Ed News, Tuesday, September 22, 2015 Edition


         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?]
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 “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—
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.

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

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