Ed News, Tuesday, May 5, 2015 Edition


Upcoming Program Note:  The next ALOED book club discussion will take place in Orange County on Sat., June 27, at 11:30 am.  The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein will be the topic.  Start reading now although you are welcome to join in the discussion even if you haven’t read the book.  Great conversation and a delicious lunch are promised to one and all.  For all the details and to RSVP click here.
May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week and
Today is National Teacher Day
“I would much rather be considered wise than smart. 
But, I still think it is wise to get an education.” 
― Destiny Booze
The “bald piano guy” has a song (only 1:36 minutes–give it a go) called “Opting-Out,” based (loosely) on a Billy Joel tune, that you can view and listen to on YouTube.  It singles out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo but the sentiments are much more universal than that.  If you like what you hear he has a few other similar selections you can click on.               Here’s another parody about the opt-out movement and school reform from the author of the “lacetothetop” website.  Most, if not all, of the names in his narrative should be familiar to you as they have often appeared in the “Ed News.”  Just remember as you read it that it’s a PARODY.  It’s titled “Reformers Save Schools From Parents.”  Here’s one example of what the author writes about: “Dr. Carol Burris, the former Principal of the Year’ turned insurgent was fined $100,000 for each article published in The Washington Post in which she claimed the tests used by NYSED were bad. Valerie Strauss, who collaborated with Dr. Burris has been transferred to work the alien sighting division of The National Enquirer.”                Want some idea of the effect the opt-out movement is having?  Check out this VERY brief item from Diane Ravitch’s blog that came from a reader of her column.               Yeah!  Carol Burris is back.  The award-winning principal of South Side High School in New York recently announced her early retirement but she’s not going away.  Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post again provides Burris with a forum to discuss the opt-out movement again and why it’s not going away either.  She explains why leaders like Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo and New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch just don’t get what’s going on.  “Opt out is far bigger than a test refusal event.\,” she maintains.  “It is the repudiation of a host of corporate reforms that include the Common Core, high-stakes testing, school closings and the evaluation of teachers by test scores.   These reforms are being soundly rejected by parents and teachers.”               EDUCATION WEEK takes an overview of the opt-out movement and reviews some of the numbers and how it is gaining momentum around the country.  “The push by activists of various stripes to have parents opt students out of state exams this spring,” it begins, “has transformed skepticism and long-running anger over the direction of education policy into a movement with numbers and a growing public profile.  Whether those activists can craft a durable and effective political movement remains an open question.”               Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, looks at some of the threats emanating from federal and state officials against parents who opted their children out of standardized testing.  His comments were printed on Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post.  How seriously,” Neill asks, “should parents and school leaders take the federal and state threats? We believe these threats have little legal substance and are not politically viable.”
Some Kansas Districts Closing Early Due to Budget Shortfalls
Some public school students in Kansas will be getting an early summer vacation.  Several districts in the state have announced they will close early as they run out of money to continue because of a political experiment that stresses the old supply-side theories of economics.  An opinion piece in The Washington Post has the details.  “At least eight Kansas school districts recently announced that they’re starting summer break early this year,” the author states, “and not because kids have already learned so much that they deserve a few extra days off.  It’s because these schools ran out of money, thanks to state leaders’ decision to ax education spending midyear to plug an ever-widening hole in their budget. . . . In balancing the budget on the backs of children, Kansas politicians are behaving shamefully.  But they may also be doing the rest of the country a favor,” she continues, “by giving us a preview of what might happen if Republicans control the White House and Congress after the 2016 ­election.”
Vouchers and School Choice
The Center for Media and Democracy’s “PR WATCH” blog has a fascinating look at the history of school vouchers and the impact they have had on the seeming resegregation of the nation’s public schools.  Were you aware that the country’s first voucher program began in 1990 in Milwaukee?  There are moves afoot to make vouchers available nationwide.    “School vouchers first emerged as a policy prescription in the mid-1950s,” the article points out, “just as the U.S. Supreme Court was ordering school desegregation in the Brown v. Board of Education series of decisions.  While University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, who first floated the idea in a 1955 essay, wanted to see public schools turned into competing corporations on the free market, vouchers were de facto used in the South as a way to preserve segregation.”               The Houston Chronicle has a scary column about the “boldest school privatization program in the country, a pilot program that would finally neuter the ‘godless’ public schools.”  The Texas legislature is just about to pass twin bills that would virtually end public education in the Lone Star State.  Don’t believe it?  Check out the details and prepare to be worried, very worried about what’s taking place.  The item is titled “A Chance to End the Public School Era.”
Charter Schools
Not another charter school scandal in the LAUSD!  Sunday’s L.A. Times reports that the PUC (Partnership to Uplift Communities) Charter chain granted a food contract to an employee of the chain.  That’s a a no-no, or in plain legalese, a conflict of interest.  There were some other questionable (illegal?) practices as well.  “The charter organization was co-founded by L.A. Unified school board candidate Ref Rodriguez,” the story notes.  “Rodriguez is on the charter group’s board of directors and works part-time as its treasurer.   He is vying to unseat one-term incumbent Bennett Kayser in an expensive, hard-fought contest for a spot on the Los Angeles Board of Education. The election is May 19.”  The Times’ editorial board endorsed Rodriguez in his race against Kayser for the District 5 seat which encompasses the area around Occidental College.               Stephen Dyer has been working on a multi-part expose of charter schools in his home state of Ohio on the 10th Period blog.  The series is titled “Ohio Charters Just Don’t Work.”  You can read the first three parts by clicking on each one: Part 1 deals with the cost of charter schools and explains how that money is being taken from the public school system.  Part 2 looks at the excuses and claims charters offer for their poor performance.  In Part 3 Dyer offers district and building-level comparisons between charters and the public schools. 
Want a humorous overview of most of the issues surrounding standardized testing?  John Oliver, on his “Last Week Tonight” show on HBO Sunday, was able to encapsulate most of them in a very funny (sad/scary?) segment.  He covers such topics as NCLB, Race To The Top, test prep, sample questions, Pearson, test scoring, the achievement gap, VAMs, teacher evaluations and much more in just 18 minutes!  Diane Ravitch had this to say about the piece on her website:  “It is fantastic!!  Enjoy! This is a huge help in telling the public what is happening and how our schools are diverting hundreds of millions of dollars–billions–to testing instead of instruction.”  Pour yourself a glass of wine (or something stronger) and try not to spill it all over yourself while watching this.                A member of the Badass Teachers Association published a poem on the group’s website, written from a child’s point-of-view, titled “I Took A Test.”  Here’s the first stanza:

I cried today, mama.
I swear I tried my best.
But my head got fuzzy, mama,
When I saw that scary test.

Reauthorization of NCLB
Mercedes Schneider did yeoman’s work in reviewing, line-by-line, the bipartisan Alexander-Murray draft bill to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Now she offers her over all opinion of the legislation, called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, as it makes its way through the U.S. Senate. Her comments appear, as usual, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 and she includes links to her NINE previous entries on the bill.
The Teaching Profession
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week (see the top of this edition of the “Ed News”) and in recognition of that EDUCATION WEEK features two polls.  The first one reports on public attitudes toward the teaching profession and was done by HuffPost and YouGov.  It collected responses from 1,000 adults nationwide between April 28-30.  The second survey was conducted online by the University of Phoenix among 1,002 teachers between April 14-27 and focused on their perceptions of the profession.  The article briefly discusses some of the results and contains links to both polls if you would like to review them in more detail.                In honor of National Teacher Day, Valerie Strauss, in her Washington Post column, posts some tweets in appreciation of specific teachers and the profession in general.  Need a little pick-me-up?  These should help.  Here piece is titled “Imagine If We Celebrated Teachers As Much As We Celebrate Athletes and Celebrities” which just so happens to be the content of one of the tweets Strauss highlights.
Improving High Schools
THE HECHINGER REPORT has an interesting interview with a venture capitalist who is also the executive producer of a new documentary titled “Most Likely to Succeed” which focuses on High Tech High charter in San Diego.  He’s Ted Dintersmith and in the Q & A he offers some ways to improve high school education in the 21st century.  The film “focuses on the innovative High Tech High, part of a growing network of San Diego charter schools,”  the article notes, “first launched in 2007 by a coalition of business leaders and educators. It portrays our current education system as both outdated and obsolete, one that bores today’s students to tears via rote memorization and endless standardized tests, without teaching them what they need to know for the jobs of the future.”  The piece includes the trailer (2:23 minutes) to the film.
Student Voters
Sandy Banks’ column in today’s L.A. Times focuses on a voter registration drive among high school students in L.A.  It zeroes in on Esteban Torres High School (LAUSD) and discusses why students seem so apathetic towards voting and how they can become more involved in the political process.  “The student-led effort took shape in the wake of a shameful turnout in the March 3 primary,” Banks explains.  “Nine in every 10 registered voters in Los Angeles County sat that one out; it was the worst showing in the state.”
ALOED Book Club Review
And finally, what timing.  The next ALOED book club discussion will focus on Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars (see the beginning of this edition of the “Ed News” for the “Upcoming Program Note.”)  A timely review of the volume appears in the Spring, 2015, edition of DISSENT magazine.  The author is a graduate of the public school system in Chicago and writes about the education reform movement for the magazine.

Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)

That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”



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