Ed News, Tuesday, July 22, Edition


 “Every maker of video games knows something that the makers of curriculum don’t seem to understand. 
 You’ll never see a video game being advertised as being easy. 
 Kids who do not like school will tell you it’s not because it’s too hard. 
 It’s because it’s–boring” 
Educators know what tenure is but how informed is the general public about the term?  With the Vergara case and other “reformers” attacking tenure and other teacher protections it’s time to take a careful look at just what the concept entails.  David Greene and a co-author explain in simple, easy to understand language “Why Parents Should Not Fear Teacher Tenure.”  It appears on his website DCGEducator: Doing the Right Thing.  Greene focuses his discussion on New York but it is applicable to most states with tenure laws.  At least check out the cartoon that accompanies the piece.                  Many people believe that tenure is only around to protect poor teachers.  As the author of a commentary for the New York Daily News points out, it guards against the arbitrary dismissal of “good apples, too.”  He cites two specific examples of how tenure and the lack of it played out.
This item from Alter Net looks at 5 states in the U.S. that have or are currently pushing bills in their legislatures that allow the teaching of creationism and other alternate theories of human evolution and climate change.  In case you were wondering, California isn’t one of them.  “Almost every southern and bible-belt state in the US,” the author points out, “has at the very least attempted to pass education bills that either remove evolution from the curriculum or make it legal for teachers to offer alternative theories to human origins.”
A new scholarly report from the American Educational Research Association looks at how educational philanthropy has changed over the years and how it has gotten much more into the political realm as well.  “Philanthropic involvement in education politics,” the two authors from Michigan State University explain in the Abstract, “has become bolder and more visible. Have foundations changed funding strategies to enhance their political influence? Using data from 2000, 2005, and 2010, we investigate giving patterns among the 15 largest education foundations.”
Anthony Cody turns his “Living in Dialogue” column in EDUCATION WEEK over to guest host Paul Horton, who began his teaching career in secondary schools in Texas.  He has spent the last 14 years working at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  Horton tackles the issue of whether corporate reforms that push “choice,” “free enterprise” and market-driven ideas will be the death knell of public education.
The eight-year-old, San Jose based charter management organization Rocketship Education is paring back its plans to expand into new markets in San Antonio, Dallas, Memphis Indianapolis and New Orleans for reasons that are outlined in this item from EdSurge.
An enterprising parent who happens to be an assistant professor of data journalism at Temple University discovered a rather scary catch-22.  It seems that many questions on the standardized tests created by companies like Pearson require students to acquire the knowledge to be successful on said tests by using textbooks published by said companies.  That could be a problem by itself but what happens when a large urban school district doesn’t have the funds to purchase the books?  The author of this story from The Atlantic did some serious digging into the situation in the Philadelphia school system where her 1st grader attended.  What she discovered led her to write “Why Poor Students Can’t Win at Standardized Testing.”  It’s a real dose of reality!
From the “Not Again” file:  Another education “reform” expert is about to be voted on to become superintendent of the New London school system in Connecticut.  The candidate has claimed for a number of years that he had a doctorate degree.  Where it came from changed several times on various resumes that he submitted.  Only recently did it come out that yes, indeed he has a Ph.D., only it was from an unaccredited university and it might have been in theology.  You can read all the details in a story from the Wait What? website (“Working to educate, persuade and mobilize through ‘perceptive and acerbic’ observations about Connecticut government and politics”).  the gentleman in question will be getting a legitimate degree next month but what about all those false claims prior to that?  Should that person become the educational leader of a city school district?
Sunday’s L.A. Times describes a series of rather unique niche classes that are only offered online and only to girls at independent middle and high schools.  Currently students at 80 campuses, including 8 in L.A. County, are taking advantage of the courses developed by the Online School for Girls that began 5 years ago.  Individual offerings can cost as much as $1,400.  The story discusses how the program got started, how it works and the philosophy behind single-gender classes.  [Ed. note: So as not to discriminate, an Online School for Boys is set to debut in the fall.]
It’s not just U.S. students who score poorly on international assessments.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the same group that administers the PISA tests that generate comparisons of student learning among a number of developed countries,  has issued its first-ever rankings of educational innovation around the world.  Among 24 nations studied the U.S. only outscored Austria and the Czech Republic.  Denmark, Indonesia and Korea ranked at the top.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK highlights the report, titled “Measuring Innovation in Education,” and includes a link to it (335 pages).                Valerie Strauss is a little leery of the OECD’s report on innovation.  She points out how difficult it is to quantify and measure that characteristic and was surprised that the U.S. was cited for its “use of student assessments” as a “top organizational innovation.”  “The United States at this point,” she indicates, “appears to be standing alone in its obsessive use of standardized tests as important measures of accountability in education.”
Is the teaching of mindfulness in schools the key to educational success?  That’s the topic of a new book titled “The Way of Mindful Education–Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students” by Daniel Rechtschaffen.  The book and its philosophy are described in a review from the Greater Good Science Center out of UC Berkeley.
More and more states and districts are introducing major changes in the way they evaluate teachers.  The same thing is beginning to happen when it comes to the training and evaluation of principals and superintendentsEDUCATION WEEK reports on the recent revisions to standards that were last updated in 2008 by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC).  They are expected to be released in October.  “The aim is to reflect the ways in which those jobs have changed in the past decade,” the story begins, “and to clarify roles, responsibilities, and expectations within a markedly different environment.”
Starting in the fall every school in Florida will be using the new Common Core State Standards.  A brief feature from The HECHINGER REPORT explores how ready schools in the state will be for the standards.  You can listen to the audio report (2:59 minutes) and/or read a transcript about the confidence that principals and teachers express regarding Common Core implementation here.  It is the final installment of a 5-part series.  Links to the previous stories are included. 
Mercedes Schneider, who has just published a new book titled “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education” paused just long enough to pen an update on her blog about what’s been happening recently with the Common Core and the assessment consortia. 
How popular are those school lunches based on new federal standards for good health and nutrition?  An item from EDUCATION WEEK features the results of two different national surveys of school administrators.  [Ed. observation: Note the surveys did NOT ask students what they thought.]  “While many students,” the article begins, weren’t keen on more nutritious school lunches when their districts first began complying with new federal meal standards in the 2012-13 school year, they eventually warmed up to the healthier fare, complaining less and eating as much as they did before the rules went into place.”
Diane Ravitch prints a commentary on her blog from a parent and professor at CUNY who explains why he’s opted his 10-year-old son out of  the standardized test regimen in New York and urges other parents to do the same in their states.  He titles his piece “Opt-Out, The REAL Parent Revolution.”
The author of this opinion piece for EDUCATION WEEK wonders “Are First-Year Teachers Ever Proficient?”  Excellent question.  How fair is it to label the proficiency of first and even second-year teachers.  [Ed. note:  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t consider myself a really good teacher until my fifth year in the classroom.]  “There really isn’t any substitute for experience or short cut to proficiency,” she suggests.  “This shouldn’t be surprising. All jobs and professions involve craft knowledge. You can’t be a good bartender, minister, welder or surgeon without practice and learning from your screw-ups. Why should teaching be any different?”
The 25th annual “Kids Count” survey, released today, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that children are making small, but perceptible, gains in education and health in this country.  “But children’s and parents’ gains are precarious as families continue to sink into poverty,” it warns, “and wide racial gaps remain.”  An article in EDUCATION WEEK features the report and describes some of the other findings.
And finally, a brand new outside political action committee has been formed to funnel (lots of) money into the special LAUSD board race to fill the vacant seat caused by the death of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.  The election will take place on Aug. 12 and will be held solely for voters in the District 1 contest.  Two candidates are vying for the position.  Former district principal and administrator George McKenna, who garnered the most votes in the June primary and is supported by UTLA and Alex Johnson, an education advisor to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas who has already received $100,000 from the new PAC.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes what the new PAC hopes to accomplish.                 An editorial in the same paper endorsed one of the candidates.  Guess which one?  If you picked Johnson you’re wrong.  They went with McKenna and if you read the piece you will see why they did.
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71–That’s me busily creating the blog)

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