Friday, May 30

“Teachers are the one and only people who save nations.”
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
On Tuesday, the League of Women Voters of Florida released a report that Diane Ravitch describes as “a bombshell study of charters across the state.”  It revealed that they do NOT perform better than public schools, they are more segregated, many of them channel taxpayer money to religious programs and many charters operate for profit.  You can find the full report (20 pages) titled “Statewide Study on School Choice and Consensus Report on Charter Schools” here.  It includes a list of recommendations that the state should follow regarding charter schools.            Last week the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners selected a for-profit company to open possibly the largest charter school in the State of Florida.  It could ultimately hold up to 3,000 “student stations” according to a brief piece from the Miami Herald.
 
Every teacher enjoys working with those highly motivated, bright students.  A class full of them can be both a pleasure and a challenge.  But how do educators deal with those designated as “reluctant learners?”  A National Board Certified Teacher at Revere High School in Massachusetts, who has taught for 19 years, offers “10 tips for motivating reluctant learners” that were recently provided to her by a former “reluctant learner” who was a member of her class 6 years ago.  The insights appear in a story for EDUCATION WEEK.  It has a surprising and very gratifying ending!
The Jersey Jazzman wonders why the financial elite in this country are so enamored of charter schools.  Besides making gobs of money for investors he believes they like the idea of destroying teachers’ unions.  If nothing else, check out the cartoon he includes in his post titled “Top 10 Ways Teacher’s Unions Caused the Economic Crisis.”
 
“Accountability” has been a key watchword in education reform for many years.  However, not all systems are the same.  That’s the emphasis of this commentary from Jeff Bryant on the Education Opportunity NETWORK who looks back at the evolution of accountability and offers some suggestions for a program that might even work.  “For years, education policy at nearly every level,” he points out, “has been obsessed with an outcomes-only focus – namely, scores on standardized tests – with less and less emphasis placed on the inputs into our children’s schooling.”
 
Can increased school funding by as much as 20% help reduce the achievement and graduation gaps between wealthy and low-income students?  That’s the intriguing premise of a new paper highlighted on the Vox website.  It was produced by researchers at Northwestern University and UC Berkeley.  “Additional money spent educating a child from a poor family,” the piece begins, “made that child more likely to graduate high school, less likely to fall into poverty as an adult and more likely to complete an additional year of education.” 

 

A new, short documentary film (26:22 minutes) on YouTube called “Jesse’s Journey–Boycott in Seattle” describes the protest at Garfield High School against Washington State standardized tests that was led by teacher Jesse Hagopian.   If you might be thinking of joining the movement this provides a step-by-step guide of how to proceed.
 
Creating an effective teacher evaluation that really does what it is supposed to do is a very hot topic in education circles these days.  A number of states and districts have come up with examples and many of them have been highlighted in the “Ed News.”  The current superintendent of the New London Schools in Connecticut takes a general look at what characteristics need to be included and explains the system used in his district in this item from EDUCATION WEEK.  It’s titled “How to Build a Better Teacher Evaluation.”              Teachers in New Mexico were quite upset when the state’s new evaluation results were released last week.  Over 50 of them took their complaints directly to the Albuquerque Board of Education (highlighted in a previous edition of the “Ed News).  In a throwback to the 60s, station KRQE reports on its website that a number of educators in Taos and Albuquerque burned their evaluations.  The piece includes a short news segment video (2:09 minutes) about the protests.
 
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on her VAMboozled website, reviews a TED Talk delivered by the Tennessee Education Commissioner, Kevin Huffman, who touts the state’s advances on test scores since it implemented valued-added models and other so-called education “reforms.”  Amrein-Beardsley, however, points out that Huffman and others have seriously misused the data that they so proudly utilize to make their case.  Her blog includes the original talk (21:13 minutes) so you can see for yourself what he Huffman is claiming.
 
The Obama administration laid out a goal of providing all students in the country with high-speed wireless internet connections for their schools and libraries by 2018.  The program was designated “E-Rate.”  A recent study revealed that as much as $3.2 billion will be required to reach that ambitious objective according to an article in EDUCATION WEEK.
 
Just about every issue becomes politicized these days in the hyper-partisan climate of Washington, D.C.  Whether it be healthcare, gun rights, immigration reform, Benghazi, etc., etc., the finger pointing and blame games are rampant.  Given that context, what about education?  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog answers the question “Did President Obama Ruin CCSS?”  
 
A judge in New Mexico Tuesday ordered a temporary halt, until an appeal could be heard, to a very lucrative contract recently awarded to Pearson by the PARCC testing consortium (a story highlighted in a previous edition of the “Ed News”) for the development of Common Core assessment materials.  A competing bidder, the American Institutes for Research,  claimed the process was “unfair and biased” as reported in EDUCATION WEEK. 
 
An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times profiled the seven candidates vying to fill a vacant seat on the LAUSD board of education in a special election on Tuesday.  The piece points out that the race is wide open and predicting a winner is difficult.  Both the union and the Coalition for School Reform are pretty much sitting this one out and waiting to see if a run-off is needed (most likely) and what two candidates emerge.
 
To retain a student who is not up to grade level is always a very difficult decision.  Is it an effective technique?  Not according to two California experts who title their piece “Holding Kids Back Doesn’t Help Them.”  A majority of peer-reviewed studies over the past 30 years,” they discovered, “have demonstrated that holding students back yields little or no long-term academic benefits and can actually be harmful to students.”    Their commentary appeared in EDUCATION WEEK.
California’s public schools have a high percentage of minority students.  What is is like to be a member of a “model minority” (Asian-American)?  The HECHINGER REPORT has been running a series of essays called “Student Voices” in which pupils address issues of major concern to schools in the Golden State.  This one is titled “Being a Model Minority Comes With a Price.”  It  provides a first person view of what the Asian-American experience is like at Alhambra High where almost 45% of the student body is Asian-American or Pacific Islander.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other areas along the Gulf coast in 2005, the schools in that city were also ravaged.  So-called education “reformers” saw a golden opportunity to re-do the district from the ground up.  Their work has apparently reached fruition as the Recovery School District that was created in the wake of the storm is now an all-charter system.  A short story in EDUCATION WEEK describes the make-over.
Diane Ravitch is featuring on her blog a new study that describes how the New Schools Venture Fund, among other groups, is making a major push to privatize the nations’ teacher education programs.  Spoiler alert: Ted Mitchell, former president of Occidental College was the groups most recent CEO before he was recently confirmed as an Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education.  Ravitch’s piece includes a summary of the report.  The full study costs $12 and to access the executive summary requires a membership.
If one can’t change education through legislation, protests or boycotts, etc., you can always file a lawsuit.  Earlier this year there was the Vergara case (decision still pending) heard in a L.A. Superior Court that had to do with teacher tenure, due process and seniority rights.  Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a suit yesterday in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of students from  seven districts around the state claiming California was not providing an adequate education due to chaotic conditions on their campuses, high teacher turnover and a lack of proper resources.  Two of the districts are in L.A. County (LAUSD and Compton).  The case, Cruz vs. California is detailed in an article in today’s L.A. Times.
And finally, the New York State United Teachers issued a statement today calling for the end of student participation in field tests and in support of those districts that have chosen to opt-out of state standardized testing this year that is scheduled to run from June 2-11.  The full declaration is on the group’s website nysut.

 

Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar 
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