Ed News, Friday, February 10, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The “Ed News” is going to take a short break to enjoy Valentine’s Day
and Presidents’ Day.  Look for the next edition on Friday, February 24.
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  “Learning is easy; misunderstanding makes it complex!” 

― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Betsy DeVos Confirmation
As the “Ed News” predicted, the main news story about the final Senate confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos appears on the front page of Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  If you missed the item that was highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of my blog you can read it by clicking here.              The Times story about the DeVos vote in the Senate (see above) drew 5 letters that appeared on the paper’s website Tuesday morning shortly after the final tally.  None of them were pleased by the result.  Interestingly, Thursday’s print edition only had 3 letters and they were slightly different.                An editorial in Wednesday’s Times excoriates Senate Republicans for not taking a principled stand against Betsy DeVos, who the paper describes as “neither qualified nor competent” for the job of Sec. of Education.  If 50 out of 52 GOPers couldn’t see clear to register a “no” vote on this nominee, what other people and policies will they not be willing to take a stand against?  “The vote Tuesday was, of course, a harbinger of bad things to come in the world of education.  But even worse,  it was a clear message from the more rational, thoughtful members of the Republican Party,” it deplores, “that we should not count on them  to stand up to Trump when his statements and actions are reckless, ill-considered or just plain dumb.  That’s very troubling; this is a particularly poor moment in history for them to surrender their independence.”             Kristina Rizga, author of the book “Mission High” (the upcoming summer selection for the ALOED Book Club), speculates about the future of federal public education policy  for MOTHER JONES under the now in place Trump/Pence/DeVos team.  She breaks her commentary into 3 broad categories. “Trump’s signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to help families move away from what he has called our ‘failing government schools’ and instead choose charter, private, or religious schools.  To do that,” it reports, “Trump could create an incentive program to encourage states to allow vouchers, lift caps on charter schools, and decrease state oversight over what kind of charter schools can be open and how they operate. In DeVos, he found a partner who has spent the past two decades doing just that in Michigan.”  You at least have to check out the photo that leads off this item.               Donna Roof is a retired high school teacher in Indiana who is “heartsick and outraged” at the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and what it will mean for public schools in the future.  She lists a number of reasons why she feels that way but adds an almost equal number of things she plans to to in response.  Her essay appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “Today,”  Roof begins, “I am heartsick and outraged…I saw 50 Senators and our Vice-President vote for a person who is highly unqualified to be our country’s Secretary of Public Education.”  She concludes: “Today, tomorrow, and every day…I will fight against the injustice being brought against public education as I heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”               The Educators of Color organization on their EDUCOLOR website issue a Press Release decrying the approval of Betsy DeVos and vowing to continue the fight for educational equity and justice.  “As an organization committed to full educational justice for students and communities who are systematically denied access to a quality public education,” it reads, “we are fully prepared to resist policies and positions put forth by this Secretary of Education and this White House, and will be vigilant in protecting the important work of USED’s Office for Civil Rights.”         Leonie Haimson, on the NYC Public School Parents website, reviews the events of the past couple of weeks regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to head the Dept. of Education (DoE) and gazes into her crystal ball to see what the future holds.  She headlines her piece “So It Happened; DeVos Was Confirmed.  What Next?”  “Surely, we will need all your activism,” she addresses readers, “in the battles to come – whether it be against the expansion of charters, the use of tuition tax credits or vouchers, or wasteful ed tech scams — all of which would divert precious resources from our public schools. Now that we’ve woken up our elected officials to the fact that parents and teachers and citizens fiercely love their public schools, and will do nearly anything to preserve, protect and support them, we must continue to speak out.”               The Chicago TEACHERS UNION (CTU) issues a Press Release stating their position that confirming Betsy DeVos to head the DoE is a “nightmare.”               Not be be outdone, UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) also quickly issued a Press Release reacting to the DeVos vote.  It reiterates many of the same sentiments as other groups and organizations cited in this section.  “We stand with our union affiliates — NEA, AFT, CTA and CFT — and with civil rights and community organizations around the country” the statement proclaims, “in strong opposition to DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education.  In mass numbers, we called Washington, DC in attempts to influence the Senate regarding DeVos – now, we will re-double our efforts in building the movement for educational justice.”                Humorist Andy Borowitz, who the “Ed News” has happily highlighted in the past, couldn’t refrain from poking fun at the idea of Betsy DeVos becoming the next Sec. of Education. His piece appears, as always, in THE NEW YORKER.  “The Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary,” Borowitz begins, “means that immigrants will be the nation’s only reliable source of educated people going forward, education experts said on Tuesday.”  Enjoy the rest of it and try not to laugh too loud.  You’ll disturb the people around you.  And please remember, it is SATIRE!               The “On California” column for EDUCATION WEEK paints a pretty bleak picture of what federal education policy will look like under Sec. DeVos.  The author extends his scenario to the impact it will have on California.  You may want to sit down before reading this one.  The cartoon that leads it off is definitely worth a gander.   “Betsy DeVos, I would hazard, doesn’t give a fig about running the traditional functions of the U.S. Department of Education,” the author suggest.  “She wants to get federal money in the hands of private school operators as fast as she can.  This includes relaxing the ban on funding scandal-ridden for profit higher education institutions.  She will say that she is for states’ rights, but what she will mean is that she favors the rights of states to use vouchers, and she will offer them every encouragement to do so.”                 Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, has an extended headline to her article: “She’s A Billionaire Who Said Schools Need Guns to Fight Bears.  Here’s What You May Not Know About Betsy DeVos.”  She’s been under a microscope since she was introduced as Trump’s choice to head the DoE on November 23.  There are lots of things you’ve probably learned about DeVos and Strauss attempts to educate you about some things you may not know about her.  Here’s just one example: “She did not support Donald Trump for most of the 2016 presidential campaign cycle.  DeVos has long been a close ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and she donated to his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.”           Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacts to the vote to confirm DeVos.  He aims his ire at both the new Sec. of Education and those Republicans who supported her.  Regarding the latter, he grumbles: “Yet only Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined all Democrats to vote against her. . . .  This is a classic example of money speaking louder than people.  DeVos is a Republican mega-donor.  She’s given $200 million to GOP candidates over the years – including many of the Senators who voted to confirm her.”                Sec. DeVos addressed DoE staff for the first time on Wednesday.  A member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) reports on what she said and what her words to the department actually mean “. . . . there were a couple of places where she let slip what her actual perspective was.  She said all children are born with innate curiosity,” the author relates, “and wanted to learn, but there were problems.  The problems were the adult humans around them who got in the way.  It doesn’t take much to figure out that the adult humans she considers in the way are teachers.  A word she could not bring herself to use.  She spoke of educators,but not in proximity to words about students.”               The satirical newspaper the ONION has a droll piece on some new policies DeVos plans to implement as head of the Dept. of Education.  Here are 2 examples from their list: “Identify at-risk students and do nothing whatsoever” and “Let low-income parents choose which one of their children gets to go to school.”  Please remember these are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.               Progressive Democrats may have lost the battle over Betsy DeVos.  However Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, sees a possible silver lining in the defeat.  He believes the long running bipartisan consensus on corporate “reform” between the GOP and moderate Democrats may have finally also died.  He cites a number of examples of how the dynamic is changing regarding charters and privatization between the two parties.  “For years, big money donors have been successful at keeping many Democratic party candidates in the charter school camp.  Opposition to DeVos may disrupt that loyalty,” he suggests is one.              CNN politics reports that a group of protesters blocked Betsy DeVos from entering the Jefferson Middle School Academy, a public campus in the District of Columbia, this morning.  [Ed. note: I have to agree with Arne Duncan and Randi Weingarten’s tweets about the incident that are included in the article.]  In addition, Diane Ravitch’s blog also condemned the action and reiterated how important it is that DeVos visit successful public schools to see how well they are doing.               OK, here’s another humorous take on Betsy DeVos.  This time it’s a short sketch (3:19 minutes) from “The Late Show” with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, presents the video with a few brief comments about it.  “On the show’s Thursday episode, Fallon ‘interviewed’ the secretary, played by comedian Jo Firestone, for a skit that attempted to show DeVos as clueless about nearly everything, including how to stand in front of a camera.  By midday Friday, more than 12 million people had viewed the bit on YouTube.”
 
House Republicans Want to Discard DoE Rules on ESSA and Teacher Prep
GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are moving quickly to attempt to abolish certain rules promulgated under the Obama administration regarding school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and teacher preparation.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews the Republican strategy and what it would mean.  “If both sets of regulations are overturned, it could have far-reaching consequences,” it maintains.  “States have been crafting their ESSA accountability plans for several months, and were doing so even before Trump won the election, with the Obama ESSA accountability rules in mind.  The Trump administration has already paused the final implementation of the accountability rules from Obama’s Education Department, but without any regulations at all, states will be in limbo and uncertain how exactly to craft state plans that pass muster with a Trump Education Department.”
 
Move to Abolish DoE Begins
Here they go again!  Republicans have long advocated the elimination of the Dept. of Education.  On the same day they voted overwhelmingly for Betsy DeVos to lead the department, a member of the House, Thomas Massie (R-KY), introduced legislation to end it.  The DoE came into existence in 1980 under Pres. Carter.  THE HILL briefly explains the bill.  [The] bill is only a page long,” it notes, “after merely stating the Department of Education would terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.  Massie believes that policymakers at the state and local levels should be responsible for education policy, instead of a federal agency that’s been in place since 1980.”
 
LAUSD School Board Races
The mostly pro-charter L.A. Times editorial board issues it’s endorsements for the 3 LAUSD board seats up for election on March 7.  Surprise, surprise, when given a choice between traditional public school advocates and pro-charter proponents, guess who they recommend?  Two of the 3 positions are held by incumbents, board Pres. Steve Zimmer (Disrict 4), who is considered pro-public schools and Monica Garcia (District 2).  The editorial, in Wednesday’s paper, favors 2 challengers who lean more towards the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  For the one open seat being vacated by Monica Ratliff they urge a vote for a current charter school math and science teacher.  Their overall theme appears to be the need for “new faces” on the LAUSD board.                 Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column for the L.A. Times, draws a connection between the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and the large amounts of money being poured into the campaigns of pro-charter advocates for the LAUSD school board (see above).  How are the two related?  He believes in both instances it’s the students who are being thrown under the bus ( and he begs your pardon for the pun).  Lopez is angry at the name of the group “LA Students for Change, Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board, 2017” that is connected to, wait for it . . . . the ubiquitous California Charter Schools Association.  He explains how the student organization was formed and refers to a nasty mailer that went out under their name attacking Zimmer (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  [That one and other mailers] would have you believe Zimmer fired good teachers while protecting bad ones, drove the district into the ground financially, and failed to root out child molesters.   Zimmer’s actual record is mixed; he has supporters, he has critics,” Lopez fairly points out.  “But distorting that record is dastardly.  And using students as a front is immoral.”
 
California Teacher Shortages
The “Ed News” has documented teacher shortages that are plaguing states nationwide.  California is not immune to that troubling trend.  A new report from the Learning Policy Institute, featured in the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK chronicles the shortage of qualified educators in particular fields and the major impact that is having on classrooms up and down the Golden State.  Fields most impacted include special education, math, science and bilingual education.  “The state has wrestled with teacher shortages for some time now, and the California-based think tank says that districts have responded to the shortages by hiring underprepared teachers, relying on substitute teachers, and assigning teachers out of their fields of preparation.  This is disproportionately happening,”the piece points out, “in schools that serve the most vulnerable students, the report found through analyzing data from California government sources. . . .  The study points to research that shows that underprepared teachers depress student achievement and have higher attrition rates.”  You can find the full report (31 pages),titled “Addressing California’s Growing Teacher Shortage: 2017 Update,” which is, by the way, co-authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, by clicking here.
 
Friedrichs vs CTA Case–The Sequel
When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly last year, the high court ended up split 4-4 on the pivotal Friedrichs vs CTA case which challenged a public union’s ability to charge members an agency fee if they wished to opt out of paying full union dues.  Because of the tie vote the decision reverted back to the appellate court ruling which favored the unions.  Experts at the time predicted a new suit would be quickly filed with the same issues.  IT’S HERE!  Yohn vs California Teachers Association,the latest attack on agency fees was filed in a Santa Ana federal court on Monday.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has the details of this newest assault on public employee unions’ ability to raise funds and remain as viable entities.  “The main difference between last year’s case and this one . . . . is simply a new set of plaintiffs,” it points out.  “The litigants also want to change the law so that the union would have to persuade teachers to opt in to membership rather than being automatically enlisted.”              Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacts to the latest iteration of the Friedrichs case (see above).  He points out that the latest suit, Yohn vs CTA, was filed by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) the same folks that brought you the original case.  “Plaintiff Yohn contends that he doesn’t need the union to negotiate for him because he can totally do better on his own.  He is 38 years old, far too old to believe in fairy tales, but personally,” Greene contends, “I would be happy to let him try.  And then I would like to sell him a bridge.   CIR expects to work their way up to the Supremes by the summer of 2018.  So dig out your old files– we’re going to literally re-litigate Friedrichs all over again, and that light at the end of the tunnel is probably the headlight of an oncoming train.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to promote “choice” as a way to improve public schools.  What if they could be convinced to direct a few of their billions of dollars into teacher-powered schools?  If you are not familiar with them they are analogous to worker co-opts in which teachers are solely responsible for creating, planning and running schools.  Wendi Pillars is a National Board-Certified teacher who has taught ELLs in grades K-12 for 20 years both in the U.S. and overseas.  Her piece for the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK is titled “So You Want to Create a Teacher-Powered School? Five Things to Know.”  She attended the Teacher-Powered National Conference in Los Angeles last month and relates 5 things she learned from it.  Here’s one example from her list: “3. Teachers must design and propose their own solutions.”
Many students are feeling fearful and unsettled in light of particular Trump administration moves regarding immigrants.  Julie Jee, in the “First Person” commentary for ED WEEK, offers some practical suggestions for “Making Sure Students Feel Safe in Uncertain Times.”  She’s a high school English and literature teacher in New York and is National Board-certified.  “Even in the best of times,” she begins, “educators put in a tremendous amount of effort to make students feel safe in their classrooms—greeting students at the door, joking around about a potential snow day, asking about a recent swim meet, offering a shoulder to cry on after a family tragedy.”               This may seem intuitive but a recent study found a direct correlation between positive teacher evaluations and job satisfaction.  This may only apply to educators in Tennessee among whom the investigation was conducted.  The research was done by analysts at the Vanderbilt University and the University of Missouri and is featured in the “Teacher Beat” column for ED WEEK.  “Job satisfaction,” it maintains, “is directly related to a teacher’s choice to stay in the profession.  Past research shows that 25 percent of teachers who leave the profession say that job dissatisfaction is the reason.”               How do the individual states rate when it comes to average pay for teachers and where does California fall on the list?  Another “Teacher Beat” essay for ED WEEK provides answers to those always intriguing questions based on a new study from GoBankRates.  Alaska and New York are number 1 and 2 for paying the highest salaries; Mississippi and Oklahoma pay the lowest.  “A salary on the high end doesn’t necessarily mean easy living,” it notes.  “The authors show, for instance, that the average salary in California of $72,050 ‘is just a tad under the amount of money needed to live comfortably in [the state].’  What’s more, a starting teacher’s salary would be much less, closer to $40,000 per year, according to the California Department of Education.”  Read the article and check out the interactive map of average salaries and the link to a tool for comparing cost of living in various cities and states (from CNN Money).  You can find the full report, with the interactive map and individual state numbers listed alphabetically in little boxes under the map, titled “Here’s How Much Teachers Make in Every State” by clicking here.               The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) recently posted this question to the group’s Facebook page:  “Why did you become educators?”  Two of the members combed through the responses and posted them on the organization’s website.  Here’s one of the replies they received:“I became a teacher to make the world a better place.  I want to inspire people to really see the world around them and care enough to understand the importance of protecting this planet. Over the years that has evolved in practice, but it seems to matter more than ever right now.” – Amy Bebell
 
Trump on Education
More “alternate facts” emanating out of the Trump White House?  Senior Presidential counselor, Kellyanne Conway, stated in an interview with CNN, that Pres. Trump is going to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal Common Core.  One small problem: he can’t, according to the “K-12 Politics” column for EDUCATION WEEK which explains in detail (again) why the president doesn’t have the power to repeal the Standards despite what he and the administration believes.  “As we’ve reported previously, states adopt content standards like the common core—the federal government doesn’t get to choose for them,” it reiterates.  “Washington also didn’t write the common core. There was intense debate during President Barack Obama’s administration about whether Washington improperly coerced states into adopting the common core through programs like Race to the Top grants. But regardless of that debate, the president by himself doesn’t have the authority to scrap the standards with the stroke of a pen.”
 
Korean War Vet Earns High School Diploma at Age 83
Enough of this depressing, negative, nasty news.  Time for a real heartwarming education story.  I know they seem few and far between these days which makes them so welcome when they materialize.  Norm Johnson was a lad of 17 when he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and was sent to fight in the Korean War.  The “Education Watch” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times catches you up on all the inspiring details of his life and the ultimate awarding of his high school diploma 67 years after he joined the military.  “After amassing personal experiences that could rival Tom Hanks’ character Forrest Gump in the 1994 film,” it relates, “Johnson will receive what he describes as an important accolade Wednesday when he gets an honorary diploma from the San Diego County Office of Education and Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project.”
 
Charter Schools
And finally, a member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) from Michigan describes how the charter system works in that state and suggests “You Don’t Want DeVos Style Charters in Your State.”  “Charters [in Michigan] do not have to hire certified teachers.  They do not have to accept any student they don’t want.  There are no lottery procedures. They get parents to enroll by promising them free laptops.  Then they feed the children computer instruction with little adult interaction.  Or their management companies create textbooks and software and make a profit by selling it to themselves at an inflated price.  Charters also get tax write offs for their real estate deals.  Which by the way, they pay for out of their school state aid.”
 
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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, February 7, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “The main element of true reconciliation is the public education system.” 

― Nilantha Ilangamuwa*

Breaking News: Senate Confirms DeVos
The U.S. Senate voted this morning to confirm the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos to become the next head of the Dept. of Education.  Members voted 50-50 with 2 Republicans, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), joining all 48 Democrats in voting “no.”  Per Senate rules the tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence acting in his role as President of the Senate.  A story appears on the L.A. Times website this morning reporting on the action.  [Ed. note: It will most likely materialize on the front page in the print edition of the paper tomorrow.]  “DeVos squeaked through the confirmation process on Tuesday,” the story reports, “with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence and the participation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose own confirmation vote for attorney general was scheduled after DeVos’ to ensure his vote would be available.  It was the first time a vice president’s tie-breaking vote was needed to confirm a presidential Cabinet appointment.”  If you’d like to watch the final vote (24:22 minutes) you can view it via a PBS Newshour livestream on YouTube by clicking here.               Diane Ravitch’s blog quickly reacted to the Senate vote on DeVos.  Ravitch was appalled by the action but viewed it as a call to arms for activists who made a major push to derail the nomination.  “The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education,” she rails, “is an outrageous insult to the millions of people who send their children to public schools, to the millions of students who attend public schools, to the millions of educators who work in public schools, and to the millions of people–like me–who graduated from public school.”                The NPE (Network for Public Education) issued a Press Release decrying the approval of Betsy DeVos.  It announced that their campaign to fight school privatization was beginning immediately.  “The Network for Public Education will expand its Grassroots Network, and will roll out reports, advisories and toolkits,”  it promises, “to help policymakers and parents better understand the dangers of school privatization. In the months ahead, NPE will lead both state and national campaigns.”  If you’re not already actively involved, are you ready to join?  The NPE is holding their annual conference in Oakland this year.  Save the date and start making your plans now:
 
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The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reports on the DeVos confirmation.  It reviews the massive campaign against her nomination and lists some of her supporters “It’s an open question whether DeVos can make the transition from highly divisive nominee to effective leader of the U.S. Department of Education,” it speculates. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, said during a 24-hour debate preceding the vote that DeVos would enter the department a hobbled education secretary.”              The same column in ED WEEK (see above) has a handy scorecard listing certain groups and individuals who are “Thrilled,” “Upset” or “Neutral” about DeVos’ victory.  It includes a short quote from the organization or person reacting to the vote.  “Check out [the] statements from organizations across the political spectrum,” it invites, “some of which were released just seconds after her confirmation Tuesday.  They range from the press release equivalent of ‘woo-hooo!’ to the despondent.”
THE HECHINGER REPORT predicts a “New Era of Education Passion, Protest and Politics Will Follow DeVos Confirmation.”  It looks ahead to what might be a new activist period and a renewed focus on education issues.  ” If nothing else, the historic confirmation of billionaire Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s education secretary,” it suggests, “ushers in a new champion for public education: The public.  Education, as it often does, took a back seat during the heated and closely contested election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Not anymore.”              Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, believes DeVos’ win is a big victory for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  The ED WEEK item above included Bush in its “Thrilled” column in regards to DeVos’ confirmation.  “Bush was the early leader of the corporate school reform movement — treating public schools as if they were for-profit businesses — turning Florida into a testing ground when he became governor of the state in 1999. He created a ‘Florida Formula’ of school reforms,” Strauss writes, “that became a model for other states, including state ‘report cards’ that assign letter grades to schools based largely on test scores and widespread school choice right after he became governor in 1999.”
 
Betsy DeVos
[Ed. note: All of the items in this section were written prior to the final Senate vote confirming Betsy DeVos.]
Another billionaire backer of charter schools came out in opposition to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation to head the Dept. of Education (DoE).  He is Silicon Valley venture capitalist Arthur Rock and his announcement followed by one day that of Eli Broad who is also resisting her selection.  The reasons for Rock’s position are explored in an article in FORBES. Rock is a well-known supporter of school “choice.”  [He] is an active philanthropist in education reform.  From 2006 to 2008,” the account mentions, “Rock contributed $16.5 million to Teach for America.  He also donated $1.5 million to Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), the country’s largest network of charter schools.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, carefully reads the responses Betsy DeVos provides to a number of written questions regarding education submitted by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA).  Schneider reports on DeVos’s answers related to special education and how private schools should provide services to pupils with disabilities.  They offer some rather eye-opening insights into DeVos’ knowledge and awareness (or lack thereof) of federal law in this area.  [DeVos] does not respond,” Schneider complains, “to the idea of supporting efforts to require that private schools that receive public funding provide the same rights and protections that traditional public schools must offer to the parents of children with disabilities.”               Time to lighten things up a bit.  Humorist Andy Borowitz has a hilarious piece about Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, Frederick Douglass and Black History Month in his comedy column in THE NEW YORKER, “THE BOROWITZ REPORT.”  You’ll just have to read it to get the connection. It’s short and if it doesn’t bring at least a smile to your face, you are beyond hope.                Rachel Maddow, on her eponymous “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC Friday evening, delves deeply into a number of issues surrounding Betsy DeVos and her confirmation vote.  Maddow reviews the controversial investment DeVos insists on keeping for the biofeedback company Neurocore that makes some unsubstantiated claims about curing autism, ADHD and other conditions in children; why the vote on DeVos was been delayed; the massive number of constituent calls jamming Senate phone lines and fax machines; a ham and pineapple pizza sent to one senator’s office when the voter couldn’t get through on the phone and campaign donations from DeVos to a number of Republican senators who are voting on her nomination.  Maddow has 2 segments on DeVos (15:02 minutes and 8:15 minutes).  Stick with the first one even though it appears to begin as a Food Channel piece.                The volume of opposition to DeVos has turned into an “avalanche” according to a story from POLITICO.  It’s not just the teachers unions who are so vehemently against her nomination.  Parents, teachers, celebrities and community members have jammed senate phone and fax lines and sent thousands of tweets and emails urging a “no” vote on her confirmation.  “The campaign kicked into high gear [last] week,” the article points out, “after two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their opposition, leaving the charter schools advocate hanging by a 50-50 thread.  Just one more ‘no’ vote and DeVos is done — a prospect that seems tantalizingly close for Democrats but that GOP leaders say they’re confident won’t happen.”               CAPITAL & MAIN reports on a little known characteristic exhibited on occasion by Betsy DeVos.  It seems she can be rather vindictive, especially towards Republicans who cross her, when it comes to pushing her right wing education agenda.  The author of the piece uses a bill in the Michigan legislature dealing with schools in Detroit as his case study of how DeVos can act when opposed by fellow Republicans.  “The bottom line for Michigan Republicans — and perhaps for GOP representatives anywhere — is that you cross or ignore DeVos and her educational crusade,” he concludes, “at your own peril.”               All the controversy and opposition surrounding the DeVos nomination boils down to a simple question.  If confirmed, can she be an effective Sec. of Education?  Peter Cunningham, the author of a commentary for THE HECHINGER REPORT, should be familiar with the inner workings of the job as he served as press secretary to former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan from 2009-12.  He offers some advice to DeVos should she inherit the position.  “Many progressive reformers oppose DeVos, but they also know that the real work of improving schools and helping kids has to move forward, regardless of who is running the U.S. Department of Education.  But the first move is hers.  If DeVos doubles down on vouchers,” he warns, “as Trump has promised, she will spend the next four years on defense.  If, on the other hand, she signals a more open mind on equity and accountability, she will find partners willing to look past the rhetoric and actually get something done for kids.”               Supporters of DeVos are fighting back with hundreds of thousands of dollars of paid ads now appearing on the airwaves attacking “extreme liberals” for their opposition and claiming it’s part of a sexist campaign against the poor billionaire philanthropist.  Valerie Strauss, in her blog for The Washington Post, profiles the 11th hour defense being organized to save Pres. Trump’s nominee.  You can view one of the 30 second ads being run in support of DeVos in the article.  “Although supporters of DeVos blame the opposition on Democrats and the two teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, critics come from the political spectrum.  Some conservative Republicans oppose her in part because they say she supports the Common Core State Standards,” Strauss chronicles, “though she says she doesn’t; she is a strong ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush who was a big Core supporter for years.  Parents with children with disabilities have come out against her, saying they don’t believe she will protect their interests, and many school choice supporters, such as billionaire Eli Broad, who would have been expected to support her are in fact opposing her, saying they don’t think she believes in public education.  She says she does.  Hundreds of students and graduates from the Christian college she attended, Calvin College, wrote against her nomination too, saying she isn’t qualified and didn’t care enough about public schools.”  Strauss even mentions the ham and pineapple pizza ploy used by a voter in Utah to get through to her senator that Rachel Maddow references in her segment on MSNBC (see above).               Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, very carefully parses the wording of one of the commercials being run on behalf of DeVos (see above).  She finds one sentence particularly revealing in her analysis.  “The ads, put out by a group run by former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal” Strauss suggests, “are what you’d expect from a pro-DeVos ad: Democrats angry that Trump won can’t stand her, and her opponents don’t want equal opportunity education for all students like she does. But there’s wording at the end that is interesting.”            Is Betsy DeVos providing “alternate facts” when it comes to graduation rates at some virtual, online charters?  In answer to a written question submitted by Senate HELP Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA), DeVos furnished a number of such schools with graduation rates over 90%.  Only problem was those figures were not true!  NPR called it “Betsy DeVos’ Graduation Rate Mistake.”  I’d call it something that’s not as civil.  “DeVos built an argument for virtual charter schools on language apparently taken — without citation — from a report written by a for-profit company with a huge stake in the industry.  In the process, DeVos either knowingly or unwittingly mischaracterized the official graduation rates of virtual schools,” it concludes, “making them look more successful than they are and making online learning, in general, look like a reliable pathway to student success when research suggests it is anything but.”  Anyone have any idea why she might do that?  Just asking.               Andy Borowitz has a humorous take on the Betsy DeVos nomination (see THE NEW YORKER item above).  Actress and comedian Melissa McCarthy takes on the role of Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer for a hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live (8:06 minutes).  I only mention it because it includes a very brief appearance by SNL regular Kate McKinnon poking fun at DeVos (it runs for less then a minute starting at around the 5:50 mark).  You can view the very funny segment on YouTube by clicking here.                Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, has some background information about DeVos’ testimony as it relates to the SNL bit (see above).  Diane Ravitch’s blog also featured the Sean Spicer spoof.                Betsy DeVos has had her greatest impact on education in her home state of Michigan.  That’s why the Detroit Free Press’ editorial against her nomination is so compelling.  It’s titled “U.S. Senate Must Reject DeVos Appointment.”  “Make no mistake: A vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education is a vote to end public education in this country as we know it. . . .  DeVos is unqualified in every respect,” it says bluntly, “to serve as head of this critical department, and the U.S. Senate must vote Tuesday to reject her nomination.”               The author of an opinion piece for THE HECHINGER REPORT is an associate professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.  She fears that if Betsy DeVos becomes the next Sec. of Education that due to her promotion of charters, choice and vouchers, one of the first casualties will be educational equity.  “School choice as the sole vehicle for promoting equity,”  the author claims, “will instead contribute to racial segregation and further divide us.  This is the wrong choice for our nation’s education system. Betsy DeVos promotes a vision for society that outwardly extols the idea of equity but in reality does little to ensure it.”               Despite all the complications pertaining to Betsy DeVos’ testimony, financial disclosures and responses to written queries, 2 experts believe a strong ethical case can be made against her.  Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, co-authors of the piece for THE HILL, served as chief ethics lawyers for Pres. Obama and Pres. George W. Bush, respectively.  Both now work for the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  “As former ethics counsels to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, we’ve reviewed more than our share of ethics filings for cabinet nominees,” they relate.  “Seldom have we seen a worse cabinet-level ethics mess than that presented by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary.”  They proceed to provide chapter and verse to bolster their unfavorable assessment.                Dr. Michael Flanagan, member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), believes the campaign to oppose Betsy DeVos, win or lose,  can be used as a template for other activists around the country.  He’s created an “Activist’s Rosetta Stone” that lays out a detailed plan of how to protest various actions and policies “The groundswell of organized opposition against DeVos is a positive for all other resistance movements.  It is something to build on,” Flanagan recommends.  “It is a way in which we can begin to coalesce, to open up the lines of communication between disparate social and political constituencies.”               Senate Democrats engaged in a round-the-clock stalling tactic by talking all last night and into the early hours this morning in a last-ditch attempt to find one more Republican to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos.  Kamala Harris, the junior Senator from California, was one of the prominent participants.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes the Democratic action.
 
Gender Roles and Perceptions 
The “Science File” feature in yesterday’s L.A. Times reports on the findings from a new study in the journal Science into how young children view gender roles and their perceptions of when and if boys and girls are characterized as “brilliant.”  The research holds some interesting implications for teaching and learning in the early elementary school years. “[The] new study finds that 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to think members of their own gender can be brilliant — and they’re more likely than boys to shy away from activities requiring that exceptional intelligence,” the article points out.  “That’s a serious change from their attitudes at age 5, when they’re just as likely as boys to think their own gender can be brilliant, and just as willing to take on those activities for brilliant children.”
 
LAUSD School Board Race Already Getting Nasty
The L.A. municipal primary election isn’t until March 7, but that hasn’t prevented opponents of LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer from sending out a scurrilous mailer accusing the incumbent of all sorts of terrible things–all untrue.  [Ed. note: I reside in Zimmer’s 4th District, which runs from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley, and received a copy of the mailer in question.]   The piece of campaign literature is described in a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  Is that half color/half black and white picture of Zimmer’s face a takeoff of the Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer?”  Did Zimmer really propose the disastrous “i-Pad for all” program?  Those are all ideas baldly implied in the brochure.  “Zimmer is running for reelection in the March 7 municipal primary against Nick Melvoin, Allison Holdorff Polhill and Gregory Martayan.  The mailer is the product of political consultant John Shallman, on behalf of a political action committee that took the name ‘LA Students for Change.’  Three of seven board seats are on the ballot,” the article explains, “in an election that could tip the balance between allies of the teachers union and allies of charter schools.”                The Argonaut is a local Westside weekly paper with “Local News & Culture” articles.  [Ed. note: I live within its circulation area and read it regularly.]  The current, Feb. 2nd edition, has a feature on the crucial District 4 LAUSD school board race featuring incumbent Steve Zimmer and 3 challengers.  It discusses the huge sums of money being contributed in an attempt to unseat Zimmer (see above).  A second debate among the 4 candidates was held at Loyola Marymount University last night.  A previous forum took place in Venice.  The article briefly profiles the contenders for the seat.  It’s titled “School Choice Drives Big Money Race.”  “The last time Westside voters were choosing who would represent them on the LAUSD board,” it begins, “former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg catapulted a local election onto the national stage by pumping more than $1 million into campaigns supporting school choice reformers — and opposing incumbent Steve Zimmer.  Four years later, it’s former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s turn to give Zimmer a run for his money.  Earlier this month, Riordan contributed $1 million to the independent expenditure committee ‘L.A. Students for Change Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board 2017,’ setting the stage for what could become the most expensive school board race in the country.”
 
U.S. Sec. of Education No Longer as Powerful as Before
When Betsy DeVos takes over the helm of the Dept. of Education, she will discover that her powers have been diminished in comparison to previous holders of that job.  The reason: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which became law in December, 2015, according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “As education secretary, DeVos would have a hard time pushing states and districts in significant new directions that local leaders wouldn’t want to take,” it spells out, “in part because of the restrictions in ESSA, the latest edition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
Are some unscrupulous charter school operators simply using students and schools as a way to scam taxpayers into funding their real estate deals that yield said operators millions of personal profits?  A group called Arizonans for Charter School Accountability, founded by retired educator Jim Hall, has a Press Release out on just this topic as it relates to the Grand Canyon State.  He delves into the business dealings of the Leona Group LLC and its serious lack of transparency and accountability (a constant refrain with these types of schools) when it comes to its charter school activities.  The Press Release includes links to several reports Hall’s group has created on the subject.  “There is an appalling lack of transparency for charter school operations in Arizona,” Hall states.  “Legislation is essential requiring the Auditor General to monitor charter school spending.  Tax funds should be going to children in the classroom not to management fees, profits, and real estate purchases.”                 Gary Rubinstein’s blog takes a look at some “alternate facts” regarding how well charter schools are performing in Betsy DeVos’ home state of Michigan.  With the Super Bowl being played on Sunday, he rather appropriately headlines his essay “The Detroit Lyin’s.”  “While it is common knowledge that Michigan’s NAEP rankings have gone from the middle of the pack down to the bottom 10 in the time that DeVos has supported her style of education reform there,” he maintains, “there are still people out there writing about a Detroit miracle.”               Pres. Obama tried to improve public schools with a $7 billion program called School Improvement Grants (SIGs).  A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a study by the U.S. Dept. of Education that reported the SIG program made very little improvement in reading and math scores.  The Trump/Pence/DeVos team would like to divert $20 billion of federal funds into a voucher plan for interested states. What are the chances that might succeed in improving public schools?  Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank in New York City, believes vouchers are not the answer.  He makes a strong argument that spending federal dollars to develop special magnet and other programs can lure middle-class families back to struggling campuses.  This will aid in the integration of those schools and increase academic performance.   Kahlenberg offers some ways to achieve this and cites several cities where it’s been done.  His comments appear in The Atlantic. [Former Sec. of Education under Obama, Arne] Duncan has since acknowledged that failing to tackle segregation is one of his greatest regrets.  Educators have long known that reducing poverty concentrations of children,” Kahlenberg argues, “improves their chances of success; today, as my colleague Halley Potter highlighted late last year, 100 school districts and charter schools are acting on that knowledge.  High-poverty schools are 22 times less likely to be consistently high-performing as low-poverty schools, according to a study by the economist Douglas Harris of Tulane University.”
 
School Trip to Yosemite Brings Back More Than Students Bargained For
A field trip for a group of 190 7th graders at John Adams Middle School (Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District) took a turn for the worse when the pupils returned to their campus from their 5-day trip on Jan. 27 and an outbreak of a highly contagious norovirus ensued.  The school was closed on Friday as crews attempted to thoroughly clean classrooms and other facilities.  An item in Saturday’s L.A. Times details the students’ trip and the onset of the illness among pupils and staff at the school.  “Norovirus is a contagious organism that can be spread through contaminated food or water and human interaction,” it notes, “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . .  Those infected typically experience inflammation of the stomach and intestines as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.”
 
Marshall High Wins LAUSD Super Quiz
Sunday was the Super Bowl but it’s also Academic Decathlon season and  Marshall High, located in Los Feliz, won the Super Quiz portion of the LAUSD competition on Saturday at the Roybal Learning Center downtown.  In a separate L.A. County event, the winner was South Pasadena High.  The topic for this year’s competition was World War II.  The state competition will take place in Sacramento next month with the the national championship occurring in April in Madison , Wisconsin.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “Each school team comprises nine students: three with grade-point averages of 2.99 or lower; three with GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74 and three with 3.75 or higher,” it explains.  “The county competition involved 43 official teams and 17 junior teams from 26 school districts.  In L.A. Unified, 62 teams participated.  The state competition will take place in March in Sacramento.  Teams from L.A. Unified schools have claimed 17 national titles since 1987.”
 
Election 2016
And finally, a bill was introduced in the California Assembly to require that history textbooks discuss Russian hacking of the presidential election of Nov., 2016.  An editorial in today’s L.A. Times takes a dim view of the idea.  “One state lawmaker,” it grumbles, “has offered a solution to the problem that is not actually a solution: mandating that this incident be included California’s public school history textbooks so that schoolchildren forevermore will learn about it.  Given how much we don’t know about the hacking — including whether it turned the election and made Donald Trump president — what would be the point?””
 
*Nilantha Ilanguamuwa is the editor and the founder of the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he’s also an editor of Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, a bi-monthly print magazine published by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission) based in Hong Kong and DIGNITY (The Danish Institute Against Torture) based in Denmark.
                                     .                                                                       http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                   

Ed News, Friday, February 3, 2017

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                    
 “The walls of the school can’t stop the education.”

― Tanmaya Guru

Betsy DeVos
The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews  the Senate vote on Tuesday that sent DeVos’ nomination to the Senate floor and offers a preview of what’s to come. “Compared to past nominees, DeVos has proven to be a controversial one.  Democrats, the two national teachers’ unions, and other left-leaning interest groups had kept up a steady drumbeat against DeVos before her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing.  But opposition to DeVos intensified after that hearing,” it mentions, “in which DeVos said she may have been confused about whether there was a federal law governing students in special education. Her remarks about guns in school and her exchange with Franken about measuring proficiency versus growth also drew criticism. And she denied any role in a family foundation that donated to several organizations senators found suspect, despite a paper trail indicating the contrary.”               The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Committee dropped the niceties and went “to war” over the vote on DeVos.  So reports Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) removed the gloves as the panel’s session commenced.  “Ahead of the vote on DeVos, the most controversial education secretary nominee since the Education Department was created in 1979, Alexander and Murray each gave opening remarks,” Strauss writes, “that made clear the era of bipartisanship on the panel is over — at least for now and possibly for some time.”               DeVos was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a strict 12-11 party-line vote.  Her nomination now goes to the full Senate for an “ay” or “nay” decision.  The Senate has 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Dems.  If all Democrats vote against her selection, as is expected, at least 3 Republicans will have to join them in order to send her down to defeat.  In case of a 50-50 tie, Vice Pres. Mike Pence, acting in his roll as President of the Senate, gets to break the tie.  2 GOP Senators announced on Wednesday that they plan to vote against DeVos.  A fascinating article in POLITICO details the ins and outs of the confirmation process and DeVos’ in particular.  If you have any interest in the possibility of DeVos becoming the next Sec. of Education you have to read this and stay tuned for any future developments.  “Both Republican and Democratic senators,” the story concludes, “say they’ve been flooded with thousands of phone calls, emails and letters related to DeVos’ nomination — mostly in opposition.”  The piece includes a very brief video (37 seconds) with comments from the 2 GOP Senators who are opposing her.               Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post explores why Betsy DeVos is such a divisive figure as she attempts to become the next leader of the Dept. of Education (DoE).  Strauss provides an interesting list of the full Senate votes for all the previous Sec. of Education nominees.  All but one were nearly unanimous.  So what is different in DeVos’ case? “Certainly DeVos’s nomination has come at a time of deep divisions in the country,” Strauss suggests, “underscored by Trump’s election and the protests that have erupted over his policies in the short time he has been commander in chief.  But the opposition to DeVos is less about politics and more about her vision for the future of American education.”              As Betsy DeVos’ final confirmation vote approaches in the Senate [Ed. note: I’m privy to some inside Senate information as my brother is on the staff of one of the Democratic U.S. Senators.  He reports the final vote on the DeVos confirmation will take place on Monday or Tuesday–remember you read that here first] there is the possibility that she might win the battle after all.  If that’s the case (dread the thought) what damage might she do as part of the Trump/Pence team?  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK attempts to answer that question in a story titled “What Could Betsy DeVos Really Get Done as Education Secretary?”  The author uses a Q & A format to answer that important query.  Here are two of the questions she addresses: Could DeVos privatize public education?” and   Could DeVos get rid of the Common Core State Standards or tell states which tests to use?  Read the article to get answers to those and several other questions.                You may want to sit down before reading this next item.  Billionaire LA. philanthropist and ardent charter proponent Eli Broad, who has talked about trying to include up to 50% of LAUSD students in charters, came out with a blistering rebuke of Betsy DeVos’ qualifications to become the next Sec. of Education.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times details this unexpected turn of events and the reasons why Broad finds her “unprepared and unqualified.”  “Broad sent a letter to U.S. senators Wednesday, asking them to vote against President Trump’s nominee. . . .  Broad has contributed heavily through a political action committee to local school board candidates,” it explains, “who support charter schools, and his philanthropic group is backing an effort to increase their growth in Los Angeles, which already has more such schools than any other city in the U.S.   But despite their agreement on charter schools, Broad thinks DeVos’ views are too extreme.”               L.A. based billionaire Eli Broad may be a local figure but his influence is felt nationwide argues Valerie Strauss in her blog for The Washington Post.  “This is more than just one billionaire school activist who believes in school choice going against another billionaire school activist who believes in school choice.  It reveals a deep split in the movement to improve public education with corporate-style changes that seek to run schools like businesses and want to greatly expand alternatives to traditional public schools. . . .  His opposition underscores what has been obvious for some time: that the opposition to DeVos goes far beyond the teachers unions,” she maintains, “which have funded some of the campaign against her. Teachers, parents, students and other DeVos critics have staged protests, signed petitions and besieged the offices of U.S. senators with visits, phone calls and messages urging them to oppose her.”            Diane Ravitch appears on the REAL news network to talk about the latest developments regarding the Betsy DeVos confirmation.  You can view the video (13:54 minutes) by clicking here.               Both Republican senators from North Carolina, Richard Burris and Thom Tillis, have been inundated with phone calls demanding they vote both for and against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation.  Despite the response from constituents, both are expected to support her when the full Senate takes its final vote.  The Charlotte News & Observer describes the extensive pro- and anti-DeVos campaigns in the Tar Heel State.  “Other Republican lawmakers experienced heavy call volumes,”  it spells out.  “Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, in a tweet, advised his constituents to email him instead of calling his office.  The public feedback has been so intense some North Carolinians say they ran into full voicemail boxes or their messages went unreturned.”               Do phone calls, emails, tweets, letters and personal contacts have any effect on government representatives?  Good question.  A story in THE Nation tells the tale of how large numbers of public activists in Alaska got Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to buck her party, big time, and come out against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos.  “Murkowski, who had voted as a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee member to advance the DeVos nomination, then stunned the Senate by announcing that she would vote ‘no’ when the full Senate considers Trump’s choice.  The Murkowski switch,” it discloses, “is a testament to the power of the grassroots resistance to Trump and to his cabinet picks.”  So, yes, those calls, emails, tweets, etc., do make a difference.  Keep that in mind the next time you’re bothered by something one of your representatives did or said.  They do listen.               Could Betsy DeVos’ religious beliefs and views about science influence her ideas on teaching and curriculum if she become the head of the DoE?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, explores those thoughts.  “Recent revelations in major news outlets should raise alarms about DeVos’s views on science and how they may influence her decision-making on national education policy.  In her charitable giving, her financial investments, and the rhetoric she uses to express her intentions as secretary,” he worries, “DeVos has exhibited a propensity to favor beliefs ground in quack science over the real thing.”               THE HUFFINGTON POST has a list of the 23 Republican senators (out of 52) who received direct campaign contributions and how much they got from Betsy DeVos and her family.  Those very same senators will be voting on the DeVos confirmation very soon.  Does that raise eyebrows with you?  “The nomination of billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education is one vote shy of failing in the Republican-controlled Senate. One thing that could come to her aid,” the story begins, “is that she and the entire DeVos family are massive Republican Party donors who helped fund the election of the remaining senators who will decide her fate.”               Steven Singer is pretty disgusted by the prospect of Betsy DeVos becoming Sec. of Education.  Writing on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, he believes Republicans have not only put up someone who is “unprepared and unqualified” (as Eli Broad characterized her) but they have put forward a person who is simply the “highest bidder” for the job (see item above).  “It is next to impossible to claim that her nomination is moving forward based on merit,” he declares unhappily.  “Our children will be left vulnerable to the whims of a woman who has no idea what she’s doing and has demonstrated a desire to destroy their schools.  If Republicans (and Democrats) have any spine at all, the time has come to show it.  Or else just take your dirty money and shut up.”               If Betsy DeVos is confirmed to become the new Sec. of Education, how might her policies protect LGBTQ students?  Sarah Kate Ellis, the author of a commentary for EDUCATION WEEK, is the president and CEO of GLAAD, a private media monitoring organization funded by LGBTQ people in the media. She has her concerns about DeVos based on the billionaire philanthropist’s religious beliefs and charitable donations.  “In the past, DeVos has stood with those who hurt LGBTQ students and families.  Millions of fair-minded Americans and education advocates are watching now to see if she’ll truly support equality for every student.  I have my doubts,” Ellis concludes, “but I hope she surprises us all.”               What fundamental tenets should presidents seek in selecting candidates to become secretaries of education?  Kevin Kumashiro recently stepped down as dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco and is the founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity.  He was not real happy with Pres. Obama’s selection of Arne Duncan to head the DoE and we all know how that turned out.  Kumashiro, is equally disturbed by Pres. Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos to head the same department.  In an essay for ED WEEK titled “How to Pick a Better Ed. Secretary Than Betsy DeVos,” he gladly offers 4 guiding principles for choosing better candidates to fill the position.  Here’ one example: “Third, develop and implement policies, laws, and reform initiatives by building on a democratic vision for public education and sound educational research.”               Despite what DeVos supporters would have you believe, opposition to her nomination is not exclusively the work of the big national teachers unions.  Challengers who want to see her confirmation derailed are both broad and deep as reported by Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post who notes that even the magazine “Teen Vogue” has run articles against DeVos.  “Whatever you think of the NEA and the AFT,” she writes, “the ‘it’s the unions’ mantra of DeVos supporters suggests that they can’t fathom that any American not carrying the teachers unions’ water could have personal, legitimate reasons to oppose her.”               
 
LAUSD News
Tuesday’s “Ed News” highlighted an article on the L.A. Times website about a group of former educators from the Celerity Educational Group (LAUSD) complaining about a lack of resources for their classrooms.  It appears on the front page of Wednesday’s Times.  If you missed it the first time, you can read it by clicking here.               The story about Celerity Educational Group shortchanging students on essential materials and supplies (see item above) prompted a single letter that appears in today’s paper.  The author concludes her reply with this: “The more charter schools open, the less money your local public school has.  And the public schools have to take every kid.  I trust a public school to adhere to the law.  Who knows what some charter school will do?               Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column in the Times has two bones to pick about recent education issues.  The first one has to do with the raid on the local headquarters of the Celerity Educational Group charter network (see first item in this section) and the large sums of money paid to the Celerity CEO and spent on lavish parties and other non-classroom expenses while students went without paper, pencils, books and other essential items.  His second bête noire has to do with some outrageous mailers aimed at defeating LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer.  [Ed. note: I live in Zimmer’s 4th District, which extends from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley, and I, too, received a number of brochures in the mail this week with some serious and totally unsubstantiated charges leveled against the incumbent.]  Lopez refers to this behavior as “gutter politics.”   “My advice is the same as it has always been.  This election season, when mailers arrive in your mailbox,” he suggests, “shred them, burn them, throw the ashes in the street and run over them with your car.  Twice.  You’ll be much better informed come election day.”               The Chief Financial Officer of the LAUSD, Megan Reilly, is leaving her post to take a similar position, at a higher salary, with the Santa Clara County Office of Education.  Reilly, who began working for the LAUSD in 2007 will assume her new post in April according to a story in Wednesday’s Times.  “In going to Santa Clara,” it points out, “she will oversee a sizable organization with an annual budget of $348 million, but it pales next to L.A. Unified, whose general fund is $7.6 billion.”           The 2015-16 school year was the first in which all LAUSD students needed to successfully complete a full complement of college-prep classes in order to graduate.  Midway through the year the district realized that a good number of high school seniors would not reach that goal and quickly offered a series of watered-down make-up and online classes in order to boost the number of students who would graduate.  All of this was highlighted, at the time, by the “Ed News.”  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times takes the district to task for providing poorly designed  credit-recovery courses that left students with little knowledge of the subject matter.  In addition, the piece suggests the district needs to, once again, makes graduation truly “meaningful.”  “L.A. Unified officials say a new graduation-tracking system will help avoid the emergency situation that confronted schools last year.  They also are trying to make the online courses more rigorous,” the editorial explains, “by having teachers take a more active role in the process, integrating their instruction with the computer lessons.  The district wants to leave it to teachers to determine how well students have learned the online coursework, rather than having the digital tests decide.”   The LAUSD is critical of the mounting costs it’s paying to an independent monitor it hired to watch over the district’s programs for disabled students.  If this sounds a bit complicated, join the club.  A story in yesterday Times tries to sort it all out for you.  “Programs for the disabled in the nation’s second-largest school system fell under federally authorized supervision, called a consent decree, in the wake of a 1993 lawsuit that contended the district ignored the educational needs of Chanda Smith and many other disabled students.  In the more than 20 years since, the district has tried to satisfy a federal judge and advocates for the disabled,” it points out.  “An independent monitor joined the mix in 2003, when the two sides agreed on specific goals that, if met, would free the district of supervision some officials consider costly and obtrusive.”
 
Trump Names His Supreme Court Choice
As highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News,” Pres. Trump selected Neil Gorsuch, of the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, as his nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.  The “School Law” column in EDUCATION WEEK profiles the selection and discusses some of the education cases he’s been part of.  “When it comes to education,” it relates, “Gorsuch has written or joined opinions in cases involving school discipline, education finance, special education, and religion in the public square, among others.”  The author of the column proceeds to scrutinize some of Gorsuch’s key education rulings.
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
A research analyst at Stanford University makes the argument that if proponents want to protect public education they must make a stand against vouchers.  Dr. Frank Adamson’s commentary appears on the UNITE FOR QUALITY EDUCATION website.  “The assumed election of Donald Trump and his nomination of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education have placed the American system of public education under threat,” he worries.  “Trump and DeVos will likely propose a national voucher scheme that would privatize education and likely lead to lower quality, inequitable, and re-segregated education.  Evidence from both the U.S. and other countries in a new book, ‘Global Education Reform,’ demonstrates that voucher policies increase educational inequality and diminish democratic participation in education. Americans must preserve public education, a fundamental pillar of our society.”  Adamson offers 4 reasons why the promotion of vouchers is so dangerous to the traditional public school system.              Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and large areas of the Gulf Coast in Aug., 2005.  In its aftermath the public school system in the Queen City was remake into an almost all charter district.  How has that experiment gone?  Over the past couple of years, the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles attempting to answer that critical question.  An intriguing article on THE LENS website features a new study that finds that more money is now spent on administration and less on teaching and learning since the charter transformation.  The report was produced by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans and was released in mid-January.  “The research undercuts one argument for charters — that they’re a solution to bloated bureaucracies at parishwide school systems. . . .  Overall, New Orleans schools — the vast majority of which are charters — spent $1,358 more per pupil on operating expenses, or 13 percent, than a control group in the 2013-14 school year.  Put another way,” it reveals, “schools spent that much more than they would have if New Orleans had remained a traditional school district after the storm.  Administrative spending increased $699 per student, or 66 percent, compared to the control group.  Meanwhile, instructional spending dropped by $706 per student, or about 10 percent.”               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to promote vouchers as a means to allow more families access to school “choice.”  So what are the hidden economic costs of vouchers?  Phyllis Bush is a retired educator and member of the board of the NPE (Network for Public Education)  and has an op-ed in the Fort Wayne (Indiana) News-Sentinel on that important topic.  That old economic adage: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies to the idea of providing “free” taxpayer funded vouchers as the author so clearly points out.  “Vouchers drain state tax dollars from the entire education funding pot,” Bush points out.  “This often causes district budgeting deficits and/or the need for tax increases, referendums and the like.  That loss of revenue to public schools increases class sizes and diminishes student resources such as counselors, support personnel, supplemental materials and buses.”               An article in THE TEXAS TRIBUNE posits the idea that vouchers are not really about education but about spending taxpayer dollars to support private and religious schools.  Texas is one of the states on the front lines of future voucher battles as its legislature attempts to pass a voucher bill.  “This voucher argument is not as much about choosing schools as it is about paying for the schools where you’d like to see your kid get educated.  Some state officials want to give you the money that would otherwise be used for your public education, and some of them don’t.  Parents are already free to move their kids to whatever school they want,” this analysis points out, “but if they can’t afford private schooling, the argument goes, they might as well have no choice at all.  If public money, raised from local and state taxpayers, goes to pay for those private schools, the questions and the political difficulties blossom.”
 
New Head of House Education Committee
Almost all of the education focus in Congress recently has been on the Senate and its confirmation of Betsy DeVos.  When all that dust settles things will get back to the normal work of passing legislation and that requires action by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House Education and Workplace Committee has a new chair, Virginia Foxx (R-NC).  The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) have a profile of Foxx on their website and it’s not very encouraging if you support public education and unions.  The piece is titled “BATs Beware!  A Foxx is Loose!!”  By the way, there are 4 Californians on the committee (1 Republican, 3 Democrats) that is controlled by the GOP. 
 
School Improvement Grants (SIGs) Criticized
And finally, last Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an editorial in that day’s L.A. Times that featured a report from the U.S. Dept. of Education that was critical at how the department’s School Improvement Grant money was being spent.  That item prompted 2 letters-to-the-editor that appear in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  The first is from a professor of psychology at CSULA.  
 
This Sunday is Super Bowl LI, Atlanta vs
New England from Houston, Texas.  
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                                     .                                                                       http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Learning is easy; misunderstanding makes it complex!” 

― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

 
BREAKING NEWS:  DeVos Approved by Senate Committee
It took two 12-11 straight party line votes this morning but the Senate HELP Committee approved Betsy DeVos’s nomination to head the Dept. of Education.  Her selection now goes before the full Senate for a final up or down vote.  CNN has the latest details along with a new controversy over possibly plagiarized answers she provided to a series of questions by ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).  “Despite clearing a key procedural hurdle,” it explains, “DeVos’ eventual confirmation by the full Senate remained an open question as members of her own party told CNN they wouldn’t commit to voting for her.  Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she had been inundated with calls from Alaskans raising concerns about DeVos, but said she would support her in the committee vote out of deference to the president.”  The article includes a short video (1:46 minutes) about this latest controversy.               The NPE (Network for Public Education) quickly announced it would continue the fight to defeat DeVos on the Senate floor.  You can read their Press Release, issued today, about their future plans by clicking here.  “Although disappointed by the decision of the HELP committee to send the vote on Betsy DeVos to the Senate floor,” it begins, “The Network for Public Education (NPE) was pleased by the strong opposition to DeVos.  All Democrats voted against DeVos.  Senators Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska while voting to move her nomination forward, would not commit to voting for her when the vote comes to the full Senate.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Diane Ravitch’s blog hosts another offering from SomeDam Poet.  This time he/she comments on the prediction by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) that no Democrats would vote to confirm DeVos to head the Dept. of Education (see Friday’s edition of the “Ed News”).  The verse is titled “No Democrat Will Vote” and includes these lines:
 

No Democrat would vote
For closing public schools
No Democrat would vote
For Arne Duncan rules

New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins has a piece urging the rejection of DeVos to become the next Sec. of Education.  It’s titled “The Trump War on Public Education.” “DeVos is stupendously rich, and a longtime crusader for charters, vouchers and using federal funds for religious education,” Collins writes.  “She was once the Michigan Republican state chairwoman, a fact completely unconnected to the $200 million or so her family has donated to the party.  She’s used all that clout to make Michigan a model of how not to improve public education.”               Mercedes Schneider, author, teacher and creator of her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, was born and raised in Louisiana.  She’s been receiving a number of flyers in the mail promoting charters, vouchers and school “choice” from an organization called the Alliance for School Choice (AFSC).  Guess who is chair of the AFSC?  If you guessed “Betsy DeVos,” YOU ARE RIGHT!  “If DeVos becomes US secretary of education, based on her established affinity for sending public money to private schools via vouchers coupled with Trump’s newfound love of vouchers,” she predicts, “states will surely be lured into creating and expanding voucher programs– which could well mean state leaders’, uh, fixing those broken state constitutions to guarantee a ready public education fund stream into private school coffers.”  In conclusion, Schneider suggests that if DeVos does become the head the of the Dept. of Education her title should be changed to “US Secretary of Private School Funding.”               Betsy DeVos is a strong proponent of school “choice.”  How effective has that program been over the many years it has existed?  Good question.  Answer: ” Betsy DeVos’ Big Education Idea Doesn’t Work” is the title of a piece from SLATE.  “Although DeVos’ exhortations on behalf of parental school choice are familiar to anyone who follows education reform,” the reporter notes, “today she is wildly out of touch with a large part of the movement she purports to represent. The nearly 30-year history of school vouchers and charters in America has shown that parental choice—in the absence of government intervention—will not improve the quality of education in America and could inflict significant damage on the poorest communities.  Indeed, even many of the staunchest early supporters of unchecked parental choice have moderated that stance over the past 15 years. By all appearances, DeVos hasn’t faced a similar moment of reckoning.”               One of the more problematic issues DeVos faced during her Jan. 17th confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was a troubling lack of knowledge and understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In an attempt to clarify her testimony on that topic, DeVos sent a letter to committee member Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reviews DeVos’ distressing responses regarding IDEA and discusses the contents of the letter she sent.  “DeVos wrote a letter to Isakson trying to explain her position on IDEA,” it explains.  “The letter raises new questions about her priorities. . . .  She said she wants to provide students with disabilities more educational opportunities — and praised a voucher program that helps students with disabilities attend private school funded with taxpayer dollars.”  Apparently, DeVos’ answer to every education issue  and question is CHOICE and VOUCHERS!  [Ed. note: Someone needs to send her the item above from SLATE.]  Strauss includes a copy of the letter DeVos sent to Sen. Isakson at the end of her column.                Hundreds of California teachers protested the nomination of Betsy DeVos on Saturday in downtown L.A.  The action was organized by the California Teachers Association according to a short item in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “DeVos, a Republican fundraiser from Michigan, has supported the growth of for-profit charter schools and the use of public money to subsidize tuition at private schools.  Although Trump said little about education on the campaign trail,” it reminds readers, “he did at one point suggest that legislation to create a major school voucher program would be one of his priorities for his first 100 days.”  The Times piece includes a short video (2:58 minutes) with highlights of CTA Pres. Eric Heins’ remarks at the rally.               Do Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee or in the full Senate have any chance of blocking DeVos’ nomination? With the Republicans holding a slim majority (12-11 on the committee and 52-46 plus 2 Independents who vote with the Democrats in the full Senate) the answer is basically “no.” They will have to get at least one Republican on the committee or 3 GOP members in the full body to oppose her or the selection will be approved.  So far, there have been NO signs that any Republican Senators plan to break ranks with their party on her choice to become the Sec. of Education.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, reviews the Democrats’ slim prospects of defeating DeVos.  Not that there hasn’t been a strong backlash to her nomination.  “Senate offices have been swamped with calls, emails and letters; the National Education Association said more than a million emails opposing DeVos went to senators through a recent campaign, Strauss indicates.  “There are petitions and there have been protests, including Sunday on Capitol Hill.  Hundreds of alumni and students from her alma mater, Calvin College, wrote a letter to legislators saying she is unqualified to be education secretary. . . . But Democratic and Republican sources in the Senate, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of negotiations about the vote, say that DeVos is expected to win approval by the education committee when it votes [today], and that she will prevail on the floor of the Senate whenever that vote happens.”               Here’s the “Ed News” picture of the day:
 
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Sen Tim Kaine (D-VA) is a member of the Senate HELP Committee that voted on Betsy DeVos’ confirmation this morning.  Prior to that action he wrote a letter to people who contacted him about the DeVos nomination.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints that letter with the reasons why Sen. Kaine is opposing her selection.  “As a member of the HELP Committee, I asked Mrs. DeVos questions regarding her education, experience, and policy positions.  While I appreciate Mrs. DeVos’s willingness to serve,” he reveals, “I have decided to oppose her nomination.  Mrs. DeVos failed to show that she was a strong advocate for public schools, accountability, and civil rights. Commitment to these principles is essential to serving as Secretary of Education and carrying out the duties of this position in a manner that will benefit all of our nation’s students.”               The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK discusses the probability of DeVos being confirmed by the Senate HELP Committee and the full chamber.  For a hint of what they are predicting just look at the title: “Here’s Why Betsy DeVos Will Likely Be Confirmed, Despite Pushback.”  The silver lining for Democrats: DeVos as education secretary may not be all bad for her opponents.  She has become so controversial,” the item concludes, “that Democrats are now fundraising off of her nomination.  In an email circulated this weekend, the re-election campaign of Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin—a state Trump unexpectedly won—asked for contributions of $5 or $10 to ‘strengthen opposition to [DeVos’] confirmation.’  Baldwin is expected to face a tough re-election bid in 2018.”               How broad and deep is the opposition to DeVos?  Another article from the same column in ED WEEK claims that “Nearly 250 Education-Related Groups Urge Senators to Reject Betsy DeVos.”  The story includes a letter sent to senators urging them to deny her confirmation.  It lists all the groups, national, state and local, that support that position and signed the letter.  “On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 247 organizations listed below,” the letter begins, “we urge you to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.  All parents and students in this country – a majority of whom are of color or are low-income – want the best education, support and dignity for their own children.  We stand with them and cannot support a nominee who has demonstrated that she seeks to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself.”               Sen Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, submitted a list of 139 follow-up questions to Betsy DeVos that Murray believes were not addressed by the nominee during the formal hearing held by the committee on Jan. 17.  For her column in The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss has 2 separate articles relating to DeVos’ responses to the queries.  The first item is an overview of some of the answers that DeVos provides and is titled “Democrats: DeVos Didn’t Provide ‘Anywhere Close to Satisfaction’ on Our Questions.”  “Murray’s questions covered a wide range of education issues,” Strauss writes in that one, “from civil rights to for-profit colleges to virtual schools and enforcement of the Every Student Success Act — the successor law to No Child Left Behind.  She was also asked questions about her finances.  DeVos and her family are large donors to the Republican Party, including to five members of the committee that is voting on her nomination.”  The second item reprints the questions submitted by Murray and includes DeVos’ answers.  


The Teaching Profession
Teachers face their students every day and bad news can intrude on that relationship all too often.  How should teaches handle those stories and events that are on pupils’ minds and interfere with lesson plans?  A commentary on the “Teacher Leader Voices” column for EDUCATION WEEK is aptly titled “6 Things Teachers Can Do When Bad News Strikes.” The author is Angie Miller, the 2011 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, a writer and librarian.  “Teachers are understandably uncomfortable,” she relates, “bringing the outside world into their classrooms for many reasons: What if something controversial comes up and parents complain?  How will I ever get through my content?  How do I facilitate an honest conversation without my own bias coming through?  Can I allow students the space to process events without it consuming our day?  Though there is risk involved when talking about news or controversy, there are ways to integrate important current events in the classroom responsibly.”  Here are 2 of her 6 suggestions: “Connect current events to the curriculum” and “-Offer students outlets for expressing worries or concerns.”  Miller explains each and offers specific ways to implement them.             For a concrete example of the above item check out “How to Talk About Sexism in the Classroom” in the “Teaching for the Whole Story” commentary also in ED WEEK.  It’s written by a middle school language arts teacher and instructional-support coach who explains several situations that arose in her class (keep in mind she works with middle school students) related to that loaded topic and how she dealt with them.  In addition, she provides a number of suggestions and ideas offered by other teachers for handling the subject.  “Recently, I found myself in unfamiliar territory as a teacher,” she starts off.  “This was sparked when I found myself in an argument with some students during an unplanned whole class discussion.  Though I was out of my comfort zone, the conversation seemed deeply important—to me and the students.  Eager to make the most of the learning opportunity, that evening I turned to my community on Facebook of all places.  What followed was more learning and still more questions!  As I plan my next steps, I want to share the conversation here.”
 
BATs Meets With Representatives of Two Democratic Senators
Several members of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) met with education staff for Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Maggie Hassan (NH) to discuss pressing issues related to education including special ed, ESSA and Betsy DeVos among others .  Both Sanders and Hassan are members of the Senate HELP Committee which voted on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos earlier today.  You can read  a summary of the meetings with both senators’ representatives by clicking here.
 
More Breaking News: Trump Names His Supreme Court Choice
Late this afternoon, Pres. Trump announced his choice for the Supreme Court.  He picked Neil Gorsuch who is currently serving on the federal 10th  Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver.  An article posted on the L.A. Times website this evening has the details of the selection (look for it in the print edition tomorrow).  “Gorsuch is not likely to change the previous balance of the court.  But his nomination does set the stage for a bruising partisan fight,” it reports, “over a man who could help determine U.S. law on gun rights, immigration, police use of force and transgender rights.”  This item includes a video (12:42 minutes) of Trump’s announcement and Judge Gorsuch’s comments.  [Ed. note: For a preview of Gorsuch’s views regarding education issues, please see the article from ED WEEK in the section directly below.]
 
Trump and Education
Are rural people who voted for Trump going to eventually regret their decision?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, believes so, especially when it comes to education policies.  He provides some statistics regarding rural schools and the students who attend them and some of the problems and issues they face.  “What’s sadly ironic,” Bryant points out, “is that these rural communities that will perhaps be most devastated by the school choice plan DeVos and Trump are about to foist on the nation are the very communities that voted overwhelmingly Trump into office.”               Jake Miller, a 7th grade U.S. History teacher in Pennsylvania, analyzes the key phrases regarding education from Pres. Trump’s inaugural address.  Miller concedes there are things that can be done to improve our traditional public school system but Trump, on the campaign trail or in his inaugural speech, hasn’t mentioned any of them.  In fact, Trump’s view of our schools, as is his vision of the rest of the country, is rather dim and foreboding.  Miller’s commentary appears on THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website.               Pres. Trump is expected to announce his pick today to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in Feb of 2016.  The author of the “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK previews some of the names on Trump’s short list and how they’ve ruled on previous education cases.  He identifies 3 front runners for the seat and adds 2 more names to the list.  Profiles of earlier decisions by the top 3 contenders are provided.  
 
“Failing” Schools, Really?
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, tackles head-on that favorite shibboleth of the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies–the idea that our traditional public schools are “failing.”   “So why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?  Because far right policymakers have convinced us all that it’s true.  It’s not.  Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing.  They are among the best in the world.  Really!”  Before you think Singer needs to be medicated or committed to a mental institution, hear him out.  He sets out a very detailed and convincing case as to why labeling our schools as “failing” is doing a serious disservice to that system.  Just because certain groups and organization repeat over and over and over that schools are “failing” doesn’t make it true.  This is a very significant piece and should be required reading by everyone on BOTH sides of the education debate.  If you don’t read anything else related to education issues in the next week or so, read this one.  
 
Charter Schools, Choice & Vouchers
A KIPP charter school in Dallas earned an “F” on the state’s questionable A-F report card for schools.  Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s blog, points out how the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to tout charter schools and promote A-F rating systems for schools.  So what does it all mean when one of those charters earns an “F?”  Rubinstein tries to sort it out for you.  “I’ve argued in other blog posts that these types of A-F report cards are not really statistically valid and have been used to unfairly label a school as ‘failing.’  I still feel this way.  But I report things like this because,” he concludes,  “I’m so curious how ‘reformers’ respond when they learn that they have to choose between their prized charter chain or their prized weapon for shutting down schools.  Generally, though, they avoid any discussion about dilemmas like this.”               Want a peak behind the curtain of some of those questionably run and managed charter schools?  Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about a federal raid on the Celerity Educational Group’s headquarters in Los Angeles last week.  An item appears on the L.A. Times website early this morning (it hasn’t shown up in the print edition of the Times as of the deadline for this “Ed News”) that reveals that many of the Celerity schools lack proper supplies, books and other basic materials but seem to have plenty of funds for lavish parties and other non-classroom expenses.  That information was provided by several former employees of the charter network.  “Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, are free from many of the regulations that dictate day-to-day life in traditional public schools.  Because of this,” the Times piece mentions, “their supporters often say that they are able to put more money into classrooms and have greater control over how it is spent.  But The Times spoke with nine former teachers and administrators in the charter network who said they had long harbored concerns about Celerity’s use of taxpayer dollars and felt that students were being shortchanged.”  Thanks to “Ed News” reader Don Hagen for sending this along.               A new study out of Indiana University supports the long argued idea that voucher programs that use taxpayer money for private schools have a serious tendency to discriminate based on several different factors.  The report is featured on the School Matters blog.  “The finding is especially timely,” it mentions, “as President Donald Trump and his designee to serve as secretary of education, Michigan school-choice activist Betsy DeVos, have indicated they will use federal clout and money to push states to expand voucher programs.”  You can read the short Abstract about the report by clicking here.  The full paper, titled “Dollars to Discriminate: The (Un)Intended Consequences of School Vouchers,” requires a paid subscription.               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, like Betsy DeVos, love to promote school choice as the panacea for everything that ails the traditional public school system.  How has this idea fared in other countries around the world that have tried it?   Has anyone ever suggested we look at what “choice” has accomplished in those nations?  What one finds is not very encouraging and therein lies a lesson for the U.S.  A thought-provoking article from US News & World Report, authored by Henry Levin, Professor of Economics and Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, reports on the impact of school choice in Chile, Sweden, England and the Netherlands.  It does not paint a very reassuring picture.  “Some have argued that competitive incentives induced by school choice,” Levin suggests, “will lead to better educational outcomes.  However, there is little evidence to support this claim. . . .  Where school choice has shown powerful effects around the world is the systematic separation of students by ethnicity, social class and religion.”  
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Friday, January 27, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“If an education does not teach the person how to live right, then the fact is 
that it is also not teaching how to make the right living.”

― Anuj Somany

Betsy DeVos
DeVos is still leading off editions of the “Ed News.”  I have no idea how much longer this is going to continue.  The Senate committee vote on her confirmation is scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m.  Stay tuned.               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK recounts her testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in which she came up with some “alternative facts” about charter schools and accountability.  He leads off with the testy back-and-forth between her and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).  “DeVos responded to a legitimate – even essential – question with a stubborn, insipid talking point,” Bryant complains, “is illustrative of not only her inability to provide an intelligent, straightforward answer to most questions about education policy, but also indicative of the empty rhetoric the well-financed charter school industry uses to respond to any appropriate questioning of the rationale for expanding these schools.”  He proceeds to chronicle a number of other sources that question how accountable and transparent the charter industry is.               Bill Boyle writes on the educarenow blog about his perceived problem with Betsy DeVos and her institutional racism.  He looks at how schools are characterized as “failing” and wonders why most of them are in low-income, African-American neighborhoods.  Is there a reason for that?  Could it possibly have anything to do with the “r” word?  Boyle digs deeply into the numbers of schools that have been or will be closed in Michigan and discovers some rather obvious things.  “Poor Black communities are having their schools taken from them.  Poor Black communities are having their schools being named as failures,” Boyle charges, “which allows us to avoid considering the racialized economic conditions that actually led to these communities having high concentrations of Black students who also tend to be struggling with poverty.  Schools are being named as failures while hiding the fact that those in power have failed those communities.”               Does is seem from reading the “Ed News” that I’m the only person opposed to Betsy DeVos’ nomination?  Absolutely not!  POLITICO has a piece describing the “thousands” of people who are flooding Senate phone lines expressing the same opinion.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to making any impression on Republican members of the Senate HELP Committee who own a 12-11 majority over the Democrats on the panel and can easily confirm her if they all vote in favor, which is expected to occur on Tuesday. “Senators’ offices have been flooded with thousands of calls and letters,’ the item notes, “opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos — with some Democratic offices saying the opposition to DeVos is stronger than for any other Cabinet nominee.”  Diane Ravitch was baffled by all this: “Despite all [the opposition], the hundreds of millions she has donated to Republicans may be enough to get her confirmed.  In an era when morality and ethics have evaporated, this makes sense.  It compromises the credibility of everyone who votes for her and shows how little they care for the education of our children.”               It’s apparent to many observers, not all, that Betsy DeVos, based on her Senate Committee testimony and her background, is NOT qualified to become the Sec. of Education.  Megan Allen, writing on “An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy” column for EDUCATION WEEK, is a National Board certified teacher and the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year.  She taught elementary school for 9 years in Tampa and is currently is the developer and director of the Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.  She did some research on the Dept. of Education website to find out what are the requirements and qualifications to head the department and, surprisingly, found very little in the way of useful information.  So Allen decided to come up with her own lists of “Job Responsibilities,” “Experience, Training and Education,” “Essential Knowledge Needed” and “Essential Skills Needed.” Her offerings are quite comprehensive–much more so than what she found on the DoE website.  “At least 100 letters of recommendation from happy former students, parents, and teachers in the schools that you served,” she concludes her job description.  “That’s the beginning of my list, as completed on one train ride.  But it continues to grow.  What would you add?”               Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), a member of the Senate HELP Committee, explained to Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show last night, that no Democrat would support Betsy DeVos to become the head of the Dept. of Education and that he and other members of his party were searching for a couple of Republicans to go along with them.  Valerie Strauss provides the latest developments on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  “Franken told Maddow that Senate Democrats held a recent retreat to talk about strategy for dealing with Trump’s Cabinet nominees,” she reports,” though he declined to say what it was.  He did say that DeVos was one of the nominations that would receive strong Democratic opposition.  He did not specifically say whether he meant on the education committee or the Senate floor, but it seemed as if he was talking about a confirmation vote in the entire Senate.”  You can view Franken’s appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show” (7:12 minutes) by clicking here.  He briefly mentions DeVos with most of his remarks describing general Democratic strategy to deal with Pres. Trump’s nominations and proposals.
 
Complaint Filed Against Gulen School in Chicago
The controversial and timely documentary film “Killing Ed” was screened on the Occidental College campus in November as part of the ALOED Educational Film Series.  It tells the story of a large network of charter schools in the U.S. (including L.A.) and around the world with close ties to reclusive Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in the Pocono Mountains of western Pennsylvania.  The Turkish government has requested the extradition of Gülen over his alleged involvement in a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July. The Obama administration never acted on the request and it is now the responsibility of the Trump administration to issue a ruling on the petition.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have described some problems the Gülen schools (including in California) have faced and now the Chicago Sun-Times reports that attorneys for the Turkish government are requesting an investigation of a Gülen charter in the Chicago area “The complaint alleges Des Plaines-based Concept Schools and its Chicago Math and Science Academy engage in ‘sweetheart deals’ that hurt local taxpayers — but benefit the global movement led by Turkish-born cleric Fethullah Gulen,” the article relates.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in a bitter struggle with the 75-year-old Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has ties to charter-management firms that run about 150 schools across the country, including CMSA and three other publicly funded Concept campuses in Chicago.”
 
Education Bloggers
If you ever get tired of reading the “Ed News,” Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, took some time out over the winter break to create a (long) list of “edubloggers” that he finds most valuable.  He lists them alphabetically and provides a brief annotation for each.  He suggests that if he left any off of his list that readers mention them in the “Comments”section.  [Ed. note: I am a little disappointed he failed to include the “Ed News.” At the same time I’m most pleased that a number of items on his list will be familiar to readers of my blog.]  Examples that Greene lists that I make extensive use of include: Answer Sheet, BATs, Daniel Katz, Deutsch29, DIANE RAVITCH’S BLOG (I had to put that one is all caps), Education Opportunity Network, EduShyster, Gadflyonthewall, Living in Dialogue, Politics K-12, Wait What? and many others.  His list is a veritable “Whose Who” of progressive, pro public education bloggers, among whom I very proudly count myself.  
 
Next School Chief in New Hampshire Has NO Experience
Why does this seem to keep happening?  New Hampshire has a new Republican governor, Chris Sununu, who promptly selected Frank Edelblut as the next State Commissioner of Education.  The choice is an affluent businessman, who happens to homeschool his own children, and has no experience running public schools in The Granite State or anywhere else.  A former state Commissioner, Wayne Gersen, pens an open letter opposing the new chief on his blog Network Schools–Wayne Gersen to the 5 Executive Council Members who will approve Edelblut.  “Most troubling to me is his lack of experience in dealing with public schools as a parent.  If Mr. Edelblut was a successful businessman who ALSO served on his local school board, or who attended his child’s PTA meetings or back to school nights, or who had any children who attended public school,” Gersen argues, ” I might be open to an assertion that he has some sense of the challenges of public schools.  The fact that he chose to homeschool his children instead of working with his local school board or local principal or his child’s teacher speaks volumes about his commitment to the cause of improving schools.”  Diane Ravitch is dismayed by the way things are going: “With appointments like Betsy DeVos and this unqualified nominee in New Hampshire, our nation is not only showing disrespect for public education, but hurtling back to the early nineteenth century, when children went to religious schools, charity schools, charter schools, were homeschooled, or were without any education.  Rushing backward two centuries will not prepare our children to live in the 21st century.”
 
Police On School Campuses
EDUCATION WEEK has produced a special report titled “Policing America’s Schools.”  You can view an introductory article about the full report that summarizes the articles it contains by clicking here.  “Debate is roiling over the role of police officers in schools,” the overview explains.  “How much do they protect?  How much do they contribute to the so-called school-to-prison pipeline?  Should they be in schools at all?  Education Week reporters and research analysts dug into the latest federal civil rights data to see who is most likely to be arrested at school and which students are most likely to go to schools with cops.  We profile two districts—St. Paul, Minn., and Atlanta—trying, and struggling, to balance safety with a positive school climate.”  The item titled “Which Students Are Arrested the Most?” gets you to some state-by-state statistics.  It indicates that California has over 6 1/4 million students (almost 50 million total in the U.S.) and that 17.8% of schools in the Golden State have police on campus (29.99% overall in the U.S.).  Check it out for more data about student arrests.
 
The Teaching Profession
Interested in turning your classroom into a Google workspace?  A trio of researchers from the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank with offices in Boston and the Silicon Valley, have assisted in writing a report , authored by Heather Staker, on why you might want to do this and how to achieve it.  The “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a short article about their white paper that outlines 7 steps for transforming your classroom.  “The paper’s three researchers . . . are all former teachers,” it points out.  “They found that the best corporate managers do three things very well—they empower their teams, they are great coaches, and they emphasize accountability.”  You can find the full report (86 pages) titled “How to Create Higher Performing, Happier Classrooms in Seven Moves–A Playbook for Teachers” by clicking here.  Not sure you want to read the whole thing?  Check out the “Executive Summary” which also includes links to the full report.                The 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year wonders why so many corporate “reformers” and privatizers feel it their duty to impugn teachers and blame them for the shortcomings of the traditional public school system.  Ashley Lamb-Sinclair teachers high school English and creative writing and was honored at half-time of the National College Football Championship game between Alabama and Clemson earlier this month at Tampa Stadium along with other state winners.  She writes a guest blog on Valerie Strauss’  column for The Washington Post.  She intertwines her experiences while being honored at the game with her belief that teachers are unfairly maligned by certain individuals and groups that don’t appreciate how hard teaching is and how hard teachers work to help their students.  “The narrative that public schools are failing, teachers are widely ineffective, and that politicians and business people are the ones to fix’ all of these problems,”  she maintains, “can sound more compelling than the truth.  And the image of what makes a great teacher can be so narrow for the average person, that many of those fans may not have even known the realities each of us faced that led us to that moment on the field.”
 
Preparing to Become a Principal
A new multi-part special report from EDUCATION WEEK deals with preparing to be a principal.  It’s titled “Who’s Ready to Be a Principal?”  An introductory story about it has a list of the various articles it contains and a brief description of each.  “Most of the nation’s 90,000 public school principals start their education careers as teachers.  Along the way,” it begins, “most who aspire to the principalship will land in a university-based preparation program.  There, they take a series of courses and obtain some in-the-field experience that leads them to the required credentials to become a school leader.  But very often, those programs don’t bestow the knowledge and skills that make would-be principals truly ready for the complex job that awaits.”
 
School “Choice” & Vouchers
Is it possible that the idea of school “choice” might mean different things to different people?  We pretty much know what the concept means to Betsy DeVos and the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  That would be things like charters and vouchers.  However, a rather prominent parent from Athens, Georgia, offers a divergent view of school “choice” as a guest blogger on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post.  First, he notes that this is National School Choice Week 2017 and lots of those “reformers” and many politicians are out promoting the things DeVos favors.  “Much of this makes me wonder why our elected leaders,” the parent emphasizes,” don’t embrace the ‘first choice’ so many parents and teachers advocate: the improvement of all public schools so that there are excellent schools in every neighborhood in America?  After all, the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren attend public schools.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers love to promote school “choice” but rarely discuss what it costs the American taxpayers to provide what they are proposing.  Carol Burris, writing on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post, is glad to oblige with a commentary titled “What Taxpayers Should Know About the Cost of School Choice.”  “We have been experimenting with taxpayer-funded choice for two decades, and the evidence is clear.  We have wasted billions in tax dollars,” Burris enlightens, “with no comprehensive evidence that charters, online schools and vouchers have resulted in increased academic performance of American students.  It is time we have an honest discussion about the true cost of school choice.  It is a policy with steep fiscal consequences for our communities and our nation.”  Burris proceeds to detail the soaring costs and impact of school “choice” policies.  Here’s one of the points she makes: “Charter schools and voucher schools have minimal transparency and limited accountability. That lack of transparency results in scandal and theft.”  Relating to this item, Valerie Strauss, in her introduction to Burris’ article, makes reference to the just announced investigation into a charter chain in Los Angeles (see L.A. Times article under “Charter Schools” heading, below).               Need a primer on vouchers?  Not sure what they are or how they work?  Have no fear.  EDUCATION WEEK reporter Arianna Prothero provides an informative look at vouchers and reviews some important aspects about them.  “The subject of high-profile lawsuits and heated political rhetoric,” she mentions in her introductory remarks, “vouchers tend to split people into two camps—those who believe they are a valuable tool for helping disadvantaged children escape failing public schools and those who charge that they strip funds from public schools without offering real opportunity to poor children.  Today nearly 30 states have vouchers or some closely related form of private school choice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.”
 
Charter Schools
The bloom may finally be off the rose regarding charter schools.  There are effective charter campuses, as “Ed News” reader Dave Brown pointed out to me and I agree with him. There are also lots of excellent traditional public schools, too.  How often does that get acknowledged?   Needless to say, the charter industry has framed the debate for too long and has been able to convince many people that charters are “good” and the traditional public system is “failing.”  Neither of those characterizations is totally true.  The “Ed News” has tried to provide some balance to the charter industry narrative about their schools versus the public schools.  I have pointed out when public schools have gotten into trouble and, on a number of occasions, when individual charters or their networks have been accused of financial improprieties.  Here’s another example of the latter.  This one hits close to home.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times has a story about a federal raid on the Celerity Educational Group which opened its first L.A. school over 10 years ago and currently operates 7 sites in southern California. Celerity is being investigated for fraud and fiscal mismanagement.  “[LAUSD] officials raised new concerns over the charter school organization’s finances and its complex governance structure.” it informs.  “In their final report, in which they advised board members to reject the group’s charter petition, they accused Celerity’s leaders of unorthodox fiscal practices, such as borrowing money from one school in order to pay another schools’ bills, spending money on expenses unrelated to the school and commingling the organization’s finances with those of separate legal entities.”               Why do some civil rights organizations like the NAACP and others opposes charter schools especially whey they are sold as the solution to African-American families who are told their children attend “failing” public schools?  The Phi Delta Kappan conducts an interview with Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor of educational leadership and policy studies and director of the doctorate in educational leadership program at CSU Sacramento, who tackles that question head on. The  Q & A is led by the editor-in-chief of the Phi Delta Kappan magazine and is titled “Charter Schools Don’t Serve Black Children Well.”  Heilig also looks at how the Trump administration might impact the education of Black students.
 
Federal Grant Awarded to Aid L.A. Students
Donald Trump winds up his first week in office today but the outgoing Obama administration is still having a positive impact on schools and students here in L.A.  “The nonprofit Youth Policy Institute,” an article in yesterday’s L.A. Times points out, “was awarded a $30-million ‘Promise Neighborhood’ grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration to provide academic, health and legal services to about 4,000 students attending eight public and charter schools in Pico-Union and Hollywood.  The money is supposed to be parceled out over five years, starting in 2017.  The organization received a similar grant in 2013 for 18 schools in Hollywood and Pacoima.”  The funds are earmarked for campuses with high numbers of Latino, immigrant and low-income students.
 
Public School Troubles
A bus supervisor was fired and two of his subordinates resigned under pressure from the LAUSD for alleged drinking on the job and possession of marijuana.  A story in today’s L.A. Times has the details.  “In recommending dismissal of the three employees,” it explains, “the district cited three incidents from September 2013 to May 2015 in which they and possibly others drank alcohol or had marijuana on them at the end of a workday.  There was no evidence that a bus driver was drunk or high while transporting students, said district general counsel David Holmquist. One of the assistant bus supervisors was working as a driver at the time.”               A superior court jury in San Diego ruled the San Diego Unified School District must pay a student $1.25 million in damages for the actions of a teacher who forced the 14-year-old high school student to urinate in a bucket after her request to use the bathroom was turned down.  An article in today’s Times describes the incident and how the court ruled.  “On Feb. 22, 2012, the student told a classmate in a 25-minute advisory class she urgently needed to use the bathroom,”  it recounts, “but was afraid the teacher wouldn’t give her a pass.  Believing it was against school rules, teacher Gonja Wolf rejected the student’s request and instead showed her to a supply room adjacent to the classroom where she could privately urinate in a bucket and dump the contents in a sink.  The school district called the verdict disappointing.”  At spokeswoman for the SDUSD reported the district is considering whether to appeal the verdict.
 
School Improvement Grants (SIGs) Criticized 
And finally, an editorial in today’s L.A. Times criticizes the U.S. Dept. of Education for wasting billions of dollars on the School Improvement Grant program which showed little results, according to a report produced by the DoE about the awards.  “The 2017 report wasn’t the first to find that School Improvement Grants weren’t bringing the expected changes, but it was the most definitive. ‘There were no significant impacts … on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment of students,’ the 419-page report concluded.  The program was begun under the George W. Bush administration,” it reviews, “to help turn around the 5,000 lowest-performing schools in the country. It received a huge boost in 2009, when Congress included $3 billion for School Improvement Grants in the $831-billion economic stimulus package.  Overall, about $7 billion has been spent on such grants.”
                                     .                                                                       http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy,’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                   

 

Ed News, Tuesday, January 24, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “Education is the best weapon to fight against the adversity of life.” 
                                                                                                       
Betsy DeVos
Yep!  She’s even leading off this edition.  Are Democrats being a bit hypocritical regrading DeVos’ nomination to head the Dept. of Education (DoE)?  That’s the thesis of a piece by Valerie Strauss on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post titled “Democrats Reject Her, But They Helped Pave the Road to Education Nominee DeVos.”  “Democrats have in recent years sounded — and acted — a lot like Republicans in advancing corporate education reform,” she writes, “which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses, not civic institutions. . . .  By embracing many of the tenets of corporate reform — including the notion of ‘school choice’ and the targeting of teachers and their unions as being blind to the needs of children — they helped make DeVos’s education views, once seen as extreme, seem less so.  Historically, Democrats and Republicans have looked at public schools differently.”               Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate HELP Committee, announced a delay in the vote for Betsy DeVos from today until Jan. 31, at 10 a.m., according to POLITICO.  “The delay comes as Democrats have argued that they haven’t had enough time to examine DeVos’ complicated financial holdings,” it reports, “or ask her questions.  Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, has said she’s concerned that the committee was moving too fast with DeVos’ nomination.”       DeVos completed her required financial disclosure form and ethics letter on Thursday of last week.  In the latter she indicated she would divest herself of any education assets that could create a conflict of interest if she’s confirmed to head the DoE.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, whose father co-founded Amway, are part of a family whose fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $5.2 billion,” it mentions.  “DeVos’s financial disclosure shows her investments to be vast and diverse, including many separate investment and venture funds.  Her ethics letter identifies the assets that apparently have stakes in education-related companies or might otherwise create conflicts of interest if she were confirmed.”               The Bald Piano Guy is BAAAACK.  This time he has a tune (1:49 minutes) about his “favorite” Sec. of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos.  His latest contribution is titled “It’s DeVossy!” and is sung to the tune of Cole Porter’s “It’s DeLovely.”  YouTube has the video. Be sure to check out the Bald Piano Guy’s skill at the keyboard and this time he throws in a short soft-shoe routine.  The guy can compose, sing, play the piano AND now, it’s revealed, DANCE.  YouTube has a version of Porter’s original song (3:06 minutes) which you can listen to by clicking here.               Michael Moore, progressive Democrat and filmmaker, attended the Womens’ March in Washington D.C., on Saturday and addressed the massive crowd.  He called specifically for a pervasive opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and detailed what steps each and every person needs to follow.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, describes Moore’s presentation and reviews why a growing list of groups is opposed to her becoming the next Sec. of Education.  Strauss even references an editorial in Thursday’s L.A. Times that called for the Senate to deny her the post.  The Post piece includes a short video (1:45 minutes) of Moore’s appearance.  “After a highly contentious Senate confirmation hearing [last] Tuesday,” Strauss explains, “during which she displayed a lack of understanding of basic education issues, DeVos is facing growing opposition to her nomination as President Trump’s education secretary — including from groups that largely support the same issues she does.”                Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, composes an open letter to Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander about why she’s against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and why Alexander’s committee should reject her.  “You are in the position of selecting a new Secretary of Education.  I watched the hearings,” she writes, “and it was evident to all but the most extreme partisans that Ms. DeVos is uninformed, unqualified, unprepared, and unfit for the responsibility of running this important agency.”  The rest of her letter lists the many reasons why Ravitch believes that DeVos should not be the next Sec. of Education.                Betsy DeVos might actually be the perfect person to hold down the job of Sec. of Education in the era of Donald Trump, “fake news” and “alternate facts.”  Former Trump campaign manager and current senior advisor Kellyanne Conway invented the term “alternate facts” during a contentious appearance on “Meet the Press” Sunday.  Jennifer Berkshire, aka the EduShyster, did some digging into DeVos’ background and record and creates a piece titled “Betsy DeVos’ Alternate Facts.”  Berkshire delves into a bizarre business franchise that DeVos has invested in called “Neurocore” that claims to be able to reprogram your brain through biofeedback.  DeVos has stated unequivocally that she will not divest herself of this investment if and when she’s confirmed to head the Dept. of Education.  As Trump might tweet “Strange, Sad!”               For more on the DeVos/Neurocore connection, the company’s radical Christian roots and the non-medical “doctor” who promotes the service, check out a story by Anita Senkowski, aka “Miss Fortune,” a Northern Michigan blogger, on her Glistening, Quivering Underbelly (that’s what it’s titled) website.                  Neurocore, the biofeedback company heavily bankrolled by DeVos, makes some rather astonishing claims about its ability to “fix” students with autism according to a “Digital Education” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  “On its website, Neurocore makes a number of claims about how its technology can help individuals, including children,” it points out, “with conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety, depression, memory loss, migraines, and sleeplessness. . . .   Neurocore also claims that users of its neurofeedback training improve their IQ by an average of 12 points.”        Want to read the U.S. Office of Government Ethics official report on Betsy DeVos?  If so, you’re in luck.  It’s appended to the end of an article about the report in The Washington Post.  It also mentions the delay in the Senate committee vote on her confirmation from today to next Tuesday.  “Though Democrats bristled at having just five minutes each to question DeVos — during which they used some of their time complaining about it and asking for another round of questioning — Alexander limited them to the single round,” it makes clear.  ” [DeVos’]  opponents say Alexander is rushing what should be a careful examination of someone they say is unqualified to lead the nation’s education department.  Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, said the senator is concerned that members will not have a chance to have their ethics concerns and questions answered before the vote.”              Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee requested more hearings on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos but were turned down by committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) according to a story on the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  [Yesterday] the Democrats wrote to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman,” it reports, “saying they had unresolved concerns about DeVos’ financial investments and potential conflicts of interest, and that during the first hearing last week, they were not given enough time to ask DeVos questions.”  Another update to the story stated: “An aide to Alexander said there will be no additional hearing days for DeVos.”  The plot thickens!                 Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the HELP Committee, borrows Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post to offer a vigorous defense of Betsy DeVos and why he believes she should be confirmed by his panel and the full Senate to become the next Sec. of Education.  “Democrats desperately are searching for a valid reason to oppose Betsy DeVos for U.S. education secretary,” he commences, “because they don’t want Americans to know the real reason for their opposition.”                This next one is a little surprising, or maybe not.  Hundreds of students and alumni from Calvin College, the Christian school that is Betsy DeVos’s alma mater, have signed a letter OPPOSING her nomination.  Details of this extraordinary development appear in the school’s student newspaper Chimes.  “The letter was drafted and circulated by Sara Moslener, ’96, on Saturday, Jan. 21.  As of 11 p.m. Monday night,” it indicates, “it had over 700 signatures.  Moslener said that, beginning Tuesday morning, signatures would be open for another 24 hours.  She will then make the letter available for alumni to send to their senators.”  The story reprints a full copy of the letter at the end of the piece.  
 
The Trump Inauguration/Administration 
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, is distressed by the Trump administration’s tiff over the size of the inaugural crowd and how it compares to Obama’s in 2009. Greene is worried what kind of message it will send to students about telling the truth and treatment of the press.  “As a teacher, I am left wondering exactly how I handle this with students.  In a journalism class, how do we interpret the new role of journalists, who must now be attacked and criticized by the President of the United States for daring to print facts.  Do we have to re-write the old rules of research, which generally told students that a .gov domain name was trustworthy and fair game for a research source.  What are we to make of a President who tells pointless bald-faced lies,” he ponders, “and uses the federal government to spread them, and then to attack and further damage the conduit of free press through which we are supposed to get our information? How do we navigate a world like this, and how do we teach our students to do so?”                 Friday’s “Ed News” highlighted Pres. Trump’s brief remarks about education in his inaugural address.  Steven Singer, aka the author of the GADFLYONTHEWALL blog, zeroes in on the comment about “an education system flush with cash.”  Singer is skeptical of that phrase and provides both words and pictures to refute it including a short reference to the LAUSD.  “Donald Trump lies,” he begins curtly.  “If you haven’t learned that yet, America, you’ve got four more cringe-inducing years to do so.  Even in his inaugural address, he couldn’t help but let loose a whooper about US public schools.”                Cheryl Gibbs Binkley, a member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), couldn’t countenance the comments Pres. Trump made in his speech on Friday (see above).  She wants everyone to remember the schools they attended and teachers they had and remember if they were all “flush with cash.”              Mitchell Robinson gets a little graphic in his reaction to Trump’s comments about education.  His commentary in the eclecta blog is colorfully titled “Flush This, Mr. President” and he leads off with quite a photo.  He believes Trump’s characterization of our education system is “mean-spirited” and “belittling.”  “These comments are ignorant, hurtful, and divisive,” he concludes testily.  “The President had a chance to use his inaugural address to unite a fractured nation and appeal to our better selves, but chose to insult and disparage a profession of which he knows nothing.  It’s not our education system that is flush with cash, yet knows nothing.  It’s you, Mr. President.”         Peter Dreier, professor of Politics and Chair of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College has two commentaries about the Trump inauguration.  The first, from THE HUFFINGTON POST, complains about the singing of America the Beautiful.” Dreier analyzes the words of the song and predicts that the author, Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929), would roll over in her grave if she knew it was performed at Trump’s ceremony because of its emphasis on social justice and condemnation of overseas adventures and corporate greed.  The second, from the same publication, compares the words of Trump’s speech to what fascists might have voiced in the 1920s and 30s.  “I have watched, listened to, and read many commentaries on the inaugural address,” he points out, “but so far none of the mainstream pundits have used the one word that best describes Donald Trump: fascist.”             The BATs issue a “Teacher-Activist Calendar” of 100 things you can do in the first 100 days of the Trump administration.  “Many of these items take only a few minutes.  Some take a bit more, use the ideas either as an idea bank,” they suggest, “or move them around to suit your schedule.  Any time you schedule an activist date, such as a meeting or call, move that day’s activist suggestion.  Even if you miss a day or week, come back and pick something from the list.  Share with Friends!  Use Liberally!” EDUCATION WEEK outlines “6 Key Federal Policy Areas to Watch Under Trump.”  “President Donald Trump said less about education on the campaign trail than almost any major-party nominee in recent history,” it begins, “except for a high-profile proposal on single issue: school vouchers.  But his ascendance to the White House could upend K-12 education in ways that are felt from the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington to urban schools that serve big numbers of immigrant students.”  Here are 2 items from the list: “School Choice” and “Immigration.”                One of the first actions of the Trump administration, taken Friday evening, is to delay the implementation of Obama’s ESSA regulations regarding states’ developing new accountability systems.  The “K-12 Politics” column for ED WEEK describes the action announced.  “The delay in the accountability regulations, which would seem to last until late March,” it explains, “could throw a monkey wrench into states’ efforts to submit their accountability plans by April 3, the first of two deadlines set by the administration.  The regulations outline the process for submitting plans, and flesh out details that aren’t included in the law.”
 
Ed Issues Facing State Legislatures
Legislatures will be meeting in all 50 states this year.  What types of issues will they face regarding education?  Chief among them are school funding and how to implement the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).  EDUCATION WEEK discusses a number of topics to be dealt with in specific states.  California gets a very brief mention related to new school accountability systems as the ESSA goes into effect replacing NCLB.  “Skyrocketing K-12 education costs continue to dominate states’ budget debates,” it mentions, “and conservative lawmakers in many states have long been itching to make dramatic changes to how much money they provide to school districts and how districts spend that money.”               Two Republicans in the Arizona State House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would prohibit the teaching of “social justice.”  Yes, you read that correctly.  I hope this isn’t another trend of the Trump era.  The sorry details are briefly provided by Gene V. Glass, lecturer in the College of Education at San Jose State University and emeritus Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, on his Education in Two Worlds blog.  “It’s hard to see such bills as anything other than raw meat thrown to the base; but in the case of Arizona,” he complains, “stupider things than passing such bills have happened.”
 
A Peek Inside the Dept. of Education
With the confirmation process still playing out for Betsy DeVos to become the next Sec. of Education, the importance of what the agency does sometimes gets lost when the focus is often solely on the personalities that lead it.  THE HECHINGER REPORT has an interesting item that lifts the veil, somewhat, on how the DoE works.  It takes you behind the scenes for a peek at the department’s “rulemaking process.”  First, the article defines exactly what that is and proceeds to detail how it all works.  If you’ve ever been inquisitive about how federal agencies go about their business, this article will start to fulfill your curiosity.  “Although the rulemaking process is rarely front-and-center in the eye of the general public,” the item indicates, “it is a process that gives the executive branch substantial power.  For this reason, the process has been quite controversial, and the so-called ‘iron triangle’ of legislators, interest groups, and agency personnel stay well-versed in the process so they can exert their influence when it touches their interests.”
 
Schools of Opportunity
And finally, Kevin Welner identifies 4 more schools that have been selected as winners of the prestigious Schools of Opportunity award.  This is the eight in his series and he describes each of the 4 again on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post.  12 campuses were awarded gold medals and these 4 are the silver medal winners.  They were picked for having a broad and enriched curriculum.  They are located in Boston, East Rockaway, N.Y., Athens, Georgia and Stillman Valley, Illinois and Welner includes a brief description of each campus and why they won.  “The four Silver Schools of Opportunity all are exemplars,” he points out, “illustrating different ways that universally engaging curriculum can be provided, closing opportunity gaps.”
http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Friday, January 20, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The best teacher teaches by inspiring students to learn 
by showing them the ultimate purpose of learning.” 
Betsy DeVos
I am going to lead off this edition of the “Ed News” with Betsy DeVos (who else?).  I probably could have renamed the blog for this edition “The Betsy DeVos News.”               Kristina Rizga, author of the book “Mission High’ [Ed. note: A future ALOED Book Club selection] is a senior reporter at Mother Jones, focusing on education issues.  She’s written an extended, heavily researched profile for that publication titled “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom.”  It’s subtitled “Trump’s Education Secretary Pick Has Spent a Lifetime Working to End Public Education as We Know It.”  Rizga details the religious underpinnings of the DeVos family and how that guides their political philosophies and philanthropy.  “Betsy and Dick DeVos have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she relates, “to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state in public schools. “              The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held their confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos’ nomination to become the next Sec. of Education in the Trump administration.  It began at 2 pm (PST) on Tuesday  and lasted three and a half hours.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” had some early reports.  Reaction to the hearing since then has been substantial as the position carries a lot of weight in the field of education.  Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) quickly announced that he would be voting “no” on her nomination.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints his press release explaining his position.  “A bedrock principle of America’s public educational system is investing public money in schools meant to serve everyone, not siphoning off scarce taxpayer dollars to private or religious education.  Unfortunately,” he points out, “the president-elect’s choice for Education Secretary has indicated she supports an approach that flies in the face of America’s long-time, commonsense investment in public education opportunities that recognizes education is an essential rung to climb the economic ladder.”  Wyden listed some other reasons for his opposition.               The 1A program on Wednesday morning on WAMU 88.5 in Washington, D.C., an NPR station, has a discussion about Betsy DeVos and her background and testimony before the committee.  It features Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank based in the nation’s capital, and Diane Ravitch.  You can listen to the audio segment (22:13 minutes) on the program’s website.  Click on the red “Listen” button in the upper left hand corner to access it.                 The PBS NEWSHOUR series “Making the Grade” devotes a segment to the impact of Betsy DeVos’ support for school “choice” on  traditional public education.  It solicits comments about the DeVos nomination from Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, and Frederick Hess of the AEI (see item above).  You can view the video (9:30 minutes), listen to a podcast and/or read the transcript of the program by clicking here.  In response to a questions about what concerns her most about DeVos as a possible Sec. of Education, Weingarten answered like this: “Her record speaks volumes.  And what we’re concerned about is that record, because, in Michigan . . .  for the last 25 years, she has worked to dismantle, destabilize and defund public schools at the very same time as she’s worked to shield for-profit charters from any kind of accountability.  And those schools have done very badly,” Weingarten continues.  “And the public schools, particularly for black and brown children, have been very destabilized in places like Flint, Detroit . . . and other places.”                   Diane Ravitch also appears on the public radio station WNYC “The Takeaway” program (13 minutes) with James Goenner, president and chief executive of the National Charter Schools Institute. You can probably guess that they took diametrically opposite positions on whether DeVos is qualified and should be confirmed to head the Dept. of Education. Ravitch and Goenner are heard in separate segments.                Ravitch was very busy on the airwaves after the DeVos confirmation hearing on Tuesday.  She was one of the guests on the “To The Point” program (33:53 minutes) hosted by Warren Olney on Los Angeles’ NPR station KCRW 89.9 along with Emma Brown, education reporter for The Washington Post, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten and Matt Frendewey of Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children.  The topic of the rather “heated debate,” as Ravitch described it, is “Washington’s Role in Public Education.”                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, points out a major stumble during Betsy DeVos testimony when the nominee appeared puzzled about federal law pertaining to students with disabilities.  Strauss provides some of the back-and-forth on the topic between Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and DeVos.  The piece includes a short video (3:38 minutes) with “6 Head-Scratching Moments From Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing.”  Diane Ravitch had this response to Strauss’ article and DeVos’ committee testimony: “On subject after subject, DeVos dodged the question, evaded the question, said that it was ‘worth a discussion,”’and found other artful (and not so artful) ways to avoid answering.  Clearly, she is ill-prepared for the job of Secretary of Education.  Nothing in her testimony suggested that she had even been briefed.”             One quizzical issue that arose during the DeVos hearing had to do with guns, schools and grizzly bears.  CNN has the details about how the nominee responded to a question about whether guns have “any place in and around schools.”  You can read about DeVos’ answer and/or view a brief video (45 seconds) with her response. “Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee, said it should be up to states whether guns are allowed in schools,” the article mentions, “citing grizzly bear protection as part of her answer.  She also said she would support Trump if he moved to ban gun-free schools zones, a position he advocated on the campaign trail.”                  A story in the NEW REPUBLIC weighted in rather cheekily with this headline: “Betsy DeVos Got Schooled in Her Confirmation Hearing.”  It’s subtitled: “Democrats Repeatedly Stumped Trump’s Pick For Education Secretary.”  “With Republicans in control of the Senate,” it maintains, “DeVos’s confirmation is all but a foregone conclusion.  But her grilling Tuesday night yielded more than a few exchanges that could prove politically problematic.”              Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog, reacts to DeVos’ opening statement before the HELP Committee.  He refers to it as full of “Smoke and Mirrors.”  “The remarks follow what you would typically expect from a controversial nominee trying to tip toe around her record of zealously advocating tearing down traditional public education even in the face of evidence of failure,” he mentions.  “It would be unrealistic to expect DeVos to acknowledge the wreckage that her policies have wrought upon Detroit Public Schools or to note that even philanthropists and foundations interested in charter schools and vouchers routinely pass over Detroit because the situation on the ground is too wild west for their tastes.”                 The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a detailed review of DeVos’ comments on a number of issues including federalism, the ESSA, Michigan’s record with charters and several others.  “Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education,” it begins, “sought to use her confirmation hearing to beat back the notion that she would undermine public education as head of the department, as Democrats pressed her on everything from her views on the civil rights of gay and lesbian students, to states’ responsibilities for students in special education, and guns in schools.”                Another story in the “K-12 Column” in ED WEEK, catalogs six critical education policies where DeVos appeared rather fuzzy in her knowledge and understanding.  2 examples: “ESSA Accountability Rules” and the concept of “Proficiency vs Growth.”               Of course the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) weighed in on the DeVos hearing.  Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the group, headlined her item “UnBEARable: Reflections of the DeVos Hearing.”  She offers a pretty extensive review of the questions asked and the responses DeVos provided, few of which impressed Kilfoyle.  “My takeaway is that she knows very little about education,” Kilfoyle complains, “because she doesn’t need to.  The GOP senators on that committee don’t know or don’t care about all the things she doesn’t know.  Her lack of knowledge, experience and expertise is not important to them because education is not important to them.  That’s my takeaway.”              [Ed. note: Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about Betsy DeVos from the L.A. Times that had only appeared on their website as of the deadline for that “Ed News.”  That item appears in the “Education Matters” column in yesterday’s Times.                A scathing editorial about the DeVos confirmation also came out in yesterday’s paper.  In the print edition it carries the title “A Failing Grade for DeVos,” while on the website it’s headlined “Betsy DeVos Embarrassed Herself and Should Be Rejected by the Senate.”  “Betsy DeVos’ love of private school vouchers didn’t disqualify her for the role of U.S. Education secretary, even though vouchers are a bad idea.  Nor did her lack of experience in public schools. What did render her unacceptable was her abysmal performance at her confirmation hearing Tuesday,” the editorial board harshly, but incisively points out, “during which she displayed an astonishing ignorance about basic education issues, an extraordinary lack of thoughtfulness about ongoing debates in the field and an unwillingness to respond to important questions.”  The piece gets even more biting after that introduction.  Thanks to “Ed News” reader Donald Hagen for sending this along.                Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (formerly hosted by Jon Stewart) has a segment on DeVos’s appearance before the Senate HELP Committee.  You can view it on THE DAILY SHOW website.  Noah sums up by saying DeVos failed every subject she was asked about but will probably be confirmed anyway because she handily passed “Donations 101.” Hear, Hear!  How true!  How sadly true!               The reporter for The New York Times headlines her piece on the Senate hearing for the next Sec. of Education “Nominee Betsy DeVos’s Knowledge of Education Basics is Open to Criticism.”  That’s being rather kind!  “In questioning by senators, [DeVos] seemed either unaware or unsupportive,” the article explains, “of the longstanding policies and functions of the department she is in line to lead, from special education rules to to the policing of for-profit universities.”                Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, does his usual thorough job of summarizing the reactions to Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing this week.  He raises some questions about her commitment to racial equity and integration and concludes, dishearteningly, that the senators didn’t ever confront her on those topics so no one knows what her positions are.  You have to go back to some of her previous actions to get some inkling of what she believes.  “So what are DeVos’ views on racial equity in education?  Does she support racial integration?  What would she do to assert the federal government’s historic role in ensuring racial equity in schools?  Unfortunately,” Bryant complains, “much of what DeVos has worked for in her state of Michigan – the ‘schools of choice program,’ vouchers, and the proliferation of charters – is taking the state’s schools back to a segregationist past.”
 
The Teaching Profession
For a while there was a trend in K-12 education to do away with foreign language instruction.  Thankfully those in the know realized that was a faulty policy and those classes are making a comeback, especially in the form of dual-language or immersion programs.  The “Global Learning” column in EDUCATION WEEK offers 8 specific tips on “How to Increase the Number and Quality of Language Immersion Programs” from a pair of guest bloggers who are part of the Asia Society’s Chinese Early Language and Immersion Network (CELIN).  “Students in the United States need to be able to learn languages in addition to English, in the home and throughout their education,” they conclude, “in order to develop global competence and live productive lives.  This need is real, and the urgency of the matter has propelled us to shift from asking ‘why’ language learning might be important to ‘how’ we will move forward effectively, together.  The strategies described above are a good start.”               The “Ed News” has recently chronicled how teacher shortages have been plaguing a number of states including California.  With that the case, it would make sense that states are also having a hard time filling substitute teacher positions.  An item in ED WEEK mentions how various states and districts are using some creative and time-honored methods to attract applicants.  It uses Elk Grove Unified in Sacramento County as one example along with Michigan, Baltimore and Pennsylvania. “Elk Grove, the fifth-largest district in the state,” the item details,“has a plan to keep substitutes from roaming to other districts. The district raised salaries and offered health benefits.  A little more than a year ago, its school board voted to increase substitute pay from $125 a day to $135, making it more competitive with surrounding districts.  Elk Grove also sent an email to parents, inviting them to think about becoming a substitute or persuading a friend or family member to apply.”                 Can one be both a classroom teacher and a teacher leader?  The responsibilities of both can be quite taxing but the author of this item from the CTQ Collaboratory” column for ED WEEK believes that being a successful classroom teacher means you are already exhibiting characteristics of a leader. She offers 3 ideas for balancing the obligations and duties of both.  “There are moments when we wonder how we manage to get it all accomplished, moments where our to-do lists seem overwhelming.  Keeping passion and priorities in focus makes a critical difference,” she concludes, “by helping us reframe our thinking.  The reward of leading within the classroom and within the profession is well worth the investment.”                Starr Sackstein, a National Board Certified educator who teaches English and Journalism in New York City, answers the fundamental question “Why Do I Teach?” in a commentary for ED WEEK.  She offers 8 reasons why.  Here are 2 of them: “-I’m challenged on every level, sometimes to my breaking point.  -Did I mention I’m always learning.”
 
School Choice and Racial Segregation
The headline on The Christian Science Monitor story asks “Does Greater School Choice Lead to Less Segregation?”  The subtitle provides an answer: “Statistics Suggest That Charter Schools and Vouchers Aren’t a Solution to Segregated Schools.  In Some Cases, They Can Actually Make it Worse.”  So why do the corporate “reformers” and privatizers keep pushing those policies?  Perhaps they don’t want to see schools integrated.  “What both charter schools and vouchers have in common, say critics, is that they perpetuate the racial segregation of US schools,” the author suggests, “even as the nation’s school-age population grows ever more diverse.  While minority parents are being given more choices about where to enroll their children, these choices rarely extend to schools that are more integrated by race or ethnicity, critics say.  Instead, the choices for families in low-income, minority-dominated school districts are often between low-performing public schools and alternatives such as charters or voucher-dependent private schools with similar student bodies.”
 
LAUSD School Board Race Draws $1 Million Campaign Contribution
Those previously largely ignored, unimportant elections for school board seats are no more.  The “Ed News” has highlighted several races that drew millions of dollars in campaign donations as various groups attempt to influence the outcomes.  Another of those battles is shaping up here in L.A.  Incumbent board Pres. Steve Zimmer is facing reelection and apparently there are certain forces out there who don’t want him to be successful.  Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan just channeled $1 million (!) into an independent campaign to defeat Zimmer according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  Zimmer’s Distrcit 4 race, which stretches from the Westside to the San Fernando Valley, drew 3 opponents for the March 7th primary.  “Riordan has endorsed [challenger Nick] Melvoin,” it explains, “and also contributed directly to his campaign.  But the limit for direct contributions is $1,100 while there are no donation limits for campaigns not under the control of a candidate.  In his previous campaign, four years ago, Zimmer and his supporters framed billionaires’ large donations to defeat him as an arguing point in favor of his reelection.  The teachers union, with some assistance from other unions, spent enough on his behalf to get that message out.”
 
President Trump
Donald Trump officially became the 45th president of the United States at noon today.  There were a series of protests in Los Angeles yesterday by teachers, students, parents and union leaders worried about the course of the country under Trump.  An article in today’s L.A. Times describes the various actions around the city.  “Events at schools across L.A. were part of a broad action led by the country’s two largest teachers unions.  The president of the National Education Assn., Lily Eskelsen García,” it reports, “took part before school at Grand View Boulevard Elementary in Mar Vista, where several hundred participants gathered.”               Trump’s inaugural address touched briefly on education.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reviews what he said and includes some reactions to it.  “‘”Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves,’ Trump said in his address from the U.S. Capitol to a packed crowd of onlookers. ‘But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. … An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.'”               Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post briefly reacted to Trump’s inaugural comments regarding schools and education (see above).  She was rather aghast at his “deprived of all knowledge” remark. 
 
Big Changes on the Way at Dept. of Education
And finally, EDUCATION WEEK points out what could be a major cultural shift at the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) as Obama administration appointees are replaced by Pres. Trump’s nominees.  “Politicization of federal agencies tends to ramp up when Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party,” it explains, “and after a big, recent turnover in power, as is the case now, said Elizabeth Mann, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, who has studied how federal-state relations shape K-12 policy.”  The item suggests how that culture might change if Betsy DeVos is ultimately confirmed (a pretty safe bet) to head the department.  
 
Have a great weekend and stay dry!
 
                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.