Ed News, Tuesday, November 25, 2014 Edition


The “Ed News” will be taking a brief break to enjoy the coming holiday.  Look for the next edition on Friday, Dec. 5.

“There are times when I long to sweep away half the things I am expected to learn; 
for the overtaxed mind cannot enjoy the treasure it has secured at the greatest cost. … 
When one reads hurriedly and nervously, having in mind written tests and examinations, 
one’s brain becomes encumbered with a lot of bric-a-brac for which there seems to be little use. “
Has the so-called education “reform” movement really come to this?  Let this article from The Michigan Citizen explain what the courts in that state just ruled.   “In a blow to schoolchildren statewide, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 7 the State of Michigan has no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students in the struggling Highland Park School District.  A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a ‘broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.’  The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality.”  The piece goes into much more detail about what it all means.  Diane Ravitch called it “a shocking decision.”  Say it ain’t so!
For those of you with a connection to LAUSD, here’s a brief summary from the UTLA website of the latest bargaining session for a new contract and some additional proposals the union has put on the table.  It includes an excellent chart outlining the steps of the the collective bargaining process before the union can call a strike.  It shows where in the process the negotiations are now.                UTLA members held rallies to publicize their contract demands at 5 different sites around the city on Thursday.  A story posted on the L.A. Times website on Friday described the one held in Boyle Heights where over 500 union activists gathered.  “The demonstrations were intended to make a statement about union solidarity over contract demands,” the story related.  “United Teachers Los Angeles is seeking a one-year, permanent 10% raise, while also putting forward an agenda on staffing levels, classroom conditions and policies aimed at improving academic results.”
Bloomberg EDU hosted a radio debate between two principals about the Common Core.  Carol Burris from South Side High in New York and Jayne Ellsperman from West Port High in Florida engaged in a spirited discussion of their opposing views of the standards on a podcast (29:45 minutes).  
Many classrooms today have students of more than one race represented.  This piece, from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, offers some concrete suggestions, based on the latest research, for promoting interracial friendships.  The author is a doctor of psychology and frequent contributor to the publication.  “While it may be easy to feel discouraged,” she concludes, “we shouldn’t forget that great strides have been made in women’s rights, minority rights, and gay rights because of how people came together and changed attitudes in society… often radically so. Making sure we encourage schools to remain integrated and encouraging intergroup friendships are ways we can help our children continue to challenge prejudice and to lead the way toward a safer, more connected society for all.”
This piece from the Badass Teachers Association (BATS) is titled “Charter Schools: Good, Bad and Ugly.”  Under “The Good” heading the author actually has some nice things to say about one local charter in particular.  “The Bad” and “The Ugly” are a different story.                Speaking of charter schools.  The California Department of Education website has a list of all charter schools in the state by county.  You can use the map at this link to select a county and get a table of all charters in that county.  For Los Angeles County click here (warning: it’s pretty long.)
A New York editor and film-maker has created a short video (3:33 minutes) called “Refuse the Tests.”  It a series of parents describing the impact of standardized testing on their children and why they have chosen to “opt-out.”  You can view it on YouTube by clicking here.  Both Anthony Cody and Diane Ravitch promoted the film on their blogs.
The LAUSD and other school systems including the Boston city school district have been working diligently to reduce suspension rates of students claiming it increases instructional time and helps boost test scores.  Apparently charters in the Boston area are doing just the opposite.  The Boston Globe highlighted a new report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice with those results.  “The findings come amid a national debate about the use of school suspension. The tactic had been gaining popularity over the last decade or so as part of ‘zero tolerance’ policies that schools adopted,” it reports, “taking a hard line on discipline in hopes of maintaining order.  But a growing body of research suggests that students who are suspended repeatedly are more likely to fall behind academically and drop out, prompting a backlash among students, parents, and civil rights advocates.”
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, describes how the Republican majority on the Texas Board of Education overrode Democratic objections and approved new social studies books with “inaccurate and biased” material.  She explains what some of the battle were over and how a few of the issues were corrected.  “The panel has been reviewing proposed textbooks,” she noted, “e-books and other instructional materials for months and faced strong criticism this year that many of the proposed materials had a plethora of inaccuracies and biased narratives of some topics.”
Many of the so-called education “reformers” want the schools to adopt practices from the business community.  Unfortunately, most of what they suggest may not be appropriate for fixing what ails the schools.  Andrea Gabor, the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College, writing on her own Andrea Gabor blog, maintains there are some things the schools can learn from business but they are not the ones being pushed by the current “reformers.”  She suggests the ideas of management guru W. Edwards Deming may hold clues to some truly meaningful changes.  “Simply put, Deming would be appalled by much of what passes for education reform today. In this blog post,” she explains, “I will describe how the lessons Deming taught American industry might apply to education. His ideas are already being applied by a handful of schools and districts that are explicitly adopting his management ideas.”  Gabor proceeds to describe a number of specific practices Deming brought, not only to businesses in the U.S. and Japan, but also how his ideas helped transform schools in the latter country.  She even includes a very brief reference to the iPads-for-all fiasco in the LAUSD in the course of her piece.
Anthony Cody on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog provides you with his “Education Reform Lexicon for Paradigm Busters.”  He describes his list thusly:”The following terms have taken on special meaning as the religion of test-worship has taken over our schools.  Those not raised in the church of Father Coleman might benefit from a translation into plain English.  This lexicon reflects a complete worldview.  The enthusiastic embrace of these meanings is required to function in a 21st century school in the United States.”  Here’s just one example to spark your curiosity.  It relate to the recent title the ALOED book club discussed last week:  “Grit. This is the ineffable quality that distinguishes the 30% of students who manage to scrape their way to proficiency on the rigorous exams.”
December 14th will mark the second anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 young students and 6 teachers and staff.  The latest incident took place on Thursday at Florida State University in Tallahassee when 3 people were wounded by a gunman who was shot and killed by police.  Any idea how many shootings have taken place on campuses since Sandy Hook?  15?  27?  46?  59?  Not even close.  Everytown for Gun Safety has a shocking list of 91, (91!) school shootings since Sandy Hook.  It includes a very brief introduction.  The picture heading the piece is worth a thousand (a million?) words.
In light of the massive $139 million settlement the LAUSD announced on Friday with the remaining plaintiffs in the Miramonte Elementary School sexual abuse case, Sunday’s L.A. Times had an analysis of the outcome, what the district has learned and how it may alter some of its policies regarding the issue in hopes of avoiding similar cases in the future.  “The settlement has Cortines — the current superintendent — and others concerned,” the article notes, “that other earlier reforms didn’t work and considering what needs to be done for the district to better protect students from sexual misconduct by adults.”               An editorial in today’s Times urges the LAUSD to implement new polices to make sure there are no more “Miramontes.”                 The same paper published 3 letters reacting to the latest Miramonte settlement.  One pointed out that local and state taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill for the total amount paid out ($169 million).  
The Badass Teachers Association (BATS) issued a statement that said “WE HAVE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTIONS TO TESTING THAT HURTS, PUNISHES, AND BLAMES CHILDREN!”  It went on to explain why they were taking that position and the announcement was signed by a long list of members of the organization.
Here’s a little different education story.  The head basketball coach at Westlake High School (Conejo Valley USD) is suing a parent of a former player for libel.  Yes, you read that right.  The story appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “In a 10-page civil complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court,” it notes, “an attorney for Westlake High varsity boys basketball coach Robert Bloom is suing parent James Clark, alleging that he was unable to ‘accept the fact that his son wasn’t and isn’t a Division I Basketball star,’ and made libelous statements ‘with specific intent to … ruin” the coach’s life.'”  You have to read the rest of the article to get all the “he said, he said” details.  What have we come to?
The New York State Board of Regents has approved a charter high school to open in Rochester in 2015.  That’s pretty straight forward.  What’s interesting is it’s to be run by a 22-year-old man with a newly minted doctorate in education.  He’s never taught in or started a school before.  The campus will begin with 100 ninth graders and will eventually total about 400 students in grades 9-12.  The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle story explains whats going on.  “One of the key tenets [of the new school] will be extensive use of online learning,” it notes.  “Each class will have two certified teachers, or one teacher and one teacher’s assistant; at any given time, each of them will be working with a third of the students and the remaining third — in particular, the more advanced students — will be working on computers.”  Would a public high school have a 22-year-old principal with no experience at the helm?  What have we come to?               The young man in question, Ted Morris, claimed to graduate from Rochester’s High School Without Walls.  Diane Ravitch received an short email from the principal of that school, during the time Morris says he graduated, challenging that contention.               Peter Greene was so astounded that Dr. Morris was approved to begin a charter that he wrote two, TWO separate items on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  You can read the first one titled “Rochester Charter Proposal: More Than Meets the 22-Yr-Old Eye”  and the second one titled “More on Rochester Charter Wunderkind (Or: How Hard Is It To Do Your Job, Anyway?”) here which contains some links to other sources (even Mercedes Schneider published two separate blogs trying to keep up with all the “facts”)  that commented on the story including an update of the original item from the Democrat & Chronicle.  Valerie Strauss weighed in on the issue.  She reviewed some of the items mentioned above  and reports on an email exchange she had with Morris about some of his claims.  They all make for some very interesting reading and demonstrate, rather clearly, that the New York State Board of Regents did not undertake much due diligence in checking out Morris’ resume.
The influx into the U.S. over the past several years of a number of unaccompanied minors  from countries in Central America has had a big impact on schools in this country.  The “Ed News” had featured a number of stories about the issue.  This piece, from The HECHINGER REPORT talks about some of those individual experiences through the eyes of the students who lived them.  One of them is an 18-year-old young man who recently arrived from Guatemala and landed in a high school in Oakland.  His is a tale, as the title explains, of “hope [and] past trauma.”  “Whatever their reasons for coming,” the story relates, “the vast majority of the newly arrived children — both the ones the government caught on the way here and the unknown number who made it across without getting picked up by Border Patrol — are now attending the one American institution legally bound to serve them: public schools.”               How big an impact do undocumented students have on the public schools of the United States?  Valerie Strauss features some interesting statistics from a new PEW Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.  It found that 6.9% of K-12 pupils had parents who were in the country illegally as of 2012.  Nevada had the highest percentage (17.7) while California was second with 13.2% closely followed by Texas (13.1) and Arizona (11.0).  Both North Dakota and West Virginia had the lowest rate at 0.1%.  You can find the full report (54 pages) titled “Unauthorized Immigrant Totals Rise in 7 States, Fall in 14–Decline in Those From Mexico Fuels Most State Decreases” by clicking here.
The National Education Policy Center put out a new report yesterday urging caution in the  use of computers and technology in the classroom or even in lieu of classrooms.  It also looked at the new teaching strategy called “Personalized learning.”  The study was authored by Noel Enyedy, associate professor of education and information studies at UCLA.  You can read a press release about it or the full report (26 pages) titled “New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for A New Direction in Computer-Mediated Learning.”
The author of this commentary for EDUCATION WEEK explains why it’s important and “How to Become a Teacher Advocate.”  Jessica Cuthbertson, from Aurora, Colorado, describes herself as a “teacherpreneur.”  She teaches 8th grade literacy, promotes Common Core implementation strategies and is involved in her local union and the National Writing Project.  “Seeing ourselves as teacher-leaders and advocates for public education is key.  If we don’t see ourselves in this role,” she maintains, “we leave the door open for others outside the profession to tell our stories and determine the successes (and shortcomings) of our schools.  Teacher advocates see the bigger picture and purpose of public education.  We ask lots of questions. We problem solve and push back against the status quo. We take initiative. We wonder out loud and imagine possibilities. We say ‘Yes’ often when asked to explain our work to others despite our busy schedules. We see advocacy as part of what it means to be an educator.”
A new report from Public Advocates, a California nonprofit law firm, found that a number of charter schools in the state require parents to volunteer their time or pay a fee in order to maintain their child’s enrollment.  The civil rights group claims that violates the state’s free education law.  A statement from the California Charter Schools Association denied knowledge of any situation where a student was excluded from campus or a school activity because a parent failed to volunteer or pay a fee in lieu of volunteering.  “The report,” according to an item in  yesterday’s L.A. Times, “calls on the state Department of Education to clarify and give guidance on the law and to move to end the practice.  If it does not, the [Public Advocates] group will consider litigation.”  This item brings to mind one question: Can the public schools require parents to volunteer their time or pay a fee?
Richard Lodish, 68, had a distinguished career in K-12 education but now he may be better known for the remarkable collection of 18th to early-20th century school memorabilia that he has collected over the years that is bursting the seams of his home in Bethesda, Maryland.  His stash has attracted the attention of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  That institution has been organizing some of this materials for an exhibit.  You can read a little about Lodish and view pictures of some of his fascinating trove in a “photo blog” from EDUCATION WEEK.  
And finally, for some slightly lighter reading to enjoy while working off that huge turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, try this item from the Badass Teachers Association (BATS).  It’s titled “12 Things You Should Never Say to Teachers” and offers some of those snarky comments parents or members of the public often make to teachers along with some strong retorts to counteract them.  To whet your appetite for what this article contains, here’s point #1:  1. “We’ve all been to elementary school, so aren’t we all kind of experts on it?”

Umm, no. You’ve been sick before — does that make you a doctor? 

How many of you have heard some of these comments in the past?  Can you come up with some additional, pithy responses?
Dave Alpert
(Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog. 



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