Monthly Archives: May 2013

May 24

Office of the Commissar of Current Events
Monday is the Memorial Day Holiday. 
Enjoy the 3-Day Weekend!
“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” ― James Madison  
[Ed. note:  Because of the Monday holiday the Tuesday issue of the “Ed News” may be delayed by one day or combined with the Friday edition.]
   And now to the news.  California dropped one spot to number 35 among the states in per pupil spending based on the latest figures from 2011.  This item, posted on the L.A. Times web site Tuesday afternoon, has the discouraging details.  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-school-spending-20130521,0,1671854.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29  THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reports that per student expenditures for education across the nation have FALLEN for the first time in over 30 years:  http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2013/05/21/public-spending-per-student-drops/
   An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times supports the current “parent trigger” law but suggests several changes:  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-parent-trigger-24th-street-elementary-20130522,0,4013260.story
   California is the latest state to offer the General Educational Development (GED) test on the computer.  This article, also from Wednesday’s Times, features a 59-year-old mother who took the exam using the latest technology:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ged-computer-20130513,0,6133907.story
   The new Common Core State Standards have been criticized for their English and math content.  This author, a guest writer on Anthony Cody’s blog at EDUCATION WEEK, bemoans the treatment they afford  Social Studies claiming that the focus on the first two subjects is “crowding out” the creative, exciting teaching of History.  Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending this story:  http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/05/paul_horton_will_career_teache.html  Larry also forwarded this video (11:19 minutes) that compares the progress of education between the U.S. and Finland over the past 6+ decades.  It was created by a New York teacher who is currently working and doing research in Finland and it comes from the blog @ the Chalkface:  http://atthechalkface.com/2013/05/22/the-first-finland-comparison-ive-cared-about-in-months/
   Fifth-grade teacher Monica Ratliff won the LAUSD District 6 board seat in the eastern San Fernando Valley with 52% of the vote on Tuesday.  The win was described as “a huge upset” as detailed in this story in yesterday’s L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-schools-20130522,0,5319743.story
   The California Teachers Association has come out in favor of Gov. Brown’s new funding formula for schools.  You can listen to the very brief segment (0:49 minutes) and/or read the full transcript from capital public radio here:  http://www.capradio.org/188172?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CapitalPublicRadioLatestNewsRSS+(Capital+Public+Radio%3A+Latest+News+RSS)
   Valerie Strauss provides another story of a veteran teacher who just “can’t take it any more.”  A fourth-grade teacher in Highland Park, Illinois, put together a video (10:27 minutes) in which she matter-of-factly explains why she is quitting the profession.  You can all probably relate to what she laments has happened over the past 15 years:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/23/teachers-resignation-video-everything-i-loved-about-teaching-is-extinct/
   Was anyone aware that the most recent California Teacher of the Year is an OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE graduate (’99)?  Her name is l’Asha Warfield and she hadn’t intended to go into teaching until she was accepted into the Teach for America program.  She stuck around after her two-year stint with TFA was up and has now been teaching English for 13 years at an Oakland middle school.  You can read all about her in this extended profile from EdSource:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/woman-who-never-intended-to-teach-now-praised-as-california-teacher-of-the-year/32278#.UZ5UVSv5nyd
   72% of the educators who voted and the school board of the San Jose Unified have agreed to a new, innovative teacher evaluation process for the district.  EdSource profiles what might become a model for other distritcts: http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/san-jose-teachers-board-adopt-landmark-teacher-evaluation-system/32542#.UZ-juSv5nye
   Hawaii’s experiment with extending the school day did not quite work out as hoped.  NPR station KPCC briefly reports on some of the obstacles that were encountered and what lessons can be learned for other districts/states contemplating instituting this reform:  http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2013/05/23/13780/hawaii-s-experiment-in-fixing-schools-may-hold-les/?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+893KpccSouthernCaliforniaNews+(KPCC%3A+News)
   As reported in the Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board on Wednesday voted to close 50 of a proposed 54 campuses despite strong protests from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and community activists.   NPR covered the story:  http://www.npr.org/2013/05/23/186195961/disappointed-by-school-closing-vote-union-targets-elected-officials?ft=1&f=1013  Diane Ravitch saw fit to post this complete interview with a History teacher from the University of Chicago Labratory High School describing what the school closures will mean to the city:  http://dianeravitch.net/2013/05/24/the-scoop-on-chicago-privatization/
   The State of California is proposing major changes to the way teachers are recruited, trained, hired, evaluated and supported.  One aspect of this reform is to move from a traditional model of “professional development” to one known as “professional learning.”  Confused as to what all that means?  This piece from EdSource promises to clarify the issues for you:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/evolving-from-professional-development-to-professional-learning/32586#.UZ-j4yv5nye
   As usual, Valerie Strauss is able to focus on a complex issue with easy to understand information and graphics.  This time she highlights a newly released report that tackles the issue “The Problems Facing Community Colleges–in Seven Graphs:”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/23/the-problems-facing-community-colleges-in-seven-graphs/  You can read the entire report (83 pages), from The Century Foundation, titled “Bridging the Higher Education Divide, Strengthening Community Colleges and Restoring the American Dream” here:  http://tcf.org/assets/downloads/20130523-Bridging_the_Higher_Education_Divide-REPORT-ONLY.pdf
   And finally, with the L.A. mayor’s race now behind us Anthony Cody reports that 3 big cities, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., have mayors who control the local public school system.  How has that arrangement worked out?  Should it continue?  Should L.A. change its charter to allow the same?  You can read Cody’s column titled “Chicago: Time to End the Billionaires’ Experiments with Mayoral Control?” from EDUCATION WEEK here:  http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?DISPATCHED=true&cid=25983841&item=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.edweek.org%2Fteachers%2Fliving-in-dialogue%2F2013%2F05%2Fchicago_has_the_billionaires_e.html
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar
Advertisements

May 21

“Wisdom…. comes not from age, but from education and learning.”   ―     Anton Chekhov
   This article may seem a little off the subject but read it through (especially the last paragraph) to see how it relates to education and teachers in particular.  Any idea who the highest paid STATE employee is?  The governor, or a big-city mayor perhaps or a college or university president?   You know it’s not a school teacher.  Check out this story from Care2 make a difference to answer the question and see the connection to schools:  http://www.care2.com/causes/whos-your-highest-paid-state-employee.html
   This brief item from Common Dreams describes the 3-day march sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) that kicked off on Saturday to protest the proposed closing of over 50 schools in Chicago:  https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/18-0
Despite the ongoing battle over school closures in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system fewer than 5 campuses may be spared when the board meets tomorrow to take a final vote on the proposal reports the Chicago Tribune:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-school-closing-march-0521-20130521,0,6364864.story
   Sandy Banks, in her Saturday column for the L.A. Times, wades into the discussion over student suspensions for “willful defiance” that the LAUSD board voted to ban last week:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-banks-suspensions-20130518,0,2038695,full.column
   How successful are teacher training schools at turning out effective teachers?  Currently, there are very few ways to measure this.  The HECHINGER REPORT describes how Florida plans to monitor its programs more closely in order to get a better idea of how they are doing:  http://hechingerreport.org/content/florida-plans-increased-scrutiny-for-education-schools_12081/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HechingerReport+%28Hechinger+Report%29
   The number of California teachers who received lay-off notices over the past five years may have finally peaked.  EdSource reports on this very encouraging news:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/teacher-layoffs-lowest-since-economic-downturn-cta-reports/32287#.UZqM5__n-ov
   LAUSD officials have reversed a decision, based on an apparent bureaucratic error, that denied Title I funds to the L.A. Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) and 5 other campuses according to this story in yesterday’s L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-school-funding-20130520,0,2231694.story
   Valerie Strauss provides a copy of the blog written by the current president of the National School Boards Association who takes a look at why “school choice” is not a good option for school reform:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/20/whats-wrong-with-school-choice-heres-what/
   Gov. Brown continues to take incoming fire from his own party’s legislators for his proposed new spending formula for state schools.  THE SACRAMENTO BEE provides the details:  http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/19/5431408/gov-browns-school-funding-plan.html

   This short video (6:48 minutes) from DemocracyNOW! features an interview with Jesse Hagopian, history teacher and union rep at Garfield High School in Seattle, who discusses the victory his teachers won last week when their district decided to give them the option of administering a standardized test to their high school students.  It also includes a full transcript:  http://www.democracynow.org/2013/5/20/seattle_teachers_students_win_historic_victory
   Valerie Strauss reprints a blog from a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English and a current supervisor of student teachers at Portland State University who makes a persuasive case against the idea of grouping students by ability:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/21/why-ability-grouping-in-schools-is-a-mistake/
   It does not look encouraging for California’s attempt to get a waiver from the NCLB requirement that all students in the state be proficient in reading and math by 2014.  The SI&A CABINET REPORT describes how talks have broken off between California officials and the U.S. Dept. of Ed over a number of issues delineated in this article:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3820  A related story in the L.A. Daily News put a more local spin on the issue:  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_23285581/california-will-not-again-no-child-left-behind?source=rss&utm_source=feedly
   And finally, despite steep budget cuts and tuition hikes the UC system drew a record number of applications for the 2013-14 school year.  NPR station KPCC has the details and the numbers for you:  http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2013/05/20/13735/uc-schools-draw-record-application-numbers-ucla-as/?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+893KpccSouthernCaliforniaNews+(KPCC%3A+News)
 

May 17

“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.”   ―     Baruch Spinoza
   Valerie Strauss reprints the commencement address delivered by Richard Rothstein at the Loyola University Chicago School of Education in which he warns the graduates to beware of certain “fantasies driving school reform.”  It should be noted that Diane Ravitch also highlighted this.  That makes it doubly significant!   http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-fantasies-driving-school-reform-a-primer-for-education-graduates/2012/05/13/gIQA5vwzLU_blog.html
   In a follow-up to a couple of articles highlighted in the Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” the Wednesday L.A. Times reported on the LAUSD board’s decision to continue to fund the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program for pupils at a number of district elementary schools:  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-la-school-board-continues-breakfast-in-the-classroom-program-20130514,0,1266983.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+(L.A.+Now)  The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) reviews the 5-2 board vote to end student suspensions for “willful defiance:”  http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/05/16/12692/los-angeles-school-board-cracks-down-suspensions-minor-infractions   The UCLA IDEA Friday “Themes in the News” takes a look at LAUSD’s new stance on “willful defiance” and puts it into a broader context:  http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=40770a674de4ce8427a9a621b&id=13970ee161&e=f7d7cb8d5d
   The two candidates for L.A. mayor, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, opined on several subjects related to L.A. schools according to this story in Wednesday’s L.A. Timeshttp://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mayor-daily-20130515,0,2943306.story  Bennett Kayser, a member of the LAUSD board, reminded both candidates that the mayor of L.A. and the city council have no direct control over city schools.   If they want to have an impact on students there are a number of things they do have control over that they could concentrate on.  He made these points in this op-ed in the same paper:  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-kayser-the-mayor-and-the-schools-20130515,0,487190.story
   3 high schools in New York City are using a highly innovative team approach to get students ready for college level work.  Working with an organization called “Blue Engine” that helps recruit recent college graduates who serve as full-time teacher assistants in English and math classes the approach uses a number of strategies to motivate and assist students. One goal is to break large classrooms into smaller groups with a ratio of one adult for every 6 pupils.  The results, so far, are quite remarkable.  This op-ed in The New York Times describes how the program works:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/a-team-approach-to-get-students-college-ready/?hp
   The continuing saga of the forced school closings in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system was ratcheted up a notch when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) filed two class action lawsuits challenging the shuttering of 53 schools.  The union cited a number of reasons for their case which you can read about here courtesy of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/20125866-418/ctu-to-file-civil-rights-suits-over-school-closings.html

   As the Common Core State Standards approach there is growing speculation that states may request delays in implementing some or all of the program.  Might U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan lead the charge on delay?  This short item from EDUCATION WEEK suggests that may be a possibility:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2013/05/would_arne_duncan_consider_cal.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CampaignK-12+%28Education+Week+Blog%3A+Politics+K-12%29
   Do you know what “social and emotional learning” entails?  This article from EdSource explains what it’s all about and how it is gaining prominence under the Common Core:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/social-and-emotional-learning-gaining-new-traction-under-common-core/32161#.UZWC8P_n-ov
   Larry Cuban is a former social studies teacher and a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University.  He has his own blog called “School Reform and Classroom Practice.”  He recently wrote this piece titled “How to Teach History.  [Ed. note: The Chief Commissar taught social studies for 37 years in the LAUSD.  This one struck a particularly personal note]:” http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/how-to-teach-history/
   Remember the “Arab Spring” of a few years ago?  Well, the author of this blog from the CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE posits the idea of  “America’s Education Spring.”  What does he mean by that?  Like the popular uprisings that overthrew several long-time Arab dictators, there are more and more push backs against the top-down efforts at corporate education reform.  This article reviews a number of individuals and groups who are fighting back against NCLB, standardized testing, unfair teacher evaluations and big money foundations:  http://blog.ourfuture.org/20130515/americas-education-spring-a-growing-revolt-against-reform-mandates  [Ed. note:  Just to show that the “Ed News” is in good company, Valerie Strauss also featured the above item.  It makes us feel kind of important.]
   And finally, the discussion/debate with Democratic state legislators over Gov. Brown’s new funding formula continues.  This piece from the VENTURA COUNTY STAR brings you up-to-date on the latest developments:  http://www.vcstar.com/news/2013/may/16/brown-lawmakers-still-apart-over-details-of-plan/?partner=RSS&utm_source=feedly#ixzz2TZp2BjCR

 
Dave Alpert (’71)

Chief Commissar

May 14

“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.”   ―     George Clooney
   The LAUSD would like a zero tolerance policy towards teachers who cheat on standardized tests.  This article from Sunday’s L.A. Times focus on one teacher and how he was treated following an allegation of cheating:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-cheating-20130512,0,4733695,full.story
   The author of this in-depth look at how the “parent-trigger” law was successfully invoked in Adelanto asks the very important question about whether parent empowerment was really achieved:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/16300-pulling-the-trigger    Another group of parents in the LAUSD has begun the process of invoking the “parent-trigger” law.  This time, however, they don’t want to fire the teachers or invite a charter to take over.  Their goal: remove the administrators.  The school:  Weigand Elementary in Watts reports The San Bernadino Sun:  http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_23234492/parent-trigger-law-invoked-kick-out-l-schools#ixzz2TI2x1BXs
   What happens when a 4th grader decides to surreptitiously film what his school is offering for lunch?  Answer: a 20-minute film is born titled “Yuck:  A 4th Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch” that shows what’s being consumed by grade-school students in New York City.  This New York Times story includes a trailer for the film along with other details:  http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-michael-moore-of-the-grade-school-lunchroom/
    Legislation is proceeding in California dealing with school safety concerns as a result of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.  A number of bills have been introduced in both the State Senate and Assembly dealing with the issue.  This article from the SI&A CABINET REPORT discusses what the measures are proposing:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3807
   The LAUSD board is scheduled to vote today on a proposal that would ban the suspension of students for “willful defiance.”  This front-page story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides statistics on the number of pupils removed from school, how it impacts individual kids and an innovative program called “restorative justice” and other alternatives that could be instituted in lieu of suspension:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-adv-lausd-discipline-20130513,0,1402738.story?utm_source=feedly  Three letters to the editor at the Times were quick to respond to the above item:  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-le-0514-tuesday-suspension-defiance-20130514,0,6463665.story Another issue on the board agenda today is a vote on the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program.  The “Ed News” has highlighted several stories about the BIC and strong objections raised about it by UTLA.  This item from the L.A. Daily News over the weekend features one school, Limerick Elementary in Canoga Park, where the program seems to be a success:  http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_23229344/limerick-elementary-makes-breakfast-classroom-program-success?source=rss&utm_source=feedly
   The LAUSD is “cracking down” with a zero-tolerance policy on teachers alleged to be involved in misconduct with students.  This item, also from the Daily News, reports that the number of teachers fired, forced to resign or who decided to retire jumped precipitously after the incident at Miramonte Elementary came to light:  http://www.dailynews.com/ci_23220307/lausd-cracks-down-teacher-misconduct-100-fired-200?source=most_viewed  [Ed. note: ALOED member Randy Traweek added a comment at the end of this piece].
   College enrollment figures are down, especially among African-American students, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics highlighted in this article from the Long Beach Press-Telegram.  Steep drops in post-secondary funding over the last couple of years bear much of the blame:  http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_23219490/college-enrollment-down-experts-cite-low-funding-high#ixzz2TCHLBFxE
   Finally some encouraging news on the education finances front.  Gov. Brown is proposing large increases in school funding in his May budget revision to help implement the new Common Core Standards and to boost general per pupil funding in the state according to this from the San Jose Mercury News:  http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_23237921/brown-proposse-1b-new-school-standards
   Valerie Strauss reports that Indiana has been added to a short but possibly growing list of states that are postponing the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for a variety of reasons: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/13/indiana-halts-common-core-implementation/?wprss=rss_national
   Remember that protest in Seattle against a standardized test that high school teachers objected to?  Guess What?  The teachers won!   The district’s superintendent sent a letter saying that the decision to administer the tests for the next year would be up to each high school’s leadership team.  You can read all the other details about this new policy in this article from The Seattle Times:  http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020980195_bandamapdecisionxml.html
   And finally, today’s L.A. Times reports on the filing of a federal lawsuit charging the Compton Unified School District and its police force with racial profiling and abuse in the treatment of parents and students in that troubled district:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-compton-schools-lawsuit-20130514,0,7790873.story
 
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

May 10

 “A state that does not educate and train women is like a man
who only trains his right arm.”   ―     Jostein Gaarder,     Sophie’s World    
   The two candidates for mayor of Los Angeles, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, both came out in favor of making teacher evaluations PUBLIC!  They enunciated that position in a debate on Tuesday at the Petersen Automotive Museum.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times reports the story:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mayor-education-20130508,0,4477206.story
   Both Susie Smith (prior to the broadcast) and Dave Carpenter (after it was on) mentioned that PBS has a new series, hosted by John Legend, called “TED Talks Education” airing on Tuesday evenings at 10 p.m. on station KOCE.  The first segment (55:31 minutes) aired this week and included several educators, students and other prominent figures talking about various subjects and topics:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2365006219
   Revelations regarding the sexual misconduct of a teacher at De La Torre Elementary School (LAUSD) in Wilmington continue to be made public. An internal district document has surfaced according to this item in Wednesday’s L.A. Times that indicates district administrators knew of the charges 3 years prior to the teacher’s arrest:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-abuse-20130508,0,2231596.story
   For a number of reasons the University of California is taking a much slower approach to online courses than other systems explains The San Diego Union-Tribune:  http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/may/07/uc-classes-easing-into-online-world/?utm_source=feedly
   The Louisiana Supreme Court, by a 6-1 vote, ruled Tuesday that the funding formula for the voucher system violates the state constitution.  Valerie Strauss comments on this decision and how it compares to a very different court ruling on vouchers in Indiana:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/07/louisiana-supreme-court-rules-school-voucher-funding-unconstitutional/?wprss=rss_national&utm_source=feedly
   Earlier this year the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) recommended the closing of 54 under-performing schools to help save money for the cash-strapped district.  The outcry from the community and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) was immediate.  This week a group of independent hearing officers questioned the inclusion of 14 schools slated for closure.  The Huffington Post provides some of their reasons why:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/cps-school-closures_n_3230455.html?utm_hp_ref=@education123
   The “Ed News” has highlighted articles about all sorts of schools and systems of education–public, private, charter, parochial, etc.  It has rarely, if ever, focused on the home school movement.  This item from the GuardianUK takes a careful look at Christian fundamentalist home schooling and what it’s true agenda may be.  Former students who were taught at home offer some insights into what their experiences were like:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/08/christian-home-schooling-dark-side
   California is attempting to change its K-12 school accountability system to include more factors than just the API.  The State Board of Education (SBE) is raising some major concerns about the proposed changes reports this story from the SI&A CABINET REPORT:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3804
   The Common Core State Standards are on schedule to be introduced in California in 2014-15 and the assessments that accompany them are also ready to go.  Some states have come to grief with their exams but the consortium developing them here assures The Golden State that things are moving ahead smoothly.  EdSource describes how things are progressing and what to expect as to how the tests will be administered:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/common-core-test-is-on-track-state-board-told/31768#.UYwxu__n-ov  Most of the Common Core assessment items will be machine scored according to a presentation made to the State Board of Education on Wednesday.  This SI&A CABINET REPORT item has the details for you:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3803
   A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article that urged the implementation of the Common Core Standards be delayed to insure that schools and teachers were thoroughly and properly prepared to introduce them.  Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Michael Kirst, President of the State Board of Education (SBE), co-authored an op-ed in The SACRAMENTO BEE on Sunday that argued against any delay:  http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/05/5393851/resist-urge-to-delay-common-core.html
   Is criticism of standardized testing a recent phenomenon?  W. James Popham wrote an article in March, 1999, for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) that did just that.  The Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” reminds you of what he said and applies it to today:  http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=40770a674de4ce8427a9a621b&id=4d3e1a9168&e=f7d7cb8d5d  If you’d like to see his original piece titled “Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Educational Quality” you can find it here.  It makes for some very interesting reading when you realize it was published over 14 years ago:  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar99/vol56/num06/Why-Standardized-Tests-Don%27t-Measure-Educational-Quality.aspx
   And finally, as National Teacher Appreciation Week wraps up today the “Ed News” would like to leave you with a series of quotes collected by Valerie Strauss regarding the noble profession of teaching.  For all you teachers out there, past, present and future, these are for you.  May they brighten your day and weekend and beyond:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/09/appreciating-teachers-for-a-change/
 
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

May 7

Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week!
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” ― Albert Einstein
   Ever heard of the Bradley Foundation?  According to this article from The Progressive it is the biggest organization that funds charter schools and supports voucher programs in the U.S.  Their agenda is to privatize the public school system and everything they do and believe in flies totally under the radar of the media.  To find out what they do and how go to:  http://www.progressive.org/bradley-foundation-spearheading-assault-on-public-schools
   There are many valid criticisms of standardized tests.  The “Ed News” has tried to highlight as many of them as possible.  But this may be a novel one.  The author of this blog, a soon-to-be journalism graduate, maintains that the tests are patently unfair since students (people) think in divergent ways (educators all know this) and the exams seem to test only a certain style of thinking.  What do you think of her argument?  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/299-190/17281-the-cookie-cutter-testing-trend
   Last week Randi Weingarten proposed that the Common Core State Standards be delayed for a year to give schools and teachers additional time to prepare for them.  On his blog for EDUCATION WEEK, Anthony Cody not only argues against that but offers a strong critique of the entire process and raises specific concerns about the type of assessments being implemented.  If you have a little extra time be sure to check out the animation (10:48 minutes) about what motivates people:  http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/05/will_a_years_delay_save_the_co.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LivingInDialogue+%28Teacher+Magazine+Blog%3A+Living+in+Dialogue%29
   Nowadays schools seem to be singled out solely for high test scores.  On Friday California recognized a number of schools for their physical fitness, arts and career education programs.  One school in LAUSD, the Renaissance Arts Academy Charter, was commended.  Several others in L.A. County were honored according to this item in yesterday’s L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-state-recognizes-area-schools-for-physical-fitness-programs-20130504,0,4582948.story
   This Long Beach Press-Telegram story highlights an interesting study by the ACT National Curriculum Survey that looks at very different perceptions of college readiness of incoming freshman by high school teachers and college professors.  The former believe that 89% of their graduates on well prepared for post-secondary work while the latter only see 26% as ready for college-level classes.  You can read the article about the study here:  http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_23178279/report-high-school-teachers-and-college-professors-differ?source=rss&utm_source=feedly
   With the standardized testing season in full swing the question of test security arises.  Last year California  discovered that a number of students posted pictures of different test items on various social media.  Many schools and districts have implemented new procedures to prevent this from happening again.  This piece from yesterday’s L.A. Times has the details: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-test-photos-20130506,0,7517057.story
   Thanks to Susie Smith for sending along this uplifting link.  Yesterday PBS began a series on innovative teaching techniques around the country.  The first, featured a middle school in Portland, Maine that uses a problem-solving integrated curriculum to teach science.  You can watch the segment (11:38 minutes) and/or read the full transcript here:  http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/jan-june13/learning_05-06.html
   When the “Ed News” first started it promised to report on the considerable froth in the field of education and it has labored mightily to achieve that goal.  This extended essay from EDUCATION WEEK surveys the state of education today and reviews many of the issues, personalities and policy conflicts that have and continue to stir the pot:  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/08/30debate_ep.h32.html?tkn=PXPFjHSNLg95I2tLPzckLp8amOGp2jyNFa04&cmp=clp-edweek
   California Attorney General Kamala Harris is out with some startling new statistics on student truancy in the state.  Her figures indicate that almost a third of all students were classified as truant during the 2010-11 school year and that 40% of elementary pupils met that criteria.  She discussed this troubling issue, according to this story in the SI&A CABINET REPORT, in a strongly-worded letter to district superintendents statewide last week.  The article includes a definition of how and when California classifies a student as “truant:”  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3801
   Do summer enrichment programs have any educational value for students, particularly ones from low-income and minority families?  A new study of 3 such programs (one of which was in Los Angeles) answers a resounding “yes!”  EdSource provides the specifics:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3801  You can read the full report (42 pages) titled “Summer Matters: How Summer Learning Strengthens Students’ Success” here:  http://g.virbcdn.com/_f2/files/d0/FileItem-285234-201213Summer_Matters_CaseStudy_STC.pdf
   Valerie Strauss reprints a blog from Mike Rose a professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education responding to the op-ed from last week’s New York Times (highlighted in the “Ed News”) titled “No Rich Child Left Behind.”  He offers some of his own thoughts and experiences in his as equally provocative piece:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/07/leave-no-unwealthy-child-behind/
   And finally, Happy 150th Birthday to the California Teachers Association (CTA).  The organization, founded in May, 1863, as the California Educational Society had fewer than 100 members.  Today it boasts 325,000.  This brief item from EdSource marks the occasion:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/california-teachers-association-turns-150/31631#.UYmMHkHn_q6
Don’t forget this Sunday is Mother’s Day.
 
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

May 3

“I said there was nothing so convincing to an Indian as a general massacre. If he could not approve of the massacre, I said the next surest thing for an Indian was soap and education. Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run; because a half-massacred Indian may recover, but if you educate him and wash him, it is bound to finish him some time or other.”

―     Mark Twain

   U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan has been traveling around the state this week.  Speaking on Tuesday before the American Educational Research Association in San Francisco he surprised the audience by admitting that there are many flaws in the current testing regimen.  He didn’t suggest doing away with it but would like to see a new, improved testing 2.0.  EdSource reports on this and some of the other topics he commented on and his rather frosty reception by the people he addressed:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/duncan-admits-flaws-in-current-standardized-testing/31379#.UYG4uljn-ov
    An Assembly bill (AB 484) was taken up in the Education Committee on Wednesday.  It would make some major changes to the current testing system and offer new online tests that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  The old STAR system is scheduled to be phased out in July, 2013, to be replaced in the 2014-15 school year by CalMAPP21 (extra credit for anyone who knows what that stands for).  This story appeared in the SI&A CABINET REPORT:  http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=3792  Another bill (AB 549) received a hearing before the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday.  It offered specific guidelines and limits for the role of police officers on California school campuses according to this lengthy item from the Center for Public Integrityhttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/04/30/12587/california-lawmakers-latest-consider-limits-cops-schools?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+publici_rss+(The+Center+for+Public+Integrity+Latest+Stories)
   MIchelle Rhee has been facing major charges of testing “irregularities” while she served as chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS).  The “Ed News” highlighted that breaking story last week.  Despite that, the Walton Family Foundation decided to increase its funding to her StudentsFirst organization to the tune of $8 million.  This brief article from EdSource describes the investment and why they upped the ante:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/walton-foundation-increases-donation-to-studentsfirst/31235#.UYG9vFjn-ov  Valerie Strauss comments on this new grant and lists other “reform” groups that have received its largesse:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/01/walton-foundation-giving-8-million-to-rhees-studentsfirst-plus-2012-donations/?wprss=rss_national&utm_source=feedly   More and more criticism is being aimed at Rhee for a variety of reasons.  This brief story from The Sacramento Bee looks at her claim that her organization is bipartisan in its positions and the people that it supports:  http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/05/studentsfirst-under-scrutiny-from-the-left.html#storylink=cpy

   Online classes for credit are becoming more and more common.  A big problem has to do with security.  Is a person cheating on the test or having someone else take it for them?  How are companies offering these courses dealing with this?  Those issues and several others are covered in this front-page feature article from yesterday’s L.A. Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-online-cheating-20130502,0,795806,full.story  The use of online courses at the college level is not without controversy.  Professors in the Philosophy Department at San Jose State are up in arms about the use of online materials in their program according to this piece in The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/education/san-jose-state-philosophy-dept-criticizes-online-courses.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&utm_source=feedly&_r=2&
   A big “thank you” to Susie Smith for sending along an excellent web site.  It’s called the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) and is published by UC Berkeley.  Not everything they do is education related but those that are seem to be down-to-earth, practical kinds of things.  Check this one out.  It was first published in March but is still quite pertinent.  It offers a number of excellent suggestions on how to ease the stress that can build up around standardized testing for all involved–students, teachers, administrators and parents.  Be sure to look at the “Related Articles” section at the end of the this piece for more helpful hints and information:  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/compassion_for_the_tested?utm_source=GG+Ed+Newsletter+April+2013&utm_campaign=GG+Education+-+April+2013&utm_medium=email  You can access the GGSC’s “Education” articles here:  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/education
   On her eponymous blog, Dana Goldstein takes a look at what is happening at Crenshaw High by focusing on one key faculty member, Alex Caputo-Pearl, who was not rehired as the school went through an LAUSD reconstitution.  She also reprints the letter from the faculty that the “Ed News” previously highlighted about what has been taking place there:  http://www.danagoldstein.net/dana_goldstein/2013/05/activist-teachers-targeted-for-dismissal-in-la.html
   Does the name Michael Fullan ring a bell?  He’s the highly successful education reformer in Ontario, Canada, who has helped turn that province into one of the best school systems in the world.  He’s been sharing his ideas and theories with California education leaders as of late.  Want to learn more about who he is, what he believes and how this state might benefit?  Read this extended story from EdSource for all those answers and more.  For more specifics about Fullan and some of the things he’s written see the “Going Deeper” sidebar:  http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/california-looks-to-ontario-schools-reformer-for-guidance/30644#.UYP9MCv5nye
   Diane Ravitch reprints a blog from a teacher in Queens, New York, who asks: “How Smart Will Common Core Make Our Kids?”  http://dianeravitch.net/2013/05/03/will-common-core-make-kids-smarter/
   Students take standardized tests.  Teachers and schools are evaluated on the results.  In Louisiana teacher training programs have been measured by the exam scores.  You can read all about how they fared and what they did as a result in this article from The HECHINGER REPORT titled “Grading the Teachers’ Teachers:”  http://hechingerreport.org/content/grading-the-teachers-teachers_11939/

   Valerie Strauss, in her blog for The Washington Post, reprints a very interesting post from Alfie Kohn about why using international test scores to compare nations may not be all that valid and that the U.S. may not be doing as poorly as reported:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/03/were-number-umpteenth-the-myth-of-lagging-u-s-schools/
   And finally, the Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” reviews the LAUSD issue regarding providing low-income students with breakfast in their classroom.  The program has been expanding since it was instituted several years ago.  However, a survey by UTLA found that it often left rooms messy and cut into instructional time.  This item, titled “Hunger is Not an Option,” looks at the pros and cons and offers some suggestions for retaining the program:  http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=40770a674de4ce8427a9a621b&id=b0a80b41b6&e=f7d7cb8d5d
The weekend should be MUCH cooler.  Enjoy it!