Monthly Archives: December 2012

December 21

With Christmas next week and the New Year’s holiday following, the news cycle in education tends to slow a bit.  For that reason, the “Ed News” will take a short break.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all.  May 2013 be your BEST year ever! 
Winter arrived at 3:12 a.m. this morning. 
[Ed. note:  I wanted to get this edition out ASAP in case the
Mayan calendar is right and the world is to end today.]
Fran Lebowitz “In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra. ”

Fran Lebowitz

   And now to the news.  Would you feel safer if your fellow teaching colleagues and administrators were allowed to carry concealed weapons on your campus?  That, believe it or not, is what one state legislator is proposing in Oklahoma.   THINK PROGRESS has the scary details:  Pedro Noguera has taken over from Diane Ravitch the “Dear Deborah (Meier)” portion of the “Bridging Differences” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  In this entry he tackles the somber question “What to do About School Shootings:”  NPR station KPCC takes a look, in this brief segment, at security measures already in place at two southern California elementary school districts:  LAUSD schools’ chief John Deasy promises to review security measures at district schools in light of last Friday’s shooting in Connecticut:  In her blog Valerie Strauss reprints the joint statement from the two giant national teachers’ unions NEA and AFT responding to suggestions that educators on school campuses be allowed to carry arms:  The National Rifle Association (NRA) issued a defiant call today to have armed guards on all school campuses as their solution to prevent shootings like the one at Sandy Hook reports the L.A. Times:,0,4915261.story
   No wonder LAUSD never has any money for raises, benefits or class size reduction.  They are too involved in child abuse cases that can run into the millions of dollars  (would you believe one for $6.9 million?) as outlined in this story from Wednesday’s Times:,0,2183360.story  The district announced earlier this month that it plans to settle by the end of January over 180 claims against the Miramonte Elementary teacher accused of lewd conduct last year:
   An editorial in yesterday’s Times opined on the drawn-out process for firing teachers in California.  It offered some suggestions for speeding up the procedures while maintaining fairness and due process:,0,7793141.story
   This blog from THE Nation magazine offers a top 10 gift wish list for education:
   U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was named, along with a several other cabinet members, to a White House task force in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School according to this story from EDUCATION WEEK:
   Ed Source reveals some sobering statistics that you probably already know regarding the number of school counselors in schools in this state.  California ranks near the bottom among all states in counselors per student:
   Diane Ravitch, in her blog, lauds a Baltimore Sun editorial that hails the adults who died at Sandy Hook as the “Heroes of Newtown.”  The newspaper continues by saying the country owes a debt of gratitude to all of America’s educators for the difficult job they do and the lack of respect they seem to get for doing it:
   And finally, the UCLA IDEA Friday (and last of the year) “Themes in the News”  glances back at a difficult year for education in California but looks forward to a cautiously hopeful 2013 (if the Mayans are wrong and the world doesn’t end today):
See you in 2013!


Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar




















December 18

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images


   Thousands of words have been and will continue to be written about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. on Friday morning.  This op-ed from the blog This Can’t Be Happening, published on Sunday, offers an angry answer to the question posed: “America’s Teachers: Heroes or Greedy Moochers at the Public Trough?”  If you need more details about how teachers, administrators and custodians helped to save lives, NBC NEWS had this story on Saturday:  How should parents and educators deal with the events in Connecticut with their children and students?  This item from the Contra Costa Times offers some timely suggestions and includes 6 very specific tips on how to deal with the situation with kids:  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) web site has an article titled “Dealing With Incidences of School Violence” that includes a number of links about what to say to children and students about the shooting.  It includes a specific link about how to discuss the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary:  Valerie Strauss reprints a portion of a blog (she includes a link to the full text) from a real teacher describing how she/he plans to deal with the massacre when her/his students arrive in class Monday morning:  In light of the events in Connecticut, the LAPD will try to have a uniformed officer stop by each elementary and middle school campus in the LAUSD once-a-day starting when schools return from their winter break in early January.  Today’s L.A. Times provides the details in a front-page story:,0,2476583.story  As students and teachers returned to classes yesterday in California and around the nation after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary, an article in today’s Times describes what they faced and how they dealt with the incident in Connecticut:,0,4255297.story  An item in the Fresno Bee, by way of the Associated Press, details how lawmakers in California plan to introduce legislation to promote gun safety:  You can file this one in the “Ooops!”folder.  Several large state teacher retirement funds (including CalSTRS) have investments in companies that manufacture weapons for personal use.  The Huffington Post broke this story late last night along with an update early this afternoon describing how California has millions invested in a private equity fund that owns several firearms brands:
  The LAUSD continues to promote good nutrition programs at its campuses. The school board voted last week to make nutrition education part of its curriculum, give students more say in school menu selections and to try to insure that students have enough time to eat lunches. Saturday’s L.A. Times provides the details:,0,2724803.story

   The same paper reports that a number of Bellflower High School (Bellflower Unified School District) drama alumni have gotten together to put on a performance on campus of “A Christmas Carol” to help raise funds to support the school’s theater arts program:,0,2705464.story
   A Sunday op-ed from the L.A. Times revisits the issue of tenure and seniority in the hiring and firing of teachers.  It is written by an educator who has been “pink-slipped” four times in over 8 years because she lacked seniority.  She offers some provocative suggestions for changing the system in California:,0,6435290.story
   If you think working conditions are bad at your school or in your district due to pay cuts, furlough days, or class size increases at least be thankful you don’t work in Thailand.  Human Rights Watch reports that rebel insurgents in the southern part of the country have murdered a number of school teachers over the last couple of months:
   And finally, one of the biggest problems with NCLB is that schools can make significant progress and still be labeled “failing” for not meeting steeply rising federal standards.   The Sacramento Bee uses schools in northern California to illustrate this conundrum:


Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar
























December 14

“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” ― Robert Frost
   Monday’s “SO CAL CONNECTED” program on KCET had an interesting segment (8:14 minutes) on Garfield High School (LAUSD) and its highly successful “no suspensions” policy:
  There are many successful strategies for turning around low-performing schools on standardized tests besides firing all the teachers.  The “Ed News” has presented several of them.  The Boston Public Schools have found another one as highlighted in this piece from “HechingerEd,” a blog published by the  The HECHINGER REPORT:  A LAUSD proposal to “reconstitute” low-performing Crenshaw High that could result in many current faculty members being replaced met with an icy reception from parents at the school at a meeting with district officials Tuesday evening reports the L.A. Times:
   In a follow-story to one published in the Tues., Dec. 11, edition of the “Ed News” about the 16 winners of Race to the Top grants, EdSource features the 3 districts in California that were among the ones chosen and what they plan to do with their awards:
   In a brief entry for her blog, Diane Ravitch is highly critical of the 16 online charter schools in Pennsylvania because of the poor results they are achieving across the board:
   EDUCATION WEEK is spotlighting a study with conclusions that most teacher already know–good attendance relates to superior performance on standardized tests.  The survey includes other data, as well, regarding increased instruction time and assignment of homework, etc. [Ed. note: be sure to check out some of the comments at the end of this article]:
   Daniel Willingham (the ALOED book club author of Why Don’t Students Like School?) suggests, on his blog, that teenagers should start school later in the day.  Their inner body clocks make it hard for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. so that starting school early in the morning makes for what he describes as “sleep-deprived” students who are not at their best for learning.  Valerie Strauss reprints his article on her blog:
   Is the U.S. Dept. of Ed. just going through the motions of helping English Languages Learners (ELLs) who now make up 10% of the nation’s student population?  This article from EDUCATION WEEK suggests the department’s previous emphasis on ELLs is “waning” for several reasons:
   Things may be improving on the financial front for K-12 education but, as this article from the Huffington Post suggests, they are not that bright just yet:
   Congress and Pres. Obama are trying to work out a solution to the mis-named “fiscal cliff” problem [Ed. note: I prefer to call it the “austerity bomb].   The “Newshour”  program on PBS has a valuable article about the impact of it on education:  Valerie Strauss takes the different parties to task over their inability to come to some sort of an agreement is this very brief (for her) comment:
   Parents at some LAUSD Title I schools have been complaining for some time about unfair tactics used against them at meetings of campus School-Site Councils.  They carried their protests, once again, to the board meeting this week at which members were voting on a new policy regarding which parents may participate in those council meetings.  Still confused?  The L.A. Daily News tries to sort things out for you:
   The Sunshine State has often been heralded for its highly successful school reforms.  Some have even referred to it as the “Florida Miracle.”  However, Valerie Strauss reprints a blog by an Education professor at the University of Texas at Austin who posits that things are not quite as rosy as they seem.  The statistics and charts that he presents are particularly interesting when you peer at the California results:
   The UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” revisits the series of standardized test scores released this week (and covered by the “Ed News”).  In addition, it tries to highlight some educators who are offering some interesting solutions to address the poor performance of U.S. students:
   And finally, on a more upbeat note, today’s L.A. Times describes a U.S. State Dept. program that brought educators from around the world to address and dialog about women’s issues with a group of female students at a charter middle school in Inglewood:,0,5350966.story


Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar


















December 11

The UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” last week focused on schools in France where they are proposing to make changes to homework policies and time spent in school.  In addition, it touted the experimental program in 5 states (mentioned in a previous “Ed News”) that will add up to 300 hours of instruction to the school year but with the caveat that the quality of the extra time is just as important as the hours themselves:
   Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of people on the east coast.  This blog describes how it affected public education and decries how most officials reacted to the suffering of thousands of students and teachers:
   After a recent laudatory article in the L.A. Times, the same paper, on Saturday, reported that Kent Taylor, the state appointed administrator for the financially challenged Inglewood Unified School District, will be stepping down after he reportedly over stepped his powers in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the district’s teachers union:,0,6981288.story
   Sandy Banks, in her Saturday column for the Times, writes about the huge turnaround being achieved at Jordan High (LAUSD):,0,4671638,full.column
   The argument over evolution vs. creationism is over 85 years old.  Steve Lopez, in his Sunday column in the Times, describes a controversy involving Harbor Teacher Prep Academy in Wilmington, a LAUSD high school, where the campus Christian Club invites people to “discuss” biblical theories of where humans came from:,0,1493552.column
   The State of Hawaii has one school district for the entire state.  The teachers in the Aloha State have resorted to a work-to-rule tactic in order to try to win a fair contract based on collective bargaining rather than the imposed one they were forced to accept in 2011.  LABOR NOTES has all the details:
   Yesterday’s L.A. Times had an extensive analysis of the new tentative teacher evaluation agreement negotiated between the LAUSD and UTLA.  The article describes the new accord as “a major victory for the teachers union” because it puts major restrictions on the use of value-added results.  The story describes what factors will be included and gets reactions from some of the major players in the field of education:,0,4023046,full.story
   Valerie Strauss enthusiastically supports a proposal from the superintendent of the Montgomery County (Maryland) school system to have a 3-year moratorium on standardized testing.  Sound too good to be true?  Check out why he believes this would be good for education and, also, what he thinks about using scores to evaluate teachers:
   On Friday, says EdSource, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) decided to require a “performance-based assessment” for candidates interested in earning an administrative credential.  Check out the picture and information in the article from Linda Darling-Hammond:
   The same publication also reports that Dr. Darling-Hammond was elected as the new chair of the CTC:
   On the lighter side, yesterday’s L.A. Times, has a delightful piece on the move to grant historically significant status and, thus, preserve a one-room schoolhouse in the Leona Valley (west of Palmdale) that was built in 1915.  A now 97-year-old former teacher who worked at the school is quoted in the story along with a former student (now 82-years old):,0,669288.story
   And now back to reality, such as it is!  Is our system of public education headed in the same direction as public housing, public hospitals and other public entities?  This op-ed fears that outcome particularly in light of the passage of a constitutional amendment by voters in Georgia in November to allow public funds to go to private, possibly for-profit charter schools.  Will this sound the death knell for our historically highly successful public school system?
   More international standardized test scores for math, science and reading were released today for fourth and eighth graders.  The Huffington Post has the results and records how U.S. students fared:  Valerie Strauss was quick to respond to the scores and issued several caveats about what they “really mean:”
   The charter school movement began in California in 1982.  How fast has the idea spread?  This article from the San Diego Union-Tribune traces the rapid growth with a focus on San Diego County programs:
  And finally, after a long and involved process U.S. Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan announced the 16 winners (including 3 from Calif.) of Race to the Top grants that range from $10 million to $40 million.  EDUCATION WEEK has the details:  The L.A. Times looks at the story from a local point-of-view:,0,3635406.story


Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar













December 4

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” ― Mark Twain
   Two letter writers to the Friday L.A. Times commented on the paper’s op-ed piece from Nov. 26th (mentioned in the “Ed News”) about the excellent job being done by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy:,0,294207.story
   The LAUSD and UTLA reached a tentative agreement on a new teacher evaluation system on Friday that includes the use of student test scores according to this story in Saturday’s Times.  Be sure to check out the Diane Ravitch quote in the article.  The school board and union members still have to approve the agreement:,0,4606955.story  Three letters published in today’s Times reacted to the story:,0,5451846.story
   Two letter writers in the Saturday paper responded to a Times editorial last week (mentioned in the “Ed News”) regarding teacher pay for advanced degrees:,0,4778217.story
   Here are three separate items that might impact a future credential program at Oxy:  (1) The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is proposing the creation of a national teacher “bar exam” that would be used to determine if newly trained educators are ready for the rigors of their classrooms.  In addition, they want to raise entry standards for teacher-preparation programs as explained in this story from EDUCATION WEEK:  (2) In order to help recoup rising costs, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) is considering a proposal to charge colleges and universities for accrediting their teacher-prep programs.  The SI&A CABINET REPORT has the details:  (3)  EdSource profiles 5 alternative certification programs in California that are using federal grants to help train math and science teachers.  This story might have added significance given that the Oxy Ed. Dept. panel last week focused on possibly creating a credential program to prepare math and science educators:
    A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes an experimental partnership between the LAUSD and the City of Los Angeles to help dropouts earn their high school diplomas and receive job training skills:,0,2767494.story  A new report, highlighted in this article from the Huffington Post, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation details the number of American youth between the ages of 16-24 who are neither in school nor working.  The sobering statistics bolster the justification for the program described above.  This story contains a link to the full report (20 pages) titled “Youth and Work, Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity” and contains a lot of other pertinent information about this segment of our population:
   Is spending more time in the classroom the answer to poor achievement in U.S. schools?  5 states (Massachusetts, Colorado, Tennessee, Connecticut and New York) will pilot a program that adds 300 hours or more to the school year in some of their schools starting in 2013-14.  Yahoo News (via the AP) has the details:
   A growing controversy is arising over the new Common Core State Standards in English.  Do they require more reading of nonfiction materials as opposed to traditional literature or is that a misinterpretation of what the Standards are expecting?  This piece in The Washington Post takes a look at the issue:
   A judge has turned thumbs down to the controversial Louisiana voucher program ruling that it’s unconstitutional.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune provides the coverage:
   Could a situation arise where a veteran instructor at a school in Florida is selected as “Teacher of the Year” by her colleagues yet receives an “unsatisfactory” on her evaluation based on test scores she had nothing to do with?  If you think this is pure fiction and could not possibly happen, you need to read Valerie Strauss’ blog:
    And finally, a bill that failed in the California legislature last year to speed up the dismissal of teachers for gross misconduct was revived by it’s author reports the L.A. Times:

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar


November 30

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” ― Aristotle
   The L.A. Daily News has an expose on the LAUSD practice of placing teachers in “teacher jails” or “rubber rooms” for extended periods after alleged charges of misconduct towards students.  Oxy grad Randy Traweek (’81) is quoted in the article:  A state audit, released yesterday, took the LAUSD to task for slow reporting to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) of teachers accused of misconduct with students as described in this featured front-page story from today’s L.A. Times:,0,2905470,full.story  You can read the full audit report (68 pages) here:   (Click on “Text” once you reach the document).  EdSource followed up on the audit report and has a story that says there is no mechanism for tracking “classified” school employees who are removed from their jobs for misconduct towards students:
   U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out some of his policy proposals for Pres. Obama’s second term in a speech in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.  Education Week has the brief details.  Be sure to note his comments about teacher education programs:  Valerie Strauss was a little nonplussed that he wouldn’t directly answer some of the questions put to him after his address:  If you want to read the “rather crude” article in the ONION that she refers to you can find it here:,30456/  And here’s a link to the Thomas Friedman (author of the next ALOED book club selection) piece in The New York Times recommending (tongue-in-cheek?) that Arne Duncan be nominated for Sec. of State:  Not to be outdone, Diane Ravitch has a very brief item on her blog about the whole idea of Duncan as Sec. of State.  Be sure to read the comments following her piece:
   An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times commented on a Harvard study (mentioned in a previous edition of the “Ed News) that looked at hiring practices over a 6-year period by the LAUSD.  The initial report came to some interesting conclusions regarding teacher seniority, advanced degrees, Teach for America and a number of other topics. You can read the editorial here:,0,3778125.story
   Some 200 school districts throughout California have used a controversial type of long-term bond to help weather budget cuts over the past several years reports a featured front-page story in yesterday’s Times.  They require steep repayments over the life of the bonds.  The article includes a “Database” of districts (many of them in L.A. County–but NOT LAUSD) that have invested in the bonds:,0,4035729,full.story
   Do you think the use of standardized test results is ill-advised for many different things?  Ever wondered how much the tests cost states?  This story from EDUCATION WEEK highlights a report released yesterday and provides some expensive answers:
   U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to state school chiefs reiterating the importance of school graduation rates in accountability measures under NCLB according to this article in EDUCATION WEEK:
   And finally, the UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” reviews the recent U.S. Dept. of Ed. report on school graduation rates (covered in the Nov. 27th “Ed News”):
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar


November 27

FINAL EVENT REMINDER:  The second Occidental College/Education Department panel is Thursday at 5;30 p.m.  For more information and to register:
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
    The L.A. Times reports on a new study that finds that LAUSD places its lowest performing math students with teachers who have the least experience:,0,917476.story  The report was produced by the “Strategic Data Project” of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.  You can read their press release (2 pages) here:  The full report (20 pages), with some interesting findings about Teach for America and other district teacher recruitment programs, retention and effectiveness is here:
   Now that Prop. 30 has passed in California what is the financial forecast for state schools into the future?  Ed Source takes a peak beyond this year.  Be sure to check out #8 regarding technology in the classroom:
   The Sacramento Bee begins an occasional series about principals who have made an impact on schools in that city.  The first one highlights a leader who put together a team of teachers to turn around a low performing school in the state’s capital:
   Valerie Strauss reprints a story with one blogger’s look at “The Best–and Worst Education News of 2012:”
   The “Ed News” has referred to the “fiscal cliff” several times recently. This piece from EdSource predicts the impact on education may not be as immediate as first feared:
   EDUCATION WEEK takes ANOTHER look at the efficacy of current standardized tests and finds them to be quite inadequate for measuring student learning.   The article highlights a new study from the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education (check out the names of some of the people that produced the report as mentioned in the article):
   LAUSD is debuting, soon, a new teacher evaluation system which is getting mixed reviews from teachers and administrators according to this front-page story in Sunday’s L.A. Times:,0,3013609,full.story
   Now that Pres. Obama has a second 4-year term, what are the portents for using standardized test scores as part of new teacher evaluations, something the federal government has been pushing as part of its “Race to the Top” program?  SI&A CABINET REPORT takes a peek into the future:
   Were you aware that the law authorizing standardized tests in California expires in 2014?  Several committees and commissions are already looking at what tests should look like after that date particularly in light of the fact that the Common Core Standards are on the way.  As usual, EdSource  takes an in-depth look at the issue:
   State law often requires that low enrollment, public schools share space with charter schools.  What happens when the public one begins to raise test scores and increase enrollment to the point where crowding becomes an issue?  Yesterday’s L.A. Times takes a lot at just such a problem on a LAUSD campus and some of the other issues inherent in sharing space with a charter:,0,3984775.story?track=rss
   The L.A. Daily News reports that LAUSD is making a new push to move English Language Learners (ELLs) more quickly into mainstream classes:
   Yesterday’s L.A. Times has a highly favorable op-ed titled “Head of the Class” regarding the job being done by LAUSD Supt. John Deasy:,0,2342097.column
   The same paper contains a “Perspective” regarding a group of LAUSD parents  at Aldama Elementary who are raising money to help hire a coach to encourage physical activity among its students.  The only problem?  The adults are selling CHEESECAKE to help raise the funds!  You can read all the contradictory details here:,0,2448886.story
   A front-page feature in today’s L.A. Times profiles the recently-named, state-appointed superintendent of the financially troubled Inglewood Unified School District who just so happens to be a former student of the district:,0,7606951,full.story
   A new study from the U.S. Dept. of Education ranks California only 32nd for its high school graduation rate (76%) according to this brief item from the Times:  You can peruse a detailed one-page chart from the report with state-by-state data here:
   And finally, Valerie Strauss reprints a blog from Alfie Kohn regarding a new study looking at the worth of homework in boosting student test scores and grades in math and science.  The report comes to some interesting conclusions as does Mr. Kohn’s take on studies in general:
Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar