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.”
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?
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.”
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.”
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.”