Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ed News, Friday, June 27 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “Ignorance is ultimately the worst enemy of a people who want to be free.” 
― Jonathan HennesseyThe United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation 
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have prompted numerous articles and analyses from both proponents and opponents.  The “Ed News” has highlighted quite a few of them.  Randy Traweek has discovered one that may be a little more unique than the others.  A reporter for The New York Times viewed the standards and assessments through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy from Haiti who moved to America before he was even two-years-old.  The article about the young boy’s struggles will give you some new insights into the raging debate over the Common Core.  It’s a long piece but well worth your time.            The CCSS have engendered fierce debate within the education community but now the issue is spilling over into state politics according to The HECHINGER REPORT.  The author focuses on the decision by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to delay implementation over the objections of the state’s superintendent of education.  
The author of this piece from the Huffington Post is the head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan.  He has a very jaundiced view of some of the “reformy, changey” proposals that pass for improvement in education today.  He calls most of it “A National Delusion” and goes on to outline what bothers him most about it and, as you will see, he’s upset.  “Every bit of education reform,’ he charges, “– every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.” 
 
EDUCATION WEEK’S “Photo Blog” focuses on graduation season.  It collected a number of pictures from a variety of sources to illustrate what high school graduations look like around the country.  
 
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, thinks he may have discovered “Quite Possibly the Stupidest Thing To Come Out of the US DOE.”  Want to guess what that might be?  You can probably think of a long list.   Education Sec. Arne Duncan now believes the reason why students with disabilities do so poorly on standardized tests is . . . . (wait for it) LOW EXPECTATIONS!!!  In a “major shift” in federal special education policy, Duncan is now going to demand that states show educational progress for those students (read: improved test scores?).  Upon hearing that, Greene had a major case of apoplexy.  You have to read what he has to say in response to the latest news from the U.S. Department of Education.  You can listen to the NPR story (2:29 minutes) and/or read the partial transcript that Greene was so exercised about here.            Diane Ravitch also featured the NPR segment on her blog and includes an email reaction to the new policy from a national expert on special education who was also President of the Learning Disabilities Association and President of the Council for Exceptional Children.  She has some very specific bones to pick with Duncan’s directive.              Peter Greene may be feeling ever so slightly remorseful over how he originally portrayed Arne Duncan’s remarks about students with disabilities (see above).  So. to clear things up, Greene suggests that the issue that Duncan raised is a serious one.  He does believe, however, that the Secretary of Education might have addressed the topic in a different way.  Greene offers, in a follow-up column, an alternative way Duncan could have framed the issue.  He headlines this one “What Should Duncan Have Said.”
 
Why are so many billionaires and even (lowly) millionaires interested in the public schools?   The author of this piece, a labor journalist,  from the website Too Much looks at John Arnold, a former Enron (remember them?) trader and hedge fund manager, and his plans for the Dallas school system.   “Billionaire political might,” the author warns, “has come to constitute a clear and present danger to the single most bedrock institution of our democracy: public education.”
 
Here’s a revolutionary idea: what if we let TEACHERS design and run their own schools?  Pretty radical, huh?  Believe it or not, they actually exist in 15 states.  EDUCATION WEEK organized a roundtable on the topic “Should Teachers Run Schools?” and invited both teachers and administrators to contribute their thoughts which varied widely.  You have to click on each person’s entry in order to read the full submission.
The LAUSD board unanimously approved a $6.64 billion budget on Tuesday for the 2014-15 school year.  It included the biggest increase in funds since the Great Recession began in 2008 and is 7% higher than last year’s plan.  An improving economy and new revenues from Prop. 30 brought some favorable news for a change.  The new spending blueprint, described in Wednesday’s L.A. Times, rather disgracefully does NOT include a salary increase for district teachers who have not had a pay raise and, in fact, have taken cuts totaling  8% over the past  seven years.               As the education budget situation brightens in California and Los Angeles, things continue to look bleak in Chicago.  The public school system in the nation’s third largest city just announced lay-offs of 1,150 more teachers and staff.  That news prompted a bitter response from Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.  Diane Ravitch prints the CTU “News Release” about the cuts on her blog.
 
The author of this item from EDUCATION WEEK and seven other educators traveled to Finland to learn more about the Finnish school system.  They came away with a number of quite specific observations which she titles “Happy Teaching, Happy Learning: 13 Secrets to Finland’s Success.”  
 
EduShyster has an interesting interview with the newly elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association who says it time to get serious and fight for public education.  “I think,” she asserts, “we are at a critical moment in history for public education in this country. If we don’t fight, we’re going to lose everything. We’re done.”  She discusses a number of strategies to get the battle started.
Part 3 of the Detroit Free Press expose on charter schools in Michigan focuses on two Summit Academy campuses founded by a husband and wife team who managed to enrich themselves in the course of plundering millions of taxpayer dollars.  The paper again outlines the poor oversight by the state of charter management companies that allows all sorts of examples of nepotism, conflicts-of-interest, insider deals, self-aggrandizement and other scams.   Part 4 looks at how charter school boards are often just rubber stamps for the management companies that run the schools.  They often have little power and exist mostly due to state law.  Members who ask too many questions are often forced out or intimidated into silence.   You can get the rest of the highly detailed and exhaustive week-long investigation into charter schools in Michigan from the Free Press here.            The Florida Sun-Sentinel had a similar two-part expose on charter schools in the Sunshine State.  It’s titled “Florida Charter Schools–Unsupervised” and found a number of the same problems as those unearthed in Michigan.  
You are probably aware in great detail how your colleagues feel about their job and the school where you work.  How do those attitudes compare to secondary educators around the world?  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has just released its 2014 “Teaching and Learning International Survey” and some of the findings are highlighted in a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  The poll questioned 100,000 teachers in 34 countries about their working conditions.  If you would like a LOT more detail, you can find the full report (at a hefty 442 pages) here.  If you start wading through it now you might finish it by the time school starts up again.
 
“Our schools are under attack from the mega rich who seek to reduce education to standardized test scores while busting unions & denying at-risk youth a rich and holistic school experiences.”  That’s how a press release from the BadAss Teachers of Washington began as they announced a protest rally in front of the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle that took place yesterday.  It went on to list the group’s demands, the program and speakers (including Anthony Cody) for the day.  Diane Ravitch featured the gathering on her blog on Wednesday.
California teacher retirees may be able to breath a sign of relief.  Gov. Brown signed into law on Tuesday AB1469 that will fully fund the state teacher pension plan by 2046.  This was a major component of the 2015 fiscal year budget he approved last week and will direct increased payments by the state, districts and individual teachers into the retirement system.  A brief article in EDUCATION WEEK describes what the governor did.
Many school districts, i.e., LAUSD and others, believe the introduction of technology, i.e., iPads-for-all and other gadgets and software, will level the field between students from wealthy families and those from low-income ones.  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT titled “Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field” written by an author, journalist, consultant and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better, features some of the latest research on that issue including a book based on a study in Philadelphia.  The two authors of that book, professors at NYU and La Salle University came to some surprising conclusions.   “The very tool designed to level the playing field,” they discovered, “is, in fact, un-leveling it.”  “While technology has often been hailed as the great equalizer of educational opportunity,” the writer of the article found, “a growing body of evidence indicates that in many cases, tech is actually having the opposite effect: it is increasing the gap between rich and poor, between whites and minorities, and between the school-ready and the less-prepared.”  The most recent research seems to indicate it is not the technology itself that will reduce the achievement gap but HOW that technology is used.  The piece outlines some of those particular practices and includes some concrete suggestions on how districts should proceed.  “It would take all this,” the article warns, “to begin to ‘level the playing field’ for America’s students—far more than a bank of computers in a library, or even one laptop per child.”  [Ed. note: I wonder if the LAUSD and other districts are following this information as they spend billions of dollars providing tablets and other devices to each student.]
 
On Wednesday, Gov. Brown signed into law a bill the would streamline the process for removing teachers for gross misconduct.  The legislation, AB 215 had the support of the California Teachers Association but was opposed by the Association of California School Administrators and LAUSD Supt. John Deasy.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes how the new procedures would work and outlines several other measures signed by the governor.
 
U.S. students are constantly criticized for not being the best on international test scores.  Guess what?  Finally there is something they score tops in–sleepiness.  Yes, you read that right!   EDUCATION WEEK reports on several studies that would seem to prove this point although rating the U.S. first is open to some interpretation.
 
How financially lucrative are investments in charter school management companies?  A number of reports highlighted in the “Ed News” have indicated they are practically cash cows.  Not so fast says the investment rating service Standard & Poor’s.  Valerie Strauss includes their latest report (15 pages) issued Wednesday that extends their “negative” outlook for charter companies.  19% of 214 public charters they looked at were rated “negative” while only 2% garnered a “positive.”
 
In light of a number of high profile school shootings in recent years, several states passed legislation that would authorize teachers and other campus personnel to carry arms.   Georgia was one of those states.  However, many district administrators are turning thumbs down to the new regulations believing that arming school staff will not make their campuses any safer and could, in fact, increase the changes of a shooting on their grounds.   EDUCATION WEEK explains what’s going on in the Peach State.
 
And finally, the U.S. is experiencing a surge of young, school-age immigrants from Central America.  Many of them are arriving unaccompanied.  The impact of this on the nation’s school is already beginning to be felt according to this article in EDUCATION WEEK.  The future effects of this influx on federal and state governments and local school districts is also discussed.
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)

Ed News, Tuesday, June 24, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” 
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, points out that the “reformers” love all kinds of competition (charters, vouchers, market-based systems, etc., etc.) EXCEPT when it comes to the Common Core when they want all the states and school districts to have the same standards.  Does he think there might be a bit of hypocrisy in that position?  You can probably guess, but still read his brief commentary anyway.
 
The satirical newspaper the ONION has devised a new way for charters to conduct lotteries to select students for their campuses.  I’d try to describe it but it defies explanation.  If you’re in the mood for a mid-week chuckle, give this a try.
 
One of the members of the team that helped draft the Foundational Reading Skills section of the Common Core State Standards was interviewed about her role in their development in Psychology Today.  Guess what?  She has some second thoughts about them and offers some specific criticisms about their appropriateness and implementation .
 
A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new book by Jose Vilson titled “This is Not A Test:  A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education” and suggested it as a possible topic for an ALOED book discussion.  If you’d like more information about the book and its author, EduShyster has an interview with Vilson.  
 
On Friday, the governor of Florida signed into law a bill that expands vouchers in his state to include middle-income families and would make it easier for low-income families to apply for the program.  The details on in a brief story from EDUCATION WEEK (via the Associated Press.)  
 
Many people have pointed to the education “miracle” in New Orleans where the city school district will be all-charter this September as a result of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.  How well have the schools really done in the newly created Recovery School District?  An associate professor of political science at Tulane University has a commentary on the subject.  She didn’t find much to crow about in her piece for THE NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE titled “Charter Experiment in New Orleans A Failure.”
 
Anthony Cody, on his “Living in Dialogue” blog for EDUCATION WEEK, is highly suspicious of the recent announcement by the Gates Foundation requesting a two-year moratorium on the use of student test scores for teacher evaluations and other high-stakes decisions.  “Is this merely a tactic,” he asks, “to diffuse opposition at a time when it is growing?”  Cody offers some concrete suggestions about how to proceed with opposition to the Common Core.
 
Vergara continued:  A UCLA law professor, in an interview for SALON, describes the judge’s ruling as typical of the work of a “B- “student in his class.  He goes on to claim the legal reasoning to be “seriously weak.”  Lots of people have weighted in on the case but if you’d like a legal expert’s view, check this out.              Saturday’s L.A. Times published 3 letters in response to Michael Hiltzik’s column commenting on the opinion.            How did some of the so-called education “reformers” react to the case and the Gates Foundation’s decision to call for a 2-year moratorium on the use of student test scores on teacher evaluations–two key pieces of those “reformers'” agenda?  Gary Rubenstein, on his eponymous blog, decided to take a look.                Need a good solid reason why tenure is important to teachers?  Read what one cash-strapped district in New Jersey spent$2 million on.  Jersey Jazzman uncovered the shenanigans.  He calls it “the most egregious example of why teachers need tenure I’ve every witnessed.”
 
In a follow-up piece to a “Charter School Scandal-of-the-Day” story from the Friday edition of “Ed News,” the CEO of a charter management company in Hartford, Connecticut has resigned amid disclosures that he had two previous criminal convictions, had served time in prison and had falsely claimed he’d earned a doctorate from NYU.  The website of The Hartfort Courant reports on the latest developments in the case.             After a yearlong investigation, the Detroit Free Press published Sunday part 1 of a scathing weeklong series on the failure of charter schools in Michigan.    The state spends over $1 billion in support of the alternatives to the public school system that now serve over 140,000 pupils.  The paper uncovered a “range of abuses” that it details in the story.  It includes a video (3:10 minutes) interview with the president of the Michigan State Board of Education and a former schools superintendent.  Interestingly, one of the largest charter companies in the state purchased most of the ad space on the front pages of the Free Press  and Detroit News to tout their self-proclaimed successes.  An item on the eclecta blog has screen shots of the two front pages and a summary of the first article in the series.  [Ed. note: For the panicked reaction from the charters to this series be sure to click on the “This post has been updated HERE” at the top of the story or here.]  Part 2 of the Detroit Free Press series on charter schools looked at how a number of characters have been able to scam the system and make lots of money due to weak state laws and the lack of  oversight. 
 
A teacher of English and digital media at a high school in Louisville, KY, writes an open letter to superintendents and administrators everywhere bemoaning the fact that teachers are seldom given enough time to plan, work together with and learn valuable lessons from their colleagues.  This is an age-old complaint but one that rarely gets addressed in the constant push to improve test scores and other more “pressing issues.”  Maybe this note, which appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, will get the attention it deserves.
 
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) issued a statement on their website Sunday announcing a vote of “no confidence” in U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan and called for his replacement.  They also appear to have a new logo.
 
A highly regarded and quite successful initiative run by L.A. County helps foster teens to become high school graduates.  It started as a pilot program in one east side supervisorial district in 2008 and expanded countywide in 2012.   It works by having social workers closely follow the academic progress of kids in foster care  to make sure they are on track to graduate from high school.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times chronicles the case of one young woman who donned cap and gown at Bell Gardens High Thursday evening.
 
A state legislative committee on Thursday voted unanimously to delay for one year the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system in Nevada.  EDUCATION WEEK (via the Associated Press) has the details and some reasons for the postponement.
 
2014 is not even half over and Larry Ferlazzo already has a list of the some of the best, worst and in-between education stories for an already very busy and significant year.  He teaches English and Social Studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento and writes a teacher advice blog for EDUCATION WEEK.  He includes links to each of the stories he lists.  His comments appear compliments of Valerie Strauss and her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post.
 
Several former members of the Obama administration have (surprisingly?) taken up the cause of bashing education and teachers unions.  The story, in POLITICO, names names and outlines what their campaigns are aimed at.  “Teachers unions are girding for a tough fight,” it begins, “to defend tenure laws against a coming blitz of lawsuits — and an all-out public relations campaign led by former aides to President Barack Obama.”
 
The National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will be holding their national conventions this summer.  [Ed. note:  AFT, in fact, is gathering in Los Angeles, July 11-14.  NEA, July 1-6 in Denver]  Michelle Gunderson, a veteran Chicago Public Schools elementary teacher, guest hosts Anthony Cody’s column on EDUCATION WEEK.  She discusses the importance of political engagement for teachers, particularly in this day and age, with all the assaults on teachers’ rights, unions and other issues.  Her simple message:  It’s critical to GET INVOLVED!
 
And finally, the school year is over for just about everybody.  EDUCATION WEEK solicited photos from teachers and other educators that best represent what their “last-day-of-school” was like.  See what your colleagues submitted.
 Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)

 

Ed News, June 20, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

 
Summer officially arrives at 3:51 a.m. tomorrow.
“Ignorance is ultimately the worst enemy of a people who want to be free.” 
Most veteran educators and experts know that a child’s academic success and career earnings are very closely linked to the family background of the student.  A new study from a trio of researchers at Johns Hopkins University followed  almost 800 pupils from elementary school in 1982 until they were nearly 30-years old.  That correlation was supported again by the report’s findings.  A short article in EDUCATION WEEK highlights the study, describes the authors’ major conclusions and includes a link to the press release about their conclusions which they have turned into a book.
In a follow-up to his column in Sunday’s L.A. Times (highlighted in the Tuesday edition of the “Ed News”), Steve Lopez writes in Wednesday’s paper about the LAUSD board’s decision to return Stuart Magruder, a frequent critic of the district’s iPad-for-all program, to the Bond Oversight Committee that he was unceremoniously refused reappointment to last month. Diane Ravitch printed a comment on her blog from Karin Klein, a member of the Times  editorial board, who wished to clarify some of the paper’s positions on educational policy including the controversy over the reappointment of Mr. Magruder. 
Many business leaders (i.e., Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.) like to stick their noses into education .  They are quick to suggest that schools be run more like businesses.  How informed are those leaders on educational issues?  According to a survey of superintendents from the largest school districts in the U.S. the answer is “not very!”  The Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group conducted a poll last fall and the results were published in a story in EDUCATION WEEK from earlier in the year.  “The researchers found that just 3 percent of school superintendents rate business leaders as ‘well-informed’ about public education,” the article points out, “and 14 percent of the survey respondents say corporate leaders are actually misinformed.”  The story includes a link to the full report (24 pages) titled “Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner.”  [Ed. note: I wonder how many businesspeople would be happy to have superintendents, principals or even TEACHERS telling them how to run their companies?]             Speaking of businesses, do you ever wonder WHY Pearson (self-styled “the world’s leading education company”) is so heavily involved in education?  Is it truly an altruistic believe in improving learning for students and making education more efficient and effective?  Guess again!  A commentary in the Huffington Post details the company itself and some of its practices.  The bottom line for most businesses is pretty straight forward–PROFITS!!!!  “‘Pearson Personalized Learning’ is not about supporting schools; it is about replacing them,” the author charges.  “And it is about replacing them without any evidence that their products work or any concern for the impact of their products on schools and student learning.”            David Sirota, writing at PandoDaily, again points out why so many business millionaires and billionaires are so enamored of charter schools.  Many of them make huge PROFITS!!!  Surprise, surprise!  “If the simplest explanation is most often the correct one,” Sirota suggests, “then it stands to reason that at least some corporate titans promote charter schools to do what they do best: make money.”  He concludes his commentary with this: “that doesn’t mean everyone supporting charter schools is doing so to make a quick buck. But it does mean that we cannot have an honest or reasoned debate if everyone pretends the profit motive is somehow completely absent from education politics and policy.”
 
More Vergara reaction.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times published 3 letters reacting to Sandy Banks’ column in Saturday’s paper about the Vergara case.                If you thought that the Vergara case was the end of the line for this type of litigation you are sadly mistaken.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on her VAMboozled blog describes how the team that filed the suit in the first place is taking their act on the road.  She predicts stops in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Idaho and Kansas.  If the “tour” has even minor success in any of those places you can bet they will try even more.  Fasten your seat belts.  It could be a bumpy trip for teachers, unions and the public schools.            Why are the so-called education “reformers” going after tenure in the first place?  Shaun Johnson, on the @ THE CHALK FACE blog,  thinks they are going about it all wrong.  “Obsessions with teacher tenure, or tenure in any academic profession,” he maintains, “is all about union busting, and flipping the teaching profession into an unprofessional, short-term, part-time, scab workforce.”  Johnson goes on to propose some concrete ways to improve “high-priority” schools.            Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center, an attorney and a professor of education policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, wrote an article last week on the case titled “A Silver Lining in the Vergara Trial” (highlighted, by the way, in the “Ed News).  Valerie Strauss turns over her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post to him as he answers 5 key questions about the case and its future in the judicial process.  This piece includes a link to his previous article.               Ronald Brownstein, a senior writer at the National Journal, has an op-ed, titled “Schools Aren’t the Only Problem,” in today’s L.A. Times about the Vergara opinion in which he seems to get it at first but then reverts back to blaming teachers, their work rules and their unions for the achievement gap.  “These trends,” he initially suggests, “send the clear message that truly expanding opportunity for lower-income kids requires a comprehensive response that extends well beyond school reform.  But that awareness,” he unfortunately continues, “doesn’t absolve school systems from taking every possible step to maximize their effectiveness within the classroom. And that means subjecting more work rules that favor the system’s adults over its kids to the exacting scrutiny that produced the Vergara decision.”            Pedro A. Noguera, a professor at NYU, writes an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “In Defense of Teacher Tenure” in which he does exactly that and he refers to California and L.A., in particular, quite liberally.  If you’ve been looking for some good reasons for retaining tenure this will provide you with some excellent ammunition.  Noguera gets it!  “Blaming teacher tenure for the flaws of L.A.’s troubled school system,” he concludes, “is like blaming doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals for the deep flaws in the VA system. Ending tenure will only make it harder to fix the flaws in a vital public institution.”  [Ed. note:  Unfortunately, the Journal requires to paid subscription to access the article.  I typed the title of it into GOOGLE and got one free preview.  The link, however, doesn’t get you the same privilege.  If locating it on GOOGLE, YAHOO, BING or another search engine doesn’t work you can get a shortened version on Diane Ravitch’s blog here.  It’s well worth the effort.]
U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan appeared on the CBS “This Morning” show on Monday to defend the Common Core State Standards.  EDUCATION WEEK has a brief description of the appearance and a video (6 minutes) of the interview.               Speaking of Arne Duncan . . . . the same publication has an article on their “Politics K-12” blog titled “Five Items on Arne Duncan’s Summer To-Do List.”  You might think of it as “homework” for the Secretary of Education while he’s off for the summer.               Returning to the topic of the Common Core State Standards, EDUCATION WEEK has a brief item about a new MSN/Wall Street Journal poll regarding them.  Less than half (47%) of 1,000 American adults who were asked about them had even heard of the standards.  The piece has a link to the full poll (27 pages) with a number of other questions regarding politics (Obama approval rating, feelings about the political parties, Hillary Clinton, November elections, immigration, climate change, etc.)  Only questions 25-27, out of 39, on p. 21 dealt with education.
Peter Greene, who usually writes on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, this time comments on the Huffington Post.  He believes he’s uncovered the scenario by which the so-called education “reformers” can destroy the public schools.  Consider this: create very difficult tests, students score poorly, blame the teachers, eliminate tenure and seniority which weakens unions and opens the door for charters, vouchers and privatization.  Sound too conspiratorial for you?  How far along do you think people are on that timeline?  Where would the Vergara decision fit in?  Interesting stuff.  If those “reformers” want to define “effective” teaching as high test scores you can see how easy it is to go down the road outlined above.  Check out what Greene has to say about it.
 
The National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) ratings of teacher preparation programs came out on Tuesday.  Reaction to them was quick.  Prof. Edward J. Fuller of Penn State University on his A “Fuller” Look at Education Issues blog had a detailed and extensive critique of the limitations and shortcomings of the study.  It is based on an even more complete paper that he wrote for the Journal of Teacher Education that he has a link to.
 
From the “charter school scandal of the day” file:  The Hartford Courant reports that the CEO of a charter organization in Hartford, Connecticut, had two criminal convictions in the 80s (one was in California) and spent some time in prison.  The paper raises some critical questions about how rigorous the criminal background check is in that state and wonders how the man was able to pass it.  State education officials claimed they had not known of his record.
 
This looks like it could spark some major blowback.  Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 reports briefly that Louisiana Gov.  Bobby Jindal just announced that his state will drop the Common Core and PARCC assessments.  That was followed, almost immediately, by a statement on the Louisiana Department of Education website from State  Commissioner John White that the state will NOT drop them.  FIGHT!  FIGHT!            Schneider had a much more extensive later post with details of the two sides’ actions and where things stand.
A growing number of after-school tutoring centers are now found in 8 urban areas to teach creative writing to students.  The programs, created by a non-profit called “826 National” began in 2002 with a single center in San Francisco.  It now serves over 30,000 students.  A sidebar to the story in EDUCATION WEEK describes where the programs are located, including one in Los Angeles in conjunction with the LAUSD that began in 2005.
 
An editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times [Ed. note: The “Ed News” initially missed this one.] was critical of a bill introduced in the State Assembly (AB 1912) that would push the State Board of Education to include the election of Pres. Obama in the public school’s U.S. History curriculum.  The paper’s major complaint was that this was a case of the politicians “meddling” in decisions that academics should be making.  “Decisions about coherent, well-structured curriculum and textbooks,” it concludes, “should be made by educators and academic experts, not by politicians.”            That item prompted a letter in Wednesday’s Times from the author of the bill, Assemblyman Chris R. Holden, reacting to the paper’s position.
Grading students is one of the more difficult responsibilities faced by all teachers.  Is it possible to make it more “personal” and “enjoyable?”  That’s the topic addressed in this piece from EDUCATION WEEK.  It’s written by a National Board-certified teacher who is a 10-year veteran and currently teaches high school English/language arts in Boston.  She makes ample use of formative assessments and student portfolios and goes into detail about how her system works.
 
Typically, Teach for America recruits have been placed in large urban school districts that had difficulties filling teaching positions.  Diane Ravitch prints a note from a parent and education activist who reports on 3 TFA members who want to  start a charter school in a RURAL area of Tennessee.  That may sounds like an innocuous idea but if it is established it will compete with already existing public schools for state money and students and probably lead to a divisive split in the community.
 
The District of Columbia Public Schools announced yesterday they will not use student standardized test scores on teacher evaluations for the next school year as the district transitions to new assessments aligned to the Common Core.  EDUCATION WEEK (via the AP) has a brief piece on the statement issued by Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
Jeff Bryant in the Educational Opportunity NETWORK titles his piece “Dirty Secret in Education Wars:  Money Matters.”  He reviews how many so-called education “reformers” want to privatize the schools while at the same time advocating for deep budget cuts and tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations which, unfortunately, translates into less money for public schools.  “The dirty, little secret in America’s education wars, he reveals, “is that spending more money on schools is what most people really want – and for good reason, because it really tends to help. Yet what we’ve been seeing in a ‘reform’ agenda that has dominated the debate is an emphasis on anything else but.  The conventional wisdom,” he continues, “tends to be that asking for more money is a policy cop out – throwing money at the problem, while the Very Serious People grapple with the ever-more-so weighty topics of Value Added Measures and Adequate Yearly Progress.”
 
Occidental is in the news again.  Unfortunately it’s about the sexual assault scandal.  In a twist to the original story a male freshman who was expelled from the school last year for an alleged sexual assault won a ruling from an L.A. County Superior Court  judge to prevent the college from sealing portions of the suit he filed against the school.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times discusses the judge’s decision.
And finally, one school district in North Carolina, faced with a significant lack of financial resources, is making a major push into the technique of “personalized learning.”  They are hoping to both educate students and save money at the same time.  The story of how they are accomplishing those twin goals appears in EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a short video (1:32 minutes) demonstrating how the district is teaching it’s students with limited funding.
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)

 

Ed News June 17, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, 
I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” 
― Abraham Lincoln
More Vergara reaction and analysis.  Adam Bessie, on his Automated Teaching Machine blog takes a deeper look at the motivation behind Students Matter, the organization that brought the case in the first place.  He believes they have cleverly co-opted the whole idea of making this case into a “civil rights issue.”  That looks great and so noble on first glance but what are they really trying to achieve?  “Just how did dismantling worker rights,” he asks, “become part of Civil Rights? How did teachers – those like my wife and myself, who have devoted their lives to working with children and adults in public schools – become their greatest enemy?”  If for nothing else, read how he connects the case to the Colombian born supermodel and actress Sofia Vergara.              “Follow the money” has become a familiar adage in a number of fields.  Now it may be time to do it as regards Students Matter.  Who was behind the organization that initiated the Vergara suit in the first place?  Where did the money come from?  What role does David Welch, the billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur, play in all of this.  Thanks to the website Mother Crusader we now have some answers to those questions.             An article in Slate argues that it’s not the issue of tenure that’s harming low-income and minority students but segregation.  “Even if tenure reform is successful, ” it is the author’s contention, “there is little reason to think new teachers hired in high-poverty schools will be much better.”  He goes on to explain what factors led to that thesis.              Other states are looking at what happened in California and contemplating taking similar action in their areas.  Mark Weber, aka the “Jersey Jazzman,”  suggests New Jersey keep its hands off tenure in an op-ed on NorthJersey.com.   He compares his state to California and believes New Jersey’s system of handling tenure is much superior.           Jesse Rothstein, a professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, testified for the defense in the case.  In an op-ed in The New York Times he contents that doing away with tenure is likely to make it more difficult to recruit teachers to work in low-income and minority schools which goes against one of the key aims of the plaintiffs.    “Eliminating tenure,” he suggests, “will do little to address the real barriers to effective teaching in impoverished schools, and may even make them worse.”    “Attacking tenure as a protection racket for ineffective teachers,” Rothstein concludes,  “makes for good headlines. But it does little to close the achievement gap, and risks compounding the problem.”                     Sandy Banks, in her Saturday column in the L.A. Times, has an interesting, what I’d call a middle-of-the-road, pox on both of your houses, take on the case.  It’s titled “Judge’s Ruling On Teacher Tenure Sends  A Message to Unions, Reformers.”            The “Numbers and Letters” feature in the same paper reported that “588 printable letters to the editor were received between last Friday and this Thursday.  64 readers weighed in on the court decision on teacher protection rules, the most-discussed topic.”           Now that the Vergara case has been decided in California predictions have been made that similar litigation will most likely crop up in other states.  The Danbury News Times reports that Connecticut may be one of those states.             Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, has been trolling the internet for stories about the opinion.  What he’s found is a number of  anti-teacher reactions in the comments section following the articles.  He describes many of the authors of them as virulent “teacher-haters.”   He offers a number of pretty nasty examples.   If you get the chance, be sure to read the comments posted after Greene’s piece.           Sunday’s  L.A. Times included 4 letters regarding an op-ed the paper ran Thursday from a professor who argued that getting rid of poor teachers will not, by itself, fix what ails education.                A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a particularly nasty full-page ad in USA TODAY that vilified teachers because of tenure and seniority.  It was paid for by an extremely anti-union organization.   A member of BATS (Badass Teachers) responds to the item with a reference to Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible.”  The author, on his Out of the Cave website, is a middle school teacher in Seattle.  He includes a link to the offending ad.             Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, includes posts from two writers about why tenure is important for K-12 teachers.
Under California’s new Local Control Funding Formula, millions of dollars are to be earmarked for students at low-performing schools or who are ELLs.  LAUSD would like to divert $13 million of those new monies to its district police department.  An L.A. County Juvenile Court judge has written an letter to the district objecting to the action.  An article from the Center for Public Integrity explains the situation and why the judge complained.
The question of how to reduce student drop-out rates is always a critical issue in education.  A research professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, writing an op-ed in The New York Times, discusses some new information he and some colleagues have compiled about this on-going problem.  “This month, more than three million high school students will receive their diplomas,” he starts off.  “At more than 80 percent, America’s graduation rate is at a record high. More kids are going to college, too. But one-third of the nation’s African-American and Latino young men will not graduate.”  He offers some very specific solutions in the course of his commentary.
Here are some sobering statistics from the FiveThirtyEightEconomics website.  Total public school funding actually declined in 2012 for the first time since 1977 and student-teacher ratios rose to their highest level since 2000.  If you’ve been wondering why your class sizes have been getting larger and the money for salaries, benefits, school supplies, etc. has been shrinking this story and the accompanying charts offer some explanations.
Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor at the University of Texas–Austin, relates some “horror stories” from parents of students at a BASIS charter school in San Antonio.  He writes on his Cloaking Inequity blog.
The American Association of School Administrators (AASA–The School Superintendents Association) has a new report out on their website detailing how district superintendents feel about the Common Core State Standards.  It includes a survey with over 500 responses from 48 states of attitudes toward the standards.  the key finding: implementation of both the standards and assessments needs to be slowed down.  In addition, “AASA opposes the overreliance on standardized testing and the use of one test to assess both student learning and teacher effectiveness, especially so early in the implementation of the new standards.”  Diane Ravitch writes about the report on her blog and includes a link to the full survey (13 pages).
 
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday column for the L.A. Times, revisits the situation where the LAUSD board refused to reappoint Stuart Magruder, a member of the district’s citizen Bond Oversight Committee, who was highly critical of how bond money was allocated for the iPad-for-all program.  Lopez reviews the history of the committee and discusses some of the issues raised by Magruder and explains how the board could still reappoint him.  An editorial in today’s paper strongly recommends the district retain Mr. Magruder on its committee.  

“The board’s vote to rid itself of Magruder sent a message that the district doesn’t want to deal with critics or answer tough questions,” it concludes.  “Now it has a chance to right this mistake when it reconsiders the Magruder reappointment Tuesday. It should keep him, recognizing that sometimes its biggest critics are its best friends.”            BREAKING NEWS: The LAUSD board voted 4-2 this afternoon to reappoint Magruder to his position on the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.  That overturns a previous action last month in which they refused to take action to return him to that post.  The story was posted this afternoon on the L.A. Times website.

A recent report highlighted in EDUCATION WEEK finds that after New York City principals instituted more rigorous teacher evaluations some of the weaker educators left the system. “Even though the overall percentage of teachers actually denied tenure did not change much,” it begins, “the more-rigorous process appears to have reshaped the workforce—suggesting that changes in practice rather than underlying tenure laws, may bear fruit.”  That point may have some interesting implications in light of the Vergara case.
 
The race to fill the open District 1 LAUSD school board seat in a special election in August is causing a major split among two key labor unions.  UTLA is backing former principal and district administrator George McKenna.  The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is supporting Alex Johnson.  Both groups plan to spend lots of money and provide a number of volunteers to assist their candidate, according to Sunday’s L.A. Times.
Many charter schools follow a “no excuses” model for student behavior.  Is it successful?  Controversial?  This story from EDUCATION WEEK uses a case study from several Collegiate Academies in New Orleans to answer those questions.
A LAUSD charter in the Del Rey area of the city is moving after a lengthy dispute with the neighborhood and the district.  The specific reasons for the move are a matter of contention among the parties involved.  As a result, the Citizens of the World Mar Vista charter elementary school will have to be split between two campuses in Westchester.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times sorts out the issues for you.
 
A bill that would expedite the removal of teachers charged with serious offenses was approved by the California legislature without opposition and now only needs Gov. Brown’s signature.  The story, in today’s L.A. Times, describes the crimes covered and explains the process for getting rid of the alleged perpetrators.  The California Teachers Association favors the bill but the Association of California School Administrators and LAUSD Supt. John Deasy are opposed.
 
You can earn a lot of things by just taking an exam.  Do you think it’s possible to pass a test and get a college degree without going through all the course work?  If so, it could take a lot less time and save a LOT of money.  The HECHINGER REPORT tells about some programs that do exactly that.  
 
School districts in 4 southern California counties, L.A., San Bernadino, Ventura and Riverside, posted better rates on reducing student suspensions than the rest of the state.  The figures and analysis were provided by the UCLA Civil Rights Project.  In recent years there has been a push to reduce suspensions from school for misbehavior that causes pupils to miss valuable instructional time while they cool their heals at home or out on the street.  Statewide suspensions dropped 14.1%.   L.A. County topped that figure by 42%.  The item in today’s L.A. Times included specific districts in L.A. County that had the highest reductions.
 
The latest ratings from the NCTQ (National Council of Teacher Quality) of teacher preparation programs are scheduled for release today.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch 29, offers up a warning about them prior to their unveiling.  Her post is titled “Those Nonsense Annual NCTQ Ratings are Coming on June 17.”  She points out, again, why they are not reliable and suggests they are really fronting for the promotion of alternative certification providers, i.e., Teach for America.  “NCTQ remains a well-funded, well-advertised, corporate-reform-promoting facade,” she concludes.            Diane Ravitch reprints a blog she wrote in May, 2012, that takes a look at the origins of NCTQ.              If you’d like to get some  FAQs about the latest ratings here’s a link to U.S. News and World Report which publishes them.  To see the actual 2014 rankings from the same publication, click here.  It includes a search tool to help you locate a specific program.              EDUCATION WEEK has an analysis of the newest report titled “Alternative Certification Deemed Weak by NCTQ in New Teacher-Prep Report.”   
 
And finally, an editorial in today’s L.A. Times took Gov. Brown and the California Teachers Association to task for a behind-the-scenes addition of an item to the recently approved state budget that would cap  local school district reserve funds when the state starts to build its rainy day fund.   If that explanation doesn’t make any sense, read the piece and see if it brings some clarity.  The paper’s biggest complaint is that “the proposal surfaced last week and had no formal public hearings.”
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
 

Ed News June 13, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” 
Reports and reactions to the Vergara case continue to dominate the news.  The story about the decision that the Tuesday “Ed News” highlighted from the L.A. Times website
ran as a front-page, number one story in the paper on Wednesday.  That day’s paper had a couple of items about the ruling.  First, was an editorial that supported the judge’s findings and suggested they provide a golden opportunity for the legislature to act.  “It’s time for the state to stop defending laws that are indefensible,” it concludes, “and to get to work on ones that are fairer to students.”              Second, LAUSD Supt. John Deasy, who testified for the winning side during the trial, penned an op-ed that was laudatory, obviously, of the decision.  “The court’s decision in favor of nine student plaintiffs,” he offered, “is a decisive step toward creating a system that puts the educational rights of California students before other interests.”  [Ed. note: I wonder who those “other interests” are that he so quickly brushed aside?]              Another op-ed in yesterday’s paper took the opposite point-of-view.  It was written by an L.A. native who is an assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.  “In short, the problem isn’t that teachers don’t care, he suggests.  “It’s that they work in a field with little support for professional growth.”   In conclusion he writes: “Instead of imagining a world in which teachers are easier to fire, we should work to imagine one in which firing is rarely necessary. Because you don’t put an effective teacher in every classroom by holding a sword over their heads. You do it by putting tools in their hands.”             Fourth, Steve Lopez, wove some comments about the ruling into his Times column Wednesday describing how one parent, in particular, has worked hard to provide educational basics to one LAUSD middle school.              Diane Ravitch, on her blog, scrutinized some of the evidence provided at the trial and found the judge’s interpretation of it rather faulty.            Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post has some personal reaction to the case and includes some of the comments from readers of her paper.              In a separate post she turns her blog over to the director of the National Education Policy Center who is also an attorney and professor of education policy at the University of Colorad0, Boulder.  He finds the court’s opinion “weak” both legally and logically but finds a “silver lining” regarding the issue of education equity.  He further goes on to explain what a lower court ruling means in the context of judicial actions in our system of government.            One blogger at EDUCATION WEEK published a brief comment shortly after the ruling was announced on Tuesday and promised a more detailed response later.  Here is that report and analysis.              The CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR had a relatively  straightforward account of the case that was headlined “Teacher Tenure Ruling: Not As Earthshaking as it Seems? ”             For a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the opinion and what should be done in the future check out this item from InterACT.              Not sure how you feel about the Vergara decision?  The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” feature held a discussion on the outcome between four prominent experts.  It’s titled “Does Tenure Protect Bad Teachers or Good Schools?”  In favor of the ruling were Eric Hanushek of Stanford University and Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; against were Brian Jones, a former teacher, and Diane Ravitch.  You can find the link to all 4 of their arguments here.  (You have to click on each one individually.)            The “ON CALIFORNIA” blog for EDUCATION WEEK analyzed the case and described is as ” A Crafty, Limited Decision.”  The authors included 3 key reflections on the opinion and characterized it as only about a 4 on the Richter Scale.  Both authors point out the decision opens the door for the state legislature to amend the laws regarding tenure, seniority and teacher dismissal procedures rather than throwing them out entirely.
 
Now that the initial wave of articles and stories reporting the basic facts of the Vergara case has pretty much passed, the next phase is analysis and predictions on the impact of the ruling.  L.A. Times reporter Howard Blume had a front-page piece in yesterday’s paper  about what the affect of the case will be at the classroom level.  He includes some interesting statistics describing how other states handle teacher tenure and seniority.          The same paper published 5 letters based on the Times story from the previous day announcing the opinion.            Over at the Huffington Post a California public school teacher and writer believes ending tenure will not achieve the goal of educational equity.  She offers some other solutions.  “The disparities in our schools are not caused by teacher tenure,” she concludes, “but rather by the realities that individual schools and their teachers, as well as their students, face every day.”            Jennifer Berkshire, aka EduShyster, was quick to excoriate those writers who claimed the decision was a victory for the “kids.”  She goes on to list some of the other “winners” who will benefit from the ruling.            Michelle Rhee, in an opinion piece for The Washington Post, claimed the case was “a win for teachers and children.”  [Ed. note:  You’ll just have to read what she wrote in order to decipher her convoluted reasoning.  I can’t figure it out!]            An editorial in The New York Times, titled “A New Battle For Equal Education,” supported the judge’s opinion and went on to issue a challenge to the teachers’ unions.  “Teachers deserve reasonable due process rights and job protections,” it concluded.  “But the unions can either work to change the anachronistic policies cited by the court or they will have change thrust upon them.”               In light of the decision, USA TODAY had a very anti-teachers’ union ad yesterday that said unions were “treating kids like garbage” and the best remedy was to sue the organizations in court.  You can view a picture of that ad here.            Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 quickly exposed the union-bashing group, known as the “Center for Union Facts,” behind the ad.  They are the same bunch who ran a huge ad in Times Square and in The New York Times blaming AFT President Randi Weingarten for the poor U.S. results on the 2012 PISA tests.  So you know where they are coming from.  Her piece includes a video (8:37 minutes) reacting to Vergara from Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.            Dana Goldstein, in The ATLANTIC, has an interesting history of tenure from 1909 to the present.  She then proceeds to review the key findings in the case and also zeroes in on the issue of educational equality.             It seems that lawyers for the defense filed a post-trial brief in which they pointed out that none of the nine student plaintiffs in the case had a “grossly ineffective teacher” and that two of them attended a LAUSD charter school that had no tenure or seniority.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, reports on this intriguing discovery and comments on why it seemed to be ignored by the judge.            L.A. Times Business columnist Michael Hiltzik comments on the Ravitch piece (above) in an item posted Thursday evening on the paper’s website.  He, too, finds the judge’s reasoning suspect.  He titles his contribution “Teacher Tenure Case: Another Sign the Judge’s Ruling Deserves an F.”                    2 letters were published in today’s Times in response to the op-ed written by LAUSD Supt. Deasy (see first section above).               A VERY intriguing item from Slate looks at the key testimony that “1-3% of teachers” in California were ineffective and traces it back to the person who delivered it on the stand during the trial.  That person told the author of this article that it was a “guesstimate” and “is not based on any specific data, or any rigorous research about California schools in particular.”  Yet, the judge cited this number as a significant piece of evidence in his ruling.  The author of this story, titled “Fuzzy Math,” goes on to explain what the ramifications of all of this are when the case is appealed.            AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote a letter to U.S. Dept. of Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan decrying his stance in support of the Vergara decision.  She blasted him for a lack of leadership and a strong tendency to promote polarization rather than collaboration in dealing with the problems facing public education today.  Her comments appear on the union’s website aft A Union of Professionals.
 
In a story covered in a previous edition of the “Ed News,” thousands of foreign teachers have been hired and brought to the U.S. ostensibly to take positions that couldn’t be filled by American citizens.  As the earlier story discovered many of them were poorly paid and badly exploited due to their limited knowledge of U.S. labor laws.  An investigative piece in the Wall Street Journal focuses on the Garland Independent School District in eastern Texas to show the many ways workers on HB-1 visas have been taken advantage of and how it has now drawn federal scrutiny.  To make matters worse, “the alleged misuse of the visa program,” the article points out, “has also raised concerns that some American teachers may have been pushed out to make room for fee-paying foreign teachers.”
 
What would you guess was the most important priority based on a U.N. global survey of over 2 million people in both wealthy and undeveloped countries?  If you answered “education” you are correct.  Other top issues included better healthcare and an honest and responsive government according the the “My World” poll highlighted in a report on MSNBC.  At the bottom of the list were items such as climate change, better energy at home, better phone and internet access and political freedoms.
 
Here’s another interesting court decision unrelated to the Vergara case.  A Circuit Court judge in Virginia ruled the state’s takeover plan of low-performing schools to be unconstitutional.  This decision appeared on the nsba’s (National School Boards Association) website.
 
All sorts of so-called education “experts” want to make policy for districts, schools and teachers.  However, a 9-year veteran English teacher in El Paso laments “Is Anybody Listening to Teachers?”  Her complaints appear in EDUCATION WEEK.
 
Jeff Bryant, at the Education Opportunity NETWORK, believes the entire debate over the Common Core has become too political and “The Standards Scolds Are Getting Us Nowhere.”  He wants the discussion/debate/finger pointing to return to the REAL issue–how do we solve the question of education inequality.  In addressing all the bickering he concludes:”What’s needed instead is a pivot to the issue of education inequality, which can only be addressed not by mandating schools reach Common Core Standards, but by ensuring schools have the ‘Common Core Resources’ our children really need.”
 
A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute suggests that charter schools are leading to a “two-tiered” education system.  It focuses on the City of Milwaukee and the Rocketship Charter Management Company.  The story appears in LABOR NOTES and includes a link to the study, titled “Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids?  Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, written by Gordon Lafer, a University of Oregon professor and political economist.
 
From the “Charter School Scandal-of-the-Day” file:  The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the FBI and two other federal agencies, armed with search warrants. raided 19 campuses  run by Concept Schools in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio related to “an on-going white collar crime matter” that a spokesperson would not be more specific about. 
 
A teacher from Oakland writes an article for EDUCATION WEEK titled “Using Project-Based Learning to Cultivate Student Engagement and Trust.”  He uses a project for his 10th graders to create  children’s book for a village in Africa to illustrate his point.
 
Many so-called education “reformers’ point to the poor results of U.S. students on the PISA tests as a reason for blaming teachers, privatizing schools and attacking teachers’ unions.  A professor at the Graduate School of Education &  Human Development at George Washington University points out how the exams have been full of methodological errors for many years and they still have not been addressed.  The original article from the Teachers College Record requires a paid subscription.  Fortunately, Diane Ravitch has reprinted some of the key points from the piece on her blog.
 
“Less Sex, Fighting and Smoking Among High School Students” is the headline of a brief item in EDUCATION WEEK that features a few findings from a recent biennial report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention titled “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey.”  It includes statistics from 42 states and 21 large urban school districts.  You can access the full report (135 pages) here.
 
More bad news on the financial front for the LAUSD.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times describes a $5 million settlement that the district accepted to cover two legal claims against a teacher from Telfair Elementary in Pacoima who pleaded no contest to 13 counts of lewd acts on a child back in 2012.
 
The shift to online standardized assessments aligned to the Common Core is forcing California to increase its funding in order to keep up with the technology requirements.  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT details the situation.  It explores how various districts up and down the state are equipped to handle the need for more computers and broadband capacity.  “The move is happening not a minute too soon,” it indicates.  “In California, like many other states, the level of technology available to students varies tremendously from district to district, school to school.”  
 
And finally, an article in POLITICO wonders if teachers’ unions are losing their clout.  The author cites declining membership and a drop in revenue from dues as well as the decision in the Vergara case and other political losses around the country and divisions over policy within the movement to buttress her argument.

 Dave Alpert (’71)

 
 

Ed News June 10, 2014

The ED NEWS

 “Education isn’t for getting a job. It’s about developing yourself as a human being.” 
[Ed. note: For the latest information, as of press time, on the Vergara case, see the last entry in this edition of the “Ed News.]
 
truthout reviews a new book out May 27.  The title is “This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education” by Jose Vilson.  The author is a middle school math teacher in New York City who has had articles published on a number of education sites.  Amazon described the book in this manner: José Vilson writes about race, class, and education through stories from the classroom and researched essays. His rise from rookie math teacher to prominent teacher leader takes a twist when he takes on education reform through his now-blocked eponymous blog, TheJoseVilson.com. He calls for the reclaiming of the education profession while seeking social justice.”
 
Two consortia have been developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  California is one of 17 states that joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  9 states and the District of Columbia are part of PARCC.  If my math is correct, that leaves 24 states that are either developing their own exams or are undecided which ones to select.  That figure translates to 58% or well over half of students who are not part of the two major consortia.   Those surprising statistics were part of an article from EDUCATION WEEK which includes a simple spreadsheet with state-by-state breakdowns.
 
The NEA’s Education Votes blog reports that a local circuit judge in Alabama (of all places) ruled that the use of taxpayer money to reimburse the tuition parents paid to send their children to private or religious schools was unconstitutional.
Here’s a novel solution to the issue of too many standardized tests.  Two sixth-grade classes in Ipswich, Massachusetts, have demanded payment for the full week of instructional time they lost while field testing new state assessments.  Don’t believe they are really doing this?  Check out the story from the Ipswich Chronicle. 
California is not the only state where teacher tenure rights are under attack.  As Peter Greene reports on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, legislation was recently introduced in Pennsylvania that would reduce or eliminate teacher job protections.  He describes what the bill would do and how it would impact the teaching profession.
 
Another outstanding teacher, selected local teacher of the year in four of the last 6 years, is calling it quits.  His reasons are achingly similar to many of the others that the “Ed News” has highlighted: budget cuts, too many poorly designed standardized tests, low pay, lack of respect, etc., etc.  We keep printing them not to bore you but to show you the magnitude of the problem.  Stories like the one above certainly don’t encourage people to enter or remain in the profession.  This young man has worked in Waynesboro, Virginia, for the past 6 years and his remarks appear on his own website JWAL.
 
An extensive story in The Washington Post outlines how two education “reformers” came up with the idea of the Common Core and enlisted Bill Gates to help bankroll their project and win numerous political supporters to their new cause.  The piece is titled “How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Swift Common Core Revolution.”  It includes two video interviews between the reporter and Gates.  The first (2:58 minutes) is an abbreviated version of the second (27:53 minutes).  “Never before has one man had the wealth, the political connections, and the grand ambition to buy American education,” Diane Ravitch wrote after reading this article, “But Bill Gates did it.”            Upon reading the article in the Post, Diane Ravitch thought it was time for Congressional hearings to be held on Gates’ “coup.”  “The story about Bill Gates’ swift and silent takeover of American education is startling,” she begins.  “His role and the role of the U.S. Department of Education in drafting and imposing the Common Core standards on almost every state should be investigated by Congress.”
Larry Lawrence forwarded this next article.  Anthony Cody, for his “Living in Dialogue” blog on EDUCATION WEEK, analyzes a recent op-ed from Randi Weingarten and Linda Darling-Hammond (highlighted in the “Ed News) that used California as an example of how a state might approach the assessments for the CCSS.  Cody is a little more skeptical of how the exams are being developed and implemented as a form of teacher accountability.  He titles his piece “Can California Offer A New Model for Accountability?  Or Are We Still Chasing Test Scores?” 
 
In an interesting twist to the recent sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed a number of the nation’s colleges and universities (including Occidental), a front-page story in Sunday’s L.A. Times reports that a growing number of MEN are fighting the punishments meted out to them and claiming their due process rights were violated.  A case that involves Oxy is featured in the article.  [Ed. note:  Does anyone recognize the building in the photo that accompanies the piece?  Is it the student union?]                Sandy Banks, in her column in today’s Times, chimed in on the whole issue of “he said, she said” regarding men who are suing their campuses over unfair punishments related to sexual assaults.  Her piece is titled “Campuses Must Distinguish Between  Assault and Youthful Bad Judgment.”
Paul Thomas, on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog, makes a case for why dropping the Common Core may not be the most educational sound decision and offers a much broader reason for getting rid of them.  Both Oklahoma and his home state of South Carolina have voted to jettison the standards.  What he sees them possibly providing as an alternative is not a whole lot different from what they got rid of. 
 
Two letters in Sunday’s L.A. Times reacted to the paper’s editorial on Thursday about bringing back bilingual education in California.  The first one is from a retired LAUSD bilingual teacher.
Pasi Sahlberg spoke last month in Boston on what “Massachusetts Can Learn from Finland’s Educational Reforms.”  The tape of his speech (73:17 minutes) is long but contains a number of lessons for everyone to contemplate.  If you haven’t read his books or heard him speak before this is an excellent opportunity.  The talk was sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools and you can find it on YouTube.
 
Threatened with closure last year, the North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation facility, a LAUSD aircraft mechanics program, that provides training to some 100 adults and students each semester in a two-year program at the Van Nuys airport campus recently received two donated corporate jets.  Sunday’s L.A. Times describes why the planes will be a big boost to the technical school.
The Chicago Teachers Union issued a statement yesterday opposing a bill signed by the governor of Illinois that would reduce pension payments to thousands of city workers and educators.  Diane Ravitch included the press release on her blog.
Boosted by the Common Core, new assessments and increasing budgets, more and more states are making major new investments in educational technology.  An interesting sidebar to this article lists the top revenue-producing companies involved in the sale of K-12 software and digital products.  The details appear in EDUCATION WEEK.
The LAUSD kicked off a summer lunch program yesterday that will provide free meals to over 520,000 students at 317 district campuses through Aug. 8.  An item in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes who will benefit, how it works and where the funding came from.
 
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, has an interesting piece from a guest writer.  The woman was a successful television writer/producer who decided seven years ago she wanted to become an English teacher.  She began work at a South Los Angeles charter school and then made the decision to spend the current year visiting classrooms and getting tips from other teachers in L.A.  She titles her commentary “There Are No Miracle Schools, But There Are a Lot of Really Good Ones.”  Her observations are quite enlightening.  
 
In an interesting development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has come out for a two-year moratorium on the making of high stakes decisions by states or school districts that are linked to Common Core Assessments.   An article in The New York Times explains this shift.
 
And finally, reaction to the decision in the “landmark” Vergara case announced this morning has been, as anticipated, extensive and diverse.  The L.A. Times posted a story on their website this evening that will most likely appear in tomorrow’s paper.  It includes a link to the full decision (16 pages) or you can find it here.            UTLA posted a statement on their website UTLA.net that included some earlier stories about the case.              NPR station KPCC had a short reaction to the ruling and included a number of links to other sources about today’s announcement.  The same station aired a segment today (21:36 minutes) on Larry Mantle’s  program “AirTalk” (guest hosted by Patt Morrison, Oxy, ’74) about Vergara.  It includes comments by representatives from both sides and a number of reactions from callers to the  program.            Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, deconstructs the statement issued by U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan about the case.  It’s titled “Arne Tells Teachers to Go to Hell (Again).”  It includes a link to Duncan’s short comment or you can find it here.            The “Teacher Beat” blog on EDUCATION WEEK had a quick reaction to the court ruling and promised a more lengthy analysis in the near future.  The same column, in a separate post, had a number of statements from some prominent educators and key figures in the case.            The L.A. Daily News has an op-ed penned by Ben Austin, the founder and director of “Parent Revolution,” the group that’s been making use of the “parent-trigger” law.            In a similar vein, the San Jose Mercury News has a commentary by Dave Welch, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of the group “StudentsMatter” that brought the lawsuit that became the Vergara case.  You can certainly guess how he feels about the decision.            In a commentary for The Washington Post that is profusely illustrated with graphs and charts the author argues why the ruling was fair and just.  It’s titled “Why A California Judge Just Ruled That Teacher Tenure is Bad For Students.”  Stay tuned.  There will certainly be lots more reporting and commentary about the case in the days ahead.  The “Ed News” will do its best to keep you up-to-date and informed about this significant breaking story!
 

 

 Dave Alpert (’71)
 
 

Ed News EXTRA! EXTRA! June 10, 2014

The ED NEWS

There’s an important breaking news story this morning.  An L.A. County Superior Court judges issued a decision in the significant Vergara v Calfornia case.  You might want to sit down before reading further.  He ruled that teacher tenure rights are unconstitutional based on the California constitution.  You can quickly get up to speed on the case, it’s history, the judges decision and some instant analysis at these sources:  The Huffington Post, The New York Times, NPR station KPCC, POLITICO and NBC News, Channel 4.  There will certainly be much more reaction to this story from many sources in the days ahead.  Stay tuned.
 
The regular Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” should be in your inbox later today.
 
 

 Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar