Ed News, Friday, January 9, 2015 Edition


DON’T MISS OUT: The next ALOED book club discussion will take place on Thursday, Jan. 15, at 6:30 pm at the South Pasadena home of Jill Asbjornsen.  The main topic of discussion will be Alfie Kohn’s The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting.  Also under examination is Walter Mischel’s The Marshmallow Test.  Dinner will be provided and you don’t even have to read the books to take part.  Join the group for good food and stimulating conversation .  For more information and to RSVP please click here.
“I am not simply teaching the reading; I am teaching the reader.” 
― Kelly GallagherReadicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It 
Is it the goal of charter companies to completely take over entire school districts?  If so, one can only warn BEWARE!  Some people believe that New Orleans became the first all-charter district in September of 2014.  However, Muskegon Heights, Michigan actually earned that distinction two years before and the results are not encouraging.  Peter Greene on his CURMUDGUCATION blog tells the tale.  “Muskegon Heights was an historic first,” he concludes, “but not one that the charter biz talks about much because it’s not a success story.  Instead, it highlights all the reasons that handing over public schools to private business interests is a lousy idea.”                 York, Pennsylvania may be the next district to take the all-charter plunge.  Greene reported on that possibility in another post which you can find by clicking here.  BEWARE!  BEWARE!
The Concord Review has been publishing outstanding history research papers and commentaries by high school students since 1987.  In this piece, titled “Blended Delusions,” an anonymous student from the class of 2015, looks at the role of technology in the classroom and does not come away very impressed.  “In my opinion,” the author states, “technology’s place is not in the classroom, at least not for the most part.  Sometimes it is necessary, but most of the time, it only serves as a distraction and offers activities that inhibit productive, successful learning. ”
Russ Walsh, on his Russ on Reading blog, selects “The Best Education Books of 2014.”  Several of the titles were highlighted in the past 12 months by the “Ed News.”  “Here is one person’s year end list,” he writes, “of the books that every informed educator and champion of public education should read very soon, if not now.”                Diane Ravitch touts the column on her blog and adds a couple of titles of her own.  We might consider these two lists when compiling possible future volumes for the ALOED book club.
A veteran high school English teacher in Connecticut has an alternative to the corporate education reform movement.  Her prescription–“innovation and investment.” Her comments appear on the Wait What? blog.  “Any lack of progress in school improvement is due to the lack of teacher empowerment and to equity in funding,” she maintains.  “We need to invert the power dynamic and create schools that work from the classroom out, not the federal, state, central office, and/or principal ‘down.’  We need to focus on schools where there is intense poverty. These are not ‘failing schools’: they are schools that are being failed by society.”  She offers “12 resolutions” for achieving her goals.
The Progressive magazine published an expose about the Rocketship Charter School chain.  “Not all charter schools are bad,” it reports.  “Some offer high-quality, alternative model classrooms that are enriching for kids. But over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a vehicle for privatizing public education, pushed by free-market foundations, big education-management companies, and profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public-education funds.”  If nothing else, check out the animated video (1:51 minutes) that takes a look at school privatization through the eyes of a little kindergartner “who likes his public school.”
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, one of the top researchers on value-added models, thinks New York is going from “bad to worse” by suggesting that students test scores be doubled from 20% to 40% as part of state teacher evaluations.  She calls the idea simply “idiotic” on her VAMboozled blog.
Now that the new year is underway the education experts are offering their predictions for what’s in store for 2015. “Not surprisingly,” the piece in EDUCATION WEEK suggests, “a large number of them touch on some of the most common topics of last year: the Common Core State Standards, testing, and changes in technology.”               This is the time of year when lots of people are making new year’s resolutions.  Jeff Bryant over at the Education Opportunity NETWORK has a key one for the field of education.  He believes we need to move away from Common Core, testing and blaming teachers and focus on the growing inequality and resegregation of our nation’s schools.  “Despite the grim predictions coming from the Beltway,” he concludes, “maybe 2015 can be the year that education equity gets the emphasis it deserves.”  Bryant suggests that two states seem to be getting this problem–Pennsylvania and Minnesota–but that California, under the leadership of Gov. Brown, is doing the best job of addressing the issue.
Wednesday’s L.A. Times has a story discussing the selection of the next superintendent of the LAUSD.  It wonders if a district insider or someone from outside the district will win board approval.  The article reviews some of the politics involved in the selection process and offers some reactions from a couple of the previous office holders.  “For decades,” it explains, “leading L.A. Unified has involved managing factions vying for leverage, including the teachers union, administrators and civic leaders.  The job has become further complicated by competing visions of the best way to improve schools — a debate that has raged nationwide.”
Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute has come out with his “Rick Hess Straight-Up” (RHSU) awards for 2014.  “The metrics,” he explains in the piece, “recognize university-based scholars in the U.S. who are contributing most substantially to public debates about education.  The rankings offer a useful, if imperfect, gauge of the public influence edu-scholars had in 2014.  The rubric reflects both a scholar’s body of academic work—encompassing the breadth and influence of their scholarship—and their footprint on the public discourse last year.”  Hess ranked 200 scholars and, interestingly, 4 of the top 25 were authors of books read by ALOED.  He comments on his methodology and includes a full list of the winners and the schools they represent.                Diane Ravitch (ranked #1 by Hess) had a brief comment on the ratings on her blog.  She notes: “It is interesting that only one of the top 10 (Paul Peterson) is a prominent advocate for test-based accountability and choice.”
It seems like all the subject matter emphasis in schools these days is on the STEM classes and Language Arts.  Everything else like social studies, art, music and others get short shrift.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Gerald Greenberg of Syracuse University who explains what the liberal arts are and why they’re important to a true education.  Greenberg makes some important points particularly in light of the fact that Occidental has always prided itself on being a liberal arts college.
California Gov. Jerry Brown was sworn into office for an unprecedented 4th term on Monday in Sacramento.  Diane Ravitch, on her blog, excerpted from his inaugural address remarks regarding education.  She appended some brief reactions to them.
A newly released report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, featured in an EDUCATION WEEK article, notes that the procurement process for obtaining new technology in big-city school districts is fraught with obstacles, regulations and hide bound traditions that often frustrate all involved.  LAUSD was one of several cities that took part in the survey.  [Ed. note: They are probably a prime example given the fiasco over “iPadgate.”]  The full report (15 pages) from the CRPE, titled “A Blueprint for Effective and Adaptable School District Procurement” can be downloaded by clicking here.
A recent edition of the “Ed News” reported on the practice where up to a third of charter schools in  California require parents to volunteer their time in classrooms, supervision or at campus activities.  An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times opposed it as unfair to children whose parents, for a variety of reasons, would not be able to fulfill their commitment.  “Once children are enrolled, it’s fine for schools to encourage voluntarism as a way of engaging parents in their children’s education,” it concludes.  “But setting discouraging rules should be prohibited. The state Board of Education should impose firm rules to stop schools from requiring unpaid parental labor; California students are guaranteed the right to a free and public education.”
Diane Ravitch prints on her blog a commentary from an anonymous “veteran education advocate” who suggests the parent-trigger fad has largely become a failed policy.  The piece presents an interesting history of the concept and focuses on the group Parent Revolution that was one of the first to take advantage of the legislation.
It’s not too often that you find education-related stories in the “Calendar” section of the L.A. Times.  However, yesterday’s paper had a front-page feature in the section that described a unique mentoring program between some high powered Beverly Hills agents from the William Morris Endeavor agency and some low-income, minority students at two schools in Compton.  “The centerpiece of the mentoring initiative, which is part of a wider partnership between WME and the Compton Unified School District,” the item points out, “are regular visits that students make to the agency’s sleek, marble-clad headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard.”
EDUCATION WEEK has come out with its 19th annual “Quality Counts” state report cards.  The article discusses the methodology and criteria for the rankings and scores.  Only two states earned the top “B” grade: Massachusetts was first and New Jersey second.  Mississippi was last with a grade of “D” along with Nevada and New Mexico.  How did California fare?  Not well, earning a grade of “D+” which placed it in the bottom fifth percentile of the states.  You can read all about the rankings and how they were determined and be sure to click on the two interactive sidebar features: “State Report Cards” and “State Grading Calculator.”  This item also has links to different sections of the report or the full thing.
And finally, when the Quest to Learn Middle School opened its doors in New York City in 2009 it promised its students a different learning model.  Its emphasis was on digital learning and the use of games to teach the curricula in a fun and engaging way.  This profile, from The HECHINGER REPORT, looks at where the school is now as it gets ready to graduate its first class of seniors in 2016 and how the concept of using games as a teaching tool is faring.

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



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