Ed News, Tuesday, August 5, Edition


“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating…
too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”
John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court  
This story from the History News Network turned out to be a real eye-opener.  It demonstrates that the number of administrators at many college and university systems in the U.S.  and their pay packages have grown exponentially while the number of full-time faculty members has dropped and student loan debt has soared.  Apparently, all the money that those schools are raising or getting from taxpayers is NOT going to the professors or for financial aid or to the staff but to the growing number of people in charge. The author uses the CSU system as one example.  Shocking!
David Greene, on his DCGEducator: Doing the Right Thing blog describes his day-and-a-half experience at the BATS protest rally in Washington, D.C., last week.  He headlines his piece “A Batty 36 Hours.”
Nicholas Meier (son of Deborah Meier), on his eponymous blog, looks at the problem with vouchers.  He approaches his position from two angles, one economic and the other philosophical, i.e., who actually gets to choose.  
Here’s a very poignant “StoryCorps” segment (it’s quite short) from NPR’s “Morning Edition” program that involves a discussion between a teacher and a student he had in his 9th grade English Class at Manual Arts High School (LAUSD).  The latter ultimately dropped out of school and the two discuss why he chose that path.
ALOED member Larry Lawrence sent along an interesting “You Tube” segment (10:09 minutes) from Al Jazeera that features the “Teacher Jail” at the LAUSD where educators who are accused of certain “behaviors” (sometimes not even specified) can be housed for up to 3 years.  It focuses on an award-winning choir teacher and a science instructor who described their experiences while in “Teacher Jail” along with comments from UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and LAUSD Supt. John Deasy.  It is not a pretty picture. 
Campbell Brown has been very tight lipped about what organizations are funding her support of Vergara-like lawsuits in New York.  Several bloggers have called her out on this and Stephen Colbert, on this show on “Comedy Central” on Thursday, at the possible urging of protesters outside the taping of his program, asked her directly and she refused to answer.  Now Darcie Cimarusti, the author of the Mother Crusader blog, has done some sleuthing and uncovered Brown’s connections to a “billionaire ‘vulture fund’ CEO.”                 The Jersey Jazzman was hardly impressed with Brown’s appearance on the program.  “I can only hope that Campbell Brown’s appearance last night on The Colbert Report is typical of what she is going to bring to the debate over school workplace protections,” he begins.  “Because if this is the best the anti-tenure side can muster, we teachers will easily win the debate — provided we ever get a chance to participate.”  He goes on to refute many of the points Brown tried to make including the idea that doing away with tenure is “good for kids.”            Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, turns her column over to an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University who fact-checks a number of the statements made by Brown during her appearance on the “Colbert Report.”  “As Albert Camus wrote, ‘Good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.’   Whatever Ms. Brown’s intentions are,” the author concludes, “they lack an understanding of both the current landscape of teaching in high-needs schools and of educational research. It’s time to get some facts straight.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATON blog, wonders what Brown is so worried about from protesters and teachers’ unions that she refuses to reveal her funding sources.  
15 low-performing schools in financially troubled Detroit were taken over by the state.  One of the reforms instituted to turn the schools around was an extended day (24 extra minutes) and longer school year (35 added days).  Is the simple solution to just add minutes and days?  “In a city still reeling from the recession and mortgage crisis that accelerated its decline,” the author points out, “even critics of the state takeover agree that a radical overhaul of education is needed. Yet they question the merits of added learning time when, as they see it, quality teaching and learning isn’t happening in the first place.”  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT profiles one campus, Southeastern High School of Technology and Law, and how the changes have affected both students and faculty.
EduShyster interviews Stephanie Rivera, the leader of a student group at Rutgers University that supports public education, as she embarks on her student teaching experience.  Rivera discusses Teach for America, the attack on tenure and other pertinent topics related to teacher preparation in a piece titled “Teacher Under Construction.”
The most recent ALOED book club discussion was of the book “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.”  3 countries were features: Finland, Poland and Korea.  The author of this commentary in The New York Times is a former fellow and lecturer in Korean studies at Yale.  She was hardly impressed with the education system in South Korea.  “South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students,” she bluntly informs, “who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay.”
The Aug. 18, edition of TIME magazine has an article on several programs that encourage high school age girls to learn computer coding to help them overcome the gender gap in computer science and engineering careers.  The piece includes a short video (3:08 minutes) featuring some of the young women involved in the classes.
The Sunday Parade magazine has a cover story titled “How to Build A Better Teacher.”  It includes 5 examples of what great teachers do differently.  “It’s not personality that makes a teacher great,” it suggests, “but a specialized body of knowledge that must be learned—and that often goes against what comes naturally.”  A sidebar to this article has a brief profile of 2014 Teacher of the Year Sean McComb who has some advice for parents to help their students succeed.  It includes a short video (2:35 minutes) of McComb’s cover shoot for the magazine.  Finally, the magazine’s back-to-school” issue features a slideshow gallery of 17 of the coolest items for school.  (Click on the “Launch Gallery” button).
The Aug. 12, special election to fill a vacant seat on the LAUSD school board is heading into the homestretch.  Almost predictably, things are getting nasty as negative ads are increasing.  In recent weeks, Alex Johnson’s campaign has been sending out literature attacking George McKenna’s reputation.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times details the latest developments in the race.            An editorial in today’s paper takes Johnson to task for his turn into negative campaign advertising.   “In the current runoff race for the Los Angeles Unified school board,” it begins, “the attacks on veteran educator George McKenna by his opponent Alex Johnson and some of his backers haven’t simply been negative — they have crossed the line into the misleading if not downright inaccurate.”                 The redqueeninla blog compares the candidacies of Johnson and McKenna and endorses the latter.
What education-related issues were brought up before state legislatures this year?  An article in EDUCATION WEEK surveys various states and some of the key K-12 questions they grappled with.  Illinois adopted a new school funding formula similar to one enacted in California last year.  And the Golden State got another mention at the end of the piece in regard to increased funding for preschool programs.
Here’s a very interesting opportunity.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (of which California is a member) is inviting members of the public to get involved in setting the cutoff scores for its tests.  Yes, you read that correctly. You don’t need to be a teacher or even in an education-related field.  “Participation will be via computer,” the story in EDUCATION WEEK explains, “and is supposed to take less than three hours over the course of two days in October. Reviewers will choose one grade level, and one subject (English/language arts or math) to work on.”   The deadline for registration to participate is Sept. 19, and the article has more detailed information about the entire process and links to sign up.
On Sept. 17 (tentative date, please save it on your calendar, details to follow) ALOED will be co-sponsoring, with the Oxy Education Department, a free screening of the important documentary “Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School System” which follows 50 different administrators, teachers, school staff, parents and students in the Pasadena Unified School District as they go about their business of teaching and learning in the course of a single day.  A couple of years ago a group of ALOED members attended a screening of “Race to Nowhere.”  Several years ago the organization sponsored a showing of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind ‘Waiting for Superman’ on campus at Oxy.”  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, mentions the titles of several anti-corporate reform films including the former and the latter.  ALOED is working on obtaining a copy of “Rise Above the Mark” for a possible future showing.  Check out the comments section for a number of other suggestions from her readers.
A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a letter from a second-year teacher to a first-year teacher that contained any number of hints and suggestions for surviving that often difficult first year.  Building on that, EDUCATION WEEK prints “A Survival Guide for New Teachers” written by a veteran 4th grade teacher from Yuma, Arizona.  He begins with a typical opening day scenario for a new teacher and goes on to offer assurances and concrete tips on how it will improve.
The LAUSD had initially planned to spend a LOT of money to provide iPads for everyone.  They have since modified that program so now schools will have some choice.  A story in The Atlantic reveals that many districts are getting rid of their Apple tablets as many are choosing more versatile laptops like the Chromebook. 
And finally, Michelle Rhee has a new position as “interim chairwoman of the board” 0f a charter school company started by her husband, the mayor of Sacramento.  Valerie Strauss describes the move on her blog.  It includes a quote about the move from Larry Ferlazzo: “With luck, this means she’ll have less time to damage public education elsewhere.”
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71–that’s me happily working on this blog)

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