Monthly Archives: October 2012

October 30

Office of the Commissar of Current Events
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
   On Friday a group of about a dozen school superintendents from around Southern California discussed what specific cuts would be made in their districts if Prop.30 is defeated on Nov. 6:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1027-schools-prop30-20121027,0,6376448.story  What with Halloween and the election rapidly approaching a group of community college students held a “zombie walk” on Friday in downtown L.A. to protest possible budget cuts at their campuses.  The L.A. Times has the “gruesome” details:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/students-stage-downtown-zombie-walk-to-support-education.html
   Ever wonder what happened to high school auto shop classes?  Many were axed when budgets and classroom space got tight.  However, there  now seems to be a revival going on.  This story in Sunday’s Times focuses on several new and state-of-the-art programs in San Diego:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-auto-shop-20121028,0,7262871.story
   An extended article in yesterday’s Times revisited the entire issue of the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-teacher-evals-20121029,0,592261,full.story
   Speaking of standardized tests, an item in the same paper reports that 23 schools in California lost their API results for what were described as “adult irregularities” (read: cheating).   The piece reports on particular schools and what teachers were doing to improperly assist students:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-tests-cheating-20121029,0,6753685.story
   Education Week has a profile of the new president of the College Board who wants to have his organization focus on closing the achievement gap by stressing social justice issues:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2012/10/new_college_board_president_te.html
   Want a concise (in chart form) look at what the educational “reform” movement is offering as ways to improve public education?  Check out this offering from Schools Matter:  http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/10/the-insanity-chart-of-no-excuses-reform.html
   The LAUSD was unable to get UTLA to sign-off on a $40 million federal grant application for Race to the Top funding reports today’s L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-grant-20121030,0,2685749.story  Several other California districts, including San Francisco, Oakland and Long Beach, also failed to get union buy-in for their grants according to the San Francisco Chronicle:  http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/S-F-Oakland-drop-bid-for-U-S-school-funds-3991884.php#ixzz2AoMN1E00
   With the election just one week away the issue always arises as to what types of political advocacy may teachers, professors, districts, school boards, etc. engage in?  This timely analysis from EdSource takes a look at what types of political activity is acceptable:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/boards-teachers-must-be-careful-to-toe-the-line-on-advocacy/22179#.UJAl2WnuUl9
   And finally, as related in the blog Good, should Ann Romney become first lady she says she’d like to become an advocate for education.  Unfortunately, her ideas include charter schools and doing away with teachers’ unions.  The blog includes a link to the full interview in Good Housekeeping:  http://www.good.is/posts/uh-oh-ann-romney-wants-to-champion-education

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar
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October 26

Three important events are fast approaching:  Halloween (Oct. 31), the national election (Nov. 6) and the ALOED book club (Nov. 7).  Mark your calendars NOW. 
    And now to the news.  Any idea how many charter schools there are now in California?  How many do you think LAUSD hosts?  This article from the Fresno Bee contains some eye opening figures:  http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/10/24/3040770/calif-sees-record-number-of-new.html  As charter schools proliferate they are coming under increasing scrutiny.  A recent report from the U.S. Dept. of Education was highly critical of the California Dept. of Education for lax oversight of charters in the state.  SI&A Cabinet Report has the details:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=2594
   Do you consider Teach For America (TFA) a threat to traditional teacher training programs? If so, you should be aware that many charter networks are also developing their own, in-house plans for preparing new educators. The HECHINGER REPORT describes how this is working: http://hechingerreport.org/content/in-search-of-high-quality-teachers-charter-network-trains-its-own_9982/  THE AMERICAN PROSPECT suggests that as TFA grows larger and larger it’s agenda is already shifting from solely training new teachers to creating a cadre of politcians that are bringing its policies into the government arena:  http://prospect.org/article/teach-america%E2%80%99s-deep-bench
    A report from the College Board released Wednesday finds that college costs are on the rise again according to this story in The New York Times: 
   Californians are faced with two important propositions on the November ballot (30 and 38) related to education.  NPR station KPCC reports that voters in several other states are confronted by the largest number of school-related tax measures in 20 years:  http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2012/10/22/10642/voters-decide-funding-public-education-many-states/  A poll released on Wednesday shows support dropping for both propositions 30 and 38.  They both are now favored by less than 50% of the voters sampled.  EdSource has an excellent account of the history of Gov. Brown’s initiative (30) and the obstacles it has faced in trying to ease the financial strain on the state’s schools.  A sidebar to this article discusses the latest poll results and includes a link to the full survey (34 pages) with figures for a number of interesting statewide issues:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/school-initiatives-bumpy-road-to-the-ballot-box/21934#.UIlxX2nuUl–   The UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” analyzes the latest polling results and offers some suggestions about what the pro side should do in the remaining days before the election:  http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=40770a674de4ce8427a9a621b&id=5c175b6ade&e=f7d7cb8d5d
   The California Supreme Court voided Tuesday a settlement between the LAUSD and lawyers representing three middle schools that proposed that teacher lay-offs could be based on factors other than seniority.  The ruling cleared the way for the original litigation to proceed to trial.  Need some clarification on this issue?  The L.A. Times attempts to make sense of it:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/settlement-voided-teacher-layoff-process-to-go-to-trial.html
   LAUSD Supt. John Deasy and UTLA are at odds over a $40 million grant application for Race to the Top funds as explained in the Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-grant-20121025,0,2882361.story
   The blog “HechingerEd” published by The HECHINGER REPORT highlights a newly released poll of teacher attitudes and demographics on a number of subjects.  Among other things it finds that today’s educators are less experienced than in the past and more open to new evaluations that include student test scores.  The nationwide survey includes opinions from 1,015 teachers and is titled “Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession.”  This article includes a link to the full report (16 pages):  http://hechingered.org/content/survey-todays-teaching-force-is-less-experienced-more-open-to-change_5719/
   The Corona-Norco Unfied School District was the runner-up for the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education.  It will receive $150,000 in college scholarships for making the most progress in student achievement and closing the achievement gap.  The winner of the $550,000 first prize was the Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  EdSource has the specifics: http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/corona-norco-a-first-time-finalist-for-the-broad-prize/22047#.UIlxh2nuUl
   The treasurer of the Costa Mesa High School marching band booster club is alleged to have stolen $40,000 from the group over a number of years according to this story in the L.A. Times:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/marching-band-booster-club-treasurer-accused-of-stealing-thousands.html
   ALOED presented a panel on the uses of technology in education on Tuesday.  Check out this latest innovation.  The Roland Unified School District recently unveiled a mobile app that allows parents to stay connected to important news about the district and their children:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/rowland-unified-school-district-unveils-mobile-app.html
   And finally, Valerie Strauss reprints a commentary for her blog in The Washington Post titled “Will Teachers Help Decide the Presidential Election?”:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/10/25/will-teachers-help-decide-presidential-election/?wprss=rss_answer-sheet

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

October 23

Let’s start with a story that will take you down memory lane.  The Dorsey High School (LAUSD) class of ’42 held their 70th reunion recently.  A reporter for the L.A. Times was there to record their story:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beat-dorsey-reunion-20121021,0,4133404.story
   “Don’t Demonize Teachers” is the title of Sunday’s Steve Lopez column in the Times.  He writes a very persuasive piece about why teachers’ pensions are not causing the fiscal woes that are facing the state as some people seem to believe:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1021-lopez-publicenemy-20121021,0,7514768.column
   Magnet schools in the LAUSD were the focus of two articles in today’s Times.  The first describes a number of district magnet programs that are under-enrolled and posits some reasons why:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-magnet-enroll-20121023,0,2167309.story?track=rss  The second deals with an upscale neighborhood in downtown L.A. that would seem to have everything a young family would want except a charter school within walking distance.  Parents in the area have sent a proposal to the district according to Sandy Banks’ column:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-banks-charterschool-20121023,0,5355618.column
   Even the third and final presidential debate on foreign policy last night included some sparring between Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney over education policies as described in this item in Education Week:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/10/obama_romney_tie_strong_foreig.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CampaignK-12+%28Education+Week+Blog%3A+Politics+K-12%29
   And finally, the Chief Commissar hesitated to include the next two stories but because he was short of copy decided to add them anyway.  They are education related.  Any criticism of their inclusion is totally warranted!  The first has to do with a “fantasy slut league” at a high school in the San Francisco Bay area:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/fantasy-slut-league-california-high-school.html  The second story describes an intermediate school teacher in Oxnard with an x-rated past who is appealing her dismissal because of that prior career:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/teacher-with-porn-past-appeals-firing.html

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

October 19

Still confused about Propositions 30 and 38 on the November ballot?  Have family members or friends who need convincing?  Just want some good information (and not from those worthless ads)?  EdSource has put together a detailed infographic comparing the two measures.  This brief article explaining the graphic includes a link to it:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/edsource-offers-infographic-to-clarify-props-3038-confusion/21512#.UH8MVGnuUl9  With the November general election just 18 days away the UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” takes a look at how dire things have become in education in California and exactly what’s at stake just two-and-a-half weeks away:  http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=40770a674de4ce8427a9a621b&id=fd90e96951&e=f7d7cb8d5d
   The Hechinger Report updates the continuing saga of the attempted parent take-over of their under performing school in Adelanto.  Using the “parent-trigger” law the battle began back in January and this story reviews what’s happened so far and what’s next:  http://hechingerreport.org/content/parent-trigger-moves-to-a-crucial-vote-after-court-ruling_9939/  [Ed. note: In a sidebar to this article The Hechinger Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel partnered to produce an 8-part series (plus a bonus article) between Nov., 2010, and March, 2012, titled “Building a Better Teacher” describing the teaching profession from training, to evaluation, to accountability, to the role of teachers’ unions and merit pay.  This piece describes each segment of the report and includes links to each individual story:  http://hechingerreport.org/category/special_reports/building_a_better_teacher/    A low number of parents at the Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto voted yesterday to select one of two competing charter operators to take over their school as the next step in using the California “parent-trigger” law.  EdSource has the details:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/desert-trails-parents-choose-charter-operator-next-step-in-parent-trigger/21669#.UIGpK2nuUl
   Tuesday’s second presidential debate touched on the issue of education several times during the course of the 90-minute town hall session.  Education Week reviews what Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney had to say on the topic:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/10/post_4.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CampaignK-12+(Education+Week+Blog%3A+Politics+K-12)
   The LAUSD launched a new program Wednesday that partners with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to try to end bullying  of LGBT students.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes what they hope to accomplish:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1018-lausd-gay-20121018,0,7109911.story
   Student loan debt has become a major issue as the total has now exceeded $1 trillion and surpassed credit card debt.  This piece in the same paper indicates that California is one of the lowest states for accruing debt.  Note the mention of Occidental College in the second-to-last paragraph:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1018-student-debt-20121018,0,2115478.story
   Wednesday the LAUSD declared an impasse in its talks with UTLA over the design of a new teacher evaluation system.  The district is seeking to involve the state in mediation according to this article in the L.A. Daily News:  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_21796351/lausd-says-talks-utla-teacher-evaluations-are-at?source=rss
   The L.A. Times was the first newspaper to publish individual teachers’ names and their value added scores for the LAUSD several years ago.  Now the paper wants access to the district’s “Academic Growth over Time” (AGT) ratings.  The district refused to turn them over so the Times sued.  You can read all about it in this brief item from today’s paper:  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/times-sues-la-unified-for-teacher-ratings.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29
     Most students in California are in favor of the more healthy meals they’ve been getting for the past couple of years based on this article in today’s L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1019-school-meals-20121019,0,4423031.story
   And finally, Deborah Meier, in her blog for Education Week, wants to know (as many people do) why public school teachers and public schools gets blamed for all the ills facing this country:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2012/10/dear_pedro_and_friends_its.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BridgingDifferences+%28Education+Week+Blog%3A+Bridging+Differences%29
Have a GREAT weekend!

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

October 16

EVENT REMINDERS:  The Occidenal College panel on “The Role of Education Departments at Liberal Arts Institutions” is Monday, Oct. 22 at 5:30 p.m.  For more information and to register go to:  http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index1col.aspx?sid=956&gid=1&pgid=1564&content_id=2523  The ALOED panel on the role of technology will take place the following day at 6 p.m.  The next ALOED book club is scheduled for Nov. 7.  For all the details and to RSVP go to:  http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index1col.aspx?sid=956&gid=1&pgid=1543&crid=0&calpgid=300&calcid=869  Don’t wait to start reading the book.
   Before the Chief Commissar left for vacation there were a couple of important and interesting items he’d like to share with you.   The first pertains to SB 1458, a bill signed into law by Gov. Brown on Wednesday, Sept. 26.  It expands the scope of the API ratings for schools to include other factors besides just standardized test scores.  You can get all the details from this Ed Source article:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/brown-signs-bill-moving-api-away-from-standardized-tests/20510#.UGSjkvnuUl–  Prior to the opening of the anti-teachers union film “Won’t Back Down” on Sept. 28 there were three interesting stories about the movie.  Even before the film’s release, critics were vociferous in their opposition to it as highlighted in this L.A. Times piece:  http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-wont-back-down-20120927,0,6897332.story Kenneth Turan reviewed it, quite negatively, for the Times:  http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-wont-back-down-review-20120928,0,2053199.story  The Oct. 1 & 8 (double) issue of Newsweek had a story about the writer-director of the movie, Daniel Barnz, who believes teachers unions might actually like it (that’s a little hard to fathom): http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/23/daniel-barnz-new-movie-makes-him-teachers-union-whipping-boy.html  Valerie Strauss offers some pithy summaries of what many critics are saying about the film:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/wont-back-down-what-actual-film-critics-think/2012/09/27/ac057088-08cd-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet Diane Ravitch draws some interesting parallels between the replacement NFL referees and Teach for America candidates.  If you can’t imagine what she might be alluding to you definitely need to read her very brief and to-the-point blog:  http://dianeravitch.net/2012/09/26/why-are-the-media-so-upset-about-an-inexperienced-referee/  The Jersey Jazzman blog makes the exact same point in a slightly more detailed post:  http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2012/09/refs-for-america.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JerseyJazzman+%28Jersey+Jazzman%29  This item also includes this picture:
   While the Chief Commissar was on the road the following items were brought to his attention.  First, thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending along this detailed article about what’s “wrong” with public education:  http://www.zcommunications.org/the-war-on-public-schools-by-ken-jones  and second, a fellow traveler from Kansas passed along this cartoon while the Chief Commissar was staying at a bed and breakfast in Little Rock, Arkansas:
Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -
Last Tuesday the LAUSD school board approved a one-year agreement that will implement the use of student test scores on new evaluations for principals as reported in this brief item from the L.A. Daily News:  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_21735375/lausd-principals-agree-use-student-test-scores-their?source=rss
   And now to the latest news.  Friday’s L.A. Times had a front page comparison of the education polices of Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-president-schools-20121012,0,1317772,full.story  Stand-ins for Obama and Romney debated the issue of education last night and revealed major differences in the two candidates’ philosophies according to EdSource:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/stark-education-differences-in-presidential-race-say-surrogates/21455#.UH2vWWnuUl
   The latest API results for the 2011-12 school year were released by the California Dept. of Education on Thursday.  You can read the “News Release” from state schools chief Tom Torlakson here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr12/yr12rel96.asp  Friday’s L.A. Times focused on the results for LAUSD:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1012-lausd-scores-20121012,0,228727.story  You can check on individual school scores here:  http://api.cde.ca.gov/reports/page2.asp?subject=API&level=School&submit1=submit
   It seems all the teacher and union bashing, over emphasis on test scores and attacks on education are taking their toll.  In his Sunday column in the L.A. Times Steve Lopez writes about the two propositions on the November ballot to raise revenue and describes how a number of his readers just don’t seem to get the dire predicament that schools are facing due to draconian budget cuts.  This piece includes a link to a previous column that he refers to:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1014-lopez-30-20121014,0,4690702.column  In another column in yesterday’s Times George Skelton takes a look Proposition 30 and 38 and tries to cut through the hype being served up by competing T.V. ads: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap-taxes-20121015,0,139152,full.column
   The ongoing saga of the attempt by parents to use the California parent-trigger law to take over their under-performing elementary school in Adelanto took another turn when a judge ruled the school board had to accept the parents’ petition to open a charter school.  You can catch up on the details, as reported by the Times, here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/adelanto-parents-must-be-allowed-to-form-a-charter-school-judge-rules.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29
   Is it possible to make budget cuts “away” from the classroom?  The author of this blog on EdSource makes the argument that most education costs are interconnected, making it difficult to keep cuts “away” from the classroom.  Read what he has to say here: http://www.edsource.org/today/2012/contrary-to-common-wisdom-nothing-is-away-from-the-classroom/21129#.UHxhdmnuUl9
   And finally, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that an interesting mix of union organizations and big business companies have been donating large sums to Gov. Brown’s Prop. 30 on the November ballot:  http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Prop-30-s-big-donors-include-big-companies-3951475.php#page-1

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar