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]:  http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/a-no-excuse-approach-to-education-everyone-can-support/
   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!”:  http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2013/07/bad-teachers-eek.html
   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:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15245/taking_the_caring_out_of_teaching_new_yorks_new_teacher_evaluation_system_i/
   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:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/07/13/those-who-can/
   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:  http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-education-clash-20130715,0,2274338.story   Diane Ravitch was quick to respond to this article.  You can probably guess what her opinion is:  http://dianeravitch.net/2013/07/15/bravo-california/
   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:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/07/15/the-educational-value-of-being-born-rich/
   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:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-arts-high-20130715,0,523174,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:”  http://dianeravitch.net/2013/07/15/the-failure-of-market-based-reform/  You can read the full report (95 pages) here:  http://www.epi.org/files/2013/bba-rhetoric-trumps-reality.pdf
   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:”  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-charter-schools-stanford-study-20130713,0,1522096.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:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-writing-study-20130716,0,1391238.story    You can read a summary of the results here:  http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teachers-and-technology/Summary-of-Findings.aspx    The entire report (108 pages) titled “How Teachers are Using Technology at Home and In Their Classrooms”  can be viewed here:  http://pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2013/PIP_TeachersandTechnologywithmethodology_PDF.pdf
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar

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