The Ed News, June 3, 2014

 “It is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read.” 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerbeg and his wife announced they will be donating $120 million to San Francisco Bay area public schools.  Four years ago he gave $100 million to the public schools in Newark, New Jersey, and some are still wondering where all that money went.  You can read about the latest grant in an article in EDUCATION WEEK via the Associated Press.
 
With a poor job market and huge loan debt facing current college graduates, is a degree still worth the effort?  That critical questions is answered emphatically in the affirmative in this op-ed in The New York Times.  Referencing the latest research the author, a business and economics reporter/editor at the paper, believes an advanced education may be even more important now than in the past.  “For all the struggles that many young college graduates face,” he suggests, “a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.”  He buttresses that point with a slew of statistics from an analysis of a recent Labor Department report.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have both critics and supporters.  The author of this commentary on truthout is a teacher and freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York.  She reviews how the standards were developed and discusses the growing movement against them.  Her piece is titled “One Size Does Not Fit All: Fighting the Common Core Curriculum.”              Thanks to George Klump for sending along an article from the Personal Liberty Digest that analyzes primary voting in Alabama today.  It seems the battle over Common Core is the undercurrent in a number of races in that state.  The piece describes a movement to try to defeat the standards and explains why a good number of legislators are supporting them due to what it calls “cronyism.”               Stephen Krashen, on his eponymous SKrashen blog has a totally satirical (and VERY brief) piece about a “poll” conducted by the Pearson Publishing Company that finds “overwhelming support” for the Common Core.  [Ed. note: Duh!]               How do the national educational standards in Finland differ from our CCSS?  Diane Ravitch asked that question of Pasi Sahlberg, the Finnish education scholar who is currently a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He provided a very interesting and informative response to her query.               In the “ON CALIFORNIA” blog in EDUCATION WEEK, four educators (2 elementary, 2 middle school) share their experiences and concerns with, and enthusiasm for, the Common Core in their classrooms with the author.
 
As graduation rates continue to steadily increase for the nation’s public schools they appear to be going in the opposite direction for many of Ohio’s charter schools.  This item from Ohio.com, the website of the Akron Beacon Journal, explores dropout rates in that state and how those for some charters are dragging down the overall results for Ohio.              Edushyster, in her witty way, reports that graduation rates for charters in Boston are no better than those for the public schools, yet the state is ready to pour millions of dollars into expanding the number of charters while the public schools scrounge for funds.             Once charter management companies and charter schools are established it’s often hard to close them down no matter how much educational malfeasance or financial chicanery they are accused, and often, convicted of.  The author of this item from the Huffington Post, a professor at Hofstra University, offers one example of a company that provides charter services predominantly to students in Michigan, although it has a presence in 9 states.  It’s titled “Why is this Charter School Management Company Still in Business?”
Republicans in the North Carolina Senate are offering a plan (bribe?) of $468 million in pay increases if teachers will give up their tenure rights.  Those who choose not to would stay on the same pay scale and see their salaries stagnate.  The details are contained in a story in the Raleigh News & Observer.  Diane Ravitch had a brief reference to this article in her blog and added a letter from a National Board Certified Teacher in North Carolina who reacted rather fiercely to the bill.
 
Here’s a much more positive article from The New York Times about an educator who teaches high school students about economics and personal finance by taking them on field trips to pawn shops, payday loan establishments and other such businesses.
 
How important is technological literacy to learning?  That’s a question the author of this story looked at on POLITCO.  She visited Finland and found out their highly rated schools on international assessments rely very little on the latest gadgets and gizmos.  “Finnish students and teachers didn’t need laptops and iPads to get to the top of international education rankings, said Krista Kiuru, minister of education and science at the Finnish Parliament. And officials say they aren’t interested in using them to stay there.”  Educators and reformers in the U.S. seem to be taking a completely different tack by spending billions of dollars, in some cases (read LAUSD iPad-for-all program), to procure all the latest technological innovations for their students.


Saturday’s L.A. Times had two letters reacting to the papers extended editorial last Tuesday about Congress’  need to reform and improve the No Child Left Behind law.
 
A California parent and executive editor of GreatSchools, a nonprofit website located in Oakland, recounts some of the early experiences of one of her elementary school-aged daughters, with the rollout of the Common Core assessments throughout the state.  They appeared in an item in EDUCATION WEEK.  Note the brief reference to the book The Smartest Kids in the World, the next ALOED book club title for discussion July 17th.
 
The Network for Public Education (NPE) endorsed Sherlett Hendy Newbill for the vacant District 1 LAUSD board seat in today’s special election.  Diane Ravitch reported on the choice on her blog.
 
The LAUSD recently instituted a policy to reduce student suspensions in order to keep kids in class where they can continue to learn rather than cooling their heals at home or on the street.  The latest statistics would seem to show the district is meeting its mandate.  Last year the suspension rate dropped to 1.5% from 8% in 2008.  Some people, however, were questioning the accuracy of those figures as detailed in a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times.
 
Blogger Bob Shepherd writes about some of the crazy things that have been taking place in the name of “education reform.”  He points out, as other have, that it all seems to be about raising test scores and not about whether students are learning or not.  His remarks are reprinted courtesy of Diane Ravitch.
 
How comfortable are teachers with allowing designated colleagues to carry concealed weapons on campus?  That issue has arisen in Missouri where a bill is headed to the governor’s desk that would allow just such a scenario.  Some educators in that state have their reservations about the legislation as described in a story in EDUCATION WEEK by way of the Associated Press.
 
A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the Recovery School District in New Orleans that will be the first big-city school system to become all-charter as of September, 2014.  What will the impact of that be on students?  The HECHINGER REPORT has a short piece  featuring their contributing editor addressing that issue in a discussion with a reporter from NPR.  You can listen to it (4:13 minutes) here.
 
Last week the LAUSD board failed to reappoint one member of its Bond Oversight Committee who had been highly critical of the districts iPad-for-all program.  On Thursday the other members of the BOC wrote a letter to the board protesting their action.  Diane Ravitch included a copy of that letter, along with some comments from her and another member of the committee, on her blog.
 
How easy/difficult will it be to pass the new state assessments that are being rolled out at this time of the year?  That all depends on what the cut-off is for passage.  Those “cut scores” are often set by state departments of education or the test publisher.  This item from The HECHINGER REPORT is titled “New Common Core High School Tests Set a Low Bar For Passing in New York” and looks at how that state is handling this critical issue.
 
Today’s L.A. Times outlines a bill passed last week by the state Assembly that would direct the California Department of Education to create a task force to help develop a standardized ethnic studies course for high school students.  It also describes a class at Santa Monica High that currently deals with the subject and could serve as a model for the DoE.  The legislation still needs to be taken up by the state Senate and if successful there it would go to the governor’s desk for approval or rejection.
 
Diane Ravitch wants to know “When Will Bill Gates Admit He Was Wrong–Again?”  She points out, on her blog, several “reforms’ he has pushed that even he admitted later were not working.  Ravitch questions when he will give up on the whole concept of value-added models for evaluating teachers.
 
And finally, lots of studies have been done on student absentee rates, but how about teachers’ attendance?  An article in EDUCATION WEEK highlights a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality that focused on the 40 largest urban districts in the country.  It provided a number of answers to some interesting questions.  How many days did the average teacher miss?  What was the overall attendance rate by percentage?  How many days absent mark a teacher as “chronically absent?”  What percentage of teachers fit that category?  What percentage were out 3 days or less?  Answers to those questions and more are included in the brief item.  Be sure to check out where LAUSD landed on a chart of those “chronically absent” educators at the bottom of the article.  The full report is titled “Roll Call: The Importance of Teacher Attendance .”  The press release is 3 pages and the full report is 22 pages.  LAUSD was number 10 out of the 40 districts surveyed on average number of days absent.  (See page 3 of the full report.)

 

Dave Alpert (’71)
Chief Commissar 
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