Ed News, Tuesday, November 11, 2014, Edition


“Self-education is the only possible education;
 the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
Charlotte M. Mason
What happens to private student data when a charter school closes?  Good question.  Answer: Apparently nothing,  it’s left for anyone to take advantage of.  That sounds VERY dangerous!  It is!  The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on a charter high school in that city that closed and when two laptops from the campus were sold at auction they still contained the social security numbers, birth dates and phone numbers of over 200 students.               The author of the Crazy Crawfish’s Blog was rightly outraged by this security lapse and wonders how much bigger it actually is beyond the 200 plus students reported in the initial story.   He titles his commentary “Another Data Fiasco at LDOE, and Another Reason Charters Pose a Danger to Our Children and Communities.”
Stuart Magruder, the member of the LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee who was highly critical of the iPad-for-all program and was briefly ousted from his position for his outspokenness, was interviewed by Andrea Gabor on her Andrea Gabor blog.  He was not very kind to either former Supt John Deasy or the district’s teachers union.  “Reflecting on Deasy’s tenure, as well as the role of the local teachers’ union in another recent technology disaster,” she reports, “Magruder declared a pox on both their houses.”
Many of the so-called education “reformers” have tried to portray the Common Core as a civil rights issue.  The authors of this piece from truthout take the exact opposite position.  They title their piece “Common Core Betrays the Civil Rights Movement” and in the course of it they excoriate the National Urban League, a prominent civil rights organization, for championing the standards. “We agree that education should empower young men and women, of whatever race or background,” they maintain, “to succeed in college and careers. Our contention, however, is that the Common Core’s promise does not correspond to its reality. More strongly, we contend that the Common Core betrays the civil rights legacy more than advances it.” The authors go on to demonstrate 3 ways the standards are already harming young African-Americans.

State lawmakers in California are turning a critical eye towards out sized compensation packages that are being paid to school district superintendents around the Golden State.  It’s not just the salary that has the legislators up in arms.  Some of the contracts include interest-free home loans, car allowances and paid life insurance policies among other generous perks.  A story in the San Francisco Chronicle has details about some of the more outlandish salary and benefit deals.

Want some idea of what the Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate might mean for future education policies at the federal level?  Check out the man who will assume the Chair of the Senate Committee on Education when the new 114th Congress convenes in January.  He’s Lamar Alexander of Tennessee who was U.S. Secretary of Education from 1991-93 under Pres. George H.W. Bush.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, has a profile of who she refers to as “the new education powerhouse in Congress.”  “Alexander, who just won reelection,” she explains, “is a strong supporter of vouchers and charter schools but has taken a somewhat ambiguous position on the Common Core State Standards.”
An op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the start of the month headlined “Worst Teachers In Poorest Schools” sparked an angry response from a kindergarten teacher at one of the lowest preforming campuses in that city.  She titled her piece “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”  “Do we want a pat on the back? No. Do we want your sympathy? No. Do we want our community to be aware of the challenges in our schools? Yes, we desperately do,” she concludes. ” Please do not oversimplify a complex problem by blaming the teachers who are in the trenches every day.”
Destroying public employee unions including teachers unions has been the goal of many so-called education “reformers” along with some Republican governors and legislators in recent years.  One doesn’t have to go much farther than what has taken place in states like Wisconsin and Ohio and others to see this agenda out in the open.  Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people Steven Singer, who blogs at the gadflyonthewall, titles his piece “Forget Corporations . . .  Unions Really ARE People.”  He proceeds to provide some very strong arguments for why that’s the case.  “Unions are made up of people. Their whole purpose is to fight for the rights of the individuals in them,” Singer contends.  “Corporations, on the other hand, have people who work for them, yes, but their raison d’etre is to earn profits for the board of directors or shareholders only.  While both work for the good of their members, unions work for ALL of their members. Corporations only work for the good of a limited selection of those connected with them – the owners.”
The “charter school scandal of the day” follows a twisted case in Pennsylvania reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer website.  The nonprofit that owns the charter’s campus is suing the Imhotep School for failure to pay rent, interest and fees.  [Ed. note: I’m not making this stuff up!]  “The court action comes after the school, which opened in 1998,” the article explains, “was rocked by months of turmoil, including the ouster in late June of M. Christine Wiggins, Imhotep’s founding chief executive.  The Imhotep board voted not to renew Wiggins’ contract after the School District’s charter office said in April that it would recommend not renewing the school’s charter on several grounds, including poor academic performance.”  You’ll just have to read the article for yourself and see if you can sort all this out.  One question.  How often do public schools end up in convoluted situations like this?  
Oh, oh!  Here’s a dangerous heads up from Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.  She reports that Pearson is sponsoring EDUCATION WEEK’S analysis of how the midterm elections will affect schools.  The magazine and the Gallup Organization are co-hosting an event tomorrow in which a series of speakers will offer insights into the post-election results and their impact on education.  The entire tab is being picked up by Pearson.  Strauss wonders, rightly, why the largest education company in the world is doing this and offers responses to her query from Ed Week, Gallup and Pearson.  She includes a link to the event if you’d like more information.
New details are emerging about the disastrous rollout of the LAUSD’s flawed computerized student information system, MiSIS.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times describes some of the grade, attendance and other problems that have plagued the ambitious system from the start.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District suffered through another rough week with its new and malfunctioning student records system,” the piece opens.  “Outages resulted in teachers not being able to use the system during portions of the workweek. One of these down periods also caused teachers to lose grades they had input into the system.  Supt. Ramon Cortines gave elementary principals the option of going back to paper report cards — a work-around that proved to be surprisingly complicated.”
Jonathan Lovell, Professor of English at San Jose State University and Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project, had an interesting email exchange with none other than Pres. Obama over the results of the mid-term elections last week and how it all relates to education, schools and teaching.  You can read their back-and-forth courtesy of Diane Ravitch’s column.
What might happen if corporate bean counters took over education and the running of schools?  Sound far fetched, you say.  Impossible.  Peter Greene, of CURMUDGUCATION fame, thinks it’s already happening and what he describes is rather terrifying.  Please follow his piece to its conclusion and you, too, may be scared to death of the whole scenario.
Not only are professional educators increasingly concerned about the growing number of standardized tests that students are required to take and the time the assessments take away from instruction.  Now, The New York Times reports, more and more parents are reacting to the same concerns.  The piece focuses on Florida but could be applied to many states.  “Parents railed at a system,” the author writes, “that they said was overrun by new tests coming from all levels — district, state and federal. Some wept as they described teenagers who take Xanax to cope with test stress, children who refuse to go to school and teachers who retire rather than promote a culture that seems to value testing over learning.”  Diane Ravitch wrote on her blog about this piece: “This is the best article I have read about the current testing mania in The New York Times. It is heartening that the revolt against the testing madness has attracted national attention in the nation’s most important newspaper. Many broadcast media use the Times as their guide to the important issues of the day.”
The mid-term elections wrapped up last week but already people are looking to the next ones coming up in March.  Those would be the L.A. municipal primary elections and will include 4 different LAUSD school board races.  The deadline for filing an intent to run for those seats was Saturday and all 4 incumbent who will be on the ballot drew challengers according to a item in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “Aside from the familiar challenges, including budgets, union negotiations and student performance,” it outlines, “the incoming board also is expected to choose a permanent successor to Supt. John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October. Ramon Cortines returned from retirement to replace him, but at 82 is not expected to stay indefinitely.”
It seems like the connection between Common Core proponents and charter school proponents is beginning to unravel.  It’s a little complicated so I’ll let Peter Greene on his CURMUDGUCATION blog explain it to you.  His commentary is titled “CCSS & Charters: The Love Story Ends.”  “It wasn’t always like this. Charters and the Core were a match made in heaven,” he lays out.  “To spur financing and enrollment, the Charter forces needed a way to ‘prove’ that public schools suck, and that meant finding a yardstick with which public schools could be measured and found failing. That meant some sort of standardized test, and that meant something to test them on. So, Common Core. The Core and the Tests (from which it could not, must not, be separated) would be the smoking gun, the proof that public schools were failing and that only privatizing schools would save Our Nation’s Youth.”

And finally, EDUCATION WEEK had two articles about the growing popularity of the Chromebook by Google as the computer hardware that more and more districts are turning to.  The first one deals with the Chromebook itself and describes some of the pros and cons of the device. “Suddenly, Chromebooks are surging,” it reports.  “Barely a blip on educators’ radar screens as recently as 2012, the inexpensive, Web-based laptop computers accounted for nearly one-third of all mobile-digital-device sales to schools in the United States in the first half of this year.”  The second one profiles the decline in sales of the Apple iPad as the Chromebook’s popularity has surged.  “Two of the nation’s most recognizable technology companies,” it begins, “are increasingly locked in a battle for supremacy in the education market—one that pits Google’s Chromebook laptops against Apple’s iPad tablets.”

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



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