Ed News, Friday, August 12, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual
the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit 
until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings
and nowhere else.”
[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking an extended break in order to enjoy the remainder of the summer.
Look for the next edition the day after Labor Day on Sept. 6.]

And now to the news.

 
LAUSD Sets Record Graduation Rate
LAUSD Supt. Michelle King addressed a group of district administrators and special guests Tuesday and proudly told them during her first “state of the district” speech delivered at Garfield High that the LAUSD had produced its highest graduation rate ever, 75% for 2015-16.  That bettered last year’s record of 72.2% but still trails the national average of 82.3% for 2014-15  A front-page story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has all the numbers and includes a chart with district graduation rates since 2009-10.  “The milestone represents a breathtaking turnaround between December and June.  In December,” it notes, “only about half of seniors were on track to graduate under new, more difficult requirements that were taking effect for the first time. But a controversial triage already was underway, employing a lengthy list of programs that specialize in credit recovery.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Were you aware that the teachers’ lounge could be kinda, sorta, dangerous to your mental health?  The author of this piece explains “Why I Avoid the ‘Teachers’ Lounge, And You Should, Too” in her commentary for EDUCATION WEEK.  The author is a 3rd grade teacher in Texas.  “When faced with the opportunity to join in on the teachers’ lounge, we need to find a reason to walk away or a way to change the topic,” she suggests.  “We need to rise above the teachers’ lounge mentality and bring positivity back into our schools.  The task may not be easy, but if we can place these expectations on our students, then we should take on those same expectations.  Together, as constructive educators, we can defuse the teachers’ lounge of its power.”              In this age of shortages of properly trained teachers, you can add Utah to the list that now allows educators to be hired who are not licensed or experienced.  A brief item in ED WEEK (via the Associated Press) provides the discouraging details.  “Utah has long had a program that let people with bachelor’s degrees get teaching jobs before they got a license,”it explains, “but the new policy change lets them get a license right away and drops a requirement that those people take college teacher-training courses.”              Walt Gardner, on his “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK, has an interesting idea about how “New Teachers Can Learn From New Doctors.”  He suggests new educators learn a technique from new doctors called “escalation-of-care” policies.  He explains what that is in the context of medical training and how it could apply to new teachers.  “What these policies aim to do is to reassure new residents that calling for help from senior physicians is no indication of their incompetence,”he summarizes.  “In fact, it is just the opposite.  I maintain that a similar approach needs to be taken in public schools for new teachers in particular.  Whatever they have learned in their student teaching as part of the requirements for a license is rarely enough to prepare them for the realities of the classroom.  The trouble is that new teachers are reluctant to ask for help from veteran teachers.  They’re afraid that doing so will be held against them during their pre-tenure year evaluations.”             A new school year is about to commence.  Carl Draeger, A National Board Certified Teacher from Illinois who has taught both high school and community college math and served as a full-time teacher mentor, offers “Five Self-Empowering Things Teachers Can Do to Feel Appreciated This School Year.”  As an example, item #4 on his list is “Attend a workshop, conference, or institute.”  He fully explains why that and the others on his list can help to make the year a positive one.  Check out his other ideas if you are feeling unappreciated or just need a boost going into the new school year.  His commentary appears in the “CTQ Collaboratory” column in ED WEEK.  “This list is in no way exhaustive. There are many things you can do in your school, district, and community.  The point is that the most important change agents are the teachers,” he concludes.  “We are the preeminent and, ironically, the least utilized resource for school reform and transformation.  We have the heart, the experience, the wisdom, and the access to create the educational opportunities America’s children need and deserve.  Instead of feeling unappreciated, you can focus your energy on self-empowerment to do the world’s most important work.  Teachers, we’ve got this.”             Looking for some more good ideasas the new school year approaches? Another article from ED WEEK offers some practical suggestions for veteran and rookie teachers alike.  This one comes courtesy of Nancy Flanagan, a National Board Certified teacher, education writer and consultant who focuses on education leadership.  She taught music in K-12 classrooms for 30 years in Michigan. Her commentary is titled “10 Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School.”  Here’s one example: #10 “Tie Your Classroom to the World.”   She, too, explains each one of her suggestions in detail.              Do you ever wonder how teacher pay compares to other professions and jobs?  A new study from the Economic Policy Institute has the latest data and the picture is not pretty.  The title of the report pretty much tells the story: “The Teacher Pay Gap is Wider Than Ever: Teachers’ Pay Continues to Fall Further Behind Pay of Comparable Workers.”  Talk about being unappreciated (see Carl Draeger’s piece, above)!!! “In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994,” the report’s Summary states.  “This erosion of relative teacher wages has fallen more heavily on experienced teachers than on entry-level teachers. Importantly, collective bargaining can help to abate this teacher wage penalty.  Some of the increase in the teacher wage penalty may be attributed to a
trade-off between wages and benefits.  Even so, teachers’ compensation (wages plus benefits) was 11.1 percent lower than that of comparable workers in 2015.”              As the nation’s population becomes more and more diverse, the teaching profession remains predominantly white.  In 2014 the student population in the U.S. became, for the first time, majority minority.  An item inEDUCATION WEEK looks at some interesting demographic data.  “But while students in the nation’s classrooms are increasingly more diverse,” it relates, “the people educating them aren’t.  In a nation where nearly half of all children under five right now are non-white, and no racial or ethnic group will constitute a true majority in the United States by 2055, according to an analysis of Census data from the Pew Research Center, the teaching corps in K-12 classrooms remains overwhelmingly white.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
The U.S. isn’t the only nation experiencing a concerted attack on its traditional public schools as corporate “reformers” and privatizers attempt to introduce charters, choice, vouchers and other schemes to take over and benefit financially from the billions of dollars countries spend on their education systems.  Diane Ravitch, this time writing for U.S. News & World Report, has an eye-opening piece titled “Worldwide, Public Education is Up For Sale, From the U.K. to Liberia, the School Privatization Movement Gathers Steam.”  “For the past three decades, critics of public education in the United States have assailed it and used its flaws to promote publicly funded privatization,” she begins.  “Corporate and political interests have attacked the very concept of public education, claiming that the private sector is invariably superior to the public sector.  These developments are by no means limited to the U.S.; the same movement to privatize public schools is occurring in the United Kingdom, Africa and other regions – with troubling implications.”               Melinda Gates, in a speech this week to the National Conference of State Legislatures and in an interview with The Washington Post, vowed that the efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue to promote and support Common Core, charters and the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations would not waiver in the face of rather intense pushback from various sources.  “Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates,” the piece begins, “learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years.  Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.”
 
Charter Schools
The ACLU of Southern California recently published a report (highlighted in the “Ed News”) that found up to 25% of charter schools in California had admission policies that attempted to exclude certain types of students.  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times features one such charter, Roseland Accelerated Middle School in Santa Rosa, and reviews some examples of its admission requirements.  The editorial takes the charters to task for these policies which happen to be against state law.  “Charter schools — public schools — are clearly laying out obstacles bigger than those in the applications of private universities,”  it maintains, “with requirements that put low-income students, foster children and those from poorly educated or immigrant families at a disadvantage. . . . The state needs reasonable, clearly defined and well-enforced rules, but as with so many aspects of school accountability, it has none of these.”           Massachusetts voters will be determining the fate of Question 2 on their Nov. 8 ballot which, if approved, would authorize the creation of up to 12 new charter schools per year in the Bay State.  Proponents of the measure kicked off a deceptive $2.3 million ad campaign with a 30-second spot during the opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics.  A story in The Boston Globe describes the push to approve the question and includes a video of the introductory ad.           Diane Ravitch’s blog has a short item pointing out why the ad is deceptive (see above) and why voters should turn Question 2 down.  “Advocates for privatization have launched a $2.3 million advertising budget with a deceptive ad,” she complains, “calling on voters to vote YES for ‘stronger public schools.’  The ad refers to privately managed, unaccountable charter schools as ‘public schools,’ which they are not.”               Guess which company created the deceptive pro-charter school ad in Massachusetts (see above)?  The same one that produced those equally deceptive swiftboat ads during the 2004 presidential election that twisted John Kerry’s military record when he served in Vietnam.  Peter Greene, on his always entertaining and informative CURMUDGUCATION blog, dissects the 30-second spot mentioned above in fine detail and reveals some very interesting items.  He includes the ad in his piece in case you missed it when you read about it above.  Greene makes many of the same points that Diane Ravitch does in her article about how charters are not public schools.  “Are public schools perfect as is?  Not even close.  But the solution is not to rescue a favored few,” he concludes, “at the cost of making things worse for the many left behind.  If charter advocates wanted to approach this honestly, here’s what their proposal would say–Vote to have your taxes raised to finance a new entitlement for every child to have the option of attending private school at taxpayer expense.  Vote to shut down public schools and replace them with schools that aren’t any better, won’t serve some of your children, and aren’t accountable to you, ever.  Let the swift boaters make an ad to sell that.”             How many traditional public schools could get away with this underhanded scheme?  Eva Moscowitz, founder of the Success Academy charters in New York City wanted to start a pre-K program.  However, she was turned down by both New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the State Board of Education.  Soooooooo, she was able to get Gov Cuomo, a Democrat, to intervene and the Republicans in the State Legislature to introduce a bill in the final hours of the session with some vague language about charter oversight.  Nobody apparently read it very carefully because it contained an obscure provision that allowed Moscowitz to begin her program.  Gov. Cuomo and State Senate Republicans, it should be noted, are the recipients of large amounts of campaign donations from the charter industry.  Might that have anything to do with the passage of the legislation that aided Moscowitz?  A story in The New York Times has all the sleazy details.              A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the experiences of a teacher at a “no excuses” charter school.  The Washington Post features another column by a teacher at a similar school in New Haven, Connecticut.  In this article Julia Fisher describes what it was like to work at Achievement First Amistad Academy High School as a 10th grade English teacher.  “It’s much easier to teach behavioral management tactics than to foster deep passion and knowledge about an academic field,” she points out, “and Achievement First provided all the scripts and coaching necessary to get a willing body functioning as part of its behavioral management machine.  Inspiring kids with academic content wasn’t really part of the picture.”              Remember Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive Turkish imam who resides in a compound in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania?  He has been charged by the Turkish government with involvement in the recent unsuccessful coup attempt in his home country and his personal movement owns one of the largest charter networks in the U.S.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” have profiled him and the charges against him.  TheHOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL reports that the Texas Education Agency is looking into the misuse of federal and state funds and improper connections to Turkish vendors by the Harmony Public Schools charter network in Houston which is alleged to be run by the Gülen organization.               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a look at two recent developments and suggests “How Populism is Rewriting the Charter School Narrative.”  What are the two events?  The NAACP’s stance calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and the defeat of a slate of pro-charter candidates in the Nashville school board race (both covered extensively by the “Ed News.”  Are we doing a great job, or what?) Bryant contends that a rising tide of Populism, so evident in the presidential election, is beginning to derail the expansion of charters in this country.  “Of course, charter school propagandists still have plenty of rhetorical arrows in their quiver.  But what’s  abundantly clear is that while they’ve been completely free to write the charter school narrative in their own words,” he concludes, “now the people are telling their version of the story.  And the ending is no doubt going to look way different.”
 
Student Transiency and Learning
How does student mobility affect learning?  That’s the important question tackled by a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  What is mobility, how many and what types of students and schools are impacted the most and how should it be dealt with are among the subjects addressed.  “It’s always tough to be the new kid in the middle of the school year: to find new friends, adapt to new teachers and rules.  But for more than 6.5 million students nationwide,” it begins, “being the new kid can be a frequent occurrence—and one that exacts a cost to their social and academic development and that of their classmates.  As more states begin to use longitudinal data to improve schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a growing body of research suggests student mobility may be a key indicator to identify vulnerable students and keep them on a path to academic achievement.”
 
Testing
Do you really know how student test scores are determined?  If you think it’s simply the correct number of answers on a standardized test you definitely need to read Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post titled “Student Test Scores: How They Are Actually Calculated and Why You Should Care.”  She cites a new study co-authored by a professor at the University of Michigan and a nonresident senior fellow at the nonprofit Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.  “The paper is the latest in a series of reports over years,” Strauss indicates, “that have urged caution in the use of standardized test scores to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, principals and schools — but policymakers at the federal and state levels have for years ignored the warnings.”  The article includes two links to the full report (6 pages) titled, rather colorfully, “Student Test Scores: How the Sausage is Made and Why You Should Care.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
And finally, what is the demographic profile of the participants in the opt out movement?  A new report from Teachers College, Columbia University, offers some interesting details regarding the who and why of opting out.  It’s featured in a story on the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “A new survey of those involved in the assessment opt-out movement,” the ED WEEK article begins, “finds that typical participants are white, well educated and well off, and very worried about the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.”  You can find the full report (67 pages) titled “Who Opts Out and Why?  Results From a National Survey on Opting Out of Standardized Tests” by clicking here.  It includes results from 1,641 respondents representing 47 states who were questioned between January 29 and March 31 of this year.

                                                                                                   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, August 9, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “there is one right thing for the student to do, that is, 
 to develop the habit of weighing worths, of sensing the relative values of the facts that he meets.”
Corporate “Reform”
If the corporate “reform” cabal can’t take over local district school boards in order to push their agenda of charters, choice and privatization they turn their attention to pouring vast sums of money into candidates at the local, state and federal level who favor their program.  Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What? blog illustrates this phenomenon via his home state of Connecticut, which, by the way, has one of the best traditional public school system in the country.  Front groups are formed to back the pro-charter DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) that target specific races in order to influence candidates that favor the corporate “reform” proposals.  “The charter school industry has spent in excess of $9 million,” he reveals, “lobbying on behalf of [Connecticut] Governor Malloy’s charter school and education reform agenda.  In addition they have provided massive amounts of campaign funds to Malloy and other pro-charter school candidates at the federal, state and local level in Connecticut.”  Connecticut held its Democratic primary election for state, district and municipal offices today.  For a more detailed look at specific races targeted by those front groups for DFER (see above) click here for a story from the ct mirrorwebsite.  “Two national and regional charter school groups,” it begins, “have created political action committees in Connecticut in time to make independent expenditures to influence a handful of the 10 Democratic primaries held [today] for seats in the General Assembly.”              The last couple of editions of the “Ed News” highlighted the corporate “reformers” attempt to take over the school board in Nashville and the well-deserved defeat they experienced during the recent election in the Music City.  We return to the Dad Gone Wild blog, written by T.C. Weber, a Nashville public school parent who recapitulates the battle leading up to the election and recounts how traditional public school proponents enjoyed a big victory.  “What has happened in Nashville is proof that the conversation about what is needed in public education is changing,” Weber conveys.  “People are recognizing that the policies of the reform crowd are not good for kids.  We need to seize on this momentum to drive home policies that are good for kids, like equitable funding for our schools, increased daily recess time, decreased emphasis on testing, empowering teachers, and more.  Reformers like to point to Nashville as a ‘model’ for their success stories.  This election now provides a model on how to fight back and win against corporate reform.”  Diane Ravitch calls this“a great post” and notes that the group Stand for Children (SFC), which pumped vast sums of money into trying to defeat the pro-public school candidates, “got its tail kicked by the people of Nashville.”
 
Election 2016
Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), sat down for an interview with THE HECHINGER REPORT on the last day of the Democratic Convention.  Weingarten, who addressed the delegates on the first day of the gathering in Philadelphia, guided the AFT to an early (and controversial) endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  She addresses what her hopes are for education policy under a potential Clinton administration. In answer to one question, Weingarten responded: “If you look at the platform for the Democratic Party, it’s the most progressive in terms of education that we’ve seen for as long as I can remember.  You get the controversies on the fringes, as opposed to what we need to do to ensure that public education is sacrosanct again.”               IF Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, who might she select to be her Secretary of Education?  That speculative query was addressed in an interesting piece in the “Politics K-12” column of EDUCATION WEEK.  The author throws out a number of names (two have California connections) for readers to ponder.  “Now that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and her running mate, Tim Kaine are officially hitting the campaign trail,” the item begins, “it’s time to start speculating: Who might her education secretary be if she wins the White House?  It’s not too early to ask the question.  After all, at this point in 2008, a lot of folks were pretty sure that President Barack Obama was going to choose Arne Duncan, his basketball buddy and the superintendent of Chicago public schools, to run the U.S. Department of Education.  But Democrats we spoke to were far less confident this time around about who is on Clinton’s short list, or if she even has one yet.  However, because this kind of thing is fun, we couldn’t help asking some Democrats to give us their very best speculation, anonymously of course.”
 
Student Activism
A progressive middle school in New York City offers its 7th and 8th graders a unique curriculum in student activism and social justice.  The program is profiled by Carolina Drake,a Spanish teacher at the school, in an article for truthout.  She describes this year’s focus: learning about the issues surrounding Syrian refugees to the U.S. and advocating for their entrance and fair treatment in this country.  “For the campaign around Syrian refugees,” Drake explains, “students learned about the complexities of history, the realities of ISIS and why Syrians are fleeing their country.  An effective activism curriculum doesn’t deny these types of realities.  Rather, it helps students find ways to defy reality with actions and in the process, learn that even the smallest acts matter.”  
Testing
New Jersey has discovered a way to get around students opting out of its Common Core-aligned standardized assessment known as PARCC.  MAKE IT A GRADUATION REQUIREMENT!  Yes, you read that correctly.  If students and their families don’t wish to take your test just turn the screws on them a little tighter.   The TAPintowebsite has the details of this bizarre action.  Both the PARCC and the SBAC exams have been criticized as not properly aligned to the standards, not age appropriate and much too difficult.  So now The Garden State doubles down and makes their assessment a graduation requirement.  “High school students will no longer have the option of ‘opting out’ of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing starting with the Class of 2021.  The State Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday,” the story explains, “to make the controversial tests a mandatory requirement to graduate in New Jersey. . . .  According to the resolution passed by the state board Wednesday, students entering eighth grade this fall will have to pass the PARCC language arts and Algebra I tests in order to get their state diplomas.  Students that ‘fail numerous attempts’ to pass those exams can only graduate high school if they appeal to the state with a portfolio, according to the measure.”              Someone with inside access apparently released over 400 items from the newly redesigned SAT to the Reuters news agency.  Mercedes Schneider, on her EduBlogat deutsch29 talks about the security breach.  “Perhaps the leak is a way for those at the College Board,” she surmises, “who believe the new SAT is a load of junk to try to unburden their own consciences for having helped create it.”
 
Charter Schools
The State of Michigan is finally flexing its oversight powers andclamping down on two for-profit charters who have been flagrantly breaking the law.  The eclecta blog reports on the state’s action against the Detroit Community Schools and the Universal Academy for various violations including running a school without proper certification and improperly firing a group of teachers.  “It’s no secret that the for-profit charter school industry is like the Wild West,” the piece begins, “when it comes to being able to do just about anything they want.  Michigan is one of the most permissive states in the country when it comes to oversight of charter schools and there are miscreants out there taking full advantage of that in order to maximize the flow of tax dollars directed into their bank accounts.  This week, however, a couple of them are finally being held accountable, a rare but important step.”              Would you like a glimpse of what’s it like to teach at a for-profit charter school?  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints remarks from a fully certified middle school social studies teacher who describes his experiences at a for-profit campus in Detroit.  He’s also worked at a traditional public school.  ““So if you want to know what it’s like to teach in a charter middle school in Detroit,”  he concludes, “it devalues your life as a teacher, takes away your power and values just like it takes away the students’ power and values, substitutes them with gimmicks and buzzwords, and tells you that it’s your sole responsibility to uplift students out of poverty.”  It doesn’t sound at all appealing!             The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) issued a press release today supporting the NAACP’s recent decision to seek a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools in this country (see the Aug. 2, edition of the “Ed News).  “The NAACP resolution is a powerful statement that is about our children and their communities, not about politics and policies. The NAACP is taking a principled position,” it states, “based on the long and counterproductive record of charter schools in this country.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Finally a reporter has a sympathetic piece about teachers.  So many politicians, pundits and billionaire philanthropists blame teachers and their unions for everything that ails the public schools today.  Too few people really take the time to examine what teachers are facing these days and the disrespect and poor treatment they receive from a certain segment of the population.  Roger Williams of theFort Myers FLORIDA WEEKLY interviews a number of classroom teachers who tell him what causes them the most grief in an extensive piece titled, simply, “Troubled Teachers.” “Teachers now face what is arguably the most difficult and demanding stampede of challenges in the contemporary history of public education,” he suggests.  “And that’s not good for students who face, in turn, a range of contemporary social challenges they might not have experienced en masse in previous generations.”  If you don’t read anything else this week be sure to check this one out!              The budget ax continues to fall in Chicago.  After years of underfunding, the Chicago Public Schools will once again faceprogram reductions and teacher and staff cut-backs.  Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel keep sticking it to the CPS.  Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog has the figures.  The mayor and the head of the CPS “pulled the trigger on nearly 1,000 CPS teachers and staff,” Klonsky writes.  “That includes 494 teachers — including 256 tenured teachers.  The layoffs broke down this way: 302 high school teachers and 192 elementary school teachers for a total of 494; and 352 high school support personnel and 140 elementary school support personnel, for a total of 492.”             Chicago Public Schools are AGAIN facing massive budget cuts and devastating lay-offs (see above).  The Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to go on strike AGAIN in response.  Diane Ravitch’s blog AGAIN reprints a statement from CTU Pres. Karen Lewis about possible union action in the face of the cuts.  “Cuts to our pay and benefits must be negotiated,” Lewis insists in the press release.  “We have been bargaining in good faith since the middle of last year and we have yet to come to an agreement.  At some point a line has to be drawn in the sand.  Chicago teachers do not seek to go on strike.  We want to return to clean, safe, resourced schools.  We want a fair contract.  We will continue to partner with parents and community residents in fighting for the schools our students deserve.”             Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacted angrily and rather profanely (some of his words are x-rated) to the proposed cuts to the Chicago Public Schools (see the two items above).  “The Chicago Board of Education – made up of members all of whom are appointed by the mayor – decided to layoff 1,000 teachers and staff at the city’s public schools,” he recounts, “just a month before opening day.  Sure, some may keep their jobs through reassignment, but hundreds will be unemployed.  This after a recent history of closing more than 80 schools and slashing thousands of jobs.  Just last February, the district laid off 62 employees, including 17 teachers.  In January, it laid off 227 staff members.”
 
Value-Added Models (VAMs)
The “Ed News” has featured a number of works from the person known as “SomeDam Poet.”  This time the target is thosequestionable value-added models for evaluating teachers with a parody of The Band’s song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” titled “The Night They Drove Statricksy Down.”  Diane Ravitch’s blog relays this latest effort.  You can check out the original version of the tune by clicking here, courtesy of YouTube.
 
Summer School
With the spread of virtual, online credit recovery classes for high school students who need to retake classes they didn’t pass so they can stay on track to graduate, one would think that old fashioned summer school would be going out of favor.  Not true.  With the LAUSD’s stricter graduation requirements kicking in this year, students are looking for options to make up credits and summer school offerings are growing.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Timeschronicles the phenomenon.  “This summer was the first time since 2008, before the recession,” it relates, “that L.A. Unified also offered some enrichment classes, including theater arts.  A wider variety of required academic courses also was available.”              Teachers and students eagerly look forward to their summer break.  (It’s likely a much different story if you ask parents).  However, research tends to demonstrate that that time off can contribute significantly to the achievement gap.  Low-income and minority children have far fewer opportunities for summer learning and enrichment than their middle and upper class classmates.  An op-ed piece in THE HECHINGER REPORT looks at the phenomenon and offers some ways to change it.  “Given our nation’s growing graduation and skills gap among young adults from low-income communities,” it concludes, “school in the summer has never been more urgent.  And we all have a role to play to ensure that all of our children have the same opportunities for school engagement.  Because our children — and our community — just can’t afford to miss summer learning.”
 
LAUSD Watchdog Dies
Scott Folsom, who spent most of his career in both official and unofficial positions with the LAUSD, died last week after a two-year battle with cancer.  He had long-time roles with the state and local Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and served as a parent representative on various committees in the district.  He was also the founder of the 4LAKIDS blog.  An obituary in yesterday’s L.A. Times announced his passing at age 69.  “On his blog or on a committee,” it describes, “Folsom could be counted on to speak his mind, including when he raised early, prescient concerns about district plans to provide an iPad to every student — a costly venture that eventually collapsed under political, technical and budgeting hurdles.”
 
LAUSD Loses Funding Appeal
Gov. Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula earmarked extra state money to the most needy students, i.e., ELLs, low-income students and kids in the foster care system.  The LAUSD used some of those dollars for its general fund and a coalition of community groups, with the help of the ACLU, filed a complaint with state education officials who ruled in their favor.  The district appealed that decision and on Friday they lost again.  “Under the rules of the recently adopted school-funding formula,” a story in today’s L.A. Timesexplains, “districts can use some of the new funds they get for other purposes if they can show that they already are spending extra money to help students who are learning English, come from low-income families or are foster children.  Los Angeles Unified receives an additional $1.1 billion annually for those high-needs groups.  The district freed up $450 million of that pot for general use, arguing that schools spend that amount on disabled students who also are in the three categories.”
 
An Early Program for School Desegregation in the LAUSD
And finally, two former students from Hamilton High School (LAUSD), one white, one black, describe an early attempt at school desegregation in the district in 1969.  Their reflections appear in an op-ed piece in today’s L.A. Times.  “A desegregation lawsuit had already been filed on behalf of minority students; busing plans and protests would come later.  In 1969, when we started at Alexander Hamilton High School,”  they reminisce, “we were part of a pilot program of voluntary integration at LAUSD:  Project APEX — which stood for Area Program for Enrichment Exchange.  The exchange allowed students of any race to apply to attend a few classes a week at a high school where they would be in the minority.  White kids could go to black schools; black kids could go to white schools. Our class — the class of 1972 — was  first up.”  The authors proceed to detail how the program worked and how successful it was.
 

                                                                                                   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, August 5, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “We will continue to chase rainbows unless we recognize that they are rainbows 
  and there is no pot of gold at the end of them.” 

― Diane Ravitch

Charter Schools
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a brand new report in EDUCATION WEEK from the ACLU Southern California that found that over 20% of the charters they studied in California followed illegal policies in their  admissions procedures.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times amplified on that study and offered some California details.  “In a written response to the report,” the Times piece mentions, “the California Charter Schools Assn. urged its member schools to revise their policies, saying, ‘charter schools must be open to any student interested in attending’.”            Andrea Gabor, on her eponymous Andrea Gabor website, writes about the disaster that befell Michigan when that state voted to expand the number of charters.  Her primary concern is her home state of Massachusetts which faces a ballot initiative in November to authorize a major expansion of charters.  Gabor’s analysis is certainly germane to other districts or states contemplating a similar action.  She takes a detailed look at a recent report (highlighted in the “Ed News”) about the serious financial impact charters have had on traditional public schools in Michigan.               Why is there a big push for charter expansion in Massachusetts (see above) which has one of the highest rated traditional public school systems in the country?  A partial answer: follow the (hidden) money.  The corporate “reformers” and privatizers who are pushing the initiative have invested millions of dollars into the campaignitself and have also helped fill the coffers of state and local politicians who are supporting the action, according to a story fromWGBH, the PBS affiliate in Boston.  The author is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  “The privatization effort in Massachusetts is a construct of several wealthy families,” he concludes, “and the campaign has been going on longer than is generally realized.  Also, a good deal of the campaign is ‘off the books’– at least so far as campaign finance disclosure goes.  Tracing this money is no casual task and the interconnections are vast.  The privatization effort is much more expensive and hidden than we realize and there is no grassroots.”  Diane Ravitch describes this piece as “an appalling story of a wealthy elite using their money to undermine democracy and to steal public schools from the community that paid for them.”           Two researchers from Harvard and Princeton who are members of the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) studied charter schools in Texas and came away with some rather startling conclusions about test scores and future earnings.  “We find that, at the mean, charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings.  No Excuses charter schools increase test scores and four-year college enrollment,”  the introductory Abstract points out, “but have a small and statistically insignificant impact on earnings, while other types of charter schools decrease test scores, four-year college enrollment, and earnings.  Moving to school-level estimates, we find that charter schools that decrease test scores also tend to decrease earnings, while charter schools that increase test scores have no discernible impact on earnings.”  The full report (77 pages) is titled “Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes” and can be accessed by clicking here.  Diane Ravitch called this “an astonishing study.”              The Washington Supreme Court last year tossed out an initial charter school law in the state ruling its funding formula was unconstitutional.  The legislature went to work and created a revised law. Now a coalition of groups has brought suit challenging that effort according to an article in EDUCATION WEEK.  “In 2012, voters passed Initiative 1240,”  it reviews, “making Washington the 42nd state to approve charter schools.  The measure provided for the opening of as many as 40 charter schools within five years.  The first opened in the fall of 2014; there are now eight, in Spokane, Tacoma, Kent, Highline and Seattle.  Last year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to invalidate the initiative, finding charter schools were not eligible for public school funding because they are controlled by a charter school board — not by local voters.”               Here we go again!  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, regales his readers with yet another example of financial funny business in nine Pennsylvania charter schools.  This time it has to do with several schools collecting taxpayer money, to the tune of $2.5 million, to pay for leases for properties they already own. That just so happens to be in direct contravention of Pennsylvania Dept. of Education guidelines.  “It’s shocking that so many charter school operators would consider themselves entitled to state money,” Singer complains, “for something that doesn’t cost them anything to provide.  They are supposed to be running public schools, but they continually flaunt their ability to disobey the law at state expense.  This money doesn’t do a thing to help students learn.  It goes directly into charter operators’ pockets.  For education advocates, this is one of the most pervasive problems with the charter industry.  Making profits is put before educating children.  At traditional public schools, surplus earnings are not allowed by law.  All taxpayer funding goes to provide services for the students.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
New York State and Long Island have continued to be ground zero in the opt out movement.  A story in POLITICO has specific numbers as to where in the Empire State the test refusal trend is focused.  Suffolk County, in eastern Long Island leads the way with 55% of its students refusing to take standardized tests; Clinton County, in the very northeastern corner of the state was second with 45%.   “In spite of the state’s efforts to quell the movement,” the piece spells out, “about 230,000 eligible third- through eighth-grade students (about 21 percent of the total) refused to take the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and ELA exams this spring — a 1 percent increase from last year.  The state led the nation in 2015 with the highest number of students opting out.  More than 220,000 students refused to take the exam last year.”
 
Bill Honig Resurfaces
If you weren’t around in the 1980s and 90s you probably won’t recognize the name “Bill Honig.”  He was a long-time educator who was elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1983 and served in that position for 10 years.  He recently created theBBS Building Better Schools website.  You can find his home page by clicking here.  From there you can read his autobiography and peruse some of his early efforts.  Bookmark the site if you wish.  “I urge you to read it,” Diane Ravitch suggests.  “Bill is a staunch friend of public education.”
 
Common Core and Testing
The author of this commentary on THE HECHINGER REPORTposes an interesting question: “Can Common Core Reading Tests Ever Be Fair?”  It focuses on the PARCC assessment for English and Language Arts as seen through the eyes of teachers, students and the principal of one low performing elementary school in Newark, New Jersey.              Are test scores being manipulated AGAIN in order to justify all that testing?  That’s the charge leveled by Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters and a member of the NPE (Network for Public Education) and NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education), who believes the latest scores released in New York State are fishy, at best.  Writing on the NYC Public School Parents website, she identifies 4 ways to artificially increase scores on standardized assessments: “1. Make the tests shorter  2. Allow more time to take them  3. Make the questions easier  4.  Change the cut scores and/or translation from raw scores to performance levels.” Haimson thinks the state did numbers 1, 2 and 4.  She illustrates her well-argued piece with a number of graphs, charts and a telling cartoon.
 
Corporate “Reform”
How does a corporate “reform” funded improving teaching conference compare to one supported by actual teachers?  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence we can all find out.  Lawrence invited Tom Ultican to attend the Bill Gates bankrolled and Common Core promoting “Better Together California Teacher’s Summit” in San Diego after both had taken part in the Network for Public Education’s gathering in Washington, D.C., last month.  Ultican, a high school math and physics teacher in San Diego compared the two conferences on his TULTICAN blog.  He offers some very enlightening insights.  “This is a real and present danger to the teaching profession, quality public education and democracy in America,” Ultican laments in conclusion.  “As enjoyable as lunch paid for by Bill Gates and conversations with fellow educators was, I feel the hidden purpose behind the Better Together California Teacher’s Summit was the end of the teaching profession and public education as we know it.  That is not a good thing!”              The Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania charges that corporate “reformers” and their push to “disrupt” traditional public schools in order to promote their agenda of charters, choice and privatization are, in effect, “devastating” childrens’ educations.  Those are VERY strong words but Pam Grossman, writing on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blot in The Washington Post, makes an extremely convincing case.  “‘Disruption’ — the philosophy that’s worked its way through so many industries — has become a buzzword among education reformers,” Grossman begins.  “Tear up the systems.  Invent something new.  Iterate through the failures until you find success.  But in education, disruption that ignores research about what works can disrupt children’s lives and opportunities.  As we have seen in the cities where these experiment are being tried on the biggest scale — Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia — when disruption fails, the consequences for children are devastating.”  She suggests readers look at Detroit where “reform” has gone terribly wrong and concludes with some ideas of how education can be improved based on previous research and strategies that have proven successful in the past.                The previous two editions of the “Ed News” highlighted stories about the corporate “reformers'” attempt to take control of the school board in Nashville.  Guest what?  Their plans came a cropper.  The Nashville News Sentinel describes a major defeat in The Music City for the pro-charter, pro-choice privatizer crowd.  “More than $750,000 buys plenty of campaign mailers and advertisements,”  it begins.  “But it doesn’t necessarily buy election wins.  Stand For Children, an education advocacy organization, found that out the hard way Thursday night.  After spending a small fortune, all four candidates it backed in the Metro Nashville school board election and a handful of state GOP primary challengers lost their races.”               Stand for Children, the group that bankrolled the corporate “reform” attempt to take over the Nashville school board (see above) may have violated campaign finance laws according to a consumer rights group and a Nashville parent who both intend to file a petition seeking an investigation into improper coordinationbetween SFC and some pro-charter school candidates it supported according to a story in THE TENNESSEAN “The petition cites a recent story by The Tennessean,” it relates, “that details emails sent by the head of a prominent Nashville nonprofit showing she coordinated with Stand For Children to find campaign workers for the four school board candidates.”         Delaware has an interesting way of handling possible financial funny business in its charter schools.  Tom Wagner, the State Auditor, simply covers it up or at least that is what appears to be taking place.  When Kathleen Davies, an employee in the auditors office, was finalizing a report on some charter schools’ handling of petty cash she was abruptly placed on a “leave of absence” and her report was quietly deep-sixed.  You can read about all the dirty details on the Exceptional Delaware blog.  “So now we have an elected official voluntarily choosing to cover up information,” the author of the piece explains.  “This makes the very bizarre action against Davies’ look even more suspicious.  Who knows what other activity is being ‘stopped’ by Tom Wagner.  Lord only knows how much else she found.”
 
Douglas County, Colorado, Voucher Program Tossed Out AGAIN
A Denver District Judge ruled Wednesday that the reconfiguredvoucher program in Douglas County was still unconstitutional.  The same judge who tossed out Douglas County’s previous program decided that this latest iteration still did not meet constitutional muster.  The Denver Post has the details on this latest ruling.  “The district’s voucher program has been mired in various legal challenges since it was first introduced in 2011,” it explains.  “After the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 that the state constitution banned the use of public funds for sectarian instruction, the district in March introduced a new version of the program that would allow taxpayer money to help cover a private school education, as long as those schools didn’t have a religious affiliation.”

The Teaching Profession
Dr. Mitchell Robinson, on his Keep Talking . . . blog, is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Education Department at Michigan State University.  In this edition he writes about the state of music education in our K-12 schools.  In some places it’s doing just fine and in others, he illustrates, it still faces a number of obstacles.  “Whenever I get a chance to hang with music folks we have the best conversations–and by that, I mean that I hear some absolutely jaw-dropping, eye-popping stuff about what is actually happening out in their schools with respect to educational policy and practice,” he explains.  “To be clear, in many school districts, things are going swimmingly: music programs are healthy and robust, performing ensembles are full and thriving, and schedules are constructed so as to make students’ learning comprehensive and teachers’ duties reasonable.  But in too many places, decisions are being made that just don’t make sense.”             A guest blogger on the EduShyster website has a critical review of Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like A Champion.”  The title of her commentary is “Teach Like It’s 1895” and she’s rather shocked at the techniques being espoused by the book that’s particularly popular in charter schools, especially those “no excuse” practitioners.  “The pedagogical model espoused by Lemov,” she charges, “is disturbingly similar to one that was established almost a century ago for the express purpose of maintaining racial hierarchy.  Like Teach Like a Champion, this initiative was implemented largely through teacher education and funded and directed entirely by wealthy white businessmen and industrial philanthropists.”              Everyone seems to be touting technology as a way to improve student learning and achievement.  Is possible the trend is going too far?  Giles Scott, a high school English teacher, explains why he no longer allows his students to bring laptops and tablets to his class.  His commentary appears on Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post.  “I’m not convinced,” he argues, “that the best way to equip students with the ability to negotiate technology is to further attach them to it.”
 
Teacher Ed
And finally, charter schools continue to proliferate despite questions about how effective they are.  Is charterization now taking aim at college and university teacher preparation programs?  That’s the question addressed by an article in the LIVING in DIALOGUEblog.  It’s concerned with the entry of the Relay Graduate School of Education into Connecticut.  Relay, as you may remember from previous items in the “Ed News,” is an “alternative” method for earning a teaching credential as opposed to the traditional path of getting it through a college or university program.   The author of this piece is an associate professor of education at Connecticut College and she decries the entry of Relay into her state.  “These efforts to privatize and deregulate teacher education are being pushed in large part by charter school operators and their supporters,” she maintains, “who have stood to benefit from the charterization of teacher education.  For example, the first campus of the charter-school affiliated and charter-like Relay Graduate School was founded in New York City in 2007 by representatives from three of the most well known (and oft-critiqued) charter school chains (or as they tout themselves ‘public school networks’): KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First.  In the years since, Relay has birthed 11 more campuses nationwide, backed by funding from the same bevy of philanthropists and corporations.”

                                                                                                   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, August 2, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

        “It is the present living generation that gives character and spirit to the next. 
      Hence the paramount importance of accomplished and energetic teachers 
      in forming the taste the manners and the character of the coming age.” 

― Alexander Campbell

CalSTRS Reports Small Earnings Gain
Currently retired?  Retiring soon?  Retiring some day?  If you are a California teacher this news is for you.  CalSTRS, the California State Teaches Retirement System, reported a 1.4% increase in earnings for the past fiscal year.  That was well below the 7.5% target for the program.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEKreports on the numbers and what they mean.  “CalSTRS lost money in global stock markets but made up for it with gains in its private equity, real estate and fixed income portfolios,”  it states.  “The CalSTRS investment fund had just under $190 billion when the fiscal year ended June 30.  The pension system serves 900,000 teachers and their families.”
 
John Deasy Resurfaces
John Deasy, the discredited former LAUSD superintendent who resigned under a cloud in Oct., 2014, has reappeared in public.  He is working towards starting a new nonprofit to open alternative juvenile prisons in hopes of reducing the recidivism rates of young offenders.  A story in Friday’s L.A. Times has the details of Deasy’s reemergence.  “Deasy’s embrace of helping troubled youth mirrors that of former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,” it notes.  “Duncan, a Deasy ally, left the Obama administration in late 2015 and joined the nonprofit education organization, the Emerson Collective, launching an initiative to help dropouts avoid prison by returning to school or finding work.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
The July 29th edition  of the “Ed News” described the looming battle for control of the school board in Nashville between the corporate “reformers” and privatizers and supporters of traditional public schools.  T.C. Weber, a Nashville public school parent, who blogs under the title Dad Gone Wild, provides the details behind that battle as the Music City moves front and center in a fight that similar cities have experienced.  His piece is titled “Tell Me Again How it’s About the Kids.”  “Nashville has, for the last several years, been an under-the-radar playground for the education reform movement,” he begins.  “People may be familiar with the stories of New Orleans, Newark, Los Angeles, and lately, Denver, but the battles have been just as fierce in Nashville.”              Things are heating up again in Washington State.  After 3 unsuccessful attempts to get voters to approve charter schools, Bill Gates and his billionaire buddies finally succeeded by a razor-thin margin in 2012.  However, last year the state Supreme Court ruled that the way charter funding was set up was unconstitutional.  You would think that would be the end of the story, but no, the corporate “reformers’ and privatizers are not done.  They are bankrolling a candidate in today’s primary election to run against Barbara Madsen, the court’s chief justice, who wrote the opinion in the charter funding case.  The Seattle Times has the details about who is donating the dollars.  “The political arm of Stand for Children spent $116,000 this month on independent expenditures supporting Greg Zempel, Madsen’s chief opponent,” it explains, “in what constitutes the biggest infusion of outside cash in a Washington judicial race since 2010.  The group is funded by some of the same wealthy donors who supported the 2012 initiative to allow charter schools in Washington, which the court’s decision overturned.”             Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, has a profile of the pro-charter group Stand for Children and how they are attempting to defeat the judge in Washington who wrote an anti-charter opinion (see above).  “So,[Greg] Zempel [Chief Justice Madsen’s opponent] basically has three-quarters of a million dollars available for ads promoting his campaign,” Schneider uncovers, “and Madsen has $30,000.  One can see where this is going: Stand for Children WA PAC wants to coat the Washington public with a thick layer of Zempel ads so that there will be no more Madsen to, uh, interfere with the Washington taxpayer money flow to those unfortunate charter schools.”              Peter Greene, aka the author of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, also takes a close look at the group Stand for Children (SFC) (see above).  The organization began 2 decades ago as a social justice group and a strong advocate for poor and minority children but itsfocus changed drastically about 6 or 7 years ago into a supporter of pro-charter, pro-choice politicians and policies as chronicled by Greene in his commentary titled “$tand for Children: The Astroturfing of Advocacy.”  “By the time the current decade had rolled around,” Greene suggests, “all traces of the original group and its original priorities had vanished.  In 2011, Texas faced serious budget problems and the prospect of serious education budget cuts.  The old SFC would have advocated for protecting schools and children from those cuts; the new SFC was busy throwing its weight behind new teacher evaluation programs.”             Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, weighs in on the attempt by a group of corporate “reformers” to defeat the chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court (see 3 items above).  “It’s news, but the general practice isn’t exactly new. For years now,” she writes, “wealthy proponents of school choice and corporate school reform have spent a good deal of money to fund like-minded candidates and referendums wherever they happened to be across the country.”  Strauss references the article in the Seattle Times (see second story in this section) and cites several other places where gobs of money were contributed in support of pro-charter, pro-choice candidates including an expensive school board race in Los Angeles in 2013.
 
Picking a New Superintendent–Insider or Outsider?
When a school district is in the market for a new superintendent, should it stick with an insider or go with an outsider?  Larry Cuban on his School Reform and Classroom Practice blog uses the need for a new chief for the Washington, D.C., schools as his case study and offers some suggestions on how to make the selection.  Cuban was a former high school social studies teacher (14 years), district superintendent (7 years) and college professor (20 years).  He is currently Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University and a prolific author, researcher and blogger.  “On performance, 30 years of research have determined that neither outsider or insider school chiefs perform better because of where they come from,” he suggests.  “Sure, how one defines performance is important and will vary.  But on various measures of the district’s  student outcomes,  teacher and parental satisfaction, relationships with community and unions, there is no substantial differences between districts appointing insiders or outsiders.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
The State of New York, ground zero of the opt out movement for several years, increased its percentage of students skipping the standardized tests in 2016.  Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, has a brief item about the latest numbers and their significance.  “Despite various state attempts to pressure, brow-beat, threaten, cajole, and distribute a huge case of the PR-spin whirlies, the opt out numbers in NY actually went up,”he writes.  “The increase is marginal– in 2015, 20% did not test, and in 2016, 22% did not test.”
 
Charter Schools
Delegates to the national convention of the NAACP, meeting in Cincinnati last week. approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools nationwide.  The action will not become official policy until the National Board meeting in the fall according to a short piece by Julian Vasquez Heilig on hisCLOAKING INEQUITY blog.  By taking this position, he believes, “the NAACP, the nation’s vanguard of civil rights, has AGAIN demonstrated and articulated critical leadership sorely lacking from many other civil rights organizations on the issue of school choice.”             Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a detailed analysis of the NAACP decision on charter schools (see above).  “Make no mistake, the tide is turning,” he concludes.  “It is becoming increasingly difficult for charter supporters to claim their products boost minority children’s civil rights.  Too many people have seen how they actually violate them.”             The nation’s first school to convert into a charter via the parent trigger law has won an arbitrator’s ruling to remain in its current building.  Desert Trails Preparatory Academy had a charter agreement with the Adelanto, California, Elementary School District through June 30, 2016.  The district refused to renew the charter contract earlier this year and the academy was threatened with the loss of its campus.  The “K-12 Parents and the Public” column in EDUCATION WEEK picks up the story.   “While the ‘parent trigger’ concept was popular a few years ago,” it points out, “the movement has waned recently as parents and advocates have struggled with the practicalities of taking over public schools.”               The long running battle between the LAUSD and the charter school movement MAY be easing.  A story in the “Education Watch” column of Sunday’s ” L.A. Times describes how Supt. Michelle King favors allowing charters to be part of the “enrollment menu” presented to parents as they attempt to decide where to enroll their children.  “There are about 10 types of public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” it points out, “many with their own admissions processes and schedules.  To address that problem, the school district has discussed creating a ‘unified enrollment system,’ a one-stop-shopping experience for choosing between district schools.  Initially, the plan only included district schools and not independent charters — the publicly funded but privately run alternatives that are often accused of draining money and enrollment from L.A. Unified.”             A charter school up in the Bay area is closing despite recently winning a 5-year renewal of its charter.  The Silicon Valley Flex Academy in Morgan Hill served 240 students in grades 6 to 12 according to the SF BAY NEWSwebsite.  Last week “the academy’s board told the county the academy would close,” the article reports, “because of ‘fiscal unsustainability’ after its service provider, K12, cut their contract, county officials said.  Classes for the new school year were set to begin on Aug. 11, according to the school’s website.”  Just another example of a charter school leaving the kids behind!               A new report from the AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA finds that admission policies violate state law at over 1 in 5 of the 1,200 charter schools in California.  You can read a summary of the paper (1 page) by clicking here.  “Among the myriad violations cited in ‘Unequal Access: How Some California Charter Schools Illegally Restrict Enrollment ‘ are policies that establish admission requirements in violation of the California Charter Schools Act,” it describes, “which plainly requires charter schools to ‘admit all pupils who wish to attend,’ regardless of academic performance, English proficiency, immigration status or other factors.”  The summary includes a link to the full report (26 pages).             Charter schools often open and close at astonishing rates.  What happens when those campuses fail?  Lindsay Wagner, writing on the EdNC blog, takes a detailed look at the impact of those closures in North Carolina.  “10 charter schools in North Carolina have closed since 2012,” she writes, “displacing more than 1,100 students, according to the state Office of Charter Schools.  Four of them closed during their first year of operation.  Most closed because of financial problems, but some also closed because of academic failings or improper governance—or all three.  The closing of a charter school is a highly disruptive event for students and their families, and costly for taxpayers as well.  Charter schools that closed in their first year of operation spent altogether about $3.5 million in taxpayer funds with little to show for that investment.”
 
Election 2016
As both major political party conventions have concluded, will K-12 education issues fade further into the woodwork of the general election campaigns?  Critical topics like Common Core, testing, charter schools, teacher evaluations, unions, tenure and others were rarely discussed during the primary season by either Republicans or Democrats.  Will they be relegated even farther into the background as the November 8th election approaches (less then 100 days away)?  A story in EDUCATION WEEK grapples with that question.  “Based on the dynamics at the just-finished Democratic and Republican conventions—and the profiles of the two nominees—K-12,” it suggests, “is likely to lag behind other issues in a tumultuous election year dominated by national-security concerns, immigration, and sheer force of personality.”  Check out the interesting sidebar titled “Party Platform Highlights” for a comparison of some of the wording of the two party’s documents.             Prior to the 2 major party’s national conventions last month,ED WEEK put together an interactive graphic comparing the education policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Now that those gatherings have concluded the publication has updated its offering to include material from party platforms and the candidates themselves.  If you’d like to peruse the K-12 positions of the candidates running for the Green, Libertarian and Constitution parties and the Socialist Party USA click here for a story from the same publication.
 
“Love Letter to My Dead Student”
[Ed. note: The following item is be a bit of a downer but it describes a situation that all too many teachers experience nowadays.]  A Chicago high school teacher pens a story with the title headlined above on the EduShyster blog.  She recounts what happened to a troubled student of hers who was gunned down on the street a couple of weeks ago.  “Darrell lived a short, furious, and I hope, frequently happy life.  I hope that he has found some peace, now that his murder, the one that he predicted and anticipated, has happened.  His is not the first death I have encountered as a teacher,”  she concludes, “and it will not be the last.  And that reality makes me sick.”
 
Common Core
Steven Singer begins the piece on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG titled “Why Is Common Core Still Here?” with a couple of jokes.  If parents, teachers and students are against the standards why are they still around?  “So why do we keep using Common Core? Why haven’t our schools thrown this bad idea on the trash heap of failed education policies?  In short – because industry is making a lot of money off it,” he responds matter of factly.  “Common Core was created by private industry.  It was not made by the states, nor was it written by the federal government.  It was created to sell a new generation of standardized tests and textbooks.  It’s raison d’etre is profit not education.  School children didn’t need a unified set of academic standards.  Big business needed them to sell more books and tests.”  Singer goes back to the beginning of the standards and how they came about and brings the issue right up to our current election for the next president.  He ends, as he began, with a little humor.
 
Lessons Learned from LAUSD Lockdown
And finally, how many of you remember waking up on Tuesday, Dec. 15, last year and suddenly discovering that the entire LAUSD was on lockdown due to an email threat received by the district late the prior evening?  Then outgoing Supt. Ramon Cortines received both praise and criticism for his decision to close the nations second largest school district.  Over the intervening 7+ months the district has learned a number of lessons from the episode which are recounted in a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “The shutdown was praised, but also mocked,” it relates.  “Some parents were thankful schools were taking no risks.  Others were critical of they way they were informed; New York City got the same email and knew it was a hoax — its schools stayed open.  Eight months later, the district and police are preparing an ‘After Action Report,’ and the state is trying to determine how much money the district should recoup in lost student funds.”

                                                                                                   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, July 29, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “[Math] curriculum is obsessed with jargon and nomenclature seemingly for no other purpose than to     provide teachers with something to test the students on.” 
Corporate “Reform”
Many local district school boards have been targeted for takeover by the corporate “reformers” and privatizers who would like to implement their agenda of charter expansion, teacher evaluations based on student test scores and anti-union policies like the elimination of tenure and seniority, etc.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of those stories.  The latest target appears to be Nashville, Tennessee, according to a detailed story in theNASHVILLE SCENE, the alternative weekly in the Music City.  “Even in a city that hosts the state legislature every year,”  it explains, “the politics of education in Nashville have been the most hard-fought game in town since at least 2012, when money poured into campaign coffers in six-digit sums, producing the costliest school board races in Metro history.  The stakes then were high as ever, with charter school organizations looking to expand their footprint in Nashville and the hire of a new superintendent on the horizon.               The Nevada Supreme Court held two hearings today dealing with the state’s wide ranging voucher program(known as “education savings accounts”).  The plan allows Nevada parents to spent up to $5,100 of taxpayer funds on just about any public, private, charter or parochial school of their choice.  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews the details of the two cases and the impact they could have nationwide.  “Proponents,” it notes, “argue the voucher-style program grants families more options to meet the unique needs of their students; opponents claim SB302 will drain resources from an underfunded public education system and funnel taxpayer money into religious schools” and the law violates the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition on the spending of public money for sectarian purposes.          Want a peak at what corporate “reform” policies over the last decade and a half and almost 8 years of some Obama administration education initiatives have done to one large urban public school system?  Look no farther than Philadelphia where, apropos, the Democrats wrapped up their convention this week.  THE HECHINGER REPORT chronicles how charters and other “reforms” have decimated the Philadelphia Public Schools and the local union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT).  The story is titled “Have Obama’s Education Policies Weakened the Democratic Party??”  Union membership has declined from 21,000 to 11,000 and “a third of Philadelphia’s public school students attend charter schools and the union has withered, in a state that will be a key battleground this November,”  it suggests.  “In Ohio, another key state, three in 10 public school students now attend charters in Dayton and in Cleveland.  As the Democratic Party gather[ed] in Philadelphia for its convention this week, an open question is whether Obama’s education policies weakened a key element of the party’s political machinery — and whether Hillary Clinton, the presidential nominee, will continue those policies.”
 
Charter and Virtual Charter Schools
A number of states, including California, Ohio and Georgia have cracked down on virtual (online) charter schools.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of these stories.  Add Oklahoma to that list according to the Oklahoma Watch website.  “Oklahoma education officials are taking their first action ever to shut down a virtual charter school, but the school is fighting the effort,”  it reports.  “The five-member Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the sole authorizer and sponsor of online charter schools, has moved to terminate its contract with ABLE Charter School for noncompliance with the law.  ABLE, whose offices are in Oklahoma City, is the newest and smallest of five virtual charter schools in Oklahoma.”
 
Election 2016
The Democrats wrapped up their national convention yesterday in Philadelphia.  Douglas Harris, Professor of Economics and the University Endowed Chair in Public Education at Tulane University in New Orleans, offers his commentary on the party’s platform as it relates to education.  His piece is titled “The Democratic Platform: More of a Victory for Reformers Than it Seems.”  It appears inEDUCATION WEEK and focuses on 4 key strands that he identifies.      What does the selection of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s running mate mean for the ticket’s policies about education?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews what a number of other pundits have said about the topic and draws some of this own conclusions.  “There’s no guarantee Kaine will influence the education policy direction of a Clinton administration,” Bryant writes.  “Nor is this to say Kaine is perfect on education or even the most progressive of possible VP candidates Clinton could have picked.”               The pro-corporate “reform” group Democrats for Education Now, an affiliate of the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), met in Philadelphia on Monday at the start of the Democratic convention to discuss how they might influence the party even more towards their agenda of charters, choice, privatization and accountability.  The president of DFER had earlier found the party’s platform on education less that satisfactory.  truthout has a description of the gathering on Monday and what the organization hopes to accomplish.              Diane Ravitch’s blog invited Rachel Levy, a Bernie Sanders supporter, Virginia resident, former teacher, blogger and current PhD. student at the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, to evaluate Hillary Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate.  [Kaine and his wife] have unapologetically and unwaveringly dedicated their lives to being public servants, to serving their country, state, and local communities,”  she concludes her analysis.  “Isn’t that at least in part what Bernie Sanders campaign was all about?  We rarely see someone like Tim Kaine in politics and now we have the chance to have him serve as Vice President of our country.  It’s time to stop working against him and start envisioning what can be done when he starts working with us.”               Wednesday’s session of the Democratic conventionincluded several speakers who mentioned K-12 policies, the need for expanded preschool programs and condemned gun violence on our nation’s campuses.  EDUCATION WEEK highlights some of the personalities and their comments on education.             Election campaigns offer teachers an excellent  opportunity for their students to learn about politics and government but also carry some risks according to an article in ED WEEK.  The author of the piece, David Cohen, is a veteran high school English teacher in Palo Alto, California.  “In an election year I see a particular benefit to considering our role in educating our youngest citizens regarding our government and politics,” he writes.  “Naturally, an election year also increases the stakes for teachers to handle this responsibility with the utmost planning and care.”              THE HECHINGER REPORT assesses a number of speakers at the just concluded Democratic Convention.  On the topic of education, several commented on preschool programs and solving the college student debt problem but otherwise there was little mention of other K-12 issues.  The critical topic of education, at least to us educators, seems to be a forgotten issue when it comes to our two main political parties.  “Absent [from both conventions] were specific policy proposals about the K-12 education system,” it points out.  “Almost no speaker, including Clinton, addressed such contentious issues as charter schools, excessive testing, the achievement gap, the technology-access gap, Common Core standards and the current racial segregation in so many of the nation’s schools.”
 
A Black Principal Chimes In
What’s it like to be a black principal in our current racial and political climate?  LeeAndra Khan is the mother of a son and the principal of an integrated middle school in Oak Park, a suburb west of Chicago.  She responds to that question and addresses some of the challenges she faces “leading (schools) while black.” Catalyst CHICAGO has her story.  “The struggle is real, but this is leadership on the ground and we must actively look for solutions to problems,” she relates.  “To start, leaders can’t be afraid to have tough conversations about race and inequality.  Districts need to invest time and money in developing school leaders and teacher-leaders on how to facilitate these conversations.  And leaders are best supported with data and with narratives from and about children.”
 
“What are the Schools Our Children Deserve?”
That’s the title of an audio program from a special edition on the Bust*ED Pencils website.  It features a number of interviews with such education luminaries as Alfie Kohn, Anthony Cody, Peter Greene, Julian Vasquez Heilig and several others.  The segment runs 20:55 minutes and centers on Kohn’s 1999 book “The Schools Our Children Deserve.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Here’s an intriguing question for both veteran teachers and newbies: “Does Teaching Get Easier With Time?”  It’s addressed by Starr Sackstein, a 14-year veteran writing and journalism teacher in New York City.  She has two interesting lists in her piece that appears in EDUCATION WEEK.  One with “some aspects of teaching [that] do get easier” over time and one with things that “will never get easier.”   Check out both her lists and see what you think. 
 
Finland
And finally, Finland is often held up as having an exemplary education system.  Their students continually rank among the highest scorers on various international assessments.  Peter DeWitt’s commentary on the Finding Common Ground” column forEDUCATION WEEK offers “3 Reasons We May Never Be Like Finland.”  “Sure, we want to be like Finland but we seem to want their results without putting in the work to get there.  That work involves working collaboratively in our school communities,” he maintains.  “We need less drill, kill and bubble fill, and  more of a focus on learning.  We need to have a more authentic understanding of what we want out of our education system.  Finland doesn’t get caught up in the test scores, as much as they focus on understanding what progress looks like, and creating a love for learning and a respect for education among their students and families.  That seems to be the thing we think of the least in the US.”

                                                                                                   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, July 26, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

      “Respect is not the equivalent to ‘liking’ a student or teacher; 
       it is the ability to have a high regard for the role of another.
       In order to receive respect, we should demonstrate it first…” 

― Tanya R. LivermanMemoirs of an Educarer: An Inspiration for Education

 
Election 2016
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” had several articles castigating Donald Trump Jr. for his disparaging remarks about the public schools during a speech he delivered at the Republican Convention last Tuesday evening.  Several of them were from veteran educators.  Jennifer Rumsey has been a public school teacher in Texas for the past 17 years and she too took umbrage with his remarks.  Her commentary appears in the Austin American-Statesman “The truth is that Trump and the public school bashers like him don’t know anything about public education. I am proud to be an American public school teacher,”  she concludes defiantly, “and I have heard enough of the un-American rhetoric that politicians and businessmen like him use to tear down a truly American establishment and condemn the millions of Americans working hard to care for the children of this nation.”               Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana is now the Republican vice presidential candidate.  An anonymous retired Hoosier State teacher writes about Pence’s education policies and what they did to the state on the Live Long and Prosper . . . blog.  “In Indiana, Pence’s education policies have negatively impacted every aspect of education,” the author complains.  “While [previous Gov.] Mitch Daniel’s administration made sweeping changes by introducing vouchers, state-mandated teacher evaluations, salary caps, and high stakes testing, Mike Pence continued the excessive executive power, disregard of law, and hostile aggression towards educators.  Mr. Pence devalued the teaching profession by lowering requirements for qualified teachers and establishing Pearson created competency testing.  He legislated how teachers are evaluated and paid, resulting in high-stakes evaluations and minuscule performance pay.”               With the Democratic National Convention now in full swing in Philadelphia, we can pick on them for a change.  You may not know too much about Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice president, but you should be aware that his wife, Anne, was the Sec. of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia until she stepped down from that post today to assist with her husband’s campaign for vice president.  Tim Kaine, former mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and current U.S. Senator, wrote 2 1/2 years ago a very encouraging piece about his experiences with the public school system in his state.  It’s titled “Lessons From 40 Years as a Richmond Public Schools Parent” and appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  He offers 7 things he’d like to change about K-12 education.  Here’s one example: “Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession.  We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.”  If you want to get some good insights into his thoughts about K-12 education and contrast them with the Trump/Pence ticket, you should check this out.              The Washington Post has a detailed profile of Tim Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, and her long history of advocating for children even before she became Virginia’s Sec. of Education in 2014 under Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  “Like most of her fellow Democrats in the state, she has opposed the expansion of charter schools and other school-choice measures,”  it points out, “and she has pushed for greater investments in public education, including teacher pay raises.”               Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, draws some interesting parallelsbetween the scam of Trump University and Donald Trump’s belief in “school choice.” Singer finds the whole proposition of a Pres. Trump setting K-12 education policy rather “ironic.”              While out on the primary campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has often repeated that she would continue many of the policies of the Obama administration.  Does that include following Obama’s K-12 education initiatives which some Democrats and most progressives were not pleased with? The “Politics K-12” column inEDUCATION WEEK takes a look at just how closely Clinton might mirror the incumbent’s education policies.  “Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, loves to tell voters that her administration would pick up the policy baton from President Barack Obama,” it begins.  “But, with the Democratic National Convention kicking off [this week], it’s tough to say how true that will be when it comes to K-12 education. That’s an area where Obama has antagonized many of the teachers that make up the Democratic Party base during his first six years in office, by tying teacher evaluation to test scores, encouraging districts to turn their low-performing schools into charters, and more.”              As the Democratic National Convention continues this week in Philadelphia, ED WEEK offers another analysis of the official party platform as it pertains to education.  “The platform reflects several of the top K-12 policy priorities of American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association,”  it relates, “both of which have backed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. . . .  It’s a strong repudiation of groups that favor test-based accountability as a key tool in identifying and addressing the needs of minority students and struggling schools.  There’s a pledge in there as well to end the ‘test-and-punish version of accountability.’  Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, there are still federally required state tests—but states have a lot more freedom in how they use them to judge students, teachers, and schools.”  The piece includes two links to the full platform (55 pages) one at the beginning and one at the very end.              Two teachers from Nevada, both NEA members and delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week, have differing views on whether they will support Hillary Clinton now that she is officially the party’s nominee.  ED WEEK profiles the pair who work in the same district in Clark County (Las Vegas).              Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a stirring speech to the DNC last night.  He vowed to do everything he could to defeat Donald Trump in November.  In addition, he made some brief comments about K-12 education and college students who graduate from school deeply in debt.  ED WEEK reviews his address and compares the education policies of Hillary Clinton and Sanders.  “He highlighted a proposal he and Clinton crafted together,” it mentions, “that would guarantee tuition-free access to public college and universities for children in families earning under $125,000 a year—the vast majority of Americans, he said.”
 
The Teaching Profession
How would you feel if a prominent person in your state believed that half of the teachers in your district “are virtually illiterate?”  If you don’t think that would ever happen you need to read a shocking item in the Chicago Tribune which obtained some emails about comments  regarding the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) written byBruce Rauner in 2011 prior to his becoming governor of Illinois.  “Rauner’s remarks were included in a batch of emails the Chicago Tribune requested from [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel’s office more than a year ago,” it explains, “in connection with its reporting about a controversial $20.5 million no-bid CPS principal training program at the center of former district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s guilty plea to federal fraud charges last year.  The mayor’s office heavily redacted some of the messages or withheld them entirely.  The Tribune then sued the Emanuel administration, and  . . . .Cook County Judge Anna Demacopoulos ruled the mayor’s office largely violated the state’s open records laws and ordered City Hall to turn over the emails.”               6 of America’s best teachers spent several days in Finland last month studying that country’s highly successful education system. The “Teaching Now” column for ED WEEK spoke with two of them to see what they learned.  It mentions 4 take-aways from that trip including these two: 1) “Finnish Teachers Are Trusted, Seen as Experts” and 2) “A Well-Rounded Education Is About More Than Grades “
 
Testing & Common Core
Could the use of certain digital devices for standardized testsnegatively effect student scores on those exams?  That’s the rather disturbing issue raised by an article in EDUCATION WEEK, particularly as more and more districts move to the online administration of those assessments.  “To date, however, relatively little is known about how comparable state tests are when delivered on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or Chromebooks.  Each type of device,”  the piece indicates, “has different screen sizes and ways of manipulating material—touchscreen vs. mouse, for example—and inputting information—say onscreen vs. detached keyboard—factors that could contribute to different experiences and results for students.”               Diane Ravitch has an op-ed inThe New York Times blasting the Common Core State Standardsand the tests that accompany them.  She reviews many of the arguments she and others have made in the past against the standards.  “What is called ‘the achievement gap’ is actually an ‘opportunity gap.’  What we need,” she suggests, :are schools where all children have the same chance to learn.  That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning, and do nothing to help poor children at racially segregated schools.  We need to focus on that, not on promoting failed ideas.”
 
Charter Schools and Online Academies
What is it about charter schools that gets advocates of traditional public schools so upset?  According to Carol Burris, retired award-winning New York principal and current executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education), what gets their dander up most is referring to them as “public” schools.  Guest blogging, as she often does, on Valerie’s Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, Burris explains why its such an affront to attach that adjective.  “Charters, regardless of their original intent, have become a threat to democratically governed, neighborhood public schools,”  Burris maintains, “and questions about their practices, opacity and lack of accountability are increasing as their numbers grow.  Placing the adjective ‘public’ in front of ‘charter’ is an affront to those who deeply believe in the mission of public schools.  Charter schools are privately run academies funded by the taxpayer.  Many are governed by larger corporations, known as CMOs [Charter Management Organizations]. Some are for-profit; others are not for profit yet still present financial ‘opportunities.'”               Georgia, like California, is not getting a very good return on its investment in online charters.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted problems the Golden State has been having with online schools run by K12 Inc., the company that gets millions in taxpayer funding and gets very poor results for those dollars.  Georgia is experiencing similar problems according to an extensive investigative article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled “Georgia’s Largest Online School Paid Millions, Earns a D.”  “Georgians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on one of the biggest online schools in the nation,” it notes, “yet nearly every measure indicates the high-tech, online education model has not worked for many of its more than 13,000 students. . . .  But results show that most of them lag state performance on everything from standardized test scores to graduation rates.”
 
Great News
And finally, last November the ALOED Education Film Series sponsored a screening, for a group of students, professors, alumni and guests on the Occidental College campus, of the documentary film “Education, Inc.” which chronicled an attempted corporate “reform” takeover of a suburban Denver School District.  A lively panel discussion was part of the event.  The movie recently won a Heartland Emmy award for Best Documentary.  [Ed. note: Can we pick em, or what?] Stay tuned for future screenings and congratulations to Brian Malone, producer/director/editor of this fascinating and timely film.  You can find out all about the award onFacebook.

                                                                                                   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, July 22, 2016 Editon

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

               “In an age in which the media broadcast countless pieces of foolishness,
                 the educated man is defined not by what he knows, but by what he doesn’t know.” 

― Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Teach for America Goes Global–Look Out World!
Teach for America has been providing teachers to low-income, inner city schools and charters for 25 years.  Did you know it provides similar services to a number of countries around the world?  THE Nation has an extensive profile of what TFA is doing in India where the program is referred to as, you guessed it, “Teach for India.”  “Since 2007,” it mentions, “adaptations of Teach for America’s controversial model have been implemented in 40 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, thanks to [ TFA founder Wendy] Kopp’s Teach for All network.  Though the organizations are financed through varying mixes of corporate, foundation, and state funding, there’s a remarkable continuity in the network’s so-called ‘Theory of Change,’ regardless of national differences in teacher training, student enrollment, and infrastructure quality.  Given the burgeoning presence of Teach for India in the nation’s troubled school system, the project of exporting the Teach for America model is being put to a high-profile test.  If deemed successful, this model will be poised to deliver large portions of India’s education system—and, indeed, others all over the world—into the control of the private sector on a for-profit basis.” 
 
Testing
Ever wonder how much those standardized assessments, SBAC and PARCC, cost districts and states?  A law passed in 2015 in Oregon requires the Sec. of State to conduct an audit to determine just how much the testing program is costing the taxpayers of the Beaver State.  A story on the PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA–OREGON website details the costs involved.  The numbers may surprise you and remember, Oregon is not one of our most populous states (it ranks #27 out of 50 in population).  “The original text of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965,” the item suggests after reporting the cost figures, “mentions the word ‘test’ exactly one time.  And, it doesn’t refer to the testing of children at all.  It says that the bill, or the program created by the bill, should contain an evaluation of itself.  ‘ncluding pilot projects designed to test the effectiveness of plans so developed’   It’s time to stop mercilessly testing children and to  adhere to the original intent of ESEA.  It is time to ‘test the effectiveness of the plans so developed’ — in this case by ESSA — and act accordingly in the best interest of children.”
 
Belmont High Serves Large Number of Unaccompanied Minors
The U.S. has been experiencing an influx of unaccompanied minors in the past 5 years fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America.  Many of those children and teens have been showing up at schools throughout Southern California and particularly the LAUSD.  A front-page story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reports that nearly a quarter of the 1,000 students at Belmont High (LAUSD) in downtown L.A. have arrived from Central America, many without their parents.  It tells the story of one young orphan man from Guatemala who is struggling to make his way in America.  “At Belmont, teachers contend with the trauma many of these children suffered in their countries of origin or along the treacherous journey north,” it explains.  “Some of the students struggle against resentment and abandonment issues while getting to know a mother, father or family member who left them behind. Some run away.”              The above article about Belmont High School and its large number of immigrant students, many of them unaccompanied minors, drew two letters that appear in today’s L.A. Times.  “This important story reminds us what courage is, what tenacity is,”  the first one writes, “and how lucky we are to have these brave young people who embody the best American values here with us. The article shows what the mission of our schools should be.”
 
Online vs Traditional Classroom Learning
A new study from Northwestern University finds that 8th grade students who look an online Algebra I class did not score as well on tests as their peers who took the course in a traditional classroom setting.  A brief item about the research appears on theNorthwestern School of Education and Social Policywebsite.  The full report can be found in the journal Economics of Education Review but requires a paid subscription.
 
Election 2016
Few of the presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican, spent much time talking about education issues on the primary campaign trail.  Now that the GOP has settled on its Trump/Pence ticket, it’s time to focus on what they might offer as future proposals related to education by looking back at some of their previous pronouncements and policies.  An article in The New York Timesputs veep selection Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s record on educationunder review. It focuses on 3 key issues: Charter Schools and Vouchers, Common Core and Testing and Preschool Expansion.  “As a congressman, [Pence] was one of just two dozen Republicans to vote against the No Child Left Behind act championed by President George W. Bush,” the piece mentions.  “Mr. Pence said he was concerned about federal intrusion into what had been a state and local issue.  He has largely hewed to Republican ideas of more school choice and a smaller federal role in education. But he has also alienated some members of his own party, who said Mr. Pence paid more attention to politics than to policy.”           Donald Trump’s son, Donald, Jr., delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night that included a scathing attack on traditional public schools in this country.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reviews the address and points out the son’s attitudes toward education are nearly identical to his father’s.  “Trump Jr. never went to a public school.  He attended private schools until he went to college at the University of Pennsylvania,” she points out.  “What does Donald Trump, the candidate, think? Education wasn’t high on the list of discussion topics during the primary season, but he has long been a supporter of school choice and a critic of traditional public schools.”               A member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) and a teacher in New York was up in arms over the speech by Donald Trump Jr., at the GOP convention Tuesday night (see above).  “Okay, not sure of the rest of the stupid arguments against teachers,”  he disgustingly concludes, “but those are the good old standards that the ignorant always roll out.  Just figured I would put all the nastiness in one place, save us time on moving from thread to thread defending our chosen profession.  God help this country.”     Another veteran New York City high school teacher, Arthur Goldstein, takes Donald Trump Jr. to task for his pejorative comments about teachers in his Tuesday evening address to the Republican Convention (see two items directly above).  His analysis appears on the nyc educator blog as he offers a point-by-point rebuttal to a number of the charges against educators leveled by Trump Jr..  “It’s absurd and obscene,” Goldstein concludes, “that we who devote our lives to helping children are vilified by the same people who make it impossible to fund their schools.  It’s even worse that their remedy for public schools is making it easier for zillionaires to profit from them.”            The Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber, is having some problems with recent comments about education made by both Donald Trump Jr. and Hillary Clinton.  He has some major concerns about how public schools are funded and where Donald Trump and the Clintons sent their own children to school.  This item includes a video of  the speech by Donald Trump Jr. at the GOP Convention (16:39 minutes) and one by Hillary Clinton before the American Federation of Teachers in Minneapolis (31:51 minutes).             Gene V. Glass, on his Education in Two Worlds blog, prints a copy of the section of the GOP Platform on education without comment or analysis.                Big thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending a hilarious  (scary?) (depending on your political point-of-view) item from The Atlantic titled “Why Are Third-Graders Afraid of Donald Trump?”  It profiles a pair of third-graders from Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb west of Boston, who have formed a “Kids Against Trump” group on their campus.  “Their group isn’t very big.  It’s just them and a few friends and neighbors,” the article points out, “plus they have support from about 200 people who have so far signed their Change.org petition.  Also, close to 500 people follow the group’s Facebook page, and have offered virtual support from far-flung states.”               Andrew Rotherman, who formerly worked in the Clinton administration and is a cofounder and partner of Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit that supports corporate “reform” and privatization, suggests that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are not yet done with those kinds of reforms.  Writing inU.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, he maintains that despite the wording of the party’s platform and recent comments Clinton made to the NEA and AFT, he wants to assure his readers that she’s still in favor of the things the corporate “reformers” want.  Rotherman’s commentary is titled “Democrats Aren’t Done With Education–Don’t Write Off Hillary Clinton or Democratic Party When it Comes to Education Reform.”             Donald Trump’s nomination acceptance speech at the Republican Convention last night was short on education specifics.  Few of the addresses during the 4-day parlay concentrated on that topic.  Two items from EDUCATION WEEK touch on the GOP and education policies.  The first reviews Trumps speech and some other comments that were made at the convention in Cleveland.  “Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump,”  it notes, “gave a shout-out to a long-treasured GOP priority, school choice, in his nomination acceptance speech here Thursday, and in a section on education attacked a long-time party bogeyman, “bureaucrats”. . . . But anyone who wanted policy details about where Trump stood on education before the convention kicked off on Monday was just as in the dark when the balloons hit the floor four days later.”  The second highlights some Trump pronouncements over the course of the campaign and before on K-12 policy.  Here’s one sample:“On who he listens to about education:  ‘I was with Dr. Ben Carson today [a one-time rival for the nomination] … We spoke for over an hour on education.  And he has such a great handle on it.  He wants competitive schools.  He wants a lot of different things that are terrific, including charter schools, by the way, that the unions are fighting like crazy.  But charter schools work, and they work very well.’ – GOP debate in Miami, March 2016”
 
The Teaching Profession
THE HECHINGER REPORT provides 4 concrete ways to improve math instruction for elementary teachers.  The ideas came from Finland, Japan and China. “Why don’t American students really get math?” it begins,  “Because their elementary school teachers don’t either, says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a policy institute that studies what America can learn from the world’s best-performing education systems.”  Here is lesson #2 from the article: “Require that elementary school teachers specialize in content areas.  Most primary school teachers in the U.S. teach all subjects.  In many top countries, teacher candidates specialize in either math and science or language and social studies.”                The corporate “reformers” love to paint teachers unions as the bogeyman when it comes to improving education.  “What if Everything You Thought You Knew About Teachers Unions Turned Out to Be Wrong” is the title of a piece on Jennifer Berkshire’s EduShyster blog that features some new research about those unions.  She interviews the author of a brand new study by Eunice Han, who has a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and will be joining the economics faculty of the University of Utah in the fall.  Dr. Han’s report looks at a number of fallacies some politicians and privatizers love to perpetuate about teachers unions.  “By demanding higher salaries for teachers, unions give school districts a strong incentive to dismiss ineffective teachers before they get tenure,” Han explains in response to one question.  “Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them.  Using three different kinds of survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics, I confirmed that unionized districts dismiss more low-quality teachers than those with weak unions or no unions.  Unionized districts also retain more high-quality teachers relative to district with weak unionism.  No matter how and when I measured unionism I found that unions lowered teacher attrition.”  Berkshire’s article includes a link to the full report (62 pages) titled “The Myths of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers” that was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Diane Ravitch suggests you “Send this link to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and any other reformers you can think of.”              A nine-year veteran English teacher in Louisiana tackles some of those myths about teachersshe’s heard over the years.  One of the myths she dispels: “Whining about how bad we have it.”  Her comments appear on THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website.               POP QUIZ time.  What is a “VLC?”  If you answered “virtual learning community” you are correct.  For EXTRA POINTS can you describe what a VLC is?  Briefly they are online professional development resources for teachers often through group or peer-to-peer learning communities. Need/want more information about VLCs?  The “CTQ Collaboratoy” column at EDUCATION WEEK has a piece titled “How Teachers Can Benefit From Virtual Learning Communities” which provides a primer for you so you can score 100% on the next quiz about VLCs.  “Part of the challenge of teaching in the 21st century is that many (most?) of us received 20th century educations,” the author writes.  “We connected to others through face-to-face study groups and relied heavily on in-class discussions.  We worked largely in isolation outside of school, or in face-to-face collaboration during the school day.  Only in the last decade or two have we increasingly relied on virtual collaboration as a way to connect, collaborate, and improve our individual and collective practice.”
Grit
Paul Tough, in his book “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” (A previous ALOED Book Club title), was one of the early proponents of the concept of teaching “grit” to students, particularly low-income ones.  In his latest volume, “Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why” he walks that idea back a bit.  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, reviews Tough’s latest title and comes away much more encouraged about what he’s read.  Thompson’s essay is titled “Paul Tough Turns Away From Punitive Education Reforms.”  “What most separates reformers and educators who oppose them is their punishment fetish.  We don’t deny that accountability and consequences are facts of life,” he concludes, “and those extrinsic measures have a role to play.  Corporate reformers remain firm that the punitive must play a decisive part in school improvement.  These measures also are a tactical device aimed at discrediting, disrupting and replacing public schools.  Tough speaks softly as he articulates a constructive message that emphasizes the better angels of human beings.  Perhaps he will help win the competition-driven reformers over to his collaborative vision.  Or, maybe, they won’t change until they taste defeat.  I hope we don’t have to wait until that final battle before incorporating Tough’s wisdom into a new era of school improvement.”
 
Fethullah Gülen and the Attempted Turkish Coup (Continued)
An attempted coup in Turkey failed last Friday (the previous edition of the “Ed News” contained several items relating to the event).  The surviving Turkish government has accused a reclusive Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gülen, who resides in the Pocono Mountains in the northeastern portion of Pennsylvania as the leader behind the coup.  Interestingly, Gülen owns one of the largest charter chains in the U.S.  Valerie Strauss, in her column in The Washington Post,details several actions the government has taken to curtail the activities of Gülen.  “The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked education officials in Texas and California to investigate publicly funded charter schools in those states,” it begins, “that it says are linked to a Muslim cleric living in the United States, a man the government alleges was the mastermind of a coup attempt this month.  The Turkish government also is planning to bring more complaints in other parts of the U.S.”  Strauss includes a link to the formal legal complaint filed in California against the Magnolia Public Schools that are connected to Gülen.
 
Educational Inequality
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers a “modest proposal” for dealing with educational inequality: let the rich kids get the same teachers, schools, curricula and tests, i,e. corporate “reform,”as the low-income ones.  Not following any of this?  Check out his piece and he’ll explain in his own unique style.  “So I’m asking, please, let the children of the rich and powerful experience these same corporate educate reforms.  Every child deserves the right to be taught by an untrained instructor,” he suggests.  “Every child should have an education devised by non-experts making huge profits off the results.  Every child’s success should be determined through mass marketed, standardized, A,B,C exams.  Every child should get to go to a school where the administration can reduce services and maximize profit.  Only then can we finally compare test scores between rich and poor. Only then will be one America!  Only then will no rich child be left behind.”
 
Charter Schools
The vehemently anti-charter United Teachers Los Angeles and a local charter (most charters are rabidly anti-union) actually came to an agreement on a key issue. A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a battle between 9 teachers at El Camino Real Charter High School and the LAUSD.  The charter did not want to pay retiree benefits and offered to pay the group of teachers to return to the district just long enough so that it would be on the hook for their benefits.  That’s when UTLA jumped in on the side of the charter!  If this all sounds rather convoluted, it is!  Check out a story in the “Education Watch” column in today’s L.A. Times that sorts it all out for you.  “El Camino is unionized,” it explains, “which is a main reason the teachers have retiree health benefits in the first place.  These benefits help cover what isn’t handled by Medicare, the federal health program for retirees.  Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl said his organization would fight ‘to enforce our members’ rights under the UTLA/LAUSD contract.’  He noted that the district agreed to give El Camino teachers up to five years to return to L.A. Unified after El Camino became a charter.”                 Are charter schools leading the way to the re-segregation of our public schools?  Jeff Bryant, writing for ALTERNET, tackles that question and he uses what’s been taking place in Little Rock, Arkansas, as his example.  His extended essay is titled “Charter Schools and the Waltons Take Little Rock Back to its Segregated Past.”  “This time, those being accused of segregating students aren’t local bigots. Instead,” Bryant maintains, “Little Rock citizens see segregation as being imposed upon them by outsiders, operating under the guise of a reform agenda. . . .  And new entities, such as charter schools (publicly funded schools that are privately operated) and private foundations controlled by a small number of rich people, sow divisions in the community.”
 
Proposed New School Accountability System
And finally, the previous two editions of the “Ed News” (July 15 and 19) contained items about a draft proposal from the California State Board of Education about a new school accountability system.  It is much more detailed than the old single number rating API (Academic Performance Index).  The new plan uses a number of different criteria to measure school growth and progress and a series of color-coded boxes.  The draft proposal drew the ire of theL.A. Times.  An editorial in today’s paper took the board to task for making the process overly cumbersome and difficult to understand.  “The board’s determination to measure schools by more than merely test scores is laudable and has led national thinking on the topic.  But the new system is more than overly warm and fuzzy,” it complains. “Making sense of it is practically impossible.”

                                                                                                   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.