Ed News, Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Edition


“We get schooled by the people around us,
and it stays inside us deep.” 
Charter Schools
A major expansion of charter schools in the LAUSD is possibly in the offing according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.   The Broad Foundation is spearheading the plan with the support of several other philanthropies.  The ambitious goal–up to 50% of students in the district will be attending charters by 2023.  “Currently, more than 100,000 L.A. students attend charters,” the article notes, “about 16% of district enrollment, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District.  L.A. Unified has more charters, 207, and more charter students than any other school district in the country.”                Did you know there’s a movement in California to repeal the state’s charter school law.  They’ve pretty much been working under the radar but they have been circulating a petition to try to get the voters to accomplish that goal.  You can find information about the effort, spearheaded by the group Voices Against Privatizing Public Education, on the K-12 News Network’s The Wire website.               You can find more information about the petition to repeal the charter school law in California on the ipetitions website.                THE HECHINGER REPORT has a feature that revisits High Tech High School in San Diego and finds its model great for preparing “students for the real world and jobs, but what about college?”  It profiles several graduates of the charter school and describes their struggles making the transition from their project-based campus to the realities of  gaining a college education.  “Critics of project-based learning say the model doesn’t provide a rigorous enough education or a breadth of knowledge.” the piece notes.  “While students tend to delve deeply into a single topic, many others subjects are not addressed.  But educators who have worked with the model say that students can succeed, even in larger universities with traditional classrooms.”
Teachers Change Lives
How many times have you heard people thank a teacher for the influence that person had on their lives?  It happens quite often and Yohuru Williams uses that construct as the centerpiece of his essay for the HUFF POST EDUCATION BLOG.  Williams is an historian, professor, activist and author.  “No matter how loudly self-interested billionaires and sly politicians try to deny it,” he contends, “great schools begin with great teachers, collaborating with enlightened administrators and communities to serve the needs of the next generation.”  Williams references Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven for his piece titled “The 5 Teaches You Meet in Heaven: What it Really Takes to Save Our Schools.”
The Teaching Profession
The “Ed News” has highlighted several articles about teacher shortages around the country, particularly in Kansas.  The author of this piece on the HUFFPOST POLITICS blog is the Education editor of The Huffington Post.  She offers up a commentary titled “Memo To States: This is How to Create A Teacher Shortage.”  It includes a “recipe” that’s guaranteed to create a teacher shortage in your district/state.  Here are two samples from her “list of ingredients:”  “3 tablespoons of low teacher pay” and “3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers.”  [Ed. note: Looks like California may be headed in that direction.]                ALOED members Jill Asbjornsen and Randy Traweek both sent this article from The New York Times about the problem of teacher shortages.  It mentions districts in Louisville, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Providence that are having acute problems attracting enough teacher to fill classrooms this fall but the focus of the article is California.  “Nationwide, many teachers were laid off during the recession,” the Times story notes, “but the situation was particularly acute in California, which lost 82,000 jobs in schools from 2008 to 2012, according to Labor Department figures.  This academic year, districts have to fill 21,500 slots, according to estimates from the California Department of Education, while the state is issuing fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials a year.”              The Perdido Street School blog reacted to the New York Times story (see above), complaining that it didn’t fully explain why the shortages are taking place.  It blames “the consequences of 10+ years of corporate education reforms” and proceeds in detail to explain how those “reforms” have impacted the profession and made it much harder to recruit enough high quality candidates.              Count Indiana among the states experiencing a teacher shortage.  This column from the Lafayette Journal & Courier explains why the Hoosier state is having problems similar to many other states and districts.  “What sort of gymnastics will state lawmakers try to pull off at this point,” the author asks, “to remedy a looming teacher shortage after years of running off potential, young candidates by convincing Hoosiers that public schools were essentially broken?  And will they actually be willing to shoulder some of the blame?  We’re about to find out.”              Diane Ravitch, on her blog, reacted to the above item about Indiana and others reporting on teacher shortages nationwide.  “Was ‘reform’ intended to make teaching an undesirable profession?  Was its purpose to drive good teachers out of their classrooms and discourage many from entering teaching?  If so, ‘reform’ is working,” she concludes.  “But it isn’t reform.  It’s destruction.”  [Ed. note: Is that hitting the nail on the head or what?]               The“Diane Rehm Show” on NPR station WAMU 88.5 has an extended segment on the teacher shortage this morning.  Her guests included Linda Darling-Hammond, an associate editor at EDUCATION WEEK, a Georgetown University professor, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners and the chief HR officer of the SFUSD.  This item includes a very brief description of the program and the guests.  Click on the “Listen” button to hear the full program (49:11 minutes) and listeners who called in to ask questions or comment.         Diane Ravitch’s blog (unfortunately) prints another letter from a frustrated and disillusioned teacher who is quitting the public schools because she can’t take it anymore.  This one is penned by a middle school math teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan who left a career in accounting to take her dream job in the classroom only to see her idealism and dedication destroyed by education policies from both political parties at the state and national levels.  Read this one, too, and weep along with her.  “It really breaks my heart to leave such a wonderful group of people,’she concludes.  “In fact, it’s pretty devastating.  But I have to do what’s best for me in the long run, and the thought of making more money and teaching classes of 15 instead of 34, and especially not having to deal with all the BS, was too much to refuse.  I will always be there to fight for public education. I just can’t teach in it.”               Before NCLB, with its emphasis on testing and accountability, and the advent of corporate “reform,” pushing charters, vouchers and privatization, what were the issues that teachers discussed, debated and argued about at faculty/department/grade level meetings, in the lunch room, teacher’s lounge or before or after school?  That’s the question tackled in this essay from the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  The author uses a discussion over pizza parties to illustrate his message. 
2016 Election
The satirical publication The ONION has a brief item about a teacher who made a $300 donation to Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and how the educator now “owns” the candidate.  “After accepting a check sent to his campaign office by a local elementary school teacher,” it points out, “presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was roundly criticized Monday as being firmly in the pocket of the high-rolling educator who had donated $300.”  Remember, it’s totally made up.               Republican presidential hopeful former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush likes to boast of the spread of charter schools in the state during his term of office and how they helped create a “Florida miracle” regarding reforms in education.  Jeff Bryant, writing in ALTERNET, says hold on a minute in a piece titled “The Big Jeb Bush Charter Scho0l Lie: Why His Florida Education ‘Miracle” is Hogwash.”  “No doubt there are examples of good charter schools and students who have benefitted from attending them,” Bryant maintains. “But any argument that Florida’s whole education system been improved by introducing more charter schools is tenuous at best.”
Meet one of the leaders of the opt-out movement on Long Island.  Her name is Jeanette Deutermann and she’s described in this profile from the Long Island Business News as “Education’s Erin Brockovich.”  She’s a parent and an activist and has accomplished a great deal in a rather short time.  “Through a combination of personal experience, circumstances and her own education about New York State’s system,” the article explains, “Deutermann became the first or one of the first Long Island parents to have her children “opt out” of now-controversial state assessments.  She founded Long Island Opt Out and grew it, using social media, strategy and a loophole in education law to get 65,000 Long Island students recently to refuse to take state assessments.  She became a major force in recent school board elections, as her group’s blessing propelled dozens of candidates to seats.  Some call her education’s Erin Brockovich, a mother who shaped concerns about excessive, untested testing into a movement.”              
Good Advice for Parents
Do standardized test results truly let parents know how their child is doing in school?  Not hardly!  Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Media Group and senior attorney at the Education Law Center.  She has some great advice for parents in her column for theStamford (Connecticut) Advocate: “Want to Know How A Student is Doing?  Ask a Teacher.”  “Parents have relied on teachers’ assessments to gauge their children’s progress and most have pretty much ignored their children’s standardized test scores.”  Lecker points out.  “For decades, this approach has served parents and students well.  Recent research shows that non-standardized, human assessments of student learning are superior to standardized tests of all kinds.”
Is National Public Radio acting as a shill for the PARCC standardized assessment?  That’s the contention of Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  On Friday, NPR ran a segment (link included) on the test and how its cut scores were determined that Schneider believes contains several factual errors, misstatements and omissions.               What if some of the questions on the 3rd grade standardized test in New York were too difficult for most students and even some adults?  Apparently, that is the situation as the state released a number of this year’s questions in language arts and math for grades 3 through 8 and the correct answers stumped young and old alike, according to a story in The New York Times.  “Peter Afflerbach, a professor of education at the University of Maryland and an expert in reading assessments and comprehension,” it notes, “said he considered the questions to be a mix.  While some of the simpler questions seemed acceptable, he said, the more complex ones could sometimes be confusing.”  Thanks to ALOED member Randy Traweek for sending this one.               Want to get some idea of what the 3rd grade reading test in New York is like?  Randy also forwarded this interactive item fromThe New York Times that has a reading selection and 6 questions from that test.  Click on the answers to see how readers of the article fared on the questions.  How did you do?  Remember, it’s a test for THIRD graders!
Teacher Jail
Yesterday’s L.A. Times has an extended editorial admonishing the LAUSD regarding its abuse of “teacher jail” to house teachers accused of all sorts of things that are in no way a threat to students’ safety.  It reviews a number of recent cases including what took place at Miramonte Elementary School in 2010  and the Rafe Esquith situation from this year and concludes:  “Of course the district has a right, and an obligation, to investigate molestation accusations and remove possibly abusive teachers when allegations arise. But as currently practiced, the procedure appears to turn too many easily resolved cases into administrative quagmires. . . .  By all means, investigate when necessary. But L.A. Unified should not overreact by removing teachers over allegations that have nothing to do with student safety.  The district must put student welfare first, and their welfare is not served by disrupting the school year.  It’s time for an independent examination by the district’s Office of the Inspector General.”
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
With the U.S. Congress on its summer recess and at the very start of the conference committee process to try to come up with a single compromise bill to rewrite the ESEA/NCLB law, today’s L.A. Times has an opportune set of FAQs about the Senate and House versions.  “Both measures take steps to ease the effect of federal testing and return greater control over education to states,” it responds to the first question on how the two bills agree.  “They would also lessen federal say over establishing nationwide achievement standards, like the so-called Common Core, which critics have labeled an attempt to federalize what students are taught.”                    EducationNext,  the pro-charter, pro-voucher publication of the right-leaning Hoover Institute at Stanford University, has a poll out that finds the public generally is supportive of testing but opposes the opt-out movement and federal intervention in education.   “No less than 67% of the public said they supported required annual testing,” the item reports, “while just 21% opposed the idea, with the remainder taking a neutral position.  Parental support (66%) was nearly as high as that for the public as a whole.  Teachers were divided down the middle, with 47% favoring testing but 46% expressing opposition.”              Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has some issues with the methodology of the survey and, thus, some of its findings.
Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog publishes a letter from a reader addressed to former CNN news host Campbell Brown who has a new website “The Seventy Four” and is a strong advocate for corporate “reform,” charters, vouchers and eliminating due process rights for teachers.  “Teachers, unions, and tenure are not the problem with public education. . . . YOU and your corporate billionaire funders are the real problem.” the letter states.  “You provide no significant data to support your claims, you refuse to address poverty (the real issue), and your goal is to dismantle the public school system, all in the name of more profits for you and your greedy billionaire donors.”
Some Clever Hefty Bag Ads

And finally, we end with two sarcastic online ads for Hefty Trash Bags that present teachers “complaining” about too many books and computers and “asking” for more budget cuts.  You’ll have to view the two ads (30 seconds each) from ADWEEK to get the full impact of the comments.  “The new work, which includes two 30-second online spots and a handful of playful memes, aims to raise awareness of the serious lack of funding many public schools and teachers face—but does so in a tongue-in-cheek manner.  The writing in the 30-second spots is both sarcastic and sharp, with teachers delivering lines like ‘We do not need any more art supplies’ and ‘This map—from 1913.  Almost all of the states are there.'”


Dave Alpert

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


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