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. 



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