Ed News, Tuesday, July 28, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

     
   
“There are all kinds of ignorance in the world. Education, learning to read and write,
doesn’t necessarily give us knowledge. We have to learn to use our minds
to see what is really happening.” 
 Linda Leaming, Married to Bhutan  

Next LAUSD Superintendent
Two letters were published in Saturday’s L.A. Times  reacting to the op-ed  by Diane Ravitch in Thursday’s paper about what characteristics she’s like to see in the next superintendent for the LAUSD.  [Ed. note: Did you catch that the last part of that sentence rhymes?  Purely unintentional.]   One letter appeared in Sunday’s paper from the Los Angeles director of Teach for America commenting on the Ravitch op-ed.               The California Charter Schools Association was besides itself regarding Ravitch’s commentary. Sarah Angel, their Managing Directory, Regional Advocacy–Los Angeles, was quick to fire back at her lack of enthusiasm for charter schools (who would have guessed).  The LA SCHOOL REPORT published her response to Ravitch’s piece.  To be fair, they printed Ravitch’s op-ed the previous day.   “In a recent L.A. Times op-ed,” Angel commences, “pundit Diane Ravitch called on the LAUSD board to hire a superintendent who would prevent new charter public schools from opening.  Vilifying charters as an enemy of public education, Ravitch hurls her usual accusations against the charter school community, including its teachers and students.  But just because she repeats the same incendiary messages over and over again, that doesn’t make them true.”
 
Charter Schools
Can a state agency that promotes charter schools also properly regulate them?  Seems like a conflict of interest, no?  Not in Ohio where the state Department of Education not only pushes for more and more charters and funding for them but also is tasked with rating and regulation.  Might that not lead to abuses in the system?  Ohio has become a prime example of how not to deal with charters.  An article from PB (Plunderbund) reviews the latest scandal(s) with the ODE and its dealings with the state’s charter schools.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, goes after former U.S. Sec. of Education Bill Bennett for his defense of the Common Core on Campbell Brown’s new website “The Seventy Four.”  (Greene conveniently includes a link to Bennett’s original piece for you to peruse.)  “Bennett is entitled to be bitter and disappointed that same political winds that once filled CCSS sails have now deserted the SS Common Core,” Greene concludes.  “He is not entitled to pretend that the SS Common Core was built to be some sort of mighty, nimble ocean vessel when in fact it was always, from day one, a wobbly, leaky dinghy with a brick for a rudder.”                 Speaking of Campbell Brown . . . . an article inThe Washington Post wonders if her new website is going to concentrate on “news or advocacy?”  The reporter writes “the answer appears to be yes” and goes on to describe where her funding is coming from.  That’s often a tip-off as to what direction a blog is headed.  [Ed. note: The “Ed News” is pleased to disclose that it receives NO FUNDING from any outside sources and has a total budget of $0, as in zero dollars.  But I digress!]  “Brown — who has advocated on behalf of charter schools and is opposed to tenure for teachers — says she doesn’t consider education restructuring ‘to be a partisan issue, I don’t like the word ‘partisan,’ because people think it means Democrat versus Republican, and that’s not us.  I agree we have a point of view; it’s a ­nonpartisan point of view.  It’s a clear point of view, and that is that the public education system, in its current form, is broken, and there’s an urgency to fix it’,” the reporter quotes Brown.
 
School Bonds Questioned
A suspicious new report from the California Policy Center (CPC), a right-wing pressure group, is featured in a story in The Fresno Bee.  It’s critical of voter approved school bond issues in California claiming they tend to create huge amounts of debt and lead to conflicts of interest.  “The report calls for more oversight and a push for transparency regarding bond issues,” the article states, “saying many voters don’t have a clear picture of what they’re approving.  Bonds also perpetuate conflicts of interest with contractors who would benefit from their approval, according to the report.”  The article includes a link to the full study (362 pages) titled “For the Kids: California Voters Must Become Wary of Borrowing Billions More From Wealthy Investors for Educational Instruction.”  [Ed. note:  Might this “study” be a thinly veiled way to deprive the public schools of much needed funding by the corporate “reformers” seeking to privatize the system for their own PROFIT?  Just a thought.  It should be further noted that the Bee story only characterized the CPC as a “non-profit think tank.”  For more on the CPC, aka the California Public Policy Center, see this profile on the “SOURCEWATCH” website from The Center for Media and Democracy.  It’s quite illuminating.]
 
New Book
The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog has an excerpt from a new book, published Friday, titled Returning Sanity to the Classroom: Ending the Testing Mania.  The author, Horace (Rog) Lucido has taught Physics and Math for 38 years at public, private and charter schools and served as a Master Teacher at both Fresno State and Fresno Pacific universities.  He was one of the founding members of Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse (EPATA). 
 
A Teacher as Lobbyist
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, describes his day lobbying various members of Congress with the Badass Teachers Association on important educational issues.  “And what a day it was!,” he relates.   “I met with Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Corey Booker (D-NJ).  I met with U.S. Reps Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ).  Well, actually I met with their legislative aides.  None of the actual lawmakers made time to sit down with a flesh and blood teacher.  In one case, a legislator seemingly went out of his way to avoid me.”
 
The Teaching Profession
A new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that the quality of teacher applicants went up during the recent Great Recession according to a story on the “Teacher Beat” blog atEDUCATION WEEK.  “The authors [of the study] found that teachers hired during recession periods were more effective than teachers hired during better economic times,” the article states, “and that that difference couldn’t be explained away by other factors like teacher-turnover rates or age differences.  The idea that more people want to enter teaching relative to other, lesser-paid or less-stable professions during tough economic times makes perfect common sense,” it continues.  “But this is still among the first papers to look empirically at how recessions affect the teacher labor market.”               The July 24th edition of the “Ed News” had a frightening item about a teacher in Lawrence, Massachusetts, whose middle school has adopted the teaching technique called “No Nonsense Nurturing.”  The educator believed it was turning her into a robot.  A regular reader and contributor toDiane Ravitch’s blog did some digging into NNN and came up with some eye-opening information.
 
The Opt-Out Movement
The United Opt-Out (UOO) group has published An Activist’s Handbook for the Education Revolution: United Opt-Out’s Test of Courage.”  Anthony Cody on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog reviews the new volume.  “In their book,”  he relates, t”he seven leaders of UOO make it clear that their vision extends far beyond the act of opting out of tests. They are trying to spark a social movement.”
 
Battling Corporate “Reform”
The founder of the Long Island Opt-Out campaign and the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) has come practical advice on how to fight the corporate “reform” movement that wants to privatize public education.  Writing on the website of the Badass Teachers Association, she offers 10 concrete ideas for joining the fray.  
 
Arne Duncan
Summer break is often a  time of reflection for educators.  How did the past year go?  What changes can and should be made for the new school year?  What does one want to accomplish in the future?  The “Politics K-12″ column on EDUCATION WEEK provides an item headlined “Five Things on Arne Duncan’s To-Do List.” 
 
Every Child Achieves Act 
The author of the Peg With Pen blog has had quite a bit of time this summer to relax and contemplate the compromises that were necessary to obtain passage of the ECAA in the U.S. Senate.  She’s not happy with what she sees!  She believes that too many people were willing to compromise on their bedrock values in order to get the legislation approved.  “I go back to school next week.  A beautiful school with children who deserve it all – a school with amazing teachers – where we will be drowned once again,” she complains, “in corporate reform with additional layers set in place this year to further our goal to raise test scores in an attempt not to ‘fail.’  It’s all lies.  And ECAA is just one more lie that supports failing my school and our children.”  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending this one along.
 
Teach for America
And finally, Mitchell Robinson, on his eponymous blog, has some pointed suggestions for Teach for America based on what he finds are their true values.  He even helps them “revise” their mission statement based on those values.   
 
                                                                                                         
                                          
 
 
 
 
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 24, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
  “An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious – just dead wrong. ”
Russell Baker
Battle for the Public Schools
Jeff Bryant, this time writing for ALTERNET, describes a nasty battle taking place in Jefferson County (aka Jeffco), Colorado, a suburb just west of Denver, between public school advocates, charter proponents and a conservative majority on the local school board.  The district is mostly white and middle-class.  “What is also true about Jeffco is that the story unfolding here is one that is recurring across the country,” the story relates, “as community after community becomes mired in debates about who gets to call the shots in education systems strained by unending financial austerity and an unremitting “reform” agenda whose intent is unclear to the people in its way.”  Jefferson County may, unfortunately, be better known for the terrible shooting that took place at Columbine High in 1999 when two students opened fire on campus.                No wonder the public schools can’t win these days.  philly.com, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, reports that the superintendent of the city’s public school system has filled a number of administrative posts in the district with people who have “lengthy charter backgrounds.”  
Testing
As more and more states abandon the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) standardized exams that are aligned with the Common Core, the existence of the consortium that created them is being called into question.  As many as 24 states and the District of Columbia originally signed on to administer the tests but that number has dwindled to 12 states and the D.C., and that could quite possibly drop to 6 states and D.C., during the next school year.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) the other group that developed Core-aligned tests is in a little better shape.  18 states, including California, offered the exams in 2014-15.  3 states have dropped them for 2015-16, so far.  EDUCATION WEEK provides the details.               The PARCC tests are getting a makeover after receiving months of criticism.  THE HECHINGER REPORT describes how the exams will be shortened from their current 11 hours, administered over several day,s and other changes.  “ After a rough spring testing season,” the piece explains, “the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two state consortia tapped by the federal government to develop tests tied to the Common Core educational standards, is making big changes to its tests, which were administered to over five million students across 11 states and the District of Columbia this year.”
Children Living in Poverty Increase
If childhood poverty is a key indicator of poor educational achievement than the situation is getting worse.  A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation featured in USA TODAY reports that the number of children living in poverty has increased from 18% when the Great Recession began in 2008 to 22% in 2013.  The implications of that statistic for education are disturbing.  “The report also examined racial disparities between children living in low-income households,”  the news story notes.  “Black, Hispanic and American Indian children were more than twice as likely to live in poverty than white children, the report said.”  Check out the video (1:27 minutes) from “Newsy” at the start of the article that discusses some recent research linking poverty with decreased brain development in children and how it relates to student test scores.  Scary!
 
California’s Continuation Schools
THE HECHINGER REPORT has an investigative piece on the lack of transparency and accountability at California’s 480 continuation or alternative high schools.  “Although the schools serve the most vulnerable students, the state has no mechanism for determining which schools are doing a good job and which need to get better. . . . Continuation schools are supposed to take students who are far behind in credits,” it explains, “and help them catch up in less time than at a comprehensive high school and are only required to offer 15 hours of classes a week, although they can offer more.”  The piece describes the very different experiences of two students who went through the system.
School Discipline
“White House Hosts School Discipline Summit” is the headline of a story on the “Politics K-12″ column in EDUCATION WEEK.  On Wednesday U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan and other members of the department joined school leaders who have offered some innovative programs for dealing with school discipline issues.   “School districts featured at the event,” it points out, “that have made headway on discipline issues include: Baltimore City schools, which revamped its student behavior system to be more rehabilitative, rather than punitive, and LA Unified, which was the first district to ban suspensions for willful defiance.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Some teachers fear that corporate “reformers” want to turn them into robots.  If you don’t believe that, wait until you read this account from a middle school ELA teacher in Massachusetts writing on the EduShyster blog.  Her district adopted a draconian program called No Nonsense Nurturing that turns interactions with students into robotic exchanges.  Her narrative certainly struck a cord based on the number of horrified comments it received.  WARNING!  The graphic description that follows is NOT science fiction:  “Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing.  It was supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing ‘immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.’  In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies.  I wore a bug in my ear.  I didn’t have a mouthpiece.  Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie.  I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed.  The robot also spoke his mind.”  Postscript: The teacher was let go at the end of the year because, she was told, she was not the “right fit” for the school.  This is truly appalling.
 
Vouchers
Remember when vouchers were sold as a method for poor and minority students to get the same type of schooling as their middle class peers?  If that was ever the original intent of them it no longer is a selling point.  ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is holding its annual closed-door conference in San Diego this week and even they are now admitting that vouchers are really for suburban, middle-class kids to escape the public school system.  That’s the focus of THE CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY’S “PR WATCH” column.  “School vouchers were never about helping poor, at-risk or minority students,” it begins.  “But selling them as social mobility tickets was a useful fiction that for some twenty-five years helped rightwing ideologues and corporate backers gain bipartisan support for an ideological scheme designed to privatize public schools.”                The North Carolina Supreme Court yesterday ruled 4-3 in favor of the state’s voucher program.  “the progressive pulse” blog from NC POLICY WATCH has the details.  “The challenged law,” it notes, “enacted as part of the 2013 state budget, allows the state to appropriate more than $10 million in public money to award qualifying low-income families $4200 per child for use at private schools.  Those schools, which can range from religious schools with several students to a home school of one, are not subject to state standards relating to curriculum, testing and teacher certification and are free to accept or reject students of their own choosing, including for religious or other discriminatory reasons.”   
Diane Ravitch on her Diane Ravitch’s blog called the ruling a “bizarre decision” and printed a press release from the “Public Schools First NC” group decrying the outcome.  “Public Schools First NC is disheartened by the NC Supreme Court ruling,” it states, “that will transfer tens of millions of desperately needed public education dollars to fund unaccountable private schools.”
 
Some Advice for the LAUSD
None other than Diane Ravitch has penned an op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times offering some parameters for whom the district should select as its next superintendent“We cannot afford to write off the guarantee of a good public education for all,” she concludes.  “Countries that do the best job at educating their citizens — Finland, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Canada — do it with strong and equitable public school systems, not charter schools or private school vouchers.  LAUSD needs a leader who believes in restoring and strengthening public education, which society counts on to develop citizens with the talent, skills and knowledge to sustain our democracy.”
 
Achievement School Districts (ASD)
And finally, a recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a column by Steven Singer on his GADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG that explained what Achievement or  Recovery School Districts are and how they are impacting public schools in New Orleans, Detroit, Nashville and other cities.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, chimes in on the same topic but sees ASD’s as a possible outgrowth of the conference committee scheduled to meet soon to reauthorize ESEA/NCLB.  He explains how the ASD works in Nashville: “ASD required districts to enforce, for their lowest performing schools, either or both of the following measures: fire school staff or hand the school over to a charter school management organization.  Conveniently, the ASD is also a charter authorizer, so it can designate any of its schools for charter takeover, and indeed has done so numerous times.”
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, July 21, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“Some men never recover from education.”
Oliver St. John Gogarty, It Isn’t This Time of Year at All:
An Unpremeditated Autobiography       
Reaction to Senate Passage of ECAA
The Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) on Thursday.  Since the House passed a different version of the bill, The Student Success Act (SSA), the next step is a Senate/House conference committee to work out the differences.  Reaction to the upper chamber’s action has some from several sources.  Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association commented on the legislation on the MTA’s website.  She headlined her reactions “A Bittersweet Victory on Accountability.”  “Now that the Senate has passed the ECAA, we need to talk about resources and about the larger issues of race and class,” she noted.  “But we need to acknowledge that our efforts must focus on Democrats as well as Republicans.  Indeed, some of the worst excesses of corporate ‘reform’ have been supported by elected officials who call themselves our allies.”                Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 focuses on the opt-out provisions contained in both the House and Senate versions of the bill.  “Both the House and Senate have passed proposed authorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965,” her analysis indicates, “and both House and Senate versions have opt-out provisions that allow for states to avoid being penalized for students whose parents opt them out of federally-mandated testing.  That’s right: Both House and Senate versions of the ESEA reauthorization provide a means for students who opt out to not be counted against the “95 percent” that the state is supposed to test as a condition for receiving Title I funding.  They just go about it differently.”  Schneider describes how they differ.                An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times urged passage of the Senate’s version of the rewrite of ESEA/NCLB.  It compared the House and Senate bills and found the latter to be more compelling and bipartisan.  “[The new law] should be more realistic — schools were given 14 years under No Child Left Behind to bring every student in the country to full academic proficiency — and less arbitrary in its measurement of school progress,” the piece maintains.  “It should be less prescriptive and punitive in its remedies for low-performing schools, and less authority should be centralized in the often out-of-touch U.S. Department of Education.  At the same time, it should require some level of actual accountability from schools.  The federal government has the right — the obligation, really — to ensure that Title I funding for low-income students is spent effectively.”                Next step for the reauthorization bill is a Senate/House conference committee to iron out the differences in the two versions of the bill.  The “Politics K-12″ column in EDUCATION WEEK forecasts what to expect.  It discusses how the bills diverge and what the prospects are for agreement.  “No matter the result, one thing is for sure: The forthcoming conference process,” it concludes, “which is set to begin as soon as possible and likely last several weeks, represents the most serious reauthorization attempt since Congress last overhauled the law in 2001.”
 
School “Reform?”
Corporate “reformers” are quick to push rating and ranking of teachers using student test scores and value-added models.  Applying that construct of employee “stacking” in the business world is more and more being called into question.  A story in the “Business” section of The New York Times titled “Why Employee Ranking Can Backfire” has some important ramifications for education.  The reporter for the article cites two recent studies that raise serious doubts about the practice.              Have you heard of what are called “Achievement School Districts?”  They exist in New Orleans, Detroit, Tennessee and Nevada and are coming soon to Georgia and North Carolina.  They are low-performing districts that are taken over by state or local governments who promise rapid turn-arounds using all sorts of interesting techniques from charterization to privatization among others.  Mitchell Robinson, on his eponymous blog, offers “An Achievement School District Primer” for your edification.  “Public education is far too important to treat it like a science experiment, with fuzzy methodology and uncertain results,” he writes.  “Our children deserve schools that are adequately funded, controlled by locally elected school boards made up of persons with ties to the community and a vested interest in the success of their schools, transparency in reporting of school finances and learning outcomes, and that are founded and administrated with educative goals in mind, not punitive ones.  It’s time to demand the return of our schools and our children from Achievement School Districts and the forces of school privatization.  Education is not a business, and our children aren’t widgets.”               The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was created about 15 years ago.  In that time it has done a lot of good for kids around the world.  One area where its largesse has been called repeatedly into question is its education initiatives.  The author of this commentary from the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog wonders if it’s time for the philanthropists to retool their thinking towards education reform.  “Whether it was promoting small schools, charter schools, value-added teacher evaluations, or Common Core,” he points out, “the foundation seemed oblivious to the interconnected nature of the problems that its policies were supposedly seeking to address, or the  contradictory nature of the solutions it favored.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, turns her column over to Dave Powell, an associate professor of education at Gettysburg College who raises some serious questions about the top-down changes to education policy being pushed by the corporate “reformers.”  “One thing’s for sure: top-down education policy-making is a losing proposition in an education system as diverse and vibrant as ours is,”  he concludes.  “Maybe it’s time to turn the page on this failed experiment so we can move on to more fruitful ones. “
 
The Teaching Profession
What happens when massive, ongoing budget cuts are directed toward K-12 education?  Among many factors salaries are frozen or decline, benefits are reduced, class sizes increase, supplies and textbook funds decline and TEACHERS LEAVE.  The “Ed News” has previously highlighted the exodus of educators from Arizona but what is taking place in Kansas may be even worse as teachers are leaving the state in droves according to a feature on the website of the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World.  “Classroom spending cuts, uncertain school financing, low pay and eroding tenure protections all play into a hostile climate in Kansas,” it begins, “that teachers and school administrators say is spurring a surge of teacher departures and retirements.  At least 3,720 Kansas teachers have left the state, retired or taken jobs outside of education after this past school year, a huge jump from the 2,150 who did so just a couple of years ago, according to a newly released data by Kansas State Department of Education.”              Diane Ravitch’s blog is promoting a new documentary film titled “Heal Our Schools” that responds to some of the attacks on teachers.  The filmmaker is an almost 30-year classroom veteran.  Ravitch includes a list of screenings of the film scheduled in the near future (none in L.A., yet).  You can check out the film’s official website which includes a trailer (4 minutes) by clicking here.
The teaching profession is fraught with many problems including low salaries, poor working conditions and morale, lay-offs and declining prestige but THE HECHINGER REPORT identifies another one.  Some locales, including the Silicon Valley, now have such high housing prices that make it difficult for educators to afford to reside in the areas where they work.  The situation could cause an exodus of quality teachers from high-housing price cities.  “Teachers, like other civil servants, are paid based on available state funding, local property taxes, and political will, not the market,” it notes.  “They are lucky to hit the regional median in a lifetime, let alone early enough to build the equity needed to buy a home in a boom market.”  The article explains the economics of the problem and describes some attempts at solutions.
2016 Election
Education policies have rarely been discussed when elections roll around.  2016 may be different what with Common Core, testing, opt-out, charters, teachers unions and the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB all hot topics in recent years.  One problem has been that many lay people are not familiar with the education terms currently in vogue and the media tend to stick to what the author of this item from the FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) blog calls “buzzwords.”  She describes the important role the media must play in this critical discussion.  “When reporting on the often shallow, hypocritical or self-interested talking points put forward by the candidates,” she urges, “it’s media’s responsibility to correct the inaccuracies, explain the buzzwords, and illuminate the impact of the policies being pushed on children, families and teachers.”                Ohio Gov. John Kasich today became the 16th (!) Republican candidate to officially announce his entrance into the race for president in 2016.  EDUCATION WEEK continues its review of each entrant’s education policies.  “He doesn’t have the kind of high-profile and polarizing history with public schools,” it notes, “that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can claim.  But his work in K-12 policy is actually quite extensive.”               Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, adds her analysis of Kasich’s education policies upon his entering the 2016 race for president.  “In some crowds, it may be a great record to run on,” she concludes.  “To public school advocates, not so much.”
Charter Schools
What are charter schools most fearful of?  Could it be unionizationSALON conducts an interview with the author of a recent article who suggests that scenario.  According to the Q & A, about 7% of charter teachers are currently unionized but that figure is growing by leaps and bounds.                Here we go again!  The founders of a highly lauded charter chain in Houston and members of their family face a 19-count indictment including charges of conspiracy and embezzling $2.6 million from the schools according to a story in the Houston Chronicle.  It includes a copy of the full report (65 pages) conducted by the Texas Education Agency into the chain and the official indictment (21 pages).              More charter foul play from EDUCATION WEEK (via the Associated Press).  The head of Ohio’s School Choice division in the state’s Department of Education resigned last week after admitting to excluding failing grades for a couple of charter schools in evaluations of the schools’ overseers.  That’s a major NO, NO!  “David Hansen, the School Choice director for the Education Department, confirmed last week he left F grades for online and dropout recovery schools off evaluations of charter school sponsors,” the article explains.  “He said he felt the marks would ‘mask’ successes elsewhere.  The omission boosted the ratings of two sponsors, which could make them eligible for more state perks.”
 
Budget Cuts and Disappearing School Libraries
Since the Great Recession began over 6 years ago, K-12 schools have suffered large, lingering budget declines that had manifested themselves in lower salaries and benefits, furlough days, lay-offs, cuts to counseling and nursing services and reductions in librarians with the concomitant closing of school libraries.  This piece from THE CONVERSATION blog chronicles “The Calamity of the Disappearing School Libraries.”                Ever wonder why public schools struggle while charters seem to thrive?  Here’s one answer.  The latest budget for Chicago schools provides a possible $60 million cut for the public schools and a $3o million increase for the city’s charters.  The Chicago Sun-Times has the gruesome details. 
Testing
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reviews the battle between two sets of civil rights groups over the topic of testing.  One set of organizations sees high-stakes assessments as a civil rights issue for minorities and students of color.  The other one views them as a diversion from the real issues of adequate funding and equality.  “It’s up to education voters to educate themselves on the subject and demand real Civil Rights reforms.  End the system of Test and Punish,” he asks for in summation.  “Remove or reduce standardized testing from our schools.  Provide equitable funding for schools serving impoverished children.  And give our students of color a fighting chance to achieve the American Dream.”
Rafe Esquith Case
Jay Mathews, Washington Post education columnist and blogger, reviews the case against renowned LAUSD teacher Rafe Esquith.  “Esquith is being treated like a Wall Street cheat,” the reporter complains.  “On July 8, the district’s investigators asked him for all of his tax returns, loan and bank records since 2000, giving no reason.  Many other teachers being similarly targeted are asking Esquith’s lawyers for help.  This is an investigation gone rogue.  If it continues, the Los Angeles school district — previously devoted to helping its students — is at risk of not only losing an exceptional teacher, but also its very soul.”
Ed Tech
“Which Cities are the Top Ed-Tech Hubs?” asks the “Marketplace K-12″ column in EDUCATION WEEK.  Los Angeles is mentioned among them but so are Boston, the Silicon Valley, Baltimore and others. 
Court Rules on Parent-Trigger Petition
And finally, on Thursday, an Orange County Superior Court judge overruled an Anaheim City School District decision that denied a parent-trigger petition to turn Palm Lane Elementary School into a charter.  EDUCATION WEEK describes the ruling and its ramifications.   “Under California’s Parent Empowerment Act, a school is subject to the law if it meets certain requirements, including failing to make adequate yearly progress after one year and having a state Academic Performance Index score of less than 800,” the piece spells out.  “The Anaheim City School District’s board initially rejected the petition in February, stating Palm Lane did not fall under the definition of a subject school and that the parents did not follow the petition instructions when they submitted it, according to a press release from Kirkland & Ellis LLP, the law firm representing the parents.”
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Dave Alpert

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

 
 

 

Ed News, Friday, July 17, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“There are so many charlatans in the world of education. They teach for a couple of years, come up with a few clever slogans, build their websites, and hit the lecture circuit. In this fast-food-society, simple solutions to complex problems are embraced far too often. We can do better. I hope that people who read this book realize that true excellence takes sacrifice, mistakes, and enormous amounts of effort. After all, there are no shortcuts.”
Rafe Esquith, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56    
Rafe Esquith Case Update
The LAUSD originally yanked acclaimed teacher Rafe Esquith out of his classroom back in April and parked him in “teacher jail” for a supposed joke he made in class regarding a quote from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Later a story surfaced about a possible case of abuse involving Esquith as a teenager counselor (40 years ago) and a young boy at a camp.  Now, according to the LA SCHOOL REPORT, the focus has shifted to an investigation of Esquith’s nonprofit group, the Hobart Shakespeareans founded in 1989, that raises money for his student productions and field trips.  “None of the students or parents involved with the Hobart Shakespeareans has complained about Esquith,” the story explains, “who was awarded Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year, among other awards.  Because of his ‘teacher jail’ status, the dozen sold-out performances planned this year were canceled, as well as a July trip to Oregon for a Shakespeare Theatrical Festival.”  Is this beginning to look like a vendetta against a popular instructor?  Check out the article and decide for yourself.  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for forwarding this item.
Common Core
How closely are Common Core textbooks aligned to the standards?  Good question, because many publishing companies are insisting they are. The author of this investigative piece for THE DAILY BEAST says not even close.  He further points out that those companies are collecting millions of taxpayer dollars while insisting they are aligned.  He titles his work  “The Great Common Core Textbook Swindle.”  “In response to the new standards, textbook publishers touted new editions they said were aligned to the Common Core. But nearly all of them were just repackaged versions of earlier books,” he discovers.  “And even five years later, the vast majority of textbooks say they’re aligned with the Common Core when they actually aren’t, creating a huge burden for teachers whose performance is often tied to their students’ test scores based on those standards.”
 
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB 

The U.S. Senate voted to limit debate and scheduled a final vote for Thursday on the rewrite of ESEA/NCLB now know as the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”  A story in EDUCATION WEEK reviewed the latest action on the bill and examined some of the amendments offered.  “Thanks to an agreement struck between co-authors Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and their respective party leaders,” it notes, “the bill was able to remain on the floor into Thursday until more than 40 outstanding amendments could be considered to the measure, the Every Child Achieves Act.”                Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, believes the current political debate over the reauthorization of ESEA boils down to a squabble over federal versus state control of education policy.  “If lawmakers really wanted to ensure all students were getting a quality education,” he maintains, “they’d hold BOTH the state and federal governments accountable for equitably funding our schools.  No more funding based on local wealth.  No more poor kids getting less funding than rich kids.  No more kids doing without because mommy and daddy have lousy paying jobs.”                 On a 34 yea to 62 nay vote the Senate defeated an amendment to the ECAA that would have allowed parents to opt their children out of standardized assessments without penalty to the local district or state.  An item in The Washington Post provides the specifics.  Almost all the Democrats voted “no” while most Republicans were in favor.                 By an 81-17 vote, the U.S. Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 yesterday.  EDUCATION WEEK describes this latest development and reviews some of the key provisions of the Senate’s bill.  “The legislation’s passage in the Senate marks a crucial step in getting a bill to the president’s desk,” it points out.  “With the U.S. House of Representatives already having passed its Republican-backed ESEA rewrite last week, the two chambers can now begin working on conferencing their dueling reauthorization bills.”  A single bill must be sent to the president for his signature or veto.  Differences between the Senate and House legislation will need to be worked out by a conference committee made up of an equal number of members from both houses.               ED WEEK provides a handy “cheat sheet” that compares the two bills that you can read by clicking here.                Steven Singer, author of the GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is appalled at the positions taken by the Democrats vis a vis the ECAA.  He sees the two parties as making a 180 degree shift in how they view education issues. “Up until now I’ve always been with the Democrats because they had better – though still bad – education policies than the Republicans.  I’m not sure I can say that anymore,” he complains.  “In fact, it may be just the opposite.  Which party is most committed to ending Common Core? The Republicans!  Which party has championed reducing federal power over our schools and giving us a fighting chance at real education reforms? Republicans!  Which party more often champion’s parental rights over the state? Republicans!  Sure, most of them still love vouchers and charter schools.  But increasingly so do the Democrats.”

Testing

As the number and length of high-stakes tests has increased dramatically a number of states have expressed concern.  The “Curriculum Matters” column in EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at what some of them have done in response to the mounting criticism.  “After years of outcry and intensifying public debate about whether students are overtested,” it begins, “many states are attempting to definitively address the issue this year.  But there’s no consistent strategy across the country, and just what the proposed solutions will mean for assessments could vary dramatically.”                Are there any alternatives to students taking high-stakes tests to graduate?  The answer is “yes” according to this item from EDUCATION WEEK which describes a program at East Side Community High School in Manhattan that allows students to complete “authentic” assessments in lieu of the Regents exams in New York.  It is one of 48 campuses that are part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium and they seem to be having a great deal of success. 
Ed Tech
Having internet access at school and at home is a critical aspect of education technology for students.  It’s often not an issue for middle and upper-income pupils but can be problematic for poor students.  A new federal program piloted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development called “ConnectHome” aims to provide a solution by providing broadband service to 28 housing projects around the country.  The venture is detailed in a story from THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “The program is expected to reach about 275,000 households and nearly 200,000 children,” the piece details, “according to the announcement from H.U.D.  About $70 million in investments from nonprofit organizations and businesses are expected to help make it work.  These partners signed on to provide resources such as tablet computers, Internet connections and on-site staff to facilitate use of these digital tools for educational purposes.”
The Teaching Profession
The summer break is often a time of reflection for teachers and administrators.  The “Ed News” has recently spotlighted several items describing what they might do differently when the new school year commences.  EDUCATION WEEK asked what teachers might change in their classrooms come the 2015-16 year and got a flood of tweets in response.  You can read them by clicking here.  How do they compare to what you might be contemplating?
 
Vaccination Vote
The California Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday that opponents of the recently signed vaccination legislation were cleared to begin collecting signatures for a possible referendum on the Nov., 2016 ballot, that would, if passed by voters, overturn the new law.  Proponents of the measure have until Sept. 28 to collect 365,000 valid signatures from registered voters according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “The new law, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed June 30, eliminates the personal belief and religious exemptions that parents have used in the past to seek waivers from state vaccination requirements for their children,” it explains.  “State lawmakers and public health officials said the law was needed because a decline in vaccinations had contributed to the spread of disease, including a measles outbreak in California this year that was traced to Disneyland.”  Keep your eye out for those petition circulators at your local grocer or mall. 
Charter Schools
How good a job are charter schools doing?  At least in Ohio, they are more part of the problem than part of the solution.  The author of this piece on the 10th Period blog offers some new federal data that demonstrates that in the Buckeye state charters are contributing to the already wide achievement gap. 
 
New Trouble for the LAUSD
If it’s not problems with handing out iPads to students, or serious glitches in a new student data system, or challenges to “teacher jail,” or a recent superintendent leaving under a cloud of suspicion what else could give the beleaguered LAUSD another black eye?  If you guessed food management services you’ve won a free ice cream.  Believe it or not, a new audit from the district’s Office of the Inspector General finds serious problems with the massive food services program.  The disappointing details can be found in a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  The OIG’s 33-page report discovered mismanagement, overspending and ethical irregularities.  The bad news: “Auditors found increased food prices, bloated inventories, incompatible computer systems to order food, a ‘haphazard’ menu development process and insufficient controls over spending.”  There was a sliver of good news: “The audit also found increased meal participation and greater innovation and flexibility.”
Teacher Evaluations
And finally, they’re Baaaack!  Remember the group StudentsMatter?  They were involved in bringing the Vergara case last year that determined that teacher tenure and seniority rights were unconstitutional.  Now they have brought suit against 13 districts in California (LAUSD is NOT one of them) that have decided not to use student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  StudentsMatter, on behalf of six plaintiffs, will argue that violates a state law that requires the scores be included according to an article in today’s L.A. Times.  “The litigation represents the latest effort by Students Matter,” it explains, “a Los Angeles-based group that has turned to California courts to make changes in education law that were otherwise blocked at the state and local levels. The organization was founded by tech entrepreneur David F. Welch to build on other attempts to limit teacher job protections and hold them more accountable for student achievement.”  The case is known as Doe vs. Antioch.  Stay tuned for more information on this one.                Here’s a major problem if this suit is successful.  What happens if teacher evaluations must include test scores and an instructor teachers a class like music, art or PE where there is no test.  The “Ed News” has highlighted articles raising this issue in the past.  SLATE confronts the same problem in an item titled “Why Are Some Teachers Being Evaluated Using the Test Scores of Kids They Didn’t Teach?”  “While no official count of states or districts exists,” it contends, “teachers in a handful of places have been or will be judged partially based on test score results for grades or subjects they don’t teach, including in Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Tennessee. Officials in Nevada are even considering how they might hold support staff—like school nurses and counselors—responsible for student test results, arguing that they impact student achievement by keeping students healthy and able to learn.”  Can someone explain how that is going to help improve instruction?
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Dave Alpert

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

 
 
 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“Nevertheless, (Jefferson) believed that the habit of skepticism is an essential prerequisite for responsible citizenship. He argued that the cost of education is trivial compared to the cost of ignorance, of leaving government to the wolves.
He taught that the country is safe only when the people rule.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark    
Rafe Esquith Case Blowback
The way the LAUSD handled the case of acclaimed teacher Rafe Esquith has raised serious questions about its entire process of dealing with instructors accused of misconduct.  Assignment to “teacher jail,” the lack of due process and the failure to inform of specific charges against teachers are just a few of the ones being addressed.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times asks is “teacher discipline too much?”  It reviews the Miramonte Elementary School case and details new district procedures that were instituted in its wake and that are now being called into question.  “Teachers complained that the district had become overzealous, or worse,” it reports.  “Some administrators, they said, were using any allegation to get rid of instructors they disliked.  Minor infractions, they said, suddenly became grounds for dismissal and unproven allegations were enough to keep a teacher from ever returning to work.”               It’s official!  Esquith’s attorney has filed notice of an impending class action suit against the LAUSD that not only challenges the way Esquith was treated but also intends to raise the issues of a lack of due process and fairness in the way thousands of other educators were handled after being accused of misconduct.  The paperwork was received by the district on June 22 according to a story from the LA SCHOOL REPORT.  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence who found this item before the editor did.
Teach for America
There’s a new book out about Teach for America that the program is probably not going to find very favorable.  It’s titled Teach for America Counter Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out.”  TFA corps members share their experiences with the group.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, features the book and includes some excerpts.  “The editors of the book say they view it as a counter-narrative to that given by the organization,” comments Strauss, “and it reveals some of the problems within the structure of TFA that they believe hurt teachers and students.”
How to Tell If a School if “Failing”
Citing standardized test scores is probably not the best way to determine if a school is under-performing, although most corporate “reformers” want you to believe that canard.  This commentary, from a former English teacher writing on the HUFF POST EDUCATION BLOG, offers “Ten Signs Your Child is in a Failing School District.”  “In these days of Common Core State Standards and continuing attacks on public education by billionaires and their bought-and-paid-for legislators,”  it begins, “parents need a few guidelines on how to tell if their child is in a failing school district.  It has nothing to do with low scores on state-mandated standardized tests and more to do with the culture in the school district.”  Here’s his first item: “1. The large majority of your teachers have less than five years of experience.”  Check out the other nine.
 
Charters
An ongoing series of reports from the “PR Watch” blog at The Center for Media and Democracy continues to uncover the serious lack of accountability and transparency among a number of charter schools even as Congress is poised to greatly expand the funding for the Charter Schools Program.  “Between 2001 and 2013, 2,486 charter schools have been forced to shutter,” it notes, “affecting 288,000 American children enrolled in primary and secondary schools.  Furthermore, untold millions out of the $3.3 billion expended by the federal government under CSP have been awarded as planning and implementation grants to schools that never opened to students.”               Ohio has been held up as an example of a state whose charter schools are riddled with fraud and corruption.  When the Buckeye state’s legislature got around to discussing a reform package with more accountability and transparency the state Senate passed the measure but it was not even taken up by the House before both chambers recessed for the summer.  REAL CLEAR EDUCATION headlines their piece “Money Talks, Reform Walks: Ohio Fails to Reform Nationally Ridiculed Charter School System.”  How could that happen?  It points to two familiar culprits–MONEY and LOBBYISTS.
Testing
Diane Ravitch’s blog reprinted a parody of the Bob Dylan song “Blowin’ in the Wind” by a reader called “NY Teacher.”  His effort is titled “Must Be Bubbled-In.”  It pokes fun at all those high-stakes exams.  Here’s the first stanza:
How many tests must a child withstand
Before we can kill this scam?
How many years will we need to resist?
With so many heads in the sand?
Yes, how many tests must our children endure?
Before test-and-punish is banned?
Right answers my friend, must be bubbled-in
Right answers again and again.
As an extra bonus this item also includes a couple of parodies of Paul Simon and Neil Young tunes (feel free to sing or hum along).               Standardized test results are coming out in Pennsylvania and they are not encouraging.  That sparked the author of the Teacher’s Lessons Learned blog to pen a piece titled “No High Stakes Testing!”  In it she offers a number of well-reasoned arguments against the assessments and suggests a solution–join the opt-out movement!                Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at MIT, offers his opinion in regard to the debate on testing in an article on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  This item includes a video interview (7:24 minutes) with Chomsky and a truncated transcript of his comments.  “In recent years there’s a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers,” he maintains, “so that you have to teach to the tests, and the test determines what happens to the child and what happens to the teacher.  That’s guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process.”               Why do some civil rights organizations support standardized testing, claiming it is good for poor and minority students, while other groups claim it’s harmful for pupils of all colors?  That question is tackled by a commentary from the “This Week in Education” blog at scholastic written by a teacher and historian.  “In my tens of thousands of interactions with stakeholders,” he notes, “I have almost never met a person who wasn’t quickly disillusioned by NCLB testing.  The only people who still seem to support stakes attached to its testing are politicos who are personally invested in the law they promoted.”  Diane Ravitch notes this is a “thoughtful column.”
Arne Duncan
The Chicago Public Fools (that’s not a misprint) website reports that U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan will be enrolling his kids in the fall at the private University of Chicago Lab School.  There they will not have the experience of Common Core, standardized testing or teachers who are evaluated using valued-added models–all things Duncan has been pushing for public school students in the U.S.  “Lab is an excellent, well-resourced private school,” the author describes, “with a rich arts curriculum, small classes, entire rooms devoted to holding musical instruments, a unionized teaching staff that you pretty much never hear anyone suggesting should be replaced by untrained temp workers, and not one single standardized test until students reach age 14.”               The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a laudatory piece on Arne Duncan from The Washington Post.  “Washington Post Writes the Most Embarrassing, Awful Profile of Arne Duncan Ever, Completely Misses the Point” is the headline of a scathing response to the Post’s article by Jeff Bryant writing for SALON “The result of [Lyndsey Layton’s] off-target report,” Bryant bemoans, “is that not only does she mischaracterize the painful flaws of the Obama administration’s education policies – and the consequences of those flaws for public school children and teachers – but she also misses the most important story about what this failed policy leader leaves in his wake.”
 
Education “Reform”
Putative education “reformer” and former CNN host Campbell Brown is starting a new website called “The Seventy Four” which refers to the number of school-aged children in the U.S.  The initial launch of the site was covered a couple of months ago by the “Ed News.”  In an interview with FORTUNE magazine Brown explains how she got into the business of reporting on education issues and describes the goals of her new venture.  “As an advocate for education-reform issues, Brown has become a lightening rod for criticism,” the introduction to the Q & A explains.  “Union leaders and some educators have accused the 47-year old of trying to privatize public education and to deny teachers’ due process rights.  Brown has responded that she is not a union-buster, saying that charter schools are a way of giving families a choice and that her goal is to create better educational opportunities for public school children.”               Jennifer Berkshire, over at EduShyster, quickly wondered how much Brown would be willing to uncover and report on scandals and other malfeasance at charter schools.  An education reporter and reader of Bershire’s blog applied for a job with The Seventy Four and was given some rather interesting information: “I was told that the newsroom will have two parts: an investigative team that will dive deep into ed issues and a daily news team that will write the news of the day,” the reporter relates.  “The investigative team will not do large scale investigations into faults in charter schools but the daily news people will write quick hit stories of this nature because it will be forced to. It could not ignore major breaking news on charters but can make sure it’s investigative work does not go into that territory.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATON blog is highly skeptical of Brown’s motives.  He views her new “journalistic” endeavor as just another attempt to blame teachers and their unions for the “poor” state of public education.  “At any rate, brace yourselves boys and girls– here comes the next wave of faux progressive teacher bashing and charter pushing by privatizers who will not rest until they’ve cracked that golden egg full of tax dollars.  Because that’s the other reason,” he concludes dismissively, “they’re willing to sink $4 million into something like this– because while that may seem like a lot of money to you or me, to them it’s peanuts, an investment that they hope will pay off eventually in billions of tax dollars directed away from public education and to the private corporations that are drooling at the prospect of cashing in on education.”               The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles in the past that have attempted to explain why the billionaire philanthropists, foundations, corporations and hedge fund managers are so eager to privatize the public schools–there’s billions of dollars to be made in the process.  This item, from counterpunch, is written by a self-proclaimed non-education expert who works in the environmental and economic fields.  “Privatization exists in different forms, including vouchers, public private partnerships, low-fee private schools, and charter schools,” she explains.  “Whatever it’s called, it amounts to the same thing: private corporations gaining control of and profiting from an essential public function. In every country, the identical argument is used: public schools are failing, reform is needed and big business will do it best, providing choice and efficiency. If the statistics don’t match the argument, they are concealed or doctored to fit.”  Diane Ravitch says “This is an incredible article.  Please read it.  Send [it] to your friends, your elected officials, members of your state and local school boards, journalists, anyone else you can think of.  It is that important.”
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
In a press release on Friday, THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION offers its “qualified endorsement” of the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”   There are many things the group likes about the bill and several items they oppose.  “There is much we applaud in the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA),” their statement begins.  “Although the bill is far from perfect, it is better than the status quo.  ECAA represents a critical step forward.”                As the congressional debate continues over the rewrite of ESEA/NCLB one of the arguments prominently made is that the use of standardized tests is really a civil-rights issue that will help poor and minority students to close the achievement gap.  How accurate is that idea and should it be used to continue the testing regimen?  Those issues are tackled in a piece from THE Nation.
2016 Election News
The American Federation of Teachers issued a press release on their aft website Saturday endorsing Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.  You can read the union’s statement, including quotes of support from Pres. Randi Weingarten and some comments in reaction to the decision by Clinton, by clicking here.               The Badass Teachers Association put out a statement in response to the AFT endorsement of Clinton.  In it they explained the process they will follow in possibly supporting a specific candidate in the upcoming presidential race.  They did not pick a candidate at this time.                Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is rather suspicious of the quick AFT endorsement of Hillary Clinton.  “The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) endorsement of the former First Lady is strange in many ways,” he complains.  He provides several reasons why he feels that way and wants the union to “release the raw data” that supports their action.               Criticism of the AFT endorsement of Clinton came from a number of other quarters as well and it ignited a flurry of comments on Twitter.  Common Dreams has a piece titled “Teachers Say No Freaking Way to AFT Endorsement of Hillary Clinton.”  “Activist teacher members and others,” it noted indignantly, “lamented that the AFT endorsement of Clinton was a clear reminder of President Randi Weingarten’s autocratic leadership style that treats teachers like passive herd-driven professionals rather than independent thinkers with a voice.”                In These Times headlined their piece about the AFT action: “The AFT’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton Is An Insult to Union Democracy.”  “The decision couldn’t be more wrongheaded, and it’s one that members should demand the union executive council rescind,” it thundered.  “We should propose instead a decision reached by a very different process: a referendum of members that follows and is informed by debate in union outlets.”              The fallout from the intemperate, racist comments made by Donald Trump during his announcement last month for a run for president in 2016 has reached all the way to the LAUSD.  The district was planning a fundraising golf tournament at the Trump-owned course on Rancho Palos Verdes but decided to change the venue in light of what the billionaire said about Mexican immigrants.  A story in Monday’s L.A. Times provides the particulars.  “The eighth annual Beyond the Bell Golf Classic is held to raise money in support of programs for students outside the traditional school day,” it points out.  “The tournament, scheduled for Nov. 23, was expected to bring in as much $70,000 for academic, music and other classes and activities.”                  The aft sent out questionnaires to all the announced candidates, both Republican and Democratic, running for president in 2016.  The only ones who responded were Democrats Hillary Clinton (whom the aft ultimately endorsed–see above), Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.  Click on each of the names to read their responses to the union’s survey.                Add another name to the (LONGGGGG) list of GOP candidates running for president.  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker threw his hat in the ring officially yesterday.  EDUCATION WEEK reviews his education policies in its series on the contenders.               A commentary from THE HECHINGER REPORT explains “Why Clinton Needs to Craft a Broad National Education Policy.”  It was written in response to a campaign event Clinton held at the New School in New York yesterday.  The author is a Professor of Education Leadership at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.
 
The Teaching Profession
A new survey finds that student access to quality teachers can be quite unequal and depends in large measure on one’s socio-economic level.  The interesting study was highlighted in a story in the “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Any way you define teacher quality,” the article begins, “disadvantaged students, academically struggling students, and nonwhite students get fewer good teachers, concludes a new study.  And at least in Washington state, where the study was conducted, those patterns were driven primarily by differences across districts, meaning that such students were more likely to attend districts with fewer high-quality teachers than their more-advantaged, white, and/or academically capable peers.”
Advice for LAUSD Board 
Two new members took their seats on the LAUSD board on July 1 and a new president was selected.  An editorial in today’s L.A. Times suggests it now time for the entire board to put aside their differences and get down to business.  In particularly it urges them to select a new superintendent especially since Ramon Cortines announced recently he would only serve through the end of the year.  “The board also needs to move swiftly, efficiently and transparently on other fronts,” the piece additionally points out.  “It has never identified its top goals for the next two to four years, which should include realistic strategies for improving academic achievement.  It must figure out how to direct more state money to the most vulnerable students, improve middle schools and decide how it will grow its technology program.”
 
“School’s Out!”           
And finally, that may be the title of an Alice Cooper song (4:33 minutes, courtesy of YouTube) but it’s also the topic of a current photo essay on EDUCATION WEEK with pictures sent in from students, teachers and administrators representing the final days of the school year.  Any of them look like what you experienced?
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 Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Friday, July 10, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

   
“It doesn’t hurt to get more education.”
Donald Trump
LAUSD News
On July 1, two new members were sworn in and took their seats on the LAUSD school board.  Charter school founder Ref Rodriguez defeated pro-union incumbent Bennett Kayser and Scott Schmerelson ousted incumbent Tamar Galatzan in the May election.  Termed-out president Richard Vladovic and George McKenna  also took the oath of office.  The committee selected a new president, Steve Zimmer, who happens to be an adjunct professor of Urban and  Environmental  Policy  at Oxy. The board faces a number of key issues in it’s next term including selecting a new superintendent, monitoring charter schools and critical budget decisions among others according to a story in the July 2, L.A. Times.  “In coming months,” it points out, “the board will deal with an improved but limited budget, one that includes long-awaited pay raises but also layoffs.  Sweeping academic challenges also persist, including the need to revamp the college prep program so that more students graduate. The district also has yet to resolve two technology debacles: a faulty student records system and an aborted plan to provide every student, teacher and campus administrator with an iPad.”               Know what “sexting” is?  If not, I’d rather not have to explain it so I’ll leave it to you to read the article on the front-page of Tuesday’s Times about an LAUSD program to tackle the popular social media problem.  Its aim is to educate students about the ramifications of sexting rather than just punishing kids who are involved.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District,” it reports, “plans to roll out what may be the state’s most ambitious educational campaign around the issue.  Officials are creating a video, lesson plans and handouts on sexting, which they plan to distribute to all schools beginning this fall.”
2016 Election
What role should the issue of public education play in the upcoming election of 2016?  In recent races it’s taken a back seat to pressing issues like terrorism, the economy and healthcare.  The author of this piece from the Badass Teachers Association, an Ed.D. and retired educator, believes it’s time for it to take a more pivotal role.  “Public school teachers, parents and administrators,” he contends, “need to elevate the issue of how public education in this country is under siege and currently undergoing its greatest challenge for survival from the threat of privatization and high-stakes standardized testing.”
Arne Duncan
U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan wanted to engage parents regarding their rights in educating their children.  He opened up his July Twitter Chat to their comments and, boy, did he get a reaction.  Kathleen Jasper, educator and creator of the ConversationED website, provides some of the tweets he received along with her own comments about the entire event.                 It appears that U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan will remain in his cabinet post until the end of the Obama administration in Jan., 2017.  The fact that he will serve all 8 years makes him a rarity among his colleagues and during that time he has often served as a lighting rod for criticisms of the Obama education agenda.  The reporter for this story in The Washington Post takes a generally positive view of what Duncan has accomplished during his tenure leading the DoE.  “Duncan has injected an unusual amount of federal influence into traditionally local decisions about public education,” she explains.  “The result is that most Americans now accept public charter schools as an alternative to neighborhood schools, most teachers expect to be judged in some measure on how well their students perform on standardized tests, and most states are using more demanding K-12 math and reading standards.  But,” she continues, “Duncan’s policies have led to side effects that people across the political spectrum feel have hurt more than they’ve helped.  Conservatives say those closest to students — local communities — lost power to decide what’s best for them.  Liberals complain about an unhealthy focus on math and reading and about overtesting, leading to an ‘opt-out’ movement that saw hundreds of thousands of students boycott tests this spring.”

Pushback on New California Vaccination Law
No sooner did Gov. Brown sign into law legislation that eliminates religious and personal belief exemptions for parents to opt a child out of state vaccination requirements, than a movement arose to place a referendum on the ballot next year to have voters overturn it.  Former state Assemblyman and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is spearheading the action.  An L.A. Times article July 2, explains what’s going on.   “Filing a proposed statewide referendum with the attorney general is the first step in the process of placing a measure on the ballot,” it explains.  “A $200 fee, which Donnelly has submitted, is required.  The attorney general then creates an official title and summary of the referendum.  Supporters have 180 days to collect signatures from at least 365,880 registered voters for the 2016 ballot, according to the California secretary of state’s office.”
 
Charter Schools
How are charter schools faring since they were introduced in the early 1990s?  According to this commentary from BUZZFLASH the answer is not encouraging.  It’s titled “Growing Evidence Shows That Charter Schools Are Failing.”  The author takes the long view in his piece rather than just focusing on specific cases.  He cites a number of studies that highlight the lack of oversight and transparency to back-up his premise.               Did a charter school in Chicago fire 17 teachers over their involvement in a unionization drive on the campus?  That’s the charge leveled in this story from IN THESE TIMES.  “This is only the latest case of such allegedly unjust firings,” it maintains, “as more and more charter schools in Chicago and across the country are organizing to unionize despite the legal hurdles, backlash, and the common belief—at least among school management—that charter teachers don’t need unions.”               Along the same lines, Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a letter Ravitch received from a teacher in New York who was fired for her attempts to organize a union at her charter school.  The woman describes the very difficult working conditions at the New Dawn Charter High School in Brooklyn and the fact that teacher complaints and suggestions were pretty much ignored by the administration.  Her story supports the one above about the teachers at a charter in Chicago.               Are the Detroit public schools going the way of the now all-charter New Orleans District?  If Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan has his way the answer is “yes.”  And, surprisingly, the Michigan chapter of the AFT has supported the plan.  You’ll have to read the article from the World Socialist Web Site to follow all the twists and turns in this story.  “The crisis in Detroit schools,” it reports, “like those in districts across the country, stems from decades of corporate tax cuts, economic decay and the growth of social inequality. The 2008 financial crash was deliberately exploited by the Obama administration to force cash-starved districts to adopt anti-teacher measures and expand charter schools, which, in turn, divert more public resources to profit-making companies.”
Testing and Common Core
THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION offers a very simple graphic with “10 Reasons to Oppose High-Stakes Tests.”  Here’s NUMBER 6 to give you a preview: “High-stakes tests focused on Language Arts and Math have resulted in narrow instruction and curriculum that focuses on test preparation.”               Why has California, unlike some other states, seemingly embraced the Common Core State Standards and The SBAC tests that are aligned to them?  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, suggests one needs to dust off that old adage “follow the money.”  Major funding, and we’re talking over a million dollars, has been poured into the Golden State in a massive pr campaign in support of the standards and the assessments.  Where is much of that money coming from?  Answer: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Surprise!!!  “A high stakes experiment in educational collaboration is unfolding in the state of California, and I have a feeling of foreboding,”  Cody begins.  “I am afraid teachers and students in my state are like frogs in a pot that is slowly heating, and before we know it we will be cooked.  Though State Superintendent Tom Torlakson issued a statement in May renaming the state standards the ‘California Standards,’ the state remains wedded to the Common Core.  At the end of this month, there will be a full day of events bringing teachers to California State Universities to celebrate the Common Core, funded by a $1.25 million Gates Foundation grant.”              A new blog called EduResearcher raises some serious questions about the validity, reliability and fairness of standardized tests and, in particular, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exams which are being used in California.  The creator of the column is an Associate Professor in the Department of K-8 Teacher Education at San Jose State University.  She recently wrote a letter to the California State Board of Education outlining her many concerns about the tests and how they are being used.  The link above includes selections from her missive.
NEA Convention Concludes
The National Education Association wrapped up their 2015 conference on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida.  The “Teacher Beat” blog at EDUCATION WEEK offers some fairly detailed coverage of the event.  A summary of some of the more specific proposals and whether they were passed or defeated can be found by clicking here.  An overview of some of the broader issues facing the delegates was provided.  Did the conference support the opt-out movement?  You’ll need to read a third item to try to sort out the mixed messages on that critical issue.               The Badass Teachers Association NEA caucus chair reflects on the recently concluded NEA conference and the impact her group had on the gathering.  She recounts the efforts the BATS put in preparing for specific legislative proposals and the outcomes of those endeavors along with extending kudos to the many members who assisted in the work.
Ed Tech
A story in the “Business” section of Wednesday’s L.A. Times identifies the Los Angeles area as a growing hub for ed-tech start-up companies.  “Interest in ed-tech has grown as technology — and accessibility to it — has improved,” it points out.  “Supporters say ed-tech not only enhances traditional learning experiences within the classroom, but gives people the freedom to learn wherever they want, however they want.  The best-known hubs are in Silicon Valley and New York City, but the blossoming tech scene in L.A., with its strengths in animation and entertainment, has even more potential to improve how students learn, they say.              There is a growing global movement protesting the rapidly increasing control Pearson has over much of the field of education. On the HUFF POST EDUCATION BLOG Alan Singer, a social studies educator at Hofstra University, has a commentary titled “International Movement to STOP the Pearson Octopus” based on a paper he was preparing to deliver at a conference in Madrid.
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
This week the full U.S. Senate began what is expected to be lengthy debate on the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and its most recent iteration No Child Left Behind.  The current legislation is titled “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”  EDUCATION WEEK lays out what to look forward to. “Should the ESEA measure clear the Senate,” it predicts, “it’s still unclear what will happen on the other side of the Capitol.  The U.S. House of Representatives has its own reauthorization bill pending that at some point would need to be reconciled with the Senate’s bill.”               Leonie Haimson, head of the group Class Size Matters and a member of the board of THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION, wants to make sure everyone is clear about what the ECAA does and doesn’t do.  Her comments appear on Diane Ravitch’s blog.              Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 reviews the bill and reports that the Obama administration is not in favor of the legislation as currently presented in the Senate.                Carol Burris, the award-winning and now sadly retired principal of South Side High School in New York, on her Round the Inkwell blog, briefly explains why she supports ECAA.  “The federal government is not a national school board,” Burris concludes, “and Mr. Duncan is not a national superintendent.  Yes, the bill could be better (much better) but this is an important first step.  I will be contacting my Senators and asking them to support ECAA.  And if anything in that bill changes for the worse, you can be sure that I will let you (and them) know.”               Oh, oh.  Better keep a close eye on the U.S. Senate as it currently debates the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.  An amendment was neatly tucked into the legislation that will allow districts to divert federal monies meant for low-performing schools to pay financial consulting firms.  What a plum for those companies poised to reap lots of taxpayer bucks.  Why would Senators Mark Warner (R-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) do that?  [Ed note: Spoiler alert–they accept heavy campaign contributions from the financial industry.]  The details of this latest move are from the INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES.                The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly passed, by a 218-213 vote, its version of the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.  If the Senate passes a different bill a compromise will have to be worked out among the two chambers.  THE HILL does a good job of describing the key features of the House and Senate bills and where the legislation will go from here.               EDUCATION WEEK has an extensive review of the House-passed measure.              A group of civil rights organizations called the Journey for Justice Alliance addressed an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) regarding what they would like to see included and not included in the Senate’s bill to rewrite ESEA/NCLB.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post reprints the note and the long list of signatories at the end.  It includes some noteworthy suggestions that need to be considered.
 
Take it to Court
Is it possible to sue our way to better schools?  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times takes a “yes and no” approach.  It cites a couple of examples where lawsuits were able to remedy serious situations.  In regards to the Vergara case from last year that ruled tenure and seniority rights in California are unconstitutional the piece maintains that a legislative solution was a better way to go but the Democrats who hold power in both the state Senate and Assembly have failed to act.  “Lawsuits have at times been disruptive and costly, and they tend to target one issue at a time without regard for the bigger picture.  But the Democrat-controlled Legislature,” the editorial complains, “which has long been too deferential to the wishes of the California Teachers Assn., has repeatedly failed to make sensible changes that would benefit students while remaining fair to teachers.  It may take more court edicts for that to happen.”
 
Teacher Evaluations Upheld by Federal Court
A Federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Florida law that partially ties teacher evaluations to student test scores.  The three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the Sunshine state may use controversial value-added models (VAMs) for up to 50% of an instructor’s evaluation.  The “School Law” column in EDUCATION WEEK provides the details of this latest ruling.  “Several teachers and three local teachers’ unions,”  it points out, “sued the state and three districts . . . . challenging the law and its implementation on 14th Amendment due process and equal protection grounds.  The suit argued that the policies arbitrarily and illogically evaluated teachers based either on the test scores of students or subjects they did not teach.”  A federal district court had previously ruled in favor of the school districts in the case.
School Funding
What about that often-heard charge that in the U.S. we just “throw money” at the schools and seldom see any positive results?  Who usually raises that issue and what are the facts behind it?  Steven Singer on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG offers a primer on the school funding issue and attacks some myths about it along the way.              When the Great Recession was upon the land many state legislatures used the excuse that as revenues plummeted due to the poor economy school budgets had to be slashed.  Now that the economy is rebounding and state coffers are rising why is it that schools are still woefully underfunded?  Is this part of the hidden war on the public schools?  Jeff Bryant, at the Education Opportunity NETWORK, looks at how many states are still not providing adequate dollars to fund the public schools.  Of note, he explains how California is a rare exception to the rule.  “If California can do more to support public schools,” he suggests, “certainly other states can too.  Further, those states that fund schools more equitably can be held up as models for the rest of the nation, and federal authorities could pressure states to adhere to those examples in much the same way the US Department of Education has succeeded in pressuring states to adopt all kinds of measures.  The federal government could also do more to support the numerous lawsuits now being conducted against states to force them to uphold their constitutional duties to provide adequate funding for education.”
Opt-Out Movement
And finally, how effective has the opt-out movement been?  More and more state are releasing concrete statistics and the tide against taking high-stakes assessments is certainly building.  Washington state just announced that more than 1-in-4 11th graders refused to take the recent English/Language Arts portion of the SBAC exam and a slightly higher number skipped the math segment according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  It notes that those figures could be even higher.  “The high opt-out rate for a single grade drove the state’s overall participation rate below the 95-percent participation rate that the federal government requires for students eligible to be tested,” the piece explains.  “The Washington state department [of education] says that one potential consequence would be for the federal government to withhold certain funds.  But it’s not yet clear how the U.S. Department of Education will respond to Washington’s statistics, which, remember, are only preliminary, and how they’ll deal with the state as well as individual districts and schools with high opt-out rates.”
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Dave Alpert

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

 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The ED NEWS

   
[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the Independence Day Holiday.  Look for the next edition on Friday, July 10.]
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“It is hard not to feel that there must be something very wrong with much of what we do in school, if we feel the need to worry so much about what many people call ‘motivation’. A child has no stronger desire than to make sense of the world, to move freely in it, to do the things that he sees bigger people doing.”
John Holt
Rafe Esquith Reaction
The Rafe Esquith story generated the second most number of letters to the L.A. Times last week.  According to the “Numbers and letters” feature in Saturday’s paper “578 printable letters to the editor were received between last Friday and this Friday.  182 letters were about the shooting in South Carolina, the week’s most discussed topic.  41 readers wrote about the LAUSD’s treatment of teacher Rafe Esquith.   34 letters mentioned the pope’s encyclical on climate change and the environment, the third most discussed topic.”  The “Mailbag” feature in the same paper included an introductory note from the letters editor and included a sampling of comments by 3 readers regarding the LAUSD’s handling of Esquith.                The details of the Rafe Esquith story are pretty well known by now by most readers of the “Ed News.”  Here’s a case of a falsely accused LAUSD teacher who was hauled off to “teacher jail” for something he never did.  How did all this notoriety impact him and his life?  VERY seriously according to this item from the LA SCHOOL REPORT.  This is another example of why Esquith’s attorney is bringing a class-action suit against the district for denial of due process and why tenure is so important as a protection against false accusations and teacher mistreatment. 
New Research Raises Questions About Value-Added Models (VAMs)
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is one of the leading experts on VAMs.  She has written extensively about them on her VAMboozled blog and many of her pieces have been highlighted in the “Ed News.”  In a recent post she features some new research from one of her former doctoral students that sheds more light on how poorly VAMs can be used for rating the effectiveness of teachers.  The piece is titled “Evidence of Grade and Subject-Level Bias in Value-Added Measures” which happens to also be the title of her student’s paper. 
Charters, Vouchers and Testing 
The Harvard Political Review has a story headlined “The Case Against Standardized Testing.”  The author is the associate editor of the publication and an intern at the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta.  He offers a number of reasons why high-stakes assessments will not achieve what supporters claim they will but suggests that accountability is still an important issue in U.S. schools.  “Thirteen years after NCLB’s mandates were first set into place,” he believes, “the rhetoric used by politicians and pundits is sounding more and more like that which the same politicians and pundits used to endorse NCLB.  Congress would be ill advised to try to use high-stakes test-based accountability to narrow the achievement gap and expect a different result than the aftermath of the 2002 law.  It is time to acknowledge that putting an enormous amount of weight on standardized test scores does not work, and to move on to other solutions.”               The U.S. Supreme Court term comes to an end today and over the last several days the justices have announced some key, if not, landmark, decisions.  A case on the constitutionality of vouchers may be making it to the court’s docket in the near future.  on A 4-3 vote the Colorado Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a suburban district’s voucher program was unconstitutional because it allowed taxpayer money to be used to send students to parochial schools.  Douglas County said it was contemplating an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  That doesn’t automatically mean the justices would take the case but this one bears watching.  The Denver Post has the interesting details.  “Most voucher programs nationwide serve only low-income students or those with special needs,” it reviews.  “After the election of a conservative, reform-minded school board, the Douglas County district adopted a program open to all students, arguing competition will make all schools better in a district that already boasts the state’s top accreditation rating.”  The article includes the full text (58 pages) of the court’s decision for those of you who are inclined to delve deeper.                Teachers in New York are required to sign a confidentiality agreement that they won’t discuss any questions or answers or point out errors from the standardized tests until they are made public.  A new law was recently passed to address that issue.  It now says they can do those things once the materials have been made public.  Yes, you read that right.  It’s now OK to do what it was OK to do before.  An article in The New York Times mentions the latest legislation.  “The ban has been reviled by many teachers,” it points out, “who say it makes it more difficult to properly prepare students and to have informed conversations about whether the exams need to be improved.  The state teachers’ union has sued the state’s Education Department in federal court over the confidentiality agreements, saying they violate free speech.”                Peter Greene of CURMUDGUCATION blog fame, was quick to point out the absurdity of the new law and the headline The New York Times attached to the story: “State Relaxes An Order That Prohibits Teachers From Discussing Standardized Tests.”  Greene questions whether the paper understands the meaning of the term “relaxed.”  So what, exactly, has changed?  “Teachers can still talk about test items that have been released, and test manufacturers are still free to keep any parts of the test under wraps that they so choose.  So as far as the gag order goes,” he answers, “nothing has changed.”
Here’s the “Ed News” cartoon-of-the day:”
 
A reason for everything
The Teaching Profession
Teacher activism on a number of pertinent issues is not restricted to the U.S.  A story in The Atlantic surveys a number of actions taken by educators around the world to protest things like low pay, poor working conditions and status.  This item includes a series of photographs illustrating actions around the world.  “The struggle isn’t limited to American teachers,” it reports.  “Educators around the world have taken to the streets to speak out against issues such as failing schools and subpar working conditions.  The discontent seems to be particularly intense in certain countries and regions—throughout Latin America, for example—and sometimes these are the same areas where teachers’ status in society is notably low.”               Mike Klonsky’s Small Talk Blog takes on the rather curious fact that many corporate “reformers” don’t want to address the issue of class size and how it impacts student learning.  Diane Ravitch believes he’s come up with “one of the best titles ever.”  He headlines his piece “Class Size: The Common Sense Bus Doesn’t Stop On School Reform Blvd.”  If for no other reason, check out the cartoon he uses to illustrate his article.   “I’m increasingly confronted by some local, self-described school reformers,  he begins, “who minimize the effects of rising class sizes on effective teaching and learning. ‘There’s no research supporting smaller class size’, they tell me. Of course, they are wrong.”                 Florida has a new teacher pay bonus that the reporter of the article in the Tampa Bay Times mentions was sparked by some ideas in Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World which was the topic for discussion by the ALOED book club in March.  The incentive plan, rather curiously, provides $10,000 bonuses to new teachers who scored above the 80th percentile on their SAT or ACT test that they took as high school seniors as well as educators who rate as “highly effective” on their teacher evaluation.  The second half of that idea kind of makes sense but the first part seems rather dubious as a solid predictor of teaching excellence.  It should be noted that Florida did away with salary bonuses for advanced degrees and National Board certification.                 Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, was quick to react to Florida’s new bonus plan as described in the Tampa Bay Times story (see above).  “Just when you think the state of Florida can’t find another way to misuse standardized test scores, it finds a way,” she begins dismissively.  “Now, it is planning to spend $44 million to fund a scholarship program that will award big bonuses to teachers who got high SAT and ACT scores before entering college — even if they took the test decades ago.  The proposal was so flawed that it didn’t make it through the Republican-led Senate during the legislature’s spring session, but it rose from the dead in a June special session, winding up in the 2015-16 Florida education spending budget.”              One often hears that education is or ought to be “only about the kids” or is or ought to be “about the teachers.”  The author of this piece on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, writes very personally about why she thinks “Teaching is About ALL of Us.”  She has a masters in Education and is a National Board certified teacher of Visual Arts in Mississippi and gets upset when critics imply that teachers don’t really care about kids and are only in the profession for themselves.  “Rhetoric that implies teachers do not care about students because they care about their own personal lives,” she summarizes, “is destructive not only to the profession, but ultimately to students as well. The conversation should be about how to lift all of us up because we are all connected in this life.”               A 22-year teaching veteran and member of the Massachusetts Badass Teachers Association writes movingly and heartbreakingly about why she’s leaving the profession.  [Ed. note: You can probably guess why.  The “Ed News” has, unfortunately, highlighted a number of these missives from talented and caring educators and the sad thing is, the reasons they offer are astonishing in their repetitiveness.]  “I want to make myself very clear,” she intones from the outset, “I am not leaving my peers and especially the children behind.  A fight has been ignited within and I can’t ignore it.  The take over of our public schools and the regime of high-stakes test supporters, union breakers and unfair evaluations is a blatant and bold invasion of our civil rights and a damaging blow to the very principles of democracy! Our children are it’s most tragic victims.”                The U.S Supreme Court has agreed to take up a California case in its next term beginning in October that challenges the right of public unions to collect fees from non-members for representation.  The case, whose lead plaintiff is an Orange County teacher, has national implications for the continued existence of public employee unions.  The details about the case appeared on the L.A. Times website this morning.  Look for it in the print edition of the paper, possibly tomorrow.  “The case is likely to be seen as a crucial test of public employee unions, which have been under political attack in several Republican-led states,” the story explains.  “The outcome may well have a political impact as well, because these unions have been reliable supporters of the Democratic Party.”               The “School Law” column in EDUCATION WEEK has some additional details about this prospective ground-breaking case.                    
 
Election 2016
An op-ed in the Miami Herald takes a withering look at the education policies of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.  The author is a former Democratic State Senator who titles his commentary “Jeb Bush: He ‘Dumbed Down’ Florida Schools.”  Bush and many of his supporters like to point to Florida as a “model of reform.”  The author begs to differ.  “Any honest review of Bush’s education initiatives,” he maintains, “reveals a much different reality than the one promoted: a state that’s less a shining model of reform and more an example of the perils of combining excessive testing with inadequate funding.”               Paul Thomas, associate professor of education at Furman University, offers 5 questions about education that need to be asked of each and every one of the candidates for president.  They focus on the issue of inequality and how each person would address the issue.  The story appears in ALTERNET.  “In addressing education issues candidates are likely to remain trapped inside the failed accountability mindset for reforming schools — one that privileges ‘standards’ and ‘tests’ as the central means of closing the infamous achievement gap,” he writes.  “But there are better ways to approach what plagues us.  Instead of focusing merely on ‘accountability,’ presidential candidates should be challenged first to confront and then address the tremendous social and educational inequities that plague our public schools.”
 
Editorial: End School District Reserve Cap
This issue may be rather esoteric but it did draw the interest of the L.A. Times.  A Sunday editorial in the paper described what the “school reserve cap” is and suggested that it be jettisoned or modified.  In general, recent legislation has allowed school districts to squirrel away funds during boom years to use when those monies became more scarce.  At the request of some teachers’ unions in the state, a “cap” was placed on that reserve so districts wouldn’t just save the money and not spend it as needed.  The editorial concludes: “Repeal–or at lest modify–the school reserve cap.”
A Bittersweet Farewell
Carol Burris, award-winning principal at South Side High School in New York and prolific blogger, bade farewell to her 15th and final graduating class with a stirring and bittersweet oration to the senior class.  Burris is retiring at the end of this school year.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, reprints Burris’s words that are built around a quote attributed to Winnie the Pooh: ““How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
 
BREAKING NEWS: Gov. Brown Signs Vaccination Bill Into Law
And finally, today Gov. Brown signed into law one of the toughest mandatory vaccination legislation in the nation.  It eliminates previous exemptions for personal or religious beliefs.  Parents could opt their child out of the program if there is a medical condition certified by a physician.  A story about the issue was posted on the L.A. Times website mid morning today.  It will most likely appear in print tomorrow. “The governor acknowledged,” the piece notes, “that opponents of the measure expressed their positions with ‘eloquence and sincerity,’ but he decided to sign the bill into law regardless because of the benefit to public health.”
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Dave Alpert

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