Ed News, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 Edition


“The purpose of education is to save young people
from the paralyzing effects of wealth and poverty.”
Kurt Hahn
LAUSD Teachers Approve Contract
Over 97% of UTLA members who voted decided to approve the three-year contract negotiated with the district.  The pact includes a 10% pay increase over two years, language regarding teacher evaluations and class size and more support personnel according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  Teachers had gone without a pay increase for eight years,” it notes, “although they continued to receive salary boosts based on years of experience and additional eligible education credits.”  Educators also ratified a separate agreement dealing with fringe benefits.  The school board is expected to approve the pact as early as next week. 
A Belated Teacher Appreciation
It’s a little late (although it was originally published in a timely fashion) but here’s another “Teacher Appreciation” from Kathleen Jeskey on her Teacher Talks Truth blog.  She’s been a teacher for 28 years.  “I just want to thank all the fantastic teachers I know out there: those I have taught with in the past, those I teach with now, those I have never taught with but who I know because we are working together to try and save public education for our children and our grandchildren,” she begins.  Be sure to check out the picture of the “union thug” she adds at the end of her commentary.  It’s priceless.
Teacher Pension Cuts Ruled Unconstitutional, At Least in Illinois
An attempt to reduce a large state pension deficit on the backs of state workers, including teachers, was declared unconstitutional by the Illinois supreme court on Friday.  The decision is described in an extended article in The State Journal-Register (Springfield).  “In late 2013, the legislature passed the pension reform bill, which applied to downstate teachers, university workers, state employees and lawmakers. There are more than 467,000 active and retired members of those systems,” it explains.  “Judges were exempt from the law. . . . The legislation raised the retirement age for younger workers, capped the salary on which a pension can be earned, limited annual increases in pension benefits, and eliminated some of the raises due retirees.”
Charter Schools
A new report from the Center for Media and Democracy finds that the federal government has provided over $3.3 billion to charter schools nationwide over the past 20 years with no oversight or accountability as to how it was spent.  The New York Daily News provides the details.  “The U.S. Department of Education doesn’t even bother to keep a public record of which charter schools get money from more than a half-dozen federal programs, said Lisa Graves, director of the Center for Media and Democracy. Her organization,” the piece notes, “had to review thousands of pages of documents obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests before it could come up with an initial tally of federal charter school spending.  This happens even as cases of fraud, waste or mismanagement by charter school operators pop up all over the country.  The Department of Education’s own inspector general has warned about the lack of accountability.”  The article makes a brief mention of an audit of 12 charter schools in California.  You can read the full report (14 pages) by clicking here.               The Jersey Jazzman has a piece about how much of the mainstream media is willing to buy into the propaganda being offered by the charter schools.  He focuses on the KIPP schools as his example and a reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger who wrote a laudatory story about their “successes” despite reams of material to the contrary.                Paul Thomas, associate professor of Education at Furman University, writing in The Progressive, takes on the same topic in a piece titled “Charter Scam Week 2015.”  He includes a bulleted list of ways the charters use public relations to sell their programs and appends a long list of articles for further reading.    “The problem for charter advocacy,” he concludes,  “is that the evidence is overwhelmingly counter to nearly every claim in favor of charter schools.”               A teacher who has worked at a charter school in Chicago for 6 years explains “Why My Charter School Needs a Union.”  His commentary appears on the EduShyster blog.  “I’m convinced that unions are an important mechanism for holding charter schools accountable,” he states.  “In recent years, a coalition of forces has successfully framed unions as being resistant to reform and being a detriment to changes that are needed in schools. . . . And while unionization won’t address all of the accountability issues in charter schools, unions can help to shine a light into the dark unknown crevices of charter school management.”                How is the concept of school “choice” working out in the almost all charter New Orleans school system?  That is the question tackled by an article in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “Charter school supporters and advocates frequently point to the broad choices that families have when seeking a school in New Orleans,” the author suggests, “where most of the 82 public schools are charters and most accept applications from across the city.  But the concept of choice butts against the reality of supply and demand in a city where many schools rate only average or below.  Nearly 12,000 children in New Orleans chose their desired schools through the city’s mostly unified enrollment system this spring — but only half got their No. 1 choice, according to recently released results.”  She goes on to discuss other realities of picking a campus in New Orleans.
Rewrite of NCLB
Steven Singer on his gadflyonthewallblog offers his reasons for supporting the reauthorization of the ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) which is now known as the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA).”  He’s not in favor of all aspects of the proposed legislation but believes it is certainly a step in the right direction.  “Sure, it’s not perfect,” he concedes.  “But this Senate proposed rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) could do a lot of good – even if it includes some bad.”               Here’s a handy timeline of key events from mid-January to the end of April of what’s been happening in regards to the reauthorization of the ESEA.  The information is courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK.  If you haven’t been following this critical story this will help you catch up and if you have, it can serve as an excellent review.  In addition, here is a some history prior to what the timeline provides.  ESEA was first signed into law in 1965 under Pres. Lyndon Johnson.  In 2002, with bipartisan support during the Pres. George W. Bush administration, No Child Left Behind became law as a rewrite of ESEA.  NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007 but Congress has been unable to reach any sort of compromise since then.  Early this year the U.S. Senate got to work on the Alexander-Murray proposal or what is now called the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”  The rest of the story has yet to be played out.               A commentary in ED WEEK takes a look back at the passage of the original ESEA which is marking its 50 anniversary this year.  The author, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., puts it in the context of a number of civil rights accomplishments and landmarks over the past 75 years.  “Although the ESEA is not often mentioned in the context of . . . . other civil rights milestones,” she observes, “I believe that it is very much a pivotal piece of civil rights legislation: It opened doors to educational opportunities for many low-income students who had been relegated to substandard education.”
Testing & Common Core
The “Bald Piano Guy” who the “Ed News” introduced you to in the May 5th edition has a new piece.  In this one (1:47 minutes) he plays a Pearson “executive” who is trying to defend charges that some of the company’s test items have more than one correct answer.  Check this one out on YouTube.               Even the satirical newspaper the ONION is getting in on the controversy over standardized testing.  Herewith is their brief list of “pros” and “cons” for the high-stakes assessments.              Bill Gates, who poured hundreds of millions of dollars through his foundation in support of the writing, promotion and implementation of the Common Core didn’t stop with that initial investment.  In just the past 7 months he’s added an additional $10 million to bolster continued implementation and parent support according to figures on his foundation’s website that are cited by Valerie Strauss in her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post.  Such philanthropy has sparked a debate,” Strauss suggests, “about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people who pour part of their fortunes into their pet projects — regardless of whether they are grounded in research — to such a degree that public policy and funding follow.”
Sunday’s L.A. Times included two letters in response to the paper’s story on Wednesday (highlighted in the Friday edition of the “Ed News”) about 10th graders in the LAUSD in danger of not meeting the new, more stringent graduation requirements.
Turning Around Low Performing Schools Questioned
A recent report (12 pages) from the Center for American Progress (CAP) claimed to offer several suggestions for successfully turning around under performing schools.  It reviewed some of the research on the topic.  The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) issued a scathing rebuttal (16 pages) to the CAP document.  It questions their methodology, assumptions and conclusions.  “[The CAP survey] argues that the available body of research points to five dramatic actions that are necessary to bring about dramatic school improvement.  Unfortunately, the rationale for its assertions is narrow, incoherent, and misleading,” NEPC claims.  “This limitation stems from the report’s unsystematic review of literature, resulting in its failure to incorporate lessons from large bodies of research on high-stakes accountability, school improvement, and the emerging evidence on school closures and federally funded turnarounds.”
New Standards for School Leaders
On Monday the Council of Chief State School Officers rolled out a new draft of standards for school principals, superintendents and school-leaders.  The “Ed News” has highlighted sneak peaks of some earlier versions.  EDUCATION WEEK has a story about the latest document and includes a link to the full paper (25 pages) on the CCSSO website.  “The standards, known as the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium standards, are used as the basis for many school leader preparation programs, licensing, professional development, evaluations, and in decisions about hiring and retention. . . . The standards were last updated in 2008,” the article notes.  “And for the last 18 months or so, various committees of academics, researchers, principals, superintendents, education officials, and organizations that represents and train school leaders have been working to update the standards to reflect what principals and other school leaders need to know and demonstrate for today’s job.”
Reaction to 7% Pay Cut Offer in Chicago
Friday’s “Ed News” first reported the offer of a 7% pay cut to Chicago Public School teachers.  Michelle Gunderson is a veteran 28-year elementary educator for the CPS system.  She quickly reacted to the proposal in a piece on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “I have always said that if you can’t stand change you shouldn’t teach for the Chicago Schools.  Yet on top of the usual chaos in our lives,” she complains, “the Chicago Public Schools are asking educators to take a 7% pay cut.  This is beyond change – it is adding insult to injury.”
TFA Wants to Work With Special Ed!!!
Teach for America has been replacing veteran teachers in all kinds of classroom situations.  Now they are proposing to take on special needs students in the Santa Ana Unified School District.  The local school board there will be taking up the issue at a meeting this evening.  Julian Vasquez Heilig on his Cloaking Inequity blog finds this to be a very alarming development.  He quotes extensively from a TFA member who worked as a grade 2-5 Special Education Resource Specialist teacher.  After reading the account of her experiences, you’d certainly not be in favor of this idea expanding.
More $$$ for Schools
After years of declining revenue due to the Great Recession the state of California all of a sudden finds itself flush with cash and because of Prop. 98 a large of chunk of that is promised to the K-12 schools and the community colleges.  The good news is explained in a story in today’s L.A. Times but it comes with a few caveats“As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to release his updated budget proposal Thursday, the funding formula is expected to direct billions of dollars in unexpected revenue to schools and community colleges.  When a final budget is written next month,” it points out, “there could be little money left for expanding other programs, to the chagrin of lawmakers and advocacy groups who say their priorities such as child care and public healthcare for the poor are still underfunded years after the recession ended.”
The Teaching Profession
A special education teacher offers a “How-To Guide for Surviving as a Special Education Teacher” on THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website.  [Ed. note: If you look at it carefully her advice works for any educator.]
2016 Election
And finally three more contenders have joined the rapidly growing ranks of announced candidates for president in the 2016 election.  Former Arkansas governor and previous presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and unsuccessful U.S. Senate aspirant from California, Carly Fiorina and pediatric neurosurgeon and political first-timer Ben Carson have all recently thrown their hats into the ring on the Republican side.  EDUCATION WEEK has been providing a glimpse of what these hopefuls might try to accomplish should they win the office by looking at their previous education policies and pronouncements. 
 Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)
That’s me working diligently on the “Ed News.”



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