Ed News, Tuesday, Janaury 13, 2015 Edition


LAST CHANCE: The next ALOED book club discussion will take place on Thursday 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’m not trying to tell you,” he said “that only educated men
are able to contribute something valuable to the world.
It’s not so.  But I do say that educated and scholarly men,
if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with–which,
unfortunately, is rarely the case–tend to leave
infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do
who are MERELY brilliant and creative.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye    
Another best (worst) of 2014 list.  MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA has a piece titled “Teachers on Trial: 5 Times the Media Failed Educators in 2014.”  Topics include a noxious TIME magazine, cover, FOX News and Glenn Beck to name just 3 of them.  “Teachers faced an unprecedented level of scrutiny in 2014,” the story begins, “thanks to a landmark legal case dismantling teacher tenure in California, which is likely to spark copycats lawsuits across the country. In part due to this increased scrutiny, educators also encountered various attacks from mainstream and conservative media over the year, five of which were particularly egregious.”
“The Racist History of the Charter School Movement” is the intriguing title of a piece from ALTERNET.  The author traces the concept of taxpayer funded non-public schools to the years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 when some people wanted to avoid the school desegregation orders contained in the ruling.  “There is no magic elixir that will fix our educational system,” he maintains.  “Of course, we should continue to be open to fresh ideas about improving school organization, teaching and learning. But if we continue to ignore important historical lessons about the dangerous consequences of educational privatization and fail to harness our desire to plunge headlong into unproven reform initiatives, we may discover that the cure we so lovingly embraced has made the patient sicker.”
Are teachers of poor students, by definition, “bad teachers?”  That’s the question addressed by Peter Greene on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  He reviews some recent research from Education Next that reaches that rather damaging conclusion and proceeds to reveal how its methodology is seriously flawed.  “In the absence of any data,” Greene indicates, “to support a theory of qualitative difference between teachers in poor schools compared to teachers in not-poor schools, Steinberg and Sartain [coauthors of the study] conclude that the level of success in the program has nothing to do with poverty, but is all the fault of teachers and administrators.”
Diane Ravitch prints a commentary from Lloyd Lofthouse on her blog about how the growth of charters will affect the public school system.  He provides some numbers and statistics about charters and includes links to pertinent articles about their expansion. 
With the Republicans now in control of both houses of Congress, one of their top agenda items is to decrease the federal role in education.  How could that be achieved?  Through revisions in the No Child Left Behind legislation that would reduce the amount of testing mandated by NCLB.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK looks at the issue.  “There’s been a reshuffling of the political landscape,” it reports, “that’s aligned GOP interests in scaling back the federal role in K-12 education with support from some education organizations in reducing the number of tests.”
As Pres. Obama embarks on the final quarter of his presidency what is his educational legacy apt to be?  Stephanie Simon on POLITICO titles her piece on answering that question with a question: “Pomp & Fizzle?”  She believes he had some good initiatives but many of them ran into political reality and never came to fruition. 
Teacher preparation programs are often a hot topic for scrutiny these days.  Diane Ravitch offers a piece from James D. Kirylo, an education professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and author, titled “Teacher Education:  The Path Toward Educational Transformation in Louisiana.”  He provides 16 concrete proposals and even though it’s addressed to Louisiana it contains some valuable insights for any teacher prep program.               Is it possible to evaluate teacher prep programs?  That issue is raised by an article from EDUCATION WEEK that suggests the criteria used is critical to any assessment of them.  The author briefly reviews two recent papers that attempted to dip into this “very muddy pond.”
Sunday’s L.A. Times describes some new guidelines issued by the federal departments of Justice and Education focusing on ELLs.  “The 40-page guidance reminds states and school districts that federal laws require them to identify students who need English support, ” it explains, “offer them high-quality assistance by qualified staff, provide equal access to school programs and activities, avoid unnecessary segregation from mainstream students, move them out of support programs when they are fluent in English, evaluate the effectiveness of the programs and move students out of them when they become fluent in English and provide parents information in languages they can understand.”
Private schools are constantly being compared to public ones in a number of areas.  The author of this op-ed piece from Nation of Change believes the latter come out ahead in several ways.  “The result of private educational reform,” he maintains, “is seen in unproven charter schools that eat up budgets, overcharge on a per-student basis, pay CEOs many times more than their public school counterparts, and, in one case, double the pay of executives in just one year.  These are unsustainable costs for long-term educational success.”
The Jan. 9, edition of the “Ed News” highlighted EDUCATION WEEK’S 19th annual “Quality Counts” state-by-state school ratings.  Massachusetts was ranked #1, Mississippi was last and California checked in with a “D+” grade which placed it in the lower fifth percentile.  Diane Ravitch turns her column over to Laura Chapman who is critical of the ratings based on the organizations that funded it.               Stephen Dyer, also writing on Ravitch’s blog, looks at Ohio’s precipitous drop from #5 to #18 and questions the validity of the rankings and thinks they need to be more clearly delineated. 
Jason Stanford pens a commentary on the purpose of standardized testing based on this cartoon drawn by Adam Zyglis from the Buffalo News:
135794 600 Point of Schools isnt more Testing cartoons
Former LAUSD board president Caprice Young has agreed to take over the troubled Magnolia Public Schools charter chain.  Magnolia operates 8 campuses in the district and 3 others in Costa Mesa, San Diego and Santa Clara.  3 of the locations in LAUSD have been threatened with closure over financial and other irregularities.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times has the details.
U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan delivered a major speech yesterday at a Washington, D.C., elementary school laying out the Obama administration’s education priorities for the final two years of the president’s term including proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, commented on his remarks and then printed the speech in full.               Diane Ravitch, on her blog, reprinted statements from the president’s of the two big national unions, Lily Eskelsen Garcia of NEA and Randi Weingarten of AFT, reacting to Duncan’s speech.               The new Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) offered a first draft of his proposal for the oft-delayed reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law.  It contains two options for dealing with the controversial issue of standardized testing.               The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patty Murray from Washington, put forward her suggestions for NCLB in a speech on the Senate floor.  EDUCATION WEEK had the details of the two party’s proposals which, you may notice, are not the same.
Veteran educator Marion Brady writes about “One Thing Schools Should Do to Boost Students’ Intellectual Growth.”  Any ideas what he’s going to propose?  Give up?  It’s INFORMATION OVERLOAD.  He explains it all in Valerie Strauss’ column.  “That the information being dumped on millions of kids by the core curriculum is ‘learned’ is a myth, a fiction, a very expensive joke,” he insists.
What goes around comes around.  Former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, a product of the unaccredited Eli Broad Academy that trains people for school leadership positions, has taken a consultancy job with the Academy.  Today’s L.A. Times describes these latest developments.  “Broad had lauded Deasy [at the time he left the LAUSD] as the best L.A. superintendent in his memory,” it points out.  “Deasy will coach graduates of the academy as they manage school systems, and he will also help with the training of future leaders currently going through the program.”
Teaching can be a pretty lonely profession so building solid relationships with colleagues can be an important factor in positive morale and job satisfaction.  The author of this piece, a teacher for 11 years in Kentucky, offers 7 “tips for building positive relationships in schools.”  One of his ideas is to stop sending emails.  You can read all of his suggestions in a story in EDUCATION WEEK.
And finally, an “iPadgate” update.  An independent review by the U.S. Department of Education of the LAUSD’s “iPad-for-all” program and a new computerized student information system found problems with implementation, training and lack of resources in both. “The review was provided by the Education Department at the request of current Supt. Ramon C. Cortines,” according to a piece in today’s L.A. Times.  “It offered a rare independent interpretation of events that have provoked controversy for more than a year.”
Dave Alpert
(Occidental Collge, ’71)
That’s me working diligently on the blog.



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