Ed News, Friday, December 12, 2014 Edition

The ED NEWS

“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.
 
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