Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ed News, Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

         A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
“We learn best when we care about what we are doing, when we have choices. 
We learn best when the work has meaning to us, when it matters. 
We learn best when we are using our hands and our minds.
We learn best when the work we are doing is real and relevant.” 
― Dennis LittkyThe Big Picture: Education Is Everyone’s Business
[Ed. note:  In my haste to get out the Friday edition of the “Ed News,” I neglected to include links to the last two items.  Under the headline “The Teaching Profession” the ED WEEK item about why students hate history can be found by clicking here.  The story about the opt-out movement is at this link.  The editor regrets those errors and, as always, promises they won’t happen again until the next time.]
Disagreement Over Test Results
In the LAUSD what group of students has better test results in comparison to other groups?  The district as a whole, charters or magnets?  As usual, it depends who you talk to. Charters claim they do better versus the district average.  Magnets counter that their results top the charters.  Actually, both are correct.  So, who is doing a better job of educating students?  A front-page story in Saturday’sL.A. Times discusses the various interpretations.  “The data game is an early skirmish with big implications as charter backers, led by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, seek to raise nearly half a billion dollars to more than double the number of charters within eight years,” the article notes.  “The cornerstone of their campaign is to prove, through statistics, that L.A. Unified is failing students and that parents should have the option of enrolling in charters.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog references the story above and includes her very strong revulsion to Eli Broad’s plan to turn up to half of the schools in the LAUSD into charters.  “The test scores are beside the point.  The really important question is why a billionaire should be allowed to buy half of a public institution. . . . Eli Broad should not be allowed to take over half the children in Los Angeles,” she bemoans.  “Letting this deal go through would be the beginning of the end for public education, not only in Los Angeles but in many other cities as well.   Eli Broad’s power grab is an offense to our democracy.  It is wrong.  It is illegitimate.  The elected board must not let it happen.  They were elected to safeguard and improve the city’s public schools, not to privatize them.”
 
Principal Turnover
The problem of up to 50% of teachers leaving the profession within their first 5 years is pretty well known and documented.  However, similar high rates for principals are a less publicized issue.  As principals’ roles have changed over the years, the stresses and pressures have also undergone a transformation.  THE HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at this increasingly troubling concern.  The feature follows a new principal in her first year in a urban elementary school in New Orleans to illustrate how the job looks today.  “The new generation of principals, though, especially those who work in urban schools, have become far more involved with what happens in the classroom.  Spurred by new state laws that call for improved methods of teacher evaluation,” the story relates, “many districts across the country are looking for principals to serve as instructional leaders and talent judges — helping teachers improve, rewarding those deemed ‘most effective’ and firing those who aren’t.”
 
“iPadgate” Redux
Is the LAUSD finally putting the $1.3 billion “iPad-for-all” fiasco in the rearview mirror?  An article in Saturday’s L.A. Times outline a$6.4 million settlement the district reached with Pearson, the education software behemoth, over curriculum that the company provided as part of the iPad program.  “The Board of Education is expected to vote on the settlement in October.  The bidding process that led to the original contract is the subject of an FBI investigation,” the piece explains.  “Under that contract, Apple agreed to provide iPads to L.A. Unified while Pearson provided curriculum on the devices as a subcontractor.  As a result, the settlement was with Apple, even though the dispute concerned the Pearson product.”
 
Review of Seattle Teachers Strike
The LABORNOTES website has a most appropriate recap of therecently concluded 5-day teachers strike in Seattle.  It offers a history of the event and lists some of the key terms of the settlement.  The walkout began on the first day of school on Sept. 9.  A tentative agreement was reached on the morning of Sept. 15 and educators returned to their classrooms the following day.  A final vote was held for the proposed contract last Sunday and it won the support of 83% of the rank-and-file members.  Ironically, the strike fell on the 3-year anniversary of the Chicago teachers strike.  “Seattle teachers had not struck the district in 30 years, since a five-week strike in 1985.  They did strike for one day in May this year,” the article points out, “in an action aimed at the state government.  The May strike was part of a wave of one-day strikes by teachers in 65 districts across Washington over the state’s refusal to properly fund public schools and reduce class sizes.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Sandy Banks, in her column in Saturday’s L.A. Times, has a heartwarming story about how teachers remember students even years after they were  in their classrooms.  The tale begins when Banks wrote about Keith Johnson, now 52 years old, who was working with inner-city kids on a football team.  Barbara Seigel Stone, now retired, recalled being his 3rd grade teacher in 1970, and emailed Banks about her column.  I’ll let you read the rest of the story.  If you are retired, currently teaching or thinking about becoming an educator, it’s well worth your time.  [Ed. note: If the copy you are currently reading is a little damp, I didn’t have any tissues close at hand when I first read the piece in the paper.]                Steve Lopez, in his column in Sunday’s Times, follows up on what Banks wrote (see above) with a piece describing how hundreds of former students stopped what they were doing to attend a memorial service for a respected and beloved Hamilton High School History and Philosophy teacher, Alan Kaplan.  “Kaplan confronted and cajoled.  He knocked students off-balance, forcing them to find some truth to hold onto,” Lopez learned from those in attendance at the tribute.  “He called on students randomly and put them on the spot, all the while holding forth, part preacher and part performer, on race, class, power and justice.”               Why do people continue to want to become teachers in spite of the low morale, long hours, poor pay and all the teacher bashing by the corporate “reformers,” politicians and the media?  Brian Crosby, an author and teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, offers some ideas on how to improve the profession so as to draw more qualified candidates but wonders if anyone will consider his proposals.  His commentary appears in the Glendale News-Press.  “Let’s face it.  We all hope that selfless people join the military to protect our country.  We all hope that decent people become firefighters and police officers to protect our society.  And we all hope that quality people join the teaching ranks to mold our future commodity — children.  But hoping will only get so far,”  he concludes.  “If schools expect a line outside human resources of people applying for jobs, then a major overhaul of the teaching profession has to happen.  And it will take teachers themselves to blast the clarion call since those in the upper echelon of education show no interest in changing the status quo. Is there any chance of that happening in our lifetime?  One can only hope.”              Here is another piece describing all the teacher bashing that has been going on for years and offers some suggestions on how to keep our teachers from opting-out of the profession.  The author is an educator and mathematician and his commentary is on the HUFF POST EDUCATION BLOG.  “The good news is that retaining our most accomplished teachers–showing them respect, giving them independence, and making their careers not merely acceptable but prestigious–turns out to be the most effective way to recruit new teachers as well,” he concludes.  “If we want to attract talented people into the classroom, we must start by making the teaching profession more attractive.”               A new annual PDK/Gallup poll contains somemixed results for the nation’s teachers.  Whereas a majority of respondents opposes tenure rights for teachers a similar majority believes the country’s educators need to be paid more.  A story inEDUCATION WEEK highlights some of the findings in the survey.  You can find the full poll (38 pages) titled “The 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Towards the Public Schools” with additional questions about testing, Common Core, school choice and many other topics by clicking here.  It includes the opinions of a national sample of 3,499 Americans over the age of 18.              Most teachers seem to complain about those tedious and uninformative professional development sessions they are forced to sit through.  The Long Beach Unified School District is trying to do something about that perception with an innovative, personalized approach to PD.  The  “district is debuting an ambitious effort to personalize teachers’ PD experiences,” an item in ED WEEKdescribes, “while still aiming to afford them a consistent level of high-quality training aligned to district goals.  Its new online system is designed to offer teachers more ways to access PD better matched to their own needs, plus a way of tracking their own growth.”  The piece explains how the system works and how individual teachers have access to it.  You need to read this article and pass it on to whoever plans PD in your district.  
 
Charter Schools
Critics are charging a new television ad running in New York to recruit students to attend charter schools is racist.  An article describing the ad appears on POLITICO NEW YORK.  It includes a link to the ad in questions titled “Tale of Two Boys.”  Complaints about the nature of the ad are in the same publication and can be found by clicking here.  “A coalition of elected officials, community organizations and union-allied groups,” the latter item suggests, “criticized a new Families for Excellent Schools ad Friday, accusing the pro-charter group of ‘race-baiting’ in order to advance its political agenda.”              Diane Ravitch’s blogcomments on the controversy over the ad and describes the group that funded it and what they are all about.                Surprise! Surprise!  A study funded by the Broad and Walton Foundationscomes to the shocking conclusion that what the Washington, D.C., schools need is MORE CHARTERS.  Who would have guessed?  A story in The Washington Post reviews the report which is titled “A Tale of Two Systems: Education Reform in Washington, D.C.”  Both organizations, as readers of the “Ed News” are readily aware, are strong proponents of market reforms and charters.  That leads to a simple question: How do you spell “conflict-of interest?”   The report does admit “that comparisons are difficult because charter and traditional schools serve different demographics. Charter schools serve families who actively choose their schools, which can indicate a higher level of family commitment to education.  D.C. Public Schools serve more students in crisis, who are are homeless or returning from jail, experts say.  Also, charter schools don’t accept students after a certain month of the year or grade level, so they tend to serve a more stable group of students.”  After all that, the report proceeds to demonstrate how charters do a better job of educating students in the D.C. Public Schools, ergo, the system needs more charters.  I wonder if the authors read the above statement from their own report?               How do someunscrupulous charter owners brazenly loot millions of taxpayer dollars intended for students?  This investigative piece from naked capitalism explains the business concept of “asset-stripping” and how it applies to education.  ” It’s bad enough to see this sort of thing take place in the dog-eat-dog world of Corporate America,”the author complains.  “It’s even worse to see it take place in charter schools, where the losers are students, by virtue of unjustifiably large portions of charter fees go to unproductive rental payments and financing fees, as opposed to education, and to taxpayers, who over time face inflated costs to fund profiteering masquerading as education.”               A story in The Progressivecondemns Eli Broad’s plan to turn half of the LAUSD into charters.  The author describes the big rally held by UTLA to protest the billionaire’s plan during the opening of The Broad museum on Sept. 20 (covered extensively in the “Ed News).  “Eli Broad plans to spend $490 million to fund charter school expansion in Los Angeles Unified,”  she contends.  “He intends to fund three main areas: paying for staff for charter schools, helping charters score space from existing schools in co-locations or other buildings, and marketing this mass privately-managed constellation of schools funded with public money but with no public accountability to families.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATIONblog, sees a huge double standard when it comes to money the federal government provides to public schools as opposed to funds given to charters.  The former has to account for every penny and the latter can seemingly do with the funds, what it wants, no strings attached, no transparency or accountability.  What particularly sparked Greene’s ire was a recently announced grant of $32.5 million by the federal Dept. of Education to the scandal-plagued charters in Ohio.  “The double standard remains the same,” he complains.  “Public schools must account for every penny, including federal bucks that must be spent only as Uncle Sugar demands.  Public schools must keep open records always available to the taxpayers.  Public schools must even hire employees whose only job is to monitor and report on the money– all the money.  Meanwhile, charter schools just get money thrown at them with no requirement to do anything except, I suppose, have a nice day.”
 
A Weeks Worth of Letters in the Times
The “Numbers and Letters” feature in the Opinion section of Saturday’s L.A. Times reports that “650 printable letters were received between last Friday and this Thursday.  52 readers expressed their strong views about the huge plan to expand charter schools in Los Angeles.”  It was the most discussed topic of the week.  
 
Boehner’s Impact on Education
Speaker John Boehner announced last week he will resign his leadership position and his seat in the House of Representatives at the end of next month.  The decision obviously has immense political implications but it also has a fairly significant impact on education policies at the federal level.  EDUCATION WEEK has a brief survey of his tenure in Congress and the effect his leaving will have on current education issues like the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.  “Boehner’s departure makes passing a NCLB rewrite during this Congress highly unlikely,” one education advisor notes in the article, “because of the difficulty of getting a final product over the finish line that also satisfies the same Republicans who pushed for Boehner’s ouster.”
 
Election 2016
The Badass Teachers Association came out strongly against a possible early endorsement (next month?) by the NEA in the upcoming presidential election (highlighted in a previous edition of the “Ed News”).  They made their feelings known in an open letter to Pres. Lily Eskelsen-Garcia and the NEA Leadership.  
 
Teacher Pensions Defended
Teachers’ and other union pension plans have come under fire as of late as politicians seek ways to cut outlays in order to shrink budget deficits and pay for more tax cuts for the “1 percenters.”  Michael Hiltzik’s column in the “Business” section of Sunday’s L.A. Timeslooks at a number of issues concerning the equity of teacher pensions.  He uses the example of a soon to retire special education teacher with 34 years of experience to illustrate the concerns that he raises.  His piece is titled “Longtime Teachers’ Pensions are Well Earned.”
 
New Education Research
Does increased per-pupil spending on poor and low-income students pay any dividends?  Most research has been inconclusive on the subject but a study, published in EducationNext,maintains that the higher funding does have a number of positive benefits.  “It becomes clear that increased school spending is linked to improved outcomes for students,” the 3 authors of the study suggest, “and for low-income students in particular.  Investigating the causal effect of school spending increases generated by the passage of [school-finance reforms], we conclude that increasing per-pupil spending yields large improvements in educational attainment, wages, and family income, and reductions in the annual incidence of adult poverty for children from low-income families.  For children from nonpoor families, we find smaller effects of increased school spending on subsequent educational attainment and family income in adulthood.”
 
Opt-Out Movement
Peggy Robinson, on her Peg With Pen blog, provides a brief history of the opt-out movement.  She traces the resistance to standardized testing in Colorado back to 2001 and profiles some of the leaders of the opt-out movement nationwide.  “Teachers were very much leaders in the Opt Out movement – I think this is very important to share because teachers did step up and speak the truth,” Robinson writes.  “As a teacher, it’s VERY important to me because I wouldn’t want folks to think teachers have stayed silent during this nightmare.”              In a separate post on a similar subject Robinson worries that as the opt-out movement matures and is recognized for the power that it wields it is facing some particularly dangerous times. She outlines where those threats are emanating from.  “Right now, in my opinion, is the most dangerous time for all of us.  We are on the brink of winning,” she notes, “so they must try to appease us – this is where the whole ‘less testing’ mantra comes in.  Less testing is better than getting nothing right??  Wrong!!!! Remember – we must get all for all children.  Do not negotiate and do not settle for less.”
 
Advanced Placement Program Q & A
The “EXPLAINER” feature in Sunday’s L.A. Times includes aprimer on the high school Advanced Placement program.  Answers are provided by a number of education experts who are listed at the end of the item.  “A 4.0 GPA isn’t enough to get into any college you want anymore.  Now, there are Advanced Placement classes,” the introduction to the Q & A notes.  “Once reserved for the most elite high school students, these college-level classes are finding their way into more schools, and more colleges expect to see them on applicants’ transcripts.”  The online version of this piece includes several more questions than the print edition provides.
New Supreme Court Term
The new U.S. Supreme Court Term commences next week (“The first Monday in October”) and the justices have several education related cases on their docket.  EDUCATION WEEK highlights two big ones that deal with union dues and affirmative action.  The first one, Friedrichs vs CTA, has been widely anticipated since the court announced at the close of its previous term in June that it would take the case.  “The justices will continue to add cases to their docket for the new term for several months.  Even if they do not add another education case, the new term will be the most significant for educators in several years,”  the article mentions.  “As Education Week reported at the start of the term last year, the justices had not heard a case involving school districts or public school administrators in five years.”
Vietnamese/English Language Program
Yesterday’s L.A. Times profiles California’s firstVietnamese/English dual-immersion program.  It is taking place in kindergarten at an elementary school in Orange County near the neighborhood know as “Little Saigon.”  “Many local Asian leaders, in television interviews and at events around the county, lend their support to the dual-immersion track, in which students get half of their instruction in Vietnamese and half in English.  The kids switch classrooms before lunchtime,” the piece explains.  “School officials plan to add an extra grade to the track each year, until a significant portion of students in kindergarten through sixth grade has the chance to study the Vietnamese language and culture.”
 
Another Teachers Strike
It might not be as large as the action in Seattle (see story number 4 from the top) but the 830 teachers and 110 paraprofessionals in the Scranton (Pennsylvania) School District, which serves 10,000 students, went out on strike yesterday protesting the lack of a contract since Sept. 1.  The Scranton Times-Tribune has the details.  “Starting at 7 a.m. Monday, teachers wearing red ‘standing up for public education’ shirts walked in front of their schools,” reports the article.  “The teachers carried ‘no contract, no work’ signs last used when teachers went on strike in 1998.  In front of the Administration Building, drivers honked their horns as teachers marched.”
 
TFA is Up to No Good
And finally, Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is upset with some shenanigans pulled by Teach for America over an article they published on their website last week titled “Badass Women of Teach for America.”  It seems that a number of members of the Badass Teachers Association had some less then complimentary reactions to the article which they posted in the “Comments” section of the original item.  That is until TFA deleted the remarks a few days later and disabled the ability to add additional ones.  That sparked Singer’s wrath and he was somehow able to reprint every, single one of those deleted items on his blog for all the world to see. To paraphrase those immortal words from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “Et tu, TFA?
                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

 

Ed News, Friday, September 25, 2015 Edition

 The ED NEWS

    A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

         
“…education is a sacred thing, and the pledge to build a school is a commitment
that cannot be surrendered or broken, regardless of how long it may take,
how many obstacles must be surmounted, or how much money it will cost. 
It is by such promises that the balance sheet of one’s life is measured.” 
― Greg MortensonStones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan
     
Charter Expansion Plan for LAUSD
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the 44-page report outlining how Eli Broad and some of his fellow billionaires and foundations planned to charterize the LAUSD by converting up to 50% of the district’s scho0ls by 2023.  Reaction to it was swift. Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reviews what the memo lays out and properly characterizes it as an “LA Plan to Crush Public Education.”  “This is not just about educational quality (or lack thereof), or just about how to turn education into a cash cow for a few high rollers– this is about a hamhanded effort to circumvent democracy in a major American city,” Greene worries.  There’s nothing in this plan about listening to the parents or community- only about what is going to be done to them by men with power and money.  This just sucks a lot.”  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for forwarding that one.                 The fractious, 7-member LAUSD school board, which has the ultimate authority to make policy for the district, was initially, predictably split over the Broad proposal.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Timesreports on the positions taken by several board members upon reading the report.  “Dividing lines quickly emerged on the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday over an ambitious plan to double the number of charter campuses across the city,” the piece begins, “with two members vowing an all-out fight and two others applauding the expansion of choice for parents.  The three remaining board members had deep reservations about the $490-million proposal, suggesting that the money should be used for existing schools.  One said the charter campaign should influence the selection of the next superintendent.”               A brief item on theUTLA website reports on the union’s rally and protest against the charter school expansion that took place in front of the new Broad museum on Sunday morning.  It includes a video (49:31 minutes) of the protest.  [Ed. note: It’s a shortened version of the one highlighted by the “Ed News” in the previous edition.]              In reaction to the L.A. Times story on Tuesday about the 44-page report that outlined an ambitious charter expansion plan for the LAUSD (see above and Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News”) yesterday’s paper had 7 (seven!) letters-to-the-editor expressing opinions on both sides of the issue.             This should give pause to those corporate “reformers” who are pushing an ambitious plan to expand charters in the LAUSD.  Karen Wolfe, a public school proponent and parent activist from the Venice Community in L.A. writes on her PS connect website  about a new report that clearly shows that LAUSD magnet schools far outperform district charters “In English Language Arts, 65% of magnets scored higher than the state average compared with 34% of independent charters.  On the Math assessment, 56% of magnets scored higher than the state average, more than twice what the charters scored,”Wolfe writes.  “This report proves what many public education advocates have always known: the diversity of our public schools is an asset, not something to avoid.  Charter school parents often choose charters because class sizes are smaller and the school community is similar to their own.  But this report turns that choice on its head.”  Want to delve into this subject deeper?  Wolfe includes two links to the district report and to the pertinent test score data.
 
Does Washington State Court Decision Against Charters Have National Implications?
The recent Supreme Court decision in Washington State against charter schools could have nationwide implications.  The author of an op-ed for the CT NEWS Junkie applies the legal reasoning behind the ruling to the State of Connecticut.  She also believes theVergara case (which she explains) is also significant to the Nutmeg state.  
 
New Evaluation System Being Developed for California
California has been working on a new accountability system to replace the old API (Academic Performance Index).  Officials are still trying to decide what and how much of a role student test scores will play in the system.  EdSource has an important article describing the thought processes going on to create a new academic measure for students and schools.  “Last year, as a result of adopting new Common Core standards in English language arts and math, the state stopped giving tests aligned to the previous California academic standards,”  it explains.  “The state board then suspended the API, with plenty of support from school organizations like the California School Boards Association and the state’s teachers unions.  Board members, all of whom are appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, have indicated they don’t intend to recreate the API using the results from Smarter Balanced tests.  Instead, the board wants to create a broad measure of student and school success that takes into account many measures of progress, such as high school graduation rates and student suspension rates, as indicators of progress in middle and elementary school.  There may be early education metrics as well.”
 
Merit Pay Plan Fizzles in Florida
A highly touted, at the time, partnership launched in 2009 between the Hillsborough County Schools in Florida and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to introduce a merit pay plan for teachers proved to be a financial bath for the district.  It ended up coughing up much more taxpayer money than originally anticipated while the Gates Foundation bailed early when it still owed $20 million.  The complicated details of the proposal and its aftermath are detailed in a story from the Tampa Bay Times.  “A seven-year effort to put better teachers in Hillsborough County schools is costing the system millions of dollars more than officials projected,” the item begins.  “And the district’s partner in the project, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is spending $20 million less than expected.”  The entire episode raises important questions about how trustworthy and dependable are those billionaires’ millions.              Peter Greene, aka the CURMUDGUCATION blogger, has a slightly more humorous take on the whole deal.  His piece is headlined “Gates Plan Crashed, Burns School District.”  “Public schools make an institutional commitment to educate students in their community for, well, ever.  Businessmen make a commitment to spend money on something as long as it makes sense to them,”Greene points out.  “This does not make businessmen evil, but it does mean that they are bad candidates to become involved in the institution of public education.  Hillsborough has been left holding a multi-million dollar bag because, while the Gates Foundation can walk away any time they feel like it, Hillsborough County schools are committed to educating children in the county as long as there are children in the county.”              Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, provides a scholarly analysis, as always, of what went wrong between Gates and the Hillsborough Schools.  Her column is titled “Hillsborough County Schools Loses Both Gates Money and Financial Reserves.”               Anthony Cody, on hisLIVING in DIALOGUE blog, cites both the Tampa Bay Times and Mercedes Schneider articles (see above) to ponder when the country will tire of private organizations taking taxpayer money for charters or other programs and then abandoning what they’ve started or absconding with the funds.  We have, in the United States, a well-reasoned and necessary separation of church and state.  Maybe, Cody wonders, it’s time to erect a wall  between philanthropies and public education.  “We need a fundamental reappraisal of the role philanthropists are playing in education,”  he implores.  “There ought to be a much higher wall between the influence of philanthropies and our public institutions. School boards and other elected bodies exist to guard the common good, and even in times when money is scarce, ought to be vigilant, and not allow policy to be set by philanthropists with deep pockets and big ideas.”
 
Where Does Some of that Foundation Money Go
Veteran educators often rail against the outsized impact of thosecorporate “reform” foundations run by Broad, Gates, Walton and others and the vast amounts of money they throw around .  This item may prove to be a real eyeopener.  The Walton Family Foundation published a detailed list of recipients of its largesse as it is required to do by law.  Take a couple of minutes and scroll through the list and you’ll see where their money is going.  You’ll find things like the California Charter School Association ($3.5 million!), KIPP Foundation ($300,000 + another $8.454 million), National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ($1 million), Teach for America ($2.43 million) and High Tech High Graduate School of Education ($414,200).  The list is very extensive and the second part of it is not education related (it deals with environmental grants).  Go ahead, take a peak and you’ll see the huge clout this one foundation has over education policy.  And, remember, this is just one of many such organizations attempting to influence critical education issues.
Achievement Gap Widens Between Rich and Poor Students
For many years there was lots of hand wringing and teeth gnashing over the conundrum of the achievement gap between different racial and ethnic groups.  Progress has actually been made on that front.  However, the latest problem to crop up is a growing education gap between rich and poor students.  In other words, before the problem was racial whereas now it is based on class.  An item in The New York Times explores this new disturbing reality.  “On the day they start kindergarten, children from families of low socioeconomic status are already more than a year behind the children of college graduates in their grasp of both reading and math.  And despite the efforts deployed by the American public education system,” the piece notes, “nine years later the achievement gap, on average, will have widened by somewhere from one-half to two-thirds.  Even the best performers from disadvantaged backgrounds, who enter kindergarten reading as well as the smartest rich kids, fall behind over the course of their schooling.”
Election 2016
The AFT (American Federation of Teachers) took some flack for their July endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  That decision was made almost half a year before the first primaries and 16 months prior to the general election in Nov., 2016.  Now the NEA (National Education Association) may announce a similar move.  They may officially endorse Clinton as early as next month.  Anthony Cody has a commentary on his LIVING in DIALOGUEblog titled “Why an Early NEA Clinton Endorsement Will Backfire.”  ” If NEA endorses Clinton or any other candidate without an adequate process that actively involves and engages their membership, and without clear answers to the vital questions we have regarding the Department of Education and Democratic party support of corporate reform,”  he suggests, “then teacher activism will take place outside of the NEA.  That will leave the organization weakened, and make the endorsement far less powerful than it could be.”               The author of theGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, Steven Singer, is also disturbed by the NEA’s plan to endorse Hillary Clinton (see above) for president without polling its members.  The union may make its choice early next month.  “Leadership at the National Education Association (NEA),” he maintains, “has been making troubling moves toward endorsing Clinton that could commit the organization to supporting the Democratic presidential hopeful with no regard for the wishes of its 3.2 million members.”
 
LAUSD Tackles the Problem of Sexting
The LAUSD is unveiling an ambitious program to combat the problem of sexting among students.  The district has created a video, lesson plans, posters and other materials for school personnel and parents in multiple languages as part of its “Now Matters Later” campaign to deal with the issue of students sharing explicit photos among themselves via social media.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times outlines what the district is offering and why it believes it’s necessary.  “As teens’ access to social media grows – 92% report going online daily and three-quarters have access to smartphones, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center report – sexting has proliferated,” it relates.  “Across the nation, police and prosecutors have charged teens with criminal offenses and more than 20 states have enacted legislation to deal with sexting.”
 
Charter Schools
How successful are charter schools?  Not very, based on this metric: how many have closed since 2000.  The Center for Media and Democracy put together a chart and interactive map with their research on the subject.  Here’s the “Ed News” standardized test question-of-the-day.  Between 2000 and 2013 how many charter campuses do you think have closed around the country?  (A) Less than 100 (B) Almost 2500 (C) Around 325 (D) About 1800.  If you selected “A” you are way off.  The correct answer is “B!”  Bonus question: How many of those closures were in California?  (A) 294 (B) Less than 35 (C) 156 (D) 217.  Correct answer = “A!”  “As CMD has calculated, nearly 2,500 charter schools have shuttered between 2001 and 2013, affecting 288,000 American children enrolled in primary and secondary schools,” the article notes, “and the failure rate for charter schools is much higher than for traditional public schools.  For example, in the 2011-2012 school year, charter school students ran two and half times the risk of having their education disrupted by a school closing and suffering academic setbacks as a result of closure.  Dislocated students are less likely to graduate.”  Be sure to click on the (two) links that take you to the both state-by-state chart and the map.
 
Online School Enrollments Booming
The education world is nowadays constantly  discussing the pros and cons of public schools, private/parochial schools, charters, magnets, homeschooling and other options.  One area that often gets left out is online or virtual schools.  The topic needs to be addressed because the numbers of students who attend fully online schools or have taken an online class are surging and the phenomenon often flies under the radar.  POLITICO has an extended piece on these schools titled “Virtual Schools are Booming Who’s Paying Attention?”  The story is subtitled “Millions of Kids, Some as Young as 5, Now Get Their Schooling Online.  Just One Problem: Nobody Knows How Well it Works.”  “Where online schools have produced results that have actually been studied, the grades aren’t pretty,” the author reports.  “According to the latest findings of the National Education Policy Center, a nonprofit housed at the University of Colorado-Boulder, most students enrolled in full-time virtual schools do not perform as well as their classmates attending brick-and-mortar schools. Retention rates show a high level of churn, raising questions about just how cost effective it is to be funneling taxpayer dollars to online operations.  And while the state standards that teachers must meet to work in a virtual classroom are largely the same as in traditional brick-and-mortar schools, we know very little about what makes for a quality online instructor.”  Here are just 2 numbers from the story to demonstrate how extensive virtual schools have become: 5 million K-12 students have taken at least one online course; Over 300,000 American children were full-time online students during the 2013-14 school year.
 
The Teaching Profession
[Ed. note: As a former secondary social studies teacher for 37 years with the LAUSD before retiring in 2009 this next item strikes a nerve. Any other history teachers can most certainly sympathize]:EDUCATION WEEK prints a commentary headlined “Why Do Students Hate History?  Some Thoughts on the ‘Boring’ Social Studies.”  The author is the Social Studies Dept. Chair at a Catholic high school in Akron, Ohio, where’s he starting his 13th year.  He explains why history is important and offers some suggestions for making it pertinent and relevant to students in the 21st century.  “If we want our students to make reasoned decisions,” he maintains, “then they’ll have to be able to understand the complicated mix of people, places, and things that lead to an outcome.”
 
The Opt-Out Movement
And finally, could the opt-out movement achieve some of its goals?  THE HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at that issue and thinks it has a better chance at the state level than in Washington, D.C.  The information is based on a poll taken by Whiteboard Advisors about the extent of the opt-out movement and its growing impact.  “Only 47 percent of those surveyed, including current and former U.S. Department of Education leaders, Congressional staffers, state school chiefs and experts at think tanks, expect to see any change to federal law,” according to the article.  “By comparison, 70 percent say they think the thousands of students refusing to take exams will force states to rethink what tests they give and how they use the results of those tests to judge students, educators and schools.”
 
                                  http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED (Alumni of Occidental in Education)
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Tuesday, September 22, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

         A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

          
 
      Fall officially begins at 1:21 am (PDT) tomorrow morning.
     [Ed. note: Has this been a (VERY) hot summer or am I dreaming?]
 
     Inline image 1
 
 “You musn’t neglect your education in favor of your studies.” 
                 ―  Nick O’DonohoeThe Magic and the Healing
LAUSD Supt. Search
A group of civic leaders has urged the LAUSD board to create an outside committee to spearhead the search for a new district superintendent.  Seven people, representing various city organizations, met privately last month with board president Steve Zimmer to lay out their ideas.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Timesdescribes the gathering, who was in attendance and what the goals of the leaders are.   “The unofficial delegation met with school board President Steve Zimmer, who did not commit to the idea but said he would put the matter before the full board,” it notes.  “So far, the board has not taken action on the proposal.”              Diane Ravitch’s blog has some pithy comments about the above story.  “Oh, dear. How shocking it would be if the LAUSD board picked a leader who didn’t buckle to the pro-privatization gang?  What if it were an educator who was unafraid of Eli Broad?  He has admitted he knows nothing about education,” she scoffs, “but he can’t stop trying to control it with his billions.
 
New Initiative to Redesign Public High Schools
Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, last week launched a $50 million national competition to develop ideas to redesign the American public high school.  A piece in Thursday’s L.A. Timesoutlines the initiative and how it hopes to achieve its goal.  “XQ: The Super School Project is calling on teams of educators, students, civic leaders, artists and others to create high schools that foster dynamic learning, critical thinking, intellectual flexibility, collaboration and other skills needed for the modern world,” it explains.  “The current high school model was developed a century ago to produce factory workers and hasn’t changed much since, said Powell Jobs, whose husband, the late Steve Jobs, fostered out-of-the-box thinking at Apple.  Under the project, finances would be awarded to pay for at least five new schools over five years.  One key focus will be to narrow the yawning gap in academic achievement between students of different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.”               Two letters appeared in Sunday’sTimes reacting to two different stories in Thursday’s paper.  One commented on the parent’s op-ed about the growing reliance on fundraising ideas to raise money for extracurricular activities on school campuses (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News).  Both made reference to the plan to redesign public high schools (see above).
 
SomeDam Poet is BAAACK!
Diane Ravitch’s blog has the latest installment of the witty, satirical and clever writings from the anonymous author known as “SomeDam Poet.”  This time he parodies “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes as he tackles a number of current education subjects and individuals like VAM, testing, opt-out,  New York Gov. Cuomo, Diane Ravitch and the New York State Chancellor of Education Mary Ellen Elia. His piece is titled “The Mywayman.”  If you are not familiar with the original version of Noyes’ classic you can find it byclicking here.  To whet your appetite, here’s the first stanza of the parody:    

THE VAM was a torrent of darkness among reformy goals
The school was a ghostly galleon tossed upon rocky shoals
The Test was a ribbon of Pearson tying the Common Core,
And the Mywayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The Mywayman came riding, up to the school-house door.

 
You have to read the rest of it.  It’s a real hoot!
 
Innovative Plan to Help Struggling Schools
The legislation that created the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) set up a new state agency in California to assist and monitor struggling schools.  The organization is called The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) and the “On California” blog for EDUCATION WEEK conducts an interview with the man selected to lead the group who describes what his agency hopes to accomplish and how it plans to do it.  “Carl Cohn, who started teaching in Compton 45 years ago and went on to lead Long Beach and San Diego schools, has been named CCEE’s first executive director,” it notes in the introduction to the Q & A.  “Cohn is also a former State School Board member and faculty colleague at Claremont Graduate University.”
 
Charter School Expansion Plan for LAUSD
Two letters were published in Saturday’s L.A. Times reacting to the paper’s extended editorial on Sunday about the proposal for a major expansion of charters in the LAUSD.  The first one is from a teacher who spent 4 years in the district and 3 years at “many charter schools.”  He is not very complimentary of his latter experience.                If you thought the plan to expand charters in the LAUSD was just a rumor or a bad dream.  Think again.  TheL.A. Times obtained a copy of the 44-page proposal and features it in a prominent, front-page story in today’s paper.  “Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan.  But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward,” the article reveals, “including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.”  This item includes a sidebar which you can click on to get the full document  titled “The Great Public Schools Now Initiative.”  It reads like a blueprint for the destruction of the public school system in L.A. 
 
Chicago Hunger Strike Ends
The 12 hunger strikers who were protesting the closing of Dyett High School on the Southside of Chicago ended their action on Saturday after 34 days.  Michelle Gunderson, veteran elementary school teacher in Chicago, reports on this latest development and reviews what was accomplished by it on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.
 
Texas Teen and His now “Famous” Clock
The Saturday “Mailbag” feature in the L.A. Times deals withAhmed Muhamed, the 14-year-old ninth grader who was arrested when he brought a homemade clock to sch00l that authorities feared might be a bomb (the story was highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”).  The paper’s letters’ editor briefly reviewed the story and reprinted 3 reader comments about it.   The “Leadership 360” column in EDUCATION WEEK looks at what it calls the “Ahmed and the Clock” case and wonders if the whole sorry episode can be traced back to those “zero tolerance” policies that many charters and some public schools adhere to.  How would the situation have played out in your classroom or in another one in your school?  “Even without knowing more about the details of the case, we think the facts . . . . serve as enough information to provoke questions about how we address issues of bias, prejudice, policies, practices, and common sense,” the authors suggest.  “The treatment of Ahmed Mohamed should serve as a wake-up call for everyone to step back, just a moment, to reflect on our fears and our rushes to judgment.”
 
Free ED WEEK Webinar
This one is particularly germane given the disastrous LAUSD “iPad-for-all” program.  EDUCATION WEEK is presenting a free webinar titled “How to Deploy a 1:1 iPad Program in Education” on Thursday, Oct. 1, from 11 am to noon PDT.  Featured guests include an expert from JAMF software and the head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence.  For more information and to preregister (required) please click here.
 
A Week of Letters to the Times
The “Number and Letters” feature in Saturday’s L.A. Timesreported on a week’s worth of letters-to-the-editor. “587 printable letters to the editor were received between last Friday and this Thursday.  100 letters were about the GOP presidential candidates, including the debate, the week’s most-discussed topic.  44 letters discussed the Syrian refugee crisis, the runner-up topic.  33 letters weighed education policy, the third most-discussed topic.”
 
Terms of Seattle Teachers Strike Settlement
Diane Ravitch’s blog reviews the key terms of the contract that was negotiated after a week-long strike by teachers and other personnel in Seattle.  The Seattle Education Association revealed the terms of the deal and 83% of union members voted to ratify the agreement on Sunday.  “One of the major victories of the Seattle Education Association,” Ravitch relates, “was that it reached agreement with the district to eliminate VAM.  Henceforth, teachers will not be judged by the test scores of their students.  Ding, dong, the fake metric of teacher evaluation is dead!  At least in Seattle.”               Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School and one of the leaders of the boycott  of the state’s standardized tests in 2013, explains why the strike and the settlement are a victory for social justice in Seattle.  His comments appear on his I AM AN EDUCATOR website. “This new contract contains many hard fought wins for social justice that the school district said it would never grant,” Hagopian argues.  “These groundbreaking victories are against the abuses of high-stakes standardized testing, for more recess, and for race and equity teams in the schools are a dramatic departure from our previous  broken model of collective bargaining and hold the potential to transform educator unionism in the nation.”
 
Teacher Prep Programs
Did you take a History of Education class in preparing for your credential?  Today, many experts complain about those calcified teacher prep programs and urge colleges and universities and other trainers of future educators to bring their curriculum into the 21st century.  Many training institutions have tried to update their offerings but now some of those original experts are bemoaning the loss of courses in the history of education.  A feature inEDUCATION WEEK looks at the situation.  “Once an ubiquitous course requirement that nearly all aspiring teachers took,” it begins, “the history of education seems to be going the way of land-line phones, floppy disks, and shorthand.  Crowded out by an ever-expanding teacher-preparation curriculum in the latter half of the 20th century, such courses are now almost exclusively electives reserved for graduate education students, according to scholars who have documented the decline.”
 
UTLA Rally Against Charter School Expansion
United Teachers Los Angeles staged a rally in front of the new downtown Broad museum of modern art Sunday morning to protest the billionaire’s involvement in a plan to create enough charter schools in the LAUSD to serve 50% of the students.  It was estimated that several hundred red -clad union members were joined by parents, students, community leaders and guests who paraded in front of the massive, block-long structure on the first day it was open to the public.  You can view the entire event (118 minutes) through a replay of the livestream on the schoolhouse Live website by clicking here.  Select the “Video Library” section in the lower-left hand corner of the screen shot and click on the “Livestream Sunday” event 1:58;32.  The press conference, featuring UTLA Pres. Alex Caputo-Pearl, a parent from New Orleans, a student and an LAUSD Art teacher, begins at about the 1:04:30 mark and continues for approximately 28 minutes.  The rest of the video footage focuses on the marchers rallying along Grand Avenue in front of the museum.               Yesterday’s L.A. Times had a storydescribing the UTLA protest at the Broad Museum on Sunday (see above).  “Currently, more than 100,000 L.A. students attend charters,” it relates, “about 16% of district enrollment, according to district figures.  L.A. Unified has more charters, 207, and more charter students than any other school district in the country.  Broad and his wife have played a major role in the growth of charters in Los Angeles and elsewhere, investing $144 million, according to figures released by their foundation.  While officials from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation said last month that the current plans for a charter expansion are still being formed, charter school representatives involved in the talks said the ideas being discussed are ambitious.”  [Ed note: Please refer to the story headlined “Charter School Expansion Plan for LAUSD” towards the top of this edition of the “Ed News”].
 
Many Head Start Teachers Struggle Financially
THE HECHINGER REPORT has an interesting piece about the low pay earned by many Head Start teachers and other early education workers who are providing services to poor and low-income children.  The story addresses the situation in California but it is a nationwide problem as the piece points out.  “The average Head Start salary for lead teachers with bachelor’s degrees was between $30,623 and $34,794 in 2013,” the story indicates.  “Despite early childhood education’s high position on President Obama’s national agenda and studies that have proven its benefits, few districts pay the price for high-quality teachers.”
 
LAUSD Read the Riot Act for its Treatment of Sexual Abuse Victims
In her column in today’s L.A. Times Sandy Banks has a scathing indictment of the LAUSD for the way it treated a 14-year-old girlwho was sexually abused by her teacher. The district argued that the victim was as much at fault for the situation and paraded her sexual history before the court hearing the case.  Banks provides the sordid details of the crime and the district’s equally squalid handling of this particular victim and others.  “The district’s win-at-all-costs strategy,” Banks charges, “is a shocking example of either indefensible ignorance or callous indifference to the vulnerability of its students.”
 
Another Milestone for Ravitch
And finally, today Diane Ravitch’s blog passed 23 million page hits since it debuted in April, 2012.  “The blog is my virtual living room,” she writes to mark the occasion, “and all are invited to join the conversation.  We talk about how to help children, public schools, and our society.  We don’t always agree, and that’s good. We learn from one another.”   Congratulations to her and here’s to the next 23 million.
                                  http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                   

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED (Alumni of Occidental in Education)
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Friday, September 18, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

      A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

          
 
“[E]ducation is a holistic endeavor that involves the whole person, including our bodies, 
in a process of formation that aims our desires, primes our imagination, and orients us to the world — all before we ever start thinking about it.” 
―  James K.A. SmithDesiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
Texas High School Student Arrested for Building a Clock
A Texas 9th grader was arrested after bringing the clock he invented to school and officials were concerned it might be a bomb.  The New York Times describes the incident and relates how Pres. Obama, upon hearing of how the young man was treated, invited him to bring his clock to the White House for Astronomy Night next month.  The article includes a short video (2:03) minutes of the student, Ahmed Mohamed detailing the situation.
 
The Teaching Profession
The Washington Post has a story titled “The Number of Black Teachers Has Dropped in Nine U.S. Cities” based on a report from the Albert Shanker Institute (ASI) that studied the demographics between 2002 and 2012.  The nine cities included New York, Los Angeles and Chicago (the 3 largest school districts in the country).  Washington, D.C., and New Orleans had the largest percentage drop in their Black teacher corps.   “The issue of teacher diversity is important because research has suggested that students who are racially paired with teachers — black teachers working with black students and Hispanic teachers working with Hispanic students — do better academically,” the article points out. “Teachers of color also can serve as powerful role models for minority students, who are more likely to live in poor neighborhoods than white students and less likely to know other adults who are college graduates.”  You can find the full study (126 pages) titled “The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education” from the ASI website by clicking here.  The L.A. profile is on p. 54-62 of the report.
 
Election 2016
The second Republican presidential debate took place on Wednesday at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.  A number of present and former governors are running in both the Democratic (O’Malley, Chafee) and GOP (Bush, Jindal, Christie, Walker, Perry–he withdrew, Pataki, Kasich) primaries.  What are their records on education policies?  Since many of them push student test scoresEDUCATION WEEK decided to see how pupils in their states did on those standardized exams, graduation rates and and U.S. Dept. of Ed. Achievement Index.   A caveat:  “It’s very tricky to draw a direct cause-and-effect relationship,” the item warns, “between a particular policy—for instance, a governor’s decision to increase education spending or add more charter schools—and an improvement in student achievement, researchers say.”  Be sure to click on the sidebar “Graphic” titled “K-12 Records of the Presidential Candidates” for an person-by-person comparison.              Just like the first Republican presidential debate last month, the second one held on Wednesday was very thin on K-12 education issues.  ED WEEK reviews some of the brief comments that were made in regards to that topic
 
Charter Schools
How fair and ethical is this?  The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday issued a ruling that will bring a financial windfall to a charter school in the state that was closed for being one of the worst performing campuses.  OK, so?  The author of the 10th Period blog reveals that several justices on that court took campaign contributions from the founder of the school.  Does that raise some concerns in your mind?  “The Ohio Supreme Court ruled [Tuesday] that White Hat Management — the state’s worst performing large-scale charter school operator — gets to keep all the equipment it uses public money to buy, even if the school was shut down for being one of the state’s worst performing schools.  White Hat — run by Republican mega donor David Brennan — can sell the equipment how it sees fit,” the author details, “even if it was its own incompetence and failure that led to the school’s closing.  While this opinion may seem somewhat surprising, what isn’t surprising is that the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion has taken $5,000 in campaign contributions from Brennan and his family.”  Several other justices also accepted campaign money from the chain’s founder.  Hmmm.              Here’s a story about the ruling (see above) from The Columbus Dispatch.
 
Testing & Common Core
Illinois, which administered the PARCC tests, released its preliminary results, and they were less than rosy.  EDUCATION WEEK has the disappointing details.  “The release was only the second from a state that gave the PARCC tests.  Earlier this week, Ohio released results.  Neither set of scores is final, because they don’t include results from paper-and-pencil versions of the test,”the item points out, “and not all groups of students are included yet.  For instance, in Illinois, those who took the test in Braille or American Sign Language aren’t yet included.  As a result, some changes are anticipated when final results are released.  But the glimpse of student performance in Illinois confirms what many policymakers had been warning about: Proficiency rates are lower than what states have seen on their previous tests.”               A federal judge Wednesday rejected Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s attempt to block the Common Core Standards nationwide.  ED WEEK describes the case and the jurist’s decision.  “In a lawsuit filed last year, Jindal, a Republican, claimed that the U.S. Department of Education illegally used the Race to the Top grant program to coerce states to adopt the standards,”  the article summarizes.  “The governor also said in his suit that the standards were part of an illegal attempt by the federal government to intrude into classroom instruction, and that states faced punishment under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act if they tried to drop the standards.”  Jindal, who at first was a supporter of the standards before turning against them [Ed. note: Pres. George W. Bush called something like that “flip-flopping,” but I digress], announced that he would appeal the decision.               Mercedes Schneider,the prolific blogger whose articles are frequently highlighted in the “Ed News,” has a new book titledCommon Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?  It offers an excellent history of the standards and how they are impacting students, teachers and schools and what’s in them for politicians and  publishers.  You can read a review of the book from The Progressive POPULIST by clicking here.  “To read her book,” it concludes, “is to learn what the 99% is up against as the one percent wages an aggressive campaign to further undermine public education via the CCSS.  It is a Trojan Horse of education privatization.   She blasts out the message that the CCSS, the latest flavor of elite edureform, destroys public education. Ordinary folks such as herself can and do fight back.”   Diane Ravitch on her blog describes the book as  “A must for journalists, parents, and educators.”
 
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Teacher Shortages
Now that Labor Day has passed and most, if not all, school districts have started the new 2015-16 school year, the widely reported teacher shortage is coming into clearer focus.  The Associated Press (AP) has a story on what states are having the biggest problems finding educators to fill their classrooms.  “School administrators and academic researchers point to a variety of reasons for the shortages,” it relates.  “During the recession years, many districts shed jobs and those that were hiring had plenty of applications from laid-off teachers, new graduates and professionals looking for work outside their field.  Now as school district budgets recover, they are recruiting from a smaller pool of freshly minted educators, many of whom are considering multiple job offers.”    The article spends some time describing the situation in California and in the Los Angeles area.
 
Texting and Education
You are all probably familiar with the public service campaign urging people not to text and drive.  That’s just plain dangerous to yourself, your passengers and the people in the cars around you.  Could texting play a role in education?  Believe it or not, that’s the topic of a new book featured in THE HECHINGER REPORT.   “Facing some of America’s biggest education challenges,” the piece begins, “Benjamin Castleman thinks small.  In his new book,The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies can Improve Education, the University of Virginia education professor argues that the humble text message can boost student achievement, improve study habits and help students stay on track in the transition from high school to college.”  The author of the article, alluringly titled “can u fix education w/txts?” reviews a number of ideas Castleman presents in his book.  Put your phone down for a minute, stop texting and check out his thoughts and suggestions. 
 
Are School Libraries Headed in the Same Direction as the Pay Phone?
Remember spending time in your K-12 library?  Is the digital age going to make that resource obsolete?  The author of the “Education Futures” column for EDUCATION WEEK believes that if they are not ready to change that may be where they are headed.  His commentary is titled “8 Ways to Rescue Public School Libraries From Becoming Obsolete.”  “There is really no reason why school libraries should fear competing sources of information,” he concludes.  “With the right adjustments, K-12 libraries can work alongside the rest of the data that students access on a daily basis.  Remaining relevant is simply a matter of carrying foundational ideals forward and adapting to an ever-changing information culture.”
 
Ed Tech
The HUFFPOST TECH blog has a story titled “Putting More Technology in Schools May Not Make Kids Smarter: OECD.”  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development surveyed 34 countries to see how technology impacted student learning.  “While school districts around the globe,” the article reports, “have invested immensely in technological resources over the past few years — 72 percent of students in OECD countries now use computers at school — this development isn’t necessarily having a positive impact on student learning.  The OECD report, which bills itself as a ‘first of its kind’ analysis of how students’ digital skills compare across the globe, suggests there is a fine line between technology being helpful and harmful.”  You can find the full report (204 pages) titled “Students, Computers and Learning–Making the Connection” by clicking here.
 
Teacher Evaluations
The stringent requirement under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top that new teacher evaluations make heavy use of student test scores is finally being walked back a bit. “Over the past year and a half, the U.S. Department of Education has offered states more and more flexibility when it comes to getting evaluations aligned to common-core tests in place and using them to make personnel decisions.” the article from EDUCATION WEEK explains.  “In the latest twist, the department this summer has allowed at least two states—Arkansas and Massachusetts—until the 2017-18 school year to finish putting in place teacher evaluations aligned to new, statewide tests that gauge students’ college-and-career readiness, according to the states’ waiver-renewal letters.”
 
Vergara Case Back in the News
Remember the Vergara case?  The one in which the judge ruled that tenure and certain due process and seniority rights relating to teachers in California were unconstitutional in a decision handed down in June, 2014.  The case was appealed by the defendants andDiane Ravitch’s blog reprints a press release from them about the Americus (Friend of the Court) briefs that were filed in support of their position before the California Court of Appeals.  “Some of the nation’s top legal scholars, education policy experts, civil rights advocates, award-winning teachers, school board members and administrators,” it states, “filed five amici curiae, or ‘friend of the court,’ briefs with the California Court of Appeal today.  The filings shine a spotlight on the numerous and major flaws that would harm students in last year’s decision striking down important due process rights for California educators, as well as other laws governing hiring and layoffs of state educators.  The briefs strongly criticize the Vergara ruling on both legal and policy grounds, urging that the decision be reversed.”  Ravitch includes a link to all the Amicus briefs and a list of the people and groups who signed them.               The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK previews the upcoming Appeals Court hearing in California of the Vergara case that is scheduled to take place in the fall.  The article looks at some of the key individuals and groups who support the initial decision and those who are opposed.  The list is a virtual “Who’s Who in Ed. Policy.”  “If you needed any more evidence that this case has severely polarized people working in the teacher-policy arena,”  it maintains, “a pile of recently submitted friend-of-the-court briefs should clear that up right away.  There are a legion of familiar education names on both sides.”  The piece includes links to those briefs.
 
Fundraising for School Activities on the Rise
An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times is written by a parent in Redlands who outlines the increasing reliance on fundraising by students and their families to help pay for such extracurricular activities as sports and school speech and debate teams.  She lists the many different ways students are encouraged to raise the dollars needed to keep these activities going and explains why “fees” can’t be levied.  Her commentary is titled “Hawking Poinsettias to Pay for High School Extracurriculars.”   “School funding took a big hit during the Great Recession and the state’s ensuing budget crisis,”the author notes.  “Despite countermeasures including state laws that established minimum funding levels and authorized a temporary tax increase, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that California ranks 36th in the nation in spending per pupil.  With the years of plenty quite clearly behind us, some schools have taken a hard look at whether to keep programs like football at all, or pare down to the absolute academic essentials.”
 
Ed. Sec. Duncan Interview
U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan has a little over 16 months remaining in office.  He engaged in a Q & A withEDUCATION WEEK while his back-to-school bus tour traveled through the upper Midwest.  In response to a question about his number 1 goal before leaving office, Duncan had this to say: “I’d love to see high school graduation continue to rise.  [Here Duncan noted that rates have risen not just overall, but for every subgroup of students over the past few years.]  The challenge is how do we get better faster.”  You can also read his answers to queries about NCLB, waivers, reauthorization of ESEA and the opt-out movement.
 
School Takeovers Aimed at Black/Latino Communities?
THE ALLIANCE TO RECLAIM OUR SCHOOLS has an eye-opening investigative report (24 pages) titled “Out of Control–The Systematic Disenfranchisement of African American and Latino Communities Through School Takeovers.”  It looks at a number ofstate takeovers of schools and districts and wonders why most of them are in majority Black and/or Latino communities.  “These state takeovers are happening almost exclusively in African American and Latino schools and districts—in many of the same communities that have experienced decades of underinvestment in their public schools and consistent attacks on their property, agency and self-determination,” the introduction to the report lays out.  “In the past decade, these takeovers have not only removed schools from local authorities, they are increasingly being used to facilitate the permanent transfer of the schools from public to private management.”
 
Inglewood USD to get New State-Appointed Administrator
The financially troubled Inglewood Unified School District will be getting its fourth state-appointed chief since the California Dept. of Education took over the district 3 years ago.  The latest manager previously served as the state-selected trustee in Oakland, was an area superintendent in San Diego and most recently served as  superintendent in San Jose.  Today’s L.A. Times has a short item about the appointment.  “San Jose Unified Supt. Vincent Matthews has been appointed to serve as state administrator for the 13,000-student Inglewood school district,” it reports, “which fell under state control in October 2012 after the governor and the legislature granted it a $55-million emergency loan.”
 
Seattle Strike
And finally, Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reports that the Seattle teachers who went on strike last week appear to have won most of their demands and they weren’t just about pay and working conditions.  He calls it “A Win for Social Justice.”  “Now that a tentative settlement is in place (to be approved by the teachers on Sunday), and it appears teachers have been victorious in getting most of their demands met,” he relates, “it’s apparent what teachers were fighting for were issues that are in the best interests of their students. . . .  However, the pay increase – a bargaining position the teachers ultimately greatly compromised on – was just one item in a much more extensive list of demands,” Bryant continues, “that demonstrate how badly fans of education reform misrepresent and misunderstand  what teachers unions often fight for.”
 
                             http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                   

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

 

Ed News, Tuesday, September 15, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   
“Education is a lifetime assignment & terminates when you do.” 
―  Orrin WoodwardLIFE
California’s Test Results
The California SBAC test was administered for the first time this year and results were released  on Wednesday.  Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” had the long anticipated disappointing numbers.  Saturday’s L.A. Times, in another prominent front-page story, reported that the scores indicated a growing gap between certain racial and ethnic groups in the Golden State.   “Although scores declined for all students, blacks and Latinos saw significantly greater drops than whites and Asians,” the article notes, “widening the already large gap that was evident in results from earlier years, according to a Times analysis.”              Two letters appeared in today’s Times in reaction to the story above about the widening achievement gap between Whites/Asians and Latinos/Blacks.               Diane Ravitch’s blog commented on the first item above from the Times.  She was not surprised by the test results “The tests are ‘harder,’ ‘more rigorous,’ and so the students who already had low scores have even lower scores.  This is akin to raising the bar in a track event from 4 feet to 6 feet.  Those who couldn’t clear the 4 foot bar will certainly not clear the higher bar,”she points out.  “If anyone remembers, we were told repeatedly that the Common Core would close achievement gaps between whites/Asians and Blacks/Hispanics, and between upper income/low income students.  It hasn’t, and it won’t.  The tests were designed to fail a majority of students of every group.  The developers predicted mass failures last fall.  Let’s just say that the Common Core and the tests aligned to them are a disaster for American education,”  Ravitch continues.  “Kids don’t necessarily try harder when they fail again and again. They may give up.  Many people suspect that the purpose of all this manufactured failure is to make parents eager for charter schools and vouchers. They may be right.”             3 letters were published in Saturday’s edition of the Times reacting to the paper’s story on Wednesday about the release of the state’s test scores.   One is from Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of education at USC.   [Ed. note: On the Times’ website, the article cited as the one the letters responded to is incorrect. The print edition has the right one.]              How didCalifornia’s charter schools fare on the just released standardized test results compared to the public schools they are competing with?  (A) The same, (B) Worse, (C) Better, (D) A & B.  OK, time’s up, pencils down.   “D” is the best answer.  The San Jose Mercury News did an analysis of charter schools serving low-income students in the San Jose area and the results were quite discouraging.  Please keep in mind, charters have been sold to the public as being (vastly) superior to their public school counterparts when it comes to student achievement.   “Like paragliders caught in a downdraft, test scores of many once high-flying charter schools plummeted on state results released last week,” the piece reveals.  “Even more so than their public-school counterparts’ tests, a number of charter schools’ scores took a nosedive.  Now schools are scrambling to examine why.”  Be sure to check out the chart at the end of the article with comparable results for charter campuses in the San Jose area.  It’s is quite revealing.  Somebody should do an analysis of charters in the LAUSD area and see how they did compared to their public school counterparts.  Anyone want to volunteer?  [Ed. note: I wonder if the L.A. Times has the resources and the courage to do it?]
 
LAUSD Supt. Search
The K-12 NEWS NETWORK reports on a new parent activist group called “Vet the Supe” that   demands to be included in the search for and selection of the next LAUSD superintendent.  They are worried the board will pick another person like John Deasy who left the district in October under some very dark clouds.  You can find their burgeoning Facebook page by clicking here.
Charter Schools
Charter school have their positive points but the “Ed News” has major concerns about the amount of money they are taking away from the public schools and their lack of accountability and transparency among others.  Recent editions have recounted the myriad problems that have arisen with a number of charter chains in Ohio and in other states.  Florida is not far behind according to this item from Jeff Bryant on ALTERNET.  He believes a trail of “corruption and chaos” has followed the Sunshine State’s attempt to implement school choice.  Bryant doesn’t hesitate to point a finger at the person who got the ball rolling on education “reforms” in Florida–Jeb Bush.  “Charter schools may continue to enjoy generally favorable ratings in national surveys of Americans,”Bryant concedes, “but many parents and public officials across South Florida, where these schools are now more prevalent than in other parts of the country, openly complain about an education ‘innovation’ that seems more and more like an unsavory business venture.  The obsession over money that is driving charter school growth in Florida is increasingly evident to those who bother to look. . . .  Most people trace the manic scramble for more charter schools in Florida to one source: former governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.  In 1996, two years before he became governor,” Bryant continues, “Bush helped steer passage of the state’s first law permitting charter schools.  That same year, he led the effort to open the state’s first charter, Liberty City Charter School in Miami.”               This next item should not come as a big surprise.  A lengthy editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Timessupports the rapid expansion of charter school in the LAUSD.  The “Ed News’ highlighted a recent article that planned for charters to service 50% of district students by 2023.  The current figure is a little over 20%.  The piece offers a few suggestions about improved oversight of charters and better regulation of how students are selected but typically nothing about increased funding and providing much needed services to assist the students of the LAUSD.  “A new era of charter schools is at hand, one in which they seek to be a bigger, more established player in the education arena rather than simply a model of how public schools might improve.  But California law and policy need to be brought out of the 20th century.  The state needs well-enforced rules requiring charters to keep their doors open to all students,” the editorial concludes.  “Poor academic performance cannot be grounds for keeping a child from enrolling, or for telling him or her to leave.  By all means, bring on more charter schools, as long as they are built on the principles of academic excellence and equal access for all.”  [Ed. note: One question: I wonder how many charter school operators are truly interested in “academic excellence and equal access for all” or is it just about the MONEY?  Just asking!]             Writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, a parent explains why she took her now 6th grade son out of the Basis Mesa Charter in Mesa, Arizona, despite his doing quite well there.  “BASIS schools are a good idea in theory but I think they are leaving out the human touch.  They have many dedicated teachers and administrators who truly care about the students, but whose hands are tied by the sheer volume of information they need to cover in a particular year,” the parent confesses.  “It’s the inch deep, mile wide approach to education that may look great on a transcript but may leave your child with great deficits in other aspects of their lives.  Also, since many of the teachers have no actual teaching experience or background they lack what it takes to engage and motivate students and are not the best choice for teaching such advanced material.”              Walt Gardner, the 28-year teaching veteran of the LAUSD, lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and regular columnist for EDUCATION WEEK offers some intriguing ideas about why it’s so difficult to evaluate charter schools and compare them to public schools.  His commentary appears on his “Reality Check” column for Ed Week.  “Of course charter schools have posted better results than traditional public schools in Los Angeles and – by extension – in some other cities as well,” he writes.  “Why shouldn’t they?  They counsel out low-achieving students, who then enroll in traditional public schools.  They also erect barriers for enrollment, such as expecting parents to ‘volunteer’ for certain activities, and requiring long application essays.  In short, they operate like private schools.”
 
Standards
Paul Karrer, a 5th grade teacher from Castroville, writes about “high standards” and why they are so important to the corporate “reformers.”  His commentary appears in the Monterey Herald. High standards are a sickening joke — a money-making bandwagon,” the author complains.  “A distraction from what is needed.  Once again a top-down phony solution.”  Karrer is quick to point out he’s not against “high standards” but, then again, who is?  His argument is that the “reformers” and privatizers are using the concept to divert attention from the real problem–poverty–and ignore what the solutions to that problem are.
 
Teach for America
Teach for America is in the cross hairs once again.  A piece fromNPQ (NONPROFIT QUARTERLY) is titled “After 25 Years, Teach for America Results are Consistently Underwhelming.”  It believes the organization has done an excellent job of public relations but when one looks beyond the hype one finds less than the advertised successes.  
Testing
Are there any alternatives to the high stakes, standardized test based accountability regimen that has been in place in the public schools since No Child Left Behind became law in 2001?  The “Ed News” has explored a few programs that, in some cases, get waivers from state departments of education in return for developing innovative ways to evaluate student learning.  A story in THE Nation explores just such a program called the New York Performance Standards Consortium.  The article presents the plan as an antidote to the growing opt-out movement in the Empire State.  “Remarkably, examples of ‘opt-in’ models already exist at the high school level, with many of them thriving within the New York City public school system,” the article relates.  “Thirty-eight schools in the statewide New York Performance Standards Consortium have waivers exempting their students from having to take most Regents exams, the statewide standardized tests required of all high-school students, as well as other uniform measures of achievement.  In their place, they have what Ann Cook, executive director of the Consortium, calls ‘a different vehicle for accountability’: rigorous ‘performance-based’ assessments that are individualized, student focused, research oriented and often interactive.”  The reporter of the story visits several schools and describes how the non-exam assessments work. Diane Ravitch is impressed by what’s taking place at the Consortium schools.  “The New York Performance Standards Consortium has as a well-documented record of success with the same students as those in regular public schools.  They don’t skim the top students, as so many high-scoring charters do.  This would be an excellent model to replace the current regime of standardized testing, which repels many parents and teachers,” she states in the piece.                AreCommon Core test results that are currently being released by various states actual test scores?  The possibly surprising answer is “no.”  A very informative commentary from the CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE introduces and explains such terms as “raw scores,” “scaled scores” and “cut scores.”  It goes on to explain why those percentages of students scoring at certain proficiency levels are NOT numbers of questions answered correctly.   “So in the coming weeks and months when consortium or state officials announce ‘proficiency’ levels from Common Core tests,”  it sums up, “understand that these are simply not objective measurements of students’ learning.”  Diane Ravitch called this “a terrific article”and she urges everyone to click on the link that takes you to the SBAC “cut scores” (see p. 5-6) that announce that most students, at each grade level, will “fail” the tests.  Interesting stuff and lots of food for thought.               Test results were released for Maine at the end of last week.  You are welcome to check out the scores but probably of more significance is the information that, on average, 10% of students opted-out with some campuses recording up to 50% refusing to participate.  By the way, the Pine Tree State uses the same Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium assessments as California, however, the Maine state legislature voted in June to drop out of the SBAC for several interesting reasons which the article describes .  The Bangor Daily News has the details regarding the results.                 Ohio released its PARCC test results and like most other states they were not encouraging.  However, Ohio officials know how to remedy the situation–just raise the score for a passing result.  Presto, and with that minor adjustment, pupils in Ohio will instantly become more proficient.  See how easy it is.  A brief piece from EDUCATION WEEK explains the procedure so you can suggest it to your state board of education.               “”It’s not *that* data and tests are bad; it’s *how* data and tests are used that’s bad.”  That’s the topic tackled by Mitchell Robinson on hisMitchell Robinson blog.  He uses a comedy sketch about the wind to make his point.  “As teachers know better than anyone, assessment is a necessary and valuable tool for improving our practice in the classroom, and helping our students improve their learning,” Robinson relates.  “And contrary to public opinion, teachers are not at all averse to assessment strategies that help their students learn, and are not ‘afraid’ of being evaluated on their practice. They just want the evaluations to be fair, and to make sense.”  Robinson proceeds to offer a list of things parents can do to see if students are learning and teachers are doing their jobs.
Friday’s Education Telethon
Anybody watch the education telethon titled “Think it Up” on Friday evening on CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox?  A lot of public school supporters were a little leery of the program’s goals and agenda given that much of the funding was provided by some of those corporate ‘reformer” types.  Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted one such piece.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, was surprised that the program did not end up being what he thought it might be.  He wasn’t 100% pleased with the entire package but he found some aspects of it to be rather positive towards the public school system.  If you saw the program or if you missed it you’ll get some good insights from his review.  One of the program’s segments asked students to “reimagine high school” in new ways.  Cody has some suggestions of his own to offer even though he’s not a student. 
 
ELL Settlement 
A settlement was reached recently that will require more state oversight of district services for California’s 1.4 million English Language Learners.  An article in Sunday’s L.A. Times reviews the agreement.  “Under a new watchdog process, state officials agreed to improve data collection systems to more easily identify students denied English language services,” it explains, “better inform school districts of their legal obligation to help them and strengthen reviews of their assistance programs.”
 
Teacher Evaluations
Two letters were published in Sunday’s L.A. Times regarding the paper’s op-ed on Thursday about why using student test scores was not a good idea for evaluating teachers.  One of the letters was written by a teacher and school board member of the Garvey School District.
 
Education Records of Some of Those School “Reformers”
Here’s something that should certainly stir the pot.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, looks at the school records and histories of corporate “reformers” Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, former CNN host Campbell Brown and, he needs no introduction, Bill Gates.  The piece is provocatively titled “Why Were So Many Education Reformers Bad Students?”  “Bad students often hate school,”  Singer begins simply.  “Not exactly shocking, I know.  But perhaps more surprising is the pattern of low, sloppy or inconsistent academic achievement by so many of those adults who consider themselves education reformers, particularly corporate school reformers.  Our ideas of school are certainly formed during our years in it.  Those working so diligently to destroy the public school system and reshape it to resemble the business model are so often people who didn’t fit in,” he suggests.  “They earned low grades or only excelled in subjects they really liked.  Perhaps school failed them or perhaps they failed school.  There’s no way to know for sure since school records are almost always kept private.  But details do trickle through and display a clear pattern – a pattern that certainly gives the appearance of an ulterior motive.”  Where you a lot, or a little bit, like Walker, Brown or Gates in school?  Maybe that’s why you’re not into corporate “reform” of education.
 
The Teaching Profession
The author of this item from EDUCATION WEEK has a suggestion for improving teaching and student learning: “Give Teachers Time to Collaborate.”  She is is the co-founder and president of the National Center on Time & Learning and served as a deputy assistant secretary of education in the Clinton administration.  How do you give educators the time to work together within the constraints of a typical school day?  Add time on to that old , 18th century concept of what constitutes a “school day.”  “Often overlooked in gauging the impact of expanded-time schools on student learning is the equally beneficial effect that a longer day and year has on teachers,” the author argues.  “Within an expanded schedule, teachers typically have many more collaboration and professional-learning opportunities built into their workday.  As teachers work together to strengthen their teaching skills, they also can augment instructional practice dramatically, and thus make their time with students even more valuable.”  She goes on to describe a number of expanded-time schools and how their schedules offer collaboration time for their educators.
 
School Choice
When parents are presented with “choices” of where their children can attend school, why do they often make poor, uninformed selections?  THE HECHINGER REPORT uses Chicago as a case study of this phenomenon.  The piece is titled “When ‘School Choice’ Leads Families to Trade One Bad School for Another.”  “In Chicago, researchers had an unusual opportunity to study, over several years, how publicizing information about school quality influenced where families enrolled their children.  And they found that many families did pull their children out of failing schools.  But they usually ended up in ones that were just as bad, or only slightly better,” the story notes.  “Astonishingly, more than 25 percent of the transfer students moved to another school that was also on the city’s probation list of failing schools.”
 
Seattle Strike
A move is afoot in Seattle urging parents to cancel subscriptions to the Seattle Times because of the paper’s anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-charter positions in its news reporting and editorials.  Could that possibly be related to Bill Gates’ purchase of a pull-out section of the Times which is named “Education Lab?”  TheSeattle Education website describes why parents are angry at the paper and what they are planning to do about it.  “The majority of people I speak to,” the author relates, “are thoroughly disgusted with the Times and its biased editorials and selection of topics headlined that seem to reflect the views and opinions of the moneyed few rather than providing real information.  . . .  It seemed it wasn’t enough that the Seattle Times was already a shill for charter schools and merit pay for teachers based on test scores, Gates now had his own pull-out section of the newspaper.”              LATE BREAKING News on this the fifth day of the Seattle teachers strike.  The Seattle Education Association (SEA) announced atentative agreement was reached this morning with the Seattle Public School District.  KING5, the NBC affiliate in Seattle, has the latest developments on this breaking story.  The piece includes a short video (3:51 minutes) about the agreement.  “The SEA, which represents 5,000 teachers,”  it reports, “said the three-year deal addresses teacher pay, evaluations, length of school day, testing, student equality and discipline, and recess.  Exact details won’t be released until the teachers see it.”
 
LAUSD’s Student Recovery Program
And finally, today’s L.A. Times has a story describing a LAUSD program called “Student Recovery Day” in which district employees visit the homes of students from various schools who appear to have dropped out or have excessive absences.  The goal is to try to bring them back to the school rather than losing them permanently.  “In the past six years since recovery day began (this year was the seventh), the district has seen almost 4,600 students return because of these home visits, LAUSD Board of Education President Steve Zimmer told volunteers Thursday morning,” the article explains.  “He and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti visited homes on Thursday, and Zimmer established the annual event with current Supt. Ray Cortines in 2009.”  The piece follows one team as they visit several homes and encounter various situations with students they are attempting to recover.
                             http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                  

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED (Alumni of Occidental in Education)
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

 

Ed News, Friday, September 11, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   
 
“In this world, it’s not enough to have a fine education. 
You need a piece of paper to prove you got it.” 
―  Jeannette WallsHalf Broke Horses

The Teaching Profession

A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the sad case of a small public school district outside Philadelphia, Chester Upland, where the teachers and staff voted to open the new school year despite their district not having enough funds to pay them.  This just so happened to be the second time in the last 3 years that this situation has developed.  Jeff Bryant, writing on SALON, thinks he knows the reasons why the money isn’t there–charter schools withunequal funding formulas and a state government that doesn’t seem to care about the public school system.  The piece is titled “The New Charter School Scam: This is How the GOP and Privatizers Have Bled Pennsylvania Schools.”  Is this the new strategy for destroying the public school system?               The “newsworks” program fromWHYY, the NPR station in Philadelphia reports that the teachers and staff at the Chester Upland School District will be paid for now.  In addition, a local county judge ruled that the state of Pennsylvania needs to come up with a workable plan so that funding does not run out again in the near future.  “Last week, Chester-Upland officials shared with staff that thanks to depleted coffers and no money flowing from the state (due to the ongoing budget standoff in Harrisburg), they didn’t have the resources to make payroll.  The staff decided to work anyway and schools opened their doors on September 2.
Today 
[Wednesday], district officials said the state had made some of Chester-Upland’s debt services payments for August and September,” the segment noted, “totaling $5,731,000. That freed the district to pay its staff this week.”
                An editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times supported a recent federal court ruling that rejected a teacher’s claim that her caustic comments about students and parents on her personal blog were protected as 1st Amendment free speech.  [Ed. note:  The “Ed News” did not highlight the original story.  Sorry, we missed that one.]  The teacher was fired when her comments were discovered and parents complained.   “The court made the right decision,” the item maintains.   “A teacher has a right to blog — or write a letter to the editor — about politics or social policy or even educational issues.  But that right doesn’t extend to sarcastic riffs about one’s students.”               A high school English teacher and instructional technology coach in Hershey, Pennsylvania, reflects on her first year of having a connected classroom and shares some ideas on how to use social media with students.  Her essay appears in the “CTQ Collaboratory” column inEDUCATION WEEK.   “Connected classrooms can reach beyond physical barriers to create conversations with people from other classrooms, cultures, and communities,” the author relates.  “Social media provides venues for students to share their stories both within and beyond the classroom.  It also grants opportunities for them to hear stories from beyond their school.  Finally, being connected helps students recognize the power of personal voice.”                A drive to unionize the Alliance College-Ready Public Schoolscharter chain in Los Angeles is described in a piece in ED WEEK.  The organization manages 27 campuses as part of the LAUSD.  “Charters have expanded steadily in the city, but so have other school models favored by the United Teachers Los Angeles, such as ‘local initiative schools,’ which are unionized but freed from some work rules,” it explains.  “In light of that tension, a successful bid to unionize Alliance schools would come as a symbolically important win for the UTLA. . . .  Unionized charter schools remain rare nationwide, in part because with charters unions must do the painstaking work of organizing at a building-by-building level. . . .  About a fifth of Los Angeles’ 211 charter schools are currently unionized, though not all by the UTLA.”
 

LAUSD Supt. Search

Two letters appeared in Wednesday’s L.A. Times in response to the paper’s front-page article on Sunday about what type of superintendent the LAUSD board should select–a corporate “reformer” type or a more traditional selection.  One is from a current LAUSD teacher and the other is from Stu Bernstein, a former district teacher, principal and downtown administrator.
 
On Strike!
Julie Vassilatos, author of the Chicago Public Fools blog, offers some simple answers to questions about what is going on with thehunger strike in Chicago over the closure of Dyett High School on the city’s south side.  Even though Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Public Schools have offered the community a “compromise” the action continues.   “The Fight for Dyett is supported by those who have seen firsthand the damage wrought by corporate education control ‘reformers’ who find salvation in excessive testing, firing teachers, busting unions, closing schools, cutting budgets, and funding charter schools at a rate far outpacing underfunded public schools in broke districts,” she explains.  “Those ‘reform’ tools end in disinvested neighborhoods and disenfranchised children and it is no accident that they affect low-income black and brown children the most severely.”              The hunger strike in Chicago is not the only action of its kind taking place in the U.S.   On Wednesday, as promised if they didn’t have a contract by the time the new school year began, 5,000 educators and other school employees set up picket lines at all 97 schools in Seattle.  The Seattle Times reports on what took place on what would have been the first day of classes for about 53,000 students.  “Seattle teachers are on strike Wednesday, the first time in 30 years they have walked out over stalled contract negotiations with the city’s school district,” the story begins.  “And just minutes after the Seattle Education Association bargaining team made its announcement Tuesday evening, the Seattle School Board voted to authorize the superintendent to seek legal action to try to force teachers and other school employees back to work.”               Today marks the third day of the teacher strike in Seattle.  EDUCATION WEEK takes some time to outline the issues involved besides the standard ones of pay and working hours.  Also included are questions about teacher evaluations, testing, discipline policies and elementary school recess.  
 
Testing
Carol Burris, writing on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog forThe Washington Post, thinks she has a reason why the latest SAT scores that were recently released were the lowest since the college admission test was redesigned a decade ago.  Could it be that all those corporate “reforms” really aren’t working after all?  “Given that the Class of 2015 had five years of exposure to [the] Common Core State Standards . . . . as well as spending their entire school career in the era of NCLB accountability,” she suggests, “it doesn’t look like ‘something different’ is working very well. . . .  Education reform isn’t hitting a wall,” she concludes.  “It is the wall.”
 
California’s Test Results
Ahead of the release of California’s test results on Wednesday, Roxanna Marachi a professor at San Jose State wrote an open letter on her EduResearcher blog to the State Board of Education in Sacramento laying out why the SBAC assessment scores are unfair, invalid and unreliable.                California’s standardized test resultswere released on Wednesday and, no surprise, they weren’t very good.  This is the first year new assessments, aligned to the Common Core, were administered and the scores made public.  A front-page story, with an accompanying picture and several graphs, appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times.   “Echoing a nationwide downward trend, most California students are falling short of state learning targets and are not on track to succeed in college,” it begins, “according to the results of new, more rigorous standardized tests released Wednesday.  And the picture is even worse for L.A. Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system, than it is for the state.  Across California, 44% of students achieved targets for their grade in English, while 34% did so in math.  In L.A. Unified, the figures were 33% and 25%.”  Interestingly, the article also noted that whereas 20% of student opted-out of the tests in New York, the figure was less than 1% in the Golden State.  You can check on how individual schools in the state did by clicking on the “Database” sidebar titled “How Did Your School Score?”  In addition, the Times has an article posted on their website yesterday morning that listed the top performing campuses in the LAUSD.  You can check that out by clicking here.               Two letters were published in yesterday’s Times in response to the paper’s story on Tuesday (highlighted in the previous edition of the “Ed News) predicting that the state’s test results would be disappointing.  One is from a current teacher and both took a more positive view of the low scores.
 
Washington Charters Ruled Unconstitutional
Last Friday the Supreme Court in the State of Washington ruled that the state’s charters were unconstitutional.  The decision set off speculation about how those 9 campuses would operate for the rest of the school year.  One solution–get private donors to provide the $14 million they will need to operate  for 2015-16 since the court said they can’t accept public funds. That is probably only a short term solution which is not feasible over the long term.   Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 reviews how that might happen and what it all means. “However, since they will not be publicly funded for this year, at least, it seems that Washington State might have the only charter schools that cannot possibly mismanage,” she breezily notes, “or outright steal public money.  Refreshing.”                Well, it didn’t take long for private donors to come up with the $14 million needed to keep the 9 charter schools in Washington open for the rest of the school year.  KING5 news, the ABC affiliate in Seattle, reports on the latest developments.  This piece includes a short video (1:56 minutes) and a transcript of the story.               Mercedes Schneider on her blog, deutsch29,commented on some incorrect information in several reports, including the one above, about charters and how they are governed.               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK,explains carefully and in detail why charters are not “public” schoolsin the true sense of the word despite what the charter advocates argue.  He pens his piece in light of the court decision in Washington State that charters are unconstitutional because they accept taxpayer money but are not “public” schools as his essay points out.  As Bryant often does so well, he reviews a number of other articles and resources to bolster his point.  If you are having any trouble wrapping your head around why the court ruled the way it did, this should be of great assistance.
 
Teacher Evaluations
A former general counsel of the LAUSD, Harold Kawalwasser, makes the case, for what seems like the umpteenth time, for why using student test scores in not a fair and accurate way to evaluate teachers.  His op-ed appears in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  Kawalwasser often dealt with getting rid of ineffective teachers and says, at first, he was looking for a way to measure teacher performance and was a supporter of increased use of student testing as contained in the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2001.  14 years later he is raising some serious concerns about the tests and how they are used to rate teachers.  “Do we need standardized test results to distinguish good teachers from bad?  Fair and accurate tests could be helpful, but the answer is “no.”  Before standardized tests,” he points out, “some districts had great evaluation and professional development programs that weeded out low performers. Others did not.  Adding test data can’t turn weak programs into effective ones, as is reflected by the lack of a significant increase in teacher terminations in most districts in recent years. . . . .  Holding teachers and schools accountable is important, but the means should be accurate and fair.  The current standardized test program,” he concludes emphatically, “doesn’t pass muster.”
 
Edu-telethon to be Broadcast This Evening
You may have seen ads or promotions about a telethon to be broadcast this evening at 8 pm on CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox to raise funds to help middle and high school students create STEM-related projects.  The program is called “Think it Up” and is sponsored by the 4 networks, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and DonorsChoose.org.  So far, so good. However, the author of the Mitchell Robinson blog has some major concerns.  The primary funders of the DonorsChoose group right off raises some red flags.  “So, while I know this ‘made for TV special’ is going to make folks feel all warm and fuzzy as they watch school projects get funded via DonorsChoose donations, it worries me that we seem to be sliding down a slippery slope to a time in which the public doesn’t even question the premise of education being funded by telethons instead of our tax dollars,” Robinson relates. “Let’s be clear here: Education is a public trust, not a charity.  It deserves to be funded adequately and appropriately, not by bake sales, paper drives and telethons. . . . ‘Think It Up’ is a spectacle that just illuminates what we as a society value, and what we don’t—and that reflection in the mirror isn’t pretty.”
 
L.A.’s Heat Wave Impacts Students
How hot has it been where you live/work?  Remember it’s just as hot for the schools and students in the L.A. area.  Now that Labor Day has past, most, if not all, districts are now in session. TheMommy Poppins website [Ed. note: Don’t ask how I found this one] lists the starting and ending dates for a number of districts in L.A. County.  “August is the new September. . . .  We have to face the fact that, in most districts, August means back to school already,” it points out helpfully.  “Most Los Angeles area schools now start their school years smack dab in the middle of summer, though one or two districts still cling to the time-honored ‘wait until Labor Day’ approach.”   Many LAUSD campuses have antiquated air conditioning systems that work intermittently and during a heat wave like the city is currently experiencing their proper functioning can become problematic.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times profiles Thomas Alva Edison Middle School in South L.A. where one teacher’s classroom recorded 84 degrees Wednesday morning.  Needless to say, the AC was not working.
 
APUSH Battle
The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog continues its series on the battle over the new A.P. U.S. History curriculum that is now in its second iteration after critics on the right complained about the content of the first one.  Paul Horton, who teaches History at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and was a reader of the APUSH exams for five years, thinks the biggest problem with the complaints about the class’ content resides with the College Board itself, which administers the Advanced Placement program.  In part 3 of the series he lays out his criticisms of the College Board.  “A serious discussion about high school history,”  Horton concludes, “should not begin with debating the merits of the current APUSH course; it should begin with questions about why the College Board has so much influence over high school curricula.”  The article includes link to the first 2 parts in the series.
 
Teacher Training Online
And finally, you can now get just about anything, and we mean anything, online.  How about a teaching credential?  The answer is “yes.”  A fairly new program called TEACH-NOW began offeringonline teacher training and credentials in 2011.  Since then it has turned out over 700 fully credentialed educators from its 9-month program.  It now has plans to expand and hopes to prepare 10,000 new teachers in the next 10 years and add a master’s degree to its offerings.  Never heard of the program or how it works.  THE HECHINGER REPORT profiles it and the woman who founded the company.   “Graduates earn a teaching license from the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which means graduates can obtain teaching credentials in states that have reciprocity agreements with D.C.,”  it explains.  “The expansion comes as enrollment is decreasing at many traditional teacher training colleges.  Some schools, like the University of Southern California, have ramped up their online presence in recent years to allow students to earn Master’s degrees in teaching.”  [Ed note: To the best of my knowledge, California does not have a reciprocity agreement with the District of Columbia.]
                             http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                 

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

 

Ed News, Tuesday, September 8, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   
 
“The quality of the relationships that students have in class with their peers
 and teachers is important to their success in school.” 
―  Bob PletkaEducating the Net Generation: How to Engage Students in the 21st Century
Testing
As previously noted, it is test result season and the California Dept. of Education is scheduled to release the latest results for students of the Golden State tomorrow.  NPR station 89.3KPCC has a brief story about the scores which includes an example of the report sent to parents on how their child fared on the assessments.   “Education officials and school district administrators have been tamping down expectations of the coming test scores,” it reveals.  “Because the tests aim to measure students’ skills on such new learning standards as problem solving and critical thinking, the first round scores won’t be stellar, they said.  In addition, almost all of the 3.2 million California students who took the tests this year did so online for the first time.  So officials have said students had to learn how to take the digital tests — and that could negatively impact scores.”               Today’s L.A. Times has a similar story to the one above.  State education leaders are warning that when the latest California test results on released tomorrow everyone should brace themselves for some less than robust scores.  The new SBAC assessments were used for the first time this year so drawing a parallel with previous results will be likened to comparing the proverbial apples to oranges.  “Critics of public schools call the test results evidence of a failing system.  Critics of testing say the low scores are causing unnecessary anxiety and advise against attaching too much importance to them,” the story  notes.  “Some also express concern about using results as grounds to dismiss teachers, while others applaud that possibility.  But with the expectation of low scores comes another message from most officials: Don’t panic.”              Today’s Times has an editorial titled “What Will The Common Core Test Results Show?” about the anticipated release of the latest test scores this week.  “California will get an immediate sense of how it’s doing, because it belongs to a consortium of more than a dozen states that gave similar Common Core tests.  If indeed California’s test results are significantly worse than the others’,  it warns, “state education officials should waste no time figuring out why.”
 
Hunger Strike in Chicago
Today marks the 24th day of the Chicago hunger strike.  Michelle Gunderson is a veteran elementary school teacher with the Chicago Public Schools who describes the latest developments in the actionin an article on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  Last week Mayor Rahm Emmanuel offered what he called a “compromise” but it was not acceptable to the strikers.  “In the end, we owe the hunger strikers a huge debt of gratitude.  The dignity and grace with which they decided to carry on will benefit all of us,” she concludes movingly.  “It would have been so easy to call off the strike and declare a victory last week, but if we let powerful politicians and not our communities have full control of our schools what really would have been won?  In all of our continuing battles to keep our public schools in public hands, we will look to the Dyett 12 that paved this path for us.”
 
New School Year, New Technology?
As teachers continue to return to their classrooms for the new school year, many of them may be faced with new technology in the form of hardware or software.  How do educators deal with this situation so they can make the most of the new devices and tools for their students?  The guest writer of a commentary on “The StartUp Blog (Ed Tech from the Ground Up)” on EDUCATION WEEK has some practical suggestions for how to deal with those new tech items in your classroom.  She’s the technology coordinator at the Science Leadership Academy, a teacher, lifelong learner and new mom.  “Many teachers find themselves in a bittersweet situation at the start of the new school year,” she submits at the outset of her piece.  “Often, their school has used the summer break to begin new initiatives or to make new investments in technology and infrastructure.  This can be both a blessing and curse.”  She proceeds to deal with both of the latter situations.
 
Charter Schools

The Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD) PR Watchcontinues its investigative series on federal funding for charter schools.  This installment looks at some of the secrecy surrounding which states have applied for the federal grants and their track record on transparency and accountability.  It’s interesting that many of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers demand “accountability” from the public schools and their teachers yet eschew it for the charters they are so quick to want to set up.  Congress is currently contemplating a significant increase in funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP).  “The clamor for charter expansion comes despite the fact that there are federal probes underway into suspected waste and mismanagement within the program,”  the article notes, “not to mention ongoing and recently completed state audits of fraud perpetrated by charter school operators.   Earlier this year, the Center for Popular Democracy documented more than $200 million in fraud, waste, and mismanagement in the charter school industry in 15 states alone, a number that is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.  Is now really the right time to plow more tax money into charters?”  At both the beginning and end of this piece are sidebars with links to additional articles about charters.                A brewing charter school scandal in Ohio could reach all the way into the office of Gov. John Kasich who is running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted the facts around the case and the attempt by several media outlets in the Buckeye State to obtain pertinent communications regarding the situation.  USA TODAY has a story with the latest details.   “In the scheme of presidential-candidate scandals, speculation over what’s contained in public records related to a charter-school skirmish in Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s administration doesn’t rise to the level of Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi or Chris Christie’s Bridgegate,”  it begins.  “For starters, no one died.  But for Kasich, the records serve as the biggest possible ethical blemish hanging over his presidential bid.”              The author who blogs on the Education Matters website indicates that Florida has over 300 (!) charters that have closed.  Two more have closed since the school year started several days ago.  “I know our public schools have issues,”  it concludes decisively, “but it’s time we realized the cure of charter schools is worse than the disease.”                  The Walton Family Foundation has been at the forefront of the corporate “reform” and privatization movement.  Sam Walton was the founder of Walmart and his heirs are some of the wealthiest individuals in this country.  A extended piece fromALTERNET describes how the foundation is attempting to charterize as much of the public school system in their home state of Arkansas as they can and how a determined group of grassroots education leaders, parents and community activists succeeded in thwarting much of the Walton agenda particularly their push to take control of the schools in Little Rock, the state capital.  The item is titled “How the Billionaire Kingpins of School Privatization Got Stopped in Their Own Backyard.”

 
Teacher Evaluations
Sheri Lederman is the New York teacher who is suing the state over its teacher evaluation system that she claims is an inaccurate and imprecise way to rate educators.  AL Jazeera America has a video (3:41 minutes) explaining the case.  It includes several quotes from Lederman and her husband, an attorney, who is representing her in the suit.

 
Home Schooling
A small but highly influential lobbying group battles constantly to keep states from passing regulatory rules that apply to home schooling.  The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is based in Virginia and often flies under the radar until legislation is proposed that attempts to control home schools.  An extensive investigative piece from PRO PUBLICA describes how the group swings into action whenever it believes bills threaten home schoolers’ complete independence.   ” Since homeschooling first became legal about 25 years ago, HSLDA’s lobbying efforts have doomed proposed regulations and rolled back existing laws in state after state,” the piece relates.  “The group was founded in 1983 by lawyer and ordained Baptist minister Michael Farris, who also founded Patrick Henry College.  Although its members represent only about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 1.5 million homeschooled children — up from 850,000 in 1999 — its tactics have made it highly influential.”  The article outlines a number of actions the organization has undertaken to defeat rules it finds onerous.  HSLDA resorts to letter-writing campaigns and other political pressure tactics including, at times, outright intimidation to get its way.  Be sure to click on the sidebar labeled “Homeschooling Regulations Vary by State” for a state-by-state breakdown of regulations. 
 
The Teaching Profession 
Are you ready to hear from a now-retired, 34-year teaching veteranwho has pretty much seen and done it all during her classroom career?  The author originally wrote this essay on her blog and it is being reprinted , with her permission, on thenotebook from the Philadelphia Public Schools.  If you have taught for any length of time you will certainly relate to what she has to say.  [This]is important reading,”  the editor notes in the introduction to the piece, “in an era when good teaching is defined and judged mostly as helping students do well on tests.  It is so much more complex than that.”                 Former ALOED book club author Daniel Willingham has some bones to pick with how teachers are trained in this country.  His thoughts appear in an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Teachers Aren’t Dumb.”  “The problem in American education is not dumb teachers.  The problem is dumb teacher training. . . .  Teachers are smart enough,” he maintains, “but you need more than smarts to teach well.  You need to know your subject and you need to know how to help children learn it.  That’s where research on American teachers raises concerns.”  Willingham points out the shortcomings in the way teachers are trained in the U.S. and offers some simple solutions.
 
State Court Rules Charters Unconstitutional!
WOW!  The Supreme Court in Washington State ruled 6-3 late Friday that charter schools are UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!  An article from The Seattle Times has news of the stunning decision.   “The ruling — believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country — overturns the law voters narrowly approved in 2012 allowing publicly funded, but privately operated, schools,” it explains.   “Eight new charter schools are opening in Washington this fall, in addition to one that opened in Seattle last year.  It was not immediately known what would happen with the schools that are already running. The parties have 20 days to ask the court for reconsideration before the ruling becomes final.”
The article goes on to detail the reasons behind the decision and it’s immediate ramifications for the nine charters currently operating in the state.               The always timely and informative Mercedes Schneider was quick to offer her analysis of the court’s ruling, which can sometimes be a little dense, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29.  “The Court’s decision hinges on the issue of public funding being sent to schools that are not publicly governed,” she explains simply.  “As is true of charter schools nationwide, the charters in Washington State (up to the current ruling) were eligible for public funding diverted from traditional public schools.  Charter schools were approved via a November 2012 ballot initiative (I-1240, the Charter Schools Act) in which charters were declared to be ‘common schools’ despite their not being subject to local control and local accountability.  And also like America’s charters in general, Washington’s charters are not under the authority of elected school boards.  Thus, Washington voters had approved to give public money to private entities– a one-way street that provided no means for such funds to overseen by the public,” she continues.  “On September 04, 2015, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against this public-school-funding one-way street.”               You can read the full, official court decision (41 pages) by clicking here.               What’s going to happen to those 9 charter schools in the State of Washington and their students now that the State Supreme Court has ruled them unconstitutional?  That’s a good questions and, so far, nobody seems to have any good answers.  That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t lots of people offering suggestions.  One of them is none other Peter Greene on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog.  He reviews some of the ideas being bantered about and comes up with a simple one of his own.  “The court’s decision, as I understand it, is based on the idea that charter schools cannot receive ‘common school’ public funds because they are not overseen by an elected school board.  And if that’s the case, charters can fix this very easily,” he maintains.  “Are you paying attention, charter operators?  I have your solution right here.  Just submit to being overseen by an elected school board.  Act like the public schools you claim to be.  Make your finances and operation completely transparent to the public.  And allow yourselves to be overseen by an elected school board instead of a collection of individuals who are not answerable to the voters or the taxpayers.”  However, Greene is not totally convinced charters want to open themselves up to the transparency and accountability that would entail and that they have so studiously avoided up until now.  “Many eyes are on Washington right now,”he concludes.  “One of the things we’ll be watching to see is what charter operators do next, because their next move will be one more sign of what they really care about.”
 
New LAUSD Board Member Welcomed
New LAUSD school board member Ref Rodriguez took his seat on July 1, and the new school year began in the district in the middle of August.  Rodriguez is primarily known as the founder of several charter schools and a vocal critic of the public school system.  Two members of the faculty of Marshall High School (LAUSD, opened in 1931.  Check out the photo at the head of the article) take the opening of school as an opportunity to welcome Rodriguez who represents the district where their school is located.  They try to “educate” their new board member about the realities of their school and what he can learn from it in an essay on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “Today, educational issues are quickly viewed as public vs. charter.  But for the next five years Mr. Rodriguez will sit on the board that charts the course for all the city’s schools.  We urge him to keep in mind that excellence can and does occur across all LAUSD,” they suggest.  “Mr. Rodriguez’s challenge will not just be to support excellence at the charter schools from whence he came or at places like Marshall High where it is already flourishing, but to support excellence across the city.  Not just for the academically inclined student, not just for the student without multiple disabilities, not just for the student who hails from a family that can navigate the charter school application process, but to truly support and nurture excellence for all kids at all their neighborhood schools across all the city.  It’s Ref’s first day,” they conclude.  “Let class begin.”  Powerful words!
 
Opt-Out
New York is often put forward as the epicenter of the opt-out movement in the U.S., with Long Island held up as the hotbed.  However, a story in the upstate New York PRESS REPUBLICAN,while revealing lower than average test scores, noted that in two counties in the area test refusal rates ranged from 41%-51%.  The overall opt-out rate for the entire state was around 20%.  
 
More LAUSD Scrutiny
The Friday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted two reports about the LAUSD.  The first reviews technology policies in the district and the second looked at AP results and participation.  A new state audit, featured in Saturday’s L.A. Times, reports that the LAUSD is doing a better job lately in its handling of teacher abuse cases.  “The nation’s second-largest school system,” the article mentions, “made ‘dramatic improvements’ in conducting faster investigations, properly notified the state regarding allegations against teachers and managed legal claims and litigation more effectively, auditors wrote.”  Agreement on the strides made by the district was not universal.  Attorneys for Rafe Esquith and some of the victims of the Miramonte case were quick to denounce the audit’s findings.  “Esquith supporters have called the district probe a farce or worse and likened the school system to the mafia,” the piece goes on to note.  “At another extreme, attorneys representing alleged victims of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt have repeatedly questioned whether the district is doing enough to keep students safe from potential predators.”
 
Training for Principals
This is rather mind boggling.  The Denver PUBLIC Schools now have a contract with the National Principals Academy Fellowship, run by the Relay Graduate School of Education, to train its principals.  Two things you need to know about Relay: (1) it was founded by a consortium of CHARTER schools initially to train teachers to work in charters and (2) it is NOT ACCREDITED by any institution of higher education.  You read those correctly and what is even of more concern, it has a number of other contracts to train public school principals in districts other than Denver.  This feature from the GREATER PARKHILL COMMUNITY website describes Relay’s entry into the Denver PUBLIC schools but could its tentacles be headed for a district near you?                 If you’d like some more insight into RGSE, Peggy Roberson on her Peg With Pen blog did some digging into who they are and what they do.  Relay did some training on her elementary school campus in Colorado which she describes.  “If you are familiar with my blog you will know that I spend a great proportion of my time discussing opt out and various facets of how to tear down corporate education reform,” she writes.  “Tearing down these faux graduate schools will be a new venture for me and one that I must pursue simply for selfish reasons – it is inside of my school, infesting our democratic inquiry-based school with all sorts of propaganda – and sadly, we are just beginning.  We are in year one of a three year grant.”
 
Closing Schools
A key strategy of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers is to close under-performing or, what they call, “failing” schools.  How successful has that tactic been?  Carol Burris, writing, for THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION, doesn’t think it’s had much of an impact.  How can you tell?  Her commentary is titled “School Closures: A National Look at a Failed Strategy.”  “Poor test scores and low graduation rates are the excuse for closures,”  she points out, “but the reasons for academic failure that lie beyond the schoolhouse are never addressed.”
 
LAUSD Supt. Search
A front-page feature in Sunday’s L.A. Times discusses some of the criteria the LAUSD might be considering as it sets out to select the next superintendent.  Should the board pick an educational “reformer” in the mold of former leader John Deasy, who left under a dark cloud in October, or would a more “traditional” choice be in order?  The story sets the stage for you.  In addition, it reveals Deasy’s travel and other expenses while he served as superintendent.  “A close look at Deasy’s tenure,” the article relates, “clearly shows the challenge of juggling the responsibilities of running a sprawling, often-dysfunctional district while serving as a leading voice in the national movement to overhaul schools. . . .  Deasy’s tenure has become a lesson for the board in an era when urban school chiefs must navigate a minefield of political interests — including unions, politicians and foundations — all seeking greater influence.”               How would you like to peak at a big, urban school district superintendent’s expense account for some selected business dinners?  The Times was able to piece it together from public records and interviews relating to former LAUSD Supt. John Deasy.  Keep in mind his salary as head of the district was $350,000 per year.  Deasy was forced to leave the LAUSD in October.  Guess where he works now?  For the Broad Leadership Academy, training future district leaders and administrators.            Sandy Banks, writing in her Tuesday column for the L.A. Times,expresses the hope that a possible candidate’s position on charter schools won’t become a litmus test as the LAUSD seeks a new superintendent.  She believes they are a necessary option for an inept and “bumbling” LAUSD.  “The academic record of charters is mixed,” she concedes, “but their popularity keeps growing because some things matter more to parents than test scores; they want their children — and their own contributions — to be valued and supported. The district can learn from that.  Charter schools are not the enemy, nor are they a panacea.  But the heated philosophical battle needs to stop; that’s what turns parents off.  Critics may blast charter schools as pawns of corporate reform,”Banks concludes.  “But parents see them as a safety valve in a school district that just keeps bumbling along.”
 
Preparing for College
Here’s a feel-good story for you.  A 19-year-old, soon to be college sophomore, has created a summer program to help students at her old high school get accepted at a college or university and once there to be successful.  THE HECHINGER REPORT profiles Marjada Tucker, graduate of Starkville High in Mississippi and currently attending Rice University in Houston, who is attempting to assist students at her low-income alma mater to follow in her footsteps.  She is facing some very tough odds.  “Tucker says her experience of getting into Rice, where she plans to major in biochemistry before going to medical school, drove her to return home and lift as many high school students as she can to higher education.  It’s an area that needs help: the four-year graduation rate in 2012-13 was so low in Mississippi,” the article reveals, “that for every two students that graduated, another did not.  About three quarters of Starkville High School students managed to graduate in four years, compared to the national average of 81 percent.”
 
Teachers Unions

Yesterday was Labor Day and John Thompson, historian and inner-city teacher, knows that Republicans are long-time opponents oflabor unions but he’s not sure why some prominent Democrats have nary lifted a finger to protest continuing GOP assaults on working peoples’ organizations.  His commentary appears on the HUFF POST EDUCATION BLOG.  “One reason why elite education reformers don’t understand the essential role of labor in working for justice is that too many of them have no experience in the blue collar working world,” he suggests.  “If the rank-in-file of the corporate reform movement had more experience in the industrial world, they would have seen how little the lives of workers are worth.”

 
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
Congress returns from its 5-week summer break today and at the top of its agenda is the Iran nuclear deal and a spending bill.  Almost as important is the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and its most recent iteration, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  EDUCATION WEEK reviews the competing House and Senate reauthorization bills being dealt  with by a conference committee, along with some other key education issues.  
 
Back to School
And finally, comedian John Oliver on his “This Week Tonight” show on HBO has a “syllabus”  with descriptions of what you can expect to learn in those important school subjects.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, includes the video (4:01 minutes) from YouTube and a truncated transcript of Oliver’s comments.  Parental advisory for content that includes adult language.
 
Keep Cool!  Weather forecast is for VERY hottemps for the next couple of days.
         
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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.