Ed News, Tuesday, September 23, 2014 Edition


Fall officially began at 7:29 pm yesterday.

The Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown tomorrow.
“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
The Center for Public Integrity reports that a number of children’s rights organizations sent a letter last week to the U.S. Dept. of Defense urging officials there to cease providing military-grade weapons to local school districts.  “News reports and lists of recipients of surplus hardware,” it notes, “reveal that assault-style rifles, armored vehicles and other military supplies have been handed over to school districts large and small, from California, Texas, Nevada and Utah to Florida, Georgia, Kansas and Michigan.”  Last week the “Ed News” highlighted stories about weaponry that had been handed over to the LAUSD and San Diego Unified and some of the stuff was subsequently returned.
The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” conducted an interview with Jesse Rothstein, an Assistant Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, who addressed the issue of tenure.  The piece is titled “Teacher Tenure Has Little to Do With Student Achievement, Economist Says.”  “Getting good teachers in front of classrooms is tricky,” the introduction states, “and Rothstein argues it would still be a challenge without tenure, possibly even harder. There are only so many people willing to consider teaching as a career, and getting rid of tenure could eliminate one of the job’s main attractions.”
Frank Breslin, a retired high school teacher, writing on the Huffington Post, joins a growing chorus demanding that the U.S. Congress hold hearings on the misuse and overuse of standardized tests in the U.S.   Last year, the Network for Public Education was one of the first organizations to call for the legislature to intervene.  “It is now clear to tens of thousands of parents across America,” he begins, “that their children are being victimized by mandated standardized testing.  Outraged by the effrontery of this illegal intrusion by the federal government into the classroom and Washington’s dismissal of their parental rights, they have opted out of having their children tested.”
Matthew Di Carlo at he Shanker Blog pinpoints “The Fatal Flaw of Education Reform.”  Most of the so-called “reformers” promise a lot in a very short time but fail to deliver.  “[O]ne needn’t look very far to notice a tendency in ‘reformer’ circles,” he notes, “to sell their policy prescriptions by promising the kind of short- and medium-term results that most education policies, no matter how well-designed and implemented, simply cannot deliver.  School quality is important, it can be improved, and even small improvements can make a big difference. But it is critical to maintain a level head regarding the magnitude and speed of impacts. We as a nation must be prepared for the long haul, and there is a thin line between ambitious goals and unrealistic promises.”
Peter Goodman, who writes the Ed in the Apple blog, addresses what he predicts will happen to the Vergara case in California and a similar one, still to be heard, in New York.  The news is pretty good if you believe in tenure and other job protections for teachers.  “I believe,” he concludes, “the California Vergara decision will be reversed and the New York State anti-decision may be dismissed before trial.  Hopefully we can move forward to debate issues that truly impact teaching and learning.”
Here’s a story topic the “Ed News” has not covered before.  A former Newport Harbor High School teacher is suing the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County for retaliation after she publicly objected to her students having to dissect cat carcasses.   The details appeared in an article in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “Karen Coyne claims in her Orange County Superior Court lawsuit,” it explains, “that the district and several employees created a hostile work environment, violated her free speech rights and transferred her without her consent.  Coyne is seeking a year of salary and benefits, which amount to about $84,000, plus unspecified damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering.”
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, writes about the Gates Foundation shifting its focus in regards to how it views public education.  Before all they focused on was how much of a “failure” the public schools were and how “bad” teachers had to be removed.  Now the narrative seems to be on the order of finding a few successful charters and other market-based programs and touting them by funding certain media outlets to highlight this positive spin.  Cody quotes from a number of different sources to bolster his argument. 
Corporal punishment was banned in California in 1986.  What about in the other states?  Do some still retain the policy?  If you answered “No” you’d be wrong.  Any guesses how many states still allow the use of corporal punishment?  Correct answer is 19.  In light of the controversy surrounding NFL running back Adrian Peterson, Valerie Strauss revisits the topic in her ‘Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post.  “A federal data analysis found that on average,” she wrote, “one child is hit in public school every 30 seconds somewhere in the United States.”  Strauss lists the 19 states and includes a video segment (5:03 minutes) from a previous “The Daily Show” that pokes fun at a proposed bill in Kansas (it was ultimately defeated) that would have allowed designated people, including teachers, to hit kids harder. 
In the Saturday L.A. Times feature “Numbers and Letters” the paper indicated it received 536 “printable letters” between Friday, Sept. 12, and Friday, Sept. 19.  “42 readers discussed controversies at the L.A. Unified School District, the runner-up topic” for the period indicated.  The number 1 topic?  72 letters addressed topics about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending along this article from the EDUCATIONALCHEMY website.  It’s titled “What’s Wrong With Standards-Based Education?  Let Me Count the Ways” and goes on to ask and answer a number of key questions about what is meant by systems like the Common Core State Standards.  “[S]tandards suggest that we are staving chaos off at the gate … that without some sort of standards steering our educational system,” it contends, “schools and educators will operate like some Wild West show with no rules or order, resulting in national unmanageability. So when we hear the word ‘standards’ based education, the phrase alone lulls many people into a false sense of stability and security that our children are being taken care of because these standards are the gate keeper at the door between success in learning and abject chaos.”
Anthony Cody turns over his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog to Yong Zhao, a previous ALOED book club author, who writes a compelling piece against the use of high stakes testing and those who promote it.  
An op-ed in Sunday’s L.A. Times suggests that court cases and other tinkering around the edge of changes to tenure rules and laws getting rid of “bad” teachers are not enough and are not going to bring about the changes needed.  The author, a professor emeritus at CS Sacramento and an expert witness for the defendants in the Vergara case, believes what is needed is much more.  “Stakeholders must come together,” he maintains, “around a ‘grand bargain’ that would address not only teacher incompetence but all the obstacles educators face that, in the end, prevent many students from learning.”  He discusses some recommendations from a recent report that he was part of.
TNTP, formerly know as The New Teacher Project, was founded by Michelle Rhee.  They came out with a report (4 pages) titled “Rebalancing Teacher Tenure, A Post-Vergara Guide for Policymakers.”  It contains 8 ideas for reforming tenure and you can read it here.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog offered a point-by-point critique of it.  “While TNTP’s proposal has some worthwhile components,” he concludes, “it still contains the basic outline of a system that throws out tenure and replaces it with a teacher employment system based on test results. That serves the interests of nobody (not teachers, students, taxpayers, citizens, or parents) except for folks who want to reimagine teaching as the sort of job that never becomes a lifetime career.”
Raising the minimum wage so that people can make a living that’s above the poverty line has been an important issue recently.  SALON has a surprising story about the number of adjunct professors on college and university campuses who make very low salaries and are forced to accept food stamps and other types of welfare.  “You’ve probably heard the old stereotypes,” it begins, “about professors in their ivory tower lecturing about Kafka while clad in a tweed jacket. But for many professors today, the reality is quite different: being so poorly paid and treated, that they’re more likely to be found bargain-hunting at day-old bread stores. This is academia in 2014.”
One of the main claims made by many charter companies is that they could educate students more effectively and save lots of taxpayer money while doing it.  Not so, apparently, in New York.  A charter operator there is suing the state for “more taxpayer support.”  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, reprints a press release about the suit and adds some pointed comments.
“The Common Core is Not Ready” is the title of a commentary in EDUCATION WEEK.  It is penned by a former teacher and writer who is not opposed to the standards but believes their implementation needs to be delayed at least for another year so that additional piloting and refining can take place.  “I don’t believe we should abandon the Common Core State Standards. Despite the imperfections of the initiative,” he maintains, “many have broadly celebrated its essential vision and its best features with good reason, including the core’s compelling introductory materials and appendices.  But it is time to insist,” he suggests, “that those who are leading the initiative do what should have been done up front: Conduct actual small-scale pilot testing of the grade-by-grade standards themselves for at least a year.”  The first two paragraphs of his piece should really really grab you.  They pulled me in.
Reams of material has been written about the Common Core by both proponents and those who are opposed.  Here’s a question that’s scarcely been addressed: How do you present them to parents?  That’s the topic of this piece in the same publication.  It’s written by Jane Ching Fung, a National Board Certified first grade teacher in Los Angeles.  “As a teacher,” she explains, “I need parents to be involved in the shift to the common core. As a parent, I want to know what my child is going to be expected to know and do and how I can support his or her learning at home.  Teachers can’t expect all parents to be up to date with the latest changes in curriculum and shifts in education. We need to remember that most parents rely on what they hear—from teachers, school communications, other parents, and the media.”  The author provides a useful practical guide to presenting the standards to parents. 
The Thursday editorial in the L.A. Times titled “The Bad-Old Days at LAUSD” (highlighted in the previous edition of the “Ed News”) that complimented Supt. Deasy and others for the progress made by the district and chastised the poor relationship that has redeveloped between the union and the school chief prompted 4 letters in Sunday’s paper.  
Peggy Robertson, a teacher and literacy coach in Colorado and a co-founder of United Opt-Out, writes a letter to the citizens of Colorado.  It appears on Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post and details why she is refusing to administer the PARCC Common Core assessment to her students this year.  “It is risky,” Strauss notes, “for teachers to refuse to administer a mandated test; they can lose their jobs. But some are doing it anyway as a protest against the number and importance of standardized tests in today’s education reform.”
And finally, thanks to Randy Traweek for sending along this story from EDUCATION WEEK which should be placed in the “What were they thinking” file.  The student editor of a high school newspaper in Pennsylvania was suspended for a MONTH for refusing to print the “Redskin” nickname of the school.  The teacher advisor was suspended for two days.  Randy highlighted this quote from an attorney with the Student Press Law Center: “It may be possible to get dumber people on a school board, but I don’t how you go about it.”  I won’t print what Randy said in response to that.
 Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s