Ed News, Friday, September 26, 2014 Edition


EVENT REMINDER:  ALOED and the Oxy Education Dept. are cosponsoring a free screening of the important documentary “Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District” on Tuesday, Oct. 14, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Choi Auditorium on the Occidental College campus.  A discussion with the producers of the film will follow the showing.   For more information and to RSVP please click here.
“The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation
 is the philosophy of government in the next.” 
― Abraham Lincoln
In light of the Vergara case, EDUCATION WEEK takes an interesting look at the varied state-by-state rules and laws governing teacher due process and dismissal rights.  “In essence,” the piece notes, “the debate over due process amounts to this: Do current laws appropriately balance expediency with the fairness enshrined in the concept of due process? If not, how should they be revised?”  The story has an interesting sidebar that compares how a couple of specific states handle the firing of educators.                3 letters in yesterday’s L.A. Times commented on the op-ed the paper ran on Sunday about a better way to address issues of teacher tenure and due process rights (highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News.”)  One of them was penned by the president of the Garvey School District school board.
Obtaining the latest technological gadgetry seems to be the most important goal for many school districts.  Why does education seem to lag behind business when it comes to keeping up with the latest trends?  Forbes, however, thinks we have it all wrong.  In a story titled “You Are Asking the Wrong Questions About Education Technology” it lays out what should be the proper emphasis for schools as they promote technological literacy for their students.  “We should certainly embrace tools and technologies,” the author posits, “that will help educators become more impactful. But we should do it because it works, not for the sake of modern humanity’s obsession with progress, newness, innovation, and disruption.”
Sara Stevenson, on her personal blog Public Education Today, worries about all the blame being placed on teachers for the problems faced by public education by the so-called “reformers.”  Because of these attacks she’s afraid that many of them will get fed up and quit the profession.  She titles her piece “Get Ready for the Great Teacher Exodus.” 
A high school English teacher in Kansas writes in EDUCATION WEEK that “The Common Core is Working in My Classroom.”  He describes how his lessons on Moby Dick have been enhanced using some of the techniques that are part of the standards.   “That the common core has become a punching bag in my home state of Kansas and other places has more to do with political partisanship than reasoned review.” he claims.
Former President Bill Clinton weighted in on the topic of charter schools at an international symposium of businesspeople and philanthropists earlier this week.  He had some specific comments regarding how they should be dealt with and when they should lose their charters.  He also addressed some other education-related subjects.  You can read about his remarks in a story in the Huffington Post.  Thanks to Randy Traweek for sending it along.   
EduShyster writes about the disappearing number of minorities among the teaching profession and is confused by all the pronouncements about the need to diversify the ranks.    “[E]ven as a much-needed conversation about the vital importance of having teachers of color in front of an increasingly diverse student body is taking place,” she notes, “a bouquet of reform policies is effectively pushing out existing teachers of color.”  She identifies some culprits for this phenomenon and is not afraid to point fingers with a “trip” to Boston to bolster her point.
There’s been a recent focus on a wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing U.S. borders and their impact on the school system.  However, a recurring problem is getting a renewed emphasis–homeless students.  U.S. News & World Report has a piece titled “Number of Homeless Students Reaches All-Time High.”  “The United States has set a record,” the story begins, “but it’s not a good one: there are more homeless students in the nation than ever before, and many are living completely on their own, without parents or guardians, new data from the Department of Education show.”  The numbers from the DoE are depressing.  An 8% increase in student homelessness from 2011-12 to 2012-13 and a shocking 85% jump since 2006-07.
Hundreds of students walked out of their classes for 3 straight days earlier this week in suburban Denver protesting changes to the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum.  A new conservative school board wants to emphasize more “positive aspects” of the country and downplay topics about “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times covers the battle.
Things are getting really nasty from certain corners of the “reform” movement.  The rabidly anti-union “Center for Union Facts” mailed a vicious 11 page letter to 125,000 households nationwide blaming AFT President Randi Weingarten for  causing the failure of our public schools.  The Washington Post quotes from the letter and identifies who is behind it.  It also has a picture of the outside of the envelope.                Diane Ravitch had some brief (but choice) comments about the campaign on her blog.
EduShyster (aka Jennifer Berkshire) has an interesting question about school choice in a post titled “No Choice:” “If choice is the only choice is it still choice?”  She’s taking us on a field trip “to Camden, New Jersey, where school choice is on its way, whether people there choose to choose it or not.”
Diane Ravitch calls this next story “the most important article you will read this week, this month, maybe this year.”  The Nation has an in-depth look at how the for-profit sector is salivating over the $788.7 BILLION K-12 education market.  Venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and fly-by-night scammers are developing all kinds of ways of getting a piece of that huge pie.  “The explosion of investor interest in education raises a number of questions,” it points out, “among them: What kind of influence will the for-profit education sector attempt to exert over education policy? And if school reform is crafted to maximize the potential for investor profit, will students benefit, as boosters claim—or will they suffer?”
With the midterm elections rapidly approaching on Nov. 4, and the partisan battle for control of the U.S. Senate and a number of governor’s jobs in play, Jeff Bryant on the Education Opportunity NETWORK looks at a possible winning strategy for the Democrats and how they can achieve it.  Believe it or not, it revolves around the issue of education and how to pay for our public schools.  “Democrats looking to score points with the voting public,” he simply states, “should talk up public education.”  Bryant offers some new polling data to support his point.
This item should certainly stir the pot a bit.  The principal at Crenshaw High (LAUSD) testified at a hearing Thursday that the 12 educators who had filed suit over their dismissal when the school was reconstituted claiming they were removed for their union activities were actually let go for various education-related issues.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes the contretemps.
A newly released analysis out from Education Trust-West identifies 11 unified school districts in California that are achieving success with their English Language Learners.  The report looked at data for the 2012-13 school year from 276 districts that enrolled at least 100 ELLs.  EDUCATION WEEK had a short article about the findings.  You can find the full report (40 pages) titled “The Language of Reform: English Learners in California’s Shifting Education Landscape” here.
And finally, the LAUSD’s bond oversight committee refused to commit $42 million for the purchase of new computers.  The district had indicated an urgent need to the devices in order for students to use them for testing in the spring.  You can read both sides of the dispute and its ramifications in an article in today’s L.A. Times.  “The district’s proposal,” it explains, “was discussed for the first time in a meeting of the independent School Construction Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which reviews the use of school construction money. The bond panel rejected the plan, saying that L.A. Unified had not proved that it urgently needed these devices.”
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me diligently working on the blog

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