Ed News, Tuesday, September 29, 2015 Edition


         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?

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


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