Ed News, Friday, September 4, 2014 Edition


 Monday is the Labor Day Holiday
“An educated person is one who has learned that information 
almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, 
misleading, fictitious, mendacious – just dead wrong. ” 
―  Russell Baker
Legal Scrutiny for LAUSD
The L.A. County district attorney is looking into possible wrong-doing in regards to LAUSD food service mismanagement, improper spending and ethical breaches.  The district ordered an internal audit and an independent investigation of the situation and turned the findings over to the D.A.’s office according to a story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times.   LAUSD Food Services Director David Binkle left his position last month.               An internal investigation by the LAUSD looked into the district’s recent technology policies and initiatives and the findings were not favorable and that’s being kind.   An article in yesterday’s Times highlighted the report’s focus on problems with the “i-Pad-for-all” program, campus internet access and utilization of online curriculum.   “The analysis shows that serious challenges have persisted with technology in the L.A. Unified School District,”  the paper notes, “including limited classroom use of iPads and other computers, inadequate support for teachers and partial or inconsistent access to the Internet.  The researchers also found limited use of online curriculum provided by Pearson, for which the district purchased a three-year license, at the added cost of about $200 per device.”
College Recommendation Letters
If you have worked with high school seniors  for any length of time [Ed. note: I did for 26 years], you have, no doubt, been asked to write college letters of recommendation for your students.  As the author of this piece in EDUCATION WEEK points out, the request is “both an honor and a responsibility.”  She is certainly well prepared for the topic which she writes about: “13 Tips for Writing College Recommendations That Rock,” as she is a teacher of writing and journalism in New York City, is National Board-certified and the New York Director of the Journalism Education Association.  “Writing recommendations isn’t always easy though,”she admits.  “You have to be honest and convey the student’s best attributes without making it read like a template.”  Her suggestions are quite specific and helpful and should prove valuable if you are writing those letters now or possibly in the future.
Corporate “Reform” and Privatization
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been one of the organizations at the forefront of the movement to privatize public education.  Through its model bills and conferences that bring together corporate interests and conservative, mostly Republican state legislators, it has consistently pushed an agenda of school choice, charters and vouchers. Wisconsin has been one of their more successful battlegrounds as described by that state’s Democratic Assemblyman Chris Taylor in a commentary on The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch.                 “The Wisconsin government has slashed funding for K-12 public schools while expanding and enriching the state’s voucher program.  This is a clear-cut victory for ALEC, the corporate-funded lobby for privatization,” comments  Diane Ravitch’s blog  about the above item. . . .    “Way to go, Scott Walker, in meeting your goal of destroying public education.  Way to go in destroying a historic democratic institution.”
Common Core and Testing
The Common Core aligned testing season for students was this past spring.  Now it is test results announcement time and the news is not all that good and that’s being optimistic.  The headline from this piece on the  abc NEWS website (via the AP) pretty much sums it up: “Initial Common Core Goals Unfulfilled as Results Trickle In.”   Results from 7 states that administered the SBAC assessments are mentioned and those are the exams California uses.   “Overall, the statewide scores thus far are not as stark as first predicted,” it points out, “though they do show that vast numbers of students are not proficient in math or reading.”  Be sure to read the quote from the LAUSD official regarding the scores and how they will be explained to parents.                 Some encouraging news for California can be found in the latest AP (Advanced Placement) test results, according to an item in yesterday’s L.A. Times.   “Black and Latino students in California who passed Advanced Placement exams outperformed their peers elsewhere, but a gap persists between them and their white and Asian counterparts,” it begins, “according to new test score results.  In addition, the number of underrepresented minorities — black, Latino and Native American students — who took the tests is higher in California than elsewhere: 38.9% of test takers in the state compared with 26.2% of all test takers, according to 2015 results from the College Board.”  This piece contains some specific numbers regarding AP participation and results for the LAUSD.               How are students in the Golden State faring on the SAT?  Based on another story in yesterday’s Times, they are doing slightly better than their counterparts in the rest of the country.  “In California, 241,553 students — 60.4% from the graduating class of 2015 — took the test,” it notes, “and, on average, they scored 1,492 out of 2,400 points.  Nationally, the nearly 1.7 million test takers scored an average of 1,490.  California’s average score is about 28 points down from 1,520 in 2006.  The newer scores reflect what College Board President David Coleman called a ‘larger and more diverse group of students than ever before.'”   This graph accompanied the Times article:
SAT results over time
An article in The Washington Post comments on the national decline in SAT scores since 2005.   “The steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts,” it reports.  “The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven’t led to broad improvement in high schools, experts say. That means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.”
Charter Schools
From the charter-school-scandal-of-the-day file: Diane Ravitch’s blog prints an item from a member of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition describing the sudden demise of yet another campus in the troubled Ohio charter school system.  A number of questions were raised about illegal actions and missing dollars.  What’s new?  “This is a school that should never have been allowed to open,”  the author relates.  “As pointed out in a post a year ago, Section 3314.03 (A)(11)(C) of the Ohio Revised Code states,  ‘The school will be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and will not be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution.’  FCI Academy charter school was on the campus of Living Faith Apostolic Church in Columbus.  It was founded by the church leader, his wife and one other person.  The church leader’s wife was president of the school board.”                Charter schools are not only draining students from the public school system but private and parochial campuses are also feeling the pinch.  THE HECHINGER REPORT travels to New Orleans to illustrate the situation.  “Confronted with falling birth rates and demographic shifts, rising tuition, the growth of charter schools, and other challenges, parochial schools are seeing their enrollments plummet. . . .  Catholic schools nationwide have fewer than half as many students as they did 50 years ago,”  it notes, “and the decline has resumed in the last 10 years after leveling off briefly in the late 1990s, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Nearly 1,650 schools have closed or been consolidated in the last 10 years, 88 of them last year alone, the National Catholic Education Association says. . . .  Nor is it only religious private education that has experienced this trend,” the article continues.  “Secular private—which call themselves independent —schools have seen their numbers drop since the recession, too, the Education Department reports, for many of the same reasons, along with growing interest in homeschooling among higher-income families.”  The story goes on to describe how the private and parochial systems are attempting to stem this decline in enrollments.               Earlier this week Jonathan Alter wrote a piece for The Daily Beast titled “Why Liberals Should Learn to Love Charter Schools” which you can read by clicking here.  On her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, Mercedes Schneider wrote a quick riposte.  She headlines it “Why Liberals Should Think Twice About ‘Learning to Love Charters.'”   Schneider points a number of things about charters that Alter seems to ignorelike financial scandals, lack of accountability, cherry picking students and inexperienced leaders.  Peter Greene, aka theCURMUDGUCATION blogger, also hopped on the criticism of Alter train with his piece titled “When Will I Learn to Love Charters . . .”  He offers a litany of things that will have to change before he will “love charters.”  
Opt-Out Movement
Some news sources and education “experts” have been claiming thatit’s illegal for parents to opt their children out of standardized testing.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog maintains that is not the case and he uses a newspaper in New York as his example.                The opt-out movement is spreading like a California wildfire as explained in this article from THE Nation.  It uses New York, which is at the epicenter of the campaign, as its example.  “Driving the movement is a national network of teachers and families providing encouragement, along with form letters and legal guidance on how parents and kids can exercise their right to reject the test. . . .     Yet as opt-out campaigns have emerged in communities around the country,” the item conveys, “parents seem increasingly confident in their right to noncompliance.  Officials and education authorities have largely refrained from intervening.  Some, such as Delaware and Colorado, have even developed policies either promoting reduced use of tests or clarifying parents’ right to reject them.”
Teacher Prep Programs
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, turns her column over to two researchers who debunk some of the criticisms of traditional college and university teacher preparation programs.  “Critics of college and university-based teacher preparation,” they write in the beginning of their piece which is actually the introduction to a paper they co-authored, “have made many damaging claims about the programs that prepare most U.S. teachers–branding these programs as an ‘industry of mediocrity’–while touting the new privately-financed and- run entrepreneurial programs that are designed to replace them.  These critics have constructed a narrative of failure about college and university Ed schools and a narrative of success about the entrepreneurial programs, in many cases using research evidence to support their claims.  Yet in a recent independently peer-reviewed study that will be published in Teachers College Record,” they continue, “we show how research has been misused in debates about the future of teacher education in the United States.”
LAUSD Supt. Search
At its regular meeting on Tuesday the LAUSD board announced the selection of an executive search firm that will spearhead the process of picking a new superintendent.  The company chosen Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates is based in Illinois.  An article in Wednesday’s  L.A. Times provides the details.   “Hazard got the job after a presentation to the board that also emphasized its national reach and the need for members to be as clear as possible in deciding what they wanted,” it points out.  “The firm also presented a well-known local face to the board as a key advisor, veteran administrator Darline Robles, former superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. . . .   The board has set aside $250,000 plus expenses for the contract.”
Teacher Evaluations
EDUCATION WEEK offers an overview of the issue of teacher evaluations.  It looks at such topics as how the newest ones work, what unions think about them and includes a glossary of pertinent terms and a list of resources.  “Many evaluation systems have undergone significant changes in recent years,” it explains.  “Indeed, by the end of the 2000s, teacher evaluation, long an ignored and obscure policy element, had become one of the most prominent and contentious topics in K-12 education.”              A New York Teacher and member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) describes how the evaluation system works in the Empire State.  He uses his own personal results which were released by the New York Dept. of Education on Tuesday.  He describes the whole process as “riding the bell curve.”  ” This might seem completely reasonable to someone who has never stood in front of children and been responsible for not only their education, but their self esteem,” he relates.  “Professionals are surprisingly sometimes offended at being labeled as a number.  Teachers feel that the love, dedication and artistry of being a teacher cannot be quantified.  They feel that to truly educate a child, they must tailor instruction to individual needs.  Breaking down teachers to a score seems counterintuitive, and to be honest, pretty stupid.”
Mandatory Kindergarten
Two letters appeared in yesterday’s L.A. Times reacting to the paper’s editorial on Monday about a bill in the California legislature promoting compulsory kindergarten which was highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News.”
The Chicago Hunger Strike
The 12 hunger strikers who are protesting the closing of the only open-enrollment high school in a Southside Chicago neighborhood are approaching 3 weeks for their action.  Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, reviews what’s taking place and why and argues it’s more than a simple fight over a schoolbut has larger ramifications for our system of government.  He titles his piece “Why the Fight for Dyett High School is a Fight for Democracy.”               The Chicago Public Schools announced yesterday they would reopen Dyett High next fall as “an arts-focused school with an innovation lab,” based on a story fromEDUCATION WEEK.   “Those who had been staging the hunger strike had asked the Chicago school district to reopen the school in the Bronzeville neighborhood as a green technology school.  It was not immediately clear,” the article speculates,  “whether the district’s announcement would appease them.”
Miramonte Case to Cost LAUSD Even More
Remember the Miramonte Elementary School sexual abuse case from 2012?  If not, a story in today’s L.A. Times briefly reviews the facts and outcomes.  The LAUSD has agreed to pay $4.5 million more to students involved in the lewd conduct crimes for which one educator is currently serving a 25-year sentence.  Guess how much the case has now cost the district?  ALMOST $175 MILLION!!!  “In a related development,” the piece adds, “the school system on Wednesday sued insurance companies, seeking $200 million to cover costs related to the Miramonte abuse.”
Darling-Hammond Announces New Think Tank
Former ALOED book club author Linda Darling-Hammondannounced this week the formation of the Learning Policy Institute,a new research-based education think tank, to be based in Palo Alto.  The “Inside School Research” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “Darling-Hammond said she wants the Learning Policy Institute to dig into education issues bubbling up in California,” it provides, “and the rest of the nation on education finance and school design and organization, as well as teacher professional development.”
Teachers Vote to Strike in Seattle!
And finally, last night teachers in Seattle voted unanimously to strike if a contract agreement is not reached next week when the new school year begins.   Station KIROtv7, the CBS affiliate in Seattle, has the late breaking details in a video and  news story.  “Union negotiators told teachers both sides are far apart on issues like pay: Teachers are demanding an 18 percent increase over three years,” it notes.  “The district has offered teachers an 8.2% percent increase on top of the 3 percent increase already authorized by the state over the next two years.  Teachers and support staff are also demanding a district-wide standard 30 minutes of recess for students, an idea which the district has rejected.”         In addition, the Seattle Education blog announces the teachers’ vote and explains what the issues are including a list of union demands.  
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

 ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.



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