Monthly Archives: July 2013

July 19

As a result of ALOED’s highly successful book club on Wednesday the “Ed News” is pleased to welcome the following new members to the Discussion Group:  Marie Chaplar, Tony Dalessi, Jerry Gruss, Margaret Gruss, Laurie McFarlane, Cheryl Morelan, Eloise Porter, Antonio Pierola,  Carol Wilcox Russell and Maureen Ryan.  We are now 56 members strong! 
“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their
 students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse,
encouraging them to create their own.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis
   Valerie Strauss is touting a new book (a possible choice for an ALOED book club?) from an author she calls “the world’s most famous teacher.”  He just so happens to be a fifth grade teacher at Hobart Ave. Elementary (LAUSD)!  She explains why she’s given him that moniker, describes a little about the book (it came out on July 16th) and conducts a Q & A with him.  His name is Rafe Esquith and you can get acquainted with him here:
   The “leadership challenged” (five principals in the last 4 years) Cortines High School of Visual and Performing Arts (LAUSD) was the topic of an editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  The paper points out some of the mistakes that were made as the school was opened in the fall of 2009 and reviews some of the funding issues the outgoing principal complained about:,0,3066350.story
   Teach for America (TFA) is taking more flak from a former teacher and manager of the group.  Valerie Strauss conducts a Q & A with her about her experiences and why she became disillusioned:
   The “Ed News” has been closely watching the development of MOOCs (massive open online courses) at the college and university level.  One experiment at San Jose State did not end well as a large number of students failed to pass the classes offered by the private, for-profit company Udacity.  This article from today’s L.A. Times outlines what happened and offers some reasons why:,0,4160941.story
   The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at UC Berkeley held a six-day summer institute for educators.  The focus of the training was to enhance the social and emotional well-being of teachers, administrators and their students.  The results were extremely positive as this story from the center describes:
   Another article from the GGSC that was published back in October (that’s before Susie Smith turned the “Ed News” on to this valuable site) is titled “Why Teacher Ratings Hurt Schools and Students:”
   The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) which have already decided to close over 50 “under performing” campuses just announced an additional 2,000 lay-offs of district teachers.  This was on top of pink slips that have already gone out to 1,500 educators.  Diane Ravitch has the story and reprints a statement from the group called the “Raise Your Hand Coalition” that was organized to combat the huge budget cuts:
   Thanks to Larry Lawrence who sent along this item from Valerie Strauss who reprints a blog that provides you with 5 facts for those times when you get into discussions about the current state of education with family, friends or other skeptics.  It was written by a Physics teacher in Detroit and was first published back in April.  Be sure to note the reference to Yong Zhao (in Lesson #2) and to Linda Darling-Hammond (in Lesson #5).  Both were previous ALOED book club authors:
   Are there lessons to be learned from the health care debate that might be applicable to discussions over education reform?  This piece from EDUCATION WEEK looks at that precise question and comes up with 3 similarities:
   And finally, are charter schools helping to lead to the resegregation of education in the U.S.?  This story from The HECHINGER REPORT answers “yes” and uses schools in Minnesota as a prime example of how and why this is happening:
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

July 16

“There is no school equal to a decent home and
no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
   “No excuse” has been used by so-called education “reformers” as a way to avoid all the myriad socio-economic factors that make it difficult for students to succeed in school.  They use it as a cudgel to blame teachers for all the problems they identify with education today.  This item from the Education Opportunity NETWORK (the people that brought you the “Education Declaration to Rebuilt America”) reviews the debate around “no excuse” and brings it up-to-date given the situation in Philadelphia and other school systems.  [Ed. note:  Valerie Strauss highlighted this piece on her blog]:
   The Jersey Jazzman blog is at it again.  This time it takes on the topic of how many really “bad” teachers are there in our classrooms today.  It’s titled “Bad Teachers!  Eek!”:
   This op-ed from IN THESE TIMES takes a look at the new teacher evaluation system in New York and how it attempts to quantify good teaching through the use of test scores.  The author believes other factors, many of them not testable, are part of an effective teacher and are totally left out of the evaluations being implemented in New York:
   You must check this one out.  It’s a one-sentence letter posted on the website “Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates.”  It was reprinted by Valerie Strauss:
   The State of California and the Obama administration are at loggerheads over education policy.  The sticking point?  New teacher evaluations that make heavy use of student test scores in order to reward the best ones and go after the lowest.  Subsequently, many districts around the state are in danger of facing federal sanctions.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times describes the contretemps:,0,2274338.story   Diane Ravitch was quick to respond to this article.  You can probably guess what her opinion is:
   Valerie Strauss reprints a provocative blog that takes a look at the issue of whether there’s any “educational” value to being born rich.  In other words, are people who are born into wealth and do not attend college better off than poor students who earn a post-secondary degree.  If this is, in fact true, what are the implications for education reform?  Read what she offers and see what you think:
   The star-crossed Cortines High School for the Visual and Performing Arts (LAUSD) in downtown L.A. has suffered another blow.  The fifth principal of the campus since it opened 4 year ago abruptly resigned over funding issues.  This story, in yesterday’s L.A. Times, has all the sad details:,0,523174,full.story
   “Market based” programs were, and continue to be, one of the prime movers of educational reform.  “If schools were only run like businesses .  .  .” ran the refrain.  How successful have those types of changes been?  Diane Ravitch comments on a new report that debunks many of the claims for success in places like New York City and Washington, D.C.  Her post contains a link to the Executive Summary (20 pages) titled “Market Oriented Education Reforms’ Rhetoric Trumps Reality” published by the “Broader BOLDER Approach to Education:”  You can read the full report (95 pages) here:
   An extended editorial in Monday’s paper referenced the recently released Stanford University CREDO report on the state of charter schools in the country (the report was highlighted by the “Ed News).  It reviewed the findings and urged that charters get increased scrutiny to ensure they are delivering what they promise.  If they are not, those campuses should be closed.  It’s titled “Charter Schools–A Report Card:”,0,1522096.story
   And finally, with all the digital technologies available to students today (texting, tweeting, etc.) one would think their writing skills would suffer.  Not according to a national survey of teachers released today from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.  You can read all about the findings in this article in today’s L.A. Times:,0,1391238.story    You can read a summary of the results here:    The entire report (108 pages) titled “How Teachers are Using Technology at Home and In Their Classrooms”  can be viewed here:
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

July 12

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”
   The financially flush Teach for America (TFA) is apparently getting even flusher.  The Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker (he of the end of collective bargaining rights for public employees) has a budget sitting on his desk that includes a provision containing $1 million in taxpayer funds for TFA.  The Center for Media & Democracy’s PR WATCH revisits the controversies over TFA and what foundations support it:      TFA has been taking a lot of flak lately.  Critics of the group are meeting this weekend in Chicago to organize opposition to what they see as a thinly veiled attempt to privatize public education.  Valerie Strauss, as usual, has the details:     Speaking of TFA,  Idaho just approved the organization as a certified teacher training program in that state.  The Idaho ED NEWS has the disturbing details:
   A survey of 4,000 adults, half parents and half teachers, in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Australia found that testing and other factors were stifling creativity in schools in each of those countries.  edSurge has the numbers and an interesting infographic about the results:    This picture, accompanying the article, is worth a look!
The California State Board of Education (SBE) is evaluating new science standards for students in the state.  They are based on the Next Generation Science Standards and stress less memorization of material and more experimentation and hands-on activities.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times provides the details:,0,7137766.story   An item posted on the Times website Wednesday afternoon reported that the SBE decided to put off a decision on the new standards until the fall:,0,3302146.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29
    Yong Zhao, a previous ALOED book club author, reports, on his eponymous blog, that China is cutting back on standardized testing as a burden on teaching and learning.  They have developed a 5-part program for evaluating students and schools that does NOT include test scores:
   Yesterday UTLA, the LAUSD teachers union, released the results of a “performance review” survey of its members conducted in early May of Superintendent John Deasy.  Needless to say, the district chief scored poorly on all 25 questions.  This brief piece from the UTLA website summarizes the findings.  It includes a link to the full survey (27 pages) with overall totals (pages 1-3) and area-by-area breakdowns (pages 4-27):       This story from the L.A. Times website was posted yesterday morning prior to the release of the survey.  It previews it and what its impact might be:,0,5324569.story       3 community groups and a member of the LAUSD school board were quick to defend the superintendent in light of the survey results.  This item, also from the Times, was posted on the website this morning just before 9 a.m.:,0,7971323.story
   Newly elected LAUSD board president Richard Vladovic was cleared by an internal investigation of allegations that he acted improperly in a misconduct charge against a teacher at De La Torre Elementary in Wilmington according to this story in today’s L.A. Times:,0,4464520.story
      Today the UCLA IDEA (Institute for Democracy, Education and Access) announced they were ceasing publication of their Friday “Themes in the News” which first appeared in March, 2009.  The “Ed News” was deeply saddened to hear this as it made extensive use of the features in its Friday edition.  Today’s final offering from UCLA reviewed what they’ve done in the past and what they have in store for the future (the publication is not totally going away).  You can read all about it here:
   Thanks to Larry Lawrence for the following two items:  The first is from Oxy’s own Peter Dreier  who looks at how Hollywood films have been portraying public schools lately in an op-ed titled “The Billionaires’ War Against Public Education”.  “Waiting for Superman” and “Don’t Back Down” both paint schools as abject failures with the fault firmly resting with lazy teachers and

their unions, according to the film makers.  However, Dreier reviews a new movie titled “Go Public:  A Day in the Life of an American School District” which follows 50 different individuals from the Pasadena Unified School District for a day.  This cinema verite production provides a much more positive look at what goes on in a typical public school system:     This film might make a good outing (field trip?) for ALOED.  Larry mentioned that it is being screened in Pasadena on Friday, July 26, at 7 p.m.  Details about the showing and discussion:     Larry’s second item is a letter from Paul Horton, a History instructor at University High School which is part of the University of Chicago lab schools, that is reprinted by Anthony Cody in his “Living in Dialogue” blog for EDUCATION WEEK.  Mr. Horton implores Pres. Obama to listen to the most experienced people on education reform–committed teachers–rather than the foundation heads, Teach for America and others not directly connected to schools:
   And finally, Valerie Strauss titles her most recent blog “How Mad are Some Teachers?  This Mad” which describes a newly formed organization called the “Badass Teachers Association’ who are fed up with being blamed for all the ills of public education.  Here is the group’s logo:
The group's logo

You can read all about what makes them angry and what they plan to do about it here:
Enjoy the weekend!

July 9

Program Reminder:  The next ALOED bookclub is scheduled for Wednesday, July 17th at 6 p.m.  The book: Brain Rules.   A delicious dinner and delightful discussion will be on tap for everyone.  For all the details and to RSVP:
“It’s what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”
―    Claude Bernard
   Education “expert” Eli Broad has an op-ed in the Wednesday L.A. Times titled “A Better Way to Train Teachers.”  It refers, favorably, to the highly controversial National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report (highlighted a number of times by the “Ed News” recently) on teacher training programs around the country.  The Chief Commissar suggest you read his piece with a grain of salt:,0,1984429.story    3 letters to the Times were quick to comment on Broad’s piece:,0,5455383.story
   California comes in toward the bottom of another set of ratings among the states.  The Golden State only placed #41 on a measure of “children’s well-being” based on a survey from the Annie E Casey Foundation in partnership with Children Now.  You can read about what the rankings were based on and speculate on what the implications are for student learning in this story from  NEW AMERICA MEDIA:
   The last issue of the “Ed News” featured a letter written by Diane Ravitch and Randi Weingarten urging U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan to intervene in the crisis-gripped Philadelphia school system.  In response, Duncan issued this statement published in EDUCATION WEEK:   The crisis in the Philadelphia public schools is analyzed in this story from TakePart.  It looks at why the district is in such dire straits and suggests that other school systems could face similar predicaments:
   Speaking of Arne Duncan, Valerie Strauss reprints (with minimal comment from her–she’s on vacation) the speech delivered by the Secretary to the annual convention of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools meeting in Washington, D.C., last week in which he voices both praise and criticism for the members:
   Last week the LAUSD board voted to make Richard Vladovic its president for a 1-year term.  You can read about some of the intrigue behind the decision in Howard Blume’s story from Wednesday’s L.A. Times:,0,5333788.story   Barbara Jones, from the L.A. Daily News reported on the same topic with some slightly different details:   When the LAUSD board selected Richard Vladovic as its next president it spelled possible trouble for Supt. John Deasy.  He even threatened certain civic leaders with resignation if Vladovic was chosen according to this story in Sunday’s Times that goes into detail about the sometime contentious relationship between a board president and the district superintendent:,0,5447454.story
   Michelle Rhee’s group StudentsFirst tripled its budget in its second year of existence and spent heavily on political activities according to this piece from POLITICO:
   With school district budgets extremely tight over the last several years one of the victims of the funding shortage has been summer school/enrichment programs.  The Friday UCLA IDEA “Themes in the News” looks at how these programs supplement regular learning, especially for low-income students who can’t afford to attend expensive summer “camps.”  It also looks at different organizations and projects that are trying to fill-in the void:   With the dearth of summer programs many low-income students miss out on free federal lunch programs.  Friday’s L.A. Times describes how many districts come up with creative ideas to provide nutritious meals to pupils:,0,4703583.story     The L.A. Daily News looks at the very limited LAUSD summer school offerings this year and the difficulty many students are having getting the classes they need:
   Online classes at the college and university level have been a hot issue lately.  This item from Saturday’s Times takes a close look at the pluses and minuses of these offerings using courses at Pierce Community College as as example:,0,397995,full.story   Valerie Strauss reprints this piece on her blog in which Stanford University professor emeritus of education Larry Cuban opines about why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may not be the panacea that some are predicting for post secondary education:
      For a second year-in-a-row the California legislature is grappling with the issue of streamlining the process for getting rid of teachers.  Last year it was union groups that raised objections.  This year it’s district and administrator organizations that are not on board.  EdSource brings you up-to-date on the latest developments:
   Every school in Bell Gardens in southeast L.A. county has a community garden that grows fruits and vegetables for the mostly Latino city.  Students who belong to the Environmental Garden Club tend the plants at their individual campuses and gain an education in urban agriculture in the process reads this article in Sunday’s L.A. Times,0,597895.story
   The cost of implementing the Common Core State Standards could be quite steep.  This article from the SI&A CABINET REPORT describes a possible $67 million price tag JUST for the assessments that are designed to accompany the standards according to a report before the
state board of education this week:
   Yesterday’s L.A. Times has an extended profile of the new state-appointed superintendent of the financially troubled Inglewood Unified School District.  It looks at his background of running previous districts and outlines some of the challenges he will face in his new position:,0,4363386.story?track=rss
   Some education “reformers” have pointed the finger at teachers’ unions as the boogieperson causing all the problems in education today.  Efforts have been made to weaken the influence of unions in the past.  Now, a lawsuit filed in California threatens to take away much of the power of these teacher organizations.  The implications of the case are nationwide.  “The Hechinger Ed” blog from The HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at this very significant development:
     And finally, after years of budget cuts the LAUSD finally has funds to restore arts education to school curricula.   NPR station KPCC reports the news.  You can read the story and or listen to the segment (4:48 minutes) here.  At the end of this article is a copy of the 44-page report the district is introducing for the integration of arts into the curriculum:
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

July 2

Thursday is the July 4th holiday.  Happy Independence Day! 
“Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid,
the vast limits of their knowledge.” ― Mark Twain
   The Inglewood Unified School District, possibly facing dissolution over severe financial difficulties, has a new superintendent selected by the state Dept. of Education after it took over the district 10 months ago.  Don Brann is the third leader since the state took over and is facing a daunting task according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times:,0,3629763.story
   Randy Traweek send along this article from the L.A. Daily News about the LAUSD purchasing new insurance policies after previous ones had limited coverage.  The 5 new ones do not cover molestation of students and will cost the district $2.2 million.  Be sure to read Randy’s comment at the end of the piece:
   Crenshaw High School (LAUSD) was recently reconstituted because of low-performance.  All faculty and staff were forced to re-apply for their positions and less than 50% were invited back.  This item from yesterday’s L.A. Times suggests that boat-rockers and dissenters were targeted for removal.   Read it and see if you agree.  [Ed. note:  The Chief Commissar retired from Huntington Park High School (LAUSD) 2 years before it was reconstituted and 70% of the teachers and staff were not rehired.  He heard the same charges from his former colleagues about who was removed and why]:,0,677234.story
   A bill making its way through the California legislature (AB 420) would revise school discipline codes to prevent students from being suspended or expelled for “willful defiance.”  Districts will need new strategies to deal with this change.  LAUSD, by the way, voted to do this in May.  EdSource revisits the issue in light of the Assembly bill:
   California enacted the first “parent trigger” law in the country in 2010.  Since then 7 other states have added them and others are contemplating it.  This story from STATELINE (the Daily news service of the Pew Charitable trusts) looks at the controversial issue, what’s been happening in other states and where it’s headed:
   Diane Ravitch published a letter that she wrote with Randi Weingarten that was made public yesterday in which they implored Secretary Arne Duncan to intervene to save the public school system in Philadelphia which is in crisis due to savage budget cuts.  You can read her comments and a copy of the letter on her blog here:
   Anthony Cody, in his blog at EDUCATION WEEK, rails against everyone who demands that teachers be held accountable while politicians, banks, oil companies, credit rating agencies, etc. seem to get away with all kinds of malfeasance:
   The 100% satirical newspaper the ONION has a short but very funny story about a charter school in Atlanta that discovered how to find ultimate success in education–eliminate all the students.  [Ed. note: Please remember that this is SATIRE and enjoy it.],33009/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=LinkPreview%3A1%3ADefault
   Last year the “Ed News” brought you a story about a couple in San Diego who sued the Encinitas Union School District because they were teaching yoga to their elementary school students.  Yesterday a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled that this did not constitute the promotion of religion in a public school.  Today’s L.A. Times brings you the latest development in this story:,0,807099.story    The judge in the case explained how he reached his position in this item posted on the Times website this morning:,0,819739.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lanowblog+%28L.A.+Now%29    Robin Abcarian of the Times offered her perspective on the decision.  She agrees that the yoga, as it was taught at the schools, was a form of exercise and did not include even one iota of religious advocacy:,0,3519128,full.story
   Gov. Brown signed into law on Monday several education related bills including his massive overhaul of how schools are funded in California known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).  The L.A. Daily News has the details:
   When newest member Monica Ratliff takes her seat on the LAUSD board today the balance of power could be shifting.  Members allied with outgoing L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current superintendent John Deasy will have fewer supporters while those backed by the teachers’ union and other groups would seem to have increased their power.  An editorial in today’s L.A. Times urges all sides to remember who they really work for–the students:,0,2877765.story
   For the LAUSD the money comes in and the money goes out.  This time it’s the former as an appeals court ruled that the county of L.A. must return redevelopment property tax money that it has withheld from the district over a number of years.  Sound complicated?  The L.A. Daily News attempts to sort it all out:
   And finally, Valerie Strauss writes about WHY a judge ordered the removal of the superintendent of a school district in Connecticut.  It all seems pretty straight forward–he didn’t follow the law:
[Ed. note:  Due to the July 4th holiday, stories in the Friday edition of the “Ed News” may be held over to Tuesday.]
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar