Monthly Archives: October 2015

Ed News, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 Edition

       The ED NEWS

              A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
[Ed. note: The “Ed News” needs to take a short break to deal with a family matter.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Happy Halloween to everyone.]
 
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                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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

Ed News, Tuesday, October 20, 2015 Edition

       The ED NEWS

               A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             
“For many years I have been asking myself why intelligent children act unintelligently at school. The simple answer is, ‘Because they’re scared.’ I used to suspect that children’s defeatism had something to do with their bad work in school, but I thought I could clear it away with hearty cries of ‘Onward! You can do it!’ What I now see for the first time is the mechanism by which fear destroys intelligence, the way it affects a child’s whole way of looking at, thinking about, and dealing with life. So we have two problems, not one: to stop children from being afraid, and then to break them of the bad thinking habits into which their fears have driven them.”
                                         ― John HoltHow Children Fail
Charter Schools
The LA SCHOOL REPORT is conducting a poll on the Broad Foundation plan to substantially increase the number of charters in LAUSD to 50% by 2023.  You don’t have to log on or provide an email address or sacrifice your first born to participate.  Once you hit “Submit” you can click on the “View the Results” to see the latest tally.  [Ed. note: When I voted 1,038 people had already participated.  I’ll tell you how I voted if you’ll tell me how you voted.]              If you were unclear about where Campbell Brown, former CNN and NBC news anchor, stands on education issues this item should bring some clarity.  In an op-ed for THE DAILY BEAST she heaps praise on British Prime Minister David Cameron for his call to end traditional public schools in Britain and convert them all to academies which are the equivalent, she states, of charter schools.              Diane Ravitch’s blog had some choice words for Campbell Brown’s commentary (see above).  Here’s just a brief example: “Campbell Brown knows nothing about public education. She attended the elite Madeira School. Yet she despises public education and considers herself an expert.”  The rest is just as caustic!               Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted two rallies, one last week and one today, sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools and the Success Academy (SA) charters founded and run by Eva Moscowitz.  Both protests were planned to make the case for charters and to promote their expansion in New York and for increased funding for the programs.  A blogger on the SCHOOL BUILDING website (“A Policy Forum for Teachers”) spoke with one of the participants who teaches at a SA school and who pointed out the rallies take place on school time and pretty much compel teachers, students and parents to attend.  The author of the piece makes the point that Moscowitz argues that her charters help fight inequality when, in fact, they may be promoting exactly the opposite.  The piece asks the simple question in its title “Is Success Academy Fighting Inequality?”
 
Columbus Day Controversy
Should the holiday celebrated in the U.S. on the second Monday of October be called Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day or something else?  In 1992 Berkeley became the first city to rename what used to be referred to as Columbus Day.  Since then, a number of cities have followed suit.  And what about our schools?  How should they handle the whole situation?  The Atlantic raises an issue you might not even have thought of as being controversial.  The item is titled “Rethinking History Class on Columbus Day–The Importance of Exposing Students to the Many Truths About the Controversial Explorer.”  After the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, Confederate flags in many public places in the South were removed.  As we become a much more diverse nation racially, ethnically and religiously, what do you think should be dona about those statues of Columbus dotted around the country?
Education Reform
Mitchell Robinson, on his Mitchell Robinson blog, sees the corporate “reform” movement as one side in the war over education.  He divides the two adversaries in the fight into the “Deformers” who want to bring market-based ideas and privatization into education and the “Guardians” who support public education and want to see it funded appropriately and protected.  His piece is titled “Who’s Who in the Education Wars?” and Robinson has detailed descriptions of each side and who are some of the most famous and influential individuals.  “The education wars are far from over,” he concludes.  “The promise of billions of dollars in potential profits has proven too intoxicating to resist, and the Deformers are well-funded, emboldened, and buoyed by recent successes.  The only thing standing in their way is a plucky band of part-time, volunteer activists who are committed to an agenda” that battles “to defend and support our children, our teachers and our public schools.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has been chronicling the massive amounts of outside money being poured into the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) election by certain well-known corporate “reformers” and billionaires.  You may be astonished (or maybe not) by the 6-figure contributions from people like Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton and others.  Why are they so interested in a school board election in the Pelican state?  Good question.  Read Schneider’s column for some answers.  “What this means,” she reveals, “is that four out-of-state billionaire families have contributed over $2 million to a single Louisiana PAC in order to purchase four unsalaried seats on a state education board.  Diane Ravitch had this comment on her blog about Schneider’s revelations: “An ordinary person might be able to raise $40,000-60,000 to run for state board.  The billionaires are destroying democracy with their obscene donations and their goal of buying control of a democratic institution.  You will note that none of them lives in Louisiana yet they feel okay about determining the future of public education for the people of Louisiana and their children.”               Two weeks ago Bill Gates delivered an important speech (highlighted in the “Ed News”)  outlining his foundation’s K-12 education strategy.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUEblog, transcribes the address and provides a video (32 minutes) of it.  In a follow-up column, Cody proceeds to analyze what Gates said focusing particularly on what the philanthropist proposes for changing the way teachers are evaluated.  Needless to say, Cody is highly critical of Gates’ model and he reviews some of the research on effective evaluative methods.  “Teacher professional growth is not served well by being embedded in an evaluative framework.  It is best served when teachers have significant latitude to chart their own paths as individuals,” Cody concludes, “and as school staffs.  Administrators can help lead this process.  .  .  . But the real work must be done by teachers, who are intellectually and spiritually engaged with this endeavor. That engagement is not derived from the coercion inherent in the evaluation process.  It is unleashed by inspiring leadership – and that comes best from teachers themselves.”
Suspending K-1 Students
The Oct. 13 edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story by education reporter John Merrow that aired on NPR’s “NewsHour” program about suspensions of kindergarten and first grade students at Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy (SA) charters in New York City.  Moscowitz was not pleased with the way she and her campuses were portrayed and sent a letter to Judy Woodruff demanding a correction and an apology.  You can read a copy of the letter (8 pages) that was sent by email on the Success Academy Charter Schools site by clicking here.               Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a press release from an official of the SA organization, dated yesterday, about the letter.               Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog jumps into the controversy between Moscowitz and John Merrow’s report about suspensions at her schools.  He believes she’s rather brazen to demand an apology and, if you know Greene’s style, he does it rather colorfully.
Controversial LAUSD Attorney Reinstated
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday column for the L.A. Times, is outraged that the LAUSD rehired an outside attorney it had previously dismissed when he argued in court that a 13-year-old girl was partly to blame for her being sexually abused by her middle school teacher and for some comments the lawyer made on a radio station about it.  Lopez lays out the details of the original case and the reasons why the attorney was let go and then reinstated.  He’s pretty angry about the entire situation and you’ll get that sentiment from his column. 
 
The Purpose of an Education
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, revisits the philosophical discussion regrading the purpose of an education.  His piece is titled “Education Does Not Cure Poverty–It Cures Ignorance.”  “Even under the best of circumstances, education does not make someone rich.  That’s not it’s goal,” Singer writes.  “It never has been.  Education seeks to enrich people’s minds, not their bank accounts.  Yes, there is a relationship between the two, but its several steps removed.  A well educated person may be able to more easily obtain money than an uneducated one.  She may be more prepared for a well-paying job.  However, being prepared is rarely what makes someone rich.”
 
Election 2016
The “Politics K-12” column at EDUCATION WEEK provides a scorecard that answers the question posed in the title “Which GOP Presidential Candidates Want to Abolish the Education Department?”   “Getting rid of the department,” the author reports, “has been a conservative rallying cry since, well, the agency’s inception back in 1980 [Under Pres. Carter].  And even though it’s really hard to get rid of the department, it’s still a popular talking point this election season.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Be VERY glad you don’t work for this principal.  The woman, who heads a K-5 school in the Bronx, ordered teachers’ desks and filing cabinets removed from classrooms telling the educators she “does not want them sitting” in class.”  The furniture was removed while students looked on in disbelief as it was stacked on the sidewalk.  If you think this story has to be pure fiction and I’m pulling your leg, check it out on the New York Post.  Aren’t you glad you don’t work for her.              An item on the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) website provides some more information, from educators at the school, about the principal who doesn’t want her teachers sitting down in class or storing their materials in file cabinets (see above).  The comments appended to this piece are worth looking at.                UTLA filed an unfair labor practice before the California Public Employment Relations Board and got an injunction from the panel against the Alliance College-Ready Public Charter Schools chain for its actions to block unionization efforts on its 27 campuses in Los Angeles.  Alliance was accused “of intimidating employees, denying organizers access to school buildings and blocking emails.  In its request, the union said there would be irreparable harm if the courts did not intervene.”  A story in today’s L.A. Times provides the details of the Board’s decision to intervene.
 
Turnaround School Districts
What is the track record of state-run turnaround, recovery or achievement districts?  Those are special school districts created solely to help turn around the lowest performing schools in a state.  They’ve so far been tried to Louisiana, Tennessee and Michigan with Georgia and Pennsylvania ready to jump on the bandwagon.  The results, however, have been mixed according to a review in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “More than a decade after the first such district was founded in Louisiana,” the story relates, “the results have been mixed.  Turning around high schools — where the stakes are arguably highest as students prepare to head out into the real world — has proven to be particularly frustrating for reformers.”
 
Parent-Teacher Relationships
The “Explainer” feature in today’s L.A. Times has a Q & A on how parents can establish positive lines of communication with their children’s teachers and when and what they should discuss.  The online version of this piece has a few more questions than the print version.  “Students aren’t the only ones who have homework,” the author relates in her introduction.  “We parents also have an ongoing assignment: building, nurturing and maintaining a relationship with our kids’ teachers. . . . Sure, exchanges between parent and teacher can, at times, feel territorial or even adversarial. But they shouldn’t — and they don’t have to.”
 
Teen Clockmaker Visits White House
And finally, remember the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teenager, who caused quite a stir (he was handcuffed and arrested by police and was suspended from school for the incident) when the homemade clock he brought to school was thought to be a bomb?  He attended an “Astronomy Night” at the White House last night and his appearance at the event sparked  renewed discussions about discipline and racial justice in our schools.  EDUCATION WEEKbrings you up-to-date on these latest developments.  “Ahmed’s supporters said his case demonstrated how school discipline is often administered unfairly, especially for students of color.  But some, including some conservative politicians,” the author points out, “said the public was too quick to judge educators and police who were responding to what they saw as a potential safety threat.”
    
                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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

Ed News, Friday, October 16, 2015, Edition

The ED NEWS

    A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             
 
                    “There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child 
only eight years old ‘accountable’ for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam 
but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her 
of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.” 
UTLA Rally Against Charter Expansion
UTLA held a rally Tuesday during a district board meeting to protest the planned major expansion of charters in LAUSD.  The teachers’ union put together a coalition of other employee groups during their gathering before the board.  “Joining the teachers union on Tuesday, in a presentation to the Board of Education, was Rusty Hicks, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor,” the story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times points out.  “Also joining in were the other seven district employee unions, including those representing administrators, other managers, police officers, clerical workers and other non-teaching campus employees.”
 
Nevada Facing “Horrific” Teacher Shortage
The Las Vegas Sun reports that Nevada is facing a severe shortage of teachers described as “horrific” by the Nevada Board of Education president.  “Nevada is suffering an acute teacher shortage as its student population rises and its primary supplier of educators — California — deals with a shortage of its own,” the story relates.  “Colleges there are producing fewer teaching graduates, and Nevada colleges are far from being able to churn out enough homegrown education graduates to meet the state’s needs.  Some blame the shortage on low pay, especially for first-year teachers, and a general lack of respect for the profession.”  The article cites Clark County (Las Vegas) as an example where schools lost 1,650 educators out of a total of 18,000 this year.  900 left due to retirement but the district is baffled as to why the other 750 left.
 
Arne Duncan Resigns
Now that the initial reaction to the news has passed that Arne Duncan will be stepping down as secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) and Pres. Obama has appointed John King to finish out his term, thus avoiding a probable nomination fight in the Senate, the focus is turning to describing Duncan’s legacy and trying to predict what King will do in the a little over 13 months he will hold the post.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, leads things off by explaining that King actually taught, founded and led a school and oversaw a string of charter schools (unlike Duncan) so there’s a concrete track record available as to his philosophies, policies and goals.  How might that record translate into broad plans for the DoE?  Bryant has some intriguing predictions in a piece titled “Where Will John King Stand on Student Suspensions?”                John Merrow, long-time education observer and expert with his work as a reporter for National Public Radio and more recently with the Public Broadcasting Service, reflects on his THE MERROW REPORT website on the tenure of U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan upon his resignation from his post.  “Arne Duncan departs with quite a track record,” Merrow relates, “clearly the most powerful Secretary of Education since the Department was created in the Carter Administration.”  Merrow proceeds to delineate some of the pluses and minuses of Duncan’s influential term.                             And what about that Duncan legacy?  THE Nation magazine looks back and finds he was certainly “a champion for the corporate reform movement,” as the item is subtitled.  “To understand the legacy of outgoing education secretary Arne Duncan, look to the Crescent City.  Hurricane Katrina, Duncan said once, was ‘the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.’  What the disaster did was enable state legislators and out-of-state reformers to transform the system on an unparalleled scale,” the article begins.  “Nearly all of the schools were converted to charters, which receive public funds but have less oversight than traditional public schools.  Some 7,500 unionized teachers and other employees were fired, many of them people of color.  The city’s teaching core went from 71 percent black in 2004 to less than 50 percent last year. . . . [Duncan] pointed to[New Orleans] as a sort of blueprint for remaking public education across the country.  It’s the place where his vision for school reform was most fully realized,” it continues.  “Whether the overhaul was a miracle or misguided is a question about Duncan’s legacy more broadly.”
 
Parent Donates $70,000 to Seattle Elementary School
Here’s a rather unique tale.  A Seattle parent donates $70,000 to a local elementary school to help save a teaching position and the kicker is, his own daughter attends a different school.  The man, who runs his own reality film production company, was reading some stories about school cut-backs and decided to take action.  [Ed. thought: Just consider how many public school teaching positions Eli Broad could save with the almost half-a-billion dollar plan to expand charters in the LAUSD.]  KIRO 7  TV in Seattle reports on the story including a short video (2:12 minutes) about it.
 
LAUSD Supt. Search
Local parent activist and Venice resident Karen Wolfe has some serious concerns about the person selected by the LAUSD to head the community-outreach portion of the search for a new superintendent.  Her piece is titled “Is Eli Broad’s Hostile Takeover of the LAUSD Coming From the Outside or the In?” and appears on the PS connect website.  “The person at the center of the outreach for the supe search is a lobbyist who has spent her career advancing an agenda closely aligned with Eli Broad’s,” Wolfe writes.  “Before joining LAUSD’s lobbying department, Beth Doctor Gibbons sharpened her chops for nearly three years at Michelle Rhee’s lobbying group, StudentsFirst, one of the leading organizations that champions Broad-style reforms.  Gibbons’ entire resume reads like the biography of a Broad zealot.”  Wolfe goes on to provide some highlights of that resume. How muchpublic input will the LAUSD allow in its selection process for a new superintendent?  In Boston, earlier this year, the district opened up the interviews of the 4 finalists to public questions.  That may be taking thinks a little too far in Los Angeles.  NPR station89.3KPCC has both a printed story on the topic and a brief audio segment (54 seconds) about it.  “The school district has posted an online survey, translated into four other languages, asking the public for its input on the ideal superintendent,” it mentions. “Fourteen community forums are scheduled in the last two weeks of October to hear what kind of superintendent the public wants.”               The TopSchoolJobs” feature in EDUCATION WEEK has a very interesting listing for a superintendent for the LAUSD.  You can read the job description and link to the preliminary application all by clicking here.  “The District is the largest American school system with an elected Board of Education,” the notice explains.  “The Board seeks a superintendent who is a strong instructional and organizational leader to provide vision, inspiration, commitment, and outcomes for continued District improvement.  The ideal superintendent will possess strong managerial skills and focus the District’s efforts on the Board’s goals of achievement for all students, significant parent/community engagement, safe school environments, high attendance, and high graduation rates.”  Interested in applying?  Know anyone who might be?
 
Election 2016
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, was quick to report on the first Democratic debate held in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening.  He, like the editor of the “Ed News” found very little of substance was mentioned regarding education issues.  Singer complains that no questions were asked of the candidates about America’s K-12 schools.  A couple of the answers included brief references to pre-K programs and making post-secondary schools more affordable but that was about it.  Singer partly blames the media for not taking education seriously enough and Democratic candidates for paying lip service to the issue but not making it a major part of their campaigns.  Republicans, he points out, take great glee in taking pot shots at “failing” public schools, “lazy” teachers and “bullying” teachers’ unions.  “The media just doesn’t care about public education.  Nine times out of ten if they even print a story about schools,” Singer bemoans, “it’s a puff piece spin doctoring a school reform policy that isn’t working, never has been working and is – in fact – making things much worse for our nation’s students.  Otherwise it’s an expose of how teachers can’t make these horrendous policies work so its their fault and don’t even glance at the ballooning child poverty rate – that’s completely irrelevant to the issue of all these lazy teachers who can’t be fired because we’d have to prove they’re bad first.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, was rather non-plussed by the almost total lack of discussion of education issues at the debate.  He references Steven Singer’s comments (see above) and notes there’s not much to report.  “Bottom line– US public education, despite the assorted crises associated with it (both fictional and non-fictional) is shaping up to be a non-issue once again in Presidential politics. . . . If I was harboring any dreams, any spark of hope that maybe this would be our year, that maybe, given everything that has happened, this might be the year that public education somehow became a real campaign issue, that spark has been extinguished,”he wails, “buried, stomped on and drowned in a bucket of tears.”                The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reports that most of the (little) talk there was about education at the debate was focused narrowly on post-secondary issues like affordability and rising college debt.  “There were plenty of quick shout-outs to education during the Democratic presidential candidates’ very first debate in Las Vegas,” the author begins.  “But if you were hoping for a meaty discussion of the big issues facing K-12—testing, teacher evaluation, fixing low-performing schools—you were out of luck.  (That’s been a trend in the Democratic primary so far.)   There were some substantial exchanges on college access, however.”  She reviews some of the comments the candidates made during the course of the over 2-hour debate.               Prolific blogger and former charter school instructor Julian Vasquez Heilig had a viewer question for the Democratic candidates at their debate on Tuesday.  He was not selected by CNN to air his question during the broadcast.  The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog has a copy of the video (28 seconds) that he submitted.  Check out what he asks and you can only guess how the candidates might have responded.  Why do you think CNN rejected his query?               Hillary Clinton recently won a highly controversial endorsement from the NEA.  How did she pull off that major coup?  Mike Antonucci, on hisIntercepts (“A Listening Post Monitoring Public Education and Teachers’ Unions”) blog, has an exclusive “EIA” (Education Intelligence Agency) report on how Clinton was able to convince the NEA board she was their person.  She met with them prior to the vote and after delivering an opening statement she answered 13 questions about her positions.  “I have 11 of those questions, and Clinton’s responses,” he discloses.  “Some are quoted, some are clipped, and some are paraphrased.  I do not have a tape or a transcript of the proceedings, so I can’t personally attest to the full context.  I am, however, supremely confident in my sources, and would not post this here if I were not certain that it is an accurate account of events.”
 
NEA Blasts “McTeacher’s Nights”
The National Education Association is blasting McDonald’s for its“McTeacher’s Nights” promotion.  What is that?  You say you never heard of it?  Join the club.  An item from the ccfc (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood) includes a press release describing the events and mocking the entire concept.  “On McTeacher’s Nights, McDonald’s recruits teachers to ‘work’ behind the counter and serve burgers, fries, and soda to their students and their students’ families.  The corporation heavily brands the events, even going so far as to provide uniforms and branded shirts for teachers to wear behind counters.  In return, McDonald’s donates only a small portion of the event’s proceeds.  The events take advantage of cash-strapped schools,” the press release continues, “and use teachers to sell junk food directly to their students in order to create brand loyalty. . . .Not only are McTeacher’s Nights harmful for children’s health, they are also chronically poor fundraisers.  Schools typically receive only 15 to 20 percent of the event’s proceeds, often amounting to only one to two dollars per student.  According to CCFC’s research of a sampling of 25 schools which had participated in McTeacher’s Nights, only five schools raised more than $1,000.”  The piece ends with a list of organizations that are calling for McDonald’s to end the events.  It includes the NEA and AFT state affiliates in California and both organizations’ local chapters in Los Angeles among a number of others.
 
Ed Tech
Peter DeWitt, author, presenter and former elementary school principal, offers “Two Technology Tools That Will Help Change Your Impact.”  He mentions “Touchcast” a product that provides educators with a multi-camera, interactive television studio so they can create and record all sorts of student projects, lessons and instructional tutoring segments (a la the Khan Academy).  Tool number 2 is “Swivl” a simple device one wears around the neck where, at the touch of a button, your smartphone becomes a recording device to video interactions with individual students or teachers or groups of people.  DeWitt suggests it can become a excellent way for teachers to reflect on their techniques and find avenues for improvement.  EDUCATION WEEK has DeWitt’s article and it includes links to both items so you can get even more information and even place an order if you find them of value.Swivl and Touchcast are serious contenders to be game changers with how we connect with others in our school communities,” he concludes.  “Even the biggest technophobe could use these tools in a way that will help deepen learning and communication.”
 
When Teachers Care, High Schools Will Improve
All sorts of corporate “reformers” and education experts have offered myriad solutions for improving the nation’s secondary schools.  Very rarely does anyone ask a student for input about possible answers.  A 17-year-old student in Colorado has a rather simple idea.  If teachers demonstrate they care, students will respond.  THE HECHINGER REPORT discusses the issue with Jerika Miller and how her school made some vast improvements in its graduation rate over the past 5 years.  “What I would tell the teachers,” the young woman responds as part of a Q & A, “listening to students and looking out for those students who don’t talk a lot, or don’t engage a lot in class, looking out for them and asking them how they’re doing, and making them feel like you actually care about them, is a huge, huge part of being successful in school. When the teacher cares and wants me to succeed, that’s always when I’ve done better.”
 
LAUSD Votes to FIRE Rafe Esquith
The LAUSD board, in a unanimous, behind-closed-doors decision Tuesday, voted to fire Rafe Esquith, the popular 5th grade teacher at Hobart Avenue Elementary School  and acclaimed author.  [Ed. note: Esquith spoke to an ALOED group at Occidental a year or two ago.]  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times explains the board’s action.  “In a letter to Esquith’s attorneys in August, district officials said they were investigating claims that he inappropriately touched minors before and during his more than 30-year teaching career,”the article reports.  “The district also said the inquiry ‘revealed multiple inappropriate photographs and videos of a sexual nature.’  Other allegations involved his handling of a nonprofit.”  Esquith’s attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit this week on behalf of thousands of LAUSD teachers claiming they were treated unfairly and denied due process by the district in an effort to get rid of them as they approached retirement age.  Esquith will be able to challenge his firing before an administrative law judge.               The Esquith case has shined a light on a special LAUSD unit formed about a year ago to expedite the investigation of child abuse cases.  A front-page story in today’s Times describes its formation and how it works.  “The investigative unit grew out of the 2012 arrest of Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt,” it notes, “which led to a flurry of allegations and several prosecutions.  At one point, more than 320 instructors were in limbo after they’d been pulled from classrooms.”                A piece about the class action lawsuitfiled by Esquith’s attorney appeared on the LA SCHOOL REPORT  website yesterday afternoon.  “The suit was filed in state superior court on behalf of Rafe Esquith, a well-known teacher who was dismissed in April, as well as thousands of other unnamed teachers who have been placed in ‘jail’ by the district in recent years,” it reports.  “Calling LAUSD ‘a criminal cartel,’ the suit charges the district with violations of due process, age discrimination, whistleblower retaliation and wrongful discharge —  all in a scheme to remove older teachers whose salaries and benefits make them more expensive to retain.”               Jay Matthews, education columnist and blogger for The Washington Post, is a long-time follower and supporter of Rafe Esquith.  He believes the case against Esquith is “part of a witch hunt against hundreds of other L.A. educators.”  “Esquith will continue to do good work,” Matthews concludes.  “But it will take the L.A. school leadership many years to right the wrongs they have done, out of panic, to him and many others.”
 
School Shootings
Why do so many mass shootings in this country take place on our nation’s campuses?  Since the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Dec., 2012, there have been over 140 school shootings.  Walt Gardner, 28-year veteran teacher in the LAUSD and lecturer at the UCLA Graduate school of Education, offers some reasons why students are often the perpetrators of these terrible events.  His brief commentary is discouragingly titled “Why School Shootings are Unpreventable.” The truth is that we have no surefire way of making schools sanctuaries where learning can take place,”he depressingly relates.  “It’s one thing if shooters were outsiders who tried to enter campuses.  But if students themselves are the very same ones who are capable of murder, it’s a different story.”  Gardner’s piece includes a link to an extensive recent article in the latest issue of THE NEW YORKER about how school shootings proliferate.  Both items make for some pretty distressing reading.
 
Charter Schools
The charter school movement is proving to be a great way for lots of different people to make money.  Even real estate investors are getting on board according to a story in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.  “Real-estate investors are showing an increasing interest in charter school development,”  it points out, “as the demand grows for classroom seats and some state and local governments become more willing to help finance charter-school projects.  Almost all charter schools are operated by nonprofit organizations . But these groups often rent and buy their buildings from private real-estate developers, and that is creating a new niche asset for some investors.”  The article goes on to explain how all of this works with a couple of specific examples.             Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog charges that Eva Moscowitz, founder and CEO of the Success Academy charters in New York, istaking advantage of parents, students and teachers to push her agenda for increased funding and expanding the number of charters under her control.  Katz describes two rallies organized by Families for Excellent Education, within two weeks of each other, that did or will pull those students and teachers out of class in order to join the protests and pretty much compel parents to take time off from work.  “I don’t know about you, but when my children’s unionized public school teachers take a half day, it is because they are in professional development workshops and related activities.  They certainly are not being taken from their schools,” he complains, “to a rally organized by a lobbying group funded specifically to increase their influence with lawmakers in City Hall and in Albany.”
 
Student Privacy
Major questions are being raised regarding the protection of private data with Microsoft’s brand new Windows 10 operating system.  EDUCATION WEEK explores the issue particularly as it relates to the system’s collection of private information from students but it would certainly seem to include anyone utilizing Windows 10.  “Windows 10 appears to collect extensive data about the Web addresses that users visit, then sends that information back to the company’s servers for storage,” it reveals.  “In one test conducted by a computer engineer at the request of Education Week, an individual student’s login and password for a popular online educational service were among the data sent back to Microsoft.”  Are you currently using Windows 10?  Thinking of upgrading?  Be careful!
 
Testing and Common Core
The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which began amid much hoopla in 2001 died quietly last week when Gov. Brown signed a bill that signaled its demise. The author of an op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times is a high school English and journalism teacher in Sacramento.  He titles his piece “Goodbye and Good Riddance to California’s High School Exit Exam.”  That should tip you off as to how he feels about the whole thing.  “The exam is preceded to the grave by a century’s worth of forgotten and abandoned education initiatives that headline-seeking politicians once promised were going to make our schools great again,” he relates.  “(Remember class size reduction?  Remember how every kid in Los Angeles was supposed to get an iPad?)  It is survived by zombie ideas that refuse to die despite overwhelming evidence that they should. (Can we forget about using standardized tests to evaluate teachers?)”              A 4th grade teacher reports on her experiences the past year with Common Core and the SBAC exams used in her state.  “How Bad Is It Going To Get?” she asks in the title of her commentary on her Save Maine Schools blog.  “But let me tell you that when you work in a field where those with the cash and political influence are constantly ‘reforming’ your profession, without ever asking what those who actually work with children think about the changes they are making, you realize pretty quickly that there’s really not much you can do about any of it anyway,” she confesses wearily.  “And so all the new stuff that comes your way starts to become…. well, all the new stuff that’s always coming your way.”
 
Famed Education Correspondent Signs Off
And finaly, veteran education correspondent John Merrow signed off yesterday from his 31-year gig at the PBS “NewsHour” program.  His career began as an education reporter in 1974 for NPR after teaching high school for a short time.  EDUCATION WEEK has a short article about his career which includes a video Q & A segment (7:21 minutes) with Judy Woodruff in which Merrow reflects on some of the highlights of has career.  Former “NewsHour” founder and host Jim Lehrer had this to say about Merrow several years ago: “Nobody reports on the treasures and traumas of public education better than John Merrow. He is, quite simply, the leading education journalist in America.”  High praise, indeed!
    
                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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

 

Ed News, Tuesday, October 13, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

         A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                               “My education was neglected,
yet I was passionately fond of reading.” 
                           ― Mary ShelleyFrankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus  
 
Charter and Magnet Schools
Under the Charter Schools Program (CSP) this year the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) has approved grants of $125 million to 8 separate state departments of education including the scandal-plagued charter system in Ohio which received the biggest single award of $71 million.  It was that last item that drew the ire of theCenter for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch.  The author of the piece, titled “With Federal Millions, ‘Wild West’ of Charters is About to Get Even Wilder,” reviews some of the problems at the core of Ohio’s largely unaccountable system and is at a loss for words as to why Ohio earned the largest award.  “With its lax-to-non-existent charter school laws, and vast number of unaccountable authorizers, Ohio has long been an embarrassment even to the charter school industry.”               How did Ohio win the largest single grant of federal funds from the federal Charter Schools Program this year (see story above)?  According to an investigative piece in The Columbus Dispatch, state education officials were not fully truthful and up front in the information they provided on the application for the grant and  federal officials at the DoE did not dig very deeply in approving the state’s paperwork.  “Ohio’s school report cards list standards for schools to meet: 80 percent of students in certain grades must be proficient in math and reading, for example, and certain numbers of seniors must graduate.  In 2013-14, almost half of the state’s charters couldn’t meet a single standard,” the article reveals.  “The grant application said that almost half of Ohio charters rated ‘high-quality’ during 2011-12.  But the state report cards said that fewer than a quarter received A or B grades overall that year.”                The LAUSD has regular schools, charters and magnets.  The “Ed News” has provided fairly extensive coverage of the the first two.  The “Explainer” feature in Saturday’s L.A. Times has a Q & A about how to select and apply for a district magnet program.  The online version has a few extra questions than are contained in the print edition.               The “charter school scandal of the day” comes from WPLG Local 10 in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area.  It describes the shenanigans going on at the Paramount Charter Elementary School in Sunrise, Florida, which has only been open for a month.  The school has already received $740,000 of taxpayer funds and is scheduled to collect $3 million more during the current school year.  “Paramount — an elementary-level school that, like all charters, is privately owned but publicly funded — is riddled with problems,” the story recounts.  “According to a school board member, it’s already had three principals, lost nearly all of its teachers after the first month due to firings and resignations and has some parents alleging their children aren’t learning there.  The president of the company that owns the school, Jimika Williams Mason, drove away from a Local 10 News camera in her vehicle.”  This item includes a video segment (3:45 minutes) from the station about the story.   [Ed. note: This whole thing sounds like a “take the money and run” story.]  “Just when I think I have heard the most absurd story possible about charter schools that pillage taxpayers’ dollars, I discover a story like this one,” Diane Ravitch writes on her blog about the story above.                Charter school proponents and the Broad Foundation released the results of a poll they commissioned touting the fact that nearly 70% of registered voters supported the expansion of charters.  It may also have been timed to come out just prior to a planned UTLA protest against the charter plan at the LAUSD board meeting scheduled for this afternoon (see following story).  Opponents of charter expansion highlight the fact that 88% of respondents favor investing in existing public schools in order to have more magnet programs.  “The poll asked voters about their views on local public schools, the teachers union, charters, classroom teachers and the Los Angeles Unified School District,” the article in today’s L.A. Times notes.  “Many questions focused on charter school expansion.  Voters were given positions from opponents and supporters of charter schools and asked if any of those arguments made them more or less likely to support expansion.”            The UTLA website has a brief description of aunion-sponsored rally to be held during the LAUSD board meeting this afternoon from 4 to 5 pm to protest the planned major expansion of charter schools in the district.  You can view/print-out a copy of the flyer about the event with a link at the bottom of the piece just above the map or by clicking here.
 
Nutritious School Food
The Nation of Change Bull Horn website has a brief item about the National Farm to School Network and how it is providing nutritious food along with food education to over 40,000 students in all 50 states.  “The core elements of farm to school includes school gardens, education and procurement,” it notes.  “Through school gardens, students learn about agriculture through hands-on farming. They are educated on agriculture, food, health and nutrition and local foods [are] then served in cafeterias or through taste-test activities, which promotes farmers in local communities.”
Election 2016
Dr. Ben Carson is currently running number 2, behind Donald Trump, in the latest polls of Republican candidates for president.  He likes to remind audiences that American kids were better educated in 1830 than they are today.  He shares a test he claims is from that period and an alleged quote from Alexis de Tocqueville (both items are also mentioned in his book) praising the U.S. system of education at that time.  Both are bogus as pointed out by a piece in The Progressive.  “To suggest that Americans today are somehow less educated and dumber than they were in the early 1800s is absurd from any angle that you look at it.  It also is yet another baffling example of how Ben Carson, a man whose central qualification for the presidency is his scientific background,” the author complains, “can take such a decidedly unscientific approach to investigating and proving his silly hypothesis.  It’s as if Dr. Carson lives in two worlds.  By day, he’s a gifted neurosurgeon who relies on evidence-based science before performing delicate operations on children’s brains; by night, he’s a howling mad, anti-intellectual, Tea Party doofus,” the piece concludes.  “Maybe instead of Dr. Carson, we should call him Dr. Jekyll.”               Diane Ravitch writes a piece for SALON, ahead of the first Democratic debate this evening from Las Vegas, suggesting four questions that should be directed to the candidates about education policies.  She notes that education issues were pretty much ignored during the 2012 presidential campaign.  “The media and citizens at public forums must not let that happen again,” Ravitch urges.  “Education is central to our future as a nation; it is also the single largest item in every state’s budget.  Yet the candidates for the 2016 race in both parties are talking only about pre-kindergarten and higher education, skipping right over the important issues that face millions of children and educators in public schools today.”
 
“Another One Bites the Dust” (From the Song by the Group Queen)
Charter schools are not the only ones that get caught for criminality and malfeasance.  Testing and other scandals have rocked public schools in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and many other districts around the country.  The latest one?  The former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Barbara Byrd-Bennett was indicted on bribery and kickback charges in conjunction with some multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts she steered to an education consulting firm where she used to work.  The defendant was scheduled to make her first court appearance in the case before a U.S. Federal Court judge this morning.  The Chicago Tribuneprovides the details.  “A federal indictment unsealed Thursday,” it reveals, “accused Byrd-Bennett of a massive scheme to hand $23 million in contracts to SUPES Academy, a company she worked for before landing at CPS.”              In a follow-up story the Tribunereports that former CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to a single count involving a kickback scheme before a federal court judge today.  “According to her 22-page plea agreement,” it reveals, “prosecutors have agreed to seek a sentence of about 7 1/2 years in prison — below the 11 to 14 years in prison called for under federal sentencing guidelines — in exchange for her cooperation.”
Pre-K is OK
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an op-ed in Thursday’s L.A. Times that argued Gov. Brown shouldn’t sign a bill that would commit California to fund a pre-K program for low-income children since, by the age of 4 the author maintained, it was too late to have an impact on their academic potential.  Two letterspublished in Saturday’s paper took the opposite position.  The first one was from Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley, and the second was written by the president of a children’s advocacy organization.               Susan Ochshorn is an expert on early-childhood education (ECE) and a strong proponent of states that are expanding their pre-K offerings. However, she is terribly troubled when those 3- and 4-year-olds are being subjected to Common Core-like academic rigor rather than learning about socialization and play.  Her comments on the topic appear on theCNN website which also includes a video segment (8:40 minutes) from the Clinton Global Initiative about the importance of ECE.

“Universal prekindergarten is essential to developing America’s human capital.  True, preschool isn’t enough — it’s not a silver bullet for inequality, and we need to start earlier, with better care of infants and toddlers,” Ochshorn suggests.  “Still, it’s a critical piece of the enterprise, especially when you consider that the United States stands in the lower half of the Economist Intelligence Unit index for provision of preschool across 45 countries.  Indeed, nearly 6 in 10 children are not enrolled in preschool in the United States, while the highest quality programs are off limits to many.”

 
Is TFA in Disarray?
Two-and-a-half years ago Teach for America founder and CEO Wendy Kopp resigned her position and two c0-CEOs were appointed.  Last month one of them announced he was stepping down.  Gary Rubinstein, a former TFA alumnus and close follower of the organization on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, predicts the other CEO will also leave  and Kopp may have to return to pick up the pieces.  Rubinstein concludes his piece with some advice for the TFA board: “You can fire all the CEOs you want and replace them with other ones with different names and faces, but the problems that TFA is currently facing will not improve as long as they are following the same script as the ones they replace.  TFA is struggling because they have attached themselves to dishonest education ‘reformers.’  Each time ‘reformer’ lies get uncovered, TFA’s reputation takes a hit.  This is why the corps size is down.  This is why cities are canceling their contracts with TFA,” he continues.  “This is why most the TFA alumni who were once leading various districts and even states have resigned recently.”
 
Corporate “Reform” Reviewed
5 years ago Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million matching gift to the public schools of Newark, New Jersey, in order to implement corporate “reforms.”  A new book (highlighted previously in the “Ed News”) by Dale Russakoff, The Prize: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools?” looks into the donation and what it has accomplished in changing those schools in the past half decade.  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, has two different articles about the book and what lessons can be learned from what happened.  The first one is a general review of the volume and introduces the term “venture philanthropists” to the lexicon.  “The best thing about The Prize,Thompson explains, “is that it is an objective look by a non-educator investigating under the hood of corporate school reform.  We educators are all too familiar with the test, sort, reward, and punish mentality of the Billionaires Boys’ Club and the technocracy they have tried to impose on public schools.  The press and the public have properly focused on Russakoff’s balanced narrative about the way that Cory Booker, Chris Christie, Christopher Cerf, Cami Anderson and other corporate reformers squandered the $200 million fund that Zuckerberg made possible.”  The second article is titled “Will Reformers Learn a Lesson From Newark?”  “After reading The Prize, it will be hard for anyone to give credence to venture philanthropists and their snake oil.  They’ve had their chances to show that their expensive experiments can do more good than harm to children.  Now,” he concludes, “it is clear that their new assaults on Los Angeles and D.C., and other cities yet to be named are about ego and control.  Its not about the quality of schools; their concern is who runs them.”
 
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LAUSD Resumes Commercial Filming on Campuses
One day after abruptly halting commercial filming on LAUSD campuses after a KNBC4 investigative report raised some serious questions about the lucrative practice, the LAUSD announced it will tentatively allow the resumption of filming on 5 projects while an internal investigation continues.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times reviews the issue and why the district decided to reverse it’s previous decision.  [Supt. Ramon] “Cortines quickly ordered a halt to commercial film projects and asked the district’s inspector general to look into how the nation’s second-largest school system handled them.  But Cortines and others changed tack,” the piece explains, “after deciding it would be unfair to disrupt film projects in progress, especially because they seemed to comply with district guidelines.”
 
Charters, Choice and Social Justice Reform
Diane Ravitch describes this next one as “Peter Greene’s Best Post Ever” on her blog and that’s saying a lot.  Greene, aka the author of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, returns to that corporate “reform” argument about charter schools and choice being a social justice issue.  He actually agrees with the first part of their two-part case–schools in low-income neighborhoods ARE inadequate.  However, he takes a radically different approach when it comes to solutions.  The “reformers” want to introduce market-based outcomes like charters, vouchers and other methods of choice.  Greene believes those will never work and what needs to be done is to properly fund those schools, guarantee that every classroom has a well trained, experienced teacher and provide all the resources they need to bring them up to same level as campuses serving wealthier pupils.  He concludes his analysis with this: “To charter choice advocates: Your problem is a real problem, but your solution is not a solution.  Whether you’re blinded by devotion to your ideology or your intent to make a buck or just your lack of understanding, your vision is impaired.  You need to clean your glasses, take a step back, and look again.”  G. F. Brandenburg, a retired math teacher, writing on his GFBRANDENBURG’S BLOG, suggests “Peter Greene may be the best blogger in America.  Please read his latest post on how education reform deals with social justice.  It’s long but, as always, excellent.”
 
Computers and Testing
A recent study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), highlighted in a previous edition of the “Ed News,’ reported, rather surprisingly, that students in 31 nations around the world who use computers more at school score lower on both math and reading tests on that group’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, thought those findings rather incredulous particularly since more and more standardized tests require that they be taken by computer!  The title of his commentary asks the question “If School Computer Use Reduces Standardized Test Scores, Doesn’t That Prove that the Tests Are Inadequate?”  Singer has a brief history of standardized exams (he traces them back to China in 206 B.C.) and how they are used today and demonstrates how computers and tests don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand “If we really want to prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future, we need to scrap high stakes testing.  We need to invest in MORE technology, not less.  We need to ensure technological lessons are being overseen by trained educators and the devices aren’t used as a babysitting tool.  As such, we need to provide teachers with support and professional development so they can best take advantage of the technology they have,” he challenges.  “America can prepare its children for the world’s high level management and administrative positions or we can prepare them to do only menial work that will soon by replaced by machines.  Computers do the former. Tests the latter.  Choose.”
 
Teacher Evaluation Systems Ending Up in Courts
The heavy stress corporate “reformers” place on states to create teacher evaluation systems that include up to 50% student scores is leading to an influx of litigation challenging the fairness and accuracy of those ratings, reports EDUCATION WEEK.  The piece looks at court cases filed in seven states (not California).  It provides a review of each case and it’s current status.  
 
Suspending K-1 Students
The PBS NEWSHOUR program did a segment (9:16 minutes) comparing the suspensions of kindergartners and first graders in Success Academy (SA) charters and similar public schools in New York City.  The findings are quite revealing and the program includes an interesting interview with Eva Moscowitz, founder and CEO of the SA schools who defends her chain’s discipline policies.  You can watch the program, listen to an audio of it and/or read the transcript. “Studies show that students who are suspended are more likely to be held back a grade, to drop out of school, or end up in trouble with the law.  Most suspended students are in high school or, less often, middle school.  But in some schools,” Judy Woodruff intones by way of introducing the segment, “children as young as 5 or 6 are being disciplined this way.”
 
An Education “Conversation,” Really?
Dr. Mitchell Robinson, blogger and member of the Badass Teachers Association leadership team, decided to wander over to the “Education Post” blog (‘better conversation, better education”) that is funded by the corporate “reform” billionaires and is clearly anti-public school, pro-charter and pro-choice.  Prior to that Robinson had engaged in a Twitter exchange with Peter Cunningham, executive director of the website.  “The verdict? Far from being an outlet that is designed to promote ‘better conversation,’ the Ed Post is nothing more than a corporate-funded mouthpiece for the reform community, and the site only runs stories designed to reinforce and advance the reform agenda.  The headlines for these pieces reads like a cheat-sheet of Michelle Rhee’s talking points: anti-teachers and unions, anti-public school, pro-Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, pro-testing, pro-school choice, pro-charter schools.  If Mr. Cunningham,”Robinson sums up, “is really serious about a ‘better conversation,”‘then he should start asking some actual teachers and parents of public school students what they think about this agenda.  A conversation with only one voice is a monologue, not a conversation.”
 
Gov. Brown Vetoes Ethnic Studies Bill
Gov. Brown vetoed a bill that would have directed state education officials to create an ethnic studies program for public school students in the state.  Today’s L.A. Times describes the governor’s decision and why he did what he did.  “In a statement, Brown said the bill would create a redundant process, as another state panel, the Instructional Quality Commission, is currently revising state standards to include guidance on ethnic studies courses. . . . The veto is a blow to a movement across the state to require ethnic studies in high schools,” the story explains.  “Supporters have had success at the local level. School boards in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Pico Rivera had approved plans for the classes to be a requirement for graduation.”
 
Scranton Teachers’ Strike Ends
And finally, teachers in the Scranton School District in northeastern Pennsylvania went out on strike Sept. 25.  The Scranton Federation of Teachers (SFT) reached an agreement with the district last night that will have 940 teachers, 110 paraprofessionals and 10,000 students back in their classrooms tomorrow according to an article from the Scranton Times-Tribune.  The contract was approved by the SFT this afternoon.  An article published in the paper earlier today, which you can access by clicking here has some additional details about the strike and the agreement .
    
                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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

Ed News, Friday, October 9, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

         A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
                      “If you are willing to be a self-learner, you can develop yourself.”
                         ― Lailah Gifty AkitaPearls of Wisdom: Great mind 
 
 
LAUSD Supt. Search  

A recent edition of the “Ed News” reported on an outside group of civic, civil rights and education organizations that wanted to have major input in the selection of the next LAUSD superintendent.  They met privately with LAUSD Pres. Steve Zimmer to present their proposal.  They apparently didn’t like the reception their ideas received so they have stepped up their pressure to have them accepted.  The “Education Watch” column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reports on these latest behind-the scenes-maneuvers to influence the critical selection of the next district superintendent.  “In a letter to the board released Tuesday,” it explains, “the groups requested that a committee of key civil rights and community leaders interview the top three candidates and provide recommendations to the school board. . . . Groups signing the letter include: the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Community Coalition, the California Charter Schools Assn., Teach for America-Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation and Public Counsel [among others].”  The online version of this article includes a link to the letter with a full list of all the groups that signed it.

 
Here We Go Again
Why have Eli Broad, out of Los Angeles, and Alice and Jim Walton. from Arkansas, contributed a combined $650,000 to to a PAC in Louisiana?  Take a wild guess.  Might it be so that the person who runs the PAC, Lane Grigsby, can distribute the funds to particular corporate “reformers” and privatizers in order to keep control of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in the Pelican State?  The important election is the end of the this month and would place members on the board for the 2016-19 term.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 explores the situation.  “Money from two billionaires from Arkansas and one billionaire from California,” she complains, “constitutes the principal funding for Grigsby’s efforts to preserve a BESE majority known for supporting charters and vouchers without equally supporting adequate oversight; supporting high-stakes testing without supporting timely, clear, comprehensive reporting of testing results, and for allying with a state superintendent known for hiding and manipulating data, refusing to honor public records requests, and refusing to consistently audit the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).”
 
School Funding Determined by Race
You wouldn’t think this was occurring in 2015 but it is, at least in Pennsylvania.  According to a recent study, highlighted in The Atlantic, the amount of school funding is not based on socio-economic factors but the predominant racial make-up of the students.  “No matter how rich or poor the district in question, funding gaps existed solely based on the racial composition of the school,” the article notes, based on the research.  “Just the increased presence of minority students actually deflated a district’s funding level. . . . Pennsylvania isn’t the only state that has a problem with poor minority schools and rich white ones.  White flight has left low-income, minority students in failing urban public schools.  The compounding issue of low-income neighborhoods and scarce (or biased) funding leaves such schools with little money or resources to educate their students, and thus little hope of breaking the poverty cycle.”
 
Supreme Court Case Challenges Unions’ “Fair Share” Concept
As followers of the “Ed News” should be aware, the U.S. Supreme Court began its 2015-16 term this week.  The 9 justices are faced with a pivotal case regarding the equitable nature of the “fair share” concept for the collection of union fees.  The case is Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association and a hearing date has not been set yet.  The “On California” column in EDUCATION WEEK is guest hosted by Catherine Fisk, the Chancellor’s Professor of at the UC Irvine School of Law, who argues the plaintiff’s case is “unfair and unworkable” and calls it “a potentially crippling challenge to teacher unionism.”
 
Charter Schools
Jamaal Bowman, the author of this commentary in the New York Daily News, is the principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School in the Bronx.  He’s highly critical of the Success Academy Charters founded by Eva Moscowitz for their “no excuses” policy and  their over-emphasis on test scores.  His piece is titled simply “Teach the Whole Child.”  “Although praised by many for its test scores, the draconian policies at Success are well documented,” Bowman explains.  “Students must walk silently in synchronized lines.  In classrooms, boys and girls must sit with their hands folded and feet firmly on the ground, and must raise their hands in a specific way to request a bathroom break. . . . Regarding the praise for Success Academy’s test results, we must be mindful of overstating the quality of an education based on test score evidence alone.”     Want some more horror stories about how Success Academy charter schools operate?  Diane Ravitch’s blogis glad to comply.  She passes along tales from two more sources who are/were involved with SA schools.  Neither one paints a very pretty picture.              Former Ohio Governor (and current U.S. Senate candidate) Ted Strickland was joined by several other high-ranking state Democrats to write a blistering letter to outgoing U.S. Dept. of Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan about his department’s recent decision to award $71 million to the scandal-ridden charter system in the Buckeye state.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer describes some of the problems facing charters in the state and reprints Strickland’s letter.  “Strickland, who is running against Sen. Rob Portman next year, said that Ohio’s charter schools should not be expanded because their performance lags behind traditional public schools,”the article notes.  “He also said he doesn’t trust Ohio’s grant application or the Ohio Department of Education’s ability to give out grants to schools.”               Speaking of charters and Ohio.  Is the once thriving city of Youngstown next in line to have its school system taken over by charters?  The answer is “yes” if you believe an off-the -cuff remark made to a local legislator by Gov. John Kasich.  BELT magazine has an extended piece with the alliterative title “The Mess of Academic Distress: Are Charters in the Future for Youngstown City Schools?”  “Things are bad in the Youngstown City Schools, and have been for some time,” the author concludes.  “But anyone who thinks things can’t get worse lacks imagination.”               There may be light at the end of the tunnel for the scandal-plagued charter school sector in Ohio (see two stories above plus previous coverage in the “Ed News”).  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post notes that the state legislature recently passed measures that would  help clean up the mess that has developed.  “The legislation, expected to be signed by Gov. John Kasich, who is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination,” she points out, “includes a series of governance and financial controls on how charter operators run the schools [and] that would allow better oversight.”                Alan Singer, writing on the HUFFINGTON POST EDUCATION BLOG, provides another list of charter scandals and wonders, with all this recurring criminality and malfeasance, why are hedge fund managers, philanthropists and presidential candidates so eager to promote charter schools.  Good question.  Be sure to check out his multiple references to what’s going on in Los Angeles.               John Thompson, historian and teacher writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, analyzes the Broad Foundation plan to turn up to 50% of schools in the LAUSD into charters by 2023.  Needless to say, he’s skeptical of the entire idea and reviews some of the previous reporting that has raised questions about the proposal.  He concludes by asking if anyone can say “no” to Eli Broad.
Arne Duncan is Leaving
Jeff Bryant wraps up the week with a commentary on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK about a story that much of the mainstream media may have missed regarding the resignation of U.S. Education Sec. Arne Duncan.  Bryant believes Duncan is leaving just ahead of a brewing storm over the charter mess in Ohio and other states and how the DoE may be complicit.  Three days before Duncan announced he was leaving he “rattled the education policy world with news of a controversial grant of $249 million ($157 the first year) to the charter school industry,” the article notes.  “This announcement was controversial because, as The Washington Post reports, an audit by his department’s own inspector general found ‘that the agency has done a poor job of overseeing federal dollars sent to charter schools.’”  Bryant reviews a number of stories on the charter situation in Ohio, including several cited in this issue of the “Ed News,” and also mentions issues in other states as well.               “The Onion” is known for its satirical take on news stories and the individuals involved in them.  EDUCATION WEEK takes a look back at some of the headlines generated by outgoing Sec. of Education Arne Duncan as reported in the pages of “The Onion.”  Be sure to keep in mind that they are 100% satire (or are they?).  Here’s just one example: “Nation’s School Systems Held Back A Year.”  Enjoy the rest of them and remember we and “The Onion” soon won’t have Duncan to kick around anymore, at least as the Sec. of Education.
 
Election 2016
Last Saturday the NEA board of directors, in a controversial decision (covered extensively by the “Ed News”), decided to issue a primary endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.EDUCATION WEEK offers a breakdown of how various state affiliates voted on the proposal.  “There has been a great deal of media interest in the National Education Association’s decision to endorse Hillary Clinton in the primary campaign,” the item begins.  “On paper, it joins its sister union, the American Federation of Teachers, and increases pressure on other on-the-fence labor groups to make up their own minds.  Behind the scenes, the NEA’s endorsement process was a lot more complicated, and even contested, than it looks.”              An NEA member from California writes on his blog, TULTICAN, about a very disturbing letter he recently received from NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen-Garcia justifying the organization’s decision to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.  He found her arguments for the action disingenuous and basically untrue.  The author headlines his piece “Lily’s Betrayal Letter” and concludes in his response to it: “Lily, you need to rethink your course.  You are a smart beautiful spokesperson for the NEA.  You are dumping that great opportunity to make a real difference and playing value degrading power politics that has eliminated the democratic process in our union to get this endorsement.”              Former CNN host Campbell Brown held a televised debate for the Republican candidates in New Hampshire last month on education issues.  Only 6 of the 16 or so showed up.  She planned to do the same with the Democrats in Iowa this month but NONE of the five accepted her invitation.  She blamed the teachers’ unions for the snub. However, Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog has the real reason:  “Her Iowa shindig failed because she’s just not that important or relevant.”               Charles Pierce references the Peter Greene item above while writing about Campbell Brown inEsquire.  Pierce headlines his brief comment “The Ongoing Destruction of Public Education.” He was amazed that Brown would have the audacity to blame the teachers’ unions for the fact none of the Democratic candidates would attend her planned debate on education issues.  “She blames a teachers union,” he snickers, “every time a cloud passes in front of the sun.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Amid threats to expand charters in the LAUSD by 2023 to 50% of student enrollment, district teachers and their union, UTLA, are beginning to fear what impact that might have on teachers’ jobs.  Charters are traditionally anti-union and tend to hire inexperienced teachers, often from alternative credential programs, who won’t rock the boat and often don’t stay in the profession very long.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times explores this explosive issue.  “The[charter expansion] proposal makes no mention of recruiting instructors from the ranks of L.A. Unified — even though the foundation acknowledged this week that the charter growth would require about 5,000 instructors.  The plan talks about hiring from an expanded Teach For America and other groups that work with young, inexperienced instructors.”               Bill Gates delivered a major, national speech yesterday on what he’s accomplished regarding his efforts to improve the teaching profession.  The always creative CURMUDGUCATION blogger, Peter Greene, “borrows” the Gates persona and creates his own speech about  what he believes Gates said.  Greene almost does a better job of explaining what Gates said than Gates himself.  Agree?  Remember, this is Greene channeling Gates: “Look, I’m a simple man.  I had some ideas about how the entire US education system should work, and like any other citizen, I used my giant pile of money to impose my will on everyone else.  It’s okay, because I just want to help.  We’re not done yet– I’m going to keep trying to fix the entire teaching profession,” Greene (Gates) concludes, “even if nobody in the country actually asked me to do it.  And no, I don’t intend to talk to anybody actually in the profession.  What do they know about teaching?  Besides, when you know you’re right, you don’t have to listen to anybody else.”              EDUCATION WEEK has an extended piece covering the real speech Gates delivered to the U.S. Education Learning Forum in Bellevue, Wash.  [Ed. note: Please take careful note of the second sidebar to this item titled “Education Week Receives Gates Funding” and make of it what you will.]   “In his first major speech on education in seven years,” the article reports, “philanthropist Bill Gates made it clear Wednesday that his foundation is not backing away from the twin priorities that have defined its K-12 work since 2008—teacher effectiveness and common academic standards—even as both initiatives have sparked a turbulent transformation in the nation’s schools and become deeply politicized.”               Pasi Sahlberg, currently visiting Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University and previously the Director General of the Finnish Ministry of Education, again writes about how the teaching profession is different in his country as compared to the U.S.  This time he zeroes in on the amount of autonomy educators have in both nations and notes it is much greater in Finland than in the U.S.  His observations appear on THE CONVERSATION website.  Visiting teachers from the U.S. noticed the following when they toured classrooms in Finland according to Sahlberg’s article: “Among other things they said was the following: the atmosphere in schools is informal and relaxed.  Teachers have time in school to do other things than teach.  And people trust each other.  A common takeaway was that Finnish teachers seem to have much more professional autonomy than teachers in the United States to help students to learn and feel well. . . . And this is perhaps the most powerful lesson the US can learn from better-performing education systems: teachers need greater collective professional autonomy,” he concludes, “and more support to work with one another.  In other words, more freedom from bureaucracy, but less from one another.”
 

Common Core

California is preparing to adopt a slew of Common Core-aligned materials for its K-12 English/Language Arts curriculum.  EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “California’s Instructional Quality Commission, which reviews materials against the state’s curriculum framework, is recommending the state board adopt 25 of the 29 instructional materials submitted,” it reveals.  “In all likelihood, those materials will be adopted at the board’s upcoming meeting set for the first week in November, according to Thomas Adams, the director of California’s curriculum and instructional-resources division and the head of the commission.  Programs by several major publishers—including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson—are on the recommended list.  Two programs by Amplify Education Inc. and two by the College Board were found not to meet the adoption criteria.”               The author of an extended commentary on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog taught for 10 years in Mexico and for the last 29 in California including a stint with the LAUSD.  His piece is titled “Why Does NEA Still Support Common Core?”  He deals with how outside entities often control the conversation regarding education among the professionals who work in the field.  “For veteran educators, the potential long and short term consequences of the CCSS problematic implementation –confusion, sinking scores, lack of support and materials, students and teachers frustration, unreliable systems of evaluation, and so forth– would be good enough reasons to request a cautious and vigilant approach,” the author maintains.  “However, there is another ignored reason that should be comprehensively considered: the undue influence of Bill Gates in the creation and promotion of CCSS.”  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending this.
 
Pre-K for All?  Not OK
The author of this op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times is a research follow in education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank based in the nations’ capital.  She argues that a bill on Gov. Brown’s desk to expand Pre-K programs for low-income children is a mistake because by the time kids are 4 years old it’s already too late to have an impact on their academic potential.  The focus, she believes, should be on the first three years of their development.  “Instead of launching a costly and unproven program for 4-year-olds,” she concludes, “California should invest in helping vulnerable, young children where they are during the first 35,000 hours of their lives: in the home and in child care.”  What do you think of her proposals?
Testing
Test results for the Common Core-aligned assessments have been pretty much reported by the various states for this year.  Interestingly, the rate of students scoring “proficient” fluctuated wildly from state-to-state even given that the same exams were administered.  A story in The New York Times surveys a number of states, including a brief mention of California, and reports on their scores and how they compare to other states that used the same PARCC or SBAC exams.  The article reports on states that used the former test and focuses on how the results came out in Ohio.  In addition, it attempts to explains why the results were so varied.  “It all came down to the different labels each state used to describe the exact same scores on the same tests,” the piece demonstrates.  “That kind of inconsistency in educational standards is what the Common Core — academic guidelines for kindergarten through high school reading and math that were adopted by more than 40 states — was intended to redress.”               This is the first year that most states are reporting Common Core-aligned test results.  Whether it’s the SBAC or PARCC, results have been coming in hot and heavy as of late.  The co-authors of this item from EDUCATION WEEK offer “5 Questions Policymakers Need to Ask About Common-Core Test Results.”  “Conversations about assessment results tend to revolve around how high or low scores are,” they suggest, “and what districts and schools should do in response.  In this first year, however, it is particularly important to view the results within an appropriate context, linked to other metrics.  Indeed, for assessments to fulfill their purpose of informing educators, schools, districts, and states about what students know, and how to improve their progress, decisionmakers must ask some key questions.”               Standardized tests were supposed to provide “rich” data that teachers could use to analyze the progress their students were making and where, possibly, they needed remediation.  Peter Greene, on his always informative and entertaining CURMUDGUCATION blog, says that at least in Pennsylvania, where he works, and probably in every other state, most of that data turns out to be pretty worthless Greene proceeds to describe what he discovered on the state’s website regarding results for his students.  He found it to be pretty thin.  “I wish some of the reformsters who believe that BS Testing gets us rich data that can drive and focus instruction would just get in there and take a look at this,” he complains bitterly, “because they would just weep.  No value is being added, but lots of time and money is being wasted.”
 
Questions Raised About LAUSD and Commercial Filming
And finally, a KNBC4 investigation over the past 6 months raised some serious questions regarding the filming of commercial projectslike movies, television shows, music videos and commercials on LAUSD campuses.  EDUCATION WEEK reports the story and includes a film clip (5:20 minutes) from Channel 4.  In reaction to the television report the district halted all filming and the LAUSD’s inspector general is looking into the situation.  “Los Angeles’ schools—in the shadow of the film, television, and music industries—have been attractive sites for location work for years,” the ED WEEK story mentions.  “But NBC4 reporters Matt Schrader and Jenna Susko aired two stories this week about disruptions and questionable practices caused by some video production companies leasing L.A. schools, classrooms, and campuses for their television shows, commercials, and projects.  The reporters said the station has been looking into ‘the millions of production-company dollars’ collected each year by the state’s largest public school district, concluding that the revenue ‘may come at the cost of education.’  Susko and Schrader highlighted examples of what they called racy images and edgy content, and questioned the behavior of some film crews on campus.”
 
Hope you are dealing well with this extremely hot weather for at least the next couple of days.
 
                       http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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

 

Ed News, Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

         A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             
 
                  “Between natural ability and education choose natural ability, 
                   as it will keep you happy and will fetch you the glory sooner.” 
― Amit Kalantri
Arne Duncan Announces He’s Leaving
A front-page story in Saturday’s L.A. Times details the announcement that U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan will be leaving the Obama administration at the end of December after nearly 7 years of service.  Duncan is the second-to-last cabinet secretary to have served for the entire Obama presidency.  The article outlines Duncan’s turbulent tenure and features his dealings with California.  “Duncan had a sometimes stormy relationship with California,”  it notes, “despite its status as a stronghold of support for Democrats and the Obama administration.  Early conflicts centered on Duncan’s signature Race to the Top competitive grant program.  States had to agree to a teacher evaluation system that partly used student test scores, angering unions and others.”               THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION (NPE) issued a press release upon the resignation of Duncan and the appointment of John B. King Jr. as the acting secretary to serve until Duncan’s term expires in Jan., 2017.  [Ed. note:  Why didn’t Obama pick a permanent replacement?  Answer: he’d have to go through the Congressional appointment process and this way he avoids what could be a contentious debate over the selection in the GOP controlled Senate.]  “The Network for Public Education assigned an ‘F’ to the selection of John King as a replacement to Arne Duncan,” the release begins rather pointedly, “who recently resigned as Secretary of Education.”                How do you think charter and school choice leaders feel about Duncan’s decision to leave and the selection of King to replace him?  EDUCATION WEEK has a sampling of their responses including several from Twitter.  “The Obama administration and the education department,” Ed WEEK points out, “helped support and expand charter schools through a couple of programs including the Investing in Innovation Fund and the Charter Schools Program.”  Does that give you any kind of hint as to what they think about the changes at the DoE?               THE HECHINGER REPORTreviews Duncan’s tenure as Sec. of Education and how it impacted and will continue to effect education in the future.  “As he leaves his post this December, his forceful strategy to push dramatic changes to the U.S education system is being tested,” it suggests.  “The aggressiveness and urgency that defined his efforts to transform American schools alienated friends and could, in the end, be what derails his reforms.  During his tenure, one of the longest in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, Duncan made a deep mark on U.S. schools with a series of major efforts stretching from early education to college.”              Steven Singer, author of theGADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG, was beside himself when he heard John B. King was going to replace Duncan.  Singer believes the choice simply continues the image that Democrats don’t really care much for public education.  [Ed. note: Singer used a slightly more graphic term.]  “We’ve put up with 7 years of Duncan’s buffoonery as U.S. Secretary of Education: A man with no practical knowledge of the field.  A corporate functionary.  A drone.  A mouthpiece,” Singer sneers, “ for all the worst ideas of the 1% to sabotage public schools and replace them with charters.  And who does Obama replace him with!?  Former New York State Chancellor King!?  A man who was almost run out of his state on a rail!?  A man with – admittedly – more experience than Duncan but all of the worst kind.”               What does someone who supports Teach for America, charters and the corporate “reform” movement think about Duncan’s departure?  Let’s ask Andrew Rotherham, who is now on the advisory board of Campbell Brown’s “The 74” and is a cofounder and partner of Bellwhether Education Partners.  He offers several “Lessons From Arne Duncan Leaving” in a commentary for US NEWS & WORLD REPORT.  “The education world reacted with surprise to [the] announcement that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is stepping down, and former New York education commissioner and current acting Deputy Secretary John King Jr. is stepping into the role at the end of the year.  As with any political transition,” he suggests, “there’s plenty of spin and speculation.”               Arthur Goldstein, on the nyc educator blog, reacts to the above item by Andrew Rotherham.  His piece is titled “Meet the New Boss, Even Worse Than The Old Boss.”  You can probably figure out from that how he feels about Duncan leaving and King coming on board.               How bad has Duncan been for public education in this country?  Obviously, it depends on who you talk to.  Jan Resseger, on her janressegerblog, is not sad to see him go.  Her piece is titled “Arne Duncan’s Misguided Policies” and includes a litany of poor actions and ideas emanating from the U.S. DoE.   “School policy ripped out of time and history: in many ways that is Arne Duncan’s gift to us — school policy focused on disparities in test scores instead of disparities in opportunity — a Department of Education obsessed with data-driven accountability for teachers,” she relates, “but for itself an obsession with ‘game-changing’ innovation and inadequate attention to oversight — the substitution of the consultant-driven, win-lose methodology of philanthropy for formula-driven government policy — school policy that favors social innovation, one charter at a time.  Such policies are definitely a break from the past.  Whether they promise better opportunity for the mass of our nation’s children, and especially our poorest children, is a very different question.”               As may be expected, the ewa (EDUCATION WRITERS ASSOCIATION) took a slightly different tack regarding the story about Duncan’s departure. It reviews how a number of different education reporters/columnists/bloggers informed readers about the news in addition to how they judged Duncan’s impact and their predictions of how King’s policies would be received.  “A good test of reporters’ skills,” it commences, “is how they handle breaking news – and last week’s surprise announcement that Arne Duncan would step down as U.S. Secretary of Education was a prime example.   To be sure, the news was more surprising to some than others, given the political battles looming as the election cycle speeds up.  But education journalists at the regional, state, and national level wasted no time framing Duncan’s legacy . . . . what his departure will mean for the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and taking a look at Duncan’s replacement.”               How best to assess Duncan’s term as Secretary of Education?  Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, decides to use Duncan’s own words.  She reprints, along with her own comments, some of the more notable things the secretary has said in the past almost 7 years.  Some of the quotes you many recognize as they garnered much attention at the time, while others may have been a little less noteworthy.  Here’s just one example from Strauss’ piece: September, 2011 “I don’t think anyone in the country has done more over the past 15 to 20 years than Wendy Kopp [founder of Teach for America] to identify the talents and characteristics that lead to great teaching.”  [Ed. note: My simple response: “Oh, really?”]  [TFA] has been a prime mover in the ‘no excuses’ movement,” Strauss writes in reaction to Duncan’s comment, “which promotes the notion that the conditions in which children live can’t be blamed for poor academic performance.  In other words, teachers should be able to overcome a child’s hunger, sickness or trauma.”
 
Election 2016
The NEA board of directors, as widely predicted, on Saturday issued a primary endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 despite a strong reaction from many of its rank-and-file members that it wait until later in the process when the organization has had a chance to hear more specifically from the other candidates.  The Washington Post provides the details of the decision.  “Seventy-five percent of the union’s 170-member board backed Clinton. . . . But the endorsement triggered an immediate backlash among some of the union’s 3 million members,” it explains.  “Some argued that an endorsement was premature, while others said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was a better choice.”             The Badass Teachers Association immediately issued a press release questioning the NEA’s hasty action “The National Education Association has chosen to make an early endorsement in the Democratic Primary.  This is a process that we disagree with for many reasons,” it declares.  “First and foremost, none of the Democratic candidates have made clear their position on public education.  Secondly, there has not been an open Democratic debate in which the candidates have discussed their positions on public education.”               Steven Singer, he of the GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, wasaghast that the NEA leadership would endorse Hillary Clintonwithout polling its membership.  “The National Education Association (NEA) represents 3 million educators.  It is the largest labor union in the country.  However only about 180 people made the decision to back Clinton. . . . But wait.  It can’t really be that simple,” he hopes.  “All of these people are voted in by members.  Surely they polled their constituencies to gauge how individuals wanted them to vote.  Nope.”              The fall-out from the interim appointment of John King from New York to fill out the remainder of Arne Duncan’s term at the U.S. Dept. of Education is already being anticipated.  John Thompson, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, believes King will prove to be a particular thorn in the side of the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.  “King, like Michelle Rhee, Scott Walker, John Deasy, Eli Broad and, yes, Arne Duncan, dismisses educators who disagree with him as putting ‘adult interests’ over our kids.  So, I believe the national press will soon be learning why we teachers are so offended by the King appointment,” Thompson concludes.  “I just hope that Clinton, Sanders and, perhaps, Biden are not hurt by it.”
 
A Week of Letters to the Times
The “Numbers and Letters” feature in Saturday’s L.A. Timesreports that “675 printable letters were received between last Friday and this Thursday.  62 readers expressed their opinions about follow-up stories on the Volkswagen scandal regarding politics, recalls and repairs.  40 letter writers weighed in on columns about ‘remembering teachers’ and teacher pensions.”  It was the second most popular topic of the week.
 
Transformation of the SAT and ACT
The current edition of TIME magazine (Oct. 12) has a feature article on the evolution of the venerable SAT and ACT tests.  They used to be for college admission exclusively but they are now being used more and more as a form of standardized test for students in the K-12 years.  “The organizations behind the SAT and the ACT are now locked in a battle for lucrative state-funded contracts to offer the tests to public high school students,”  the story reveals.  “These contracts benefit families by having taxpayers fund a college-admission test–but states are buying into the concept because the exams do double duty as assessment tests required of public schools.”
 
Teacher Evaluations
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, writes about how teacher evaluations have evolved under pressure from the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” monetary incentives.  Cody invites teachers and administrators to take part in a survey about their experiences with these new evaluations.  “The Network for Public Education has launched a research project to investigate.  We want to hear from educators – teachers and administrators who have been involved directly in the evaluation process over the past decade,” he explains.  “How have evaluations changed?  What are the impacts that are being felt in your classrooms and schools?  How are students being affected?”  At the bottom of his brief description, Cody includes a link to the survey if you’d like to check it our/share with colleagues and/or respond.
 
Principal of the Year
Alan Tenreiro, the school leader of Cumberland High School in Rhode Island, has been named National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The “District Dossier” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a brief profile of the winner and details about how he was selected.  “The search for the 2016 national principal of the year started in early 2015,” it describes, “as each state principals association selected its state principals of the year.  From the pool of state winners, a panel of judges selected three finalists, Tenreiro along with Patricia Fry of Plymouth South High in Plymouth, Mass., and Kyle Hoehner of Lexington High in Lexington, Neb.”
 
School Choice
The concept of “school choice” is not only having a dramatic, and some would say damaging, impact on the public school system but it is now turning its focus on the private  and parochial sector. EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at this growing phenomenon of vouchers and charter expansion in yet another segment of the education field.  “But now, as new private-school-choice programs continue to emerge—most prominently in Nevada, where all public school students are eligible to participate—some advocates are pushing the private-school-choice movement,” it reports, “to look to its charter brethren for strategies on how to recruit talent, fund new schools, and ultimately, survive.”  6 states (not California) account for the vast majority of the students participating in private school choice programs.  Click on the sidebar labeled “Top Private-School-Choice States” to see who they are and the numbers that are involved.
Ed Tech
Yong Zhao, a former ALOED book club author, has a new book out (with 3 other co-writers) titled Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Top 5 Edtech Mistakes.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, turns her space over to Zhao who writes about some of the technology errorsschools tend to make and how to correct them.  He also provides a preview of his new book.  “Technology has been traditionally conceived as a tool to enhance and improve existing practices within the existing educational setup,” Zhao explains, “but it has become a tool to enable a grand education transformation that has been imagined by many pioneering thinkers such [as] John Dewey.  The transformation is not about technology, but about more meaningful education for all children.  Perhaps finally we can escape the cyclic amnesia we have suffered in using technology to improve education.”
 
School
And finally, to help lighten your day and hopefully bring a smile to your face, Jimmy Fallon, host of the “Tonight Show” on NBC, asked viewers to send him their tweets in response to the hashtag #OneTimeInClass. Valerie Strauss, in her Washington Postcolumn, publishes a number of them along with a video clip (1:56 minutes) from YouTube showing Fallon reading some of the funnier ones which is located at the top of Strauss’ piece.  You can’t miss it and be sure you don’t.  
                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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

Ed News, Friday, October 2, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

         A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 

Upcoming event reminder:  Have you finished the next book for the ALOED book club?  Have you started it?  Do you have a copy?  Do you even know about the event?  If you answered “no” to any of those questions you need to get a move on.  The book is The One World School House: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan (founder of the Khan Academy).  The discussion will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 21, (you have a little over 2 1/2 weeks which is why you need to get a move on) at Samuelson Alumni Center on campus at 6:30 pm.  Dinner is even being provided by ALOED.  Food and great conversation for FREE!  You can’t top that.  For more information and to RSVP click here.  Hurry up.  I don’t want to have to remind you again.  Don’t be left out!

 
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And now to the news.   
      
           “Experience is the opposite of education.” 
― Ashly Lorenzana
Breaking News: Arne Duncan to Leave 
Cabinet Post at End of Year
Embattled U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan will be leaving his post at the end of the year according to a story in The New York Times.  The news was first reported by the Associated Press this morning.  Duncan, who joined the Obama administration at the outset in Jan., 2009, will have served for almost 7 years.  Obama announced he was appointing the equally controversial former New York State Superintendent of Schools, John B. King Jr. on an interim basis, to fill the post until Duncan’s term would have concluded in Jan., 2017.  “Mr. Duncan was arguably one of the most powerful education secretaries in history,”  the article relates, “both because of his personal ties to the president and the billions of dollars in funding that came to the department as part of the fiscal stimulus program during the financial crisis.  He was at times the subject of criticism from both parties, angering Democrats by challenging teachers’ unions and infuriating Republicans by promoting national academic standards.”  The piece includes a video segment (2:09 minutes) of the official announcement.               Reaction to the changes at the department was swift.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post zeroes in on the controversial nature of John King’s tenure in New York.  “King led a series of school reforms that included a new teacher evaluation system using student standardized test scores that critics say is nonsensical  (for example, art teachers are evaluated by student math test scores) and the implementation of the Common Core standards, and aligned Pearson-designed standardized tests,” she writes,  “King’s oversight of all of this was considered such a disaster that Cuomo last year wrote in a letter to top state education officials that ‘Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start’.”               NYS  Allies for Public Education  (NYS APE), in a press release, promptly called the appointment of King a “bizarre move by the White House” and “a bad move for the nation.”              The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) also issued a press release which lambasted King for his actions in New York.  “John King’s tenure in New York was one of controversy,” it suggested, “and with an established agenda of dismantling public education by using corporate education reform tactics.  King was run out of New York in 2014 because of a staggering test opt out rate, because he ignored and dismissed parents at education forums, and because he refused to fix an education system that he himself destroyed. The state teachers union, NYSUT, had a unanimous vote of no confidence in him prior to his departure.”
 
Arts Education in the LAUSD
Three years after the LAUSD designated the arts as a core subject in the district the results of that ambitious undertaking have been mixed according to a report from NPR station 93.3KPCC.  “As the district’s decision nears its third anniversary this October, the goal of universal arts instruction remains elusive,” it reveals.  “A KPCC analysis of the most recent district data found that at about 100 elementary schools, the vast majority of students get no arts instruction.  Still, across the district, there are signs of improvement. Forty-five new art teachers were hired for the new school year, according to district numbers, and resources like professional development for teachers have been increased. Plus, the district’s arts branch has launched a series of arts festivals that showcase student work.”  The piece includes one audio segment (4:03 minutes) of the story (click the “Listen” button) at the beginning of the article and a second one that features a conversation (4:36 minutes) with the station’s art education reporter who produced the feature (located at the end of the item in the “soundcloud box).
 
The Opt-Out Movement
Valerie Strauss, on her blog in The Washington Post, once again invites Carol Burris, the award-winning New York principal–now retired, to take over her column.  For this one, Burris looks at thehistory of the opt-out movement and profiles a parent and activist who became the leader of one of the most effective groups in the country, Long Island Opt Out.  Burris also singles out other individuals and organizations that have spearheaded the movement to have their children refuse to take standardized tests.  “Opt-out parents are now seeing beyond the stress of their children and becoming attuned to the connections between testing and charter schools, the Common Core, teacher evaluations based on test scores, school closings and other politically popular policies designed to undermine public schooling.  Opt out has become a movement of civil disobedience and of conscience against corporate school reform.”
 
Letters to the Times
Two sets of letters were published in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  The first was 4 different missives reacting to the Sandy Banks and Steve Lopez columns that appeared in the paper on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.  Banks wrote about a teacher who remembered a student she had as a 3rd grader back in 1970 and Lopez noted hundreds of students who returned for a memorial service to pay tribute to a History and Philosophy instructor they had at Hamilton High School.  The second set of 4 comment on the Sunday column in the “Business” section about teacher pensions.  The lead letter just so happens to be from ALOED member Darlene Wilson.“If critics would read what the experts have to say about countries with great educational systems,” she writes, “they would stop interfering and work to promote an American culture that prizes education as highly as sports and entertainment — maybe even higher.”  [Ed. note: in an email to the editor of the “Ed News,” Darlene revealed that the Times edited out her reference to Broad and the Koch brothers as two of the main culprits who are attacking teacher pensions.  Might that be because the paper’s new education section “Education Matters” is partially funded by the Broad Foundation?  Just asking.]
 
Gov. Facing Some Key Education Decisions
California Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 11, to make some critical decisions regarding education-related bills sent to him by the state legislature.  EdSource provides an excellent list of items sent to the governor for his action.  A few have already been taken care of (vaccination requirement) but several still remain on his desk including proposals to ban for-profit charters in the Golden State and a suspension of the high school exit exam. 
 
New Plan to Privatize Schools: Bankruptcy
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers have discovered a new ploy for destroying public education–bankruptcy.  Cut their budgets to the core to the point they can no longer meet their costs and you can force entire school districts into bankruptcy which could then open them up to being taken over by the private, for-profit sector.  Sound outlandish?  A number of cities including Detroit have been forced into that position.  Why not force school districts into the same corner?  The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watchreviews a recent gathering of corporate types that explored that very notion.  “The school privatization movement has long sought to consign public schools and locally elected school boards to the dust heap of history to usher in a brave new world of ‘free market’ schools instead of free and universal public education.  One big reason for this obsession?  There’s at least half a trillion dollars a year up for grabs for corporations that want to line their coffers with taxpayer money,” the item harrowingly relates.  “K-12 education, Rupert Murdoch explained in a press release a few years ago, is a ‘$500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting to be transformed.’  But the transition to for-profit education has been too slow for some advocates who have some new and rather drastic ideas on how to pick up the pace.”
 
New Guide to Colleges of Education
You probably need to be more than a little wary of this one.  TheNational Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ–yes, those folks) has produced what they are calling an online “Consumer’s Guide to Colleges of Education.”  Even the author of this piece fromEDUCATION WEEK about the new publication, titled “Path to Teach,” offers a few caveats in his brief review of the website. “I probably don’t need to remind you of the controversy swirling around the NCTQ’s efforts,” he warns plainly, “so bear that in mind as you explore the site.”  The article includes a link to the site if you want to check out what it says about a particular school.               The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) a vocal critic of the NCTQ, briefly reviews the new online tool  on itsEdPrepMatters website and is quite leery of its value.  “While many teacher preparation programs dispute their ratings in the Review, NCTQ is undeterred in its attempt to be an arbiter of program quality for teacher preparation.  With the 2016 Review already under way,” the author urges, “institutions should be prepared to examine their program’s rating and determine whether a response is necessary.”
 
Another Tech Glitch for the LAUSD
After the “iPadgate” fiasco and a botched roll-out of a new student information system, another technology issue is NOT what the LAUSD needs.  But, they have one.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times describes how a phone poll directed to parents and employees about different academic calendar options was plagued by technical goblins [Ed. note: It is getting close to Halloween].  Some respondents were not able to access the poll or were cut off in the midst of taking it.  The article explains both the tech problems and some of the options for future school calendars in the LAUSD.  One choice was a fairly radical change from more traditional calendars.  “One option for an academic schedule would be a significant departure from past practice: a five-week break in summer and a seven-week vacation in winter,” the piece point out.  “Although that alternative was one of six presented to a calendar committee, officials have not seriously considered such a schedule in recent times.  The survey presented that approach by asking parents if they would like a ‘year-round’ style calendar that allowed for four-week intercession classes in both the winter and summer. These courses would allow students to catch up or get ahead academically.”  The article includes two audio segments.  One is the introduction to the phone survey (23 seconds) from Supt. Ramon Cortines and the second is a message of apology (1:10 minutes) about any problems people encountered dealing with the poll. Click on the > (red arrow) that’s part of the “soundcloud” to access both of those.
 
The Teaching Profession
Do the actions and reactions of teachers sometimes provoke misbehavior in students?  That’s the interesting focus of an article on the ASCD (formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) website.  The article, appearing on their “EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP” blog, is written by an author and education consultant based in Portland, Oregon.  He presents 5 “Provocations” from classroom teachers that often lead to student misconduct and what teachers can do instead to avoid pupil reactions.  One example: “Letting Students Choose Their Seats.”  Read what he has to say about that and what he offers as an alternative.  “At the end of the day, students will want to learn with us when they’re confident they won’t feel cruddy in the process.  Engaging their resistance and analyzing how we may have provoked their misbehaviors will help us take advantage of opportunities to learn about their perspectives, appreciate their experiences, and improve our practices.  This approach,” he suggests, “will produce far more learning for students and teachers alike than punishments and exclusion ever will.”               How many of you have attended parent/teacher conferences either as a parent and/or a teacher?  Most of you.  That’s what I thought.  If you have been to more than one, were they pretty much formulaic?  Most of you agreed.  Is it possible to bring the format into the 21st century?  Last year 10 schools in Georgia piloted a concept in parent/teacher relationships through the formation of “academic parent-teacher teams (APTT).  The idea of APTT has been around for 5 years and is now in 250 schools in 15 states.  You can discover how the program works using as a case study one of those elementary schools in Georgia.
EDUCATION WEEK has the intriguing details. For even more information about how the APTT work go the WestEd website where the creator of the program, Maria Paredes, has an informative article about the plan (please click here).
 
Teach for America
Mitchell Robinson, writing on his Mitchell Robinson blog, has some major misgivings about Teach for America to the point that he visualizes the organization as a”Trojan Horse for America.”  That’s pretty significant.  Robinson believes TFA had some noble goals at the outset.  “But TFA’s mission has now been perverted,” he claims, “as a result of the convergence of factors such as a struggling economy, an emboldened corporate education reform movement led by hedge fund managers and investment bankers looking to turn a quick profit, and blistering attacks on teachers and schools from both sides of the political aisle.”  He details how TFA has gone off the rails and has some suggestions on how they can change and improve for the future based on one of their own “Commitments for Improvement.”
 
Common Core
Mention the words “Common Core State Standards” and you are likely to elicit some strong responses both pro and con.  They have been around officially for 6 years, yet controversy still surrounds them.  If you are still not real clear about the basics or need some concrete information to share with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table  or with colleagues, check out this primer on the CCSS in EDUCATION WEEK.  It’s in the form of a Q & A.  “The Common Core State Standards arose from a simple idea: that creating one set of challenging academic expectations for all students would improve achievement and college readiness,” it begins.  “But the idea proved to be the only thing that was simple about the common core.”
 
Election 2016
With the AFT already announcing its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and the NEA poised to take a similar position, possibly as early as this weekend, teachers around the nation are beginning to resist these actions of their big national union organizations.  “One of the most hotly debated issues among rank-and-file educators this week is whether Clinton deserves their support,” the story in yesterday’s L.A. Times points out.  “Many are saying no — or at least, not yet — and calling upon their state leaders to resist a move by the president of the union representing 3 million teachers to endorse Clinton.  They are deeply bitter about President Obama’s education policies and fear Clinton would stay on the same path, which is championed by some of her ultrawealthy friends and supporters, particularly Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad.”  The piece goes on to note that leaders of the California Teachers Association, the biggest and most powerful NEA affiliate, are remaining neutral on the question of how their representatives should vote on the Clinton endorsement issue.               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reports that the NEA Board of Directors is set to officially endorse Hillary Clinton for president tomorrow in a move that ignores the sentiments of the rank-and-file.  His piece is titled “A Handful of NEA Leaders Have Taken Another Step Toward Endorsing Hillary Clinton Despite Member Outcry.”  “‘We are what Democracy looks like.’  With those words, he begins, “Lily Eskelsen Garcia took the reigns of the National Education Association (NEA) as President in 2014.  A little more than a year later, the NEA is set to prove those words false by endorsing a candidate for the 2016 Presidential Primaries without input from the rank and file.”
 
Budget Battles Wreck Havoc on School Openings
Most K-12 public school funding, particularly in California, comes from the state level.  Most other states follow a similar formula.  What happens when partisan and other battles hold that critical funding up?  EDUCATION WEEK explores several states (not California) where major fights are taking place and the collateral damage they are causing to local school budgets.  States that are impacted the most include Pennsylvania, Washington, Alabama, Colorado, Kansas and Mississippi which are singled out for special attention in a sidebar to the main story.
 
Anti-Vaccination Petition Drive Falls Short on Signatures
Opponents of the new vaccination law, signed by Gov. Brown in June, fell short of their goal of collecting enough signature to place a repeal measure on the Nov., 2016, ballot.  An article in yesterday’sL.A. Times has the numbers and spells out what happened.  “Opponents of a new child vaccination law in California,” it begins, “have reported that they turned in some 228,000 signatures on petitions for a referendum to overturn the measure, far short of the number needed to qualify it for next year’s ballot.  Referendum supporters needed the signatures of 365,880 registered voters by Monday to place the measure before state voters in November 2016.”
 
Charter Schools
Diane Ravitch’s blog has a piece from L.A. parent activist Karen Wolfe, who lives in Venice, about an apparently innocuous telephone “poll” that could underhandedly be pushing Eli Broad’s charter agenda for the LAUSD.  Something like that is called a “push poll” which Ravitch explains in her introduction to Wolfe’s article.               An editorial in today’s L.A. Times chastises two members of the LAUSD board for comments they made regarding a major plan to expand charters in the district and calls on both to turn down the rhetoric.  The item characterizes the battle raging between pro and anti-charter forces as having “all the calm maturity of a playground shouting match.”  “But if the district really wants to fend off a charter incursion,” the piece urges, “its best bet is not to ramp up the angry rhetoric but to create and build the kinds of public schools that attract and keep students.  Parents whose children are happily enrolled in orderly, well-run neighborhood schools, or exciting magnet schools, have little reason to switch.”               How successful has Eli Broad been in supporting charter schools that show consistent academic improvement?  According to the LA SCHOOL REPORT the results are “mixed.”  “The Broad plan points to three of LA Unified’s largest charter operators that have received Broad largess — Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and KIPP Public Charter Schools — and says, ‘These organizations have turned our investments into significant academic gains for students.’  In some cases, the gains are clear,” the article reveals, “but in others they are not.  One category shows a regression in test scores, and others that demonstrate only marginal gains.”  Be sure to check out the chart provided by the Broad Foundation showing gains in proficiency and you’ll see the results are not as rosy as Broad would have you believe.
 
Court Decision Aids Unions
A federal district court judge in Los Angeles provided teachers unions with an important victory when he dismissed a case brought by 4 educators who claimed that being forced to join the union violated their free speech rights since the unions often use money from dues to advocate for positions they were not in favor of.  The case, Bain vs California Teachers Associationwas filed in April and the ruling was issued on Wednesday according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.               The NEA, a defendant in the lawsuit, issued a news release about the ruling on their website.  It includes a statement from union Pres. Lily Eskelsen-Garcia.  “This case is just another attack on educators and their unions,” she charges, “that is being bankrolled by wealthy special interest groups whose objective is to undermine public education.  Teachers unions are made up of educators who join together to make their voices heard on issues that affect their students, classrooms and schools.”
 
Preventing Sexual Assaults/Harassment
And finally, a bill signed into law yesterday by Gov. Brown would require high schools in the state that offer health classes to includelessons and materials on the prevention of sexual violence and discussions about affirmative consent before two people have sexual relations.  An article in today’s L.A. Times describes the legislation and also mentions some other bills that were education-related that the governor approved. “The law is the first of its kind in the nation, according to the legislators,” it notes, “and follows a measure signed last year requiring college campuses to improve policies to prevent sexual assault and to require that couples affirmatively consent before engaging in sex.”
 
                                      http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk                    

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