Ed News, Friday, July 18, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “You’ve got to accept the fact that you are basically not teaching a subject,
you are teaching children.” 
― Madeline L’Engle
Many education reformers tout high school Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment as a mark of educational distinction and rigor.  What few people realize is that those classes are a creation of the College Board and serve as a profit stream for the company.  Leave it to Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION  blog, to point this out along with his questioning why the U.S. Dept. of Education has gotten involved in promoting AP courses.
 
Diane Ravitch prints a commentary from one of her readers, a 30-year teaching veteran, who make a strong case for why we need labor unions
 
There has been a lot of criticism of the Common Core from a variety of sources but this one may be unique.  A veteran English teacher from Illinois, writing in The Atlantic, tries to guess how Mark Twain (yes, that Mark Twain) might have reacted to the assessments related to the standards.  He titles his piece “What Would Mark Twain Have Thought of Common Core Testing?”  and he cites numerous examples of Twain’s own writings to bolster his premise.  “Mark Twain had an abiding concern with education,” the author suggests, “and he treated formal schooling derisively in his writings.”  This makes for a fun read and will not take a big chunk of your time.               Speaking of the Common Core, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker (yes, that Scott Walker), has called for his state legislature to repeal the standards as of 2015.  He is the fourth GOP governor in the past month to request their elimination, according to a brief item in EDUCATION WEEK.
 
Vouchers are often a stealthy way to remove taxpayer money from the public schools.  They are often couched in terms of “school choice” and aiding low-income families.  The Florida Education Association has come up with way to combat their expansion in the Sunshine State: file a lawsuit.  According to a story in the Tampa Bay Times, the FEA has done just that claiming the law passed by the legislature and signed into law last month is unconstitutional.               A commentary on the American Civil Liberties Union website discusses an ongoing U.S. Dept. of Justice investigation into the voucher program in Wisconsin and how it allegedly discriminates against students with disabilities.   The author, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, additionally demonstrates how vouchers are a sly attempt to privatize public schools.  “School voucher programs like the one in Wisconsin and similar programs around the country,” she asserts, “like tax credits for private school tuition, do not provide a choice for everyone. But DOJ’s ongoing investigation of Wisconsin and other state voucher programs is a step in the right direction of ensuring that states are not permitted to create a civil rights vacuum by abdicating public education to private schools.”
 
The Vergara case redux:  Bruce Baker, writing on the School Finance 101 website, compares the findings in the California case to the situation in New York.  He presents a detailed analysis of the original decision and believes that the facts in New York are demonstrably different than in the Golden State
 
A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times (highlighted in the previous “Ed News”) reported how public school students in more affluent areas were given the opportunity to take classes from private parent foundations for prices between $600 and $800 each.  An editorial in Wednesday’s paper objected to the practice.  ” [I]t is still troubling,” the piece closes, “that budget woes are prompting public schools, in essence, to privatize their most basic function: offering academic classes for credit to students.”
Most educational technology can get pretty sophisticated and, at times, complicated.  The HECHINGER REPORT discusses a successful program developed by MIT over 10 years ago that teaches high school math and science.  What are the “complex” technology tools required?  Why nothing more than an old television and a VCR (remember those?).  The article describes how the idea was developed and how it can be implemented today.
Sometimes the so-called education “reformers” make outlandish claims about how successful their proposed changes are.  Diane Ravitch prints a piece from an anonymous “high-level official” of the New York City Department of Education who quotes some misleading statistics about graduation rates that are used to bolster the “reformers” inaccurate claims.  The piece is titled “Reformers Caught Lying. Again.  This Time About Graduation Stats.”
 
The “Ed News” has previously highlighted 2 articles by Valerie Strauss about a lunch meeting between 4 teachers at high-poverty schools and Pres. Obama and Sec. Duncan.  The first reported on the gathering itself and in the second she reprinted a number of comments from readers about it.  In the third installment Strauss invites the chief executive officer and partner at the Center for Teaching Quality who answers the key question “Did Obama and Duncan Really Hear What 4 Teachers Told them?”  His answers are quite interesting.
 
A new U.S. Dept. of Education review, using brand new criteria, has found fewer states meeting the requirements of special education students.  Only 15 states made the highest category “meets requirements.”  California (ahem) was among 3 states and the District of Columbia in the lowest grouping, “needs intervention.”  An article in EDUCATION WEEK features the DoE report.
 
Chicago has been closing a number of its public high schools and opening smaller charters and other “schools of choice.”  The idea was supposed to give minority parents more options of where to send their students.  However, an investigative piece from NPR station WBEZ91.5  found that many pupils were actually “tracked” into campuses of similar academic abilities.  You can read the report and/or listen to the segment (8:38 minutes–click on the “soundcloud” button) here.  It’s titled “The Big Sort: How Chicago’s School Choice System is Tracking Kids Into Separate High Schools Based on Achievement.”
 
A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes a federal lawsuit filed by the principal of Beverly Hills High School alleging that members of the district’s school board made racist comments about the African-American administrator, treated him in a discriminatory manner regarding his salary and  attempted to destroy his career.
 
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, wants to know why much of the media has been so slow to report on the growing backlash against standardized tests, the Common Core, the taking away of teacher protections, charters and vouchers and other “reform” issues.  He provides a good accounting of the many protests that have taken place and some of the people responsible for them, i.e., Diane Ravitch.  He titles the piece “Waking Up to Our Broken Education Policies.”
 
The Massachusetts State Senate refused, by a vote of 26-13, to lift the cap on charter schools in the Bay State.  A bill had handily passed the state House in May to approve the expansion.  Diane Ravitch reports the results on her blog.
 
And finally, The HECHINGER REPORT highlights some startling statistics about teacher attrition from a newly released report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the New Teacher Center.  It found that 13% of teachers move schools or abandon the profession each year; between 40% and 50% quit within 5 years.  The main reasons they leave is because of “poor administrative support and isolated working conditions.”  The report didn’t just look at why teachers leave. It also proposed some ideas for retaining as many as possible since it costs districts a lot of money whenever an educator needs to be replaced.  “New teachers need more on-the-job training,” the report suggests, “and mentor programs for the first two years that’s designed to keep them in the profession.”  You can access the full report (19 pages) titled “On The Path to Equity: Improving the Effectiveness of New Teachers” here.  You can also read a (much shorter) Press Release about it.
 
 

 Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71–that’s me, happily creating this blog!)
 
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