Monthly Archives: September 2012

September 25

The “Ed News” will be taking a break to allow the Chief Commissar to do some traveling.  Look for the next issue on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
   And now to the news.  Want to know what the issues were surrounding the Chicago teachers strike?  The Chicago Tribune has put together a very detailed 4-page chart comparing what was initially offered by the CPS and what the CTU finally agreed to.  Be sure to scroll down to see the entire chart:,0,892291.htmlpage  In light of the Chicago strike, Sandy Banks, in her Saturday column for the L.A. Times, discusses the role student test scores should play in teacher evaluations:,0,3953025,full.column  There are many lessons to be taken away from the strike.  This blog from Waging Nonviolence says learning about how a democracy works is one of the key ones:  Now that both the students and teachers in Chicago are back in their classrooms, the postmortems regarding the strike are appearing.  This one is from a Professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a teacher activist.  It’s titled “What We Won in Chicago:”  This one is from Dissent magazine and is titled “Who is Victimizing Chicago’s Kids?”  The author of this blog from In These Times believes that the end of the strike is really the beginning of a “multi-year revolution” in school reform:   Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second largest teachers union, AFT (American Federation of Teachers), is taking her show on the road.  She’s touting the victory in Chicago and collecting ideas from teachers from around the country on what reform should really look like.  The Washington Post has all the details:
   Gov. Brown signed into law several bills aimed at changing school disciplinary and suspension policies according to this article from Saturday’s L.A. Times,0,6624796.story
   California’s 112-campus community college system is facing some daunting challenges as explained in this prominent, front page story from Sunday’s Times:,0,7703496,full.story
   You’ve certainly heard the comment that a college degree is the ticket to a much higher paying job.  But what happens if most of the jobs created over the next ten years only require a high school diploma?  This article from the Next New Deal highlights a study that wonders what happens to the U.S. economy if that scenario truly plays out:  You can read the full report (18 pages) titled “Where Have all the Good Jobs Gone?” from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) here:
   The battle lines over education reform will soon be focusing on Idaho where voters are faced in November with a proposition that deals with tenure, performance pay and classroom technology.  Opponents of the measure claim the target is not “the teachers” but “the union bosses.”  The New York Times lays out what’s at stake in this vote:
   Valerie Strauss, in her blog, comments on a recent report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA (highlighted by the “Ed News”) that pointed out the growing segregation of the nation’s public schools:
   This blog from NationalJournal poses a series of questions about what teacher evaluations need to include.  It doesn’t, necessarily, provide the answers but it does include a link to a video (7:11 minutes) titled “Teachers on Teacher Evaluations” from two groups, “Teach Plus” and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, in which a number of educators comment on the new evaluations they are working under:
   The Washington, D.C., public schools have a new five-year plan to boost collective proficiency in math and reading from 23% to 63% in the 40 lowest performing schools.  Jay Matthews, in his blog for The Washington Post, calls these goals “fantasyland:”
   And finally, sexism rears its ugly head again.  This time, as Valerie Strauss reports, professors at the college and university level were biased against females who were studying the sciences.  Her information comes from a new study of the subject from Yale University:–study/2012/09/25/edafb888-06be-11e2-a10c-fa5a255a9258_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet   You can read the full report (6 pages) titled “Science Faculty’s Subtle Gender Biases Favor Male Students” here:

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

September 21

Fall begins tomorrow at 7:49 a.m. PDT.  Say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn!

    And now to the news.  Thanks to Nancy Kuechle for sending along this excellent op-ed from The New York Times.  In light of the teachers strike in Chicago the author looks at what’s really needed to help improve (not just reform) education.  As Nancy pointed out, his comments have great relevance to what we are trying to do with the Oxy credential program.  Don’t miss this one:
   It didn’t take Diane Ravitch long to comment on the end of the Chicago teachers strike and what it means:   An article from The New York Times ( apparently tried to make the point that Chicago teachers were overpaid. This response claims that the Times used flawed data to reach its conclusions:  What were some of the issues agreed to when the CTU and CPS reached agreement?  Were there any “winners” in the strike?  This blog provides some answers:  Finger-pointing and scapegoating are not going to solve the problems faced by education today.  Using the strike in Chicago as a backdrop, this blog urges collaboration among political leaders and teachers’ groups as the key to successful reform:
   The rate of black-male high school graduation inched upward but still trailed, significantly, the rate for white males according to a report released on Wednesday that was highlighted in this story from Education Week.  It includes a link to the full report (56 pages) titled “The Urgency of Now:”
   The pro parent-trigger, anti teacher union film “Won’t Back Down” is scheduled for release a week from today.  The “Ed News” has been warning you about it for some time now.  The authors of this blog from Common Dreams take an extensive and highly critical look at the movie,the personalities behind it and how it was funded.  It includes an excellent primer on parent-trigger laws and where they came from and where they might be headed and why:
     Ever get the impression that “education reform” has actually turned into teacher bashing?  This blog makes that point quite clearly:
   A new analysis of data by the U.S. Dept. of Education based on a report released Wednesday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA finds that many minority students still attend schools that are highly segregated by race and income.  This article from the Huffington Post contains a link to the full report (122 pages) titled “E Pluribus . . . Separation, Deepening Double Segregation for More Students:”
   Another new study finds that California is helping its English language learners to gain proficiency in the language faster.  It is highlighted in this article from Ed Source.  The report was published by a group called “Californians Together” and is titled “Secondary School Courses Designed to Address the Language Needs and Academic Gaps of Long Term English Learners:
   With Pres. Obama’s first term drawing to a close The Washington Post takes a took at what his K-12 policies for public schools have achieved:
   And finally, the UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” looks at the state takeover of the Inglewood Unified School District and places it in the larger context of the financial crisis facing many districts in California:
Welcome to the space shuttle Endeavor and its final home here in Los Angeles!


Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

September 18

LATE BREAKING NEWS:  The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) decided to “suspend” their 7-day strike today after the union’s House of Delegates approved the tentative agreement reached on Friday.  Students and teachers will return to their classes tomorrow morning.  This article from The Chicago Tribune, posted at 6:31 p.m. this evening, describes  some of the key issues of the new contract that CTU members will be voting on over the next several weeks:,0,7782812,full.story
   The Chicago teachers strike was a BIG story last week and into this week.  It sparked an article in Saturday’s L.A. Times that speculated about the possibility of a similar action in L.A.  The verdict, however, was “unlikely:”,0,6760463.story  If you thought the strike might have ended yesterday you haven’t been staying up with the news.  The teachers union required more time to study the “tentative agreement” that seemed to have been reached on Friday and the Chicago school board went to court to try to force the educators back to work.  Here’s how things stood as of yesterday afternoon according the The Chicago Tribune:,0,3021850,full.story


    On Friday, Gov. Brown signed a bill to institute a state takeover of the Inglewood Unified School District.  This story in Saturday’s L.A. Times provides some details about how the process works:,0,6482256.story
   Four letter-writers reacted to the editorial in last Tuesday’s Times regarding the use of student test scores on teacher evaluations:,0,2991335.story
   How much do you know about “online education?”  Want to know more about how it works, how many students are involved, how effective it is, how it’s paid for and what are the implications for public education in the future?  Check out this piece from the “Other Words” blog, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies:
   Under the federal government’s  “Deferred Action” program students who arrived in the country illegally may now have an opportunity to finish their schooling and work in the U.S.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times explains how the new law works and profiles several students:,0,3010260,full.story
   The Chancellor of the 112 campus California Community College system stepped down Saturday after slightly more than 3 1/2 years at the helm.  EdSource has a story profiling his time in office and comments that he made during a conversation he had with the author of the article.  It contains a link to a full transcript of his interview:
   Yesterday’s L.A. Times details a group of about 250 students at El Camino Real Charter High who wrote essays to gain admission to the school’s production on Friday of the play “8” about the Prop. 8 court battle over gay marriage:,0,4091879.story
   As most of the readers of the “Ed News” know, there will be two propositions, #30 and #38, on the November ballot that will raise revenue to help provide additional funding for schools.  The former is supported by Gov. Brown and the latter by attorney Molly Munger.  This Sacramento Bee story takes a look at both and explains how they are similar and how they differ:
   And finally, NPR station KPCC’s “AirTalk” program host Larry Mantle held a discussion with Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Claudia Keith, assistant vice chancellor for public affairs for the California State University system.  They discussed what would happen if Prop. 30 (see story above) fails to pass.  You can read a brief description of their conversation and/or listen to the full audio (21:19 minutes) here:

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

September 14

LATE BREAKING NEWS:  The Chicago Tribune is reporting, as of 2:35 p.m. today, the existence of tentative agreement to the Chicago Teachers Strike.  You can read the latest developments and watch a short video (1:10 minutes) here:,0,5804860.story
    The LAUSD and its administrators union, AALA (Associated Administrators of Los Angeles), reached an agreement on Tuesday for a redesigned evaluation of schools administrators.  It includes the use of student test scores but to what degree will still have to be worked out.  The agreement is good for one year as reported in Wednesday’s L.A. Times:,0,1737165.story
    Valerie Strauss checks in on the implications for Pres. Obama (and they are significant) regarding the Chicage teachers strike:–conditioned-schools/2012/09/12/85972b18-fb84-11e1-b2af-1f7d12fe907a_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet  In an additional blog, she criticizes Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and a Washington Post editorial for advocating strongly for the use of test scores in teachers’ evaluations:   Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, explains, at the outset, why her teachers are on strike:   Thanks to Ron Oswald for sending along this article.  Ron notes that the author, investigative reporter Greg Palast was one of his students at Byrd Middle School in the ’60s.  The piece is titled “The Worst Teacher in Chicago” but it’s not what you think:   Want some clarity regarding the issues surrounding the Chicago teachers’ strike?  Look no further than this Diane Ravitch blog for The New York Review of Books:  NPR also takes a detailed look at the issues involved in the strike:  The Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” provides an overview of the past week as it pertains to the strike:
   Several California law enforcement leaders are claiming that school discipline policies are making the state less safe and need revising.  HealthyCal has all the details:  You can read the “News Release” from the group that created the report “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California” at this site: The full report, titled “Classmates Not Cellmates,” (12 pages) is here:  NPR station KPCC describes a meeting yesterday between a team from an Atlanta suburb and the LAUSD.  The latter hopes to learn some of the successful holistic approaches to school discipline pioneered by the former in order to hopefully cut down on behavior problems and the issuance of citations by school and local police:
     An English teacher and yearbook advisor at a high school in Tennessee was forced out of his position for supporting the free speech rights of  two students–one gay and one an atheist:
   The board of the Inglewood Unified School District voted Wednesday night to cut employee pay by 15% in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy and a state takeover of the financially strapped district.  NPR station KPCC describes the situation:
   The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) released a report on Tuesday titled “Education at a Glance 2012” that compares early childhood education, post K-12 funding and other factors among 34 industrialized countries.  The U.S. ranks poorly in most categories.  You can read a report summary with a list of key findings here.  It includes a short video (2:44 minutes):  The entire report (570 pages!) is here:–Ebook%20(FINAL%2011%2009%202012).pdf  The report highlights (at only 91 pages):  For country notes on the U.S. only (just 13 pages):
   Many politicians at all levels of our government are demanding that standardized test results be used to evaluate the job being done by teachers.  What if the tables were reversed and voters used test results to judge the effectiveness of our elected officials?  Have some fun with this piece that looks at how that might work:
   In her blog today, Diane Ravitch answers the question “Why do Conservatives Love High-Stakes Testing?”
   And finally, over the past two months, Anthony Cody, a strong advocate for the teaching profession, has been involved in a give-and-take with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over five key issues in education.  In his latest posting he reviews each issue and includes salient points from both sides along with links to the full responses:
Happy Friday!

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

September 11

Are successful charter schools really “educating” students or are they just turning pupils into highly efficient test-takers?
This blog from the Campaign for America’s Future uses results from several high-performing charters in Minnesota to answer that question:
   The 26,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike against the Chicago Public School (CPS) as of 12:01 a.m. yesterday morning.  The main issues are succinctly discussed by Valerie Strauss.   Stay tuned for updates as this story unfolds:  A front page story in today’s L.A. Times discusses the wider implications of the strike beyond the city of Chicago.  This article contains a short (1:52 mins) video about the strike:,0,1301512.story  The Chicago Tribune filed this report at 4:12 p.m. today with the latest details of day 2 of the strike.  It contains a main video (2:44 mins) and several other short ones about the strike:,0,4057997.story
   The LAUSD teachers’ union, UTLA, gets involved in a lot of education-related issues.  Now, Sunday’s L.A. Times reports, they are raising concerns about a program that offers students free classroom breakfasts in the morning.  If you think this sounds like overreaching, read about some of the logistical problems the union is worried about:,0,6729407.story
   Gov. Brown signed SB 1291 into law on Friday.  It allows laid-off teachers to get unemployment benefits if they are taking classes to earn a credential in math, science or special education according to this SI&A CABINET REPORT:
   An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times is highly critical of the Adelanto School Board’s attempt to skirt a court order to allow parents to set up a charter school under the “parent-trigger” law at Desert Trails Elementary:,0,2512229.story
   A report released Monday by a blue ribbon committee appointed by California Supt. Of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson  and the State Commission on Teacher Credentialing recommends more rigorous teacher training, efforts to support the retention of teachers and it rejected the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.  You can read the Department’s “News Release” about the report here.  It contains a link to the full report (90 pages):
   An editorial in today’s L.A. Times urges the LAUSD to create a new teacher evaluation that incorporates student test scores and suggests the district not make it an issue that can be collectively bargained with UTLA:,0,2298348.story
   How bad have school budget cuts become?  The San Francisco Chronicle describes one high school in Union City that has eliminated library use for its students:
   Friday’s L.A. Times had an op-ed piece titled “Romney’s Radical Vision for Education” that describes his voucher plan for public schools and how it differs from traditional voucher proposals:,0,244938.story  Three letter-writers responded to the item in today’s paper:,0,3512131.story
   And finally, today is the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.  This item from the San Diego Union-Tribune explains what some teachers are doing to present the events of that day to their classrooms:

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

September 7

SB 1290 is another bill waiting for action from Gov. Brown.  It requires some tighter requirements for new charters and renewals that will include student test scores among other things.  SI&A Cabinet Report has the details:
   A new report released Wednesday shows that California spends substantially less than the rest of the nation on special education programs and the students’ educational outcomes are well below pupils in the rest of the U.S.  SI&A Cabinet Report again has the story:
   The sponsor of the “other” proposition (#30) on the November ballot in California that will raise revenue to aid K-12 and early childhood education, Molly Munger, is planning a massive TV advertising campaign to try to gain the advantage over Gov. Brown’s competing proposal (Prop. 38).  Ed Source has the story:
   California Controller John Chiang is looking into the problem of pension “spiking” by education executives prior to their retirement.  If you don’t know what “spiking” is this article from yesterday’s L.A. Times explains it and how the problem develops:,0,5743144.story
   Here’s a very rare reason for locking a school down.  A bear sighting caused a short lockdown at a charter elementary school in Altadena.  This brief item from the Times describes what happened:
   With the run-up to the release of the  pro “parent-trigger” film “Won’t Back Down” on Sept. 28, many commentators will be writing about the movie and its impact on public education.  Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, has already previewed it and found it seriously anti-teacher’s union and anti-public education.
 In this latest blast, the author takes a look at how Hollywood has seemingly been co-opted to do the bidding of wealthy philanthropists who wish to see the privatization of education.  Expect many more previews, reviews, op-eds and commentaries as the release-date approaches:
   With the Labor Day Holiday now past, most public schools throughout the country are now in session.  The “Ed News” has been closely following the dire budget situation in California as it relates to education.  How do you think this state ranks in relation to other states regarding school funding, teacher lay-offs, per pupil funding, etc.?  A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), released on Tuesday, assesses how things stand.  If you don’t have time to read the entire paper at least take at look at the numerous charts and focus in on where California rates.  The last graph shows how many jobs have been lost in education since July, 2008:
   Dwight Eisenhower, in the farewell address of his presidency delivered in Jan., 1961, warned of the evils of the “military-industrial complex.”  Modern commentators are beginning to wonder about the evils of a growing “educational-industrial complex.”   Companies that produce standardized tests and test-prep materials stand to reap huge financial windfalls if they can convince more and more states and school districts to buy into the testing mania unleashed by NCLB.  This piece looks at the role of groups like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their connection to companies like ACT Inc., Pearson and other publishers of testing materials:
   A recent issue of the “Ed News” mentioned that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) had filed a ten-day notice of the possible intent to stage a strike against the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as early as Sept. 10 (that’s this coming Monday).  The writer of this blog comments on the issues at hand and recounts her parents’ long-time careers with the Chicago schools:
   A proposal will come before the LAUSD board of education on Tuesday for a moratorium on new charter schools in the district as reported by the L.A. Times:
    And finally,  now that the national political conventions are over, the Republicans in Tampa and the Democrats in Charlotte, the Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” compares the two party’s platforms regarding education policy.  The contrasts are quite interesting:
Enjoy the weekend!

Dave Alpert (’71)

September 5

CORRECTION: The previous edition of the “Ed News” was incorrectly dated Aug. 30.  It should have been marked as Aug. 31.  The Chief Commissar regrets the error.
   Things are getting hot on the union/school board negotiating front.  The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) gave the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) a ten-day strike notice last week which means the union could call a strike as early as Sept. 10.  Most Chicago students returned to school yesterday.   You can get all the details from this report:
   Two principals with LAUSD high schools were reassigned after they allowed 3 students to make up a social studies class within a couple of days in order that the seniors could graduate.  Monday’s L.A. Times explains all the details:,0,3535436.story
   The ongoing saga between parents, the courts and the Adelanto school board over the parents’ attempt to take control of their underperforming school via the parent-trigger law sparked a strongly worded op-ed in the same paper urging the board to quit defying a judge’s ruling in the case:,0,3861867.column
   According to yesterday’s Times, the district and its police force are using a new, proactive tactic against student truancy and other misbehavior.  Instead of issuing citations requiring possible court appearances and fines for infractions, the police will refer miscreants to community centers where they will get counseling and guidance instead of punishment:,0,6846698.story
   The Democrats are meeting in their national convention at Charlotte this week.  Teachers’ unions have always been major supporters of the party, providing money and foot soldiers for registration and get-out-the-vote drives in return for support on policy issues.  This year the alliance between the party and union groups may be fraying.  One bone of contention was the screening of the pro parent-trigger, anti-teacher union film “Won’t Back Down” in the city yesterday.  The Times explains what else is causing the schism:,0,6567521.story
   A parent activist on school reform and a long-time Democratic Party supporter writes a blog, reprinted by Valerie Strauss, explaining why she’s ready to do battle with the party over its education policies:
   The Democratic Party platform stresses the Common Core Standards along with other issues.  This piece from Education Week explains what’s in the document and contrasts it with what the Republicans wrote:
   A new bill, SB 1458, cleared the state legislature and was sent to Gov. Brown for his action.  It would change the way schools are evaluated with less of an emphasis on standardized test scores and more on other factors.  A similar bill was vetoed by Brown last year.  You can get all the details from this brief item in The Sacramento Bee:  An article from SI&A Cabinet Report describes several other bills awaiting the governor’s action that deal with student behavior, suspensions and expulsions:  Another bill headed to Gov. Brown’s desk, SB 1200, would help clear up confusion over what type of math should be required of students in the 8th grade.  Ed Source tries to clear the fog:
   And finally, the Los Angeles Daily News provides an update on negotiations between the LAUSD and its unions regarding a new teacher evaluation system:

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

August 30

Because of the Labor Day Holiday next week, the “Ed News”  will probably publish one day later than usual (Wednesday, Sept. 5) and on its regularly scheduled Friday, Sept. 7.  Happy Labor Day.

     And now to the news.  The cheating scandal that brought the closure of the Crescendo Charter Schools led Sandy Banks  Sandy Banks to write in her Saturday column for the L.A. Times about the lessons of the scandal and its impact on all involved:
   Most of California’s community colleges opened for the new school year on Monday.  Because of severe budget cuts system-wide the outlook is grim for students trying to get classes they need according to a survey to be released next week and highlighted in this item from Wednesday’s Times:,0,1087682.story  The Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” looks at the first week of classes at California’s community colleges and the many challenges faced by the students:
   The Sacramento Bee reports on the fierce lobbying battle going on behind the scene in the state capital between groups of teachers and school boards and administrators over the creation of new teacher evaluations as the legislative year comes to an end today:  Assembly Bill 5 died last night after its author withdrew it from consideration claiming time was too short to review all the last minute amendments that were proposed.  Ed Source explains what happened and why and discusses all the ramifications of this action:
   The “Ed News” has been reporting on the upcoming pro parent-trigger, anti-teachers’ union film “Won’t Back Down” scheduled for release Sept. 28.  It was screened at the GOP National Convention this week in Tampa and will get similar treatment at the Democratic get-together next week in Charlotte.  Valerie Strauss reprints a blot by Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, with her VERY critical comments about the movie:
   Diane Ravitch decries the “double standards” of so-called education “reformers” in her latest blog:
   The L.A. Times describes why the parents at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto out in the Mojave Desert are back in court continuing their yearlong fight to take over the low-performing school:
   Ed Source highlights a newly released report that focuses on the toll truancy takes on student achievement:  You can read the full report (14 pages) titled “Skipping to Nowhere” here:  If you’d prefer a simple info graphic check this out:
   A 17-year-old graduate of Crenshaw High (LAUSD) will be attending the Democratic National Convention next week in Charlotte.  He describes how he was selected and what he expects to experience in this first person blog:
   The New York Times has a feature on its Opinion Pages called “Room for Debate.”  The latest topic: “Is Teach for America Working?”  6 “debaters” check in with their answers to the question including a voice from Los Angeles:
   And finally, the California Department of Education today released the 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results.  You can read the official “News Release” here.  It’s accompanied by 18 tables of information with detailed explanations:  You can find results for specific schools, counties and districts here:  Radio station KPCC commented on the statewide and LAUSD results:  The L.A. Times focused on results for LAUSD:
Enjoy the Labor Day Holiday!