Ed News, Friday, November 7, 2014 Edition


Tuesday is the Veterans Day holiday.
EVENT REMINDER: Come one, come all to the next stimulating ALOED book club discussion.  It takes place this Wednesday at 6:30 at Samuelson Alumni Center on the Oxy campus.  Dinner will be provided by ALOED.  Even if you haven’t read the book (see below) come for the great food and camaraderie.  For more information and to RSVP please click here.

ALOED Book Club 

“Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners,
 and the love of bringing the first two loves together.”
― Scott Hayden
And now to the news.
The satiric website The ONION has a brief item about how a growing number of 3- and 4-year-olds are being urged to participate in “online preschools.”  The piece reads like reality but please keep in mind it is SATIRE.  If “a picture is worth a thousand words” you must view the one that heads this story.
Donna Brazile, a Democratic Party operative, CNN contributor, columnist and professor at Georgetown University, wrote a piece on the CNN website attacking the TIME cover story about tenure.  She titled her commentary simply “Don’t Abolish Teacher Tenure.”  “The cover is a slap in the face,” she declares indignantly, “to every teacher who has dedicated his or her life to bettering the lives of children. Right now, we should be lifting up and championing educators. The last thing we should be doing is discouraging or dampening the enthusiasm of a new generation.”  [ Ed. note:  Hear! Hear!]  She goes on to quote some numbers from a recent poll that were very pro public education and pro teacher.
Wednesday’s L.A. Times included one letter reacting to the Steve Lopez column from Sunday’s paper, highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News,” about the middle school teacher who enjoyed his job but was so frustrated with all the extraneous issues that he might give it up.
JACOBIN reports on a series of FBI raids over the summer at 19 campuses run by the Gulen charter network which is affiliated with the Concept Schools Charter system, one of the largest in the country.  The 19 schools were in Texas, Arizona, California, Utah and Nevada.  “In California, Magnolia Science Academies, a Gulen-affiliated chain, recently made headlines for allegedly misusing $3 million in public funds to cover the immigration costs of six non-employees,” the story points out.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District ordered the closure of two Magnolia schools, citing financial mismanagement, but a July court order reversed the decision.”  The article includes a litany of highly questionable practices at other campuses in the states singled out.
Depending upon your political affiliation there were not many things to cheer about in Tuesday’s mid-term elections.  Diane Ravitch had two very short comments on her blog.  One looked atthe few things to cheer about and the other listed a couple of bad news results.                 Incumbent Tom Torlakson won the race for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction with 52% of the vote over his challenger, Marshall Tuck.  EDUCATION WEEKhad a pretty extensive story the morning after the election as the vote count was too close to call for a long stretch of time.  “The race quickly became a battleground,” the article explains, “between unions supporting Torlakson, and philanthropists and other self-described education reformers backing Tuck. Although it was a non-partisan race, both candidates identified themselves as Democrats.”              Ed Week also provided a list of results for some of the key education-related measures that faced voters on ballots around the country.  None were in California.  The constitutional amendment on the ballot in Missouri with some draconian items regarding tenure, collective bargaining and other teacher rights (mentioned by Diane Ravitch, see above) went down to defeat.                Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA president, had a short video message (3:17 minutes) on YouTube reacting to Tuesday’s election and issuing a pep talk for the future.               Yesterday’sL.A. Times offered a recap of the Torlakson/Tuck race and an analysis of why the incumbent won.  It was one of the few education-related contests around the nation in which the teachers unions came out victorious.               LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer has a simple message for the billionaires who pumped so much money into the Tuck candidacy and other contests around the country:  why not spend those sums (and more) on programs that help kids rather than trying to win control of school policy.  His plea was printed on Diane Ravitch’s blog.              With the Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate and extending their advantage in the House in the voting on Tuesday, GOP leaders were quick to lay out the education policies they’d like to push during the new session of Congress.  EDUCATION WEEK describes what’s in store as the legislative branch is now controlled by the Republicans.               Both national teachers unions, NEA and AFT, spent large sums to support governors and Senators that they favored.  When the votes had been counted they had very little to show for their efforts.  A story from the same publication outlines where things went mostly wrong.               Could some of the Democratic losses sustained in Tuesday’s voting be attributable to Pres. Obama’s alienating his previously strong base of teachers and educators?  That’s the premise of this blog from Edward Berger, Ed.D., writing on his own website.  “By systematically destroying the nations confidence in educators and public schools,” Berger maintains, “and following unqualified, self-appointed change agents like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, Mike Bloomberg, and a few dozen other profiteers, this administration undermined confidence in educators and fact-based education.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Educational Opportunity NETWORK, weighed in on the election results.  He believes that there is still no coalition forming around a much-needed education agenda.  He reviews some of the analyses done of what the votes mean for school reform and zeroes in on a couple of races including the Torlakson/Tuck match in California.  “The anticipated role education was presumed to have,” he begins, “in this week’s midterm election generally did not pan out.”
Harvard University announced a major new fellowship program to help prepare seniors to enter the teaching profession.  “Harvard already has an undergraduate teacher-preparation program,” the story in EDUCATION WEEK notes, “but it’s quite small, enrolling on the order of 25 students a year. Most of the teachers the university prepares are graduate students. But in recent years, the college has seen an increased interest among undergraduates in pursuing a teaching career, said James Ryan, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.”  It goes on to explain that almost 20% of Harvard graduates apply for Teach for America positions and it proceeds to detail what the new program will entail as far as preparation goes.
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending along a very intriguing piece from THE BECOMING RADICAL blog that makes the case for connecting many of the so-called education “reforms” to racismWithin that category he includes ideas like teaching “grit” which is a key concept in Paul Tough’s book, the topic of the next ALOED book club (see the top of this edition of the “Ed News.”)  “Education reform not only ignores inequity bred from racism, classism, and sexism,” writes Paul Thomas of Furman University, “but also actively perpetuates and even increases that inequity (most significantly reflected in high-stakes standardized testing).”  Tough subtitles his book “Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.”  Thomas takes a much more jaundiced view of the role of “grit.”  “The ‘grit’ honoring of effort first (and even exclusively) is a warped version of the real order of things: Opportunity, talent, and then effort,” he concludes.  “The ‘grit’ narrative, then, and the sloganism of ‘Work hard. Be nice’—regardless of good intentions—are the racial slurs of our time.”
Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, writes a seriousrant against Teach for America.  He titles his piece “Bait-and-Switch for America” and his diatribe is interesting because he was a member of a TFA  cohort in 1991.  “Joining the 2015 TFA corps is a terrible mistake,” he warns candidates who’ve been accepted for next year.  “Two years from now everyone will know this, but right now TFA has managed to get a few last lies out of their well-oiled PR machine and lure a few more unsuspecting kids into their trap.  But here’s the problem with TFA:  They are a bunch of self-serving liars and anyone who joins up with them is an accomplice to any of the damage that this lying results in.”  Rubinstein goes on to address a litany of issues he has with TFA.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, wrote that Rubinstein “has written many posts about the flaws of TFA but this one is the most scathing I have read.”
How long does the average big city school superintendent serve these days?  If you answered a little over 3 years (3.18 to be precise), you’d be absolutely correct.  A new survey from the Council of Great City Schools, featured in a story in EDUCATION WEEK,demonstrates that their tenure has even declined slightly from 2010.  The piece includes a link to the full report (10 pages) titled “Urban School Superintendents: Characteristics, Tenure and Salary–Eighth Survey and Report.”              And how does principal turnover impact students and staff?  That question was the focus of an interesting piece, also in Ed Week, that highlighted another survey produced by the School Leaders Network.  It found that 25% of principals left their campuses EACH year and ones from high-poverty schools left in much higher numbers than those from affluent ones.  You can find this report (22 pages) titled “Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover” by clicking here.  The article listed some recommendations for retaining school chiefs.
You probably could have predicted this one!  A story in today’s L.A. Times finds that a report produced by a consultant for the LAUSD says the district’s implementation of its new computerized student information system, MiSIS, “was problematic at just about every level.”  The study was made public by the school board yesterday after initially deciding to keep it under wraps.  The article lists a number of areas where the district made significant errors during the disastrous rollout.
As highlighted in a previous edition of the “Ed News” the U.S. Department of Education is preparing new guidelines for accountability rules for teacher preparation programs.  This piece inEDUCATION WEEK discusses the new single accreditor of those programs, the Council for the Accreditation of Education Programs(CAEP), and how it plans to evaluate them.  CAEP “has announced it will evaluate programs based on what teacher-candidates can do and how effectively they can teach,” the article report, “as demonstrated through reliable assessments, including classroom observations and students’ standardized-test scores.”
And finally, for you progressive rockers from the 70s and 80s, and everyone else, comes this parody of the Pink Floyd anthem “Another Brick in the Wall.”  A group of students in Ohio formed an “Anti-Common Core Club” and produced a video (4:44 minutes) onYouTube titled “Another Brick in Ohio” which demands ‘No More Common Core” and “Pearson–leave those kids alone!”  If you’d like to complete the experience, click here for the original Pink Floyd music video (5:34 minutes) “Another Brick in the Wall” with its “We don’t need no education–we don’t need no thought control . . . . Teacher, leave them kids alone!” message.  The sausage-making image in the clip is pretty jarring.
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

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