Ed News, Friday, June 19, 2015 Edition


“In the conditions of modern life the rule is absolute,
the race which does not value trained intelligence is doomed.”
Alfred North Whitehead
Sunday is Father’s Day–Don’t Forget Dad
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Summer begins officially at 9:39 am on Sunday.
Image result for happy summer images
And now to the news.
Common Core
Prolific and informative education blogger Mercedes Schneider has a brand new book out titled Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?  The “Ed News” highlights her columns often so readers know what she creates.  Diane Ravitch’s blog has a very brief note about the book which came out June 12.  If you are looking for some good education-related reading for the summer, check this one out.  Ravitch includes a link to Amazon for information about the volume and mentions “I think you will find it a fascinating read.”              What happens when states decide to drop the Common Core, as several have, and adopt their own set of standards?  What, if anything, changes?  According to Paul Thomas of Furman University and his the becoming radical blog the answer is “very little.”  “Careful examination of both adopting Common Core and then the backlash resulting in dropping Common Core, he writes, “reveals that states remain firmly entrenched in the same exact accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing that has overburdened education since the 1980s.  The names and letters change, but not much else—except for throwing more money at a game of wasteful politics labeled ‘reform.’” 
Magnet Schools and Charters
Amid all the discussion/debate/controversy these days regarding charter and public schools whatever happened to magnet schools?  This item from EDUCATION WEEK revisits them and looks at the difficulties they are having as they attempt to diversify their student bodies.  It features a new study from the American Institutes for Research and provides some interesting facts and figures for charters and magnets.   “In some ways, magnet schools have been overshadowed by the rapid growth of charters,” the article notes, “with 5,700 charters nationwide compared to 4,000 magnet schools.  However, magnet programs still enroll more students, with 2.1 million enrolled in charters versus 2.6 million in magnets, federal data show.”  The ED WEEK story includes a link to the full AIR report (197) pages titled “What Happens When Schools Become Magnet Schools?  A Longitudinal Study of Diversity and Achievement.”                Despite a number of articles, reports and investigative pieces about mismanaged taxpayer money and a serious lack of financial oversight by charters, the U.S. Congress is set to increase spending on the federal Charter Schools Program by a whopping 48%.  The Center for Media and Democracy’s “PR WATCH”  adds Part 6 of its series on charter schools.   “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General has major nationwide probes underway into closed charter schools and suspected waste and financial mismanagement within the program,” the piece notes.  “The program is designed to create and expand ‘high-quality’ charter schools, but it has been repeatedly criticized by the watchdogs at the department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the past precisely because there is no way of knowing whether the money has gone to ‘high quality’ schools.”
Poverty and Learning
A new study from the Economic Policy Institute looks at 5 factors that affect learning outcomes for poor children and wonders why they are being ignored.  “All [these] factors drag down the academic performance of a child, but education policies address none of them.  Efforts to improve academic outcomes for the increasing number of poor children in public schools focus too heavily on incentives aimed at teachers and schools instead of taking on the underlying conditions that hamper children even before their formal schooling begins,” one of the co-authors of the report writes.  The study is featured in an article in The Washington Post.  It includes a link to the full document titled “Five Social Disadvantages That Depress Student Performance.  Why Schools Along Can’t Close Achievement Gaps.”
Education “Reform”
The author of this commentary in The Salinas Californian is a fifth grade teacher of high-needs students in Castroville.  He believes the corporate “reformers” are seeking solutions that are really only silver bullets or magic.  Things like Common Core, grit, an over-reliance on more and more data and standardized tests are NOT going to fix the public schools.  He has some concrete suggestions on how to approach the problems.                Want to know why the corporate “reformers” (aka “privatizers”) are so influential in getting state legislators to pass legislation that undermines public education?  Could it have anything to do with the millions of dollars of campaign contributions these groups make to politicians?  That’s the conclusion of a brand new report from COMMON CAUSE that compares the amount of spending by the “reformers” and pro-public education groups like teachers’ unions.  Guess which side is way out ahead.  You can read the full report (53 pages) titled “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Education Policy” by clicking here.  Diane Ravitch wrote this about the report on her Diane Ravitch’s blog: “Please read this report and send it to everyone who cares about the future of public education in the United States.  Send it to your friends, your school board, your legislators, your editorial boards, and to anyone else who needs to know about the money that is committed to demolishing public schools and turning the money over to private hands.”
2016 Election
The last time the “Ed News” checked (like 5 minutes ago) there were 12 officially declared Republican candidates for president in 2016.  They are entering the race faster than most people can keep up with them.  Jeb Bush threw his hat in the ring on Monday and was quickly declared one of the favorites.  EDUCATION WEEK has been providing quick reviews of the candidates’ positions on education issues as they jump into the race.  SALON has a much more detailed look at Bush’s positions in a piece titled “Everything You Need to Know About Jeb Bush’s Dangerous Education Agenda.”  “During his eight years as governor, Jeb Bush was a leader in dismantling public education. . . . [His] push for for-profit education has been the former governor’s passion,” it notes, “and those looking to profit on children will likely fall in behind him as presidential candidate.  By all accounts, Bush appears to truly believe that the sort of reform he advocates is the answer to a flagging American education system. But his genuine passion and conviction doesn’t mean his “solution” isn’t dangerous.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a much broader view of the upcoming election.  He discovers and describes a growing divide among the Republican and Democratic parties when it comes to education issues and they now provide “clear choices” for voters as the 2016 vote approaches.  “As prospective and declared candidates in the 2016 presidential race kick off their campaigns, what we’re hearing on education policy is a clear division between Republicans and Democrats.  So far, one party is doubling down on continuing failed accountability policies, while the other party calls for an investment agenda to relieve years of grueling austerity and ineffective policy branded as ‘reform.’  Can you guess which party is promoting which?”  On the GOP side he looks at policies being promoted by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.  He compares them to positions taken by former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rafe Esquith Removed From Class for Undisclosed “Misconduct”
Acclaimed LAUSD elementary teacher Rafe Esquith was removed from his class at Hobart Blvd. Elementary School in March for, so far, undisclosed “misconduct” that apparently had to do with a class reading of an excerpt from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, according to Esquith’s attorney.  Esquith, who addressed an ALOED group in the past, is known for putting on Shakespearean productions with his students and several books that he’s written about classroom techniques.  His attorney has threatened to sue the LAUSD for its actions against the educator.  A piece posted on the L.A. Times website Wednesday evening provides the details.  A follow-up story appeared in today’s print edition of the Times with some additional information.                Jay Mathews, education columnist for The Washington Post, is outraged at how the LAUSD is treating award-winning teacher Rafe Esquith.  “I consider Rafe Esquith of the Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Los Angeles to be the best classroom teacher in the country,” he begins.  “So when I learned that he has been barred from teaching since March for telling a joke about nudity in Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ I wondered if the education world had finally, inalterably, gone crazy.”                 Karen Wolfe, a parent-activist who lives in L.A., published a brief “Open Letter to LAUSD Leaders” on the Badass Teachers Association website that deplores the treatment of teachers for alleged “misconduct” in general and the Esquith situation in particular.  “But enough is enough,” she conclude disgustedly.  “This is the ultimate in those ‘adult conflicts’ that leaders grandstand about stopping.  These political disappearances of teachers make LAUSD look like a banana republic.  Unfortunately, it is the students who are hurt the most.  I implore you to use urgency to fix this policy once and for all.”
The War Against Teachers and Public Education
Former Sec. of Labor in the Clinton administration and current professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, Robert Reich, was the subject of a Q & A with CAPITAL & MAIN regarding “the war against teachers and public education.”  “We have gone way overboard on testing,” Reich responded to one query about Pres. Obama and Arne Duncan.  “Many students now are learning to take a test rather than to think.  Teachers are being promoted or given raises based upon their ability to teach students to succeed on the test rather than to teach students how to solve problems and to come up with new ways of viewing problems.”
Two Different Views of Schools in New Orleans
September, 2015, will mark the 10th anniversary of the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrecked on the city of New Orleans.  The city has undergone some significant changes since then.  One area has been its school system.  New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD) is now an all-charter system.  How have things changed over the decade since the storm struck?  Well, it depends on who you talk to.  A report released Wednesday from the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University is featured in a story from the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “‘The academic performance of New Orleans’ schools has improved remarkably over the past 10 years,’  authors Patrick Sims and Vincent Rossmeier write in the anniversary edition of the institute’s annual evaluation,” the article notes.  It goes on to mention some sources that take an opposing view.           Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 takes exception to the rosy conclusions of the Cowen Institute.  She takes a detailed and critical look at graduation rates and finds the results very disappointing.  “The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) hides information and releases delayed or partial information,” she charges, “in an effort to keep the public ill-informed regarding the state of education in Louisiana and especially as concerns the now-all-charter Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans.”
1-to-1 Computer Initiatives
Computers-for-all programs are also know as “1-to-1 initiatives.”  The “Ed News” covered extensively the “iPad-for-all” fiasco in the LAUSD and also some other districts’ attempts to provide computers/tablets to students.  In light of those previous failures some districts have taken a go-slow approach to their 1-to-1 initiatives as they attempt to learn some of the painful lessons suffered by earlier efforts.  An item in EDUCATION WEEK uses Miami-Dade County as a case study of a district that is learning from previous attempts.  Sadly, LAUSD and districts in Texas and North Carolina are held up as examples not to follow.
California School Funding
An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times calls for more oversight of how new funds are being spent by California’s school districts.  A recent article in the paper (highlighted by the “Ed News”) featured a report critical of how the LAUSD was using those dollars.  “The state needs better, independent oversight of how the money is spent.  Above all,” the editorial concludes, “it needs to demand results. . . . The entire funding system should be assessed in several years to see whether it is bringing about better results. Educational history is full of examples of expensive, well-intended programs that never helped impoverished students.”
Ed Tech
In order to be successful these days students need to be able to connect to the internet not only at school but also at home.  That can pose a significant obstacle for poor students.  Not only are their campuses less likely to have up-to-date technology but their homes are even less so.  It’s an issue that’s referred to as the “homework gap.” A new Federal Communication Commission program may provide the answer to this problem.  “The Federal Communications Commission,” notes a story from THE HECHINGER REPORT, “voted Thursday to include broadband connections in a $1.8 billion federal program that subsidizes telephone services for low-income people.  This program isn’t reserved for families with school-aged children, but supporters say the change will inevitably help the neediest students get online at home.”
Ethnic Studies Bill in California
And finally, Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, describes a bill (AB 101) before the California legislature that would direct the state superintendent to create elective classes in ethnic studies.  Besides being important to students of color, Cody adds “ethnic studies is also of great potential benefit to all of society, in that learning about systemic racism allows us to confront it directly.  Research has shown that ethnic studies and diversity courses benefit students of color and whites as well.”
 Dave Alpert

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




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