Ed News, Tuesday, August 19, 2014 Edition


 “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life” 
― Plato
The lid has been lifted on some major charter school scandals in Detroit and Florida (all highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News.  Are we on top of things, or what?)  Now an item in The Washington Post, by a statistician and blogger based in Los Angeles asks the pertinent question “How Will Charter Schools Deal With Their Corruption Scandals?”  The author lays out, in some detail, the problems in Michigan and Florida.  “The charter school systems [in those two states] were set up under the explicit assumptions that choice and market forces could allow a massive government funded set of private companies to run with only minimal oversight and regulation. With Michigan’s public-policy experiment starting 20 years ago and Florida’s beginning not much later,” he concludes, “it is time to start questioning the effectiveness of these policies and their cost to both taxpayers and, more importantly, to students.”
Do you ever wonder about the history of educational innovation and technology?  The author of this item from HACK EDUCATION [Ed. note: That IS the title.  Check it out if you don’t believe it.]  investigates the new GOOGLE  student management program called “Classroom” and uses it as a jumping off point for a review of some earlier “breakhroughs.”  You have to check out the 1926 ad for “A New Automatic Testing Machine for Testing and Teaching” (price: not over $15) that he includes in his piece.  It’s a hoot!
With students returning to classes in LAUSD last week a number of writers picked up pen and paper and sent notes to the L.A. Times on some previous stories in the paper.  Friday’s Times included 3 letters about the paper’s piece on Thursday regarding George McKenna’s win in last week’s school board race.  3 additional writers reacted to the paper’s op-ed item on Wednesday about  Advanced Placement scores and the design of the U.S. History exam.               Two letters published in the next day’s Times commented on the paper’s story on Wednesday about the first day of school.   Last week the Times published a detailed, front-page investigative piece about how crime statistics had been manipulated by the LAPD.  One letter posted in Saturday’s edition questioned the paper’s decision to publish test data and the names of individual teachers and their value-added scores.  (Thanks to Larry Lawrence for that one.)               Two more missives were published in Sunday’s paper regarding the Friday article about the suspension of the “parent trigger” law.
The Washington Post has an excellent profile of Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the new president of the National Education Association who takes office Sept. 1.  It’s titled “Lunch Lady Rises to Teachers Union Leader and Takes On All Comers, Bluntly.”            Valerie Strauss added to this article with an interview of the feisty leader-elect of the NEA.  “To call the woman who is about to take the helm of the National Education Association ‘outspoken’ would be something of an understatement,” Strauss explains in the introduction to her Q & A.
Campbell Brown is still making waves but this time for a slightly different reasons.  Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote a letter to Brown warning her about an organization started by Brown that is using a slogan created by the AFT.  The executive director of Brown’s group, Partnership for Educational Justice, promptly issued a curt response.  Both items were included in a column from Valerie Strauss.
Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity NETWORK offers up his take on the big news last week regarding Michelle Rhee stepping down as CEO of her organization StudentsFirst.  He recaps the story and reviews some of the key articles related to it and presents his ideas on who might be her “Rhee-placement.”  [Ed. note:  That’s his phrase.]  Campbell Brown is mentioned prominently as the one to fill Rhee’s shoes.  
Thanks to Randy Traweek for sending along an op-ed from Sunday’s New York Times.  It’s from a professor at UC Berkeley who makes a very compelling argument why “Teaching Is Not a Business.”   “The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then,” he concludes, “that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.”               Diane Ravitch called this “a truly wonderful article” and you can read some more of her more specific comments about it here.
Paul Thomas of Fordham University, on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog, identifies 2 phases so far in the resistance movement to the corporatization of public education.  He describes each but suggests it may be time to move to a new Phase 3 which he thinks is akin to the young adult stage.
The last edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new blog called Lace to the Top which the editor had not seen before.  This week Diane Ravitch featured the blog in her column.  Lace was founded by two dads, who are both teachers, from Long Island who were concerned about the overuse/misuse of standardized testing and wanted to do something about it.  Ravitch includes a link to their website so you can check it out.
Some school districts have yet to begin classes but the UC system opened it online application process on Aug. 1 for the first time ever.  That provides students with 3 extra months to complete the forms, hone those essays and collect letters of recommendation before the filing deadline on Nov., 30.  An article in Sunday’s L.A. Times details the process and why it’s been opened early.
The state of Washington made the decision not to seek a waiver from the onerous 2014 requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.  Because of that choice nearly all schools in the state will be designated as “failing” under NCLB.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, describes the “absurdity” of that outcome.               EDUCATION WEEK has a glossary of key terms related to NCLB waivers to help you navigate through the legislation.  The same publication has an interactive map showing the current state-by-state waiver status.  California is among 7 states in the “no waiver” category.
The seminal report “A Nation At Risk” came out in 1983 during the Reagan administration.  It identified a number of shortcomings in the field of education in this country and offered  plenty of suggestions to remedy the problems.  A story in The HECHINGER REPORT traces some of the reform ideas circulating today to that report.  It uses 2 schools as examples to illustrate it’s point, one in New York and a charter in Boston. 
More positive news for the LAUSD.  Two students from South L.A. won an essay contest about Charles Dickens and that got them invited to an international conference at UC Santa Cruz sponsored by the Dickens Project.  A piece in Sunday’s L.A. Times describes their efforts and why they got involved.
Yesterday Diane Ravitch’s blog passed 14 million page views since it debuted in June, 2012.  She described her pride in reaching that milestone in an entry in the column.
The highly regarded director of the award-winning Crenshaw High School (LAUSD) choir was returned to her classroom when classes started last week after spending 8 months in “teacher jail” for unspecified allegations.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times has the details.
The nine authors of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History framework that was first published in 2012 issued an open letter defending their work in the face of conservative criticism of it.  Recently, the Republican National Committee came out against the program.  EDUCATION WEEK has a short story about the letter and a link to the full text which includes the names of all 9 of the scholars who wrote it.
The latest Common Core test results were released by New York last week.  They showed English scores were “flat” and math scores increased slightly.  A story from The  HECHINGER REPORT argues that only detailing proficiency rates masks just how much the actual results changed and suggests students did better than the reporting may indicate. 
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, prints a commentary from a professor of Education at Boston College, who wonders “What’s the Real Purpose of Educational Benchmarking?”  He provides an historical definition of the term “benchmarking” and details how it is being used in education today.
California has gotten a $10.7 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education to assist low-income students in paying for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International exams.  39 other states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands received a total of $28.4 million in  grants from the DoE.  A piece in yesterday’s L.A. Times outlined the program.
A new poll published today, conducted by the  group EducationNext out of the conservative  Hoover Institute At Stanford University, found support for the Common Core slipping but it’s still favored by a 53% of all respondents.  The biggest decline in support from last year to this was among teachers whose backing declined from 76% to 46%.  The survey questioned 500 adults in the spring and the results were featured in a story from EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a link to the full poll (12 pages) titled “NO COMMON OPINION ON THE COMMON CORE” where you can see the other issues surveyed.
Diane Ravitch is touting a new organization on her website.  It’s called Democrats for Public Education and she includes the press release they issued announcing their debut.  In it the group delineates their “core principles” and it has a link to their website.  
5 professional women, two of them educators, took a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) from the University of Pennsylvania last fall titled “Creativity, Innovation and Change.”  They decided to collaborate on a list of their own and developed “The Five Habits of Creative Teachers” which is the title of their piece in EDUCATION WEEK.  It became the idea for another MOOC which the 5 of them developed and will be presented again starting on Oct. 6.   A link to the course description and information about signing up is included in the article.
A 2-part investigative series in the (South Florida) Sun Sentinel takes a critical look at charter schools.  Part 1 details the lack of accountability and oversight for charters and explains how easy it is to start one and weak state laws.  “Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system,” it begins, “collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.  A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity.”   The first segment includes a video (4:48 minutes) illustrating some of the issues covered.   Part 2 describes an educator who was banned in New Jersey for financial improprieties but landed on his feet in Florida.  “New Jersey authorities banned educator Steve Gallon III from working in their public schools,” it explains. “Five months later, three South Florida charter schools welcomed him.  The struggling schools gave Gallon’s company $500,000 in taxpayer dollars over two years, allowing him to give jobs and double payments to his cronies.”
And finally, a new policy for LAUSD police will discourage the issuance of citations or arrests for certain offenses and students will be referred to counseling instead.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK outlines the new guidelines.  
          Dave Alpert
          (Occidental College, ’71) 
                 That’s me working diligently on the blog.

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