Monthly Archives: December 2014

Ed News, Tuesday, December 23, 2014 Edition


The “Ed News” is going to take a short break for the holidays.  
Look for the next issue on Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Until then:
“For truth to tell, dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum
of all noble education:  dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words,
and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with pen– 
that one must learn how to write” 
― Friedrich Nietzsche
The First Deputy Comptroller for the State of New York published some warnings about the lack of fiscal accountability among charter schools in his state and reports his comments were ignored.  He urged that more transparency be required and he got no response.  He finally told his story to PRO PUBLICA. “Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools,” it begins.  “One of New York state’s top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found ‘practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst’ at some charter schools.”
Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to world-renowned developmental psychologist  and prolific author Howard Gardner and Jim Reese, a former teacher in the D.C. Public Schools.  The two authors have a “modest proposal” for the Obamas when the president concludes his term in office in January, 2017.   They should seriously consider teaching in an urban public school as their next career.  Gardner and Reese proceed to offer several reasons why this would be a great idea.
The financial magazine FORBES might be an unlikely place to find a story about teachers but recently it published an interesting item about the problem not being the difficulty in getting rid of bad teachers but trying to retain the good ones.  “It is easy to lay the blame for a struggling education system onto teachers,” the author concludes, “but by making teachers the scapegoats we not only miss the target, but we risk driving more people out of the profession and making the problem worse.”
This can’t be true!  (But it apparently is).  Can state tax revenue earmarked for schools be spent on the construction of a new hockey arena for a local professional team?  “Absolutely not” you say?  Think again.  According to an item in the Detroit Metro Times, the Michigan Attorney General issued a ruling that confirmed that very point.  The legal justification for all this is a little complicated but the article sorts it all out for you.
This op-ed in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Sun-Herald has a very simple request of politicians: “let teachers teach and please stop telling them how to do it.”  “Do members of the Legislature,” he asks, “go over to Highway Patrol headquarters to instruct troopers on how to make a traffic stop? How about the medical center? Do you reckon our state’s elected elite scrub up, waltz into surgery and give doctors pointers on a liver transplant?  But what began as a trickle of officious intermeddling with education has become a torrent.”
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” for deutsch29, reviews the states, one-by-one, as they abandoned the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) which is one of the two major groups designing tests aligned to the Common Core.  By 2011, 24 states and the District of Colombia serving 31 million students had joined the consortium.  How do things look now?  By December of this year the group had dwindled down to a mere 10 states and the DC with a total of only 10 million students.  What happened?  Schneider is happy to offer some explanations about how education behemoth, Pearson, is getting nervous about its cash cow.               Alan Singer of Hofstra Universtiy zeroes in on the troubles facing Pearson.  He titles his commentary on the Huffington Post “Pearson Education Can Run, But it Cannot Hide.” He highlights some of the difficulties the company is having developing curriculum for the LAUSD and its troubled iPad-for-all program.  In addition, he references the piece by Mercedes Schneider (see above).
Should taxpayer money be used to support religious schools?  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is allowed in this country.  Walt Gardner, on his “Reality Check” blog for EDUCATION WEEK suggests that examples from Great Britain and Turkey may cause people to question that decision.  Citing those countries he concludes his piece thusly: “Parents have the right to send their children to religious schools, but I do not believe they have the right to do so at public expense.”
Edward Berger, Ed.D., on his personal blog, describes how he was part of a team of parents and educators who set up one of the first charter schools in Arizona 20-years-ago.  He was very enthusiastic about the prospects for charters back than but soon soured on the idea as he witnessed them move from partners of public schools to competitors.  He now views charters as vehicles for privatization and the undermining of the teaching profession.  “It is time to close the floodgates of public tax dollars that are being drained from our district schools,” he concludes.  “We must stop replicating the resources the public is already paying for, including all operation and capital dollars, into programs that better serve children. It is time to democratically elect all school governing boards. It is time to confront those whose clear mission is to destroy public education and the teaching profession. We educators and taxpayers must unite to save America’s great public education system.”
Sunday’s L.A. Times profiled another LAUSD teacher who returned to his classroom at South Gate Middle School last week after an 8-month stint in “teacher jail.”  Stuart Lutz is a  popular art instructor at the school who had been yanked from his campus for alleged financial irregularities involving the funding of field trips for his students.  “Lutz’s experience,” the story contends, “underscores the question of whether administrators unfairly took advantage of district policy to remove teachers who were troublesome, but not necessarily guilty of substantial misconduct. Lutz was the union representative for his school and had some disagreements with the principal.”
A group of Wilson High School students in Portland, Oregon, are enrolled in a for-credit, yearlong class on “mindfulness.”  The “Ed News” has featured the technique in the past and an item from EDUCATION WEEK catches you up if you’re not sure what it is.  “The idea behind mindfulness,” it explains, “is that focusing on the present moment helps a person deal better with stress, difficult emotions and negative thoughts.”
Here are some very sobering figures regarding families and children in the U.S. who speak a language other than English in their homes.  According to census figures the number is 21% nationwide.  That jumps to 44% in California and 57% (!) in L.A. County.  The implication of those statistics on schools in Los Angeles is profound.  An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times by a professor at UCLA argues that schools must work with these students and their many different languages in order to help them “become truly bilingual.”  “We need to embrace and advance homegrown bilingualism,” the author suggest, “but that can happen only if we offer these languages in our educational system. And, of course, it should not be done at the expense of learning English, which remains the sine qua non to function in the world.”
What programs and organizations got the biggest funding grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014?  Would you be at all surprised that the biggest winners were the Common Core, charter schools and online technology-based initiatives.  Valerie Strauss, writing on her blog for The Washington Post, reviews some of the largest Gates grants from the past year. 
Today’s L.A. Times has a letter from a retired LAUSD adult education ESL teacher decrying the district’s drastic cuts to its adult ed program.  The writer argues that one of the best ways to assist students with learning English is to teach their parents the language.  The letter was in response to the paper’s article about the district ramping up its programs for teaching  “long-term English  learners.”
And finally, while the winter holidays are upon us you should have time to read this article from THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website which asks  “Want to Fix Schools?  Give Teachers More TIME!”  The author lists a number of school-related things he’d like to do if he just had the time to do them.
Happy holidays everyone.  See you next year. 
Thanks for reading!

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

Ed News, Friday, December 19, 2014, Edition


 “What we want to see is the child in pursuit of the knowledge
not the knowledge in pursuit of the child.”
George Bernard Shaw
A commentary in the Monterey Herald is strongly in favor of educational accountability.  However, the author, a veteran elementary teacher in California, thinks the way it’s being pushed is upside down. “Accountability needs to be placed on the shoulders of those who created the education programs foisted on the education system,” he demands.  “It is the programs which ultimately have the greatest impact. It is not just or even hardly ever the soldiers themselves fighting street-to-street, city-to-city, state-to-state, who win or lose wars. It is the plan. The education plans need to be evaluated and field-tested before they are implemented.”
Is there a push to get climate-change denial into classroom textbooks?  That’s the gist of an investigative story from The Atlantic.  It focuses on a battle over new books in Texas and how the lines are being drawn over the issue.
Walt Gardner’s “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK wonders if it’s fair to expect low-income students to be able to compete with their middle-class counterparts.  “Poverty is not destiny,” he eloquently concludes.  “But it affects learning. That’s not an excuse any more than gravity is an excuse for why objects fall to the floor.”
A 10-year-old 4th grader in Montclair, New Jersey, tells her local school board why she thinks the new PARCC assessment “stinks.”  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post  describes the little girl’s presentation before the committee.  It includes a transcript of her remarks and several links to the video (3:19 minutes) of her speech.  This one is well worth your time if you’d like a student’s perspective on the new standardized tests.
Julian Vasquez Heilig comments on the growing backlash against Teach for America on his Cloaking Inequity blog.  It includes 2 segments he appeared in for Al Jazeera America about TFA.  You can view both part 1 (4:39 minutes) and part 2 (4:20 minutes) by clicking here.                 Not everyone is critical of TFAEDUCATION WEEK offers a forum to Howard Fuller, a professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee and a member of a regional board of directors for TFA.  He titles his piece “The Anti-TFA Protests Are Misguided.”
Are their better ways to evaluate teachers than using questionable value-added models (VAMs)?  According to recent findings from two University of Pennsylvania researchers, working for the Consortium on Chicago School Research, rigorous classroom observations yield much more accurate results and contribute to improved student performance.  This latest information can be found in an article on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.
A new report from Bellwhether Education, highlighted in EDUCATION WEEK, suggests more accountability over charter schools in Ohio.  You can review 4 of the proposals from the report in the Ed Week article.  It includes a link to the full study (62 pages) titled “The Road to Redemption–Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter School Sector.”
School districts and the State of California are increasing efforts to assist English Language Learners to more quickly become more fluent in English.  A new state law requires California to “define and identify ‘long-term English learners.'”  “In its inaugural data released Wednesday,” the article from yesterday’s L.A. Times reports, “the state has identified nearly 350,000 students in grades six through 12 who have attended California schools for seven years or more and are still not fluent in English.  They make up three-fourths of all secondary school students still learning English.  Among them, nearly 90,000 are classified as long-term English learners because they also have failed to progress on the state’s English proficiency exam for two consecutive years and score below grade level in English standardized tests.”  The story goes on to describe an exemplary program being used at Parkview Elementary School in El Monte (Mountain View Elementary School District).
The New York State Board of Regents delayed the renewal of a number of New York City charter schools despite recommendations that they approve the requests from the city’s Department of Education.   Details about the surprising action can be found on the Chalkbeat New York website.  “The renewals are typically considered rubber-stamp votes by the time they make it to the Regents agenda,” it explains.  “This time, state officials said they wouldn’t approve the extensions until representatives from the city’s charter-school office came to Albany and explained their reasoning.”
The so-called education “reformers” have based their philosophy on a number of tenets: school choice, common standards and assessments and value-added models (VAMs) to evaluate teachers among others.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, believes that many of those “pillars of reform” are “collapsing.”  He provides a point-by-point run-down of why he thinks they are.  “There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs,” he submits.  “The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling.  Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?”  Be sure to check out the very evocative picture he includes at the head of his piece.
Mercy College’s teacher preparation program in New York received a very poor accreditation review in 2006.  [Ed. note: Oxy people, does this sound familiar?]  State officials contemplated pulling the plug on the program but chose, instead, to give it a reprieve contingent on the department implementing some important fixes.  Now the program appears “to be flourishing, with the education school having received national accreditation this year.”  The tale of what happened at Mercy College and how the program has been successfully resurrected contains many lessons for others in similar situations.  EDUCATION WEEK recounts the details.
Yesterday’s L.A. Times included 3 letters commenting on the Sandy Banks column from Tuesday’s paper in which she lauded the LAUSD for including an ethnic studies course as a new graduation requirement.
Are there any alternatives to the test-based accountability system?  As Diane Ravitch describes what’s happening now: “Test-based accountability fails because it is based on a lack of trust in professionals.  It fails because it confuses measurement with instruction.  No doctor ever said to a sick patient, ‘Go home, take your temperature hourly, and call me in a month.’  Measurement is not a treatment or a cure.  It is measurement.  It doesn’t close gaps: it measures them.”  So where are we now?  A group of 16 veteran teachers with 275 years of experience between them offers 6 concrete alternatives to the current accountability system on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  
Many experts decry the misuse or overuse of handheld devices by adults and teenagers.  However, a pediatric occupational therapist offers “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.”  Her list includes the latest research and comments about each one.  It appears courtesy of the Huffington Post. 
EDUCATION WEEK’S “College Bound” column features a new study that finds about 50% of high school graduates do NOT feel adequately prepared for college or work.  The poll questioned 1,347 students nationwide who graduated from the classes of 2011-14.  The article includes 5 suggestions gleaned from the report that high schools can implement to better prepare their graduates.  It includes a link to the full survey (27 pages) titled “Rising to the Challenge: Are High School Graduates Prepared For College and Work?”
An ambitious group of South L.A. parents who were concerned about sending their middle-schoolers to underperforming Jefferson High decided to form their own school.  Working with the LAUSD they helped create the Nava College Preparatory Academy which opened its doors this school year to an initial group of 280 9th graders.  It plans to add an additional grade each year until it ultimately serves around 1,100 students in grades 9-12 by 2017.  A piece in yesterday’s L.A. Times explains how the campus got off the ground, how things are going today and plans for the future.
Ever heard of the “kinesthetic classroom?” Chalkbeat Colorado has the interesting details.   “The term may be a mouthful,” it explains, “but it’s really just another way of saying that the room would feature desks and tables with built-in bicycles, elliptical machines and other exercise equipment. The idea, which has been piloted at a handful of schools around the country, draws on neuroscience research showing how exercise facilitates learning and memory.”  Not exactly sure what something like that would look like?  Check out the picture that heads the article.  Here’s another example:

TIME magazine has its much anticipated “Person of the Year” cover story.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK blog, has selected his “Education’s Newsmaker of the Year.”  Envelope please.  And the winner is . . . . “Charter School Scandals!”  (Wild applause).  No! Wait!  That’s nothing to applaud.  That’s terrible news but he goes on to enumerate the myriad problems that were uncovered this year regarding charter schools.  Bryant writes: “In 2014, charter schools, which had always been marketed for a legendary ability to deliver promising new innovations for education, became known primarily for their ability to concoct innovative new scams.”  Are they really a viable alternative to public schools?  Read his piece and decide.
And finally, the author of this item in EDUCATION WEEK is a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught English Language Arts for 20 years at Revere High School in Massachusetts.  She takes time out from her very busy schedule to identify 12 unsung “Everyday Teacher Heroes.”  “People don’t know the challenges teachers face each day,” she writes.  “People don’t know the enormous amount of work it takes to be an effective teacher. And people don’t know the sacrifices teachers make to do that work.  Teachers often go far out of their way to help their students achieve and succeed in the world. These efforts can make all the difference to a child.”  Many of you probably know colleagues who should be included on her list.  Some of you should be on it, too!
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.



Ed News, Tuesday, December 16, 2014 Edition


Sundown today marked the beginning of the 8-day Jewish celebration of Chanukah.

Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every
teacher can make him learn.  
A University of Georgia professor has been writing a series of profiles for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled “Great Georgia Teachers.”  In this latest installment he describes a first-grade teacher at a campus in Savannah.  The author of the article describes a lesson on bees that is presented.
Paul Thomas of Furman University delivered a talk at the fall conference of the National Council of Urban Education Associations titled “Thirty Years of Education Accountability Deserves an F: Education Accountability as Disaster Bureaucracy.”  He reprints his remarks on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog and includes a link to the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied his remarks.  He traces the whole “accountability movement” to the publication of A Nation At Risk during the Reagan administration.
Margaret Raymond, the founding director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which is part of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, roiled the education reform movement last week when she stated that market-based reforms don’t “seem to work in a choice environment for education.  I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career, she continued.  “That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work.”  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, analyzed Raymond’s remarks and includes a link to the speech, before the City Club of Cleveland, in which she made them.
Did Chicago school officials alter test data to make it appear that charters in that city did better than their public school counterparts?  That’s the focus of an investigative piece by the author on his own TROY LARAVIERE’S BLOG.  “All things between public schools and charter schools . . . . are not equal,” he points out.  “Despite having such a massively deceptive technical advantage, the [test] results demonstrated conclusively that charter school students learned far less than students in public schools, especially in reading.”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacted rather poorly to the funny business taking place in Chicago.
Thanks to Larry Lawrence for sending along a commentary from the UNITED OPT OUT website titled “How Standardized Testing Harms Urban Communities.”  It urges not only suburban parents to opt their children out of state assessments but presents some powerful arguments why parents of color ought to do the same.  “While it may indeed be far easier for parents in White suburban enclaves to refuse the tests with minimal impact to their schools,” the author contends,” it’s all the more necessary for communities of color to refuse the tests in spite of the threats of punishment to their schools because it’s precisely these same communities that are under the greatest attack by standardized testing.”
The New York Times “Room for Debate” feature invited several experts to argue the question “Are Charter School Cherry-Picking Students?”  You can read each participant’s response by clicking here.   “Many charter schools have embraced strict disciplinary measures,” it notes, by way of introduction, “that lead to much higher rates of suspensions and expulsions than traditional public schools.  Critics say this lets charter schools siphon off the best students and, in the process, inflate their test scores.  What does this trend mean for students and public education?”               Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog, slammed one debate participant, Michael Petrilli, who is an education “reformer” and pro-charter for admitting that those schools do selectively pick students.               Larry Lawrence sent along another article, this one from Peter Greene’s CURMUDGUCATION blog that also took Petrilli to task and blasted charters for breaking “the American Promise.”  “The whole point of school choice is so that select parents can get their children away from Those People.  You know Those People,” Greene submits.  “Those Children are unruly, poorly behaved, badly dressed, generally uncouth. They make for a poor school atmosphere. They won’t pull up their pants, or get off our lawn. They set a Very Poor  Example for the other children,” he continues.  “If we could just get our own exemplary children away from Those People, life would be so much better. Well, at least it would be so much better for us.”
What will be some of the key education issues facing governors and state legislators as the new year commences?  That’s the focus of a story in EDUCATION WEEK which details testing, Common Core, school finance and charters among other agenda items to be dealt with.
How good a job do the SAT, ACT and standards-based tests do at predicting success in college?  Peter Goodman, writing on his Ed In The Apple blog says not very well.  What does he suggest people look at instead?  Why none other than a student’s GPA!  “Unfortunately we are using the wrong tools to measure the wrong outcomes,” he explains.  “We base a range of decisions on a test, a few hours of bubbling in answers and writing an essay; however the SAT and the ACT, which also use bubble sheets and essays, are poor predictors of college success. The best predictor is standing in class as measured by the student’s GPA. It should not be surprising; the GPA is determined by numerous tests over four years of high school reflecting the judgment of many teachers.”
Are the costs and time allotments on  the new Core-aligned tests being lowballed for some nefarious reasons?  That’s the conclusion of a story from WATCHDOGWIRE about a report on those items and more as they pertain to Colorado. 
Voters in the State of Washington turned down charter opportunities three times in the past.  They finally acquiesced in 2012.  They should have stuck with their initial suspicions.  The Seattle Times reports that the first charter to open in the state is “in disarray” for a number of reasons since it opened its doors in early September.   
How are the Common Core standards faring in the individual states?  REAL CLEAR EDUCATION takes a look in light of the recent mid-term elections and the coming presidential race in 2016.  Be sure to check out the interactive map at the end of the piece with a risk scale of possible repeal of the standards.  Place your cursor over any state to get more details about the status of the standards.  “Now empowered with a Republican-controlled Congress in Washington and big wins for the GOP across gubernatorial midterms,” the article explains, “education analysts are speculating about how much risk Common Core faces over the next few years.”
When the Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate in January they will take over as chairs of all the chamber’s committees.  The Democrats will be relegated to “ranking member” status.  The top Democrat on the Education Committee will be Patty Murray from Washington State.  “Education advocates will be pleased to know that her top three priorities for the committee, which also deals with health care and labor issues, are all education-related,” according to an item in EDUCATION WEEK.   She’s interested in reauthorizing the long-stalled No Child Left Behind law, reducing the burden of student loan debt, and investing in early childhood education.”     Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will become the new chairperson.                The outgoing chair is the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who made his final speech on the floor on Friday prior to casting his last vote on Saturday.  An article in the same publication had a farewell profile of the special education champion who served in Congress since 1974.  He will be sorely missed.               John Kline (R-Minn.), chair of the House Education Committee, announced one of his first goals will be to scrap the No Child Left Behind law according to a short item also in ED WEEK (via the Associated press).  “Kline says he envisions a law that returns more power to state and local leaders,” it explains.  “He says the current system where some states have waivers from the law is too messy.”

Saturday’s L.A. Times included 2 brief letters responding to the paper’s story last Tuesday about the LAUSD requiring a new ethnic studies course as a requirement for graduation.  One of them suggested they include women’s history in the curriculum.  
Diane Ravitch is touting a new documentary film (which she appears in) titled “Education, Inc.” that describes the corporate attempt to co-opt public education.  She includes a link to the trailer (3:13 minutes) on her website.
Carol Burris, the award-winning principal of South Side High School in New York, often appears in Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post.  This time she takes a no-holds-barred look at the (disastrous) tenure of John King who recently announced he was leaving his post as Commissioner of the New York Department of Education in order to take a job as a senior assistant to Sec. Arne Duncan at the U.S. Dept. of Education.  The item is titled “What Arne Duncan’s New Senior Advisor Did to N.Y. Schools.”  As your can probably tell, Burris is not kind in her assessment.
LAUSD school board member Tamar Galatzan will face 5 challengers in the upcoming March municipal election.  She had the most people qualify to run for her seat in District 3.  In the other 3 contested positions there was little or no opposition.  The story in yesterday’s L.A. Times also briefly mentioned the four races for the L.A. Community College District board.
Is Teach for America’s star beginning to dim?  According to a story in EDUCATION WEEK the organization may be facing problems recruiting new candidates.  “Teach For America could have a smaller corps in its coming year due to recruitment challenges,” the article notes, “potentially falling short of placement demand by 25 percent, the organization said in a letter sent to its partner school districts this weekend.”  As a result, TFA announced it would be closing its New York and Los Angeles summer training institutes.               Valerie Strauss weighed in on the latest developments about TFA in her column in The Washington Post.  Strauss included the note sent from TFA to schools predicting its recruitment might fall short.  “After enjoying enormous popularity among school reformers and elected politicians,” she notes, “TFA has been feeling growing pushback.”
Does taking algebra over again in high school do more harm than good?  That’s the surprising conclusion of a new study of the issue in California schools highlighted by The HECHINGER REPORT.  “A growing body of research is showing that when you march a teenager through the same algebra class again, it doesn’t help much,” the article suggests.  “And this is part of an overall picture of students repeating classes or an entire year of school without good results. Without addressing a child’s underlying learning issues or missing foundations, repetition alone is rarely effective and sometimes harmful.”  It includes a link to the full report (31 pages) titled “Who Repeats Algebra I, and How Does Initial Performance Relate to Improvement When the Course is Repeated?”
Sandy Banks, in her column in today’s L.A. Times, describes her experience taking an ethnic studies class when she was a junior in high school in 1971 and how it changed her life.  She applauds the LAUSD’s decision to include the course as a graduation requirement.  “An ethnic studies course changed my life when I was a teenager — though not in the way that today’s opponents of ethnic studies seem to fear,” she begins.  “It didn’t teach me to feel like a victim, to despise America or to resent white people. I learned that history doesn’t have to be boring, and that you may have to dig deep beneath the surface to find the truth in a story.”
Districts are quick to close under performing schools but what do states do when faced with poorly functioning teacher preparation programs?  An extended EDUCATION WEEK analysis found that they rarely shut them down and when they do the movement is very slow.  [Ed. note: In a sidebar to this article titled “Ed School and Program Closures By State” under the heading “States in which an education school, provider or program, withdrew from the approval process, in part for performance reasons:” under California, it lists “1 college.”  I wonder which one that is?]
And finally, what happens when a veteran teacher attends parent-teacher conferences for the first time as the PARENT of his kindergarten daughter?  The results are both hilarious and a little bizarre, particularly when the teacher gets around to explaining his daughter’s test scores.  You can read all about Steven Singer’s experiences on his GADFLYONTHEWALL blog.
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog. 



Ed News, Friday, December 12, 2014 Edition


“It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact 
which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was 
because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made 
it so pleasant and acceptable to me.” 
The NBC affiliate in Miami investigated a rash of  charter school closings in Miami-Dade County over the past 5 years with many owing large sums of taxpayer money.  The piece is titled “Charter Schools Not Making the Grade” and includes a video segment (4:05 minutes).  “Charter schools are so popular they’ve doubled in number to more than 600 across the state,” it begins.  “But lately charter schools have made headlines for a rash of closings in South Florida—that aren’t just upsetting parents, but are costing taxpayers money.  Charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently.  Forty-nine charter schools have shut down in South Florida in the last five years, more than 40% owing school districts millions of dollars in tax money.”
“iPadgate” update:  Karen Klein, an editorial writer for the L.A. Times, penned an opinion piece for the paper titled “Four Reasons to be Glad A Federal Grand Jury is Investigating L.A. Unified’s iPads.”  
4 states have what are referred to as “Recovery School Districts:” Louisiana, Tennessee, Michigan and Virginia.  The Milwaukee Public Schools in Wisconsin may be next in line.  “What Happens in a Recovery School District?” is addressed in Larry Miller’s Educate All Students! blog.  The author lists a number of outcomes when districts become RSDs.  
The recent race for California State Superintendent of Pubic Instruction was a good example of how vast sums of money are now being spent on political races.  The contest between incumbent and eventual winner Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck raised over $26 million from outside groups which was THREE times the amount spent in the race for governor.  The facts and figures are describes in a story from THE NETWOK for PUBLIC EDUCATION.
Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, went apoplectic over an article in Forbes about a granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton who had a “plan to fix public education.”  Schneider couldn’t wait to see how many ideas for improving schools were based on Walmart practices and philosophies which Schneider is highly scornful of.  She didn’t have to wait long as Carrie Walton Penner is a major booster of charter schools.  You can read the original Forbes piece by clicking here.
The Madison, Wisconsin, Capital Times published an editorial supporting the state’s teachers unions as “vital defenders of pubic education.”  It describes how they have repeatedly stood up to the legislative onslaught of Gov. Scott Walker who has promoted steep budget cuts, loss of collective bargaining rights and salary reductions among other indignities.
The most recent ALOED book club discussion last month covered Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed–Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.  Paul Thomas from Furman University, on his THE BECOMING RADICAL blog,  critiqued Tough’s ideas and found them a bit wanting.  He illustrates his work with a number of graphs, charts and tables to bolster his points. 
Anthony Cody, in his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, has a short video promo (49 seconds) discussing the Gates Foundation ideas for education for an upcoming documentary called “The Public School Wars” which should be out next year.  
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday column for the L.A. Times, reviews the past 12 months in the LAUSD and claims it was mostly “bad news” for the nation’s second largest district as it “let down” its over 600,000 students.  Believe it or not, he did have a few good things to say and even suggested some ways the district could go about selecting a new superintendent.
The State of Georgia’s approach to education comes under fire in an op-ed in the Athens Banner-Herald headlined “Georgia’s Patchwork Approach to Education Isn’t Working.”  “While education ‘reform’ is an issue as old as the republic,” the author complains, “Georgia’s approaches to it are crazier than any patchwork quilt.  We bounce around from one quick fix to the next.  We routinely ignore research about what works, and use ideas that have never been tested.  Our legislature tries to micromanage our schools, the governor controls the policy-making state school board and we elect the state school superintendent, who is not required to know anything about education policy or the business of running schools.”
Is former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani “off his rocker?”  Did he really just try to blame the United Federation of Teachers for the death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man killed by a NYPD officer who used an unauthorized chokehold?  You’ll have to review what “hizzoner” said in a brief item on the Raginhorseblog and decide for yourself.               Valerie Strauss, in her column in The Washington Post, was also shocked at the intemperate remarks and inferences uttered by Guiliani.  “So there you have it,” she concludes.  “Next let’s blame the union for the bad weather.”
George McKenna, the newest member of the LAUSD school board who won an August special election race, will face no opposition when he runs for a full term in the March primary.  Three of the other seats will be contested according to a story in Monday’s L.A. Times.
The first Common Core-aligned assessments designed by one of the two major consortia PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) will be rolled out this month for 30,000 middle and high school students in 6 states in math and English/Language Arts.  Exams from the other group SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which includes California) will be administered in the spring.  EDUCATION WEEK has all the details.
Many charter schools claim to be non-profit, yet they make LOTS of money for their investors or charter management operators.  How can that be?  An investigative story in PRO PUBLICA takes a look at the phenomena of non-profits that make money.  It’s titled “When Charter Schools are Nonprofit in Name Only.”  
Starting in 2018-19 the LAUSD will add an ethnic studies course as a requirement for graduation.  The district’s demographics shows 74% of students are Latino and 10% are African-American based on an item in Tuesday’s L.A. Times which goes on to explain the new mandate.             Cynthia Liu, founder and CEO of the K-12 News Network, pens a piece on why she supports an ethnic studies graduation requirement as recently approved in both the LAUSD and the San Francisco Unified School Districts.  “Ethnic Studies,” she maintains, “is a path to self-understanding for students otherwise denied the histories of those who speak and look like them, but it’s also how all people can empathize across lines of race, culture, religion, ethnicity, and language and feel in our bones the deep commonalities of shared hopes, struggles, and dreams of our individual lives.”               An editorial in today’s L.A. Times is critical of the way the LAUSD is going about implementing the new ethnic studies graduation requirement.  It’s not against the concept but believes the district has not done “its homework” regarding cost, what courses to offer and how it will fit into tight student schedules.  
How do charter schools in Ohio match up with their pubic school counterparts?  Based on an analysis of data from Stanford University, the answer is “not very well.”  A brief item from the 10th Period blog provides some numbers.  
Steve Lopez, in his column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times, profiles relatively new LAUSD board member Monica Ratliff and what she’ experienced during her first couple of years on the job.  “Her staggering [election] upset,” he explains, “may have been both a credit to her straightforward authenticity as a concerned teacher and a backlash against the powerful Angelenos who were determined to remake the board.  When she joined the board 18 months ago, Ratliff was grateful to be beholden to no one and eager to make an impact.”
Ever thought about STARTING your own school?  If so, how would it be designed?  What guiding philosophies would you incorporate?  The author of this item from EDUCATION WEEK is a blogger and an award-winning  history teacher who currently works at the International School of Beijing.  He titles his piece “The 4 Qualities of My Dream School.”  “My dream school . . . . is full of courage, dignity, and commonwealth,” he writes.  “It is the place where the community finds space to come and work together with teachers, to get used to one another, and to build our shared future.”
The controversial New York State Education Commissioner John King will be stepping down to take a new position at the start of the New Year as a senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  King took his current post in May, 2011, and was a strong advocate of the Common Core, high-stakes testing and the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.  The New York Daily News reports on the move.               For the New York BATS (Badass Teachers Association) King’s resignation was both good news and bad news.  Good news that he was leaving New York, bad news that he was moving to the U.S. Dept. of Education.  You can read their press release on the Badass Teachers Association website by clicking here.               Valerie Strauss weighed in on the surprise announcement about King leaving on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.              King’s departure prompted both positive and negative reactions from various other sources as reviewed by EDUCATION WEEK.             The group New York State Allies for Public Education put out a press release on their website reacting to the move by John King.  It includes statements from a number of different districts around the state plus a call for Gov. Cuomo NOT to interfere in the process of selecting a new commissioner.
Anthony Cody blasts U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan, in his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, for introducing all sorts of value-added models (VAMS) to the new teacher preparation program evaluations.  Cody reviews a number of studies that find VAMS to be of dubious reliability and consistency and wonders how they can possibly be utilized to evaluate credential programs much less teacher effectiveness.                 The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted some new federal guidelines for teacher preparation programs.  Former Oxy president and current Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Education Ted Mitchell appeared on the “Bloomberg EDU” radio program discussing the new measures with host Jane Williams.  You can listen to the segment (30:49 minutes total.  The Mitchell portion covers the first 13:40.  The rest deals with early childhood education) as it was carried on SoundCloud.

                                            Ted Mitchell                                                                                                                                                                           
The LAUSD hopes to learn from the disastrous (and expensive) Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal and settlements.  The board, on Tuesday, directed Supt. Ramon Cortines to study previous examples of misconduct in order to better protect students in the future.  In other actions the board approved spending an additional $11 million in order to rectify problems surrounding the trouble-plagued roll-out of the new computerized student data system (MiSIS) and $23.2 million for purchases of computers.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times has all the details.
Jeff Bryant at the Education Opportunity NETWORK wonders “Who’s Really Failing Students?”  It seems to him that laws like No Child Left Behind and many of the Common Core aligned assessments are designed to promote student failure.  Why has this become the “standard” and who stands to benefit from it?  Those and other questions are addressed by Bryant in his provocative piece.  “New standardized tests hitting most of the nation this school year,” he argues, “have been engineered to increase failure rates, and policy leaders tell us that children and parents deserve this.  The expected sharp downturn in scores will no doubt further tarnish the brand of public schools, siphon yet more precious public dollars into private operators pledging to hold schools ‘more accountable,’ and add fuel to the already raging fires of a growing anti-testing movement. But what too few are asking is who really is the failure here.”
Any poets out there (and I don’t mean from Whittier College)?  The author of this story in EDUCATION WEEK searches Walt Whitman’s “As I Sat Alone by Blue Ontario’s Shore” for some inspirational words as he moved through his career teaching social studies in Jericho, New York.  “Walt Whitman’s Challenge to Teachers” is the title of the piece.
And finally for your reading pleasure, askreddit put out a question to teachers: “What was the strangest encounter you’ve had with a student’s parents?”  The responses run the entire gamut of weird situations.  Have you had similar interactions?  Any odd ones of your own to add?  Enjoy it, and try not to die of laughter too often.               If you don’t wish to read the thousands of comments, with new ones being added all the time, EDUCATION WEEK picked out a few of the more “interesting” ones to whet your appetite.  You can find them by clicking here.
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Saturday, December 6, 2014 Edition


“Education leads to enlightenment. 
Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. 
Empathy foreshadows reform.” 
“How the Koch Brothers are Sneaking Their Way Into Public Schools” is the title of an expose in AlterNet’s “Zinn Education Project.”  It explains how the billionaire brothers are the chief funders behind the Bill of Rights Institute which aims to try and control social studies curricula around the country.  The author cites as an example the recent National Council for the Social Studies national convention held in Massachusetts prior to Thanksgiving and the type of presence the BRI had there.  “Well, the Kochs won’t be there in person, but they will be represented by a Koch-funded and controlled organization: the Arlington, Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute,” he notes.  “For years, the Bill of Rights Institute has shown up at NCSS conferences to offer curriculum workshops, distribute teaching materials, and collect the names of interested educators. What the Bill of Rights Institute representatives fail to mention when they speak with teachers is that they have been the conduit for millions of dollars from Charles and David Koch, as the brothers seek to influence the country’s social studies curriculum. (When I attended a Bill of Rights Institute workshop at an NCSS conference,” he continues, “I asked the presenter who funds their organization. ‘Donations,’ she replied.)”
With all the controversy surrounding the Common Core it’s nice to see a story with a positive spin regarding a new social studies curriculum.  Since 2009 Stanford University has made available a free  series of online lessons and assessments for U.S. and World History.  The reception from teachers who have taken advantage of the materials has been strong and students who have been working with the lessons have been enthusiastic.  A number of LAUSD educators have participated in the training and utilized the curriculum  that goes with it according to a story in the L.A. Times from Nov. 26.  It includes a link to the Stanford University History Group that created the materials that are titled “Reading Like A Historian.”
Robert Reich, on his personal Robert Reich blog surveys the class divide in this country and how it impacts the public schools.  He views this as part of the growing debate in the U.S. over immigration policies. “The nation’s attention is focused on the border separating the United States from Mexico,” he concludes, “and on people who have crossed that border and taken up residence here illegally.  But the boundary separating white Anglo upscale school districts from the burgeoning non-white and non-Anglo populations in downscale communities is fast becoming a flashpoint inside America.”
EDUSHYSTER conducts an interesting interview with Gordon Lafer a political economist and Associate Professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center.  He looks at the idea of corporate education reform in the context of politics and economics.  “This is one of the most enlightening interviews,” Diane Ravitch noted on her blog.  
“I urge you to read it.”
truthout has a very provocative piece titled “Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths” that looks at some of the reasons why charter schools are hailed as saviors of public education and why they are “myths” that, in reality, promote racial segregation.  “Despite what was once a central commitment to public schooling in the United States,” it begins, “radical education advocates cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the struggles against racism that exist and persist within charter school environments, despite the rhetoric of equality and justice.  This is particularly necessary because many of the most vulnerable students, with the greatest needs, have generally remained within now even more poorly funded and resourced public schools, while more and more public dollars, under private control, are redirected to serve the privileged few.”
The “Ed News” previously highlighted a powerful new documentary titled “Crenshaw” which describes the highly disruptive forced reconstitution of the school by the LAUSD a couple of years ago.  [Ed. note: I worked at Huntington Park High School (LAUSD) for 26 years before retiring in 2009.  Two years later HPHS went through a similar reconstitution.  From tales I heard from former colleagues it was best described as a “massacre.”]  Anthony Cody turns his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog over to the filmmaker, Lena Jackson, who talks about her project.  It contains a brief trailer (1:19 minutes) for the film.
Proposed new federal guidelines for teacher preparation programs were announced last week by U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  The article in last Saturday’s L.A. Times provides some interesting figures about training in California.  The Commission for Teacher Credentialing has approved 261 programs and there are 1,395 others alternate paths to earning a credential.  The California State University system is the largest producer of educators in the nation.  “The proposed regulations,” the story notes, “would allow states broad flexibility to develop measures of performance but demands that emphasis be placed on teacher outcomes, such as employment, retention and success in the classroom.  That could include evaluating training programs based on the test scores of K-12 students taught by their graduates, a model that provokes heated contention in the education community.”                 THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION weighed in on the new rules and predicted that “Teacher colleges aren’t feeling very thankful for” them.  It suggested that rankings of teacher preparation programs will now be based on how many of their graduates are hired and how well their pupils do on standardized tests.  “But teacher unions and college lobbyists,” it argues, “worry that the rules will punish programs whose graduates are concentrated in high-need schools, where test scores tend to be lower and teacher turnover higher.  They warn that the plan could discourage colleges from placing their students in such schools.”             Larry Mantle on his “Air Talk” program for NPR station 89.3KPCC earlier this week hosted 3 guests who are experts on teacher training to discuss the new federal guidelines.  He also took calls from listeners.  You can hear the segment (20:13 minutes) and read a brief introduction by clicking here.                David Berliner, Emeritus Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, has some advice for Arne Duncan about “How to Do Teacher Education Right.”  His comments appear in the Education in Two Worlds blog.   
Forbes magazine has developed a 5-point plan for improving education with the help of some handy billionaires.  3 of the recommendations include “Teacher Efficacy,” “Universal Pre-K” and “School Leadership.”  You’ll find the other 2 in the article along with explanations of each plus a cost/benefit analysis (remember, Forbes IS a business publication).              Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog actually required 2 posts to dissect the plan.  The first looked at the 5 specific proposals that it contained.  In the second he engages in a “mythical” discussion of the ideas with Andrew Cuomo, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and others.  
“iPadgate” update.  Instead of an exclusive contract with Apple to supply tablet computers to all students and staff the LAUSD will now broaden the field and also offer less expensive Chromebooks that use the Google operating system.  The details were in an item in Monday’s L.A. Times.  “Los Angeles school officials want to give schools more choices in equipping students with new computers,” it begins, “part of an ongoing evolution of the district’s approach to buying and using technology.  Under a new plan, 27 schools that were originally set to receive iPads, made by Apple, now will also have the choice of choosing a less-expensive Chromebook, which uses a Google operating system.”               The FBI made a surprise visit to the LAUSD headquarters Monday afternoon and carted off 20 boxes of documents related to the iPad contract the district had with Apple according to a story in Wednesday’s Times.             NPR station 89.3KPCC host Larry Mantle, on his “Air Talk” program, invited the station’s education reporter and a professor from the Loyola Law School to discuss the situation and what it means legally.   The segment runs 14:09 minutes.                 KPCC ran several updates to its original story including the fact that LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines quickly cancelled the iPad contract the district had with Apple and the FBI turned over the seized documents from the LAUSD to a federal grand jury.                 With the “iPad-for-all” program back in the headlines (see above), Thursday’s L.A. Times ran a primer about the issue in its “Explainer” column.  It focuses on the details of how contracts with Apple and Pearson were concluded.               Yesterday’s paper published a single letter reacting to the Times’s original story on Wednesday about the FBI visit to LAUSD headquarters.
Julian Vasquez Heilig, on his Cloaking Inequity blog, crowns Arne Duncan as the winner of his 2014 Education Policy Turkey of the Year Award based on a poll Heilig conducted.  1,000 readers of his blog participated in the contest.  Duncan won with 51%, the “Billionaires” came in second at 30% and Time Magazine was third garnering 8%.  You can read about the award and view some additional results by clicking here.  NB: The “picture” of Duncan that leads off the article is worth a peak.           
The much maligned Common Core Standards are getting a prominent academic boost.  Stanford University is partnering with the California Teachers Association (CTA) to provide initial training to 160 teachers and 24 administrators who will, in turn, help prepare an additional 50,000 educators throughout California to work with the new curriculum.  The collaborative effort between the scho0l and the state’s largest teachers union will commence this week, according to a story in Monday’s L.A. Times.
Randy Traweek was rather disgusted [Ed. note: That’s putting it mildly.  He spoke of “throwing up] over a report from NPR that seemed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Teach for America.  It did raise some of the issues that TFA has been criticized for and some of the changes the group is in the process of making.  You can listen to the segment (6:55 minutes) or read a separate online report (it’s not a transcript) by clicking here.
During Pres. Obama’s second term his U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been focusing on the important role principals play in the success of their schools.   EDUCATION WEEK features some of the latest research and federal programs on the subject and what Duncan would like to do with them in the last 2 years of the Obama presidency.
The controversial charter school approved for opening next year in  Rochester by the New York State Education Department, that was to be run by a 22-year-old with a questionable resume, will not open  as originally planned.  The NYSED rescinded its decision last month as numerous questions were raised about the proposed founder’s veracity and experience.  The story was highlighted previously in the “Ed News.”  The latest details are courtesy of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.  “Ted Morris Jr. represented himself to the New York State Education Department as a precocious businessman and educational advisor with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees earned mostly online,” it summarizes.  “In fact, he has no college degrees and scant professional experience.  He resigned Nov. 25, the day most of the misrepresentations came to light and just a week after the school gained approval from the state Board of Regents.”
Is it possible for school districts and teachers unions to work TOGETHER to help students?  That’s the question tackled by a piece in Tuesday’s L.A. Times.  The answer is a qualified “yes” based on examples of cooperation from the ABC Unified and Culver City Unified school districts.  Chicago and L.A. were cited as cities where collaboration has not been forthcoming.               Yesterday’s Times included two letters reacting to the story about district/union collaboration.  One was from a retired LAUSD teacher and instructional coach.
A new Field Poll, in conjunction with EdSource, finds a large majority of California’s registered voters support the idea of providing high-quality preschool for children in the state.  When asked if “high-quality preschool is important to a student’s later success in school and in life,” 61% responded “Very important” and 22% “Somewhat important.”  You can view additional material from the poll and analysis of the findings in the article.  It includes a link to the full survey (11 pages) titled “Highlighting Strategies for Student Success.”
Were you aware that federal law requires school districts to notify the U.S. Dept. of Education how many times they are forced to physically restrain a child?  Were you further aware that most large urban districts including New York, L.A. and Chicago do not comply with the law?   PRO PUBLICA has an enlightening expose on the subject.  “Like all school districts across the country,” it recounts, “New York is required to record every time a public school kid is held or tied down and report totals each year to the U.S. Department of Education. The number New York gave the government? Zero. . . . New York, the nation’s largest school district, wasn’t the only one to incorrectly report zero restraints to the federal government.  So did Los Angeles and Chicago – the nation’s second and third largest school districts.”
The National Association of Secondary School Principals joined a growing chorus against the use of valued-added models (VAMs) to evaluate teachers.  The group gave “preliminary approval to a statement that says test-score-based algorithms for measuring teacher quality aren’t appropriate,” according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  You can read the full statement from the NASSP website, titled “Value-Added Measures in Teacher Evaluation,” by clicking here.  A vote on final approval of the statement is planned for Feb., 2015.
The HECHINGER REPORT profiles an elementary school in Massachusetts that has narrowed the achievement gap through the use of an expanded day and an extended year.  The Lawrence school district’s 24 campuses had been placed in receivership almost 3 years ago.  “The receiver, Jeff Riley, had put forth a turnaround plan that included inviting proven charter school operators into the district to take over a small number of the lowest-performing schools,” the article explains,  “but required that they allow their teachers to be a part of the union and that they operate the same neighborhood schools without a district-wide lottery.”  Interestingly, the district and its teachers union worked in close partnership to reach their goals.
Here’s a rather bold and intriguing prediction: “Test Scores are Going to Go Down Next Year.”  How do they know that?   Answer: “Blame it on Common Core.”  Vox takes a look at the only two states to fully implement standards aligned assessments, New York and Kentucky, and extrapolates from their results.  “The test results on Common Core exams, at least at first, are likely to make students’ reading and math abilities look worse than they did on older state tests,” it states.  “The standards are more demanding than what many states had in place previously, and the tests are more difficult.  New York and Kentucky — the only two states that have fully switched over to Common Core tests — have already learned that lesson. Proficiency rates dropped by about half in both states, from around two-thirds of students to about one-third.”  How are parents, educators and the general public going to react to those very poor and discouraging results? 
And finally, California’s new Local Control Funding Formula which revolutionized the way money is allocated to districts in the state rolled out at the start of this school year.  How are things going so far?  The answer seems to be “It’s working, but slowly.”  EDUCATION WEEK has a brief description of how the program works and the status of its implementation.  “The new funding formula, which began in the 2013-14 school year,” it indicates, “increases the state’s per-student allocation over an eight-year period, until 2020-21.  It directs additional funds to schools with high concentrations of traditionally challenged and low-performing populations, such as low-income students, English-language learners, and those in foster care.”
Dave Alpert (Occidental College, ’71) 
That’s me working diligently on the blog.