Ed News, Tuesday, July 1, 2014 Edition


 The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the Independence Day Holiday. 
Look for the next issue on Friday, July 11.
“Is it too much to expect from the schools that they train their students not only to interpret but to criticize;
that is, to discriminate what is sound from error and falsehood, to suspend judgement if they are not convinced,
And now to the news.
The always insightful Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews some of the latest scandals in the charter school management business.  Exposes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida recently have uncovered a pattern of corruption, nepotism, conflicts-of-interest and profiteering that begs the question Is this what we really want in place of the public school system?  “Real evidence of ‘the good charters’ remains mostly anecdotal,” he points out, “as financial corruption and poor education results from ‘bad ones’ continue to mount with every passing month.”  
The so-called education “reformers” are constantly complaining about a “crisis” in public education that needs to be “fixed.”  Where’s the “crisis” is the question Paul Bruno, a middle school teacher in southern California, tackles on his eponymous blog.  He provides several charts and asks “With results like these, where is the emergency some are crying about?
The recently published annual ratings of teacher preparation programs around the country from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) raised the hackles of many critics.  They found a number of issues that raised serious questions about the validity and usefulness of the rankings.  In this article on THE ART OF TEACHING SCIENCE blog, the author, a writer, former Massachusetts high school science teacher and Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University, reviews a number of the critical studies regarding those NCTQ ratings.  “The NCTQ’s effort is an assault on teacher education,” he begins, “and there is a need for a resistance to their propaganda.”
Jesse Hagopian, the teacher at Garfield High in Seattle who sparked a boycott of state standardized tests in his city, delivered a speech at a protest last week in front of the Gates Foundation headquarters.  The rally was organized to object to the undue influence wealthy philanthropists, like Gates, Broad, Walton, etc., have over education policy. Diane Ravitch prints his remarks on her blog for all to read.    
Here’s a real eye-opener of an op-ed.  Why so?  The author is the Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University and he pens a piece titled “Why I Encouraged My Child to Drop Out of High School.”  He and his wife, a former public school teacher, anguished over their decision for 6 months but came to the conclusion that it was the best path for their daughter who would have been a high school junior in September.  “This was a difficult decision,” he concluded, “for two people dedicated to public education, and an even harder decision to make as parents.”
Valerie Strauss turned her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to two guests, a retired Georgia school superintendent and a professor of English Education at the University of Georgia, who penned a piece titled “Better Ways to Use Millions of Dollars Now Spent on Testing.”  They proceed to offer a number of examples of how the money could be better spent.  They focus on priorities for the State of Georgia but their suggestions could easily apply to any district in the country.            In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered a speech in which he described the coming assessments aligned to the Common Core “as an absolute game-changer in public education.”  Now that most of those exams have been developed and rolled out, Valerie Strauss, in another blog, says “not so fast” to his characterization.  “The testing framework,” she explains, “that was supposed to be a major part of the Core initiative is falling apart.  It’s been clear for some time that the exams being designed by the two consortia — Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — will not, in fact, be the quality game-changer that Duncan envisioned. ”                A retired teacher who taught English, German, Latin and social studies for 40 years, pens an op-ed on NJ.com about the new standardized assessments aligned to the Common Core. He believes they are “fundamentally flawed” and “have no legitimacy.” 

Are there examples of public school and charter programs that are successfully closing the “opportunity gap?”  The answer is an emphatic “yes” and one need not look any further than 4 campuses in Northern California.  What is the key to their performance?  “Student-centered schools.”   A short article from EdSource includes a report from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE)  that confirms their achievement.  Linda Darling-Hammond, a co-author of the study, is quoted in it and a link to the full report (8 pages) is included.

Even with state budgets rising and district monies increasing in California your paycheck is scheduled to shrink slightly beginning today.  Why?  As part of  Gov. Brown’s teacher pension reforms, the state, local school districts and individual teachers will be contributing more into the retirement fund.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times discusses the figures and the reasons why.
Sunday’s L.A. Times included one letter reacting to the paper’s story on Thursday, highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News,” about Gov. Brown signing new legislation that would streamline the process for firing teachers.
One of the student plaintiffs in the recent Vergara case named one of her teachers as undeserving of tenure because she was grossly ineffective.  Only problem was that teacher had been selected as Pasadena Teacher of the Year in 2013.  Those two points would seem to be directly in conflict as raised by Diane Ravitch on her blog.  Ravitch includes a short video (5:38 minutes) of the teacher in question on which several students are filmed praising the teacher.  What gives here?  What was the judge thinking when he issued his controversial ruling?  Ravitch’s piece includes another video (13:06 minutes) of a segment of the film “The Last Emperor” in which Red Guards, during the Cultural Revolution in China, single out for denunciation teachers who were not toeing the Maoist line.  Ravitch draws an interesting connection between the two events.  What do you think?            The teacher who was the subject of the above blog, Christine McLaughlin, left a brief comment about her involvement in the case on a later piece by Diane Ravitch. 
The LAUSD is modifying (backtracking on?) its controversial “iPad-for-all” plan.  27 district high schools have been allowed to choose among 6 different laptop computers if they wish.  “Why would we treat all our students — whether they are a first-grader or a high school freshman — as if they all had the same technology needs?” asserts board member Monica Ratliff.  “They don’t…. To have a one-device-fits-all approach does not make sense.”  The details about the new guidelines are in a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.
The author of this piece from Nation of Change offers “Five Facts for the Dangerously Deluded Education Reformers.”  “Free-market capitalists,” he begins, “view education in terms of products and profits. The products, to them, are our children. The profits go to savvy business people who use a ‘freedom to choose’ rallying cry to convince parents that they’re somehow being cheated by an equal-opportunity public school system.”  He addresses issues like testing, privatization and the fact that many so-called reformers are businesspeople with little expertise in education among his “five facts.”               Along the same lines as the above item, EDUCATION WEEK prints a op-ed piece titled “Ten Reform Claims Teachers Should Know How to Counter.”  The author provides concise responses to a number of charges leveled against education, in general, and teachers, in particular.  He addresses issues like public schools in crisis, tenure, charter schools,  and poor teacher preparation among others. 
Vergara vs. California redux.  A statewide poll among California voters found that 62% agreed with the decision in the case.  23% disagreed and 15% had no opinion.  The survey was conducted by Policy Analysis for California, out of Stanford, and the USC Rossier School of Education.  Only 42% of respondents indicated they had some familiarity with the case.  The poll asked specific questions about teacher rights addressed by the trial along with other topics including knowledge about and attitudes toward the Common Core.  The article appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times and includes a link to the full poll.
The Obama administration and U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan have not been particularly friendly to public education and teachers’ unions.  Diane Ravitch wonders what is going on and what can be done about it, particularly in light of the fact that past Democratic presidents have been strong allies of education.  “The battle for the future of public education is not over,” she writes.  “Supporters of public education must rally and stand together and elect a President in 2016 who supports public schools. This is a time to get informed, to organize, to strategize, and to mobilize. If you are not angry, you have not been paying attention.”
And finally, a series of opinion polls over the past year conducted by the Gallup Organization in concert with EDUCATION WEEK, found that 66% of school superintendents believed  the Common Core will improve education in their communities.  The online poll, which addressed a number of other education-related issues, was taken by 1,800 school district chiefs.

 Edited by
 Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)

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