Ed News, Friday, June 5, 2015


“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”
Diogenes of Sinope

Teacher Prep Program Ratings Questioned
The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) was set up by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute in 2000 to promote alternate forms of teacher certification.  Amid a hail of criticism they developed and began publishing in USA TODAY in 2004 a controversial set of ratings of teacher prep programs.  The organization agreed to have their system independently verified by a partnership between the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University who found very little correlation between NCTQ’s rankings and overall teacher effectiveness.  Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 reviews the independent study and includes a link to the full report (10 pages) titled “Measuring Up: The National Council on Teacher Quality’s Ratings of Teacher Preparation Programs and Measures of Teacher Performance.”
Teacher Evaluations
A veteran 30-year music teacher in Michigan looks at the issue of teacher evaluations in a commentary in EDUCATION WEEK.  She presents 6  questions about the purpose and structure of teacher evaluations that you might find of interest.  “I’m not saying that we can’t do a better job of providing teachers with feedback to continuously fine-tune their practice,” she states.  “Nor am I denying that some teachers need to improve or be counseled, swiftly, out of a job.  Only this: we might be granting shiny new teacher evaluation protocols a lot more power and veracity than they deserve.”
Education By the Numbers
U.S. News is highlighting a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics that has some interesting statistics about education in the U.S.  Here’s one item to whet your appetite: “1 in 5: Proportion of school-age kids living in poverty in 2013, compared with 1 in 7 in 2000.”
Common Core, Opt-Out & Testing
California is one of 18 states that uses the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) exams that are aligned to the Common Core.  Wait, make that 17 states.  Missouri just voted to discontinue the SBAC for the 2015-16 school year according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Missouri has had an increasingly complicated relationship with the Smarter Balanced test,” it indicates, “which the state administered this spring.  Earlier this year, a state judge upheld anti-common-core activists’ claim that Smarter Balanced was an ‘unlawful interstate compact.’  However, at the time the department said that the ruling wouldn’t ultimately stop the state from administering the test this spring.”                emPOWER magazine has a piece titled “5 Myths About Standardized Testing and the Opt-Out Movement” written by a member of the United Opt Out National group.  “No amount of wishful thinking or rational conversations is going to stop the testing industrial complex.  All of the major players who have millions if not billions invested in standardized testing are not going to pack up and go home because we ask them to,” the author concludes.  “In fact they will do whatever they can to ensure that the testing stays in place; even if it means closing schools, bullying parents, students, and teachers who opt out, and locking up teachers who try and cheat the testing industrial complex.  Now we must do what we can to save public education.  We must expose the myths and lies for what they are and educate the public to the truth.”               The 3 authors of this commentary on THE HILL website take exception to the stance of some civil rights organizations that high-stakes testing is a civil right for poor students and for students of color.  “We now know students cannot be tested out of poverty,” they suggest, “and while NCLB did take us a step forward by requiring schools to produce evidence that students were learning, it took us several steps backward when that evidence was reduced to how well a student performed on a standardized test.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is gratified that education is becoming a key issue in the upcoming election.  However, he thinks focusing on the Common Core is the wrong target“To thrust support for Common Core – or opposition to it, for that matter – into the center of the education debate,” he concludes, “is an enormous distraction from what really matters.” 
Charter Schools
Here’s the “charter school scandal-of-the-day:”  Two school board members and the superintendent were convicted Tuesday of bribery and conspiracy charges in conjunction with their work for the Aspire! Academy, a charter campus in Dayton, Ohio, according to an article in the Dayton Daily News.  “Arise, which was housed at the former St. Elizabeth Hospital campus,” it explains, “was started in 2004 to serve hundreds of drop-out and at-risk high school students but the school was plagued with financial problems.  A state audit of the 2006-07 academic year raised concerns over poor accounting and record keeping and a failure to file state reports on time.”  The school was closed in June, 2010, due to financial irregularities and poor academic results.               More negative news for Ohio charters.  “No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.  A Beacon Journal review of 4,263 audits released last year by State Auditor Dave Yost’s office indicates charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.”  That’s how an expose in the Akron Beacon Journal commences.  A big part of the problem is a lack of resources to oversee charter spending.  How has Ohio dealt with that problem?  They’ve turned over the auditing of taxpayer money to private accounting companies.   Why should that be a cause for concern?  “Last year, these private firms found misspending in one of the 200 audits of charter schools they conducted,” the piece continues, “or half of 1 percent, while the state’s own police force of auditors found misspending in one of six audits, or 17 percent of the time.”  So now it seems to be easier to get away with fraud and malfeasance.  How convenient!
Graduation Rates Continue to Climb
On-time graduation rates nationwide continued to creep up and recorded an all time high for the class of 2013.  They completed their high school educations in 4 years at an 81% rate.  That’s a 2 point increase from the class of 2011.  Unfortunately, not all groups showed similar progress.  EDUCATION WEEK provides the latest data.  Iowa recorded the highest results at 90% while students in the District of Columbia brought up the rear at 62%.  California?  80%, up from 76% 2 years earlier.  The article includes several sidebars with links to a map with state-by-state data, different student subgroup results, and a discussion of the national graduation gap.
2016 Election
Since Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News,” two more candidates have joined the race for president in 2016.  Former Rhode Island senator and Gov. Lincoln Chafee became the fourth Democratic contender on Wednesday.  EDUCATION WEEK continues to profile the candidates’ education policies as they enter the race.  Chafee was a Republican early in his career and then became an independent and is now a Democrat.                2012 presidential contender and ex-governor of Texas, Rick Perry, joined the very crowded and likely to get even more so, Republican field yesterday.              Karen Wolfe is a parent activist in Venice, California and a member of the Badass Teachers Association.  With a national election only 18 months away she is leery of a group of Democrats who she thinks may be sheep in wolf’s clothing whom she refers to as possible “education assassins.”  Who might she be thinking of?  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately come to her mind.
The Teaching Profession
Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending along this item from Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  She provides a transcript of the speech delivered by Richard Rothstein to the graduates of the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in New York on May 14.  He is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and a senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law.  Several years ago a group of ALOED members heard him take part in a panel discussion as part of the taping of the Larry Mantle “Airtalk” show on NPR station KPCC. Rothstein spoke to the graduates about some of the ethical challenges facing teachers today as if their jobs were not tough enough already.  “Ethical lives are comprised of compromises, of considering where to take stands and where not to make waves.  Throughout the careers on which you are about to embark,” he imparts to the graduates, “you will frequently have to decide when to resist, in both tiny and big ways, when to compromise, in both tiny and big ways, and when to capitulate, in both tiny and big ways.  You will often have to decide whether you can do more good by going along, or more good by taking a risk, perhaps just a small one, sometimes a large one, with your security and career.”               Raise your hand if you remember the old “K-W-L Chart” for teaching kids how to think and learn.  If you don’t recall it, don’t feel bad.  It was first introduced as a powerful, yet simple, technique almost 30 years ago.  Valerie Strauss turns her blog in The Washington Post over to Alfie Kohn who makes the case of why it’s still useful today.  He discusses how it can be properly used and how, unfortunately, it is misused.
The End of Public Education in Nevada?
Could a new law in Nevada spell the end of public education in that state?  The legislation, signed into law by the governor on Tuesday, would grant an education voucher to just about every student in Nevada.  EDUCATION WEEK has the disturbing details about why it is such a threat.  “Because the level of school choice this law will permit in Nevada is unprecedented: All parents of public school students will be allowed to use state funding earmarked for their child toward tuition or other expenses related to a nonpublic education,”  it explains.  “That includes religious private schools and even home schooling.  By comparison, in the handful of other states that offer similar-styled programs, they’re reserved for certain small populations—mostly students with disabilities.  Those states also have caps on how many students can participate, while Nevada does not.”               Peter Greene was quick to react to this development on his CURMUDGUCATION blog with a piece titled “Nevada Abandons Public Education.”  “Nevada was already well-positioned for the Race to the Bottom prize, consistently ranking among the bottom ten states for education funding,” he complains.  “With this bold step, they have insured that even that little bit of money will be spent in the most inefficient, wasteful manner possible.  Not only will they be duplicating services (can you run two households with the same money it takes to run one?), but by draining funds away from public schools, they can guarantee that those public schools will struggle with fewer resources than ever.”                Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, is also worried about the future of public education and not just in Nevada.  He describes a multi-pronged attack on the foundations of public schools and teachers.  “Public schools are in the midst of a war of attrition over their control – and even the very institution of public education is in danger,” he relates.  “There is a sort of pincer assault under way, with billionaires on the far right pushing for complete de-regulation, and others, like the Gates Foundation, pursuing top-down systemic control of every public school in the nation.”
Cafeteria Worker Fired for Giving Poor Kids Food!
And finally, you need to read this brief item to believe it.  The cafeteria manager at an elementary school in Colorado was fired last Friday after she gave away free lunches to students who couldn’t afford them.  Nation of Change has the disgusting details.  What have we come to in this country?


Dave Alpert

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




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