Ed News, Friday, September 18, 2015 Edition


      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.”

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


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