Ed News, Tuesday, August 4, 2015 Edition


“School was the unhappiest time of my life and the worst trick it ever played on me
was to pretend that it was the world in miniature. For it hindered me from discovering
how lovely and delightful and kind the world can be, and how much of it is intelligible.”
LAUSD Begins Search for New Supt.

The LAUSD board began the formal process of selecting a new superintendent at an extended meeting Thursday night.  The board had waited until new members had been seated and a president chosen before launching their search.  Complicating matters is the fact that current Supt. Ramon Cortines accepted a contract that runs through June, 2016,  but he recently expressed a desire to wrap up his tenure by the end of December this year.  At its meeting last week the board began to look for a company to conduct a search for candidates with the intent to have the new person ready to begin at the start of the 2016-17 school year.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “The next superintendent,” it points out, “will have to take charge of a system that has long struggled to find a unified vision to focus on improving student achievement and teacher performance, and developing a palatable plan for adapting to more technology-focused classrooms.”                Two letters were published in today’s Times reacting to the above story.  The second one is from a recently retired district teacher with a rather novel idea for picking a replacement chief.

Newly Revised APUSH Framework
On Thursday the College Board released a  newly revised framework for A.P. U.S. History after its previous one was met with a firestorm of criticism from conservative groups including the Republican National Committee who felt it was too “negative” and did not stress American exceptionalism enough.  Newsweek has a comparison of how topics like slavery, native Americans, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the civil rights movement were covered in the first effort and how they are in this latest edition.  “The word ‘bellicose,’ where it was used in the prior edition (p. 79) to refer to President Reagan’s rhetoric, was also removed,” the item points out.  “That passage was pointed out specifically by conservative critics of the the prior framework.  A section on American identity has also been amended to include ‘American exceptionalism’ (p. 11).”  The article includes links to both the earlier framework and the newest one.
New LAUSD Pres. Steve Zimmer Speaks Out
Newly elected LAUSD school board President Steve Zimmer, who happens to be an adjunct instructor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Oxy, recently spoke to the American Federation of Teachers describing how the corporate “reformers” poured millions of dollars from outside interests in an attempt to defeat him when he ran for reelection to his board seat two years ago.  In July he became president of the board and in his talk before the AFT he briefly describes what his vision is for the future.  You can view his speech (9:05 minutes) on YouTube. 
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, parses theSmarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) agreements and contracts with the member states.  She points out that California was originally a member of the PARCC team but withdrew in June, 2011, and joined SBAC.  Schneider, as always, is willing to do the grunt work that uncovers some remarkable and surprising information.  
BATS Teacher Conference
Steven Singer invites Yohuru Williams to join him on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG to write about the recently concluded Badass Teachers Association Teachers Conference in Washington, D.C.  Williams, an author and Professor of History and Black Studies, expounds on the origins of the gathering and Singer explains some of the things that took place over the course of this year’s meeting.  They directed their energies towards the U.S. Department of Education and members of Congress with this message: “Our public schools are not failing.  YOU are failing our public schools.  Your policies are poisonous.  Your testing is treasonous.  Your facts are fallacious.  Your designs are dangerous.  Your ideas imperious.  Your lectures libelous.  Your measures malicious.  Your networks nefarious.  Your rigor ridiculous.  Your standards suspicious.”
The Teaching Profession
The governor of Georgia’s education “expert” is recommending the state end the practice of paying for teacher training and experiencein the belief that advanced degrees and time in the classroom do not lead to better teachers.  The Peach State wants to substitute student standardized test scores as the sole determinant of teacher effectiveness.  The author of this op-ed piece is a regular columnist for OnlineAthens and holds an MA degree in education from the University of Georgia.  She provides 3 erroneous assumptions about the teaching profession and how they lead to poor decisions about teacher remuneration.  She concludes by asking “Who Do We Want Teaching Our Children?” which happens to be the headline of her commentary.              Two new books have recently been published that offer “counter-narratives” to the official line being put out by Teach for America.  The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog reviews both volumes.  “It is vitally important that TFA’s oversimplified, whitewashed version of corps member narratives be offset by what may be more honest descriptions of what it means to be a teacher – specifically a TFA teacher,” the piece begins.  “If for nothing else, the existence and accessibility of counter-narratives provides a much-needed balance to the decades old single-sided rhetoric of education reform.”               The new school year is rapidly approaching.  Stores are already well into their “back-to-school” sales and teachers are gearing up for a new batch of students (for most  LAUSD pupils, the first day of instruction is Aug. 18!).  In anticipation of that momentous event, the Badass Teachers Association is offering “Survival Tips for Teachers from Members of the BAT Haven–List 1.”  The suggestions are intended for both new and veteran educators and contain lots of practical advice.  Here are just 2 examples: + “Document everything and don’t give up without a fight…you’re worth more. As for making it through during…breathe and smile.      + Remember….homicide is Not an option.”                This one should shake up a few things.  The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that a group of 14 Teach for America members at a charter school in Detroit should have been allowed to vote for a union along with the rest of the faculty.  So far, so good.  But get this: that was AFTER the charter company that runs the school claimed the TFAers and long-term substitutes were “NOT PROFESSIONAL EMPLOYEES” [emphasis added] and, thus, should not be allowed to participate in the vote.  Can you believe that?! To make matters worse, when the union drive was announced, the parent charter company, New Urban Learning, said it was walking away from the school.  The NLRB’s ruling in this bizarre case is described on the MICHIGAN LIVE website.               Do you ever complain about those professional development sessions you are required to attend?  If so, you need to read this item from THE HECHINGER REPORT that features a new study that finds most PD to be “costly and ineffective.”  WOW, who would have guessed?  Several previous reports, referenced in the story, came to similar conclusions about PD.  The story includes a link to this latest study (68 pages) from The New Teacher Project (TNTP), titled “The Mirage–Confronting the Hard Truth About Out Quest for Teacher Development.”  “To improve teacher development,” the article summarizes, “TNTP recommends districts provide alternative development activities, such as time for teachers to observe other teachers.  TNTP also recommends that districts evaluate the effectiveness of development strategies and then allocate professional development funding based on the success of those programs.”
Critic of Democrats and Their Recent Education Policies
Diane Ravitch’s blog prints an item from Paul Lautner, emeritus professor of Literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  He’s highly critical of some members of the Democratic party at the federal level for their positions on current education policy.  He sees the national party as becoming anti-public schools and is confounded by the turnabout.  

“Why have Democrats,” he asks, “been supporting a process that is tearing the heart out of public education?”  Lautner arrives at two answers.

Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog is once again turned over to “SomeDamPoet” who has a take-off on “The Age of Aquarius” from the popular musical “HAIR.”  This one it titled “The Age That Will Bury Us” and goes after VAMs, Bill Gates, data, economists, testing and a number of other subjects.  Here’s the first stanza: 
When the VAM is in the Random House
And stupid is as stupid does
Then tests will guide the teaching
And Gates will steer because
This is the dawning of the Age
of Economists, the Age of Economists
Economists, Economists
For a real blast from the past, you can view a YouTube version of the original “The Age of Aquarius” (1969) by the 5th Dimension byclicking here .                 Ten years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the corporate “reformers,” as a result, turned the city into the first (almost) all-charter school district, how is that “experiment” going?  As usual, it depends on who you talk to.  Jennifer Berkshire, who writes the EduShyster blog, met withmembers of the community and describes what they told her in a piece for SALON titled “‘Reform’ Makes Broken New Orleans School Worse: Race, Charters, Testing and the Real Story of Education After Katrina.”                 EDUCATION WEEKhighlights a new study of test scores in New Orleans that offers a different point-of-view of what’s taking place in that city than what Berkshire presents (see above).  It’s titled “New Orleans Test Scores Have ‘Shot Up” Ten Years After Katrina, Report Says.”  The study, produced by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance, however was not all sugar and spice.   “Even though New Orleans’ academic gains have been dramatic,” the story maintains, “the Education Research Alliance has also found not-so-positive side effects of moving to a total-school choice system.  Low-income families still face competing interests that get in the way of simply choosing the academically best school for their children.  For example they may opt for a lower-performing school that offers an extended day so they don’t have to pay for childcare.  Another earlier study by the Education Research Alliance also found that—until a few years ago—principals, under competition-fueled pressure, were cherry-picking students.”               Another item fromED WEEK (via the AP) wonders if the apparent gains in New Orleans can or should be duplicated in other school districts, reiterating some of the concerns raised by Jennifer Berkshire.  “Even as New Orleans is held up nationwide as a model of school reform for changes that took place after Hurricane Katrina,” it begins, “researchers at Tulane University say there are questions about whether the apparent successes can be duplicated in other areas.”
Election 2016
GOP Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and other Republican candidates for president in 2016 have made the weakening (destruction?) of teachers unions a goal of their political platforms.  On Sunday Christie commented on CNN that national teachers unions deserves a “punch in the face” for being the most “destructive force” in America. The Badass Teachers Association, on their website, issued a ringing response to that statement and a call to action to combat such destructive and divisive rhetoric. “It is incumbent on educators to expose the systemic tearing away of the fibers of unionism itself through this and countless other attacks,” it remarks in part.  “These attacks have come not only from presidential candidate Christie, but from politicians and public figures that stand to directly and personally benefit from seeing an end to unions in this country.”              An item in EDUCATION WEEK includes a link to the Christie interview on CNN, has a short (45 second) video clip of his remarks and, in an update, reprints tweets from AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen Garcia and the New Jersey Education Association reacting to what Gov. Christie said.                 Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, findsChristie’s remarks “A New Low in Presidential Politics” as he headlines his column.   Singer wonders why mature (?) adults are making these kinds of comments: “Look at it from his point of view.  Christie is one of 17 Republicans running against each other for the party’s nomination.  The first GOP debate is coming up[Thursday] and they’re only going to let the top 10 Republican candidates participate.  And Christie’s popularity is low enough that he might get left out in the cold. What’s a guy to do?  Well the frontrunner, Donald Trump,” Singer offers by way of a possible explanation for this behavior, “earned his lead by saying the most outrageous things he could think of – namely that Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves.  And – WOOSH! – up went his poll numbers!  Mike Huckabee compared the Iran deal to the Holocaust and watched his poll numbers rise, too.  Heck!  If it worked for them, might as well try the same thing, Christie style!  Let’s punch teachers!”  [Ed. note: Anyone else find this stuff BIZARRE?]
Parent Trigger Law
An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times suggests that the 5-year old parent trigger law, while needed in California, needs some reworking.  It offers a good history of the legislation and notes it has  been successfully invoked in only four cases, way below what was predicted.  The piece mentions several ways the law can be improved.  “A new trigger law should create stricter guidelines to target truly low-performing schools, and should prohibit school closures through petition.  Trigger petitions must be made public, with all parents informed, and the larger community given a chance to be involved.  When a petition prevails and parents are considering proposals for changing management of the school, all parents should have a voice and a vote in the decision, not just those who signed the petition.  The parent trigger remains an intriguing if so-far-unproven idea,”  it concludes, “but the time has come to start imagining a more thoughtful version.”                Diane Ravitch’s blog opposes the parent trigger law and commented on the above editorial.  “I don’t believe that users of a public service should be given the option of privatizing it on behalf of the public that paid for it, past and future,” Ravitch concludes.  “This is akin to allowing riders on a public bus to vote to sell the bus to a private bus company, or letting tenants in public housing vote to sell the project to a developer.  A local public school belongs to the community, not to those who are using it this year.  The parent trigger is fairy dust.  California should get rid of a bad law and concentrate on proven strategies to improve schools and improve the lives of children and families.”  [Ed. note: Ravitch’s blog reached 22 million hits (in a little over 3 years) earlier this week.  Congratulations to her and may her voice continue to  strongly advocate for students, public schools and teachers.]
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
EDUCATION WEEK continues its look at the separate bills that passed the U.S. House and Senate on the rewrite of the ESEA/NCLB.  The conference committee that will try to work out the differences in the competing legislation began its work last week (see Friday’s edition of the “Ed News”).  Ed Week compares the versions that passed the two chambers previously.  Be sure to click on the sidebar titled “ESEA Rewrite: Pre-Conference Cheat Sheet” for an excellent side-by-side review of the two bills and what the old law provides.  “The dueling bills, which contain some stark policy differences,” the article maintains, “now move to a conference process, in which the authors of both measures and other lawmakers from both chambers and parties will try to cobble together a proposal that appeals to everyone.  To do so, they’ll have to overcome some serious divergences in revising the law, whose current version is the No Child Left Behind Act.”
LAUSD Food Service Director Resigns Under Fire
The beleaguered food services director of the LAUSD resigned from his post after a recent audit found massive waste, breaches of ethical standards, conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement.  David Binkle, who took the job in 2008, maintained everything he did was legal and above board.  A story in today’s L.A. Timesprovides the,  sometimes conflicting details.  “L.A. Unified’s office of the inspector general,” it points out, “issued a 33-page audit last month that found numerous problems in a new food procurement system introduced five years ago to supply the nation’s second-largest school meal operation.”
Want More Sources for Education News?
An article in EDUCATION WEEK reviews the myriad  online news sites that deal with education issues.  Some are pretty objective and others have a definite point-of-view and run the gamut of the political spectrum.  “The past two years or so have seen a boom in online news outlets covering education,”  the item reports.  “New local and national sites are focusing exclusively on the subject; general-interest sites have education beat reporters or otherwise include K-12 issues in their mix.”   The “Ed News” has drawn on many of them over its 5+ years of existence.  [Ed. note: One painful omission from the list: none other then the “Ed News!”  Image result for sad face ]  Be sure to click on the sidebar to the story titled “Media Outlets Covering Ed News Online” for a handy list, with short annotations (twitter style), of 22 sites.
This Kansas Teacher Says “Fight Back”
And finally, need to read some rousing, inspirational words about teaching as the summer winds down and the new school year rapidly approaches?  A veteran Kansas teacher and member of the Badass Teachers Association, on her mamminer’s Blog, is “Mad as hell and is not going to take this anymore!” to quote actor Peter Finch in the role of newscaster Howard Beale in the 1976 movie “Network.”  She’s tired of all the criticism and threats by politicians to “punch” teachers in the face and she explains what she plans to do about it.  Leaving the profession is not an option to her.  “I’m a teacher. I do my job despite, and IN SPITE of all of those who make my job harder to do.  I’m one stubborn woman,” she thunders, “and I will not kowtow to the pressure.  I will not play their game.  I will not be coerced or threatened by ignorance and greed.  I am a teacher.  I fight ignorance and greed every day, and you know what?  I win.”  [Ed. note: PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT!]  If you’d like to view that short clip (1:40 minutes),  courtesy of  YouTube,   of Howard Beale in action from the film   ,   click here .

Dave Alpert

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

One response »

  1. Thanks for posting my rant. It’s pretty cool to see my words on others’ sites. This stubborn ol’ teacher just started back at school today and am empowered by all the love & support from my fellow teachers and former students who have read and commented on my blog this week. Stay strong, teachers! We’ve got a helluva hill to climb, but helping each other up is the best way to go!

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