The Ed News, Friday, July 11, 2014, Edition

The ED NEWS

                      “If I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: 
be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, 
whose good opinion and affection you valued.” 
― John Holt
The only way to introduce this job opening is to reprint the opening paragraph:  “Sunny, highly guarded beaches await the teacher who lands this prime opportunity: The U.S. Department of Defense needs a substitute teacher for the school at its naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”  The editor of the “Ed News” always believed the only way one could get to “visit” Guantanamo Bay was to join the navy or be a captured terrorist.  Seems there’s a third alternative.  Apply for this job opening advertised in a story from EDUCATION WEEK.  Anyone interested?  Don’t all raise your hands at once!
Public school demographics will mark a major milestone when campuses reopen for the 2014-15 school year.  For the first time in the history of this country, nonhispanic whites  will make up less than 50% of the public school population.  This brief item from the National Journal illustrates the changes.  “As public schools increasingly become institutions serving large numbers of students of color,” the authors point out, “some states with largely white state legislatures and aging electorates have already proven unwilling to raise taxes or divert needed funds to meet the needs of public schools.”
 
A developmental psychologist offers both parents and teachers “Five Tips for Helping Teens Manage Technology.”  Her ideas appear in the Greater Good Science Center  blog out of UC Berkeley.  
 
How does the American public feel about spending on education?  That topic was the focus of a poll released at the First Focus’ annual Children’s Budget Summit held at the end of June.  The survey findings were highlighted on the “EdCentral” blog at the New America Foundation.
 
Some of the lowest paid workers in the LAUSD will be getting a wage boost to $15 per hour thanks to the efforts of their Service Employees International Union, Local 99.  The organization and the district reached agreement on the increase that will take place in stages that began on July 1, with a boost to $11 per hour.  The raises will culminate at $15 on July 1, 2016.  A front-page article in the Saturday, July 5, L.A. Times discussed who will get the increases and the details of the pact.  
 
Randy Traweek discovered this piece from Anthony Cody’s blog “Living in Dialogue” at EDUCATION WEEK.  Cody turned over his column to a guest who details the devious attempt to turn many of the public schools in Camden, New Jersey, into charters.   Gov. Chris Christie and the inexperienced superintendent of the city”s schools were aided by the state legislature who pushed through a series of bills to accomplish this amid confusion and charges of sinister motives. 
 
Why do so many key education decisions often leave teachers out of the mix?  That’s the gist of this item from Jeff Bryant on the Education Opportunity NETWORK.   “The lack of educator engagement in policy making and policy enforcing circles,” he laments, “is not limited to the Common Core. And the consequences of leaving educators out of policy discussions go far beyond problems with poor policy uptake on the ground.”           
 
Still more from the Vergara  decision:  Bill Ayers, educator and activist, was interviewed on truthout where he addressed the attacks on teacher tenure, the Vergara trial  and the so-called “reform” movement in education.  This article includes a video segment (12:44 minutes) and a short written summary of the Q & A.             An article in EDUCATION WEEK discussed some of the many questions raised as a result of the verdict in the case.  If you are in need of some basic facts regarding it check out the sidebar “Primer” on the ruling.  It’s an excellent overview of many aspects of Vergara v. California.
 
Saturday’s L.A. Times included a feature on a counselor at the L.A. High School of the Arts (LAUSD) who was honored for her efforts to help seniors at the campus get financial aid so they can attend college.  The profile explains her methods for helping the students.
 
Are there alternatives to demonstrating academic competence other than standardized tests?  A group of New York City public high schools have been granted a waiver from the New York State Board of Regents to administer rigorous performance assessments that require in-depth preparation by students in lieu of passing a number of state tests.  This piece, from truthout, focuses on one of those schools, the Urban Academy Laboratory School in Manhattan, and profiles two students and a teacher.  It’s titled “‘Alternative High:’ Raising the Bar on Public Education.” 
U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan recently announced a new department program to get the “best” teachers to work in the nation’s low-performing schools.  In his often contrary way, Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, takes Duncan to task for this latest proposal.   Greene offers several scenarios for the way he believes the federal government will try to implement this new policy.               Valerie Strauss reported on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post that delegates voted at the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual convention for the resignation of Secretary Duncan.             The California Teachers Association also called for Duncan to quit.  That announcement appeared on the CTA website.
With most educators off on summer vacation, a veteran high school social studies teacher in Baltimore wonders why the U.S. still has an extended summer break when most of the rest of the world handles the time off quite differently.  Her suggestions for what to do may not be real popular but they are worth contemplating.   The piece is headlined “A Teacher’s Case Against Summer Vacation.”  EDUCATION WEEK provides the details. 
 
Students at El Rancho High in the El Rancho School District in Pico Rivera will be the first in the state to take a required ethnic studies course starting with the class of 2016.  The California state legislature has been contemplating a similar program of study statewide.  A story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times explains the reasons behind the new graduation requirement and how it will be implemented.

 

The Democartic Party is facing a growing divide over education policy.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, describes the rifts that are developing and what impact they may have on the midterm elections in November and the presidential race in 2016. 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court recently wrapped up its 2013-14 term.  A piece in EDUCATION WEEK reviews some of the key cases related to education.  
 
A relatively new fifth grade teacher at a public charter school in New York, who recently completed his two-year commitment to Teach for America, is a big fan of the Common Core State Standards as they compare to the ones in Mississippi, where he earned his undergraduate degree.  “Common Core,” he write, “gave me the flexibility to teach to my students’ individual needs without compromising essential learning goals that ensured they would be ready for college or careers upon graduation.”  His observations appear in rethink MISSISSIPPI (“Only Honest Mississippi Spoken Here”).
 
The superintendent of the Centinela Valley Union High School District, who was paid over $750,000, more than the heads of city school districts in New York and Los Angeles, faces dismissal, the repayment of at least $200,000 and back taxes after the board voted to fire him on Tuesday.  State and county auditors reported that his total compensation package was inappropriate.   The “Ed News” has previously highlighted this story and an article in yesterday’s L.A. Times has the latest details.
 
Pres. Obama and Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan sat down for lunch with 4 teachers this week in the White House.  Valerie Strauss has a story on her blog, written by one of the educators, about what they said to the president and the DoE secretary.  Their observations are quite enlightening  and left all present with a sense of hope.  “President Obama has often been described as an eloquent speaker,” the author, a  2007 Teacher of the Year in Arkansas begins.  “I learned this week that he is an eloquent listener, too.”
And finally, what’s wrong with this picture?  The Republican Senate president pro tem of the North Carolina legislature helps pass laws that expand charters in that state.  His son opens charters and is trying to cash in on the boom.  Weren’t we led to believe that charters would help poor, minority students do better?  No one ever mentions that things like charters and vouchers are wrecking public education and seem to enrich certain segments of the population.  Diane Ravitch calls it “corruption” on her blog.  So would a lot of other people.  What would you call it?
 
  Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71)
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