Ed News, Friday, November 21, 2014 Edition


“I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious.
I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place”
Howard Gardner
Charters love to claim they draw from students of all different income levels, races, religions, disabilities, ethnic groups, etc.  However, that’s not always the case.  The Sacramento Bee describes a charter elementary school in that city that’s “open to all students” but, in actuality, serves predominantly children from the former Soviet Union.               Mark Weber, aka the Jersey Jazzman, turns his focus once again on charter schools  in his home state in an article this time on NJSPOTLIGHT.  He discusses the reaction a report he co-authored about charters elicited from supporters of those schools.  Much of it overlooked or ignored the data he provided.  “The data is quite clear,” he reminds everyone, “as a sector, charter schools do not educate the same students as their host districts. On average, charters educate proportionately fewer students in economic disadvantage (as measured by eligibility for the federal free lunch program) than do the district schools in their communities.  Charters also educate fewer students with special education needs; further, the students with those needs that charters do educate tend to have less costly disabilities. In addition, the sector enrolls very few students who are English language learners.”  He offers his research as an antidote to those who’d like to see entire districts or even states go all charter.                 Meanwhile Peter Greene, the CURMUDGUCATION  guy, picked up on the same meme and added some additional details.  Greene lays out how Weber’s study “reveals the limits of the charter business model.”
Adam Stone, on his foundinblank blog, adapts a chapter of Henry Giroux’s new book Education and the Crisis of Public Values: Challenging the Assault on Teachers, Students and Public Education.  Stone adds some “pertinent” videos to illustrate Giroux’s text for the chapter titled “In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis.”  If for no other reason check out the format of this rather unique piece.  
Wendy Lecker, columnist and senior attorney at the Education Law Center, wrote about what the obsession with standardized testing over the past 10+ years has done to a generation of students.  Her commentary appeared on the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate website.  “The national testing obsession is destroying all that used to distinguish the American educational system. Worse still,” she concludes, “it is robbing students of the opportunity for normal and healthy brain development. Anyone who cares about children must demand an end to these destructive policies before they ruin an entire generation.”  Diane Ravitch described this as “a terrific article . . . .about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.”
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, commiserates with teachers in Minneapolis who, earlier this month, had their teacher ratings published for all to see in the local newspapers.  They now join groups of educators in Los Angeles (2010) and New York (2012) who were forced to suffer similar indignities.  “I’m so sorry Minneapolis teachers. Apparently you work for dopes, and given the publishing of your ratings in the morning paper, fairly malicious dopes at that.  This is the worst,” he bemoans in conclusion.  “This is the absolute worst version of reformster foolishness, slandering and upending an entire city’s worth of teachers. I don’t know any Minneapolis teachers, have never met any, but even sight unseen, I know they– and their students– deserve better than this.”               Minnesota may be following in the footsteps of California and New York in another way.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK mentions the state may be next in line, after its west and east coast counterparts, for a Vergara-type lawsuit.  The article includes a link to an interview in the Minneapolis Star Tribune with one of the plaintiff’s attorneys in the case who hinted the state may be ripe for similar litigation.
 Two first grade teachers at a school in Tulsa, OK, sent a letter home to the parents of their students explaining why they are refusing to administer the standardized tests and other (abundant) assessments expected of them.  Their note appears on the UNITED OP OUT website.                 John Merrow, on his Taking Note blog, indicates that at least 5,000 Colorado seniors opted out of standardized tests administered to them at the end of last week.  “What to make of recent events in Colorado,” he begins, “where thousands of high school seniors refused to take a state-mandated standardized test? Is this a harbinger of things to come, an American version of ‘Arab Spring,’ or was it an isolated incident with slight significance beyond the Rocky Mountain State?”  If you’re interested in his interpretation check out his column.
Lloyd Lofthouse, who writes the Crazy Normal–The Classroom Expose blog, offers an excellent timeline of how public education developed in this country and mentions some of the billionaires who are attempting to destroy the system.  He throws in 5 videos, for good measure, to illustrate some of his points.  He titles his piece “A Successful History of–And the Threat To–Public Education in the United States.
Veteran educator Marian Brady takes over Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post to lay out “A Paradigm Shift Schools Need” in what they teach and “It’s Not Common Core, Tech or Rigor.”  He proceeds to quote from a number of world renowned scholars about what students need to learn to cope with today’s world.
This headline from the Huffington Post is enough to give one pause:  “Number of Homeless Children in America Surges to  All-Time High: Report.”  The study was issued by the National Center on Family Homelessness and was based on a state-by-state review.  Shockingly, it found that 1 in 30 children are currently homeless with California one of the worst states.  “The problem is particularly severe in California,” the piece points out, “which has one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children with a tally of nearly 527,000.”  Consider the implications for education of this shameful condition!  The story includes a video (5:59 minutes) about this issue with comments and analysis from a co-author of the report and the director of the California Homeless Youth Project 
A meeting at the White House on Wednesday with Pres. Obama and Department of Education Sec. Arne Duncan was used to present to 100 school superintendents some new federal  educational technology resources for K-12 schools.  The details of the gathering are courtesy of the “Digital Education” blog at EDUCATION WEEK.               This item from The HECHINGER REPORT looks at how digital literacy is distributed along class lines.  As you can probably guess, the poorest segments of the population have the least access to things like broadband and thus have the lowest levels of technology skills.  How does this impact schools and learning?  “Digital tools are not only changing the way we learn,” the piece concludes, “they are also changing the way we behave.  Students who learn with laptops, tablets and other digital devices will internalize particular social and emotional skills, specific thought patterns and ways of interacting with the world that will eventually become the new ‘ordinary.’  Students who do not have access to these technologies, or who receive exposure only in a minimally integrated way, will find themselves disadvantaged.”
Valerie Stauss turns her blog over to guest Arthur H. Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., who suggests now may be the ideal time to reframe the entire rancorous debate over education reform.  Instead of relying on terms like “accountability,” “no-excuses” and “choice” he offers ideas like “shared responsibility” and “empathy.”  Not sure exactly what he means?  Click on the link and let him explain it for you.
More finger pointing at the LAUSD.  The district’s inspector general released a report on Wednesday that found  management of the trouble-plagued computerized student information system, MiSIS, was “grossly inadequate” and it singled out for much of the blame the consultant who was hired by the district as project manager.  “Glitches in the system caused myriad problems,” the story in yesterday’s L.A. Times relates.  “Some students spent weeks waiting to be assigned to classes, and the district scrambled to fix errors in transcripts in time for college application deadlines.”  The IG study included a list of recommendations for moving forward.
Diane Ravitch passes along a piece from Connecticut writer Jonathan Pelto who has identified some 200 blogs that support public education.  [Ed. note: I don’t think he included the “Ed News,” so that would make it 201.]  “Like the Committees of Correspondence leading up to America’s War for Independence,” Pelto notes, “education bloggers work alone and in groups to educate, persuade and mobilize parents, teachers, education advocates and citizens to stand up and speak out against those who seek to undermine our public education system, privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than Common Core testing factories.”
Most people are familiar with the protest technique known as a “walk-out.”  Have you ever heard of a “walk-in?”  Jeff Bryant at the Education Opportunity NETWORK explains how it’s being used to oppose unequal school opportunity in parts of Chicago and other issues in districts nationwide.  Yesterday was the culmination of a national “Week of Action for the Public Schools All Our Children Deserve.”  Bryant describes some of the activities taking place in support of the protests in various cities around the country.  “Today’s [Thursday’s] nationwide walk-ins,” Bryant concludes, “should be a call to all Americans to demand our leaders abandon current public education policies and begin implementing what would truly represent a more positive direction forward.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a possible GOP contender for president in 2016, delivered a stirring defense of the Common Core, which he has supported for a long time, in a speech yesterday before the National Summit for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization he founded.  In a perfect world, Bush said. “Parents would have the right to a full and competitive marketplace of school options. Neighborhood schools. Charter schools. Private schools. Blended and virtual schools. Home schools.”  His comments appeared in an article in EDUCATION WEEK.
California’s K-12 schools and community colleges could be getting some good news to the tune of $2 billion, according to a study released Wednesday by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.  As state revenues come in well above projections the two systems could soon see significant increases in their budgets.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “California’s education funding formula,” it reminds readers, “which is part of the state Constitution, sends spikes in revenue to schools and community colleges.  The report highlights how California’s finances are continuing to improve after many years of budget crises.”
Criticism of Teach for America is cropping up in some interesting places.  An opinion piece in The Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper of the University of North Carolina, had this to say: “TFA teachers are imbued with the best of intentions; however, we believe that TFA is a highly flawed program.”  It pointed out the school was the sixth-largest provider of TFA recruits in the country in 2013.  “At its worst,” the article continues, “TFA risks driving a deprofessionalization of teaching, encouraging school districts to invest in short-term hires rather than paying for the development of career teachers.”
Since 2009 the State of New York has required all new teacher candidates to take a series of tests in order to gain a license to teach.  The battery of assessments includes two state tests and one national one, the edTPA.  The results for the exams from 2013-14 showed some fairly low passing rates.  A piece from EDUCATION WEEK discusses the program and the ramifications for hiring.
The troubling Miramonte Elementary School lewd conduct case that broke into lurid headlines in 2012 may finally be drawing to a close.  The LAUSD announced today that it had reached a settlement with the remaining student plaintiffs and their families who’d brought a civil suit against the district.  That trial began Monday and would have most probably made public some gut-wrenching testimony from the young victims.  The LAUSD agreed to pay $139 million for the 81 legal claims in lieu of having a jury decide the outcome.  A story posted on the L.A. Times website this afternoon provides the details.  It includes a video report (3:08 minutes) from KTLA Channel 5 News about the settlement.
And finally, here’s Friday’s Quiz question, courtesy of Valerie Strauss: what percentage of guests invited on cable news networks to discuss education issues are actually EDUCATORS?  (A) 9% (B) 23% (C) 46% (D) 71%.  Take a minute and THINK before you answer.  OK, pencils down!  If you marked “C” you’d be incorrect; “B” is wrong, too, as is “D.”  The correct (rather shocking) answer is “A,” 9%, according to study done my Media Matters that Strauss features.  It included programs on CNN, FOX and MSNBC.  (Bonus question for extra credit:  Which one of those had the best record?  Answer:  You’ll have to read the piece.)  No wonder the general public seems to be so clueless about what goes on in their local classrooms.  Try to have a good weekend while you mull those numbers over once again.
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.



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