Ed News, Tuesday, June 23, 2015 Edition


“In every French village there is now a lighted torch, the schoolmaster;
and a mouth trying to blow it out, the priest.”
Victor Hugo
Rafe Esquith
Two letters appeared in Sunday’s L.A. Times in response to the paper’s reporting on the removal of renowned LAUSD teacher Rafe Esquith from his classroom for “misconduct.”  Both were highly critical of the district’s handling of the matter.              Esquith broke his silence regarding the charges against him (they seem pretty innocuous) and the impact the entire matter has had on him personally and his students in a front-page story in today’s Times.  It also mentions that his attorney has filed a claim against the district ahead of a possible class-action lawsuit representing a number of teachers who have been pulled from their classrooms without proper due process.  “We overreact to everything. That’s the American way and I’m a victim of that overreaction,” Esquith is quoted in the article.  “I want to fix this system.  I want to make sure that teachers do not have to go through the same thing that I went through.”                A follow-up piece appeared on the Times website early this afternoon.  It reported on a number of Esquith supporters who urged the LAUSD board at their meeting today to reinstate the popular educator.
Charter Schools
It’s not that difficult to find stories about charter school scandals these days.  They seem to be occurring on a nearly daily basis.  In the course of researching material for this edition of the “Ed News,” the editor ran across the Charter School Scandals website that maintains a list of problems reported among individual campuses and multi-school chains.  The author, Sharon Higgins, includes links to each item in her inventory in order to provide all the details.  She describes her blog this way: “A compilation of news articles about charter schools which have been charged with, or are highly suspected of, tampering with admissions, grades, attendance and testing; misuse of funds and embezzlement; engaging in nepotism and conflicts of interest; engaging in complicated and shady real estate deals; and/or have been engaging in other questionable, unethical, borderline-legal, or illegal activities. This is also a record of charter school instability and other unsavory tidbits.”  Check it out and you’ll be shocked (maybe not) at how extensive it is.  Click on the white arrow in the red box at the bottom of the page for older posts to get the full extent of what she’s chronicled.  Also click on the blue down arrow in the white box in the upper right hand corner of the HOME page to see additional topics on the subject.               Why all these scandals, you may ask?  The author of the A Teacher on Teaching blog is a now retired 33-year veteran of the public schools in Ohio.  His answer is simple: ” Greed and More Greed.”  He reviews a number of recent, well-publicized charter scandals around the country (many of them previously highlighted in the “Ed News”) and suggests this is what you get when you want to privatize the public schools and turn them into for-profit entities.                The original intent of charter schools was to have them serve as sites to experiment with new teaching techniques and philosophies that could then be carried over to the public schools.  That theory has now morphed into what some describe as all out war between charters and public schools.  The author of this piece from the NPQ (NONPROFIT QUARTERLY) uses what’s taking place in Chicago to highlight that point.  “What is happening in Chicago illustrates well the debate going on nationally,” he concludes,  “between those who believe that the solution to our educational challenges lies in creating a more robust educational marketplace where every parent and child has the ability to choose the school that is best suited to their needs, interests, and talents, and those who believe that ensuring a quality education for all children requires dealing with issues of proper school funding, poverty, race and community.  The struggle in Chicago seems to indicate that the advocates for a market-based strategy are winning this tug of war.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is upset with a couple of science fiction offerings these days on fantasy television.  He believes they are taking subtle potshots at teachers and public schools.  If you have seen the programs he cites you may be aware of what is going on.  If you haven’t, you may be surprised (shocked/angered?) at what he viewed.
Education Blogs (Like This One)
Paul Thomas on his the becoming radical column quotes prolific blogger Susan Ohanian who is cutting back on her writing: “Everybody blogs. Nobody reads.”  She believes that there is so much material out there that no one has time to read it and it just gets lost in the flood. 
Opt-Out & Testing
The opt-out movement has been gaining significant momentum over the last couple of years but statistics about who exactly is participating are rather scarce.  EDUCATION WEEK features a brand new research paper published by the Brown Center for Education at the Brookings Institution that provides some detailed numbers and analysis about just who is opting-out.  The author of the report looked at data from districts in New York State to come up with some tentative conclusions.  The ED WEEK piece includes a link to the full paper titled “Who Opts Out of State Tests?”               The “Fox News Sunday” program had a segment with the PARCC’s (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) CEO singing the praises of her Common Core-aligned assessment and the standards.  You can view that video (3:26 minutes) from FOX NEWS by clicking here.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, was quick to critique some of the comments that were presented.  “This is just a three-minute advertisement for PARCC masquerading as news,” he concludes.  “A long time ago, television personalities used to pitch products in advertisements during their own programs, but they stopped doing it because it was undignified and hurt credibility.  Would that modern news channels (not just Fox) would have another such epiphany.”            The Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, signed a bill yesterday that would allow parents to opt their children out of standardized testing in her state.  At the same time of her announcement about the new law she made it clear that she was not in favor of parents making that choice.  The (Portland) Oregonian has all the details.  “Brown said she wants Oregon educators to make the case to parents that taking part in state tests is valuable so that they will opt for their children to keep taking the exams,” it notes.  “The new law means that, beginning next spring, schools will have to notify every family at least 30 days before state testing begins about what the tests will cover, how long they will take and when results will be delivered.  Those notices will also tell parents they can exempt their child from the tests for any reason.  Oregon’s current law allows families to opt students out of testing only for religious reasons or due to a disability,” it continues.  “About 5 percent of students skipped testing this spring, Oregon Department of Education officials say.”               Rumor has it that Delaware may be next to pass an opt-out bill but it faces a possible veto from the Democratic governor of that state who strongly opposes the legislation.  The Wilmington News Journal provides the details.                The New York Times has an interesting feature about who grades the standardized tests and how the process works.  On second thought, you may not want to know.  The article focuses on one test center in San Antonio, Texas.  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending it to the editor.  [Ed. note: The NYT and many other sources require a paid subscription.  As a retired teacher from the LAUSD I don’t get that much in a monthly pension, although it’s not bad.  I do pay for the L.A. Times and EDUCATION WEEK.  That’s about all I can afford, so (to paraphrase Blanche DuBois in “Streetcar Named Desire) “I have to rely on the kindness of strangers–” read friends.  But, I digress.]  “Parcc said that more than three-quarters of the scorers have at least one year of teaching experience,” the story points out, “but that it does not have data on how many are currently working as classroom teachers. Some are retired teachers with extensive classroom experience, but one scorer in San Antonio, for example, had one year of teaching experience, 45 years ago.”               Peter Greene, he of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, checks in on the NYT’s story (see above).  He begins by stating that the reporter does a good job of making the subjects of her piece “look ridiculous.”  Greene proceeds to offer page and verse to buttress his point.  “So the take-away from [the] piece,” he concludes, “is not just that these tests are being graded by people who don’t necessarily know what the hell they’re doing, but that test manufacturers have created tests for which graders who don’t know what the hell they’re doing seems like a viable option.  And that is just one more sign that the Big Standardized Tests are pointless slices of expensive baloney.  You can’t make a test like McDonalds and still pretend that you’re cooking classic cuisine.”  [You’ll need to read his entire column to get the reference to hamburgers.  It’s well worth your time.]               THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION is putting together a “Coalition of Education and Civil Rights Groups to Oppose High-Stakes Testing.”  You can read the announcement on their website and what their goals are and see a list of organizations in support by clicking here.  Anyone belong to a group that would like to join?
Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core
Arkansas became the 14th state, plus the District of Columbia, to adopt, with some minor modifications, the Next Generation Science Standards.  At this time the vote was only to approve the K-8 portion of the standards.  A story from the “Curriculum Matters” column in EDUCATION WEEK briefly describes the action.  The State Board of Education in California voted to formally approve the standards in Sept., 2013.  For a look back at the official “News Release” about the adoption from the California Department of EDUCATION’s website, click here.                Long Island’s Newsday newspaper questioned a number of high school valedictorians about what they thought about the Common Core State Standards.  The original article is behind a paywall but Diane Ravitch’s blog was kind enough to print it.  Interestingly (or not) their opinions varied on the subject.  “Understand that Long Island has some of the best high schools in the state and in the nation,”  Ravitch notes.  “These students have their pick of elite colleges and universities; they are super-smart and super-accomplished.”                Controversy over the Common Core engulfed a number of states around the country but one that was conspicuously absent from much of the debate was California.  A piece from EDUCATION WEEK attempts to answer the question “Why?”  Most of the powers that be in the Golden State support the standards.  “Gov. Jerry Brown and California’s elected K-12 schools chief are united in their support of the embattled benchmarks,” the story points out.  “The heads of the state’s teachers’ unions, universities and business groups are on board, too.  More than one-quarter of the 12 million students who were supposed to take new online tests linked to the standards this spring were Californians, but the technical glitches and parent-led opt-out campaigns that roiled the exams’ rollout elsewhere did not surface widely here.”                THE HECHINGER REPORT features an elementary class in New York where theater arts are being used to help ELLs tackle the English/Language Arts Common Core.  The curtain rises on Kelly Budde’s class in Port Chester.  Please hold your applause.
New Documentary Film
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, features a new documentary out August 12, titled “Education, Inc., For Profit. For Kids?”  It explains how money and politics are infiltrating the public schools and the growing attempts to privatize them.  “If you are frustrated by what you see happening in your local schools,” Cody writes, “if your school board is beset by billionaire-sponsored candidates, and charter schools are starving neighborhood schools of funding, this film might give you a much needed rallying point.”  The film’s website includes the official trailer (3:13 minutes). 
Another One Bites the Dust
John Deasy in the LAUSD.  Cami Anderson in Newark (from The New York Times) and now Mike Miles in Dallas (from WFAA the ABC affiliate in Dallas) and some others.  What do they all have in common?  Each was a “highly touted” corporate “reformer” who was selected to be the superintendent of their respective districts and now no longer hold those positions.  Could the pendulum be starting to swing back to where it belongs when it comes to attempts to privatize the public school system? 
Teaching in Arizona
And finally, a previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the difficult condition of the teaching profession in Arizona.  Due to a number of factors, teachers are leaving classrooms and the state in droves.  A segment (2:03 minutes) from ABC Channel 15 in Phoenix features a new study from the Arizona Dept. of Education that reports on a serious looming teacher shortage in the Grand Canyon State and pinpoints some of the reasons why.  The video is courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.


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



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s