August 9

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.”  ―    Walter Scott
   Several letters in Tuesday’s L.A. Times had varying opinions about the Catholic school in Glendora that fired a gay teacher when photos of his marriage to his partner were published in a local paper:  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-le-0806-tuesday-catholic-school-teacher-fired-20130806,0,6091897.story
   The new Common Core State Standards standardized test results are out in New York and the results are not pretty reports this story in Wednesday’s New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/nyregion/under-new-standards-students-see-sharp-decline-in-test-scores.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&        The reaction to this news has been swift.   Valerie Strauss reprints a piece from Carol Burris of South Side High in New York who she’s featured a number of times in her blog for The Washington Post.  It tries to make sense of and tries to put into context the precipitous drop in scores using Charles Dickens’ Hard Times as a backdrop:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/07/what-big-drop-in-new-standardized-test-scores-really-means/     Gary Rubinstein on his blog at TEACH FOR US found that charter schools in New York did poorly on the tests compared to their public school counterparts:  http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/08/09/driven-by-data/     Diane Ravitch believes she’s found “The Error that Caused the New York Test Scores to Collapse” and how these results are being improperly interpreted by certain education “reformers” who want to see public schools fail.  Her conclusions are quite provocative:  http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/09/will-the-new-york-testing-fiasco-fuel-the-anti-testing-movement/
   Simple question:  Why are the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) laying off thousands of veteran, credentialed teachers while increasing the budget for hiring Teach for America candidates?  Complicated answer provided by this piece from JACOBIN:  http://jacobinmag.com/2013/07/teach-for-america-mission/
   In what Wednesday’s L.A. Times described as a “groundbreaking agreement,” the LAUSD and seven other districts around the state were the first in the nation to be granted waivers on Tuesday by the U.S. Dept. of Education for some of the more onerous requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.  You can read about the other districts, what they’re now all exempt from, the ramifications of this decision and how others reacted to it here:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lausd-20130807,0,2735004.story     LAUSD Supt. John Deasy addressed this letter to the district’s “family” regarding the news:  http://home.lausd.net/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=319613&id=0     On Tuesday, the California Teachers Association (CTA) issued this statement with a much different view of the decision.  (UTLA reprinted it on their web site):  http://www.cta.org/en/About-CTA/News-Room/Press-Releases/2013/08/20130806_1.aspx
   The “Ed News” has several times referred to the highly secretive, right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.  They are holding their annual convention in Chicago this week.  If you’d like a primer on who they are, what they do and who is behind the organization then you should check out this video (11:58 minutes) from The Real News Network (TRNN):  http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10536      If you’d like to know how ALEC impacts education policy check out this op-ed that suggests they were behind the closing of 50 schools in Chicago:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/299-190/18785-carl-gibson-how-the-alec-agenda-forced-chicagos-school-closings     The Real News Network follows up on the above article with an interview with two experts who discuss ALEC’s role in the privatization of public schools and a report on protesters who were arrested on Monday outside the group’s conference.  You can view a video (16:28 minutes) and/or read a full transcript here:  http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10548
   The LAUSD is going to an early opening calendar this year.  Classes for schools on a traditional schedule will begin next week on Tuesday, Aug. 13th and end on Thursday, June 5, 2014.  It includes a 3-week winter break that divides the first and second semesters.  Here’s a look at this new calendar from the LAUSD web site:  http://home.lausd.net/ourpages/auto/2013/1/9/46336778/Single%20Track%202013-2014%20Bd%20Approved%20–%202-12-2013.pdf
   In a 3-0 decision the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that a lawsuit filed by two hearing-impaired students over transcription services provided by their respective districts in Tustin and Poway could continue.  Wednesday’s L.ATimes has the brief story:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-students-lawsuit-20130807,0,2416910.story
   The Gates Foundation continues to pour millions of dollars into grants to try to reinvent the teaching profession.  Valerie Strauss outlines where some of the most recent funds are earmarked:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/08/08/gates-pours-millions-in-new-grants-to-change-teaching-profession/
   Today’s L.A. Times has a front-page, above the fold, #1 story-of-the-day that deals with the release yesterday of 2012-13 standardized test scores.  The results were mixed.  For the first time in 10 years the overall scores slipped in both English and math.  The good news:  LAUSD continued to improve in math and its decline in English was smaller than the statewide decline.  Over all the district is still below state averages.  You can get all the particulars, including some expert analysis of what occurred, right here:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-test-scores-20130809,0,5883250.story     For more details go to the “News Release” from the California Department of Education web site:  http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr13/yr13rel73.asp     For specific county, district or school results check out: http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2013/index.aspx
   And finally, this Times story from today outlines the comments made by LAUSD Supt. John Deasy yesterday in his annual back-to-school speech to district administrators and board members meeting at Hollywood High School.  It includes a short video (2:01 minutes) from KCAL Channel 9 News about the speech and some surprise comments from a 6th grade student that you won’t want to miss:  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-deasy-speech-20130808,0,4615147.story     If you’d like to view all or part of the gathering, LAUSD station KLCS is streaming it (107:40 minutes) on the district web site:  http://vimeo.com/72024544

Dave Alpert (’71) Chief Commissar
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