L.A. Times editorial about “teacher jail” (highlighted in the Aug. 11th “Ed News”), Walt Gardner, a now retired LAUSD teacher and former lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education, comments on the phenomenon in L.A. and New York (“rubber rooms”).  His commentary appears inEDUCATION WEEK and is titled “Teacher Jails and Rubber Rooms are a Travesty.”  “Before remanding teachers to these purgatories,” Gardner suggests, “I think it’s important to make a distinction between instructional incompetence and moral turpitude.”
 
Problems With State High School Exit Exam
An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times was highly critical of California Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for a situation that developed at the end of last year that left some 500 of the state’s seniors in graduation limbo because they hadn’t yet passed the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam).  [Ed. note: Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted how the San Francisco Board of Education dealt with the problem  facing 107 of their seniors.]  Briefly, the test measures if students have basic skills in English and math and is offered beginning in a pupil’s sophomore year.  Students have a number of opportunities to pass the exam but it is a requirement for graduation.  Torlakson cancelled the final administration of the test scheduled for July due to the fact that it didn’t align with the new Common Core standards.  That left a number of seniors around the state who had passed all the other graduation requirements out on a limb because they had yet to pass the CAHSEE.  Legislation was introduced in Sacramento (SB 172) to deal with the situation but no bill has yet passed.               An item in EdSource is reporting that the California Assembly is taking up an emergency bill this week to tackle the problem of seniors being denied diplomas due to the students not being able to take the CAHSEE (see above).                An item posted on the L.A. Times website yesterday afternoon reviews the snafu over diplomas and discusses its impact on 492 students in the LAUSD with the snarky headline “Here’s One Way to Give Out More High School Diplomas.”  Thanks L.A. Times for your thorough understanding of the situation!    
 
Duncan’s Op-Ed About STEM
U.S. Dept. of Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan’s op-ed in Tuesday’s L.A. Times about California spending more of its education budget on preparing students in the STEM subjects drew 4 letters in yesterday’s paper.  The first one is from Walt Gardner, retired veteran LAUSD teacher and columnist for ED WEEK.
 
Opting-Out in New York
And finally, a recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a threat from the New York state commissioner of education to withhold federal and state funding for any districts in the Empire State that had too many students opt-out of standardized exams.  Now the warning has been withdrawn according to an article in The New York Times sent by ALOED member Randy Traweek.   “For months,” it mentions, “state and federal officials warned that districts that fell below a 95 percent participation rate might lose federal funds, while the leaders of the so-called opt-out movement have dismissed these as empty threats.”  Apparently, the opt-out leaders were right!                    Last week The New York Times published an editorial chastising parents who chose to opt their children out of standardized tests in New York.  They published 4 letters that supported the opt-out movement including one from a middle school teacher from San Francisco who explained why the opt-out phenomenon has not caught on in California.
 
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Ed News, Tuesday, August 18, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“What I’ve found about it is that there are some folks you can talk to until you’re blue in the face–they’re never going to get it and they’re never going to change. But every once in a while, you’ll run into someone who is eager to listen, eager to learn, and willing to try new things. Those are the people we need to reach. We have a responsibility as parents, older people, teachers, people in the neighborhood to recognize that.”
Charter Schools
Last week the “Ed News” highlighted a story from the L.A. Times about a plan by the Broad Foundation and others to turn the LAUSD into a district with 50% of its student attending charters.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, wants to know how Broad and his ilk have appointed themselves the chief policy makers in the district.  Isn’t that the role of the VOTER-ELECTED school board?   “Did somebody elect the Broad Foundation to the school board of the LAUSD?  No?  Well, why let that stop them from going ahead and setting policy.  I think I may go ahead and declare myself the chief of police here in my town,” Greene proposes, “stop down to City Hall, and let them know what the new policies are going to be.”  Greene also wonders who is going to fund this major charter expansion.  Broad and his fellow philanthropists?  The taxpayers, who had no say in the policy?                 How can this be?  The BASIS charter chain in Arizonaconsistently ranks among the top public schools in the country.  However, an investigative piece by a reporter for station KPHO Channel 5, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, finds that it suffers a major decline in students between middle school and 12th grade.  “Critics argue the small graduating classes give BASIS the appearance of a school system that succeeds in creating top scholars out of nearly all of its students,” the story notes.  “They say the lower-performing students transfer out of the system before senior year.”  Some numbers to back up this claim: One BASIS campus in Scottsdale had 144 students in 6th grade in 2012-13 but only 32 pupils in the 12th grade.  The article includes a short video segment (5:18 minutes) about the story by the reporter.                  An Arizona teacher and reader of  Diane Ravitch’s blog  offers some additional insights into the inner workings of  BASIS charter schools  in that state.                ALOED members Randy Traweek, Larry Lawrence and Dave Alpert attended the press conference/rally yesterday afternoon in front of the office building that houses the Broad Foundation in Century City to promote a petition that aims to place on the ballot in California a initiative that would repeal the state’s charter school law.  The event apparently drew no media attention and only attracted 14 or 15 people who held signs and passed out literature to passersby on Avenue of the Stars.
 
Election 2016
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, expounds are seemingly contradictory votes Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders cast over the past 15 years on NCLB and the current rewrite of the ESEA.  A key term in the controversy seems to be one’s definition of “accountability.”  Both Sanders and Singer explain their interpretations of what the latter describes as “teacher accountability” and “lawmaker accountability.”                Jeb Bush, like some of the other Republican candidates for president, iswaffling on the Common Core.  Once a strong proponent of the standards he now finds it difficult to even mention them by name.  As far back as November of last year he was supporting the CCSS.  New he’s against them.  What changed?  Hint, hint! He’s running for president among a number of other GOP hopefuls who can’t stand them either.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29 reviews the history between the former Florida governor and the standards.
The Teacher Shortage
Add Oklahoma to the growing list of states with teacher shortages much of which can be traced to unenlightened policies toward teacher pay, budget cuts, class sizes, due process rights and unionization.  YAHOO! NEWS provides the details about what’s going on in the Sooner State.   “Low pay, more mandatory tests, funding cuts and what some educators feel are more demands from policymakers,” it relates, “are among the reasons cited by departing teachers, and by administrators trying to replace them.”
 
Opt-Out and Testing
When too many students opt-out of standardized tests it raises questions about the validity of the results that are reported.  The New York Times has an interesting analysis of this growing trend and its impact on the entire “accountability” movement.  It focuses on the situation in New York but is certainly applicable nationwide.  “With 20 percent of eligible students sitting out the New York state standardized tests this year,” it begins, “even some central organizers of the ‘opt out’ movement were surprised at their own success.  But those numbers are more than just a thumb in the eye of state education officials.  They also are a significant setback for the educational accountability movement in New York, which has sought to use data to evaluate educational progress on all levels, including the success of districts, schools and individual teachers.  Now, in many districts with high rates of test refusals, the data has been badly crippled.”  Diane Ravitch labeled this “a terrific article.”               The New York Times has an editorial condemning the opt-out movement.  “With opt-out activists threatening to redouble their efforts next year,” it concludes, “political leaders need to convince everyone involved — school boards, superintendents, principals, parents, state education officials, guidance counselors, and teachers and their unions — of the importance of these tests and find ways to help students and teachers meet the challenge they pose.”               The state of New York is worried that the large number of students who opted-out of the standardized tests may call into question the use of those scores for evaluating districts, schools and individual teachers (see 2 stories above).  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, reminds everyone once AGAIN that high stakes test results were NOT meant to be used for evaluating anything or anyone other than the students who took the exams.  ” Under no conditions is it a valid use of student test scores to evaluate teachers or schools,” she repeats.  “The students are the test takers; these tests purportedly measure their achievement.  There is no way to account for all of the possible variables that would enable the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to accurately evaluate teachers and schools using student test scores.”               A state high school exit exam snafu left 107 students in San Francisco in graduation limbo.  The board of education in that city took the unprecedented step of ignoring state law in order for the blameless students to be able to complete their high school requirements and prepare for college entrance, job training or the military. EDUCATION WEEK sorts out the details of this sordid tale for you in a piece titled “California Diploma Bungle: San Francisco Board Goes ‘Rogue’ to Rescue Students.”              What should test reform activists do next as the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB gets down to business in earnest as Congress prepares to return from its summer recess after Labor Day?  That question is answered with a list of 5 options from an article in the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog which concludes with an action plan that teachers or parents can implement.
 
Teacher Evaluations
In a case that could have nationwide implications, a 4th grade teacher in New York, Sheri Lederman, has filed suit against the state’s teacher evaluation system.  Her hearing before the NY Supreme Court took place last week in Albany and a group of teachers from the Badass Teachers Association attended the trial in support of Lederman.  They wrote short reflections on what they’d experienced while witnessing the proceedings in Lederman v King.  As an example, here’s a portion of what Maria Kilfoyle wrote:  “1.  At first when Bruce Lederman [Sheri’s husband and attorney] was methodically going through his arguments the judge seemed bored and disinterested.  At one point I thought he was going to fall asleep and my hopes were falling but an amazing thing happened….It seemed to me the judge GOT IT!  He seemed to be well read and assured Bruce that he had read the ‘expert’ submissions on behalf of Sheri Lederman (Linda Darling-Hammond and Carol Burris submitted expert testimony on Sheri’s behalf).”   This article includes a series of real time tweets that were sent while the court was in session.                Alexandra Miletta, a high school classmate of Sheri Lederman and a “teacher educator” offered her impressions of the case on her Alexandra Milettablog.               Peter Greene did not attend the hearing but offered his always cogent comments about it on his CURMUDGUCATIONblog.   “God bless Sheri Lederman,” he begins.  “The New York teacher is in court this [last]  week, standing up for herself and for every teacher who suffers under New York’s cockamamie evaluation system.  If she wins, there will be shockwaves felt all across America where teachers are evaluated based on VAM-soaked idiocy.”  Greene actually touts Alexandra Miletta’s blog (see above) as an excellent source for information on the case.  [Ed. note: He does get the spelling of her last name wrong, but we won’t hold that against him].               Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post over to the now retired award-winning New York principal Carol Burris, who also attended the hearing, for her eyewitness report on the proceedings.  As an introduction to Burris’ comments, Strauss offers an excellent history of the case and a review of some of the key issues at stake.  “Here’s what happened to Lederman: In 2012-13, 68.75 percent of her New York students met or exceeded state standards in both English and math,” Strauss recounts.  “She was labeled ‘effective’ that year.  In 2013-2014, her students’ test results were very similar, but she was rated ‘ineffective.’   Meanwhile, her district superintendent, Thomas Dolan, declared that Lederman — whose students received  standardized math and English Language Arts test scores consistently higher than the state average — has a ‘flawless record.'”  As a result of this mishmash, Lederman sued the New York State Department of Education over its flawed evaluation system.                The satirical news site the ONION has a brief, totally tongue-in-cheek proposal about new standards for teacher evaluations in Illinois.  Remember: this is completely fictitious, but then again, you never can tell what some crazy state will come up with.  “In an effort to hold classroom instructors more accountable, the Illinois State Board of Education unveiled new statewide education standards Friday,” the story reports, “that require public school teachers to forever change the lives of at least 30 percent of their students. . . .  If 30 percent of students don’t recall a particular teacher’s name when asked to identify the most influential and inspiring person in their lives, that instructor would be promptly dismissed.”
 
Common Core
An editorial in The Washington Post strongly supports the Common Core against critics from both the right and the left.  “The left-right movement of activists, ideologues and unions that is ‘poisoning’ the Common Core brand,”  it maintains, “is willing to sacrifice transparency and accountability for the sake of ideology, job security or some combination.”               Diane Ravitch’s blogwas scornful of the Post’s position and points out some factual errors.   “I am shocked,” she concludes, “that the Washington Post could be so misinformed.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Mitchell Robinson, on his personal blog, offers a 4-step process for how corporate “reformers” go about the take-over of public school districts  “One of the more subtle, yet damaging, weapons in the reformers’ playbook,” he writes, “is simultaneously less visible to the uninformed eye and more insidious in its ability to accomplish the reformers’ ultimate goal: the destabilization of public education by an intentional, purposeful strategy of near-constant turnover and turmoil in the leadership and teaching force in the schools.  The business world has a name for this practice: creative destruction.”  Robinson goes on to explain where this term came from and how it’s used to accomplish the privatization of the public school system.  He uses the Detroit Public Schools as a prime example.
 
The Teaching Profession
Before going on its annual summer recess, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the pivotal case of Friedrichs v CTA in the coming year.  Back in June the “Ed News” highlighted this very significant case.  It deals with the issue of public sector unions and their agency shop provisions regarding the payment of dues.  The plaintiffs will argue that this arrangement violates their first amendment rights.  A commentary on the Badass Teachers Association website looks at the individuals and organizations that are bringing the challenge and what they ultimately hope to gain by it.  If you are not already familiar with the stakes involved inFriedrichs you should be scared, VERY SCARED!   “If Friedrichs successfully overturns [a previous decision] and removes ‘agency shop’ fees,” the item warns, “many surmise it will destroy labor unions in the country.  Exposure of the real intent of the Friedrichs case is necessary because the political nature of this case is alarming; not just because of its ability to destroy labor unions but because of the nature of the deception.”               Here we go again.  You’ve heard about this happening before in different places but a group of 16 teachers at Chicago’s Urban Prep Academy were fired after the school voted to unionize.  Almost all of them were prominently featured on a pro-union flyer that circulated prior to the balloting in early June.  EDUSHYSTER provides the detail in her piece titled “Your’re Fired!”  “It took the Labor Board weeks to certify the results of the election due to large number of ballots that school administrators were contesting,” she recounts.  “And during this ‘grey area’ period when the new union wasn’t yet officially official, Urban Prep fired sixteen teachers.  Hows come?  Well, because they could.  Administrators are arguing that until the exact moment that the union becomes official, they are allowed to do whatever it is they feel like doing.  Which would seem to be an example of exactly the kind of asshole-ish behavior that prompted teachers at the charter network to form a union in the first place.”
Back to School
Today, over 500,000 students began classes in the LAUSD for the 2015-16 school year.  The L.A. Times has 4 education related stories, three of which relate to the nation’s second largest school district.  Last year the LAUSD attempted to roll-out a new student information system which proved to be a fiasco as pupil programs were incorrect and teachers had great difficulty even taking roll.  The now abandoned “iPads-for-all” program also proved problematic to put it kindly.  The first story discusses how the district is hoping for a much smoother opening this year than last.  “The student records system had seemed like a bargain at first — it was based on free computer code, obtained from Fresno Unified, which could be modified as needed,” the story reviews.  “It was intended to unite all student records in one place, including attendance, course schedules, emergency contacts, past performance and special needs.  Such coordination, officials hoped, would lead to faster and more appropriate services for students and more efficient business practices.  The new program, called My Integrated Student Information System (MISIS), cost $133 million to get on track.  Officials set aside $80 million this year to pay for additional fixes.”               The second article profiles the last remaining campus in the LAUSD that’s still on a year-round schedule–Bell High School–which started its school year early in July.  [Ed. note: From 1983-2009 I taught at Huntington Park High (LAUSD, and a neighbor of Bell, they were our big rival in sports), and was on a slightly different year-round calendar].   ” The campus, located in the southeast city of Bell,” the Times item notes, “is the last vestige of an era of explosive growth that pushed L.A. Unified’s enrollment to 700,000 from 500,000 between 1980 and 2000. The growth caused acute overcrowding, with some schools tripling in size to 2,000 students.”                The third piece is an infographic with charts and figures showing LAUSD enrollment, number of charter schools and students attending charters in the district, racial/ethnic statistics for both pupils and teachers, SAT scores and graduation and drop-out numbers.                The final item in today’s paper is an op-ed piece by U.S. Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan who suggests California would be better served by focusing much of its education spending on the STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.  ” If we want our children to grow into the scientists, researchers, educators and entrepreneurs who will address our most pressing challenges,” he writes, “and if we want our nation to remain a global leader in innovation, we must ensure that all students have access to deep learning in STEM subjects and are taught by talented teachers knowledgeable in these fields.”                Finally, why such wide coverage of education in today’s L.A. Times?  The paper’s Publisher and Chief Executive announced, in the form of a “Dear Reader” letter, a new, expanded emphasis on the subject that aims to provide students, teachers and parents with ongoing information.   “With the start of a new school year,” he explains, “the Los Angeles Times is rededicating itself to coverage of teaching and learning.  Our goal is to provide an ongoing, wide-ranging report card on K-12 education in Los Angeles, California and the nation.”  You can read his full remarks by clicking here.               Oops!  Hold the celebration!  Diane Ravitch writes about the new Times initiative on education: “Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you read a story like this.  It is a letter from the publisher of the LA Times informing readers that a group of wealthy foundations are underwriting expanded coverage of education.  Not surprising to see the Eli Broad Foundation in the mix.  Former Mayor Richard Riordan is not listed but you can be sure he is involved.  These control freaks–er, philanthropists–worry that the LAT has not provided enough space to cover this vital topic,” she complains. . . .  “A guest column by Arne Duncan!  Now there’s a fresh perspective!  I wonder if I will ever be invited to write for the LA Times again?”
 
Educational Measurement–Phooey!
Gene V. Glass of Arizona St. University has been involved with psychometrics since 1959 and has been a strong proponent of educational measurement since he entered grad school 3 years later.  His commentary, which he wrote for the Education in Two Worlds website, explains why he’s become disenchanted with how the numbers are being used to undermine public education.  “Measurement has changed along with the nation.  In the last three decades,” he laments, “the public has largely withdrawn its commitment to public education.  The reasons are multiple: those who pay for public schools have less money, and those served by the public schools look less and less like those paying taxes.
The degrading of public education has involved impugning its effectiveness, cutting its budget, and busting its unions.  Educational measurement has been the perfect tool for accomplishing all three: cheap and scientific looking. . . .  When measurement became the instrument of accountability,”
Glass continues, “testing companies prospered and schools suffered.  I have watched this happen for several years now.  I have slowly withdrawn my intellectual commitment to the field of measurement.  Recently I asked my dean to switch my affiliation from the measurement program to the policy program.  I am no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement.”
 
Fundraising TV Special for EDUCATION
And finally, CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC will broadcast a 1-hour music and entertainment special on Fri, Sept. 11, at 8 pm EDT/PDT to help raise funds for education.  The Entertainment Industry Foundation has previously produced cancer benefits and has lined up a star-studded cast for next month’s program.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK details the show.  “The foundation’s Think It Up initiative is hoping the benefit helps build excitement for learning in classrooms around the country,” the piece spells out.  “The broadcast will showcase stories of students and teachers.”
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk           

Dave Alpert

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

 

Ed News, Friday, August 14, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“…education is a sacred thing, and the pledge to build a school is a commitment that 
cannot be surrendered or broken, regardless of how long it may take, 
how many obstacles must be surmounted, or how much money it will cost. 
 It is by such promises that the balance sheet of one’s life is measured.”
Greg Mortenson , Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan       
Back-To-School Speech
LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines delivered the district’s annual “Back-to-School” speech to administrators, board members and guests on Tuesday at Garfield High School, reports a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  Like a coach’s pregame locker room exhortation, Cortines attempted to fire up the troops as the new school year approaches (m ost students in the LAUSD start classes on Tuesday) stressing themes like unity and collaboration.   “Cortines, who seemed intent on rebuilding morale, said he was not backing away from the urgency of helping struggling students,” the article explains, “but he rejected the rhetoric of district critics who refer to failing schools and blame district employees for the system’s shortcomings.”  The story includes a brief (2:09 minute) video segment of the event from CBS Channel 2 News.
 
New APUSH Standards
The ongoing battle over the Common Core may have been at the root of a similar conflict over new A.P. U.S. History standards published by the College Board.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted the conservative backlash over the first version that was released last year.  In response, the College Board went back to the drawing board and came back with some new ones.  The author of this item on CARE2 titles her commentary “Conservatives Love the New AP U.S. History Standards–And That’s A Problem.”  She believes the latest version leaves out some critical issues important to the teaching of American History to today’s students.  “To many people’s surprise, the College Board listened to the arguments, decided to do another revision, and even hired some of the loudest critics to work on those changes.  The College Board has just released the new curriculum framework for its AP U.S. history course,” she complains, “and it appears to have satisfied many of the old framework’s critics.  In doing so, the Board has either glossed over or completely ignored many important issues such as racism and slavery.”
 
A Peak at the Future
Peter Greene, on his always fun to read and insightful CURMUDGUCATION blog, takes a fanciful peak into the future (he dates this piece April, 2019) to see what the state of education looks like 4 years from now.  He uses North Carolina as his example because, unfortunately, they may be on the road to fulfilling his predictions sooner than any other state.   To give you a sense of this piece, here’s how Greene begins: “Political leaders gathered to celebrate today as Department of Education bulldozers upgraded the last NC public school, replacing it with a picturesque park.  ‘It has been a long road,’ said State Education Biggifier Harlen McDimbulb, overseeing the work as the dozer knocked down the last chart-encrusted data wall.  ‘But our big breakthrough came with the court ruling that certified our voucher system back there a few years.  That finally allowed us to get money and support,” Greene continues, “to outstanding schools like God Loves White Guys High and Aryan Academy.  Great private schools were being denied public tax dollars just because they wouldn’t teach state-approved so-called ‘fact’ and ‘science.’  ‘Vouchers opened the door,’ said Assistant Secretary of Money Laundering Chauncey Gotbux.  ‘But with the court’s blessing, we were finally able to use public education tax dollars as they were meant to be used– as a source of profit for people who deserve it.'”  You have to read the entire article as it continues in a similar vein.  On person commented at the end of Greene’s piece: “This is so clever it almost makes me forget how awful the situation is.”               Why did Greene choose North Carolina?  Maybe because of the secret out of state money being poured into the Tar Heel State to help turn its under performing schools into charters.  NC POLICY WATCH uncovers the details.  “The proposal to create an ‘achievement school district’ that wrests control of low-performing schools away from local school boards and into the hands of charter operators,” it reveals, “is being developed behind closed doors as the legislative session marches on, with numerous lawmakers and advocates working in tandem on successive drafts of the legislation.”
 
Opt-Out Movement

The new education commissioner for the State of New York is planning to play hardball with schools that have high numbers of students opt-out of state testing.  She announced this week that they would lose funding if too many pupils skipped the assessments in April.  POLITICO NEW YORK provides the details about the commissioner’s threats.  The Empire State had some of the highest numbers of opt-outs around the country.  “Of the 1.1 million students eligible to take state exams in math and English language arts this year,” it notes, “nearly 20 percent, or 200,000 students, opted out.  The state Education Department is in conversations with the U.S. Department of Education working on a plan regarding possible sanctions for districts with high opt-out rates.”               The New York State Allies for Pubic Education (NYSAPE) represents 50 groups of parents and educators.  They were not at all cowed by the state education commissioner’s statement about possible cuts in funding if too many students opt-out of tests next year (see above).  In fact, they stated that even more pupils will skip the tests if policies regarding them don’t change.  You can read their statement on their website by clicking here.  “Test refusals, also known as opt outs, rose to a record number of 222,500, surpassing advocates’ estimates.  More New York parents across the state are informed and have said no to the high-stakes testing regime that is disrupting quality education and harming their children.  With no relief in sight,”  it responds, “opt out figures are expected to grow significantly again this year until damaging education laws and policies are reversed.”                 Carol Burris, writing on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post comments on the latest New York State test results and the impact the opt-out movement had on them.  “Once again,” she notes, “New York State Common Core test scores are a flop. The proficiency needle barely budged.”             Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, explains how  parents have the power to change the course of education today.   “It doesn’t matter where you live.  It doesn’t matter what laws are on the books.  It doesn’t matter if your state is controlled by Democrats, Republicans or some combination thereof.  No government – not federal, state or local – can trample your parental rights,” he maintains.  “If you don’t want your child to be evaluated based on standardized tests, your child doesn’t have to be.  And if a majority of parents nationwide make this decision, the era of standardized testing comes to an end.  Period.  It has already begun.”  He cites other examples of how parents can have an impact on education policies.

 
The Teaching Profession 
Some of the columnists and reporters writing about the current teacher shortage may, in fact, be the ones who helped create it.  The author of the nyc educator blog goes after New York Times columnist Frank Bruni for lamenting the fact a teacher shortage exists and suggests Bruni look in the mirror to find part of the cause.   “Another big reason [for the teacher shortage] is mainstream media, which hires people like you,” the author thunders.  “When people read nonsense like the stuff you write, they may not know that fundamental research is something you consider beyond the pale.  They may not be aware that your piece does not entail talking to working teachers.  They may think we don’t love our jobs and we don’t love working with and helping children. . . .  And neither do you.  That’s why you’re a big part of the problem.”  The article includes a link to the Bruni column the author finds so offensive.               NEWSFLASH!  A new school year is starting soon.  Hate to spoil your last days of summer but the author of this article for EDUCATION WEEK offers some suggestions on how to handle that first day of school.  His advice is specifically geared to elementary school but some of the ideas could relate to secondary school classrooms.  He explains how scary that first day can be for students.  “The first day can be pretty terrifying for teachers, too.  I have been a teacher for 15 years, but I’ve never had a first day of school that wasn’t preceded by at least a tingle of dread,” the author reveals.  “We don’t know the 25 or 150 human beings who will shape our days for the next ten months, and we don’t know their parents.  It’s like a yearlong arranged marriage, but with 25 sets of in-laws instead of one.”               Is using a newspaper (or two) in the classroom an outdated teaching technique?  The author of this story, also from EDUCATION WEEK, is a retired Wisconsin elementary teacher and former K-8 principal.  “To better serve students, teachers need to explore a variety of ways to develop their skills and increase their knowledge.  One such move,” she suggests, “would be to bring newspapers back into the classroom and include them in the array of materials used to teach important information and skills.  Newspapers could be a strong motivator for students to connect with the world today.”  She offers a number of ways print or digital newspapers can be used to teach reading, writing and communication skills.               The Aug. 4th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new study that found that millions of dollars are being wasted on poor professional development for teachers.  Howard Gardner, Clayton Lewis and Jim Reese, 3 educators, beg to differ.  They’ve penned a commentary on Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post titled “It’s No Secret That Most Professional Development for Teachers is Awful.  Less Well Knows is that Some of it is Great.”  It describes a program of PD that they created called “Project Zero” that has been offering materials, techniques and tools to teachers and administrators for 48 years.                Classroom management is an important concept and skill for effective teaching.  But just what does classroom management entail?  Some believe it means teachers “controlling” student behavior while others take a more humanistic approach.  An essay on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog looks at “How the Myth of Teacher Control Undermines Classroom Management.”  The author describes his experiences at a “no-excuses” charter school.  “While strategies and techniques are certainly useful in classroom management,reducing classroom management to strategies and techniques effectively reduces students to widgets,” he explains.  “It neglects their individual personalities, the circumstances of their lives, their developmental need to test boundaries, their mood that particular day, their reasons for ‘acting out.’  It reduces them to less than human.  Such a view is totally counter to the need for teachers to consider, get to know, and try to understand their students as individuals—to build the sort of relationship that enables effective management in the first place.”
 
Some Wise Educational Advice From Over 300 Years Ago
John Locke is well known as a social and political philosopher from the period of the English Enlightenment.  He is not so well known as a font of sound educational advice.  The author of this item from EDUCATION WEEK is a senior research associate at the Boston University School of Education and he reviews some of the thoughts and ideas Locke presented on child development and educational theory.  Keep in mind that Locke was writing over 300 years ago.  The commentary is headlined “John Locke: An Education Progressive Ahead of His Time?”  Locke had some great insights regarding teachers.   “Equally important was the influence of tutors,” the article points out.  “In advice relevant to current debates about teachers, he states that tutors should be smart and sophisticated, knowledgeable about content and pedagogy.  Tutors should know not only subjects but also the outside world, combining tact and judgment with character.  If you want highly qualified teachers, Locke says, select them carefully and pay them well.”  [Ed. note: I’ll drink to that!]
 
Charter Schools
Karen Wolfe is a parent activist for public schools who lives in the Venice area of Los Angeles.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints Wolfe’s response to an article in the L.A. Times Saturday (highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News”) about a plan by the Broad Foundation and several others to ultimately turn LAUSD into a district where 50% of students attend charter schools.  Wolfe notes that the charter school lobby in California has sustained a few defeats lately and may be attempting to turn things around.  “This revelation that the charter groups have lost their patience and are announcing a public attack should be met with redoubled resistance,” Wolfe suggests.  We have done the work to elect officials who will champion our public schools, even against wealthy special interests like the groups in this article.  But the board needs to listen to community members and truly consider the supports that are necessary to enable our neighborhood schools to stand up to the threat of charters.”  [Ed note: The link that Ravitch provides to Wolfe’s article is faulty and takes the reader to another Ravitch item about the charter takeover.]                An organizational meeting and a press conference/rally in the Los Angeles area will be taking place on Sunday (in Northridge) and Monday (Century City), respectively, to promote a petition that wants to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal the charter school law in California.  The August 11th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the petition drive and Diane Ravitch’s blog is publicizing the two meetings.  You can read her comments and get more information about the two gatherings by clicking here
 
Teacher Jail
Two letters were published in yesterday’s L.A. Times in reaction to the paper’s extended editorial on Monday about teacher jail (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”).   “Many of us have fallen victim to this devious and unfair practice.  It is devastating in many ways and needs to be stopped.  Yes, investigate when an accusation is made; however, do it quickly and fairly,” the author of the first one implores, “and if the investigation reveals the teacher has done nothing wrong, then reinstate him or her so that neither they nor their students suffer.”
 
Here’s a Way to Get Some Action
“Wash. St. Supreme Court Levies $100,000 Daily Fine on State Over K-12 Spending” is the surprising headline of a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  Some history: 3 years ago the court ruled that the state was not providing adequate funding to its K-12 public schools.  Since then the state legislature has not been able to remedy the situation to the court’s satisfaction, so the fine was imposed to get their attention.  “Declaring that state lawmakers have failed to fix the state’s unconstitutional system for funding public schools,” the story begins, “the Washington State Supreme Court imposed a daily $100,000 penalty on the legislature until it makes firmer commitments to increasing teacher salaries and reducing class sizes.  The court’s Aug. 13 order is effective immediately, although the court said that if Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, calls a special session and lawmakers pass legislation that commits the state more heavily to reducing class size in K-3 and expanding all-day kindergarten, that daily fine may ultimately be ‘abated.'”
 
Election 2016
Some pundits believed Ohio Gov. John Kasich acquitted himself rather well during last week’s Republican debate.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, says that may be the case but in the area of education, which got scant mention, Kasich could be a disaster.  “Given the current crop of Republican governors bidding for the presidential nomination,” Bryant relates, “it is difficult to pick which has been worse on education policy. . . .  But the effect Governor Kasich has had on public education policy in Ohio is especially atrocious.”  Bryant provides chapter and verse to support his contention including how Kasich has made hash of charter expansion in the Buckeye State.               Former Democratic Iowa senator and longtime education champion Tom Harkin endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in an op-ed in The Des Moines Register.  Although he didn’t mention her education policies, he did note they share the same values on economic and social justice.                A group of 35 Southern Wisconsin area principals has sent an open letter to 2016 GOP presidential hopeful and current Badger State Gov. Scott Walker demanding he “Stop Hurting Our Schools.”  It outlines a number of Walker’s policies that are having a major negative impact on schools at all levels in the state.  The letter is reprinted in full along with some brief comments by Valerie Strauss on her blog for The Washington Post.  
 
Testing
Now that those Common Core aligned PARCC and SBAC assessments have been administered and scored the next step is to determine how many points a student needs to earn for each proficiency level.  Sounds simple?  This story from THE HECHINGER REPORT walks you through the process as over 100 educators from 10 states and the District of Columbia meet in Denver to set those critical parameters for the PARCC exams.   ” Now, educators – representing the states that administered new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests in the spring – have to decide how many questions a student needs to get right,” it describes, “to reach each of the five performance levels, with Level 3 and above signifying that students are on track to be college and career ready.”  If you are at all interested or curious about how passing scores are determined you should find this a fascinating read.
 
Esquith Retaliates
And finally, acclaimed  Hobart Elementary School 5th grade teacher Rafe Esquith filed suit against the LAUSD for mishandling his alleged misconduct case according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  On top of previous issues a recent district investigation“‘revealed multiple inappropriate photographs and emails of a sexual nature’ on his school computer as well as email correspondence with students that was ‘inconsistent’ with the district’s code of conduct. [It] also referred to allegations of ‘threats to a parent and two students’.  In addition, the district said there were ‘possible ethical and District policy violations’ related to Esquith’s nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans.”  In response to these latest charges Esquith’s lawsuit “seeks his return to school as well as damages for alleged defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, retaliation and age discrimination.  According to the litigation,” the article continues, “stress from the investigation led to Esquith’s recent hospitalization for thrombosis.  The suit also characterized one motivation for the investigation as retaliation for Esquith ‘consistently and publicly opposing many of LAUSD’s wasteful policies and practices’.”
On that “cheery” note, we’d like to wish everyone a “cool” weekend!
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk           

Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

  
“We get schooled by the people around us,
and it stays inside us deep.” 
Charter Schools
A major expansion of charter schools in the LAUSD is possibly in the offing according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.   The Broad Foundation is spearheading the plan with the support of several other philanthropies.  The ambitious goal–up to 50% of students in the district will be attending charters by 2023.  “Currently, more than 100,000 L.A. students attend charters,” the article notes, “about 16% of district enrollment, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District.  L.A. Unified has more charters, 207, and more charter students than any other school district in the country.”                Did you know there’s a movement in California to repeal the state’s charter school law.  They’ve pretty much been working under the radar but they have been circulating a petition to try to get the voters to accomplish that goal.  You can find information about the effort, spearheaded by the group Voices Against Privatizing Public Education, on the K-12 News Network’s The Wire website.               You can find more information about the petition to repeal the charter school law in California on the ipetitions website.                THE HECHINGER REPORT has a feature that revisits High Tech High School in San Diego and finds its model great for preparing “students for the real world and jobs, but what about college?”  It profiles several graduates of the charter school and describes their struggles making the transition from their project-based campus to the realities of  gaining a college education.  “Critics of project-based learning say the model doesn’t provide a rigorous enough education or a breadth of knowledge.” the piece notes.  “While students tend to delve deeply into a single topic, many others subjects are not addressed.  But educators who have worked with the model say that students can succeed, even in larger universities with traditional classrooms.”
 
Teachers Change Lives
How many times have you heard people thank a teacher for the influence that person had on their lives?  It happens quite often and Yohuru Williams uses that construct as the centerpiece of his essay for the HUFF POST EDUCATION BLOG.  Williams is an historian, professor, activist and author.  “No matter how loudly self-interested billionaires and sly politicians try to deny it,” he contends, “great schools begin with great teachers, collaborating with enlightened administrators and communities to serve the needs of the next generation.”  Williams references Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven for his piece titled “The 5 Teaches You Meet in Heaven: What it Really Takes to Save Our Schools.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The “Ed News” has highlighted several articles about teacher shortages around the country, particularly in Kansas.  The author of this piece on the HUFFPOST POLITICS blog is the Education editor of The Huffington Post.  She offers up a commentary titled “Memo To States: This is How to Create A Teacher Shortage.”  It includes a “recipe” that’s guaranteed to create a teacher shortage in your district/state.  Here are two samples from her “list of ingredients:”  “3 tablespoons of low teacher pay” and “3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers.”  [Ed. note: Looks like California may be headed in that direction.]                ALOED members Jill Asbjornsen and Randy Traweek both sent this article from The New York Times about the problem of teacher shortages.  It mentions districts in Louisville, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Providence that are having acute problems attracting enough teacher to fill classrooms this fall but the focus of the article is California.  “Nationwide, many teachers were laid off during the recession,” the Times story notes, “but the situation was particularly acute in California, which lost 82,000 jobs in schools from 2008 to 2012, according to Labor Department figures.  This academic year, districts have to fill 21,500 slots, according to estimates from the California Department of Education, while the state is issuing fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials a year.”              The Perdido Street School blog reacted to the New York Times story (see above), complaining that it didn’t fully explain why the shortages are taking place.  It blames “the consequences of 10+ years of corporate education reforms” and proceeds in detail to explain how those “reforms” have impacted the profession and made it much harder to recruit enough high quality candidates.              Count Indiana among the states experiencing a teacher shortage.  This column from the Lafayette Journal & Courier explains why the Hoosier state is having problems similar to many other states and districts.  “What sort of gymnastics will state lawmakers try to pull off at this point,” the author asks, “to remedy a looming teacher shortage after years of running off potential, young candidates by convincing Hoosiers that public schools were essentially broken?  And will they actually be willing to shoulder some of the blame?  We’re about to find out.”              Diane Ravitch, on her blog, reacted to the above item about Indiana and others reporting on teacher shortages nationwide.  “Was ‘reform’ intended to make teaching an undesirable profession?  Was its purpose to drive good teachers out of their classrooms and discourage many from entering teaching?  If so, ‘reform’ is working,” she concludes.  “But it isn’t reform.  It’s destruction.”  [Ed. note: Is that hitting the nail on the head or what?]               The“Diane Rehm Show” on NPR station WAMU 88.5 has an extended segment on the teacher shortage this morning.  Her guests included Linda Darling-Hammond, an associate editor at EDUCATION WEEK, a Georgetown University professor, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners and the chief HR officer of the SFUSD.  This item includes a very brief description of the program and the guests.  Click on the “Listen” button to hear the full program (49:11 minutes) and listeners who called in to ask questions or comment.         Diane Ravitch’s blog (unfortunately) prints another letter from a frustrated and disillusioned teacher who is quitting the public schools because she can’t take it anymore.  This one is penned by a middle school math teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan who left a career in accounting to take her dream job in the classroom only to see her idealism and dedication destroyed by education policies from both political parties at the state and national levels.  Read this one, too, and weep along with her.  “It really breaks my heart to leave such a wonderful group of people,’she concludes.  “In fact, it’s pretty devastating.  But I have to do what’s best for me in the long run, and the thought of making more money and teaching classes of 15 instead of 34, and especially not having to deal with all the BS, was too much to refuse.  I will always be there to fight for public education. I just can’t teach in it.”               Before NCLB, with its emphasis on testing and accountability, and the advent of corporate “reform,” pushing charters, vouchers and privatization, what were the issues that teachers discussed, debated and argued about at faculty/department/grade level meetings, in the lunch room, teacher’s lounge or before or after school?  That’s the question tackled in this essay from the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  The author uses a discussion over pizza parties to illustrate his message. 
 
2016 Election
The satirical publication The ONION has a brief item about a teacher who made a $300 donation to Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and how the educator now “owns” the candidate.  “After accepting a check sent to his campaign office by a local elementary school teacher,” it points out, “presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was roundly criticized Monday as being firmly in the pocket of the high-rolling educator who had donated $300.”  Remember, it’s totally made up.               Republican presidential hopeful former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush likes to boast of the spread of charter schools in the state during his term of office and how they helped create a “Florida miracle” regarding reforms in education.  Jeff Bryant, writing in ALTERNET, says hold on a minute in a piece titled “The Big Jeb Bush Charter Scho0l Lie: Why His Florida Education ‘Miracle” is Hogwash.”  “No doubt there are examples of good charter schools and students who have benefitted from attending them,” Bryant maintains. “But any argument that Florida’s whole education system been improved by introducing more charter schools is tenuous at best.”
 
Opt-Out
Meet one of the leaders of the opt-out movement on Long Island.  Her name is Jeanette Deutermann and she’s described in this profile from the Long Island Business News as “Education’s Erin Brockovich.”  She’s a parent and an activist and has accomplished a great deal in a rather short time.  “Through a combination of personal experience, circumstances and her own education about New York State’s system,” the article explains, “Deutermann became the first or one of the first Long Island parents to have her children “opt out” of now-controversial state assessments.  She founded Long Island Opt Out and grew it, using social media, strategy and a loophole in education law to get 65,000 Long Island students recently to refuse to take state assessments.  She became a major force in recent school board elections, as her group’s blessing propelled dozens of candidates to seats.  Some call her education’s Erin Brockovich, a mother who shaped concerns about excessive, untested testing into a movement.”              
 
Good Advice for Parents
Do standardized test results truly let parents know how their child is doing in school?  Not hardly!  Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Media Group and senior attorney at the Education Law Center.  She has some great advice for parents in her column for theStamford (Connecticut) Advocate: “Want to Know How A Student is Doing?  Ask a Teacher.”  “Parents have relied on teachers’ assessments to gauge their children’s progress and most have pretty much ignored their children’s standardized test scores.”  Lecker points out.  “For decades, this approach has served parents and students well.  Recent research shows that non-standardized, human assessments of student learning are superior to standardized tests of all kinds.”
 
Testing
Is National Public Radio acting as a shill for the PARCC standardized assessment?  That’s the contention of Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  On Friday, NPR ran a segment (link included) on the test and how its cut scores were determined that Schneider believes contains several factual errors, misstatements and omissions.               What if some of the questions on the 3rd grade standardized test in New York were too difficult for most students and even some adults?  Apparently, that is the situation as the state released a number of this year’s questions in language arts and math for grades 3 through 8 and the correct answers stumped young and old alike, according to a story in The New York Times.  “Peter Afflerbach, a professor of education at the University of Maryland and an expert in reading assessments and comprehension,” it notes, “said he considered the questions to be a mix.  While some of the simpler questions seemed acceptable, he said, the more complex ones could sometimes be confusing.”  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending this one.               Want to get some idea of what the 3rd grade reading test in New York is like?  Randy also forwarded this interactive item fromThe New York Times that has a reading selection and 6 questions from that test.  Click on the answers to see how readers of the article fared on the questions.  How did you do?  Remember, it’s a test for THIRD graders!
 
Teacher Jail
Yesterday’s L.A. Times has an extended editorial admonishing the LAUSD regarding its abuse of “teacher jail” to house teachers accused of all sorts of things that are in no way a threat to students’ safety.  It reviews a number of recent cases including what took place at Miramonte Elementary School in 2010  and the Rafe Esquith situation from this year and concludes:  “Of course the district has a right, and an obligation, to investigate molestation accusations and remove possibly abusive teachers when allegations arise. But as currently practiced, the procedure appears to turn too many easily resolved cases into administrative quagmires. . . .  By all means, investigate when necessary. But L.A. Unified should not overreact by removing teachers over allegations that have nothing to do with student safety.  The district must put student welfare first, and their welfare is not served by disrupting the school year.  It’s time for an independent examination by the district’s Office of the Inspector General.”
 
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
With the U.S. Congress on its summer recess and at the very start of the conference committee process to try to come up with a single compromise bill to rewrite the ESEA/NCLB law, today’s L.A. Times has an opportune set of FAQs about the Senate and House versions.  “Both measures take steps to ease the effect of federal testing and return greater control over education to states,” it responds to the first question on how the two bills agree.  “They would also lessen federal say over establishing nationwide achievement standards, like the so-called Common Core, which critics have labeled an attempt to federalize what students are taught.”                    EducationNext,  the pro-charter, pro-voucher publication of the right-leaning Hoover Institute at Stanford University, has a poll out that finds the public generally is supportive of testing but opposes the opt-out movement and federal intervention in education.   “No less than 67% of the public said they supported required annual testing,” the item reports, “while just 21% opposed the idea, with the remainder taking a neutral position.  Parental support (66%) was nearly as high as that for the public as a whole.  Teachers were divided down the middle, with 47% favoring testing but 46% expressing opposition.”              Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has some issues with the methodology of the survey and, thus, some of its findings.
 
Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog publishes a letter from a reader addressed to former CNN news host Campbell Brown who has a new website “The Seventy Four” and is a strong advocate for corporate “reform,” charters, vouchers and eliminating due process rights for teachers.  “Teachers, unions, and tenure are not the problem with public education. . . . YOU and your corporate billionaire funders are the real problem.” the letter states.  “You provide no significant data to support your claims, you refuse to address poverty (the real issue), and your goal is to dismantle the public school system, all in the name of more profits for you and your greedy billionaire donors.”
 
Some Clever Hefty Bag Ads

And finally, we end with two sarcastic online ads for Hefty Trash Bags that present teachers “complaining” about too many books and computers and “asking” for more budget cuts.  You’ll have to view the two ads (30 seconds each) from ADWEEK to get the full impact of the comments.  “The new work, which includes two 30-second online spots and a handful of playful memes, aims to raise awareness of the serious lack of funding many public schools and teachers face—but does so in a tongue-in-cheek manner.  The writing in the 30-second spots is both sarcastic and sharp, with teachers delivering lines like ‘We do not need any more art supplies’ and ‘This map—from 1913.  Almost all of the states are there.'”

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

Dave Alpert

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

 

Ed News, Friday, August 7, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

[Due to a, hopefully temporary, memory lapse, the editor forgot to sent out this edition of the “Ed News” yesterday. This is Friday’s blog.]
 
“…rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, 
what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation 
in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement.” 
― Mizuko ItoLiving and Learning with New Media: 
The Teaching Profession
The Kansas State Board of Education voted to DROP the licensure requirement for hiring new teachers for 6 districts in the state, according to a story in The Topeka Capital-Journal.  The new rule would apply to two of the largest districts in the Sunflower state.  Kansas is facing a severe teacher shortage due to low pay, large class sizes,  the loss of tenure rights and other poor working conditions.  How did all of this come about?  For several years the governor and legislature have been providing major tax cuts for individuals and corporations resulting in drastic spending reductions for education (see this article in the Huffington Post) and other critical items in the state budget.  “The measure will waive the state’s licensure regulations for a group of districts called the Coalition of Innovative Districts, a program that the Legislature established in 2013 based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council. . . . The state’s main teachers union,”  the newspaper reports, “the Kansas National Education Association, also opposes the Innovative Districts program — a design meant to free up schools from state laws and regulations — and the idea of waiving licensure regulations.”               “Are You Sure Your Favorite Lessons Work?” is the title of an opinion piece in EDUCATION WEEK.  The author is a former teacher and K-5 public school principal and he offers some ideas on how to tell if a lesson is successful and what you can do if it isn’t.  “So, this summer take a look at your favorite interventions,” he concludes.  “Consider your greatest influences on learning, and decide how you can go deeper so they have a greater impact.  We all need a mind shift to know what we are doing has an impact, and there is never a better time to do it than right before the school  year begins.”              All this reflection about teaching is a sure sign of an impending school year. ED WEEK again offers some practical suggestions for improving your craft.  This one is titled “9 Mistakes New Teachers Make.”  It is obviously geared towards new educators but the the advice can come in handy for everyone.  The author is a 15-year classroom veteran and a National Board Certified teacher of ELA and Social Studies at a middle school in North Carolina. Here are 2 examples from her list: “4. Avoiding Parent Contact,  5. Not Setting Boundaries With Students.”  She explains each of the 9 in detail.                The NPR station in Philadelphia, WHYY 90.9 FM, on its “newsworks” program, has an interesting profile of a teacher who left the classroom because of burnout and then regretted his decision and decided to return.  The segment is called “Beyond Burnout: One Teacher’s Trip Back Into the Classroom.”  You can listen to the audio (5:20 minutes) and/or follow a slightly truncated transcript.  “McAleer left teaching in 2013, after four years at Catholic and charter schools in Philadelphia and five years of substitute teaching in New York City.  In many ways,” the article explains, “that path was preordained, although it took him a while to get there.”  The piece also includes a 3-picture slide show of Tim McAleer in his new teaching role and as a city tour bus guide.                Kansas is not the only state facing a teacher shortage this fall (see first story above).  A story in EDUCATION WEEK discusses a number of states, including some districts in California, that are having trouble filling positions and describes what some of them are trying to do to solve the problem.   “Available data from the National Center for Education Statistics paint a complicated picture of the current supply of teachers: Yes, there are fewer teachers compared to previous years, but nationally, the student-teacher ratio has remained relatively consistent.  The problem appears to be that available teachers aren’t always located where they’re needed most,” the item suggests.  “The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education have in fact shown significant drops in teacher-education enrollment in many states, including in large states like Texas, New York, and California.  Many experts chalk up such declines, as well as regional teacher shortages, to the Great Recession and ensuing cutbacks in public spending.  Others have charged that poor teacher working conditions, such as low salaries and test-driven school cultures, are nudging existing and potential educators toward other professions, especially with the economy improving.”  The end of the article contains some interesting charts illustrating the problem.               Steven Singer has once again invited Yohuru Williams, a Professor of History and Black Studies, to co-write on piece on Singer’s GADGLYONTHEWALLBLOG.  This one is in response to a survey of teacher working conditions that was published by the Badass Teachers Association and the AFT and was recently highlighted in the “Ed News.”  An article in The Atlantic featured the poll but seemed to focus on the fact that teachers often couldn’t take bathroom breaks as the key complaint educators had about their profession.  Singer and Williams point out that that is a rather simplified reading of the feelings being experienced by current teachers.  They go into more depth in the survey results and find many, more critical factors affecting teacher attitudes towards their profession.  “In short, our problems are much worse than inadequate bathroom time.  We’returning our public schools into factories and blaming teachers when it doesn’t work,” Williams and Singer conclude.  “We’re allowing billionaire philanthropists to set education policy but holding educators accountable for the results.  We’re segregating our schools, providing Cadillac funding for the rich and bicycle funding for the poor and minorities but expecting teachers to somehow make up the difference.  We’re letting corporate raiders run charter schools with no transparency or accountability and when that proves a disaster, we point our fingers at teachers.  The result is a nation of frustrated educators who are increasingly leaving the profession in droves.”
Election 2016 
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted some intemperate comments made by GOP presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey about punching teachers unions in the face and other nasty remarks directed at them.  The response from many individual educators and unions was swift and merciless.  A member of the Michigan Badass Teachers Association offers her two cents worth on the situation.  She doesn’t want or need an apology from Christie, she explains.  “I want a voice.  I want a seat at the grown up table of educational policy,” she demands instead.  “I want news reporters and writers and policy-makers to talk to TEACHERS.  Contrary to what those with access to the public’s ear may think, fame, money, and power do not make the EXPERT. . . .  And to the governor of New Jersey, I will quote someone who continues to be wise beyond his years [her son when he was in eighth grade]. ‘That’s it? That’s all you’ve got? That’s sad.'”               Jeff Bryant, on the Educational Opportunity NETWORK, weighed in on Christie’s comments (see above and the Aug. 4 edition of the “Ed News).  He reviewed a number of the reactions to the New Jersey governor’s words in his essay titled “Why Chris Christie Hates Teachers.”  [Ed. note: One of the people he quotes is Dana Goldstein and her book Teacher Wars, which just so happened to be the most recent topic of the ALOED book club.  Is that group ahead of the game or what?]  “What politicians don’t get is that teachers will generally put up with all the negative conditions of too little money to do a complicated, stress-filled job if people who hold public office would show at least a clue they get this.” Bryant concludes.  “Very few politicians do, so their short term interests rarely align with the perspectives of teachers whose very jobs demand they think long term and developmentally.  Until one of those two parties adjusts their attitudes, we’ll continue to see teachers openly disparaged, or disregarded, in the public sphere. For the sake of our children, let’s hope the politicians are the ones who make the adjustment.”  Amen to that!                The topic of education was only briefly discussed in the first Republican debate from Cleveland yesterday evening on Fox News.  A single question was asked about the Common Core and EDUCATION WEEK fills you in on the responses.  “The subject finally exploded onto the scene,” it relates, “about an hour into the primetime show, featuring the 10 highest polling GOP presidential candidates.  Fox News moderator Bret Baier asked former Florida governor Jeb Bush whether he agreed with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that most of the criticism of common core is due to ‘a fringe group of critics.'”  Hopefully, the issue will get a more lengthy airing in one of the future face-offs.
 
Testing
The author of this piece from the THE HUFF POST EDUCATION Blog takes a very dim view of standardized assessments.  He’s the head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan and titles his commentary “Want to Reform Education?  Let Teachers Teach.”  “Tinkering with assessments is just rearranging the deck furniture on the titanic failure of education reform,” he concludes.  “Real education reform will come when, and only when, we address poverty, fund schools properly and honor the teaching profession with good pay and the respect teachers deserve.  America’s teachers will do the rest – if we leave them alone to love and teach their children.”               So many students failed this year’s SBAC standardized assessments in Washington  that the state board of education came up with a “creative” solution to the problem–lower the score for passing.  ABC affiliate KOMO Channel 4 in Seattle reports on the action.               When the “Ed News” editor was a senior at Occidental (1971) he remembers what were called “Comps” in which students who were majoring in history had to defend a paper they’d written before a committee of department faculty in order to graduate.  Anyone else remember those?  THE HECHINGER REPORT has an article titled “Should High School Students Have to ‘Defend” Their Diplomas Like a Ph.D?” that reminded him of his senior year experience at Oxy.  It focuses on some students at Los Angeles High School of the Arts (LAUSD) who are defending their portfolios as part of a graduation requirement.  “Portfolio assessments. . . . , which look a lot like doctoral dissertation defenses,” the story notes, “are on the rise in California.  The practice, touted by educators nationwide as a proven path to college success, has largely been squeezed out by standardized tests, the quicker, less-costly measure of student performance.  But the state’s reliance on test scores to rank school performance is about to change, and educators see an opportunity.”
 
Parent Trigger
Two letters appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times reacting to the paper’s extended editorial on Monday regarding the parent trigger law.  The Times argued that the law should be retained but that it needed to be reworked.
 
Charter Schools
More labor-related grief for California charter schools.  The Public Employment Relations Board ruled that the largest charter school group in Los Angeles interfered with a unionization drive by a group of its teachers.  The Alliance College-Ready Public Schools organization is the target of the complaint by the educators and UTLA, according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “The complaint filed by attorneys with the Public Employment Relations Board,” it reports, “alleges that charter school leaders violated state laws by denying pro-union organizers access to school buildings after work hours, distributing documents that criticized unionization efforts and blocking emails to employees.”  A mediation attempt will be made between the two sides and if that is not successful, a formal hearing will take place in front of an administrative law judge.               A recent edition of the “Ed News” described a $8.5 million gift from hedge fund manager John Paulson  to Success Academy Charters in New York founded by Eva Moscowitz.  Now a coalition of groups is protesting the donation based on how and where they say Paulson got much of his wealth (read Puerto Rico).  They issued a “Press Advisory” and held a rally in New York on Wednesday.  You can read about it on the Ed Notes Online website by clicking here.               To make matters worse, Puerto Rico has been experiencing a debt crisis and went into default on Monday.  Many hedge funds that invested in the island nation have an “easy” solution:  Reduce that debt by closing schools, cutting monies for universities and firing teachers so that they can recoup money they loaned to Puerto Rico.  CNN MONEY has a brief report on the situation. [Ed. note: Why is it, when states or countries get into financial distress, the first thing that seems to get cut is education?  Just asking.]
 
 
The Lighter Side of Teaching
And finally, the Comedy Central duo of Key & Peele have a created a parody of ESPN’s popular “Sports Center” program that they call “Teacher Center” with stories that treat educators like they are top athletes.  Check it out before you sit down and watch your favorite sports shows this weekend.  The segment (3:47 minutes) comes courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a second video from BuzzFeed that presents “If Teachers Were Football Players” which the “Ed News” highlighted when it first came 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

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

Ed News, Tuesday, August 4, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

    
“School was the unhappiest time of my life and the worst trick it ever played on me
was to pretend that it was the world in miniature. For it hindered me from discovering
how lovely and delightful and kind the world can be, and how much of it is intelligible.”
LAUSD Begins Search for New Supt.

The LAUSD board began the formal process of selecting a new superintendent at an extended meeting Thursday night.  The board had waited until new members had been seated and a president chosen before launching their search.  Complicating matters is the fact that current Supt. Ramon Cortines accepted a contract that runs through June, 2016,  but he recently expressed a desire to wrap up his tenure by the end of December this year.  At its meeting last week the board began to look for a company to conduct a search for candidates with the intent to have the new person ready to begin at the start of the 2016-17 school year.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “The next superintendent,” it points out, “will have to take charge of a system that has long struggled to find a unified vision to focus on improving student achievement and teacher performance, and developing a palatable plan for adapting to more technology-focused classrooms.”                Two letters were published in today’s Times reacting to the above story.  The second one is from a recently retired district teacher with a rather novel idea for picking a replacement chief.

 
Newly Revised APUSH Framework
On Thursday the College Board released a  newly revised framework for A.P. U.S. History after its previous one was met with a firestorm of criticism from conservative groups including the Republican National Committee who felt it was too “negative” and did not stress American exceptionalism enough.  Newsweek has a comparison of how topics like slavery, native Americans, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the civil rights movement were covered in the first effort and how they are in this latest edition.  “The word ‘bellicose,’ where it was used in the prior edition (p. 79) to refer to President Reagan’s rhetoric, was also removed,” the item points out.  “That passage was pointed out specifically by conservative critics of the the prior framework.  A section on American identity has also been amended to include ‘American exceptionalism’ (p. 11).”  The article includes links to both the earlier framework and the newest one.
 
New LAUSD Pres. Steve Zimmer Speaks Out
Newly elected LAUSD school board President Steve Zimmer, who happens to be an adjunct instructor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Oxy, recently spoke to the American Federation of Teachers describing how the corporate “reformers” poured millions of dollars from outside interests in an attempt to defeat him when he ran for reelection to his board seat two years ago.  In July he became president of the board and in his talk before the AFT he briefly describes what his vision is for the future.  You can view his speech (9:05 minutes) on YouTube. 
 
Testing
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, parses theSmarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) agreements and contracts with the member states.  She points out that California was originally a member of the PARCC team but withdrew in June, 2011, and joined SBAC.  Schneider, as always, is willing to do the grunt work that uncovers some remarkable and surprising information.  
 
BATS Teacher Conference
Steven Singer invites Yohuru Williams to join him on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG to write about the recently concluded Badass Teachers Association Teachers Conference in Washington, D.C.  Williams, an author and Professor of History and Black Studies, expounds on the origins of the gathering and Singer explains some of the things that took place over the course of this year’s meeting.  They directed their energies towards the U.S. Department of Education and members of Congress with this message: “Our public schools are not failing.  YOU are failing our public schools.  Your policies are poisonous.  Your testing is treasonous.  Your facts are fallacious.  Your designs are dangerous.  Your ideas imperious.  Your lectures libelous.  Your measures malicious.  Your networks nefarious.  Your rigor ridiculous.  Your standards suspicious.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The governor of Georgia’s education “expert” is recommending the state end the practice of paying for teacher training and experiencein the belief that advanced degrees and time in the classroom do not lead to better teachers.  The Peach State wants to substitute student standardized test scores as the sole determinant of teacher effectiveness.  The author of this op-ed piece is a regular columnist for OnlineAthens and holds an MA degree in education from the University of Georgia.  She provides 3 erroneous assumptions about the teaching profession and how they lead to poor decisions about teacher remuneration.  She concludes by asking “Who Do We Want Teaching Our Children?” which happens to be the headline of her commentary.              Two new books have recently been published that offer “counter-narratives” to the official line being put out by Teach for America.  The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog reviews both volumes.  “It is vitally important that TFA’s oversimplified, whitewashed version of corps member narratives be offset by what may be more honest descriptions of what it means to be a teacher – specifically a TFA teacher,” the piece begins.  “If for nothing else, the existence and accessibility of counter-narratives provides a much-needed balance to the decades old single-sided rhetoric of education reform.”               The new school year is rapidly approaching.  Stores are already well into their “back-to-school” sales and teachers are gearing up for a new batch of students (for most  LAUSD pupils, the first day of instruction is Aug. 18!).  In anticipation of that momentous event, the Badass Teachers Association is offering “Survival Tips for Teachers from Members of the BAT Haven–List 1.”  The suggestions are intended for both new and veteran educators and contain lots of practical advice.  Here are just 2 examples: + “Document everything and don’t give up without a fight…you’re worth more. As for making it through during…breathe and smile.      + Remember….homicide is Not an option.”                This one should shake up a few things.  The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that a group of 14 Teach for America members at a charter school in Detroit should have been allowed to vote for a union along with the rest of the faculty.  So far, so good.  But get this: that was AFTER the charter company that runs the school claimed the TFAers and long-term substitutes were “NOT PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES” [emphasis added] and, thus, should not be allowed to participate in the vote.  Can you believe that?! To make matters worse, when the union drive was announced, the parent charter company, New Urban Learning, said it was walking away from the school.  The NLRB’s ruling in this bizarre case is described on the MICHIGAN LIVE website.               Do you ever complain about those professional development sessions you are required to attend?  If so, you need to read this item from THE HECHINGER REPORT that features a new study that finds most PD to be “costly and ineffective.”  WOW, who would have guessed?  Several previous reports, referenced in the story, came to similar conclusions about PD.  The story includes a link to this latest study (68 pages) from The New Teacher Project (TNTP), titled “The Mirage–Confronting the Hard Truth About Out Quest for Teacher Development.”  “To improve teacher development,” the article summarizes, “TNTP recommends districts provide alternative development activities, such as time for teachers to observe other teachers.  TNTP also recommends that districts evaluate the effectiveness of development strategies and then allocate professional development funding based on the success of those programs.”
 
Critic of Democrats and Their Recent Education Policies
Diane Ravitch’s blog prints an item from Paul Lautner, emeritus professor of Literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  He’s highly critical of some members of the Democratic party at the federal level for their positions on current education policy.  He sees the national party as becoming anti-public schools and is confounded by the turnabout.  

“Why have Democrats,” he asks, “been supporting a process that is tearing the heart out of public education?”  Lautner arrives at two answers.

 
Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog is once again turned over to “SomeDamPoet” who has a take-off on “The Age of Aquarius” from the popular musical “HAIR.”  This one it titled “The Age That Will Bury Us” and goes after VAMs, Bill Gates, data, economists, testing and a number of other subjects.  Here’s the first stanza: 
 
When the VAM is in the Random House
And stupid is as stupid does
Then tests will guide the teaching
And Gates will steer because
This is the dawning of the Age
of Economists, the Age of Economists
Economists, Economists
For a real blast from the past, you can view a YouTube version of the original “The Age of Aquarius” (1969) by the 5th Dimension byclicking here .                 Ten years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the corporate “reformers,” as a result, turned the city into the first (almost) all-charter school district, how is that “experiment” going?  As usual, it depends on who you talk to.  Jennifer Berkshire, who writes the EduShyster blog, met withmembers of the community and describes what they told her in a piece for SALON titled “‘Reform’ Makes Broken New Orleans School Worse: Race, Charters, Testing and the Real Story of Education After Katrina.”                 EDUCATION WEEKhighlights a new study of test scores in New Orleans that offers a different point-of-view of what’s taking place in that city than what Berkshire presents (see above).  It’s titled “New Orleans Test Scores Have ‘Shot Up” Ten Years After Katrina, Report Says.”  The study, produced by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance, however was not all sugar and spice.   “Even though New Orleans’ academic gains have been dramatic,” the story maintains, “the Education Research Alliance has also found not-so-positive side effects of moving to a total-school choice system.  Low-income families still face competing interests that get in the way of simply choosing the academically best school for their children.  For example they may opt for a lower-performing school that offers an extended day so they don’t have to pay for childcare.  Another earlier study by the Education Research Alliance also found that—until a few years ago—principals, under competition-fueled pressure, were cherry-picking students.”               Another item fromED WEEK (via the AP) wonders if the apparent gains in New Orleans can or should be duplicated in other school districts, reiterating some of the concerns raised by Jennifer Berkshire.  “Even as New Orleans is held up nationwide as a model of school reform for changes that took place after Hurricane Katrina,” it begins, “researchers at Tulane University say there are questions about whether the apparent successes can be duplicated in other areas.”
Election 2016
GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and other Republican candidates for president in 2016 have made the weakening (destruction?) of teachers unions a goal of their political platforms.  On Sunday Christie commented on CNN that national teachers unions deserves a “punch in the face” for being the most “destructive force” in America. The Badass Teachers Association, on their website, issued a ringing response to that statement and a call to action to combat such destructive and divisive rhetoric. “It is incumbent on educators to expose the systemic tearing away of the fibers of unionism itself through this and countless other attacks,” it remarks in part.  “These attacks have come not only from presidential candidate Christie, but from politicians and public figures that stand to directly and personally benefit from seeing an end to unions in this country.”              An item in EDUCATION WEEK includes a link to the Christie interview on CNN, has a short (45 second) video clip of his remarks and, in an update, reprints tweets from AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen Garcia and the New Jersey Education Association reacting to what Gov. Christie said.                 Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, findsChristie’s remarks “A New Low in Presidential Politics” as he headlines his column.   Singer wonders why mature (?) adults are making these kinds of comments: “Look at it from his point of view.  Christie is one of 17 Republicans running against each other for the party’s nomination.  The first GOP debate is coming up[Thursday] and they’re only going to let the top 10 Republican candidates participate.  And Christie’s popularity is low enough that he might get left out in the cold. What’s a guy to do?  Well the frontrunner, Donald Trump,” Singer offers by way of a possible explanation for this behavior, “earned his lead by saying the most outrageous things he could think of – namely that Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves.  And – WOOSH! – up went his poll numbers!  Mike Huckabee compared the Iran deal to the Holocaust and watched his poll numbers rise, too.  Heck!  If it worked for them, might as well try the same thing, Christie style!  Let’s punch teachers!”  [Ed. note: Anyone else find this stuff BIZARRE?]
 
Parent Trigger Law
An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times suggests that the 5-year old parent trigger law, while needed in California, needs some reworking.  It offers a good history of the legislation and notes it has  been successfully invoked in only four cases, way below what was predicted.  The piece mentions several ways the law can be improved.  “A new trigger law should create stricter guidelines to target truly low-performing schools, and should prohibit school closures through petition.  Trigger petitions must be made public, with all parents informed, and the larger community given a chance to be involved.  When a petition prevails and parents are considering proposals for changing management of the school, all parents should have a voice and a vote in the decision, not just those who signed the petition.  The parent trigger remains an intriguing if so-far-unproven idea,”  it concludes, “but the time has come to start imagining a more thoughtful version.”                Diane Ravitch’s blog opposes the parent trigger law and commented on the above editorial.  “I don’t believe that users of a public service should be given the option of privatizing it on behalf of the public that paid for it, past and future,” Ravitch concludes.  “This is akin to allowing riders on a public bus to vote to sell the bus to a private bus company, or letting tenants in public housing vote to sell the project to a developer.  A local public school belongs to the community, not to those who are using it this year.  The parent trigger is fairy dust.  California should get rid of a bad law and concentrate on proven strategies to improve schools and improve the lives of children and families.”  [Ed. note: Ravitch’s blog reached 22 million hits (in a little over 3 years) earlier this week.  Congratulations to her and may her voice continue to  strongly advocate for students, public schools and teachers.]
 
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
EDUCATION WEEK continues its look at the separate bills that passed the U.S. House and Senate on the rewrite of the ESEA/NCLB.  The conference committee that will try to work out the differences in the competing legislation began its work last week (see Friday’s edition of the “Ed News”).  Ed Week compares the versions that passed the two chambers previously.  Be sure to click on the sidebar titled “ESEA Rewrite: Pre-Conference Cheat Sheet” for an excellent side-by-side review of the two bills and what the old law provides.  “The dueling bills, which contain some stark policy differences,” the article maintains, “now move to a conference process, in which the authors of both measures and other lawmakers from both chambers and parties will try to cobble together a proposal that appeals to everyone.  To do so, they’ll have to overcome some serious divergences in revising the law, whose current version is the No Child Left Behind Act.”
 
LAUSD Food Service Director Resigns Under Fire
The beleaguered food services director of the LAUSD resigned from his post after a recent audit found massive waste, breaches of ethical standards, conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement.  David Binkle, who took the job in 2008, maintained everything he did was legal and above board.  A story in today’s L.A. Timesprovides the,  sometimes conflicting details.  “L.A. Unified’s office of the inspector general,” it points out, “issued a 33-page audit last month that found numerous problems in a new food procurement system introduced five years ago to supply the nation’s second-largest school meal operation.”
 
Want More Sources for Education News?
An article in EDUCATION WEEK reviews the myriad  online news sites that deal with education issues.  Some are pretty objective and others have a definite point-of-view and run the gamut of the political spectrum.  “The past two years or so have seen a boom in online news outlets covering education,”  the item reports.  “New local and national sites are focusing exclusively on the subject; general-interest sites have education beat reporters or otherwise include K-12 issues in their mix.”   The “Ed News” has drawn on many of them over its 5+ years of existence.  [Ed. note: One painful omission from the list: none other then the “Ed News!”  Image result for sad face ]  Be sure to click on the sidebar to the story titled “Media Outlets Covering Ed News Online” for a handy list, with short annotations (twitter style), of 22 sites.
 
This Kansas Teacher Says “Fight Back”
And finally, need to read some rousing, inspirational words about teaching as the summer winds down and the new school year rapidly approaches?  A veteran Kansas teacher and member of the Badass Teachers Association, on her mamminer’s Blog, is “Mad as hell and is not going to take this anymore!” to quote actor Peter Finch in the role of newscaster Howard Beale in the 1976 movie “Network.”  She’s tired of all the criticism and threats by politicians to “punch” teachers in the face and she explains what she plans to do about it.  Leaving the profession is not an option to her.  “I’m a teacher. I do my job despite, and IN SPITE of all of those who make my job harder to do.  I’m one stubborn woman,” she thunders, “and I will not kowtow to the pressure.  I will not play their game.  I will not be coerced or threatened by ignorance and greed.  I am a teacher.  I fight ignorance and greed every day, and you know what?  I win.”  [Ed. note: PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT!]  If you’d like to view that short clip (1:40 minutes),  courtesy of  YouTube,   of Howard Beale in action from the film   ,   click here .
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk         

Dave Alpert

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

Ed News, Friday, July 31, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“The quality of the relationships that students have in class with their peers 
and teachers is important to their success in school.”
Bob Pletka , Educating the Net Generation: How to Engage Students in the 21st Century       
Rafe Esquith Case
Acclaimed LAUSD teacher Rafe Esquith who was unceremoniously removed from his 5th grade classroom at Hobart Elementary in April over an off-hand remark he made to his students and later had a 40-year old  case of alleged abuse surface and more recently the district has gone after the financial records of his non-profit Hobart Shakespeareans is firing back.  A YouTube video (4:33 minutes) titled “A Response from the Hobart Shakespeareans” enlisted actors Sir Ian McKellen and Hal Holbrook and a wide range of current and former members of Esquith’s classes to deal with the “charges” about how his funds have been spent.  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending it along.  In addition, ALOED member Randy Traweek raised the point that he hopes this video doesn’t obscure the fact that thousands of other LAUSD educators were humiliatingly forced out of their classrooms and placed in “teacher jail” without due process, not knowing what they were accused of and  ultimately forced to resign despite later being exonerated of any wrongdoing by the CTC in Sacramento..  They didn’t have the luxury of big-time lawyers taking their cases or the ability to put together a video in their defense.  As the “Ed News” has stated before: “stay tuned, there are more chapters to be added to this story.”               The Andrea Gabor blog references the video mentioned above about  Esquith.   “This short video, which includes testimonials by over a dozen students and parents and a cameo appearance by actor Hal Holbrook, provides a compelling answer to what happens to the money donated to the Hobart Shakespeareans.  It also offers tantalizing clues,” she hints, “as to why the Los Angeles Unified School District might consider Esquith an educational subversive whom they might wish to silence.”  Gabor’s column has several other posts about the Esquith case which you can find under the heading “Recent Blog Posts.”           Diane Ravitch’s blog has a piece from a reader who was the camp director where Rafe Esquith worked as a teen-aged counselor 40 years ago.  The person comments on the abuse allegation against Esquith.
 
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
Where does Teach for America stand on the passage of the Every Child Achieves Act that would update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind law?  Gary Rubinstein on his Gary Rubinstein’s blog takes a look at some of the positions TFA took vis a vis the ECCA.  Rubinstein is a former member of TFA who now teaches math.  TFA, as he explains, was in favor of retaining the punitive aspects of NCLB and opposed the amendment that would have allowed parent to opt their children out of the testing.               Diane Ravitch was interviewed on Pacifica Radio station KPFK yesterday about the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.  You can listen to that piece (21:50 minutes) and/or read a brief introduction to the legislation by clicking here and then click on the “Listen to this segment” button.                 The conference committee process to rewrite ESEA began in earnest yesterday according to a story on the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  The chairs and the ranking members of both the Senate and House Education committees laid the groundwork for further action that can successfully pass both chambers.
 
BATs in Action
The Badass Teachers Association held their “Teacher Congress” in Washington, D.C., last weekend.  Their website contains a review of some of the actions, meetings, lobbying, occupying and socializing that took place at the event.  It includes a link to a YouTube video (4:23 minutes) with some highlights of the gathering.  As Diane Ravitch explained on her blog:  “The BATS are strong-willed, courageous teachers who are tired of being kicked around by politicians and their dumb ideas.  They are ‘mad as hell”’and they won’t take it anymore. . . . The BATS made sure that teachers’ concerns were well represented to the decision-makers on Capitol Hill.  Thank you, BATS.”               A small group of California BATS buttonholed 16 of the 53-member California contingent in the House of Representatives to discuss key education issues and to hopefully open a dialogue with the legislators.  Another item on the BATS website summarizes what took place in the individual meetings.
 
Another Study Links Poverty to Poor Achievement
A number of corporate “reformers” and privatizers try to discount the role poverty plays in the academic achievement of students.  They quickly dismiss any protests regarding the topic since all they want to do is blame “lazy” teachers and powerful teachers unions.  SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN is featuring new research published in JAMA Pediatrics that shows how low-income students often have delayed brain development and how that leads to poor academic achievement.  “It has long been known that low socioeconomic status is linked to poorer performance in school,” the story suggests, “and recent research has linked poverty to smaller brain surface area. The current study bridges these converging lines of evidence by revealing that up to 20 percent of the achievement gap between high- and low-income children may be explained by differences in brain development.”  So the next time someone pooh-poohs the idea that poverty is a factor in student learning you can tell them they are full of poo-poo or enlighten them on important scientific studies like this one.
 
 “A Modest Proposal” To Deal With Cheating on Standardized Tests
With major test cheating scandals wracking districts in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and (many) others, John Merrow, on his Taking Note blog, has some suggestions on how to deal with the problem.  If you note a bit of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, that dealt with the hunger crisis in Ireland, in Merrow’s work, you are not far off.  “There are,” Merrow offers, “two obvious steps: 1) increase surveillance to catch the cheaters and 2) make the punishments more obvious to the outside world.”  He proceeds to explain, in some detail, what he means by each.
 
Charter Schools
Remember how a lot of charter schools tout the fact that they have long “waiting lists” to enroll at their campuses as if to demonstrate how “popular” they are?  One kindergarten parent in Boston has a piece titled “About Those Charter School Wait Lists” on the Public School Mama blog in which she recounts her experiences with those lists and how she is quite happy with her child attending the local Boston Public School in her neighborhood.   “Politicians make hay out of the charter school wait list as if the families on them were making a political statement by applying to a charter school,” she points out.  “I’m sure there are families that do reject BPS and only want a charter school, but most families are just looking for a school.  They aren’t rejecting anything.  They aren’t making a statement in the education wars.  If they are like I was, they didn’t even know a war was going on.  Stop politicizing our actions.  Stop threatening to destroy the schools that we love and that we are committed to for your own political agenda.”                No wonder some charter schools are flush with money.  A prominent hedge-fund manager just donated $8.5 million (million!) to Eva Moscowitz’s charter chain in New York City?  [Ed. note: I’m truly curious why he did it?  Why didn’t he give it to the public schools?]  The New York Times has all the details about the gift.
 
Corporate “Reform” in Action
What happens when the corporate “reformers” and school privatizers lose a key election at the local level?  They spend their millions, lobby heavily and buy influence with the state government.  Don’t believe it?  Read what The New York Times has discovered regarding the mayor’s race in New York City in 2013 and certain goings-on since then related to education policies in Albany, the state capital.  “Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been out of office for a year and a half, but his influence over New York schools is practically as strong as ever,” it begins.  “A group devoted to continuing his education agenda and founded in part by his longtime schools chancellor, has become one of the most powerful forces in Albany by pouring millions into lobbying and adroitly exploiting rivalries in state politics.  The organization, StudentsFirstNY, and another group with a similar focus called Families for Excellent Schools have formed a counterweight to teachers’ unions, long among the top spenders in the state capital.  This year alone, the groups saw major elements of their platforms come to pass, such as tying teacher evaluations more closely to test scores, adding hurdles to earning tenure and increasing the number of charter schools, measures all unpopular with the unions.”                Why do some governors persist in appointing rapid opponents of the public schools to state boards of education? Larry Lee on his Larry Lee blog recounts one such selection in Alabama of a man who never attended public schools, who proudly announces his children won’t attend them and took part in a campaign to defeat a school tax vote.  Is that really the kind of person who should be making profound decisions about the public schools?  Apparently in Alabama it is!  Even Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, weighed in on this action.  Her column is titled “Alabama’s Governor Makes Surprising–and Scary–Education Appointment.”  Strauss makes reference in her post to the Larry Lee blog cited above and other efforts from Lee.               WOW! Even Bill and Melinda Gates are acknowledging that their investments in K-12 education in the U.S. over the years “haven’t paid off as well” as some of their other global endeavors.  That admission comes in a discussion with New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof.
 
Home Schooling
Here’s a topic we don’t hear too much about–home schooling.  EDUCATION WEEK is highlighting a new report from the Education Commission of the States that looks at how regulations vary from state to state regarding home schooling and how different they tend to be.  The article includes a link to the full study (5 pages) titled “State Homeschool Policies: A Patchwork of Provisions.”  The Ed Week story provides some numbers on home-schooling: “Although it’s very hard to estimate the number of home-schoolers in the country (several states have no reporting requirements), the federal government put the number at nearly 1.8 million in 2012.  That’s 3.4 percent of the total student population. Although small, the number has been growing over the last decade: There were only a little over 1 million home-schoolers in 2003.”
 
Opt-Out Movement
The United Opt-Out (UOO) organization will be holding their national convention in Philadelphia Feb. 26-28, 2016.  The theme is “Transcending Resistance, Igniting Revolution.” Mark your calendars and make your reservations now.  All the conference information can be found on the United Opt-Out website.                Colorado may be one of the shinning stars in the opt-our firmament.  As previously reported in the “Ed News,” using preliminary figures large numbers of students chose to skip the ELA and math exams in the Centennial State, most of them were 11th graders.  CHALKBEAT COLORADO now has some official numbers on the opt-out phenomenon in Colorado.  “The brushfire of testing refusal sparked by some high school seniors last fall,” it notes, “spread during the state’s main testing season this spring, a Chalkbeat Colorado survey of the state’s largest school districts has found.  There were relatively high opt-out rates in more districts than was the case last fall, with only five of the state’s largest districts testing enough students to avoid scrutiny from federal education authorities.  In almost every district test refusal appears to have been concentrated in high school, particularly in 11th grade.”
 
Testing
Peter Greene turns his considerable writing talents towards the continuing phenomenon of colleges and universities jettisoning the requirement that applicants take the SAT or ACT tests for admission.  Commenting this time on EDUCATION WEEK he contends: “More and more people are coming to see the SAT and ACT for what they are—products for sale.  Much of the SAT and ACT customer base is people who pay for the product because, well, you know, you have to, right?  There’s no choice, right?  But with every passing defection it becomes clear there is a choice.  There’s a choice for students, and there’s most especially a choice for colleges and universities.  The SAT is not a necessary rite of passage,” he continues.  “It’s just another six-pack of snake oil, an expensive con that’s long on drawbacks and short on benefits.  The SAT and ACT may still rule the majority of college domains for now, but it is increasingly clear that the emperor is both fully mortal and mostly naked.”
 
The Teaching Profession
FLASH: Text messaging is a great way to improve parent involvement in a student’s work.  thenotebook from the Philadelphia Public Schools has an interesting article about some recent research about the use of the social media tool and offers some specific examples of how it’s being used in the classroom.  “Researchers at Stanford University have found that text messaging, given its widespread use, low cost, and ease of scalability, is an ideal vehicle for improving parents’ engagement in their children’s schooling,” the story points out.  “And it has been proven that the more a parent is involved – by attending conferences, helping with homework, volunteering at the school, or a combination of these – the better a child will do.”               Why is it often difficult to attract good, qualified applicants into the  teaching profession?  Poor salaries are one obvious factor but another is the difficult working conditions.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews a recent poll on teacher job satisfaction and recounts some of the complaints educators have and points how those make it difficult to entice highly capable people into the field.  He includes a link to the original article about the poll that appeared in The Atlantic and discusses some serious blow back that it created, some of it, surprisingly, from one of the sponsors of the survey.  Bryant titles his piece “We Won’t Get Great Teachers by Treating Them Badly.”                 Here is something most of you already know but the general public may not be quite aware of the magnitude of the situation.  “Teachers Are Spending Thousands to Stock Classrooms With Basic Supplies” is the headline in a story from ALTERNET.  The author was a long-time veteran of the Oakland Unified School District where she taught elementary school.  “ School may be out for summer,” she relates, “but I guarantee you there’s one thing teachers are already worried about as they plan for the coming school year: how they’ll offset the inevitable out-of-pocket costs that come with running a classroom.  It’s not just a few books or art supplies we’re talking about here; the truth is much more discouraging.  During my last year of teaching, I spent over $5,000 of my own money on my classroom during the year, and I know I wasn’t alone.  On an annual salary of $42,000, that was hardly pocket change.”  How many of you can relate to what she reports?  WOW, OK, almost everybody raised their hand.
 
Revised A.P. U.S. History Framework
And finally, after drawing heavy fire from various conservative groups for its overly “negative” A.P. U.S. History framework, the College Board went back to the drawing board and created a revised edition which they released online yesterday.  “As you probably recall,” the item in EDUCATION WEEK concludes, “last year’s version of the framework sparked not only criticism, but moves in some states and districts to dump the product altogether.  The Republican National Committee blasted the framework last summer, prompting the College Board to take the unusual step of releasing a practice exam, and promising to issue a ‘clarified’ version of the framework.”
 
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk         

Dave Alpert

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