Ed News, Friday, August 1, 2014 Edition


 “Ignorance is the parent of fear.”

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale    

Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacts to Mark Naison’s account (highlighted by the “Ed News) of the meeting between 6 BATS (Badass Teachers Association) members and U.S. Department of Education Secretary of Education Arne Duncan after the group’s protest rally in Washington, D.C., on Monday.  “I have no idea what might actually come out of the meeting,” Greene concludes, “but it’s certainly heartening to many folks to know that some unedited unfiltered words were spoken in a DOE meeting room. That, and a face to face meeting, is no small thing.”

The author of this commentary on the nyc educator blog compares the social science axiom known as “Campbell’s Law” to what he refers to as the newly minted “Campbell Brown’s Law”  as he discusses the movement to remove teacher tenure.  The item includes a link to Wikipedia explaining the former and the writer does an excellent job describing the latter.   Campbell Brown, by-the-way, was a TV newsperson and anchor for NBC and CNN.                 For more on Brown and what she might be up to with her attacks on teacher tenure, Jeff Bryant on SALON believes she may be taking over the mantle of education “reformer” that has been slipping away from Michelle Rhee.  You’ll have to read the piece to see how he weaves Ann Coulter into all of this.              Campbell Brown is drawing a lot of reaction from the education media lately.  On her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss demonstrates how Brown’s anti-union group, the Partnership for Educational Justice, “lifted” a slogan from the American Federation of Teachers and used it as part of their mission statement.  That doesn’t seem to be very just.              The Jersey Jazzman has a simple question in the headline of a recent column:  “What Exactly Does Campbell Brown Want?”  He, too, is not impressed with either her educational qualifications or her proposed solutions.  “I wouldn’t expect an educational tourist like Brown,” he complains, “to have developed any sophisticated opinions about the massive difficulties in determining who would and would not be found effective in a high-stakes decision like granting tenure or determining who gets let go in a layoff. I would, however, expect her to be able to articulate,” he continues, “a vision for how she thinks schools would function in a tenureless world — especially since she has decided to take on the role of an anti-tenure crusader.”            Brown appeared on the Colbert Report show on Comedy Central last night.  Her appearance drew a group of protesters outside the studio where the taping took place.  They wanted her to reveal who’s funding her organization and backing the Vergara-like lawsuit she’s supporting to end tenure in New York.  Colbert asked her that precise question and you can see how she responded on the video (7:57 minutes) segment here.

The author of this item from lohud.com (Lower Hudson Journal News) pulls back the curtain on how cut scores are established for Pearson’s standardized tests.  He uses the process as it played out in New York to ask were the cut scores fair?  He was able to track down 18 of the 95 educators who were involved in setting the scores and they revealed how it all took place and what their opinion were of it.  “Some panelists defended the scoring system and some reluctantly accepted the results,” he reports, “while others came away feeling the process was so tightly controlled that the results were inevitable.”  This is an interesting and rare behind the scenes view of how the results can possibly be manipulated.

I don’t know about your experience, but my first year of teaching (at a LAUSD junior high in Carson) was difficult, stressful and a HUGE learning adventure for me.  I believe I probably learned more than my students did that year.  EDUCATION WEEK turns its space over to a second year teacher (albeit one who spent the previous 20 years in the U.S. military and in law enforcement) who pens an “Open Letter To a First-Year Teacher (From a Second-year Teacher).”  See if the author’s insights bring back memories of your first or, for that matter, second year as a teacher.  He offers some very valuable and specific tips for handling that tough first year!  You might want to save this for the next time you encounter a struggling newbie.

Diane Ravitch suggests you “drop everything and read” this description of the standardized test cheating scandal in Atlanta through the eyes of one middle-school teacher who cared deeply about students but got caught in the vortex of increasing scores at any cost. The extensive story appears in the July 21st edition of THE NEW YORKER and carries the title “Wrong Answer.”  [Ed. note:  Note the relevance to Campbell’s Law in the story above.]

How new is the idea of having national standards like the Common Core?  A story that appeared in EDUCATION WEEK 25 years ago featured a poll that found that “69 percent voiced support for the institution of a ‘standardized national curriculum’.”  In addition, 77% favored testing to determine if students met the standards.  A current article in the publication highlighted the old poll and, interestingly, mentions some much more recent surveys on the topics.

The HECHINGER REPORT has a provocative piece headlined “Want Teens to Pay Attention?  Tell Them They’re Being Manipulated.”  It uses the anti-smoking campaign to show that lectures and lists of things teens shouldn’t do are not effective ways to get them to adopt or to avoid certain behaviors.  If you have teenagers at home or work with them in school check this out.

Some education reformers would like to institute more business-related and market-based practices to the running of schools.  EDUCATION WEEK reports that a few individual principals are doing just that on their campuses.  “Faced with a rapidly changing set of challenges, including tight budgets, new technologies, and competition for students,” the author explains, “some school leaders are incorporating entrepreneurial practices into their operations.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president-elect of the NEA (she takes office Sept. 1), was interviewed by Jeff Bryant on SALON.  She had some choice words regarding Arne Duncan, standardized testing and the war on teachers among other topics.  If you want to get a sense of the new head of the nation’s largest teachers’ union check out their Q & A.

Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, describes some legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday to deal with the issue of sexual assaults on the nation’s college and university campuses.  It would require more transparency and accountability from school administrators and mandate better training for personnel tasked with dealing with specific cases.  Strauss then turns her column over to a professor of political theory at Marlboro College in Vermont who explains what goes wrong with the way assaults are handled and offers several specific suggestions on how things  could be improved.

Here’s a free, online webinar from EDUCATION WEEK that should come in handy as the LAUSD continues to implement its (now modified) “iPad for all” program.  On Monday, Aug. 25, from 11 a.m. to noon the program is titled “Helping Teachers Manage iPads in the Digital Classroom.”  Both the moderator and presenter are from JAMF Software which offers a software package that allows teachers to manage their classroom and present lessons specifically geared to the Apple tablet.  For more information and to register (required) click here.

Charters are often marketed as ideal ways to provide parents with choices as to where their children can attend school.  What happens when that choice is ultimately denied to a community?  Can’t happen?  Read on.  After Hurricane Katrina devastated a neighborhood in New Orleans the parents decided to have the Lafayette Academy take over the local elementary school.  District officials agreed and even signed-off on the decision.  4 years later the district decided to invite KIPP Schools to replace the CHOICE the community had made.  Still don’t believe this could happen?  A 2-part investigative piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune has the sordid details of how it all went down.  Part 2 of the tale is here.

The AFT and NEA continue to donate funds to U.S. House and Senate campaigns.  Since 2014 happens to be a key mid-term election year, EDUCATION WEEK details the amounts and who it was spent on based on Federal Election Commission data as of July 21.

The ALOED book club recently discussed “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way” by Amanda Ripley.  She’s the same person who wrote a laudatory cover story about Michelle Rhee for the Dec. 8, 2008, TIME magazine.  Diane Ravitch published a short note from a reader who was not particularly impressed with either Rhee or the fact that Ripley wrote the piece about her.

Arthur Levine was the president of Teachers College, Columbia University from 1994-2006 and is currently head of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, N.J.  He’s written a scholarly commentary for EDUCATION WEEK titled “15 Strategies for Placing Excellent Teachers in High-Need Schools.”  “The need for this effort is urgent,” he opines.  “Recent studies have found that students in high-need schools, which are overwhelmingly low-income, minority, and low-achieving, are twice as likely to have teachers without adequate credentials in their fields, particularly in math and science.”  His list includes a number of lessons learned from a plan his Fellowship developed 7 years ago and has some interesting implications for teacher preparation programs today.  Here’s just one of them: “We found it took 18 to 21 months for universities to create cutting-edge [teacher education] programs and three years to perfect them after implementation.”

The post-Hurricane Katrina Recovery School District in New Orleans, which will become all-charter in September, has often been held up as an example of how charters can “improve” education.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, has some serious qualms with the numbers and statistics offered to buttress that claim.  He wrote a previous piece on the topic for SALON and got some pointed responses from officials connected to the RSD, which he reprints in his latest offering.  “Anyone who wants to have a genuinely honest discussion,” he argues, “about education policy based on the real facts of the matter – and not statistical distortions achieved through gross manipulation and ‘policy speak’ that covers up realities on the ground – needs to constantly question what policy leaders and their scribes in the press are foisting off as ‘information.’  There are better sources to turn to,” he continues, “and the Internet makes that search remarkably easy.”

And finally, can a high school English teacher’s obscure blog in which she labels unidentified students as “jerks,” “dunderheads” and “grade-grubbers” be considered protected speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?  Unfortunately not, according to a ruling by a federal court judge who upheld her dismissal from her job at Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  You can read for yourself the legal thinking behind the jurist’s decision in a piece from the “School Law” blog at EDUCATION WEEK.  How would you have ruled if you’d heard the case?


Dave Alpert,

(Occidental College, ’71–That’s me, happily working on the blog)



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