Ed News, Friday, October 10, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

FINAL REMINDER:  ALOED and the Oxy Education Department are co-sponsoring 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.  A discussion with the producers of the film will follow the showing.   For more information (including a link to the official trailer) and to RSVP please click here.
“There is no such thing as educational value in the abstract. 
The notion that some subjects and methods and that acquaintance with certain facts and truths 
possess educational value in and of themselves is the reason why traditional education 
reduced the material of education so largely to a diet of predigested materials.” 
― John DeweyExperience and Education
There are a lot of so-called “grassroots” education “reform” groups out there these days.  How many of them are interested in “real” reform and are actually from the “grassroots?”  That’s the question that Daniel Katz, professor of education at Seton Hall University, tackles on his Daniel Katz, Ph. D. blog.  He mentions a number of different groups and offers several “clues” that will help you tell which ones are real and which ones are fake. 
The Vergara case is back in the news.  (Did it ever go away?)  A former school superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego and current member of the California State Board of Education offers “What’s Wrong with the Vergara Ruling?” on the EdSource blog.   “What’s wrong with the ruling,” he simply lays out, “is that it reinforces a completely false narrative in which incompetent teachers are portrayed as the central problem facing urban schools.”
 

With the start of the trial in Atlanta earlier this week of 12 former teachers and administrators charged with cheating on standardized tests in that city, a story in AlterNet describes a new study about the, unfortunately, widespread nature of the situation.  “According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), it’s time to prepare to be shocked,” the article warns.  “The organization has recently compiled data indicating that the scandal in Atlanta is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to cheating on standardized tests in our nation’s schools. Specifically, FairTest has found documented cases of cheating, and in some cases, systematic manipulation of scores, in 39 states and the District of Columbia, over the last five years alone. The organization has also identified,” it continues, “more than 60 methods administrators and teachers have used to alter student scores on these tests, from urging low-scorers to be absent the day of the test, to shouting out and otherwise indicating correct answers during testing.”

   
 

“What is the Damage Done by TFA?” is the question addressed in the latest segment of a continuing series of conversations between columnist Jack Schneider and Julian Vasquez Heilig about  that darling of the so-called education “reformers,” Teach for America.  It appears on the “Beyond Rhetoric” blog in EDUCATION WEEK .  In this segment they attempt to assess problems caused by TFA.  “In my view, TFA is a gateway drug,” Heilig rather colorfully explains.  “They are the unabashed leaders of a movement that says sending poorly trained, temporary teachers to poor kids is a civil right. They’re given millions of dollars by foundations and billionaires to buy research that demonstrates that this approach has a ‘positive’ effect on student achievement.”

 
This may be a novel way to protest the Common Core.  The Portland, Oregon, school board may simply refuse to set annual achievement objectives for the assessments.  The (Portland) Oregonian spells out what the board is up to and why.
 

Several prominent ed technology companies have signed a pledge not to reveal private student  information.  The action quickly drew both praise and criticism according to a story from EDUCATION WEEK.  “The pledge was created as parents’ worries about the privacy and security of their students’ data have resonated in state legislatures,” the piece states, “and as the state of California enacted a strict privacy law last month.”

Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, often features the excellent commentary of Carol Burris, an award-winning high school principal from New York.  This time Burris suggests that it’s not the implementation of the Common Core that is causing all the problems but the standards themselves.  Those are pretty heavy charges from a former supporter of the Core.  The piece is titled “How to Start Cleaning Up the Common Core.”  “No matter what investments in time or materials have been made,” Burris maintains, “here is the bottom line. The Common Core is a lemon and no amount of professional development will make it run right. ”  She offers “3 relatively simple first steps” for getting started.
The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new book by Anthony Cody titled The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges Bill Gates.  Diane Ravitch is touting the volume on her blog possibly because she wrote the preface to it which she gladly reprints for one and all to read.
 
Bad news for another Southern California school district.  (NOT LAUSD this time!)  The Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach discovered asbestos in classrooms at three elementary campuses and announced that all schools in the district would be tested.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times described the situation.  It includes a short clip (1:42 minutes) from KTLA Channel 5 News about the discovery.
EDUCATION WEEK is highlighting new survey results released Wednesday from the Center for Education Policy that find implementation of the Common Core is seriously lagging.  The poll contains findings from a representative national sample of 211 districts.  “About 30 percent of district superintendents surveyed said, for instance, that they won’t fully implement the standards in both math and English/language arts in all their schools until the 2015-16 school year or later, or that they weren’t sure when they’d be implemented. About one-third said they will reach that milestone during this school year.”  The article includes a link to the full report (27 pages) titled “Common Core State Standards in 2014: Districts’ Perceptions, Progress and Challenges.”
Diane Ravitch reports on her blog that U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan has handed out over $36 million in grants to a number of CHARTER schools around the county.  She reprints a press release from the DoE that explains the awards and lists the programs that were presented with them.  Several California campuses appear in the second list given for “Replication and Expansion of High Quality Charter Schools.”  
 
Most everyone knows that the Common Core State Standards apply to K-12 students and schools.  Is there a similar program for post-secondary education?  You may be surprised to learn the answer is “yes.”  So far, they are voluntary measures of what a student should know upon earning various degrees.  A short piece from The HECHINGER REPORT provides some information on these standards. “The ‘Degree Qualifications Profile’ specifies what students should know,” the article explains, “and be able to do at every level of their higher educations—what a bachelor’s or master’s degree actually represents, in other words—rather than simply relying on how many hours they’ve sat through how many courses.”  Believe it or not, the new standards are already being piloted at 400 colleges and universities in 45 states.
Ever heard of the “Pygmalion Effect?”  Does it apply to education?  EDUCATION WEEK features another new survey that finds that teacher expectations correlate to student performance.  “The study focuses on the Pygmalion Effect,” the story begins, “the theory holding that higher expectations of a person lead to higher performance. The opposite can also be true: If low expectations are placed on someone, they’re more likely to perform poorly. This means that a teacher’s faith, or lack thereof, in a student’s abilities may influence the student’s future achievement.”  You can find the full report (7 pages) titled “The Power of the Pygmalion Effect, Teachers Expectations Strongly Predict College Completion” here.
The previous edition of the “Ed News” reported on the abrupt cancellation on Monday of the teachers’ contract in Philadelphia by the School Reform Commission as a cost saving measure in the cash-strapped district.  newsworks reports that students at 2 district high schools marched out of their classes on Wednesday in support of their teachers and staged a loud protest on the streets outside their campuses.
 
Another black eye for a southern California school district.  (This time it IS the LAUSD!)  A superior court judge, as part of a previous lawsuit, intervened in the ongoing mess at Jefferson High School in South L.A.  Students there have faced major problems regarding their class schedules since the year commenced on Aug. 12.  Missing programs, incorrect classes, duplicate classes have been just some of the issues.  The judge ordered the state to get involved and fix the situation.  All the details of the matter can be found in a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.
 
A middle school principal in an urban area of Denver describes how things like an extended day and other strategies led to the turnaround of his campus.  The HECHINGER REPORT provides his insights.
 
As of today (Friday) the mid-term elections are only 26 days away.  Voters in 11 states (not California) will be faced with various propositions, measures and amendments related to issues like school funding and teacher reforms among others.  EDUCATION WEEK lays out some of the specific issues and which states will be voting on them.
 
Yesterday’s L.A. Times had an editorial siding with a lawsuit brought by several organizations that would eliminate the placement of high school students in non-academic classes like service periods, study hall or even instances of free periods or blocks of time when they are sent home.  “Every student,” it concludes, “should have timely access to all courses required for graduation and for admission to college. Anything less is unacceptable. State and local officials need to work together to rescue students from an untenable situation.”
 
One of the key questions faced by educators is why do so many teachers leave the profession?  A panel on Wednesday, sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers, addressed that issue and came up with some specific reasons why instructors leave and offered some suggestions for retention.  Information about the event was highlighted in EDUCATION WEEK.  “The panelists . . . stressed,” it relates, “that teacher shortages are not a recruitment issue so much as a retention issue.”  Be sure to check out the graphic that accompanies the article that articulates reasons why people leave.  You can view the full video (103:42 minutes) of the panel discussion on YouTube.               Speaking of recruiting and retaining teachers.   EdSource provides the rather depressing news that the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs in California is continuing to plummet.  The data comes from a study done by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and finds that enrollments have dropped 53% from 2008-09 to 2012-13, the latest year in the study.  Since 2001-02 the numbers have declined by a mind numbing 74%!  “The declining enrollments,” the story points out, “are coming at an especially challenging time for California schools. The state’s nearly 1,000 school districts are embarking on a slew of new reforms – including the Common Core standards, the New Generation Science Standards, Smarter Balanced assessments and focusing on several new ‘priority areas’ specified in the state’s new school financing law – that will require a highly trained and enthusiastic workforce to ensure their success.”  The article includes a link to the full report (44 pages) from the CTC titled “Annual Report Card on California Teacher Preparation.”
 
Interesting finding from NC POLICY WATCH.  Over 90% of taxpayer voucher funds are going to private religious schools.  The program was NOT approved by the voters.  It was passed by the state legislature last year under the guise of  “Opportunity Scholarships.”  And now the situation gets dicey.  “The largest recipient of school voucher dollars thus far.” the article points out, “is Greensboro Islamic Academy. The school has received more than $90,000 from taxpayers while information has surfaced indicating that the school is in financial trouble and has inflated its tuition rates to reap as many publicly-funded vouchers as possible to stay afloat.”  In addition, a Superior Court judge ruled that the entire program was unconstitutional.  You’ll have to read the piece to discover why the money is still being disbursed.               An investigative story in the same publication details the problems faced by the Greenboro Islamic Academy.  It includes a video (3:54 minutes) of the school’s fundraising appeal.  
 
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, believes the so-called education “reformers” have actually lost the public relations war they’ve been waging in order to privatize the public schools.  He demonstrates how a number of issues they’ve been crying “wolf” about have not come to pass.  “For instance, for some thirty years, influential power-brokers and political leaders,” he maintains, “have tried to convince Americans that their system of public education is broken to the extent it poses a ‘risk’ to the nation’s prosperity – indeed, even a threat to national security.  Despite nearly a generation of browbeating and finger wagging, the efforts of the ‘education reform’ campaign have completely and utterly failed.”

And finally some really heartwarming news courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK.  Malala Yousafzai became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize today.  She is the now 17-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot while riding on her school bus in 2012 by the Taliban because of her promotion of education for girls in her country.  She shared the tribute this year with a 60-year-old man from India who had worked almost his entire life to end child trafficking and exploitation.  “Despite her youth,” the Nobel committee stated in announcing the award, “Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.”  Hear! Hear!
 
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
 
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