Ed News, Tuesday, January 17, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “I teach not by feeding the mind with data but by kindling the mind.” 

― Debasish Mridha

 
Charter Schools, Choice & Vouchers
Sigh.  Another day, another charter scandal.  This one emanates from Florida.  It seems a former employee is accused of stealing $100,000 from the Seth McKeel Academy in Lakeland.  The funds were used for personal travel and other items including a prom dress and false eyelashes.  The “Eight on Your Side” investigative team from station WFLA Channel 8, an NBC affiliate in Tampa, has the sordid details.  “45-year-old Ginger Collins was a former Assistant Director of Academics for the school,” it reports, “until her resignation on September 16, 2016.  She is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the organization and creating fake companies and website to make her purchases appear legitimate. . . . So where was the oversight?  Eight on Your Side went to McKeel Academy to ask that very question, but we were turned away.”               How successful are those highly touted charter schools doing around the country?  Based on Texas’ system of grading schools on an “A” to “F” scale, the answer is an undeniable “poorly.”  Gary Rubinstein’s Blog did some digging into the results for the universally lauded KIPP schools in the state and reported some startling results.  On the “Student Progress” element 24% received a “Failing” rating and 40% earned a “D” or an “F.”  I don’t know about you, but that’s not a particularly enviable record.  “Reformers always talk about expanding ‘high quality’ charters.  And one of the most famous examples of such a high quality charter chain are the KIPP network of schools.  There are about 200 KIPP schools around the country,” Rubinstein calculates, “and surely there will be many more now that a very charter friendly president has been elected.  KIPP schools are staffed by a large number of Teach For America teachers and alumni and was founded by two TFA alumni.”               Charter schools and vouchers are often sold by the corporate “reformers” and privatizers as ways to offer parents more “choice” when it comes to selecting schools for their children.  In truth, some of those programs are quite exclusionary.  Witness the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Act which was passed by the Republican controlled state legislature in 2013.  The article comes from THE CENTURY FOUNDATION, a progressive think tank headquartered in New York, and is titled “Second-Class Students: When Vouchers Exclude.”  It describes how the Tar Heel State’s voucher program discriminates against a wide range of students.  Question: How does that promote “choice?”  “Under a Trump/DeVos plan, we should expect to see more voucher programs like North Carolina’s emerge,” the author envisions in conclusion, “dressed with the glittery names of opportunity, choice, and freedom.  Do not be fooled.  The opportunities are exclusionary, the choices are constrained, while the freedom belongs to largely unregulated private schools to discriminate on the public dime.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALL blog takes a more provocative approach to school “choice.”  He believes the reason charters, vouchers and “choice” are being pushed so strongly has to do with racism.  His commentary is daringly headlined “The Racists Roots and Racist Indoctrination of School Choice.”  He goes back to the landmark Brown v Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, handed down in 1954, that ordered the integration of public schools to trace the racist roots of school “choice.”  “School choice does not enhance civil rights.  It is inimical to them.  It is part of a blatant policy to make America racist again.  We cannot allow the Trump administration and any neoliberal Democrats who quietly support his ends to undo all the progress we’ve made in the last 60 years.  The bottom line is this – voters don’t want school choice.  It does nothing to better childrens’ educations.  It is a product of segregation and racism and even in its modern guise it continues to foster segregation and racism.  If we care about civil rights, social equality and democratic rule,” he concludes powerfully, “school choice is something that should be relegated to the dust heap of history.  It’s time to move forward, not look back fondly on the Confederacy, Jim Crow and segregationism.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers like to make the argument that school “choice” is good for those involved.  On the contrary, Sara Stevenson, a Texas educator, makes the counter argument that it’s really the wrong solution in a commentary in the Austin (Texas) Statesman titled “Why School Choice in the Wrong Choice.”  “One must ask about the motive for the school choice movement.  Public education in this nation is an operation costing about $600 billion annually.  Do these private, charter, cyber and home schools,” she wonders, “want to open their arms to public school students in a gesture of inclusion, or are they after the money?”
 
Art in the Schools
Can adding an arts curriculum boost overall student achievement?  That’s the focus of a PBS NEWSHOUR segment that was broadcast last week titled “Struggling Schools Benefit From Adding Arts to Learning.”  You can watch the program (7:50 minutes), listen to an audio and/or read the transcript by clicking here.  Jeffrey Brown, the host, visits a couple of charter school in New Orleans that are piloting an arts curriculum created by the company Turnaround Arts.  One campus features actress Alfre Woodward, singer Graham Nash and New York Times columnist David Brooks working with groups of students.  “An independent evaluation conducted of the original eight Turnaround schools,” Brown notes, “showed early success.  Half the schools improved their attendance rates.  The average improvement in math proficiency was 22 percent and reading close to 13 percent.  And discipline problems fell.  At ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, for example, suspensions were down 51 percent.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Yeah.  I know.  Here we go again but, in my mind, Betsy DeVos deserves all the criticism she’s attracting (and more!).  Remember, she’s been nominated to be the federal Secretary of Education with responsibility and oversight over all public school students in the U.S.  Her strong advocacy and financial support of charters, choice, vouchers and privatization of our system of public schools is alarming to put it mildly.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, describes the very close relationship between DeVos and Jeb Bush in a piece titled “Jeb Bush May Have Won Something in the Election After All:  The U.S. Department of Education.” “The president-elect has selected a very close Bush ally to be his education secretary.  Betsy DeVos donated to Bush’s unsuccessful presidential campaign,” Strauss points out, “and sat on the board of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The two share an education reform policy that supports the transfer of public dollars to privately run schools, such as for-profit charter schools and voucher programs that use taxpayer funds to pay for private schools.  They say they are providing parents with choice; critics say they are destroying the public education system.”               The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos began at 5 pm (EST) today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  As it progresses, The New York Times suggests, the questioning of the billionaire heiress could be quite contentious.  The article is headlined “Trump’s Pick for Education Could Face Unusually Stiff Resistance” and outlines what areas certain Senators, mostly Democratic, are apt to explore with the nominee.                The progressive advocacy group, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY, joined the long (and getting longer every day) list of groups and individuals opposed to the DeVos nomination It reviews a number of other articles that urge the Senate to reject DeVos.  “Ultimately, what is at stake is the future of public education as a core democratic institution,” the note concludes on their website, “that has provided generations of Americans, including immigrants, with the means to become full participants in American society.”               Add the Coalition for Civil and Human Rights of The Leadership Conference to the above list.  Their offering is in the form of a letter addressed “Dear Senator” and is titled “Betsy DeVos is the Wrong Choice to Lead a Civil Rights Organization or American Public Education.”  “On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States,”  it begins, “we are writing to express our strong opposition to 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.”               If you are getting a little tired of READING why Betsy DeVos shouldn’t be approved to be the next Sec. of Education, check out this video (8:15 minutes) from Brave New Films on YouTube.  It prominently features Diane Ravitch and a number of other educators and parents from Michigan commenting on what DeVos did to the public schools in her home state.               Not sure exactly what the DeVos family agenda is about?  It may be much darker than you are aware according to an investigative piece from POLITICO.  It digs deeply into the background of the family and plumbs the recesses of its involvement in the politics of Michigan.  The article is titled “How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics.”  Subtitled “With Her Nomination as Education Secretary, A Powerful Political Clan Will Bring Its Overt Christian Agenda to Washington.”  “The DeVos family, with Dick and Betsy at the helm, has emerged as a political force without comparison in Michigan,” the author writes.  “Their politics are profoundly Christian and conservative. . . .  and their vast resources (the family’s cumulative net worth is estimated at well over $5 billion) assure that they can steamroll their way to victory on issues ranging from education reform to workers’ rights.”  Diane Ravitch had this to say
about the story: “Just when I thought I had read everything I needed to know about the DeVos family, along comes this brilliant investigative article by Zack Stanton of Politico.  Stanton shows how powerful the DeVos family is, how it works as a tightly coordinated unit, and how it uses its vast wealth to smash the union movement, force school privatization, control the Republican Party in Michigan, and extend its reach to Louisiana, Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and other states.”               Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post provides a long list of questions that teachers would like Betsy DeVos to answer.  They obviously cover a wide range of topics.  Here’s one example from a member of the Educator Voice Fellowship: “Lisa Meade (NY): What are the specific strengths of the public school system that you would want to continue to support in your work as secretary of education?”               The L.A. Times has been rather quiet regarding the DeVos nomination.  However, an item appeared on the paper’s website early yesterday morning [Ed. note: It has not appeared in print as of the date the “Ed News” was sent out] with a profile of her and a focus on her active support for vouchers and strong religious beliefs.  “Fifteen years ago, a controversial question about America’s schools dominated headlines, prompted ballot measures in California and other states and led wealthy philanthropists to dig deep into their pockets in the name of educational reform,” it relates.  “Should government money pay for students to attend private — even religious — schools?  Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary, whose confirmation hearings begin Tuesday, was one of the biggest backers of the yes camp.  But after voters in some states, including California, gave vouchers a resounding no, the issue fizzled in all but a few, mostly conservative places.  DeVos’ nomination — and the president-elect’s backing — could put vouchers back on the map in a major way.”               Kenneth Zeichner, professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington explains why he’s against Betsy DeVos becoming the next head of the Dept. of Education.  His comments appear on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “Betsy DeVos is thoroughly unqualified for the job of Secretary of Education,” he writes.  “She has never attended a public school, sent her children to public schools, taught or worked in a public school district or a state education agency, overseen public education as a governor or governor’s aide, or studied the field of education.  There has never been a more unqualified nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education in the history of the Department of Education.”  That’s pretty succinct and to-the-point!               The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK takes a different tack on the DeVos nomination. Instead of criticizing or supporting the action it offers a primer on what to watch for during the hearing in the form of a Q & A.  “It’s finally happening: Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education, is set to testify before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at her confirmation hearing [today].   In the past,” it begins, “confirmation hearings for an education secretary have typically been bipartisan love fests.  But that’s not going to be the case this time around.”  The piece includes a link to her opening statement before the committee.                Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grills Betsy DeVos about higher education issues during the Senate Education Committee’s confirmation hearing this afternoon.  You can view the confrontation (4:54 minutes) courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog by clicking here.                Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, has 2 separate stories about today’s confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos.  The first notes that former Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CN) formally introduced the nominee to the committee with glowing words but he also took a few pot shots at the education establishment in the process. The second one reports that Democrats on the Senate Education Committee were quite upset with Chair Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) decision to limit individual committee members questioning of Betsy DeVos to just 5 minutes and did not allow a second round to take place.  Strauss reviews some of the issues raised during the confirmation hearing and describes the partisan bickering over procedures.  “Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee slammed the confirmation hearing of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education nominee, through the Senate education committee,” Strauss writes, “which he chairs — over the objections of Democrats who practically begged for more time to question her.  Democratic members of the committee repeatedly asked for more time to ask DeVos questions . . . .”             Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, blasts DeVos’ testimony before the Senate committee today titling his piece “Ignorance and Arrogance–the Defining Characteristics of the Betsy DeVos Hearing.”  He was unsparing in his criticism.  “During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) tonight, DeVos showed herself to be hopelessly out of her depth,” Singer grumbles.  “She tried to cover her ignorance by being noncommittal.  But it was obvious that she had no idea what she was talking about more than half the time.”  The rest of his essay is equally scathing.
 
Support for Public Education
The group Education Deans for Justice and Equity published a statement on the NEPC (National Education Policy Center) website reiterating their strong support for public education and American democratic ideals.  It contains “4 guiding principles” which are briefly explained on the website.  Here’s the first one: “(i) Uphold the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy.”  This item includes a copy of the full document (7 pages) titled “Public Education, Democracy and the Role of the Federal Government: A Declaration of Principles.”  As of Jan. 11, 175 former and current deans of colleges and schools of education, including a number from California, had signed the manifesto and they are listed alphabetically on pages 4-7.  
 
Detroit Public Schools Returned to Control of Elected Board
The troubled Detroit Public Schools (DPS) were returned to the control of an elected board for the first time since 2009 when they were taken over by the state and governed by an emergency manager.  The “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a brief item about the change.  “One of the board’s first major tasks,” it mentions, “will be to choose a new superintendent for the 45,000-student school district, which has struggled financially and academically for years.”
 
California School Finances Spelled Out
Ever wonder how California’s K-12 public schools and community colleges are actually financed?  If you think it’s a simple, straight forward process, think again.  The whole mechanism can be rather esoteric and convoluted.  Much of it is dependent on how Prop 98, passed by voters in the Golden State in 1988, is interpreted according to the “Political Road Map” feature in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  It serves as a primer to a very complicated issue.  “The shorthand to Proposition 98,” it explains, “is that it sets a minimum level for school funding — one that generally grows with the economy — by using a series of complex formulas for earmarking state and local tax dollars.  That usually results in a mandate that hovers around 40% of the state’s general fund, though any honest state budget-watcher will admit the final number — just like the annual prediction of tax revenues — is sometimes subject to political negotiation.”
 
John B. King Concludes His Term as Sec. of Education 
Pres. Obama officially ends his term of office at noon on Friday when President-elect Trump takes the oath of office.  Obama’s Sec. of Education, John B. King Jr., also concludes his service and offers his valedictory view of the state of education in the U.S. and what he’d like to see his successor accomplish. His commentary appears on EDUCATION WEEK.  “We must get beyond either exalting teachers as heroes who can single-handedly solve all education problems or castigating them for failing to do so.  We should instead recognize that teaching is an incredibly difficult job,” he suggests, “requiring dozens of decisions every hour.  We can invest in teachers’ preparation and development at the same time that we welcome their expertise and leadership on the challenges they face and the issues that affect their students.
 
Corporate “Reform”
DFER or Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee that supports charters and opposes teachers unions.  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, takes a close look at the impact the group has had on education reform in an article titled “DFER Dances Around Trump’s Public School Wrecking Ball.”  He refers to a story that was highlighted in the Jan. 10th “Ed News” headlined “The War on Public Schools.”  Thompson believes the policies of groups like DFER made Donald Trump’s victory more likely because of how they split the Democratic Party regarding an important issue like education.  
 
View “Go Public” Documentary Online for FREE
And finally, the ALOED Educational Film Series sponsored a screening of the powerful documentary “Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District” that offered an inside look at how the Pasadena School District works by having a number of film crews record what parents, students, teachers, coaches, principals, custodians, board members and others did during the course of one school day.  If you haven’t seen the film (90 minutes) or would like to watch it again, it is being made available for viewing for free for one week on vimeo.  Thanks to ALOED member and my Film Series co-chair, Larry Lawrence, for passing that information along.
 
                                                                                                           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 17, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                  Monday is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Holiday.
 
               Inline image 1
 
 “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.
 Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
 -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 

Betsy DeVos

[Ed. note: Please remember the DeVos confirmation hearing that was originally scheduled for Jan. 10th was postponed until Jan. 17th at 5 p.m.]  OK.  I’ll admit it.  The “Ed News” IS picking on the Betsy DeVos nomination to be the next Sec. of Education.  But she deserves it and is getting the negative reception from many different sources!  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has joined the bandwagon of critics [Ed. note: I’m honored to be in such august company] of Trump’s selection to head the Dept. of Education.  Warren, who’s a member of the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee that will be taking up DeVos’ confirmation hearing on Tuesday, sent a letter to DeVos last week that’s the focus of an article in the Boston Globe.  It includes a copy of the letter Warren sent (16 pages) that includes 41 questions she’d like the billionaire philanthropist to answer.  “DeVos’ nomination has prompted angst from the left because of her record of donating millions of dollars to support conservative candidates and causes,” the story mentions.  “She married into the Amway fortune, and she and her family have donated more than $20 million on the federal level in the last three decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  DeVos earned the ire of campaign finance crusaders for a 1997 op-ed she penned in a Capitol Hill newspaper where she bragged about being the largest GOP donor and asserted that her family expected a ‘return on our investment.’”              Diane Ravitch has written pieces for several different publications opposing DeVos.  She has another one appearing on the pages of IN THESE TIMES.  “DeVos is a billionaire who grew up in the Christian Reformed Church,” Ravitch writes, “and would like to see religious schools supported by public funding.  She once described education reform as a way to ‘advance God’s kingdom.’”  Whatever happened to the significant concept of the “separation of church and state?”               The CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS (CAP), a progressive public policy research and  advocacy group, is also concerned about the vast amount of campaign donations DeVos, her family and associated PACs have doled out to Senators (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”) on the HELP Committee and in the full Senate all of whom will be voting on her confirmation.  The story is titled “Conflicts of DeVos–Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, And A Pay-to-Play Nomination.”  “To uphold the ethical standards of the Senate—and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest—senators who have received donations from DeVos and her family should recuse themselves from considering her nomination,” the 3 co-authors suggest.  “Unfortunately, no member of the Senate has indicated that they might step aside. Put differently, Republicans under Trump are showing that they can be bought and sold.”               This comic strip may help illustrate the above item:

             
 
Even the Massachusetts Charter Association has some serious doubts about DeVos taking over the Dept. of Education even though she’s a champion of choice, vouchers and charters.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, describes how they and a few other charter proponents are beginning to feel a little queasy about her.  “It will be interesting to see if opposition to DeVos continues to appear on her reformy flank. Our first few months in Trumpistan,” he concludes, “will undoubtedly give rise to much political shifting and re-alignment; only time will tell how that will shake out in the education biz.”               Are the “education wars” about to resume under the Trump/Pence/DeVos team?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, explains what the “wars” are about and why they may be returning based on a recent speech by AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten.  “Education, which was hardly ever mentioned in the recent presidential election,” Bryant begins, “has suddenly been thrust to the frontline in the increasingly heated conflict over President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees.  The reason for that turn of events is his choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.  Her nomination risks ‘reigniting the education wars,’ according to Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union.”   Weingarten contends that the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in late 2015, had pretty much tamped down the partisan conflict over education but that the emergence of DeVos as Sec. of Education quite probably will reignite the partisan battles from the past over education policy.               Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints Weingarten’s full speech that she delivered on Monday before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.                Diane Ravitch calls this next item “a must read” and a “brilliant” article.  Jennifer Berkshire, aka the EduShyster, has discovered the real intent of Betsy DeVos’ agenda.  Check out her provocative piece, titled “The Red Queen,” and see what you think.  Berkshire wanted to get an upfront and personal view of what impact DeVos’ policies have had on the public schools in Michigan so she spent a week travelling around the Great Lakes State, talking and listening to all types of people involved.  “The radical experiment that’s playing out [in Michigan] has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids.  The real goal of the DeVos family,” she suspects, “is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way.  And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.”  What follows is detailed and compelling.  
 
Student Behavior
Can student misbehavior be improved through detentions, suspensions and expulsions?  It’s a discussion that schools have been having for eons.  A piece from THE HECHINGER REPORT suggests that these types of punitive solutions are not productive.  The author proceeds to offer some much more positive and humanistic approaches after she reviews some interesting statistics regarding student behavior.  “The first step is understanding the nature of student behavior in schools.  Several decades of research reveal a depiction of problem behavior among a school’s student body.  In nearly every school studied,”  the author, a professor of special education at Lehigh University writes, “the majority of students (about 80 percent) rarely, if ever, exhibit behavior problems (such as code of conduct violations resulting in a disciplinary referral) at school.  The majority of students receive no, or only one, disciplinary referral during a school year.”
  
Education Policies for the New Year
NEW AMERICA, a non-partisan think tank, offers a 10-point agenda “to help reform the country’s education system.”  You can read an overview of the group’s proposals on their website by clicking here.  You can also access a list of the items (1 page) or the full guide (15 pages) titled “EDUCATION AGENDA 2017, Top Priorities for State Leaders, the Next Administration, and Congress.”  Here are 2 examples from the 10-point agenda:“1. Expand access to quality early learning.  4. Align research and development to educational practice.”               Peter DeWitt goes even farther on the “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  He offers “17 Critical Issues Facing Education in 2017.”  “Education has been a battleground of rhetoric over the years,”  he suggests, “and 2017 will certainly bring in some changes given, not only the campaign and ultimate election decision, but because of so many issues bubbling up to the top that need our attention.  Some of the items may surprise you, while others seem like common sense.”  Here are 2 examples from his list: “15. Pre-service Teacher Programs,  17. School Climate.”
Charter Schools
Andre Agassi, former U.S. pro tennis star, went into the charter business in his home town of Las Vegas and in other cities around the country upon his retirement from the pro tennis circuit.  He was held up as a shining example of celebrity support for charter schools.  Unfortunately, he’s just been aced.  His flagship campus in Las Vegas, Agassi College Preparatory Academy,  was among the poorest performing schools in Nevada and will be taken over by another charter operator next school year according to a story in the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL.  Agassi Prep’s secondary school was placed on this year’s underperforming list,” it points out, “among the bottom 5 percent of middle schools in the state.  The elementary school escaped the underperforming list, but received two stars out of the state’s five-star rating system.  Board members also cited persistent financial problems that board members expected to worsen if action wasn’t taken.”               Louisiana this week joined Washington State where courts ruled that charter school funding formulas violated state constitutions.  Mississippi has a similar lawsuit pending that was filed in July according to a short item in the “Charters & Choice” column at EDUCATION WEEK.  “In Louisiana, local K-12 officials as well as the Louisiana Association of Educators, a state teachers’ union,” it explains, “argued it was unconstitutional to fund schools run outside local school systems with money meant to go to local parishes.  That argument was initially rejected by a Louisiana district judge in 2015, before being overturned Monday by the state appeals court.  At stake is about $80 million in funding for over 30 charter schools statewide.”  This latest decision in Louisiana is expected to be appealed to the state supreme court.  
 
Running Schools Like Businesses
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an op-ed in Sunday’s L.A. Times that suggested 5 ways schools should be run like businesses.  It prompted 2 letters that appear in Wednesday’s paper.  The second was written by Stephen Krashen an emeritus professor of Education at USC.  
 
The Teaching Profession
Linda Yaron is a National Board Certified educator in Los Angeles and an expert on teacher coaching  She offers “The 10 Key Elements of Transformational Coaching” on the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Whether serving as a full-time coach,” she writes, “or as a teacher with a hybrid position who splits the school day between coaching and teaching, coaches are uniquely situated to be supportive partners in the classroom.  The depth in which coaches can thrive in their roles depends on some key foundations of coaching.”  Here is one example of an idea Yaron borrowed from veteran coaches over the years: 9. Connecting with resources.”               The 4 finalists for 2017 National Teacher of the Year were announced Monday by the Council of Chief State School Officers.  One of them is a special education teacher at a San Diego high school.  The other 3 hail from Massachusetts, Maryland and Wisconsin and teach varied subjects according to a brief story on the “Teaching Now” column at EDUCATION WEEK.  “The four finalists, along with the ultimate winner,” it indicates, “are chosen by a national selection committee that represents 18 education and community organizations. . . .  The National Teacher of the Year will be honored by the president at a White House ceremony this spring.”
 
Supporting Public Education
House Democrats have formed a caucus to support traditional public education.  The new group’s existence is announced in a story on THE HUFFINGTON POST and was trumpeted [Ed. note: That was not intended to be a pun] by several members of the caucus and the national presidents of the NEA and AFT.  So far, no Republicans have signed on.  “Members of Congress have formed a new caucus to support the goals of public education under Donald Trump’s presidency. Although the caucus has been in the works for over a year,” it begins, “Trump’s election and his nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary has given the group heightened urgency, according to those involved with the effort.”               Not convinced that our public schools are underfunded and poorly supported?  Check out Philadelphia where only 8 full-time, certified librarians service 220 schools and 134,000 students.  THAT’S A CRIME and one of many reasons why those schools are “failing.”  Those discouraging numbers come courtesy of a piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer.  “As Philadelphia school budgets have shrunk,”it discouragingly notes, “librarians have grown rarer, almost to the point of extinction.  In 1991, the school system employed 176 certified librarians.  Now, the librarians are only at Anderson, Elkin, Greenberg, Penn Alexander, Roosevelt, and Sullivan elementaries and Central and South Philadelphia High Schools.”               Despite a predicted decline in state revenue for the 2018 fiscal year, California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a boost of more than $1 billion in education spending.  The “State EdWatch” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the encouraging details.  “Of the state’s proposed $122.5 billion spending plan next year,” it mentions, “Brown proposes that the state increase K-12 spending from $71.9 billion to $73.5 billion.  Per-pupil spending would increase from $14,822 to $15,216.”  That’s some good news.
 
LAUSD News
The LAUSD board is contemplating changing the district’s school year calendar AGAIN.  It voted on Tuesday to continue the mid-August start, a full week off at Thanksgiving with a 3-week winter break for only 1 additional year as it considers other options beyond that time.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times outlines the reasons for that action and what choices the board is considering.  “In the past, schools across the country routinely started fall classes  after Labor Day.  In recent years, though, L.A. Unified has joined other districts in starting the school year earlier,” it reports.  “Some families prefer a traditional post-Labor Day school start because it lets them schedule vacations and keeps their kids out of classrooms during the most intense heat of late summer. Some in the Los Angeles school system have pointed out that a later start also reduces air conditioning costs. Such views prevailed in September, when the Board of Education voted to shift away gradually from the earlier start.”               Three of the seven LAUSD board seats are up for election in 2017.  The primary will take place March 7 and a run-off, if no candidate receives 50% + 1 vote, occurs on May 9.  2 of the 3 positions have incumbents running including board Pres. Steve Zimmer’s 4th district which runs from the Westside  to the San Fernando Valley.  [Ed. note: Full disclosure: I’m in Zimmer’s district.]  The 4 candidates vying for the job engaged in a spirited forum on Jan. 9, that was covered in the current edition (Jan. 13-19) of the JEWISH JOURNAL (both Zimmer and challenger Nickolas Melvoin are Jewish).  The forum/debate covered a wide range of issues including charter schools, teacher tenure, pension obligations and other district finances.               LAUSD Supt. Michelle King has been in office for a year.  A front-page article in yesterday’s L.A. Times reviews some of the things she’s done and where she’s fallen short.  It includes several charts with information about overall district enrollment (declining), charter enrollment (increasing), finances (uncertain) and graduation rates (increasing).  King put together a strategic plan for the district that the board has been slow to endorse.  “A year has passed since board members unanimously chose King to lead the Los Angeles Unified School District, citing her lifetime of experience in the district and deep familiarity with its problems.  In King,” the piece relates, “they saw a competent soldier, a respected former classroom teacher and high school principal who had served as deputy superintendent under two previous superintendents, John Deasy and Ramon C. Cortines.  That competent soldier is, in many respects, what they got.”     
 
Testing
And finally, could attending even one year of preschool predict future success on standardized math tests?  The latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) math scores offer a tantalizing possibility of that.  EDUCATION WEEK features those intriguing findings in an item titled “Preschool Linked to Success on Global Math Test.”  “The 2015 international-benchmarking test—as in previous PISA iterations—showed stronger math results,” it indicates, “for students who had participated in at least a few years of education between ages 3 and 5, before the start of formal primary school.”
              
 
                                                                                                           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 10, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “Education is a weapon that doesn’t create destruction, that creates peace” 

― Kip Keino

The Teaching Profession
What did the teaching profession look like in 2016?  The “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK provides a snapshot of teacher attitudes and statistics on a number of typical issues through a series of charts.  Here’s one example (out of 10 total): Chart #9: There Are a Lot of New Teachers”  It indicates that 12% of teachers in the U.S. are in their first or second year.  California is at 9% and among the lowest while Florida (the highest) registers an astonishing 29%!  Check out the rest of the items for an interesting glimpse of the profession you are currently in, retired from or are aspiring to join.               Peter DeWitt, on the “Finding Common Ground” column in ED WEEK provides “3 ‘Simple’ Ideas Every Educator Should Work on for 2017.”  His list includes things that will improve techniques and communication both personally and in the classroom.  “Just like with any new year we have our resolutions.  Instead of all of those resolutions that may not last very long,” he suggests, “we should look at a few that can have a powerful impact in 2017, and also happen to be a few that we believe we do already.  That impact can be reciprocal because we will get what we give in 2017.  Our learning and growing should never be one-sided.”
 
Betsy DeVos
The “Ed News” is NOT picking on Betsy DeVos, despite what you might think by my coverage of her nomination to be the next U.S. Sec. of Education.  There appear to be some serious issues with her selection to be the top federal official overseeing out public school system.  Friday’s edition provided a copy of her answers to a Senate Education Committee questionnaire that included a long list of her political contributions.  Five of those Republican Senators will be voting on her confirmation in the committee and a total of 20 in the full Senate.  Does that raise some questions in your mind?  It certainly does in mine.  For more information on this issue check out a story in The Washington Post titled “Trump’s Education Nominee and Her Family Members are Major Donors to the Senators Who Will Vote on Her Confirmation.”  “Democrats have singled out DeVos as one of eight Trump Cabinet picks deserving of extra scrutiny and skepticism,” it points out, “arguing that she has no experience as an educator or elected official and has a record of undermining U.S. public schools.  They are likely to bring up her political donations during her confirmation as evidence of her efforts to influence Congress, according to staffers.”                 The Post has another article reporting that Senate Democrats are seeking to delay that hearing until the federal ethics office completes its review of her.  “In a letter to Senate Democrats on Saturday,” it mentions, “the head of the ethics office said that Trump and Republican leaders are breaking with decades of precedent by pressing for Cabinet confirmation hearings to take place before ethics reviews are completed.  Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the ethics office, wrote that it would be ’cause for alarm’ if the Senate were to go forward with hearings on nominees who have not been fully vetted because of the potential for ‘unknown or unresolved’ ethics issues.”                BREAKING NEWS: According to the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK, the Senate Education Committee has postponed the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos from Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. to Jan. 17, at 5 p.m. (see item above).  “The move comes just days after [Sen. Patty] Murray [D-WA] and other Democrats had requested that the committee delay DeVos’ hearing,” it reports, “until after she is cleared by the Office of Government Ethics.  DeVos, a billionaire GOP donor and school choice advocate, is one of several Trump nominees who have not yet received a sign-off from the OGE.               “It’s been widely reported that 4 or 5 GOP members of the Senate Education Committee have collected campaign contributions from Betsy DeVos or her family (see first item in this section).  However, according to Darcie Cimarusti of New Jersey, aka the author of the Mother Crusader blog, that number may be under stated.  Her deep investigation reveals the number may be closer to EIGHT (out of 12)!  And remember, they are going to vote on whether to confirm her appointment to become the Sec. of Education.  “At the top of [my] post,” she explains, “I listed the 12 Republican members on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee, and I have been able to connect 8 of them to DeVos money, either directly or through PACs the DeVos family has contributed to.  I would be remiss if I didn’t add that this is just what I was able to find combing though FEC [Federal Election Commission] filings.  In no way are these totals exhaustive.  There well could be more money and other PACs I simply wasn’t able to uncover with my somewhat limited Nancy Drew style sleuthing abilities.”               A number of local pro-public education organizations in Ohio have signed on to a letter to be sent to the state’s 2 U.S. Senators opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the federal Dept. of Education.  The janresseger blog describes her group’s efforts to draft the letter, circulate it to as many organizations as possible and deliver it to Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (D-OH) yesterday.  Resseger, a long-time public school activist, was surprised at the extent of opposition to DeVos in the Buckeye State.  “We discovered [last] week that a mass of people from across our community, across Greater Cleveland, in surrounding counties, and across Ohio,” she indicates, “were delighted their organization had been given an opportunity to weigh in on this important matter that will affect our public schools, our communities, our state, and our society.” Resseger includes a copy of the letter on her post and a list of the various groups who signed it.             As the Senate Education Committee hearing for Betsy DeVos is set to kick off tomorrow, Russ Walsh, on his Russ on Reading blog, pens an open letter to Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr., (D-PA and one of Walsh’s home state Senators) one of the minority party members of the committee, with a list of 10 questions he’d like Casey or anyone else on the panel to address to DeVos.  Here’s one example from his list: “3.  In your home state of Michigan, you and the foundations you support have fought hard to make sure that governmental oversight of charter schools is extremely limited despite indications of widespread fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance.  Should charter schools be subject to the same financial and academic scrutiny as traditional public schools?  If not, why not?”               Diane Ravitch issued a press release via the IPA (INSTITUTE for PUBLIC ACCURACY) website officially opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Dept. of Education.  You can read her statement by clicking here “Betsy DeVos should not be approved by the Senate committee or confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Education.  She has no experience or qualifications for the job,” Ravitch writes in part.  “She is a lobbyist for alternatives to public schools.  Eighty-five percent of the students in the U.S. attend  public schools.  Her only plan is to weaken and destroy them by diverting public money to charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.”               An editorial in The New York Times is headlined “Big Worries About Betsy DeVos.”  It raises some serious questions about the rush to confirm her despite warnings from the Office of Government Ethics regarding incomplete paper work plus the Times worries about her detrimental impact on the public schools in her home state of Michigan.                Apparently the “group” “Friends of Betsy DeVos” consists solely of a paid public relations person.  Investigative reporter extraordinaire, Mercedes Schneider describes what she discovered on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  “I have been doing a lot of reading about Trump’s nominee for US secretary of education, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos,’ she reveals, “and I have noticed a recurring defender of DeVos, Ed Patru, ‘spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, a group of supporters.’ . . .  I searched for any formally organized group calling itself Friends of Betsy DeVos, and I found no record.  In fact, the only hits I did find always seem to be some quote by Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos.  There is just Ed Patru.”                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post, characterizes the growing opposition to the DeVos nomination from individuals and organizations.  “Public education was not much of an issue during the 2016 presidential campaign — but it sure is now,” Strauss points out, “as opposition grows to the Senate confirmation of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary  nominee, who once called the U.S. traditional public school system a ‘dead end.’ . . .  DeVos, a leader in the movement to privatize the U.S. public-education system, has quickly become a lightning rod in the education world since her nomination by Trump in November.”
 
Next Friedrichs Case Already in the Pipeline
The Friedrichs v California Teachers Association U.S. Supreme case, which would have eliminated unions’ abilities to collect even agency fees, was on the verge of being decided against the unions when the unexpected death of Justice Scalia caused the case to end up in a 4-4 tie.  That left the lower appellate court ruling in effect which favored the unions. However, anti-labor forces are salivating at the chance to bring up the issue again after a Pres. Trump nominee takes Scalia’s place and a case is already wending its way through the courts.  It’s referred to as Janus v AFSCME and is described in an article from IN THESE TIMES.  “As Democrats and the labor movement prepare for a possible fight over Trump’s imminent appointment to the Supreme Court,” it suggests, “they should recognize that several major labor cases, brought by some of labor’s most persistent enemies, are waiting in the wings.”
 
Education Under Obama/Duncan
As of today (Jan. 10) the Obama presidency has 10 days left.  As it winds down many people in his administration are concerned about their legacy.  Arne Duncan (remember him?) served as Sec. of Education for the first 7 years of Obama’s tenure in office.  Peter Greene, this time writing in The Progressive, was never a big fan of Duncan’s and his piece on Duncan’s education legacy is no different.  It’s titled “Hasta La Vista Arne!  Duncan’s Failed Education Legacy.”  That’s pretty blunt!  Duncan recently wrote about his “accomplishments” while leading the Dept. of Education (Greene includes a link) and Greene takes a scalpel to what he describes as Duncan’s “self-proclaimed achievements.”  “At this point I can feel a little bad for Duncan—he didn’t really accomplish any of his major goals, and the next administration is not even going to pay lip service to his efforts,” Greene envisions.  “It must be tough to feel like you really know a lot about how something works, but the people in power won’t even listen to you.  It feels, in fact, a lot like being a teacher during Duncan’s tenure at the U.S. Department of Education.”               Pres. Obama delivered his farewell address this evening at McCormick Place in his home town of Chicago.  EDUCATION WEEK has three items about his impact on K-12 education which you can find here , titled “Obama’s Legacy on K-12 One of Bold Achievements and Fierce Blowback,” here, headlined “The Obama Administration’s Imprint on K-12 Policy: A Roundup” and here, “How Obama Wielded the Presidential Megaphone.”
Running Schools Like Businesses?
Are the hiring practices of U.S. school districts in need of an overhaul?  A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, answers “yes.”  The group’s research is featured in a story in the “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  It lists some ways those practices can be updated and made more effective so the best candidates can be selected.  “The report’s authors conclude that recruiting top talent is a crucial goal for businesses and schools alike.  If school districts want to attract and keep the best teachers, according to the authors,” the article concludes, “they must take a page out of the business-recruiting playbook and revamp their hiring practices at once.”  [Ed. note: This may be one way that schools do want to emulate business methods.]  The ED WEEK item includes a link to the full report from CAP titled “To Attract Great Teachers, School Districts Must Improve Their Human Capital Systems.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers like to promote the idea that schools would be more successful if they were run to a greater degree like businesses.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles that make the case that students are not products that come off assembly lines and should not be run as a franchise like McDonald’s.  However, there may be a FEW business practices that schools could emulate (see above).  Samuel E. Abrams, the author of an op-ed in Sunday’s L.A. Times, makes just that argument.  He’s the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and he identifies 5 business concepts that SHOULD be adopted by schools.  “Donald Trump never tires of reminding us that he is a businessman,” Abrams begins, “and in Betsy DeVos, he has nominated a secretary of Education who endorses a business model for improving elementary and secondary schooling.  The problem is, it’s the wrong model.  DeVos’ prescriptions include for-profit school management, taxpayer-funded vouchers to cover private school tuition and parental choice as the primary vehicle for regulation.  Yet where such free-market remedies have been tried, they have yielded disappointing results.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG turns the idea of running schools like businesses into a story about baby sea turtles.  It’s titled “School Privatization Turns Business Into Predator and Students Into Prey.”  “Schools should be run like a business,” he postulates.  “Parents and students should choose between educational institutions, which would then compete for their budget allotments.  Some schools would thrive but most would fail – just like in business, athletics or other competitive pursuits.  And while these fledgling schools struggle to make ends meet, predators will be waiting in the wings to benefit from their failure and perfidy.”
 
Public Schools Under Assault on Many Fronts
Whether it be charters, vouchers, Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump or Mike Pence the traditional public school system in this country is under attack.  A feature in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT is headlined: “The War on Public Schools”  and it doesn’t mince words!  It chronicles the many fronts that are under attack including school choice, the Dept. of Education, Common Core, Teachers Unions, the Every Student Succeeds Act and Higher Education.  It concludes with some strategies that progressives can adopt to fight back and they are certainly going to need them.  ““To say education conservatives are ecstatic about their new political opportunities,” it warns, “would be an understatement.  With Republicans controlling the House and Senate, a politically savvy conservative ideologue leading the federal education department, a vice president who earned notoriety in his home state for expanding vouchers, charters, and battling teacher unions, not to mention a president-elect who initially asked creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. to head up his Department of Education, the stars have aligned for market-driven education advocates.”
 
New State Report Cards
The New “Quality Counts 2017: State Report Cards” are out from EDUCATION WEEK.  Overall, based on the criteria used, schools in the U.S. earned a “C” grade (score of 74.2 out of a possible 100).  No state garnered an “A.”  Massachusetts came out on top with a “B” (86.5) followed by New Jersey with the same grade and a score of 85.6.  California checked in with a “C-” (69.9) while Nevada was at the bottom with a “D” (65.0).  You can access an overview and summary of the report with links to all the various other stories related to it by clicking here.  For a quick view of how individual states did click on the sidebar titled “Interactive Map: State Report Cards” about a third of the way down the above item.  For a detailed report on California’s score click here.
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
The school board in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in mid-December passed unanimously a resolution calling for opposition to charters in the Bluegrass State.  Matt Wyatt, the chair of the district’s board, pens an op-ed explaining his body’s action and why the state should instead provide adequate support for the public schools of Kentucky.  His piece appears in the Louisville Courier-Journal.  “You will be hearing a lot of talk about charter schools over the course of the next two months when our General Assembly convenes.  Governor Matt Bevin and the new Republican majority in the House have indicated that they are going to do everything that they can to pass charter school legislation.  Kentucky remains one of seven states,” Wyatt points out, “which does not permit the privatization of public education (i.e., charter schools). . . .  We were the first Board of Education in Kentucky to pass such a resolution. Our opposition is based on 25 years’ worth of data which confirms that when the privatization of public education is allowed in a state, public schools suffer, taxpayers are swindled and students are often left worse off.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers are constantly pushing things like charters and vouchers as ways to provide parents with more “choices” in the way they select schools for their children.  What they don’t champion is any sort of accountability and transparency related to those ideas.  Traditional public schools lay all of their cards on the table for parents and the community to see and compare.  That dichotomy is explored by Lindsay Wagner, on the NC POLICY WATCH, as it pertains to the quickly expanding voucher program in North Carolina.  “There is one very big difference,” she relates,  “between choosing between a local public school and a local private school, publicly funded or not: the degree to which you can know in advance what you’re signing up for.”      Charter schools are often offered as an option (choice) for parents who are trying to select the best school for their child.  “Choice” may not be the best term, however.  How about “threat?”  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items demonstrating how charters operate on a different playing field than traditional public schools and that fact is posing a serious challenge to the students, parents and teachers who attend, support and work on public campuses.  Carol Burris once again guest-blogs on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post.  This time she describes how charters are menacing the very existence of the public school system in Bethlehem, PA.  “What I learned in Bethlehem is both simple and clear.  Pennsylvania’s politicians, like those in so many states,” Burris complains, “have neither the stomach nor the will to curb the abuses of charter schools as they drain the public school coffers.  America must choose either a patchwork of online schools and charters with profiteers on the prowl, or a transparent community public school system run by citizens elected by their neighbors.  A dual school system with the private taking funding from the public, simply cannot survive.”
 
Eliminate the DoE?
When Republicans are in office one of the first things they propose is to eliminate the Dept. of Education.  With Pres. Trump taking office in 10 days, that issue is sure to come up rather early in his term.  An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times makes the case for doing away with the department that came into existence under Pres. Carter.  The GOP under presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were never able to accomplish their goal of getting rid of the DoE.  The co-authors of the piece argue that the department has become too politicized and schools would improve if it disappeared.  “It’s time for the department to be dismantled.  It has done some good, especially in pointing out education inequity.  But more often it has served political, not educational, interests. . . .  After 40 years of top-down, politically tinged intrusion,” they maintain, “it’s possible to imagine a more collaborative, less rigid relationship between our schools and the national government.  Abolishing the Education Department is a good place to start.”
 
Whither School Reform
And finally, Stephen Mucher, Director of the Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching program here in Los Angeles and friend of Occidental College, has a thoughtful commentary on the M (Medium) website offering some suggestions regarding how positive and effective school reform should proceed in the age of Trump/DeVos/Pence.  He begins by dividing those who wish to improve education into 2 groups: the “reformers” and the “inclusionists.”  He details what each one hopes to achieve and how they plan to do it and notes that the former is certainly in the ascendancy in Washington, D.C., as the Trump administration takes over.  [Ed. note: Which of Mucher’s 2 groups would you identify with?]
 
                                                                                                           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 6, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

      Happy New Year Everyone!
                 Inline image 1

[ALOED Book Club Reminder:] How about one more New Years’ resolution?  Resolve to attend the next ALOED Book discussion featuring Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education.”  The event takes place on Thursday, Jan. 19, 6-8 pm, at the South Pasadena home of Jill Asbjornsen and includes dinner (provided by ALOED).  For good food and stimulating conversation (you don’t even have to read the book to join us) click here for all the details and to RSVP.]  This resolution is easy to keep and you’ll enjoy yourself at the same time.

 
And now to the news.

“Education, from Addams’ perspective, must not merely make us more adept at defending ourselves 
 against those with different agendas. Education should increase our powers of empathy 
 and our ability to act in concert with others.” 
[Ed. note: Please notice the deliberate tie-in of the above quote to the reading selection for the next ALOED Book Club (see the reminder at the top of this edition)].  😉
LAUSD Partners With 2 Local Universities
UCLA and LMU have partnered with the LAUSD to provide faculty, curriculum guidance and other services to several low performing district schools according to a story in the Dec. 26th L.A. Times.  It focuses on how the association is working at Horace Mann Middle School in South L.A.  “UCLA’s partnership with Mann in South L.A. is the university’s second foray into the school district.  The first UCLA Community School opened in 2009,” it notes, “on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel in Koreatown, on the campus of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.”  [Ed. note: Several years ago a group of ALOED members had the opportunity to tour the RFK Community Schools campus.]
 
School for LGBTQ Students Only Opens in Atlanta
The Pride School Atlanta is the first campus in the southern part of the U.S. to enroll LGBTQ students exclusively.  An article from telesur has the details about the non-profit private school that opened its doors in September.  “Even opponents of transgender bathroom access see benefits in the Pride School model,” it reports, “which is serving a small group of full- and part-time students in a multi-age classroom.”
 
Cyber Charters Explained
Not exactly sure what  cyber or virtual charter schools are, how they operate and the threat they pose not only to traditional public schools but also to brick and mortar charters?  A primer on the subject appears on THE CONVERSATION website.  It addresses those issues and more in a piece titled “What Cyber Charter Schools Are, and Why Their Growth Should Worry Us.”  One of the co-authors is a Ph.D. candidate and the other is a Professor of Sociology, Education and Demography.  Both are at Penn State University.  “Unlike the usual charter school, the cyber version is typically delivered to students online wherever they may live, so long as they are residents of the state in which the cyber charter school operates,” they write.  “Cyber charter schools have been growing in states that have school choice policy.  Our research, along with a body of academic work, suggests that the public should be concerned about an expansion of the cyber charter schooling model.”  Their big worry is that Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos are all proponents of school “choice” and charters.  How much that includes cyber charters is unknown at this point in time.
 
The Future of Public Education Under a Trump Administration
Want some inkling of what education policy might look like under a Trump Administration?  Here are 2 articles that focus on how Betsy DeVos impacted schools in Detroit and how Mike Pence effected education in Indiana.  The first is from truthout and is titled “The Great Unwinding of Public Education: Detroit and DeVos” which looks at how her advocacy and political donations in support of “choice” and charters pretty much devastated the traditional public schools in the Motor City.  “Michigan has its own charter school prophet, Betsy DeVos, who, like John the Baptist, has been kicked up from a local ministry to the big time.  Her role in delivering public education in Michigan to the hedge fund managers by way of vouchers is noteworthy,” it relates, “even in a state that has wandered far from its union origins.  According to The New York Times, A 2015 federal review of charter schools in Michigan found that an ‘unreasonably high’ percentage of charter schools were considered underperforming.  In 2015 Ms. DeVos and a group she backed, successfully defeated Michigan legislation that would have prevented failing charter schools from expanding or replicating.”               The second item describes how the voucher program in Indiana, which began under a previous governor, was expanded by Gov. Mike Pence.  It appears in The Washington Post and is headlined “How Indiana’s School Voucher Program Soared, and What is Says About Education in the Trump Era.”  “Indiana’s legislature first approved a limited voucher program in 2011, capping it at 7,500 students in the first year and restricting it to children who had attended public schools for at least a year. . . .  Two years later, Pence entered the governor’s office with a pledge to extend vouchers to more children. . . .  Within months,” the story explains, “Indiana lawmakers eliminated the requirement that children attend public school before receiving vouchers and lifted the cap on the number of recipients.  The income cutoff was raised, and more middle-class families became eligible.  When those changes took effect, an estimated 60 percent of all Indiana children were eligible for vouchers, and the number of recipients jumped from 9,000 to more than 19,000 in one year.  The proportion of children who had never previously attended Indiana public schools also rose quickly: By 2016, more than half of voucher recipients — 52 percent — had never been in the state’s public school system.”              UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles), the LAUSD teachers union, has come up with a novel way to protest against the upcoming takeover of federal education policy under the Trump/DeVos/and others team–a “Tweetstorm.”  You can find out what that is and read all about the event planned for Jan. 19th, the day before the Trump inauguration on the UTLA webiste.  “The morning action will take place at hundreds of schools across LAUSD.  Demonstrators will tweet @realDonaldTrump as we defend access to quality public education for ALL students.  During the action, participants will march to the street holding up symbolic shields to protect our schools, students, and communities from privatization, attacks on immigrants, union-busting, and more.”               The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a preview story titled “Donald Trump and K-12 Education: Five Things to Watch in 2017.” “The presidential transition means an especially busy start to the year.  President-elect Donald Trump may not have talked much about education on the campaign trail, but the first part of the year,” the reporter predicts, “will tell us a lot about the direction he wants to go and how much of a priority he places on the issue.  What’s more, we’ll get a glimpse of how well he’s able to work with Congress on K-12, not to mention early and higher education.”   The author identifies 5 things to keep your eyes on in the realm of education policy as the new year unfolds, leading off with “Betsy DeVos’s confirmation process.”
 
Know What “Planking” Is?
Have you ever heard of the disciplinary technique referred to as “planking?”   I hadn’t.  It’s a form of student punishment that requires the offending pupil to assume a push-up position and hold it for a certain period of time.  An incident occurred at Horton Elementary School (San Diego Unified School District) in mid-October and planking and other physical calisthenics were ordered for third and fourth-graders in lieu of recess for 3 days.  A complaint was filed and the district responded that the discipline was appropriate, did not constitute corporal punishment and was within district guidelines.  All this is sorted out for you in an article in the Dec. 30th L.A. Times.  
 
Houston, Texas, District Deliberately Denies Special Ed Services to Eligible Students
An extensive investigative piece in the Houston Chronicle details how the Houston Independent School District (HISD) willfully denies special ed services to disabled students.  The goal was to reduce the percentage of pupils receiving those services and the practice was fairly widespread throughout Texas.  “A Houston Chronicle investigation has found that HISD achieved its low special education rate.” it somberly points out, “by deliberately discouraging and delaying evaluations in pursuit of goals that have clearly denied critical services to thousands of children with disabilities.  Records show the largest school district in Texas enthusiastically embraced a controversial state policy that has driven special education enrollments to the lowest in the United States.”
 
The Year Ahead
Peter Greene writes the entertaining and informative CURMUDGUCATION blog but at his core he’s still a high school English teacher.  In that role, he offers “2017: 9 Wishes” with a list of things he’s really like to see take place over the next 12 months.  “I should note that this is an ideal wish list, and I recognize that it’s a really long journey to get from where we are to these goals,” he muses.  “But even if we can’t get there, these are the stars we should steer by, the harbor we should navigate toward.”  Here are 2 examples from his wish list: “2) Fair and equitable funding” and “4) Teachers installed as authorities in the education field.”  Check out his other seven
 
Rating Schools and Teachers
It’s a new year and time once again to remind the corporate “reformers” and privatizers about why using student test scores is a poor way to rate schools and evaluate teachers.  This time I’ll let Bruce D. Baker, Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, do the convincing on his School Finance 101 blog (he’s much more qualified than I am).  His scholarly piece is titled “Thoughts on Junk Indicators, School Rating Systems & Accountability.”  It’s a lengthy and thoughtful review and should be at the top of your reading list as schools return after the holidays.  “It blows my mind, however, that states and local school districts continue to use the most absurdly inappropriate measures,” Baker complains, “to determine which schools stay open, or close, and as a result which school employees are targeted for dismissal/replacement or at the very least disruption and displacement.  Policymakers continue to use measures, indicators, matrices, and other total bu!!$#!+ distortions of measures they don’t comprehend, to disproportionately disrupt the schools and lives of low income and minority children, and the disproportionately minority teachers who serve those children.  THIS HAS TO STOP!”
 
California is Looking for Bilingual Teachers
When California voters approved Prop. 58 by an overwhelming margin in November, it restored bilingual programs in the state and instantly created a demand for bilingual teachers who have always been hard to come by.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK looks at the issue and how districts in the Golden State are trying to staff their new programs. “Educators say growing interest in bilingual programs will boost already high demand for teachers trained and credentialed to teach the classes,” it relates.  “Schools that already have such programs in California — and in other states, including Utah and Oregon — have brought teachers on visas from overseas to meet the need.”
 
Betsy DeVos
A group of 7 educators from the Westminster College School of Education, a small, private, liberal arts campus in Salt Lake City with an undergraduate enrollment of 2,100 students [Ed. note: a lot like Occidental College], penned an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune, protesting the appointment of Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Dept.of Education.  They perceive her as a serious threat to the future of public education.  “President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education delivers a severe blow to the future of public education.  While her statements indicate a desire to provide all parents the opportunity to choose the best schools for their children,” they write, “a deep look into her promotion of unregulated, for-profit charters and vouchers indicates a very different agenda.”                When Betsy DeVos was nominated to be President-elect Trump’s Sec. of Education she filled out a questionnaire with information that the Senate Education Committee requested.  You can read her responses by clicking here.  What’s quite interesting is the LONGGGGGGGG list of political contributions she’s made over the past 4 or 5 years.  The full form covers 23 pages; the list of her contributions takes up 10 of those pages.  Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to begin on Jan. 11.  Is it a problem that she’s made contributions to 4 members of that committee who will voting on her confirmation?  Just asking!               The newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were officially sworn in on Tuesday.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has an item discussing the new members of the Senate Education Committee and a list of the continuing members.  One of the 3 new additions: Tim Kaine (D-VA) who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate.  This is the committee that will be holding hearings on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos (see above).               If you believe that Betsy DeVos is a dangerous choice to head the Dept. of Education, the NPE (NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION) has assembled a “toolkit” that people can use to protest her selection.  You can access it by clicking here.  It includes 3 specific actions you can take with detailed instructions and materials to make known your unease with her pick.  “Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now,” the NPE website urges.  “We now know that some Senators have grave doubts [regarding her choice].  It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos.”               It is not just progressive Democrats who are concerned about the DeVos nomination.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, points out that some conservative Republicans are also expressing qualms about her, particularly in regards to her position on the Common Core.  Greene headlines his commentary “The Conservative Argument Against DeVos.”  “Bottom line: Senators should be hearing objections to DeVos from across the perspective,” he recommends, “and when you are calling your senator (there is no if– you should be doing it, and soon, and often), you can take into account what sort of Senator you are calling.  Your GOP senator needs to hear that DeVos’s nomination breaks Trump’s promise to attack Common Core and to get local control back to school districts. Your GOP senator needs to hear that you are not fooled by DeVos’s attempt to pretend she’s not a long-time Common Core supporter.”               Jeff Bryant, writing on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, notes that Democrats in the U.S. Senate have decided to fight at least 8 of President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees including Betsy DeVos.  He reviews a number of articles and commentaries that oppose her selection and suggests the Democrats have nothing to lose by attempting to derail her choice.  “There are Democratic party insiders who believe they’ve been backing the cause of education reform for idealistic reasons. They may choose to go along to get along,” Bryant concludes, “with the new Republican regime to see where that gets them despite having zero leverage in the policy debate.  But for those Democrats who’ve remained largely silent or on the fence on charter schools, vouchers, and other features of the reform movement, now is indeed a good time to express opposition. They have nothing to lose.”
 
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Regarding IEPs
The SCOTUSblog reports on a U.S. Supreme Court case involving what types of services must be provided to a student based on his/her IEP.  Oral arguments are scheduled for next week.  The case is Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District and the article provides background and a preview of anticipated arguments in the case.
 
Running Schools Like Businesses
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers would love for our traditional public schools to be run like businesses [Ed. note: That seems to be all they know].  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of critics of that approach.  You can add Steven Singer to that long list.  He matter-of-factly titles the piece,on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, “Why Schools Should NOT Be Run Like Businesses.”  “Public schools are run by democratically elected school boards.  Privately run charter and voucher schools often are run by appointees.  They aren’t beholden to the public who provide the tax dollars they need to operate.  They are beholden to the limited group of people who would profit from them economically.  This is a terrible model for public schools,” he concludes.  “It gives very little back to the taxpayer.  It gives less value to the student.   Should we run our schools like businesses?  Not if we value students and taxpayers more than the handful of investors looking to profit off our dime.”
 
Testing
This is one you really need to read to be believed.  The big standardized test in Texas (the STAAR) includes two poems that appear on the Grade 7 and Grade 8 assessments.  The poems are both written by Sara Holbrook who decided to tackle the questions that accompanied her two works.  As she startlingly writes in the HUFFPOST “I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems.”  Holbrook includes one of her poems and the questions that go with it.  She explains how she would possibly answer them and notes how difficult that is.  “When I realized I couldn’t answer the questions posed about two of my own poems on the Texas state assessment tests (STAAR Test),” she begins her composition, “I had a flash of panic – oh, no!  Not smart enough.  Such a dunce.  My eyes glazed over.  I checked to see if anyone was looking.  The questions began to swim on the page.  Waves of insecurity.  My brain in full spin.”              Diane Ravitch’s blog has been featuring a resident poet who, upon reading the above article, composed a short rhyme of his/her own to explain the situation.  Here’s the first of 3 stanzas titled “Understanding Poetry:”
                                                                                     
To understand a poem
You shouldn’t ask the poet
Cuz poets all are dumb
And, worst of all, don’t know it.
 
Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Monty Neill, executive director of the Center for Fair and Open Testing, aka FairTest, who argues “How Testing Practices Have to Change in U.S. Public Schools.”  He proposes some concrete reforms to make testing more fair and effective.  “Last year was a good one for testing reformers,” he states by way of introduction.  “More states dropped graduation exams.  Many districts cut back testing time.  The grassroots assessment reform movement grew stronger and more diverse. This new year can be even better if assessment reformers take advantage of opportunities under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”
Principals and the 4 C’s
And finally, Peter DeWitt, on the “Finding Common Ground” commentary for EDUCATION WEEK, asked teachers to evaluate their principals based on the 4 C’s (he explains what they are and includes a fifth at the end of his column) and add any comments about their administrator and his/her leadership style.  “So often leaders believe teachers have blind spots that they can’t see in the classroom.  However, if this is true for teachers it must be true for leaders.  What are your blind spots?” he asks principals.  “Does the feedback from below resonate with you?  Do teachers feel comfortable giving you the feedback face-to-face, and not to a blog that you may never read?”
              
 
                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Friday, December 23, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   The 8-day Jewish holiday of Chanukah 
    begins at sundown tomorrow (Saturday) 
   and, of course, Christmas arrives on Sunday.
 
              Inline image 1     &      Inline image 2
 
[The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the holidays.  Look for the next edition on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.]
 
And now to the news.
  “For in this Case, we are not to give Credit to the Many, who say, 
  that none ought to be educated but the Free; but rather to the Philosophers, 
  who say, that the Well-educated alone are free.”

The Teacher Shortage

The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items about the teacher shortage plaguing a number of states since the phenomenon came to light.  A comprehensive article from truthout reviews the causes of the problem, why it could persist and some policies that could end it.  ” The reasons why teachers are leaving — or not going into teaching in the first place — are not difficult to discern,” it notes.  “Teachers unions, as well as activist groups like the Badass Teachers Association and research entities like the Learning Policy Institute agree: Micromanagement of teachers; disorganized school administration; a lack of voice in matters affecting school functioning; too few chances to teach collaboratively; excessive attention to test prep; chronic underfunding; and a perceived lack of respect from parents and the overall community lead to demoralization and push educators into less emotionally exhausting, and often better paying, occupations.”
 
The Value of School Secretaries
Who really runs a school?  The principal? Teachers? What about the school secretary?  The “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK titles a commentary “8 Reasons Why School Secretaries Deserve More Credit.”  The author, Peter DeWitt, is a former K-5 public school principal.  Check out his list.  “I hope you don’t mind a blog post that is a bit different than the others.  It’s just that I don’t believe that secretaries get the credit they deserve as often as they deserve it.  In the end,” he concludes, “a good school secretary helps build relationships, and is an integral part of the school climate.”  The next time you visit the main office of a school show some appreciation for those undervalued (and woefully underpaid) school secretaries.
 
The Obama Education Legacy and What’s Ahead

Dana Goldstein, a previous ALOED Book Club author, looks back at the last 8 years of education policy under the Obama administration.  Her analysis appears in THE Nation and is aptly titled “The Education of Barack Obama.  Only Recently has the President Focused on Progressive Issues Like School Funding and Desegregation.  Don’t Expect Trump to do the Same.”  “Only since 2014 has there been a détente in what many, myself included, termed the ‘teacher wars.’ [Ed. note: That’s the title of her book that we discussed.]   Grassroots activism from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as from tens of thousands of parents who opted their children out of standardized testing,” she suggests, “helped shift the terms of the debate.  We now talk almost as much about school discipline, unequal school funding, and school segregation as we do about low test scores and teacher tenure.  It’s a profound change in rhetoric.”  Goldstein is not optimistic that those progressive topics will be of much concern as the Trump/DeVos team takes over education policy.               Jeff Bryant, on The Education Opportunity NETWORK, also dives into the speculation game of what’s to come in regards to education issues under a Trump administration.  Bryant cites a number of sources (and includes links) that attempt to make guesses as to what to expect in the future.  He references Dana Goldstein’s article (see above) at the very end of his piece.  “Education marketers have rebranded ‘public schools’ to mean any institution that gets tax dollars.  And the phrase ‘doing what’s best for kids’ has been turned into an empty PR slogan.  The operative political term of the day,” he worries, “is ‘what parents choose for their children,’ which has become a de facto argument to justify any kind of education option – even if parents are being suckered into bad choices or are being forced into situations where high quality education options are practically unobtainable.”               Online or virtual charter schools, which have not received good marks of late, are chomping at the bit at the prospects of a Trump administration that appears to be a big booster of charter schools of any type.  Even some segments of the charter industry are raising alarms about their online brethren. BuzzFeedNEWS describes how Wall Street is reacting to the investment possibilities.  “Online charter schools are widely regarded as among the country’s worst-performing, plagued by abysmal test scores and sky-high student turnover rates,” it relates.  “They’re also gearing up for a boom during the Trump administration, judging by where investors are placing their bets.  K12 Inc., the online charter school industry’s largest and most controversial player, has risen in value by more than 50% since November 8. The shares hit a 2-year high last week.”               In the face of a future Trump/DeVos threat to dismantle the traditional public school system, what types of strategies can supporters adopt to resist such an onslaught?  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers some moral support and, more importantly, some ideas of how to fight back against Trump’s cabinet selections and other office picks.  “Buck up, Education Activists.  I see that hopeless look on your faces. I see it because it’s the same look reflected back at me in the mirror every morning,” he confesses.”  Singer concludes his piece with a powerful and appropriate quote from an unknown source: 

 
Inline image 1
 
[Ed. ironic note: As I peek outside my window at this very moment, it’s dark and rainy.]
 
Common Core & Testing
Diane Ravitch’s blog reviews why she is, and has been, against the Common Core State Standards since their inception.  Ravitch lists the specific reasons she opposes the Common Core and provides links to a number of previous columns and stories in that regard.  “I oppose the mandated use of the Common Core standards.  If teachers like them and want to use them, they should.  I have no problem with that,” she writes.  “It should be up to the teachers, not to a committee that was funded by Bill Gates, promoted by Arne Duncan, and marketed as a ‘state-led initiative,’ which it was not.”               Results recently came out from two major international standardized tests, the TIMSS and PISA (both were highlighted individually by the “Ed News”).  If you missed them, EDUCATION WEEK has a recap and some additional analysis of the what the scores signify.  It includes several graphs and charts comparing the results and what it all means to the big picture.               The Dec. 16th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article in the L.A. Times about a conflict between the U.S. Dept. of Education and California over new science tests.  The state wants to introduce assessments that are tied to the new Next Generation Science Standards and eliminate old exams and not hold schools and districts accountable until everything has been implemented and checked-out thoroughly.  The DoE, on the other hand, wants California to administer both tests and issue results so that district and school scores can be compared.  An editorial in yesterday’s Times sides with the state and mentions a couple of other times officials in the Golden State defied federal directives.  “The state wants to give the new science tests, dump the old ones and not hold schools responsible for the results until everyone gets used to the new curriculum and exams.  The U.S. Department of Education rejected the proposal, saying if California won’t report scores for the new tests, it has to give the old tests as well.  Once again,” the piece argues, “the state is right: It shouldn’t test something it isn’t teaching anymore.  And it shouldn’t be pushed to double-test; schools are supposed to be eliminating duplicative tests.”
 
Sleuthing Out Deceptive Websites
“Fake news” reports became a critical issue this year as witnessed by the just concluded election.  The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a couple of items on the topic.  In the same vein, the “Tech Smart” column in THE HECHINGER REPORT has a story titled “What These Teens Learned About the Internet May Shock You!  Can Digital Media Literacy Contend With Bogus News?”  It leads off with a group of AP U.S. History students in California studying a seemingly authoritative website about the minimum wage only to quickly discover, under the guidance of their teacher, that it was really a front for an industry organization.  How the students proceeded from that revelation is the focus of the piece. “The exercise was part of ‘Civic Online Reasoning,’ a series of news-literacy lessons being developed by Stanford researchers,” it details, “and piloted by teachers at a few dozen schools.  The Stanford initiative launched in 2015, joining a handful of recent efforts to help students contend with misinformation and fake news online—a problem as old as dial-up modems, but now supercharged by social media and partisan news bubbles.  The backers of these efforts warn that despite young people’s reputation as ‘digital natives,’ they are woefully unprepared to sort online fact from fiction, and the danger isn’t just to scholarship but to citizenship.”
 
Dirty Pool in North Carolina Challenged
Several key REPUBLICANS, including the chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, are threatening possible legal action against what the outgoing GOP governor and Republican legislators did in stripping certain powers from the Board of Education and handing them to the newly elected GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction.  All of this was accomplished in a hastily called special session after the governor was defeated by a razor thin margin in the Nov. 8th election.  The previous two editions of the “Ed News” tried to sort all this out for you.  “The Progressive Pulse” feature of the NC POLICY WATCH discusses the latest developments in this ongoing saga which some observers have referred to as a “coup.”  “Minutes after Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday,” it begins, “signed a controversial bill mandating stiff new limits on the powers of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education—a panel composed of gubernatorial appointees—state board Chairman Bill Cobey vowed his board would meet with their attorneys to consider their response.”  The article points out, interestingly, that most of the members of the North Carolina Board of Education are members of the GOP.  So why are Republicans doing such nasty things to fellow Republicans?  Good question.                Things have become so dysfunctional in North Carolina governance that one expert believes his Tar Heel State no longer qualifies as a democracy.  Andrew Reynolds is a professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an author, and a consultant on democratic institutions for over 20 countries around the world.   His op-ed for the Charlotte News & Observer is bluntly titled “North Carolina is No Longer Classified as a Democracy.”  He and a colleague designed their Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) that measures the quality of elections around the world.  By their own measure, North Carolina doesn’t meet the criteria to be called “a fully functioning democracy.”  That’s really sad, sad indeed.  “In the just released EIP report,” Reynolds makes known,  “North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.  If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.”
 
2016, The Year in Review
It’s that time of year again for those ubiquitous “best and worst of 2016” lists.  The “Ed News” has already highlighted a couple of them that got the jump on what are surely more to come.  The “Digital Education” column for EDUCATION WEEK checks in with a piece headlined “Ed-Tech Research That Mattered in 2016″ that rehashes “the 10 most popular and impactful stories” from the column from the past year.  Here’s one example: “5. Students in Online Credit Recovery Fare Worse Than Peers, Research Finds     A major study from the American Institutes for Research found that Chicago 9th graders who took a face-to-face version of an Algebra I credit-recovery course had better short-term outcomes than those who took the course online, raising questions about the rapidly growing online credit recovery market. (April)”               ED WEEK is out with its Top 10 Most-Viewed Education Stories of 2016 with links to each.  [Ed. note: We’re pleased to note that many of them were highlighted in the “Ed News” over the past year.]  Here’s just one example that was covered in the “Ed News:”  “#7  1 in 4 Teachers Miss 10 or More School Days, Analysis Finds”
 
DeVos Pick to Head DoE
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, reprints a speech Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, delivered in 2015 about her vision for education.  You can read the full text of it by clicking here.  It contains “6 Inconvenient Truths” about the state of education in the U.S. today as identified by DeVos.  Strauss then proceeds to analyze the talk in great detail in two additional columns because she believes it is quite indicative of what’s in store for education under a Trump/DeVos team.  Strauss’ first column of analysis is titled “To Trump’s Education Pick, the U.S. Public School System is a ‘Dead End'”  and her follow-up column is headlined “‘Government Really Sucks and Five Other Principles Promoted by Trump’s Education Nominee.”  “The thrust of her speech is that traditional public schools are simply not as good as charters or privates,” Strauss suggests in the former.  “And that’s why many public school advocates are concerned about the nomination of the woman who called the traditional public education system in the United States a ‘dead end.’”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, credits Valerie Strauss for uncovering the speech Betsy DeVos delivered in  2015 in which she discusses her “6 inconvenient truths” about education (see above).  He couldn’t resist adding his point-by-point critique of her talk.  “I don’t know if DeVos is a hypocrite or not,” he concludes dismissively.  “This is one more aspect in which she resembles her predecessors Arne Duncan and John “Duncan Lite” King– it’s not always clear whether she is using devious political spin or she just doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.  If we don’t have the good fortune to see her appointment thwarted, I guess I’ll just wait and see which inconvenient truth we are dealing with.”              Will Betsy DeVos have an advantage (read conflict-of-interest) when she faces her upcoming confirmation hearing and Senate vote?  That’s an issue raised by an article from POLITICO that points out rather brazenly that she and her husband have donated large sums of money to a number of senators including some who will be voting on her nomination in committee.  “Education committee members Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have all accepted money — collectively, $50,000 — from DeVos and her husband since 2010. In that same time period,” it points out, “the couple contributed a total of more than $160,000 to senators who will consider Betsy DeVos’ nomination, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).” Hmm.  As Marcellus says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:” “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”                Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, weighs in on the appointment of Betsy DeVos on THE INDYPENDENT website [Ed. note: That IS how it’s spelled.]  She titles her essay “Meet Trump’s Public Ed Wrecking Ball.”  With both houses in Congress in Republican hands,” she warns, “we will have a fierce battle on our hands to withstand the destructive impulses of Trump and DeVos.  Aiding them will be a flood of money poured into lobbying campaigns by billionaires, Wall Street financiers, edu-entrepreneurs, and religious institutions, all eager to divert taxpayer funds into private hands and dismantle our public schools.  Public school parents, teachers, and advocates must be smart and work together to withstand this assault.”  Be sure to check out the caricature of DeVos at the start of the piece.
Finalists for Superintendent of the Year
The AASA, the School Superintendents Association, announced the 4 finalists for its Superintendent of the Year Award for 2017.  One was from Orange County, but it’s not THAT Orange County.  This one was in Florida.  The other 3 candidates are from Alaska, North Carolina and Oregon.  The “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a very brief thumbnail description and picture of each of the finalists.  [They] were selected as winners in their individual states’ contests for superintendent of the year,” it points out.  “The national winner will be announced at AASA’s annual conference in March in New Orleans.”
 
Cartoon of the Day
It has nothing to do with education but since reading this comic in yesterday’s L.A. Times, I can’t stop laughing, chuckling or smiling every time I think of it.  Any way.  Please enjoy it and I hope it brightens your day, even a little.
 
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The Teaching Profession
Why do certain segments of the education community continue to pursue “standardized” tests and “standardized” learning when we know, or should know full well, that every student is different and unique.  That’s the issue addressed by Lily Howard Scott on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post.  Scott has taught elementary school in California and currently teaches third grade in Brooklyn.  Her composition is headlined “A One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Instruction is Stifling Our Classrooms.”  As Scott writes: “The current trend toward standardized learning — scripted curricula and prescribed classroom-management routines — is shackling educators around the country and discouraging talented individuals from joining the field.”
 

L.A. County Board of Ed Saves 3 Charters

“If at first you don’t succeed . . .” may be the watchword for the Magnolia Public Schools charter network in Los Angeles.  After the LAUSD board voted unanimously  in October to close 3 charters in the district the network appealed to the L.A. County Board of Education.   It won a reprieve there this week from the LAUSD’s action according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  The County Board’s decision actually went against what its staff had recommended.  “The county staff report echoed the school district’s concerns, concluding, among other things, that Magnolia failed to provide investigators, auditors and financial overseers with requested documents in a timely fashion after years of poor fiscal management.  The county review team,” the article mentions, “also contended that the charter was top heavy in management, had a high student attrition rate and scheduled board meetings that were difficult for the public to participate in or see.”
 
Charter Schools & Choice
How easy is it to start a charter school?  Check out this ad on Craig’s List for opening a charter in the Washington, D.C., area and possibly nationwide.  Sounds like a breeze.  Just about anybody might qualify.  What does this say to you about the quality of a school/business that makes it this easy to get started?   Diane Ravitch reacted to this ad in this manner:  “Just anybody at all can put their heads together, write (or copy) a proposal, and get public funds to start a charter school.  No experience necessary.”               Charters are the leading edge of the corporate “reform” and privatization movement according to Carol Burris, the award winning New York high school principal (now retired) and current executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education).  She once again guest blogs on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post.  “Opening a charter is akin to opening your own business — but the cost and risk are fully funded by the taxpayers,” Burris explains.  “In most states, taxpayer dollars provide the initial ‘investment.’  This is an odd business model in which the corporation gets income for every customer who walks through the door, regardless of the individual ability to pay.  And if the business fails, ‘owners’ are not out a dime, but the customers, who are in this case children, are stranded.  It is remarkable that the American public has allowed such risk-free, taxpayer-funded entrepreneurship to occur,” she continues.  “If you think that publicly funded, largely unregulated businesses [Ed. note: See above]would be ripe for shady deals, oversized compensation and outright fraud, you would be right.”  Check out Burris’ fairly long section on Gülen-linked charters.               What does the phrase “school choice” mean precisely? Ariana Prothero, author of the “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK has created a short video (3:11 minutes) explaining the different types of public and private school choice that are out there.  
Public Schools in California Urged to Continue to be “Safe Havens”
And finally, Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued a letter to district superintendents in the state Wednesday urging them to declare their status as “safe havens” and to clarify and publicize their policies regarding the protection of immigrant students.  An item in today’s L.A. Times describes the school chief’s action.  “The letter comes in light of concerns about President-elect Donald Trump’s promises during and after the campaign,” it reports, “to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.  In his letter, Torlakson included a link to a ‘safe haven’ resolution passed by the Sacramento City Unified School District as an example that other districts might follow.  The Los Angeles Unified School District has already passed a similar measure and set up a hotline and support sites to counsel parents and students who are worried.”

           
 
 As we wrap up this most eventful year, 2016, 
the editor of the “Ed News” would like to wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year and a BIG thanks for reading.
 
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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, December 20, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 Winter officially arrives at
2:44 am Wednesday morning.
 
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And now to the news.

 
“Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls.
Books, not weapons.  Morality, not corruption.
Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance.” 

― Suzy KassemRise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

LAUSD Shutdown Last Year Based on False Threat
The email threat that led to the shutdown of the entire LAUSD on Dec. 15, last year was based on a fake terrorist threat according to an internal district report obtained by the L.A. Times. A front page story in Saturday’s paper details the events that led up to and followed the reception of the email sent to board Pres. Steve Zimmer at 10 pm the night before.  The same correspondence was sent to the New York City schools and officials there reacted much differently than ones in L.A. “The report, released in response to a Los Angeles Times public records request, affirms that law enforcement and district officials acted quickly to confront the threat,” the article reveals, “bringing impressive resources to bear.  But outside law enforcement agencies also stepped aside over the question of whether schools should be closed, leaving the decision to school officials who lacked any training to evaluate the danger.”
 
Dirty Pool in North Carolina Confirmed
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item about some serious political shenanigans in North Carolina that some pundits likened to a coup.  At the Nov. election, voters turned out a controversial Republican governor in an extremely tight race and replaced him with the Democratic state attorney general.  In addition, they replaced the long serving (40 year) Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction with a young former Teach for America educator who served less than one term as a local school board member.  After those results things got nasty.  The GOP controlled legislature met in a quickly called emergency session and promptly passed a law that strips much of the authority over education matters from the state Board of Education and hands it to the new superintendent.  The outgoing governor couldn’t sign the legislation fast enough.  Friday’s item in the “Ed News” referred to all this as “dirty pool.”  A veteran public school teacher and parent in North Carolina, Stuart Egan, pens an open letter to the new superintendent-elect, Mark Johnson, questioning what he plans to do with his newly authorized powers over educational policy.  Egan’s missive appears on his CAFFEINATED RAGE blog.  “And now with the impending effects of House Bill 17 from the surreptitious special session of this past week, you will be the most enabled incoming state superintendent in state history,” it warns.  “You will have powers that even your predecessor did not possess one-tenth the magnitude of.”               WRAL-TV5, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh, has a feature on both the ousted 40-year veteran state superintendent in North Carolina, June Atkinson, and her 33-year old replacement, Mark Johnson (see item above).  “Atkinson is the longest-serving state superintendent in the nation and the first woman in North Carolina to hold the job,” it mentions.  “She lost to Republican Mark Johnson, the second-youngest statewide elected official in the country.  Johnson is a lawyer and school board member in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.  He received 50.6 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election. . . .  The two have not spoken about the election outcome, Atkinson said, and she doesn’t know what she’ll say when the time comes.  She promises a smooth transition when Johnson takes over in January, but it’s clear the transition will be tough.”               If you find all the twists and turns in North Carolina since the Nov. election rather bewildering, Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post does an admirable job of clearing up the fog.  Her piece is titled “North Carolina’s Assault on Public Education Just Got Worse.”  “One of the bills transfers a great deal of power from the State Board of Education — whose members are mostly selected by the governor — to the state superintendent of public instruction, an elected official,” she points out.  “The new state superintendent will be Republican Mark Johnson, who defeated the Democratic incumbent, June Atkinson, in November.  The legislation has been sent to outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory — who narrowly lost reelection to Democrat Roy Cooper — and he has already signed one of the newly passed bills that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years.”
 
Helping Students Recognize Fake News
The just concluded election helped to bring the concept of “fake news” to the fore.  How many adults read these kinds of items and believed them and, maybe even worse, made decisions on who or what to vote for based on them?  It’s hard enough to get adults to evaluate what they read.  What about students?  Patrick Larkin, author of a story in EDUCATION WEEK, is an assistant superintendent for learning in a district in Massachusetts and a former high school administrator.  His timely commentary is titled “Three Great Resources to Help Students Fight Off Fake News.”  Briefly he discusses how to recognize fake news stories and offers some specific resources that can aid educators in how to accomplish that task.  In his introduction, Larkin references a previous article he wrote about fake news which you can access by clicking here.
 
DeVos Tapped for Sec. of Education
Carol Burris, the award  winning Long Island high school principal (now retired) and co-founder of the NPE (Network for Pubic Education) sent an email to her members about things they can do to help defeat the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education.  Diane Ravitch’s blot reprints the note along with very brief introductory comments.  “We will probably not be able to stop her confirmation, but we can make it a big deal.   We can work to ensure that no Democrat votes for her,” Burris urges in her email.  “We can raise public awareness.  We can send a warning shot across the bow.   And who knows, maybe, just maybe, a few Republicans will vote against her as well.”     What has the corporate “reform” and privatization movement done to the Detroit schools and what role did Betsy DeVos play in aiding and abetting those actions?  The author of a detailed analysis for VICE News looks at the historical record and offers some speculation about the future.  The piece is titled “Out of Options: School Choice Gutted Detroit’s Public Schools.  The Rest of the County is Next.”  “The gutting of Detroit’s public schools is the result of an experiment started 23 years ago,” the reporter notes, “when education reformers including Betsy DeVos, now Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, got Michigan to bet big on charters and school choice.  The Obama administration has promoted competition, but DeVos looks set to take free-market education policy to new heights.  She has made clear her goal is to use charters to eventually get public dollars to private and religious schools, but the consequences of her school choice policy in Detroit leave gaping questions about how she will also care for America’s public schools.”               Opposition to Betsy DeVos’ nomination to head the Dept. of Education is taking various paths.  A school board in New York passed a resolution opposing Trump’s selection.  The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) reprints the declaration from the Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island.  It states in conclusion: “Resolved, that the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education hereby, based on this record, opposes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and until such time as the incoming Trump administration presents a formal vision for the future of public education in the United States of America and will continue to oppose such a nomination, and calls upon the incoming United States Senate to stand firm by opposing this nominee and affirming this serious need.”
 
Charter Schools
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers have pretty much owned the messaging when it comes to promoting charter schools.  More and more education experts are fighting back and beginning to turn the tide.  Wendy Lecker, columnist for the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate and senior attorney for the Education Law Center, interviews Robert Cotto, Jr. Cotto is a member of the Hartford, Conn., board of education, a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut’s NEAG School of Education and a researcher of charter schools in his state.  He offers some myths and untruths about charter schools in Connecticut and, by extension, other states as well.  His purpose is to set the record straight and counter those distortions promoted by the pro-charter crowd.  In response to a question about why charters are rarely closed, Cotto answered: “The state almost never closes charter schools because of poor academic performance or financial mismanagement.  According to State Department of Education reports, only five charter schools closed their doors since 1999.  Three closed because of insufficient funds, one charter school was closed for health/safety violations, and one charter school closed because of lack of academic progress.  Between 2010-2013, all 17 charter schools in the state were renewed by the state,” he continues, “despite very low overall test results for some. . . .  On the other hand, many public schools in Connecticut have closed and been reconstituted for not meeting test score targets.  At least a dozen schools in Hartford have been closed and reconstituted in the last decade.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog features some new research from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) “that supports investment in public schools as a better alternative than the privatization of education” according to a press release from SCOPE that Ravitch reprints on her blog.  She includes a number of links to various pieces of the research.  “This is a project that should interest all readers of the blog as well as state and local school boards and elected officials at every level,” Ravitch writes by way of introduction to the materials.  “It includes a book that reviews education issues around the globe and resources that you may access by clicking the link.  The bottom line of a vast amount of research is that privatization is a failed policy, not an innovation.  The most effective way to invest public dollars is in improving public schools.”               Add Indiana to the list of states whose online charter schools are performing poorly.   Chalkbeat Indiana has the disconcerting details in a story titled “The Broken Promise of Indiana’s Online Schools.”  “When Indiana education officials released school A-F grades this week, only three schools had received F grades for six years in a row.  Two were traditional public schools in Gary and Marion County,” the item points out, “and the other was Hoosier Academy Virtual Charter school, which does all its teaching and learning online.  For the traditional public schools, the sixth straight F marks the first time the state can potentially close the school.  But for charter schools, the limit is set at four, a milestone Hoosier Virtual surpassed almost two years ago.  Despite its poor performance, the state has not taken steps to close the school or restrict state funding to its charter authorizer, Ball State University.”  In addition, Hoosier Academy was advised by state education officials in March, 2015, to provide a plan to show improvement.  Not only did it ignore that instruction but it notified the officials it was OPENING ANOTHER virtual campus and transferring a number of students to it from the original school.  Now that’s chutzpah!  (You may want to read the story that follows the Chalkbeat one which describes how Hoosier Academy moved students to its new campus.  It’s titled “In Danger of Closure, Virtual Charter Surprises State Board By Transferring Students to Sister School.)  To make matters even worse, all online charters in Indiana received an “F” grade from the state this year.                Maryland, which has been slow to embrace charters and vouchers may be headed in that direction under Republican Gov. Larry Hogan who was elected 2 years ago.  Valerie Strauss, in her blog for The Washington Post describes how the Old Line State is sadly taking up the corporate “reform” and privatization agenda.  “Anybody paying attention to public education in Maryland could see this coming: The state’s Board of Education,” she writes, “is beginning conversations about how to help chronically low-performing schools — and some of the solutions include expanding charter schools and vouchers.”               No wonder charter schools fight so hard against accountability and transparency–they have a LOT to hide.  Eva Moscowitz and her Success Academy Charter network in New York City is held up by the corporate “reformers” and privatizers as the poster child for successful charters.  Apparently, that’s because only one side of the story ever sees the light of day.  The negative stuff is kept carefully hidden away.  The New York City Controller, Scott Stringer, released an audit of one of Moscowitz’s schools and the findings were not very complimentary.  A story in the New York Daily News is headlined “Success Academy Charter Network Should Pay the City $50G For Sloppy Financial Practices, Scott Stringer Charges.”  “Stringer’s long-awaited financial probe of the city’s largest charter school network shows the network billed the city for special education services it can’t prove it provided at Harlem Success 3, the school that is the focus of the audit. . . .  Stringer’s audit,” it reveals, “also shows that Success Academy falsely identified some funds as being used in the classroom, when in fact the money went to pay management fees.  Stringer also found that Success Academy double-billed some of its schools for some management services.”  Well, the bloom seems to be off the rose.  You have to wonder what else might come to light if charters allowed more accountability and transparency.  It also should be noted that Success Academy sued to stop an audit by the state Comptroller back in 2013.  I wonder why they would do that?  To be fair, the article notes that the recently concluded audit by the Controller’s Office found no criminal activity at any of the network’s campuses.  Hooray for that!
 
Trump’s Cabinet Picks Blasted  
This item does not relate totally to education (it does make brief mention of Betsy DeVos) but it does have an Occidental College connection.  Peter Dreier, professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Oxy has a highly critical view of the people Donald Trump has selected for his cabinet and some other key positions mostly based on the numerous conflicts-of-interest they potentially have when taking over policy making jobs in the government.  Dreier’s commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “Donald Trump, America’s Pathological Liar-in-Chief and First Bully, has nominated a cabinet of billionaires, corporate raiders, right-wing conspiracy theorists, and war hawks.  In many cases,” Dreier colorfully begins, “they oppose the mission of the agencies they’ve been picked to run.  As a group, their web of affiliations and disdain for the common good should disqualify them from any policy-making position.  As a group, they should be called the Conflict of Interest Network (COIN).”  Dreier proceeds to list 16 people Trump has nominated so far ( DeVos is #2) and what he sees as potential problems.
 
Education Predictions for 2017
As 2016 rapidly draws to a conclusion, you will see more and more “best and worst of 2016” lists from various pundits, journalists, bloggers, columnists, etc.  Larry Ferlazzo, who teaches English and Social Studies at a high school in Sacramento, has written 8 books and pens an advice column for educators at EDUCATION WEEK.  He provides his annual look ahead in the field of education with 8 predictions, both positive and negative, for 2017.  His list appears on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post who includes links to his previous lineups for 2011, 12, 14, 15 and 16 at the end of her column.  Here’s his first offering for next year: “Donald Trump and his new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will attempt to replicate her disastrous efforts in Detroit throughout the United States.  They will ram a $20 billion voucher program through Congress that will allow states to apply for funds to let parents use them for private or religious schools, and promote charter schools with no attention to their quality, as DeVos did in Michigan.”  The rest are not all bad.
 
More $$ for School Counselors & Teachers
As the U.S. continues to move away from the Great Recession that struck in 2008, more and more states are seeing the need to invest some of their education funding in increasing the ranks of school counselors.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK specifically chronicles what Minnesota, Tennessee and Colorado are doing in this regard.  “Several states are making investments to build their corps of school counselors,” it relates, “in the wake of mounting, quantifiable evidence that counseling support can be a powerful weapon in the battle to get more students through high school and into college. . . .  The counseling initiatives are far from the biggest-ticket items in states’ budgets.  But they’re a significant sign of a renewed commitment to school counseling, which took particularly heavy hits in layoffs driven by the Great Recession eight years ago.”               Here’s a novel idea–raise taxes in order to increase teacher pay!  That’s exactly what the governor of Washington State is proposing according to a story for the “Teacher Beat” column in ED WEEK.  “Much of the funds would come from new taxes on carbon emissions and on capital gains from the sale of property or investments, with the exception of homes and retirement accounts, reports the Seattle Times.  . . .  The governor’s plan,”  it explains, “also includes a $250 million a year property tax cut that would benefit more than 100 school districts.  What’s more, a starting teacher’s salary would increase from $35,700 to $54,587 by the plan’s second year.  Republicans, many of whom fought and won against similar tax proposals by [Gov. Jay] Inslee in 2015, are not happy with the governor’s proposal.” 
 
Testing
Just when you may have thought the trend was beginning to move away from more and more standardized testing comes a new twist on the phenomenon.  Valerie Strauss turns her blog for The Washington Post over to Lisa Guisbond, a testing reform analyst at FairTest, aka The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, who describes what one 5th grade parent in New York discovered was taking place in her son’s classroom around a new product called “i-Ready.”  “FairTest has investigated how these computer-based curriculum-plus-testing packages threaten teaching and learning in new ways,” Guisbond notes.  “Though couched in humanistic language about ‘personalized learning,’ this trend is resulting in even more standardized testing.”
 
Trump’s Education Policies
Besides his campaign trail proposal to divert $20 billion of federal education funds into grants that states could use for vouchers, what other ways might the Trump administration promote private school “choice?”  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK tackles that question by outlining several other avenues that could be explored.  Tax-credit scholarships are one example.  “Tax-credit scholarships,” the piece explains, “allow individuals and corporations to claim a tax credit of some kind, in exchange for a donation to an organization that provides scholarships to children.  So, unlike vouchers, they don’t involve the government directly providing financial support to parents for school choice.”
 
L.A. Students Score Poorly on Physical Fitness Tests
Students in the LAUSD in grades 5, 7 and 9 did poorly on physical fitness tests according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  Two of those grades scored lower on the series of assessments than they did last year.  “Students in fifth, seventh and ninth grades are required by state law to have their fitness assessed.  The fitness test includes a variety of measures of physical health.  To look at  flexibility, for example, it has students sit and extend one leg out in front of them and then bend their trunks,” the item spells out, “arms extended, as far as they can toward it.  Students also do push-ups, trunk lifts, runs and walks, and their body mass is measured.”
 
Whither After-School Programs in a Trump Administration?
And finally, what might be the fate of after-school programs in a Trump administration?  We know about his plan to divert up to $20 billion dollars of federal funds to grants to states for vouchers.  If that comes into being will there be dollars for other programs and what will they look like?  THE HECHINGER REPORT offers some guidance on that important topic.  “According to an Afterschool Alliance study, 10.2 million children (18 percent) participated in an after-school program in 2014.  But if the after-school sector can’t get a seat at the table in this next administration, they may be on the menu,” the author rather graphically explains.
       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, December 16, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Our education system often teaches us how to conform
  more than how to wonder and venture.”

― Debasish Mridha

 
New Science Tests Delayed for California
The U.S. Dept. of Education has once again thrown a wrench into California’s plan to roll-out new standardized Science exams aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.  The recently introduced assessments would replace ones used in the Golden State since 1998.  The “Education Matters” column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times sorts out the details of this latest setback.  “California education officials had planned to administer a pilot test this year to students in grades 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12, and then do a field test the following year before fully switching to the new test the year after that.  Field tests and pilot tests are different methods for trying out new tests and fixing their flaws before they count.  The officials requested a waiver from federal testing requirements, in part,” it explains, “so students wouldn’t have to take both the pilot tests and the old standardized tests in the same year.   But on Tuesday, Ann Whalen, senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., wrote that the waiver had been denied.”  The story proceeds to describe what Whalen and the DoE objected to.
 
DeVos Tapped for Sec. of Education
A number of varied education groups and organizations have chimed in on the selection of Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Dept. of Education.  A coalition of civil rights groups has joined the bandwagon criticizing her choice.  In a piece titled “Civil Rights Groups Blast Betsy DeVos’ ‘Lack of Respect’ for Student Diversity” the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK lays out their concerns over her nomination.  “In a Dec. 12 statement, the 33 groups argue that DeVos’ record of support for groups opposed to LGBTQ rights,” it points out, “and her criticism of affirmative action policies, ‘demonstrate a lack of respect and appreciation for the diversity of our nation’s classrooms and fail to recognize a long and pernicious history of discrimination against groups of students.’  And more broadly, they say her support for vouchers and opposition to ‘appropriate oversight’ for charter schools, among other things, indicate a disregard for concerns about school segregation and raise questions about her commitment to fairness in education.”                Talk about flip-flopping.  Betsy DeVos was first in favor of the Common Core and then she was against it when President-elect Trump nominated her to head the DoE.  However, Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG maintains she’s still (secretly) in favor of the standards.  He points out, unsparingly, all the groups and organizations she belongs to/supports that favor the Common Core.  Singer headlines his essay “Don’t Be Fooled: Betsy DeVos Still Loves Common Core.”               THE NEW YORKER has a profile of Betsy DeVos that takes the form of trying to predict how she might proceed if, and when, she’s confirmed to become the next Sec. of Education.  It’s titled “Betsy DeVos and the Plan to Break Public Schools.”  “Through her past actions, and her previously published statements,”  it maintains, “it is clear that DeVos, like the President-elect who has chosen her, is comfortable applying the logic of the marketplace to schoolyard precincts.”
 
Is It Time to Do Away With Class Ranks?
Alfie Kohn, on his eponymous Alfie Kohn blog makes a compelling case for eliminating those ubiquitous class rankingsbased on student GPAs.  He is the offer of 14 books on parenting, education and human behavior,  and a lecturer on those topics at college and university conferences.  Kohn offers “6 responses” to anyone who attempts to defend the practice.  “Judged by meaningful criteria, getting rid of class rank is an obvious first step – but only a first step – toward restoring sanity, supporting a culture of learning, and promoting intellectual excellence (as opposed to an emphasis on academic rewards).  Ideally,” he proposes, “it should be followed by moving away from grades altogether, which some schools have already proved is not only possible but enormously beneficial.”
 
Schools of Opportunity
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, continues her series on the campuses that have been selected as winners of the 2015-16 Schools of Opportunity project.  This one is number seven and she includes links to the previous six at both the top and bottom of her column.  The current school being featured is the Crater Renaissance Academy of Arts and Sciences in Central Point, Oregon.  It’s being singled out because of its emphasis on both the social and emotional development of its students–not just their academics.  The article is written by Kevin Welner, one of the co-founders of the Schools of Opportunity program.  “Keeping student health needs front and center, providing a healthy culture based on acceptance, respect, care, kindness, and creating a challenging and supporting learning environment,”he sums up, “are three of the reasons that Crater Renaissance Academy is a Gold School of Opportunity.”
 
Mystery Solved
The Friday edition of the “Ed News” had a curious piece by Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, in which he discovered that Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy high school students in New York City had no required Regents’ exam results.  He attempted to find out why and ran into a series of roadblocks which led to all kinds of wild speculation. Well, mystery solved!  In his latest post Rubinstein reports that upon further digging he found that the students don’t take the exams.  That led him to the next logical question which is WHY?  since Success Academy Students are always paraded front and center as earning exemplary results on other standardized assessments.  Rubinstein proposes 3 interesting “theories” in answer to his query.  “For Success Academy, the champions of the standardized tests, to evade ‘accountability’ by not having their own students take the Regents exams is one of the more ironic things I have ever seen in my years following the modern education ‘reform’ movement.  Who would have ever guessed that the highest profile ed reformer of them all, Eva Moskowitz,” he playfully concludes, “would be such a fierce proponent of the opt-out movement?”
 
Foreign Students Comment on American Schools
The “Ed News” has often highlighted stories about how U.S. students fare compared to their foreign counterparts.  When international teenagers attend school in America what are their impressions of that experience?  The “Making the Grade” series for the “News Hour” on PBS has an interesting segment on that topic.  You can watch the segment (8:20 minutes), listen to the audio and/or read the transcript by clicking here.
 
Teacher Training
How important is student teaching and other classroom time to the training of future educators?  When some alternative training programs don’t include things like student teaching the question becomes even more pivotal especially when they substitute classroom simulations as a tool rather than time in front of real students.  THE HECHINGER REPORTidentifies “four reasons” why simulations are not an ideal means for training teachers.  “Many teacher preparation programs have lengthened required student teaching from a few months to a full school year, recognizing the value to teacher candidates of extended immersion in a classroom under the supervision of a skillful mentor teacher.  As teacher preparation programs turn their focus to measuring demonstrated competency rather than time on task,” it notes, “simulations have begun to supplement, even surpass clinical hours as opportunities for structured, supervised practice. In many cases, these simulations — which can replicate a range of familiar situations as well as interactions with students, colleagues, and parents — are remarkably realistic.”
 
Charter Schools
Proponents of traditional public schools have obviously been some of the biggest critics of the charter school movement but even a few supporters of charters are beginning to realize the need for more accountability and transparency.  Now, even stockholders are joining the parade.  K12 Inc., which operates the largest network of for-profit virtual charters around the country, is facing a shareholder revolt on just those issues according to Valerie Strauss on her column in The Washington Post.  “The company, based in Herndon, [Virginia], has long been a target of critics who have questioned the quality of its schools,” she writes, “as well as its spending and lobbying practices — and now, the company will face new questions, this time from stockholders.  At a meeting scheduled for Thursday, shareholders are going to ask for a vote on whether the company should be required to publicly disclose details about its lobbying efforts in various states.”  The item mentions the problems K12, Inc., online charters are experiencing in California.               Steven Ingersoll,the founder of a small charter campus in Traverse City, Michigan, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for tax evasion involving his school, the Grand Traverse Academy (GTA).  A brief item from the Grand Traverse Record-Eaglenewspaper has the details.  “Authorities contended Ingersoll broke tax law and detailed a series of financial transactions,”  it points out, “in which he shifted money between GTA, Bay City Academy, his companies and a construction project in Bay City.”                The number of charter campuses in Rhode Island, will be expanding after a decision by state Education Commissioner Ken Wagner to allow the Achievement First network to triple its enrollment over the next 10 years.  Strong opposition to the ruling was registered by the city council, the American Federation of Teachers and the mayor of Providence according to a story in the Providence Journal.  “Critics say if the charter school grows to 3,112 children, it will have a devastating impact on the traditional public schools and effectively create a parallel school system.  By state law,”  it mentions, “Wagner must consider the financial impact of a charter school expansion on the sending school districts, in this case, Providence, Cranston, North Providence and Warwick.  But 86 percent of the charter’s students come from Providence, so the impact will be greatest there.”
 
LAUSD Board Pulls Switcheroo on School Calendar
It’s on.  It’s off.  It’s on. . . .  It’s hard to tell what’s going on with the LAUSD board ‘s decisions on adopting a school calendar for next year.  This year the schools had an early start (Aug. 16, rather than a more traditional post-Labor Day kick-off) but the board decided to phase in later starts over the next couple of years due to complaints from parents and others.  So what does the board do at its meeting on Tuesday? It votes to stay with the early start.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times attempts to sort all this out for you.  “The lengthy debate over the schedule has hardly been scintillating — but it matters to students and parents, who say it affects not only vacation plans and child-care arrangements but summer camps, summer jobs, enrichment programs and even college applications. . . .  Many families prefer a traditional post-Labor Day school start,” it mentions, “because it lets them schedule escapes and keep their kids out of classrooms and physical-education classes during the most intense heat of late summer.  Some in the school system have pointed out that it also reduces air-conditioning costs.  Such views prevailed in September, when the Board of Education voted to shift away gradually from the earlier, August start.”
 
Dirty Pool in North Carolina
When an election doesn’t go your way, what do some groups do?  Change the rules.  That’s what’s happening in North Carolina where voters recently turned out the incumbent Republican governor and replaced him with a Democrat.  They also voted in a new Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction while ousting the Democratic incumbent from that post. So, the GOP-controlled legislature decided to change the rules.  In order to water down the new governor’s decision-making power over education policy they quickly put together a bill, HR17, that would shift a number of areas of control over education from the State Board of Education to the new Republican State Superintendent.  Dirty Pool?  You decide.  WRAL-TV5, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh, has a story on their website about all these eleventh hour anticsincluding a list of changes in the proposed legislation.  Here’s just one example: “The state superintendent will be the head of the Department of Public Instruction.  In the current law, the State Board of Education is the head of the department.”
 
Feds End Inquiry Into Burbank USD
The parent of a student with disabilities in the Burbank Unified School District complained to the U.S. Dept. of Education that her child was being excluded from certain science labs and not receiving services he was entitled to among other things.  Officials investigated the allegations, ordered some corrective measures which the district mostly complied with and ended the inquiry to the satisfaction of all parties involved.  An item in yesterday’s “School Matters” feature in the L.A. Times reviews the situation.
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, a sizable number of teachers need to take second jobs in order to make ends meet.  Ever wonder why that’s the case?  Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to guest blogger Nínive Calegari, a former classroom instructor and founder of The Teacher Salary Project, which attempts to inform the public about how woefully underpaid and under appreciated teachers are.  “Nationally the situation is bleak.  While other professions have seen compensation growth,” Calegari writes on Strauss’ blog, “teachers’ salaries have stagnated for four decades.  In fact, over the last decade in 30 of 50 states, teacher pay has actually not kept pace with the cost of living.  Forty-seven states face teacher shortages, and there has been a 30 percent decrease in enrollment in teacher credentialing programs in recent years.  Why the decline in such a crucial profession?  In most cities, the average teacher’s salary cannot compete with the cost of living, and teachers are priced out of homes in all urban areas.”  The Teacher Salary Project website indicates that the average teacher salary in California has declined by 1.2% over the past 10 years.  Check out their interactive salary map to see how the Golden State and others are faring.
 
 
                                                                                                           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.