Ed News, Tuesday, August 12, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

 “Philosophers have long conceded, however, that every man has two educators:
 ‘that which is given to him, and the other that which he gives himself. 
Of the two kinds the latter is by far the more desirable. 
Indeed all that is most worthy in man he must work out and conquer for himself. 
It is that which constitutes our real and best nourishment. 
What we are merely taught seldom nourishes the mind like that which we teach ourselves.” 
― Carter G. WoodsonThe Mis-Education of the Negro
Diane Ravitch prints a note from a reader who forwards a blog from 4LAKIDS that offers a number of endorsements of George McKenna for the vacant LAUSD school board seat in the special election being held today.               Ravitch also posted the endorsement of McKenna by current LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer.  
Whoopi Goldberg (yes, that Whoopi Goldberg) stepped in it the other day when she joined the anti-tenure battle on her show “The View.”  Because of the size of her audience her remarks drew immediate fire and she was forced to issue a quick, if brief (24 second)  video clarification.  A piece from the DAILY KOS describes what precipitated the clash and how viewers to the show responded.  A second video (6:23 minutes), from a veteran public school teacher, attempts to provide some factual background for Ms. Goldberg. 
One of the key changes that many so-called education “reformers” want to make is to run schools more like businesses.  The author of this commentary in the Greensboro (North Carolina) News-Record is a master teacher and is National Board Certified.  She’s taught for 25 years so she knows of what she speaks.  She explains, in a rather novel way, why schools ARE NOT businesses and can’t be run like them.
 
One of the key issues in the recent Vergara case in California was how to distinguish between a “good” and a “bad” teacher.  A similar case has been filed in New York and the lead plaintiff offered a rather novel answer to that question.  Valerie Strauss explains what he said in her “Answer Sheet” blog  for The Washington Post.  It includes a video (10:01 minutes) of a discussion between Campbell Brown and the plaintiff discussing his point.  Strauss titles her piece “A Strange Definition of a ‘Bad’ Teacher.”
 
The American Statistical Association earlier this month published a 5-point rebuttal to the (in)famous study by Chetty, Rockoff and Friedman that touted the use of value-added models (VAMs) as highly reliable measures of teacher effectiveness.  One of the authors of this latest ASA report is none other than Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of the VAMboozled blog (featured quite often by the “Ed News”).  Diane Ravitch reprinted the ASA’s trenchant points.  It includes an impressive list of references and sources for the research.
 
Why do some so-called education “reformers” insist on making the Common Core into a civil rights issue?  That’s the key question addressed by Anthony Cody and Alan Aja on Cody’s new blog Living in Dialogue.  They title their essay “Civil Rights or Civil Wrongs: A Closer Look at the Common Core.”
 
One of the key “reforms” instituted in the Washington, D.C., public schools by Michelle Rhee when she was chancellor there was the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.  That concept is rapidly losing favor as Rhee’s handpicked successor decided to temporarily end the practice.  Surprisingly the decision was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation!   Are you shocked?  The details can be found in an article in SALON.
 
With teacher tenure under attack from many different sources a 5th grade teacher at Castroville Elementary School in California offers a short rebuttal titled “Tenure Gives Teachers Freedom to Teach.”  His comments appear on the San Francisco Chronicle website.
 
Wednesday the Sacramento Bee ran an op-ed that claimed California was lowering the requirements for teaching credentials in the state.  You can read that commentary here.  “Recently,” the authors claimed, “the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, asserting it was raising standards, voted for a special teaching authorization that would lower credentials for some teachers.  The revisions eliminate five of the seven current requirements for teaching an academic subject,” they continued.  “The most critical elimination: removing the requirement that teachers have bachelor’s degree.”  A number of readers of Diane Ravitch’s column were incredulous at this assertion and wrote to her about this action. Ravitch reached out to a number of her reliable sources and got to the bottom of the claim by printing an official response from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.               To continue to clarify the situation, Linda Darling-Hammond, chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, explains exactly what took place regarding ROTC credentials ONLY and sets the record straight.  Her follow-up commentary appeared in the same paper. 
 
WalletHub, a financial services provider, has come out with its 2014 rankings of school systems by state.  Top three: New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont.  Bottom three: Alabama, Mississippi and the District of Columbia.  California ranked 39th.  The organization uses 12 factors to develop its ratings.  A number of charts and tables accompany this article.  
 
Newt Gingrich (remember him?) wrote an opinion piece for CNN in which he argues that the traditional model of educating students needs to be replaced by some of the technological breakthroughs of the 21st century.  He titles his piece “Get Schools Out of the 1890s.”   Diane Ravitch had some choice comments about the former Speaker of the House of Representatives proposals on her blog.
 
Is U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan changing his spots?  After following a “reform” program advocated by people like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Sam Walton, he now identifies as his “new top advisers” outstanding teachers and principals that he’s met in his travels around the country.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, is more than skeptical and she explains why.  “A problem for Duncan,” she concludes, “is that many teachers and principals  don’t think the answer lies with his reform policies or his embrace of alternative teaching programs.”
 
Here’s some positive news for LAUSD.  Advanced Placement participation in classes and students taking the exams has increased significantly from 2006-07 according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  Course offerings have increased 34% in that time period and the number of pupils sitting for the tests has climbed by 62% in the past 7 years despite overall enrollment declines.               Speaking of Advanced Placement classes, the Republican National Committee has come out against the College Board’s new AP U.S. History framework complaining that it “”deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events” and “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”  A story in EDUCATION WEEK explains in more detail what the RNC is so upset about.                   In response to complaints about the new APUSH Framework, the College Board quickly released a sample test question and will soon issue a “clarification” of what the curriculum contains.  ED WEEK again has the follow-up.
 
Why are people skeptical of some charter schools?  Check out these two stories.  The New York Times describes what happened when former pro football star Deion Sanders was allowed by the Texas Board of Education to open a charter that quickly turned into a sports academy with dubious academic standards among other problems.                    A charter in Chicago run by the reclusive Turkish imam Fetullah Gulen is planning to open in a building owned by a bank headed by the president of the Chicago School Board.  How convenient (and probably profitable)!  The Chicago Sun-Times details this seeming impropriety.
 

“Our wise friend Edward Berger took some time off from blogging, did some serious reflection, and has returned with some blockbuster posts,” Diane Ravitch begins on one of her blog entries.  “This one is called ‘Never Again! Now the Evidence is Irrefutable.’ He describes three groups of reformers.”  Berger has boiled down what the “Ed News” refers to as “so-called education reformers” into three distinct groups.  This is pretty scary stuff as he describes each group and what they hope to achieve through their “reforms.”  This item should not be missed!  As an example, here’s his description of just the first group: 

 
“Group one, the most damaging, is motivated by gaining access to the tax dollars citizens pay for public education. They hide behind a pretense of serving children 
and building America’s future. They are ruthless pirates who have no allegiance to anything but their own wealth and power. They are often hedge fund managers. 
Many are successful entrepreneurs who believe that because they created or inherited wealth, they are experts in every field…..”
 

Campbell Brown continues to draw fire for her appearance on the “Colbert Report” on July 31st.  David Sirota, writing for his new home at the INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES, takes the former CNN news anchor to task for failing to disclose the groups that provide her funding particularly since one of the organizations she founded is called the “Parents Transparency Project.” (Emphasis added).  “The founder of a high-profile group seeking to weaken teacher tenure laws refuses to reveal who is funding her efforts,” the article begins, “despite her organization’s stated aim to ‘bring transparency’ to education policymaking. ”              Mercedes Schneider couldn’t resist commenting on Brown’s recent efforts in a piece on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 titled “Pretty Campbell Brown and Her Ugly, Misguided Anti-Due-Process Crusade.”  You can’t get much more descriptive than that!   Schneider includes a very interesting and detailed biography of Brown as part of her commentary.

 
Jury selection began yesterday for a trial predicted to last between 4 and 6 months of 12 educators accused of cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta Public Schools.  The former superintendent at the time of the scandals has serious health issues and is not among the defendants at this time.  The story appears on the WJCL News website (via the Associated Press).
Teach for America is making a concerted effort to increase the diversity of its recruits.  Up to 50% of its latest class are people of color, reports the organization.  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT explains the changes and what else may be in store for TFA.
Today the State Board of Education in Michigan began debating a new set of rules for strengthening oversight of charter schools in that state.  They would require the same transparency as public schools and toughen conflict-of-interest rules for companies that manage charters.  Upon reading what’s being proposed one is struck by the fact that these rules need to be applied nationwide.  “Casandra Ulbrich, vice president of the State Board and chair of the legislative committee, said it falls within the board’s responsibility to ensure ‘the same levels of transparency, accountability and high standards as traditional schools.'”  The Detroit Free Press has all the details.
And finally, we’ll end on an up note.  Here’s a BIG success story to help get the new school year started today in the LAUSD.  The Academic Decathlon coach at Fremont High was recently voted coach of the year by her fellow team leaders.  So far, so good.  Her back story, however, is remarkable.  She dropped out of school in the 9th grade but ultimately returned, graduated, earned a degree and a credential and has been teaching history at Fremont for the past 4 years.  Her decathlon team has made great progress, too, finishing 13th last year after placing 47th three years ago.  Sandy Banks, in her Tuesday column for the L.A. Times, introduces you to this amazing young woman.
 
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71–That’s me happily working on the blog)
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