August 6

“Education…has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.”  ―    George Macaulay Trevelyan
   Anthony Cody, on his blog “Living in Dialogue” for EDUCATION WEEK, revisits the scandal (covered extensively by the “Ed News”) that caused Florida schools chief Tony Bennett to resign last week over his role in raising the A-F grade of a charter in Indiana when he was superintendent of schools in the Hoosier State.  Cody mulls whether events like this could possibly be the death knell of the entire corporate reform movement as well.  He has some interesting information about Michelle Rhee (see John Merrow and Learning Matters below for more details) and a teaser about a new book by Diane Ravitch coming out next month:  http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/08/tony_bennetts_day_of_reckoning.html     This piece from the Education Opportunity NETWORK explores the issue of grading schools and the politics behind it as it relates to the resignation of Tony Bennett:  http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/bennett-gate-and-the-politics-of-grading-schools/
   Teach for America (TFA) is becoming more and more ubiquitous in the nation’s urban school districts.  However, critics of the organization are gaining numbers, too.   An event called   “Organizing Resistance to Teach for America and its Role in Privatization” was part of a conference held in Chicago the second week of July.  It brought together a number of alumni of TFA, formed by Wendy Kopp in 1989, who shared stories about what was wrong with the group.  You can read their impressions and experiences here:  http://www.truth-out.org/articles/item/17750-teach-for-america-apostates-a-primer-of-alumni-resistance       Howard Blume, in yesterday’s L.A. Times, wrote a similar story that appeared on the paper’s front-page.  TFA gets a lot of praise from certain “reformers” for what it does but he believes they may have an agenda regarding education policy: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-adv-teach-for-america-20130804,0,7522948,full.story
       Remember “sequestration?”  Those budget cuts that reduced federal outlays to schools and most other programs/  It began in March when Congress could not agree on a compromise plan.  Well, districts are getting ready to begin a new school year with them still in effect.  EDUCATION WEEK says their impact is hard to gauge as the economy improves and state funding increases:  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/08/02/37sequester.h32.html?tkn=ZMWFOLq9tRvVlZfpx5x3sXuPoz2oaEeUHkTK&cmp=clp-edweek
   Newly elected LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff spoke to 400 activists at the UTLA Leadership Conference on Sunday.  Among other comments she urged the union to provide better training and not be perceived as protecting “poor” teachers.  The story, in yesterday’s L.A. Times, mentions some of the problems facing L.A. teachers and features some of the comments from union president Warren Fletcher who will be facing opposition when elections roll around early next year:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-utla-teacher-20130805,0,7636625.story
   They’re back!  ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing group formed in 1973 that combines large corporations with conservative state legislators to write model legislation on topics like voter ID, stand your ground and anti-union laws has turned its sights on public education.  They produced a “report card” on nine states that does not paint a very pretty picture.  Care2 highlights a critique of the study that debunks most of the points stressed by the ALEC survey:  http://www.care2.com/causes/why-alec-fabricated-public-school-failures-and-why-were-not-surprised.html
   The assessments being developed to go along with the Common Core State Standards are coming in for criticism based on their costs and the technology needed to administer them.  A number of states are concerned and the article refers, several times, to the impact on California.  EDUCATION WEEK has the details:  http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/08/02/37testside.h32.html?tkn=TXPFO1SjA9CUsyOQ1etOwkmg6eFnJhW41URa&cmp=clp-edweek
   Yesterday’s L.A. Times described a summer program to train students from Cal State Dominguez Hills to be math and science teachers in urban, low-performing LAUSD schools.  It’s supported by $13.5 million in grants from the U.S. Dept. of Education:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-teacher-training-20130805,0,5945453.story
   Could a machine ever replace a teacher in the classroom?  No, you answer?  That’s impossible, right?  Well check out this short story which introduces an extended comic strip (episode 1 of 3) on just that topic–the history and future of teaching machines.  This article includes links to the two other illustrated stories in the series that deal with contemporary issues in the field of education (episodes II and III).  Check it out just to see the comic strip format–it’s DIFFERENT and to the point:  http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/17980-automated-teaching-machine-a-graphic-introduction-to-the-end-of-human-teachers
   Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending along this Valerie Strauss blog in which she excerpts an essay from a brand new book titled Public Education Under Siege.   It’s edited by a University of Pennsylvania historian and UCLA education scholar.  This essay looks at how some “education reformers” have misinterpreted vouchers and school choice as a “civil right” and part of a market-based solution to what ails education today.  It was written by an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education and African American Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley.  Ms. Strauss says the book is well “worth your time.”  Maybe we should add it to our ALOED book club list.  Check out this selection and see what you think:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/05/key-flaw-in-market-based-school-reform-a-misunderstanding-of-the-civil-rights-struggle/
   Diane Ravitch raised a VERY interesting question on her blog yesterday–“What is the Goal of Common Core Testing?”  She has reported that some of the early administrations of the assessments yielded results in which large numbers of students were unable to pass.  Might that be the point, she asks in a conspiratorial tone?  Do some “reformers” want public schools to fail thus making the argument for charters, vouchers and privatization?  Read her short post and see what you think:  http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/05/what-is-the-goal-of-common-core-testing/
   Valerie Strauss reprints a blog from Larry Cuban, former Social Studies teacher, superintendent and education professor at Stanford, who suggests that turning around a school system requires leaders who are like marathon runners not sprinters.  He uses the example of Paul Vallas who was considered an “expert” at reforming low-performing districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans but who, on closer inspection, may not have been as successful as he was touted to be:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/04/the-problem-with-the-paul-vallas-brand-of-school-reform/
   The LAUSD is set to roll-out a first year $30 million pilot program at 47 schools providing iPads to students when the new school year begins.  The plan kicked off with a multi-day training session for teachers on 6 campuses around the district yesterday.  This L.A. Times story in today’s paper focused on the in-service at Roosevelt High and described what instructors were taught and how the tablets will be used:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-ipads-20130806,0,4590894.story
   John Merrow, on his blog “Taking Note” at Learning Matters, tried to get his latest expose about Michelle Rhee published and four papers turned him down.  Three of them were national publications.  One editor told him she’s “not a national story.”  So he went ahead and printed it for you along with some analysis about why people seem so hesitant to publish critical articles about her.  You can read all of it right here:  http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=6490
   TEACHING TOLERANCE revisits the issue of how suspensions affect student achievement and describes how the Southern Poverty Law Center (publishers of TEACHING TOLERANCE) sued the Mobile, Alabama, County Public Schools and what emerged from a recent legal settlement aimed at reforming the problem of student suspensions:  http://www.tolerance.org/blog/suspension-reform-keeps-students-school
   And finally, for your enjoyment and entertainment Valerie Strauss’ blog today is titled “Five Absurdities about High-Stakes Standardized Tests.”  You have to read this one sitting down and remember all of them are TRUE–they really happened.  Try not to laugh, cry, sigh or cringe too loudly:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/06/five-absurdities-about-high-stakes-standardized-tests/
Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar
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