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.



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