Monthly Archives: September 2015

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. Dave Alpert

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


Ed News, Tuesday, September 1, 2015 Edition


Our present education is geared to industrialization and war, its principal aim being to develop efficiency;
 and we are caught in this machine of ruthless competition and mutual destruction. If education leads to war,
if it teaches us to destroy or be destroyed, has it not utterly failed?”

―  Jiddu KrishnamurtiEducation and the Significance of Life

[Ed. note: Previous editions of the “Ed News” noted that Saturday was the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast.  A number of articles, blogs, columns, op-eds and editorials have been written to mark the occasion, many focusing on the impact on the school system in New Orleans.  Below is just a small sampling of those items.]
Katrina, 10 Years Later
The Friday edition of the “Ed News” had several items about the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans’ school system and what has changed since.  Continuing in that vein, Julian Vasquez Heilig, for THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION, has a “Policy Brief” on where the State of Louisiana and the new, nearly all-charter (90%) Recovery School District (RSD) stand a decade after the storm.   “The predominance of the data suggest that the top-down, privately controlled education reforms imposed on New Orleans have failed,” he concludes.  “The state and RSD place last and nearly last in national and federal data.  These results do not deserve accolades.”                 TheINTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES takes a slightly different view of the changes in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina.  It points out that for some students things have improved but a significant group of others have been left behind.  “A decade after Hurricane Katrina spurred New Orleans to undertake a historic school reform experiment — a shift to a virtually all-charter district with unfettered parent choice — evidence of broader progress,” it notes, “is shot through with signs that the district’s most vulnerable students were rebuffed, expelled, pushed out or lost altogether. . . .  In relinquishing oversight to independent charter operators, former employees say, district authorities lost sight of at-risk students.  Under stiff pressure to improve numbers or face closure, schools culled students and depressed dropout rates,” the heavily researched piece continues.  “And as families muddled through a complex and decentralized system, a sizable contingent of at-risk students may have left the system unrecorded.”              TheNATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY CENTER (NEPC), out of the University of Colorado Boulder, reports on similar findings regarding New Orleans in an article titled “New Orleans Recovery School District Not Quite as Recovered as Advertised.”  “Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent reforms, there remain more questions than answers. Even if the reforms implemented under such a hyper-politicized arrangement show some clear gains in student achievement, as seems to be the case, it is important to attend to the serious equity concerns that remain in the system, and to examine other outcomes, beyond test scores,” it suggests.  “The preliminary evidence, from a combination of news reports and research studies, suggests that the New Orleans reforms disproportionately benefit more advantaged students, relative to the most at-risk and under-served students.  In light of these concerns, there is a need for more research that systematically examines whether the reforms have truly altered the structure of opportunities for students who are low-income, of color, English Language Learners, or have disabilities.  Given the additional resources and the unique New Orleans experience, there are also questions about how sustainable and replicable the New Orleans model is, even though many cities are adopting similar reforms.”                 “The rhetoric of corporate reform is always about ‘saving poor black kids.’  In New Orleans,” Diane Ravitch’s blog comments about the above article, “they have not yet been saved.”                FAIR (FAIRNESS & ACCURACY IN REPORTING), as you may tell from the title, takes a different approach to the story of New Orleans.  It wants to know why corporate “reform” groups and certain education “experts” want totout all the improvements and advances in the education system in the city.  The article is headlined “Katrina’s ‘Golden Opportunity:’ 10 Years of Corporate Media Celebrating Disaster.”  “Americans love, above all, a narrative. Preferably a moral one, marked by a clear good and evil,”  the story begins.  “For many so-called ‘school reformers,’ the tragedy of Katrina, which marks its ten-year anniversary [Aug. 29], provided that narrative.  Its stark before-and-after provided a clear A/B test as to the righteousness of their cause.  Before was a ‘broken school system,’ and after is a glossy, privatized education system.”  The author proceeds to review some previous reporting on the story including a particularly obnoxious editorial that wished a similar disaster that struck New Orleans would visit Chicago.  [Ed. note: You read that correctly.  The FAIR piece includes excerpts from it, so you won’t think I made it up!]                   The  DEMOCRACY NOW!  program has a segment on the education system in New Orleans since the storm.  You can view the show (8:19 minutes) and/or read a transcript by  clicking here .  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending that.  He found the portion that describes what happened to the African-American faculty to be particularly poignant.                 In order to be “fair and balanced,” the “Ed News” would like to give equal time to the other side of the story.  EDUCATION WEEK provides a commentary on how New Orleans rebuilt its school system by the head of the RSD Patrick Dobard.  “In the wake of Katrina, our city has had to rebuild the school system from scratch—a gut-wrenching experience, but also an opportunity to do things completely differently,” he explains.  “After the storm, the Louisiana legislature transferred 107 of the lowest-performing schools to the Recovery School District, or RSD, a body first created in 2003, before Katrina, to transform chronically underperforming public schools.                            Both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush (!) were back in New Orleans last week with nothing but praise for what’s been accomplished with the school system.  Bush went so far as to call New Orleans “a beacon for school reform.”  [Ed. note:  I think he needs to read the “Ed News”].  ED WEEK describes the visits and includes a short video (57 seconds) of Obama’s remarks.               Why is it important to understand the complete story of New Orleans?  The corporate “reform” crowd offers a drumbeat of success stories about the city in hopes that others will do the same things in their districts.  Paul Thomas of Furman University, on his the becoming radical blog, takes a look at how similar structural changes were made in Charleston, South Carolina, minus the hurricane, and what impact they have had on that city’s school district.  His commentary is titled “Ten Years After Katrina: Lessons from Charleston, SC.”  “As we can witness in New Orleans,” Thomas maintains, “the lessons of education and education reform in Charleston are two-fold: (1) historically and currently, traditional public schools have failed/do fail vulnerable populations, specifically black and poor children, and (2) accountability-based and free-market education reform has also not alleviated the burdens of racism and poverty, but has too often exacerbated the devastating consequences of both.”   If “reform” and “change” didn’t work out quite as well as reported in New Orleans, Charleston and other cities, why do some segments of American society continue to push that agenda?  That’s the quiz question of the day.  Please submit your answers, in the form of a proper 5 paragraph essay, to . . . .
And Now to Chicago
They are starting to play hardball in the Windy City.  The hunger strike over the closure of Dyett High on the South Side is approaching two weeks and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is not planning to buckle to public pressure.  In fact, he is going ahead with the sale of the property where the school stands to real estate developers.  MIKE KLONSKY’S SMALL TALK BLOG has the discouraging details.   “Rahm Emanuel, cynical bastard that he is, never intended to put a school back in Dyett.  From the time he closed this, the last public open-enrollment high school in Bronzeville, his plan was always to sell the building to the real estate developers. . . .  Like his predecessor Daley,” Klonsky complains, “Rahm would sell off every foot of this city’s public space that wasn’t nailed down, if he could.  And maybe he can.  The erosion of public space and public decision-making has been a hallmark of the regime’s strategy of gentrifying and whitenizing the city.  It’s New Orleans without the flood.  A quarter-million African-American citizens have left Chicago in the past decades.”                For a day 14 update on the Dyett High hunger strike (see above) check out this item by Michelle Gunderson on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  She’s a 28-year classroom veteran who is currently teaching first grade in the Chicago Public Schools, an active member of the Chicago Teachers Union and  a doctoral student at Loyola of Chicago University in Curriculum and instruction.                  An elementary school principal who is an outspoken critic of Mayor Emmanuel’s education policies in Chicago was reprimanded last week by the Chicago Public School’s board.Principal Troy LaRaviere received a “warning resolution” from the panel that could lead to his dismissal.  Why?  Might it be because he supported Emmanuel’s opponent in the race for mayor earlier this year?  Or possibly because LaRaviere is critical of the misuse of standardized testing, supports parents who opt their children out of the assessments and recently blasted district finances.  Your guess is as good as any one’s.   The  Big Education Ape (A. P.arentE.ngaged)  website reprints the story from the original in the Chicago Tribune, which is behind a registration wall.                   According to Diane Ravitch’s blog, LaRaviere was uncowed  (see above) and wrote this on his website in response to the CPS board’s action:  “That resolution had absolutely no effect on me curtailing my desire to articulate and help the city of Chicago understand how backwards and corrupt this system is.  If anything, it intensified that desire.”   Ravitch has some other choice words in her brief report on the situation.                  LaRaviere has a much more expansive statement on his TROY LARAVIERE’S BLOG  in response to the CPS action against him.  In it he offers a point-by-point rebuttal to the 2 charges against him.   “CPS is not interested in anything that contradicts its ideologically driven anti-public-school privatization agenda; an agenda which includes, among other things, over-testing students, and the diversion of public education funds away from students into the hands of private interests,” he boldly proclaims.   “It was action I took against both of these backward elements of the CPS reform agenda that led to the Board’s warning resolution against me.”
Charter Schools & Vouchers
A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an ambitious plan by the Broad Foundation and other philanthropists to expand charter schools in the LAUSD to service up to 50% of the students in that district.  UTLA Pres. Alex Caputo-Pearl announced his group would aggressively fight to oppose the initiative according to an interview he conducted with the LA SCHOOL REPORT.  “Caputo-Pearl and other teacher union leaders, local and national, have fought against the rise of charter schools,” the article mentions, “asserting that they undermine public education by draining financial support from public education systems and creating an educational caste system that favors some demographic groups over others.”               Three civil liberty groups have filed suit in a Nevada district court challenging that state’s new voucher program, signed into law in June , that allows taxpayer money to be used for parochial school educations.  The ACLU website describes the litigation.  “Under the program, parents of students enrolled in public school for at least 100 days may transfer their children to participating private schools, including religious schools, and are eligible to receive thousands of dollars in public education funds to pay for tuition, textbooks, and other associated costs.  The funds will be disbursed through so-called ‘Education Savings Accounts,’ and there are no restrictions on how participating schools can use the money.”  The lawsuit maintains that the voucher program, as currently constituted, violates two sections of the Nevada constitution.                Nevada and California’s neighbor, Arizona, was the first state to create a tax credit for private school education (aka a voucher) back in 1997.  Then it was touted as an inexpensive way to introduce competition and choice into the field of education for low-income and special needs children trapped in “failing” schools.  How successful has the program been in meeting its goals over the past 18 years?  According to an extensive investigative piece in the Arizona Republic, the answer is “very poor.”  “A program that legislative budget staff in 1997 estimated would cost $4.5 million a year now tops $140 million. . . .  Despite its explosive growth, the program has failed to keep its promise of primarily aiding special-needs and low-income students, and of expanding school choice. Meanwhile, as it grows, critics say, it is further depleting funding for public schools.”                If you don’t want to read the extensive report in the Republic you can get the key pointsin a much shorter form from the Washington Monthly.  “Private school enrollment in the state is actually going down, and public school enrollment is increasing.  And meanwhile almost 70 percent of that fund is used to send the children of reasonably affluent people to ‘a school of their choice,’ even though many of them could just afford the tuition on their own,” it concludes.  “This is how to kill public schools.”                Is a scandal brewing in regards to the trouble-plagued charter school system in Ohio?  Several newspapers in the Buckeye state have requested information from the state Superintendent of Education as they probe whether someone omitted some key information in the department’s evaluation of charter school sponsors.  The department has been VERY slow in providing those materials.  An editorial in the The Columbus Dispatch is headlined “Tardy on Transparency–Ohio Department of Education Drags its Feet on Request for Public Records.”  “The omission artificially inflated the rankings of at least one sponsor,”it notes.  “Several charter-school sponsors have made large donations to Republican officeholders.  These donations are routinely cited as a major reason why Ohio’s lawmakers have failed to reform Ohio’s abysmal charter-school system.”                The Cleveland Plain-Dealer also editorialized on the situation as did The Akron Beacon-Journal which you can read by clicking here.  To paraphrase Shakespeare: “There is something rotten in the state Dept. of Education of Ohio.”
District to Provide 100% Organic Meals
Guess which state contains the first school district in the country to offer 100% organic and GMO-free meals?  If you said “California,” treat yourself to an organic brownie or cookie.  The Sausalito Marin County School District in northern California began a pilot program in Aug., 2013, at one campus in the district and this year is expanding it to the other campus.  The delicious details can be found in an item from the TRUE ACTIVIST website.  “According to [The Conscious Kitchen, which is overseeing the plan], meals will be accompanied by nutrition and gardening education,” the story explains.  “In addition, the program will also address the controversial issue of GMOs in school food.  While the long-term effects posed by genetically modified crops is still unknown, there is a growing amount of evidence linking them to a number of health risks and environmental damage.”
Back to School
It’s back-to-school season and the current Sept. 7/14 edition ofTIME magazine has a piece titled “8 Ideas Making Schools Better for Kids.”  It includes suggestions for eliminating traditional homework for elementary students, providing cafeterias that promote healthy eating and starting classes after 8:30 especially for secondary students.  “In recent years, U.S. schools have started to experiment with a variety of reforms designed to make students happier, healthier and better prepared to live and eventually work with people of all backgrounds,” it describes.  “Of course, realizing these goals is by no means easy, especially amid widespread budget cuts.  (Most public schools are getting less state funding than they were before the recession.)  And even though debates over issues like teachers’ unions and Common Core are sure to get more attention as the 2016 election nears, some innovators are making headway with fresh ideas that are starting to stick–and may even scale–in American classrooms.”  Do you think the 8 suggestions they propose are feasible?                UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl delivers his 2015 state-of-the-union address (39:58 minutes) which you can view on YouTube by clicking here.                 The back-to-school season means major changes in that daily summer routine for both students AND teachers.  An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times, written by an ex-teacher and author of a book about his experiences, brings up those nostalgic feelings about returning to school after that nice summer break. “We keep signing up, keep going to class, and the vision of kids pouring out of a school bus, generation after generation, reminds us why.  I know of no other sight that pleads so persuasively for rededication,” he concludes plaintively, “not only to the democratic project of a free, public and equal education for all, but to the intimately related project of making a just and sustainable world.  If Nature hasn’t given up on her best idea, then who are we to quit.”
Corporate Reform
Paul Horton taught in all sorts of schools in Texas for 26 years before spending the last 14 teaching at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  He pens an extended review, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, of the corporate market “reform” movementfor education looking at the history and key figures who promoted it from the start and brings it up to today.  He concludes his very scholarly piece with a ringing endorsement of the opt-out movement as the best way to combat the “irrationality” of market “reformers” and privatizers.                 If you listen to the corporate “reformers” low-performing schools must be closed, turned into charters or privatized.  They don’t like to hear about campuses where parents, teachers and the community were successfully able to improve a school without resorting to those options.  The TEXAS OBSERVER presents one such case in a piece aptly titled “Back From the Brink–How One Austin High School Rallied to Save Itself.”  “Unlikely as it seemed not too long ago, students, teachers, neighborhood activists and even the state’s top education official are all singing the same happy song about Eastside [High School].  What’s remarkable, they all agree, is how the community has helped the school succeed where so many other reform attempts had failed,” it maintains.  “The activists who fought to keep the school open say that Eastside could be a model for how schools on the brink of being erased can make it.”  The article proceeds to detail how the campus was saved.  There are some important lessons to be learned here.  Everyone, including the corporate “reformers,” needs to read this.                 Have you got a spare 6:37 minutes?  If you don’t right now, save this one for this Labor Day 3-day weekend.    Why?  Because Anthony Cody has a thoughtful video on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog looking at corporate “reform” as epitomized by the Gates Foundation.  It is well worth your time as he seems to be able to encapsulate the major criticisms against the reform movement in under seven minutes!
LAUSD Board to Meet Behind Closed Doors to Begin Search for a New Supt.
The LAUSD school board met behind closed doors on Sunday to begin the search for a new superintendent to replace Ramon Cortines, according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  The first order of business will be to choose an outside company to conduct the initial search for candidates.  Cost?  Up to $250,000 plus expenses.  Be sure to read the last paragraph which reviews the selection process for the ousted Supt. John Deasy who served from April, 2011, to Oct., 2014.               A follow-up story in yesterday’sTimes reported on what took place at the Sunday meetingmentioned in the article above.  “The Los Angeles Board of Education held a private retreat Sunday to discuss the next superintendent of schools and ended up picking two executive search firms to interview.  The meeting was set up mostly as a closed-door discussion,” it notes, “but there was one item on which the board could have acted: giving a contract to a firm for a nationwide search for a new leader.  Five firms have applied for the job and all remain in the running.  After its closed session Sunday afternoon, the board voted to pick two firms initially to interview, in public, as early as Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting.”
The Teaching Profession
It has finally come to this.  The 3,300 Chester Upland School District, located 20 miles west of Philadelphia,doesn’t have enough money, for a variety of the usual reasons, to open schools for the new year tomorrow.  Sooooo, state and local official decided to close the district and send the kids to any neighboring district, charter or cyberschool that would accept them.  Except, the local union met and the 200 members voted unanimously to WORK WITHOUT PAY!!!!  Secretaries, janitors,bus drivers and administrators decided to join them.  Steven Singer on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOGrecounts how the district reached these dire straights and what’s in store for teachers and students.  “Districts serving poor communities often don’t have much left over to continue running while Harrisburg [the state capital] plays political games. If something isn’t done soon,” Singer worries, “Chester Upland could be the first in a series of dominoes set to topple down.  The only thing keeping these districts afloat is the hard work and good will of their teachers and staff.”   It is a very sad state of affairs we’ve come to, indeed!                An article in The Washington Postpicked up on the situation in the Chester Upland School District(see above).  Possibly the saddest part of all this is that the same scenario played out in the SAME district 3 years ago.   “A similar financial collapse occurred in the district in 2012, and the teachers also agreed to work without pay then,”  it drearily explains.  “In the end, a federal judge ordered the state to pay the district, and lawmakers arranged a bailout, so that employees’ paychecks were just a couple of days late.”                  On a much more positive note, the BATS (Badass Teachers Association) created this story board  titled “We Are Teachers:” 
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Are student teachers the latest casualty of standardized testing?  That’s the issue taken up by a guest on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post.  The author is an assistant professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.  “As children return to K-12 classrooms, some will find that the emphasis on standardized testing that has caused stress for teachers and students now has a new casualty: student teachers.  Teacher education programs around the country are beginning to feel the impact of testing standards, as master teachers pull back from their traditional role as trainers.  Many of them feel that the pressures of ‘teaching to the test’ mean they no longer have time to manage new teachers in their classrooms,” she points out.  “A future when seasoned teachers are no longer able or willing to mentor pre-service teachers due to testing and teaching constraints is a grim prospect.  This situation does a disservice to student teachers, teachers, schools and, most importantly, children.”  The author proceeds to further delineate the problems and offers several teacher preparation programs, including one at CSU Fresno, that are dealing with it.                 The last defendant in the Atlanta test cheating scandal was sentenced today by the judge presiding over the case.  The “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK provides the latest details and briefly reviews “what experts think is the longest and most complex academic misconduct case in U.S. history.”
Guns on Campus
California law has banned guns within 1,000 feet of any public or private school since 1995.  It includes an exemption for concealed weapons when the owner has a permit to carry them.  The State Senate has already passed a bill that would change the law and the Assembly is scheduled to take it up soon.  An editorial in Sunday’sL.A. Times has some suggestions for making the law better and details some of the political maneuvering taking place behind the scenes.  “[The] bill would end the campus exemption for all people holding concealed-carry permits, while granting the top school administrator the power to make case-by-case exceptions,” it explains.  “It would end the exemption on school grounds only; people with a concealed-carry permit would still be allowed to bring their weapons within that 1,000-foot zone around elementary or high schools . Current exemptions would continue for police, security guards and others armed as part of their work, as well as for existing shooting ranges on campuses and for theatrical productions.”
It’s probably been a long time since you attended kindergarten and what is being offered nowadays is vastly different from what you may dimly recollect.  The current curriculum is now aligned with the Common Core and some programs now keep their charges all day.  Attendance in California is still not compulsory and an editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times argues against changing that law. “Making kindergarten compulsory for all children, as proposed this year and in the past by the California Teachers Assn., is a bad idea.  For one thing, it’s very expensive, costing at least $200 million a year, mostly to hire public school teachers.  (No wonder the union likes the idea so much,)” it rather snarkly points out.  “Furthermore, it’s unnecessary.  According to the California Department of Education, 93% of the state’s 5-year-olds already attend public kindergarten — about 500,000 children.  Others attend private kindergarten and still others go to kindergarten a year later, at age 6, because they weren’t developmentally ready the previous year.”                If you don’t remember your kindergarten experience (see above) you certainly won’t recall your “expanded transitional kindergarten,” especially since it didn’t exist or at least it wasn’t referred to like that until very recently.  The same Times paper as above has a “Q & A” feature on the LAUSD’s expanded transitional kindergarten program that began in 2010 (that’s why you don’t remember it).
And finally, last month the New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia was threatening to withhold federal and state funds if districts in her state had too many students opt-out of state testing.  She apparently flip-flopped on that position in a recent interview with NPR station WAMC in Albany stating “parents ‘absolutely’ have the right to opt their kids out of state standardized tests,” the segment notes, “but she says she still wants to talk to them to try to bring them back to the fold.”  You can read an edited transcript of the interview and/or listen to the audio (3:07 minutes). Dave Alpert

(Occidental College, ’71)
That’s me working diligently on the blog.