Ed News, Tuesday, August 26, 2014 Edition


“Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity,
but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity.
Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself.
Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. 
Let him not be taught science, let him discover it.
If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; 
he will be a mere plaything of other people’s thoughts.” 
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau
BREAKING NEWS:  LAUSD Supt. John Deasy announced in a memo to the school board yesterday that the district was suspending it’s contract with Apple to provide iPads to all students.  Recent revelations that he and Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino had close ties to the company were a major factor in the decision.  A front-page story in today’s L.A. Times has all the latest details.                 EDUCATION WEEK also covered this important story.  Click here for their coverage which includes a link to the above item.               For quite some time now the editor of the “Ed News” has referred to the program as “iPadgate” because he suspected, as many others did, that there was something fishy going on.  Apparently, there was.  For more information about what led up to this latest action see the following stories.                 Friday’s L.A. Times published leaked portions of an internal investigation that was highly critical of the LAUSD’s bidding process and other issues regarding its “iPad for all” program. NPR station 89.3 KPCC reveals some internal emails they obtained that indicate LAUSD “Superintendent John Deasy personally began meeting with Pearson and Apple to discuss the eventual purchase of their products starting nearly a year before the contract went out to public bid.”  The station also indicates  that the internal report reveals that some district officials raised questions about the use of bond construction money to pay for curriculum materials.  Thanks to Randy Traweek for sending this along.               A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times shed more light on the relationship between LAUSD officials and representatives from Apple and Pearson in the run-up to the granting of the very lucrative contract to provide tablets and software to students.  Based on emails released to the paper, contacts between the three sides involved began up to two years prior to the signing of the deal.  The piece includes comments and reactions to the growing controversy made by Supt. Deasy on Sunday.
The husband and wife who wrote this commentary in the Raleigh, NC, News & Observer make a strong case for public education.  They should know, since they have two sons who graduated from North Carolina public schools.  “We remain deeply committed to the success of public education in North Carolina,” they argue.  “We believe not only in the ABCs for each child, but also in the CDEs of strong public schools — essential to our Community, Democracy and Economy.”
The title of this piece from IN THESE TIMES pretty much cuts right to the chase: “The Con Artistry of Charter Schools.”  It’s subtitled “Once An Effort to Improve Public Education, The Charter School Movement Has Transformed Into a Money-Making Venture.”  The author, who is the editor of “The Progressive” magazine, begins by listing a number of instances where charter management companies are under investigation by various law enforcement entities for various nefarious activities.  “Over the last decade,” she charges, “the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.”              The author of this commentary on CITY LIMITS addresses the issue of why there seems to be such high teacher turnover in New York City charter schools.  “According to data from the New York State Department of Education, charter schools in New York City lose far more teachers every year than their traditional school counterparts. In some schools, more than half of faculty ‘turn over’ from one school year to the next, according to NYSED school report cards.”
Anthony Cody turns his new personal blog LIVING in DIALOGUE over to veteran Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson who describes how educators in the Windy City have organized their own standardized testing boycott.  She offers a series of specific ideas on how you can duplicate their actions in your district.
How do the so-called education “reformers” plot to corporatize/privatize the public school system?  They first pour lots of money into local school board races in order to win a majority.  Then they push through rules to turn the schools over to charter management companies and, presto, no more traditional public schools.  Sound far fetched?  This extended investigative piece from IN THESE TIMES illustrates how just such a scenario is playing out in the Dallas Independent School District.  Scary stuff! 
Lily Eskelsen Garcia will officially take over as president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, on Sept. 1.  In the lead up to that she’s been getting a lot of media attention (much of it highlighted by the “Ed News”) for her up-by-the-bootstraps biography and passionate defense of public education, teachers and unions.  Sandy Banks, in her Saturday column for the L.A. Times, had a conversation with her while Garcia was visiting schools in the state.   “She hopes her story, and her moxie,” Banks relates, “will inspire millions of teachers and parents to push back against high-stakes testing, regimented lessons and what she calls ‘stupid rules.'”               In a letter published in today’s Times, a retired teacher who worked in the classroom for 44 years gave a big “thumbs up” to the comments of Lily Eskelsen Garcia that appeared in Banks’ column.  
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reprints a commentary that offers a strategic plan of 9 steps to help save public education.  
On Friday, George McKenna was sworn in to fill a vacant seat on the LAUSD school board.  He won the post in a special election held on August 12  for the District 1 position.  A story in the Saturday L.A. Times recaps the election and what the implications are of McKenna’s win.  “McKenna could prove a pivotal vote,” it suggests, “in the nation’s second-largest school system on issues such as contract negotiations, teacher evaluations and the use of technology in schools. He had the backing of the teachers union.”
truthout offers a cartoon graphic to explain how Bill Gates is able, through the millions of dollars behind his foundation, to manipulate the discussion about what’s wrong with education.
Two letters in Sunday’s L.A. Times commented on the paper’s story on Thursday about the rocky roll-out of the new LAUSD “My Integrated Student Information System” (MiSis) that one described as a “MiSiS crisis.”               More bad publicity for the LAUSD.  Yesterday students at Jefferson High staged a sit-in to protest major problems with the districts new student information system MiSis.  School started on Aug. 12 and student programs were still not correct, some class sizes were huge, attendance was difficult to take and the master schedule was fouled up among other issues.  An article in today’s L.A. Times lays out what the students were upset about. 
Nancy Kuechle, the guru of the ALOED book club, sent along this New York Times review of an intriguing new book by Dana Goldstein titled “The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.”  “Ms. Goldstein’s book,” the reviewer offers, “is meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced, serving up historical commentary instead of a searing philippic.”

The U.S. has recently been experiencing an influx of unaccompanied minors entering the country from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of stories on this issue and how it impacts local schools.  EDUCATION WEEK illustrates the experiences of one such 12-year-old boy who left his home  in Honduras and made the perilous journey to this country to rejoin his family who he hadn’t seen in 8 years.  He was scheduled to begin school in the District of Columbia yesterday.   The article also describes how districts around the country are preparing for these latest young immigrants.
According to employers, what country seems to be doing the best job at preparing college graduates for entry into the workforce?  A story from The HECHINGER REPORT suggests educators look to Germany for some key insights.  “U.S. colleges that consider themselves part of the greatest higher-education system in the world,” the article declares, “are importing the German model of career and technical education to keep up with a demand they can’t fill: for Americans with the right skills to work in mid-level fields.”  The piece goes on to detail the dual system being used in  Germany and how it could be duplicated here in the states.
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a drastic 10% pay cut for teachers in Detroit along with some other draconian cost saving measures.  Today the city’s state-appointed emergency manager cancelled the salary reduction along with a plan to increase class sizes in the bankrupt city.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK has the news.
With more and more experts leery of the use of student test scores as part of teacher evaluations, the New York Board of Regents is proposing that new teacher assessments be made up of 40% of student standardized exam results.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, finds this difficult to accept.  “Unlike the state of Vermont, which refuses to rate teachers and principals by test scores,” she concludes, “New York’s Regents will plunge ahead, regardless of the damage they do to teachers, principals, students, and communities.”
After a number of years of K-12 school budget cuts/stagnation, the new school year is looking up as far as funding goes.  EDUCATION WEEK looks at the guarded optimism regarding increased funds for new hiring and long delayed programs.  “For fiscal 2015, the budget year covering the school year that is just beginning,” the author points out, “the appetite for more spending on public schools was evident in governors’ proposed budgets. Chief executives in all but three states—Alaska, Illinois, and Nevada—proposed general- fund spending increases for K-12, according to a survey published by the National Association of State Budget Officers, in Washington.”  California, by the way, was described as the only state to dramatically increase spending this year due to the passage of Prop. 30.
Bullying is a major problem in schools these days.  It has always been around but awareness of it has moved front and center as it has been traced to the cause of some school shootings and other anti-social behavior.  The author of this piece from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley is a licensed social worker, school counselor and writer.  She offers “Eight Keys to End Bullying.”  These are from her newest book of the same title.
And finally, Vermont is the latest in a growing list of states and districts that are concerned with the misuse of standardized tests.  The Green Mountain state’s board of education released a list of guiding principles regarding the exams that was a thinly veiled attack on many aspects of the testing regimen.  EDUCATION WEEK outlines what’s going on.  

Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on this blog

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