April 19

 “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”  ―    H.G. Wells
   The excessive suspension of students for “willful defiance” has been in the news lately.  Today State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will release a much more detailed database of pupil statistics than has been compiled and made public before.  A State Senate committee got a preview of the figures while debating a bill about the issue.  This article from EdSource has some of the preliminary numbers:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/more-than-half-of-suspensions-are-for-willful-defiance-of-school-authorities/30375#.UW78riv5nye
   When Pres. Obama mentioned education in his State of the Union Address in February one of the points he highlighted was a “redesign” for the American high school.  To back up his words he introduced a $300 million competitive grant program for innovative ideas towards that end.  Both the pros and cons of the president’s proposals are discussed in this story from EDUCATION WEEK.  Be sure and look at the sidebar which features 3 model programs for secondary school redesign:  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/04/17/28highschool_ep.h32.html?tkn=PVPFQTlyx8Y7If%2B7GBRrqQ3fqxjz9S%2FGguvW&cmp=clp-edweek  Also click on the Infographic box titled “Graduation Rates: Vital Stats.”
   There are many buzzwords for educational reform bandied about these days.  Two of them are “personalization” and “engagement.”  Valerie Strauss reprints a blog from a superintendent AND principal of a secondary school in Ohio who takes people to task for using the terms incorrectly:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/17/personalization-of-learning-genuine-or-slick-marketing/
   California Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff wants to expand the “parent-trigger” and “open enrollment” programs in the state with two bills he has introduced (SB 452 & SB 451) in the current session.  The SI&A CABINET REPORT discusses those two and several other education-related GOP legislation before the state legislature:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=2772
   NPR has stated a 3-part series on the confluence of education and the arts.  the inaugural segment concentrates on a program partly funded by the federal government to use the arts to help turn around 8 under-performing schools from throughout the country with students from mostly poor families.  You can read the transcript and/or listen to the program (5:45 minutes) here:  http://www.npr.org/2013/04/16/176671432/creative-classes-an-artful-approach-to-improving-performance
   On the same day the U.S Senate defeated a gun safety bill in Washington, D.C., an Assembly committee in Sacramento rejected a bill (by a 6-1 vote) that would have promoted the training of school personnel to carry firearms on campuses in California in order to protect students.  This brief item was posted on the L.A. Times website Wednesday evening:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/political/la-me-pc-school-marshal-20130417,0,1663784.story  The focus of the gun safety bill in Washington, D.C., was on background checks but it also contained measures to provide mental health and other school safety proposals and they also went down as explained in this brief item from EDUCATION WEEK:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2013/04/school_safety_mental_health_pr.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CampaignK-12+%28Education+Week+Blog%3A+Politics+K-12%29
   Gov. Brown’s proposal to provide more funds to school districts with high numbers of poor and ELL students is officially called
the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).  A new poll of 1,705 adults from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found a slim majority (52%) of voters favoring the plan for poor pupils but that number dropped to 40% when applied to English learners.  EdSource has those figures and more opinions about schools in the state here:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/voters-favor-extra-funds-for-poor-students-but-not-english-learners/30569#.UXA9VCv5nyd
The above article contains to link to the full report (36 pages) titled “Californians & Education” with lots of poll results about many topics.
   Yesterday’s L.A. Times picks up the story that broke over the weekend (and appeared in Tuesday’s “Ed News”) about former Washington, D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee and a memo made public by NPR that warned her of widespread cheating on standardized tests at some schools in her system.  The Times asked her directly about the scandal and her comment that she’s a “public school parent.”  You can read how she responded to both questions plus the article contains a link to the controversial memo (4 pages) and it makes for some very interesting reading.  Be sure to vote about what you think about Michelle Rhee in the poll question at the start of the article:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/education/la-me-rhee-20130418,0,4385169.story  For a humorous look at the testing scandal and Rhee’s alleged role in it, check out this parody cover of her appearance several years ago on the cover of TIME magazine.  This link was provided by someone who wrote a comment about the L.A. Times piece above:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/94930640@N02/8647715462/in/photostream  If you don’t recall or never saw the original TIME cover from the Dec. 8, 2008, issue, the “Ed News” was able to dig it up here:  http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20081208,00.html
   A big problem that leads to poor student achievement and ultimately to dropping out is attendance and truancy issues.  4 school districts (Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo and El Segundo)  in beach communities in L.A. have banded together to try to resolve these issues and help students to become successful in school.  They are slated to get an award today from State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in recognition of their achievement.  This SI&A CABINET REPORT item describes the award and discusses how their program works:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=2774
   California’s “parent-trigger” law took effect in 2010.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times reports that, for the first time, a school district did not challenge a petition to take over a school.  The district, LAUSD, the school, 24th St. Elementary.  The board approved the partnership between the district and Crown Prep Academy Charter this week:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-parent-trigger-20130418,0,4717478.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedly
   The Common Core State Standards are not without their critics on both the left and right of the political spectrum.  The Republican Party, however, is making a concerted attack on them by threatening to withhold funding.  Valerie Strauss explains what they are up to on her blog:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/19/common-core-standards-attacked-by-republicans/
   Speaking of controversy.  The use of value-added measures (VAM) to rate teacher performance is right at the top of the list.  The Florida Education Association, which represents teachers, is taking the state to court challenging the use of VAM on teacher evaluations.  You can read all about it and what their rationale is for filing a lawsuit on the “HechingerEd” blog, part of The HECHINGER REPORT:  http://hechingered.org/content/will-value-added-measurement-survive-the-courts_6196/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HechingerReport+%28Hechinger+Report%29
   The Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” returns to the death of Sal Castro on Monday and reviews his fight for civil rights for Chicano students through the Eastside “blowouts” in relation to some current issues:  http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=40770a674de4ce8427a9a621b&id=7c8d649240&e=f7d7cb8d5d
   And finally, Occidental College has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons.  A group of current and former students and faculty filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education against the school alleging that the college was insensitive and failed to act properly regarding sex abuse cases on and near the campus.  You may have received an email from the college [the Chief Commissar got one yesterday] explaining the situation.  Today’s L.A. Times has the story:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-occidental-rape-20130419,0,1476316.story

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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