Monthly Archives: June 2012

June 19, 2012

The “Ed News” offices will be closed for an extended period while the Chief Commissar is travelling with his wife.  Please look for the next issue on or around Friday, July 20th.  As always, thanks for reading!
   LAUSD teachers and staff approved the labor agreement between UTLA and the district in voting last week.  The results, released Saturday evening, were much closer than the vote on the previous pact.  UTLA has the nuts and bolts:  Yesterday’s L.A. Times covered the story this way:,0,766786.story  You can also get detailed area voting results, the full text of the agreement, a summary and a Q&A about it on the UTLA website:
   The Chief Commissar attended the speech by Linda Darling-Hammond on May 21st at the RFK Community School.  You can see photos of the event and peruse her PowerPoint presentation (it provides an excellent overview of her talk) at this UTLA website:
   Speaking of UTLA, an op-ed in yesterday’s Times profiles A.J. Duffy, the union’s previous president, and what he’s been up to since stepping down as the head of the organization:–20120618,0,7486057.column
   An extended editorial in the same paper looks at Gov. Brown’s proposal to change the way schools are funded in this state.  The paper is in favor of the plan . . . BUT . . . thinks it lacks accountability.  You can read about the plan and what the Times thinks about it here:,0,659933.story
   Standardized test scores may be discouragingly low in many areas of California but one area where the state shines is in A.P. results based on a comprehensive report from the College Board.  It’s all described in this story from TOP-Ed.  It contains a link to the full report (36 pages) titled “Eighth Annual AP Report to the Nation:”
   Did you happen to read about the planned special summer time administration of the SAT for a group of elite students?  The whole idea raised some hackles among several individuals who complained and, according to this story in the L.A. Times, the College Board backed down and cancelled it:,0,6109708.story
   Now that an L.A. Superior Court judge has ruled that LAUSD must include student test results as part of its teacher evaluations, the L.A. Daily News has a follow-up story reporting on what comes next:
   It’s not too often that you find education related news in the Business section of a newspaper but today’s L.A. Times is reporting that media tycoon Sumner Redstone is donating $100,000 to the LAUSD for an anti-bullying program:,0,3465701.story
   How’s this for a top-name commencement speaker?  The South Bay Daily Breeze describes the graduation speech delivered by Bill Clinton to the senior class at Redondo Union High School that includes the former president’s nephew:
   How would shortening the school year effect students, parents, teachers and district finances?  The Sacramento Bee tries to provide some answers:
   You may recall the controversy surrounding a couple of schools in the Anaheim Unified School District that issued student notebooks that were color-coded to show how they did on the standardized tests.  It was one of the early stories the “Ed News” covered when it first debuted.  The state Senate voted on Monday to ban the practice as briefly reported by the L.A. Times:
   Valerie Strauss looks at the very significant issue of per pupil funding disparities among the various states based on a newly released report from the second edition of the National Report Card titled “Is School Funding Fair?”  This article includes links to the full report (36 pages) and the executive summary:
   How important is the “summer slide” in student learning and how much do low-income, minority pupils lose compared to their more affluent peers?  Again, Valerie Strauss steps to the fore reprinting a blog that addresses this salient point:
   The Minneapolis Post interviews one of the founders of the value-added test model who, it turns out, is a big critic of how the scores are being used:
   The latest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) science results focused on a new test that checks on a student’s ability in grades 4, 8 and 12 to perform both hands-on and computer-based science activities.  This differed from the traditional scientific knowledge test scores that were released last month.  The results were not encouraging as detailed by this story in Education Week:
    And finally, on a lighter (?) note, it’s graduation time and that often means student pranks.  Some may seem harmless, others may be clever but most are downright silly or stupid,  This piece in Saturday’s L.A. Times describes some of the recent ones and how schools/districts are cracking down:,0,2558278.story
Summer begins officially at 4:09 p.m. (PDT) tomorrow.  Happy Summer

June 15, 2012

The “Ed News” will be taking an extended summer break after the June 19th issue so the Chief Commissar can do some travelling with his wife.  After the Tuesday issue on June 19th look for the next one on Friday, July 20th.  Hopefully, nothing of any significance will happen in the field of education during that time.  lol
   And now to the news.  A prominent, front-page article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reported on the LAUSD school board’s approval of the labor agreement with UTLA.  As you may remember, it included 10 furlough days and shortened the school year by five more days in order to save as many positions as possible.  The article focuses in on critics who condemned the shortened year aspect and it’s impact on student achievement and standardized test results:,0,7674512.story  The UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” addresses the teachers’ loss of salary and the students’ loss of 5 more instructional days:
   In another article in the same paper a L.A. Superior Court judge finalized his ruling, issued Monday, requiring the LAUSD to use student test scores as part of a new teacher evaluation process.  The decision left it up to the negotiation process between the district and UTLA as to how that is to be accomplished:,0,3512440.story  A 900-strong group of local teachers (80% of them from LAUSD) was quick to offer its suggestions for a new teacher evaluation that takes into account student test scores and other factors:  In an editorial yesterday the Times took the position that now that a judge has ruled test scores must be included in teacher evaluations it’s time for the LAUSD and UTLA to come up with a viable solution on how to implement this:,0,5540729.story
   Many school districts up and down this state are cutting or eliminating adult education programs in order to help balance their budgets.  EDSOURCE released a report on Tuesday, titled “At Risk: Adult Schools in California,” looking at the issue and suggesting a role for the community colleges and other resources to fill-in the gaps.  This article contains a link to the full report (13 pages):  TOP-Ed also weighed in on this story.  Theirs is the second of a 2-part series they are running on the state of adult ed in the state.  The following article has a link to Part 1 which ran on Monday:’s-existential-crisis/
   US News is highlighting a report from Education Week that tracks national graduation rates.  The latest figures improved for the second straight year spurred by a healthy increase in Latino rates.  This article has a link to the full report.  Some parts of it you do have to pay for:  You can access the Executive Summary of the report (for free) here: and/or the report Overview (also for free):
   A USA TODAY story says that the average cost of tuition at a 4-year university rose 15% between 2008 and 2010 according to an annual report from the U.S. Dept. of Education:
   In what one might characterize as a mini-revolt the Democratic controlled California Legislature in some ways defied Gov. Brown and crafted a budget proposal that ignores some of the governor’s favorite proposals for K-12 education.  If you want to know how this series of events came to pass, check out the details at TOP-Ed:
   No Child Left Behind mandated that all students would have “a highly qualified” teacher in front of their classroom.  Two years ago Congress amended the wording to include programs like Teach for America as turning out “highly qualified” teachers.  Our lawmakers are on the verge of extending that modification and Valerie Strauss is quick to take them to task for doing that:  Speaking of Teach for America, NPR has an interview segment with an alum of the program who happens to be highly critical of what TFA is doing.  The program is titled “Is Teach For America Failing?”  You can read the full transcript and/or listen to the audio (8:51 minutes) here:
   Diane Ravitch takes to task Michelle Rhee’s organization “StudentsFirst” for automatically making people who sign one of their petitions “members” of the group.  [Ed. note:  The Chief Commissar has this exact thing happen to him.  He all of a sudden found himself a “member” of “StudentsFirst” after signing a petition on another web site.  He just recently went to the bottom of one of their emails and clicked “unsubscribe.”]
   Diane Ravitch tackles the issue of academic fraud and credit recovery involving online courses that help boost school and district graduation rates on her blog for Education Week:
   A critic of the Common Core State Standards takes a look what’s wrong with them in this blog from the Huffington Post:
   And finally, John Fensterwald for TOP-Ed argues that the API has outlived its purpose and should be shelved for the Academic Growth over Time (AGT) model used by the LAUSD:
Speaking of the API, latest data released yesterday by the California Dept. of Education has two-thirds of LAUSD elementary and middle schools and three-fourths of high schools ranking among the lowest performing schools in the state according to this brief item in the L.A. Daily News.  The article also compares the scores of whites, Latinos and African-American students to the statewide averages:
Enjoy your weekend.
Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar

Ed News- June 12, 2012

And now to the news.  An article in Saturday’s L.A. Times “Sports” section highlights some LAUSD statistics that demonstrate that students who participate in organized athletics have better attendance, higher GPAs and do better on standardized tests:,0,7206631.column

   When states face budget cuts one of the first places they look to trim is education.  When those state revenues begin to turn around do they promptly restore the money to education?  You might think so, but not in this day and age.  Kansas, for instance, reduced per pupil spending by around 12% since 2008 to help balance its budget.  When a small surplus appeared this year guess where the money went?  If you guessed education, you were WRONG!  Check out this extended article to see where funding is first being restored in a number of states around the country when revenues rise:
   Many people believe that the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954 lead to the end of segregated schools in the U.S.  The fact of the matter is that most experts see our schools as more segregated than during the late 1960s as described in this article from the Atlantic:
   This item from Education Week makes a cogent argument for addressing both academic AND financial needs of students if we want to reduce the achievement gap and regain our preeminent position of educational excellence among other nations.  It includes a list of some of the more successful programs that cities have adopted to improve college readiness:
   Many schools in both the UC and CSU systems are being pushed to eliminate/consolidate certain degree programs that have
less than 10 students enrolled in order to save the money for more popular ones.  The details are explained in this piece in The San Francisco Chronicle:
   Is the federal government considering shifting monies from class-size reduction grants into ones that seek “new pathways” to teaching (i.e. Teach for America)?  Why would they even be contemplating such a move?  Find some answers in this blog from the Huffington Post:
   The pendulum of school reform seems to constantly swing back-and-forth and back again.  One trend is in and touted as the latest panacea only to see it quietly phased out as the newest idea takes center stage.  Sound familiar?  The San Francisco Chronicle tries to catch you up on what’s “in” and what’s “out” and, possibly, what’s “on the way:”
   In a story the “Ed News” has been following closely, an L.A. County Superior Court judge issues a tentative ruling Monday, in a case filed by a community group, that the LAUSD must use student test scores as part of its teacher evaluation process.  You can read all the details in this story from today’s L.A. Times:,0,2026996.story  John Fensterwald, in his blog at TOP-Ed, also commented on this possibly far-reaching ruling:
   Today the LAUSD board voted to postpone a parcel tax proposal slated for the November ballot that it had tentatively approved in March.  Later on today the board was scheduled to vote on the agreement reached with UTLA on Friday that includes 10 furlough days and shortens the school year by 5 days in order to save as many positions as possible. Union members are scheduled to begin voting on the measure tomorrow.  This article from the Times includes a short video (2:02 minutes) from sister station KTLA channel 5:
   Pres. Obama has been in office for nearly 3 1/2 years and Education Week takes the opportunity to review his policies on K-12 education as the November election approaches.  This piece includes a very short (1:17 minute) video summarizing some of his positions:
   And finally, the latest research continues to show a persistent achievement gap between males and females in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects according to this report from Education Week:
Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar

Ed News- Extra- June 8, 2012

The “Ed News” knows that all its readers are not connected to LAUSD.  However, the fact that the district and UTLA reached a tentative labor agreement late on Friday, subject to ratification by the board and the teachers, should be BIG news to most of you.  Therefore, The Chief Commissar of Current Events decided to put out this brief, special, extra edition to cover this late-breaking and highly significant story.  Look for the next, full, regular edition of the “Ed News” on Tuesday.

   The pact includes 10 unpaid days for teachers and reduces the school year by 5 days but averts most of the lay-offs that had been in the offing for the next school year.  Today’s L.A. Times covered the story in detail:,0,317275.story  The L.A. Daily News had this to say:   UTLA has several items related to the story on its website ( including the full text of the agreement (9 pages):
and a two page summary of it: as well as some other items.
Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar

Ed News- June 8

And now to the news.  A late-breaking story in Tuesday’s “Ed News” reported on a lawsuit filed against LAUSD in hopes of forcing the district to include student test scores in its evaluation of teachers.  John Fensterwald in his blog for TOP-Ed has a follow-up to that story.  The judge announced he may have a tentative decision by Monday.  Stay tuned for further details:,0,3577978.story

   A little noticed provision in Gov. Brown’s latest budget revision would eliminate one year (of two) of the science requirement for high school graduation.  Why would the governor propose this?  Why else?  To SAVE MONEY!  When people notice this the blowback is immediate as detailed in this front-page story from Wednesday’s L.A. Times:,0,2454775.story
   Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column in the Times, laments the very real possibility that the LAUSD will cut almost all arts education in light of budget constraints.  He visits Belmont High to illustrate the impact of those cuts on one long-time teacher and his program and students:,0,5267133,full.column
   LAUSD’s plan to place a parcel tax on the November ballot to help offset some budget cuts has been postponed until 2013 according to this article in the L.A. Daily News:  The UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” addresses the use of parcel taxes to help replace budget cuts that impact the arts, social studies, science and other programs:
   In Tuesday’s election results, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin survived a recall attempt after he eliminated collective bargaining rights for many public union members (including teachers) in his state.  Diane Ravitch steps up and explains the implications of this decision for the field of education:  There were several other interesting races related to education but two measures in California (San Jose and San Diego) passed that will lead to lower pension benefits for teachers in those cities.  The ramifications of those decisions could reach far beyond those two cities.  Check out this article in Time magazine for all the particulars:
   With ongoing battles between district school boards and teachers’ unions over revised teacher evaluations SI&A Cabinet Report describes an agreement between Green Dot Public Schools and its union regarding a new review format for educators:
   A community initiative of progressive teachers, students and local activists is trying to empower students at Roosevelt High School (LAUSD) in East L.A.  They are sponsoring a conference this Saturday that they hope will promote social change:
   What happens when special education services are turned over to private business (privatization)?  Don’t think it could happen?  Diane Ravitch (who else?) reports on what has taken place in the only state (New York) that has tried it so far:
   The “Ed News” has previously reported on the use of computers to grade student essays (yes, essays, not just multiple choice tests).  National Public Radio (NPR) has a feature that looks at how successful and accurate those computers are.  Be sure to check out how Abe Lincoln fared when a computer graded one of his speeches.  You can read the story and/or listen to the audio (4 minutes) here:
   Here’s an exclusive for most “Ed News” readers.  The Argonaut is a weekly source of local news for the Westside of L.A. from Santa Monica to LAX.  It includes the community of Westchester where the Chief Commissar resides.  The latest edition (June 7th) has an extended article about LAUSD school board member Steve Zimmer, who represents a portion of that area.  He plans to introduce a proposal to the board on June 12th regarding a new teacher evaluation system developed in consultation with Linda Darling-Hammond.  She is quoted several times in the article:
   One proposed “fix” for low-performing schools is called “reconstitution” in which at least 50% of the faculty and staff are told up front they will not be rehired.  Parents, students and teachers held another protest after school yesterday against the proposed reconstitution at Manual Arts High (LAUSD but part of the L.A.’s Promise group of schools).  [Ed. note: the entire process is extremely nasty and disruptive.  His former school, Huntington Park High, went through it exactly a year ago.  The scars left from it are VERY deep].  The L.A. Times has a short item about the on-going protests:
   And finally, an excessive use of student suspensions has led administrators at Roosevelt High (LAUSD) to develop and implement a new positive student behavior model that hopes to keep more pupils in school according to this item in the Times:   National Public Radio (NPR) looks at the issue of the over use of expulsions and suspensions to deal with student misbehavior in California.  You can read the story and/or listen to the audio (5:36 minutes) here:
Have a GREAT weekend. 
GO L.A. KINGS (as they try to clinch the National
Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Championship)!
Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar

Ed News- June 1, 2012

And now to the news.  Last week the “Ed News” highlighted an article about a settlement involving the LAUSD board and sexual harassment charges between an employee and former superintendent Ramon Cortines.  The L.A. Times is reporting that the agreement is in jeopardy due to early disclosure and the premature identification of the victim:,0,5442971.story

   TOP-Ed reports on the passage by the California Senate of a bill that would make it simpler and faster to fire teachers.  The bill now goes to the State Assembly for hearings, debate and a vote:
   Gov Brown’s proposed initiative for the November ballot to raise taxes to help fund education has the support of 59% of registered voters according to the latest USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll.  36% were opposed according to this front-page story in Wednesday’s Times.  This article includes a short video (3:18 minutes) highlighting some of the key numbers in the poll:,0,5922290.story
   Diane Ravitch tackles the slippery question: “Are Charter Schools Public Schools?”  Her blog provides a good history of charters and what they were originally intended to do:
   Valerie Strauss comments on the growing protests around the country against high-stakes standardized testing:
   The Common Core State Standards are coming to California and many other states.  Education Week looks at a Thomas B. Fordham Institute study that tries to estimate the cost of implementing this extensive new Math and English/Language Arts curriculum:
   A lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU of Southern California and other parties claiming that the state neglects the education of English learners according to this story in yesterday’s L.A. Times:,0,6752589.story
   Valerie Strauss describes how Louisiana has recently passed the largest voucher program of any state in the nation.  Under the plan even religious schools will soon be receiving large amounts of taxpayers’ money:
   Charter school management companies are making a major effort to privatize public schools.  This tale from a parent in Marin County explains how they’ve taken aim on the local, highly successful, elementary school:
   Two different education groups, both with teacher members, backed a proposal to include student test scores as part of a new LAUSD teacher evaluation.  They hope their ideas will help break an impasse between the district and its teachers’ union.   Both UTLA and CTA have opposed using the controversial test results as part of teacher reviews.  Today’s L.A. Times reports on this important development:,0,5899361.story   John Festerwald on his “Educated Guess” blog for Education Week comments on the same story:   On yesterday’s “AirTalk” show on radio station KPCC, Larry Mantle had a timely segment (22:05 minutes) in which 3 guests discussed this latest development in the teacher evaluation story:
   A short blog on Education Week highlights a newly released study that looks at 10 different teacher evaluation systems around the country in great detail:  You can access the full report, titled “Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look ‘Under the Hood’ of Teacher Evaluation” (121 pages) here:
   Hector Tobar’s column in today’s L.A. Times takes a heartrending look at the possibility that LAUSD’s adult education programs may be eliminated.  He returns to Hollywood High where, almost 50 years ago, his then 21-year-old Guatemalan father took English classes so he could eventually become a U.S. citizen and ultimately earn a college degree:,0,1233407.column
   The Bakersfield Californian is projecting what might happen to the state’s public schools if Gov. Brown’s proposed November revenue enhancement initiative fails to gain passage by voters:
   And finally, the UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” takes a look at how summer programs impact student learning and the achievement gap between middle-class students and the poor:
Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar