Ed News, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 Edition


               A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Upcoming Event Reminder: The always timely and informative ALOED Educational Film Series continues on Wed. with a screening of the provocative documentary “Education, Inc.” on the Oxy campus from 6:30 to 9 pm in Mosher 1.  A stimulating panel discussion will follow the viewing.  You don’t want to miss any ALOED event and you certainly don’t want to miss this one.  Light refreshments will be provided by the Oxy Education Department, which is co-sponsoring the screening.  For more information and to RSVP please click here.

“I would say, then, that you are faced with a future in which education 
is going to be number one amongst the great world industries.” 
― R. Buckminster FullerEducation Automation: Freeing the Scholar to Return to His Studies

Homeschooling Court Case

Do school districts have the right to demand proof that home-schooled children are actually learning?  That is the situation facing the Texas Supreme Court in a case heard on Monday, according to a story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times. “Texas and 10 other states do not require home-schooling parents to register with the school district or state,” it points out, “or provide assessments on their children’s education.  Home-schooled students in Texas don’t have to take standardized tests, learn a specific curriculum or be instructed by certified teachers.  Texas requires only that home-schooling include five subjects: good citizenship, math, reading, spelling and grammar.”
Charter Schools
What’s the difference between a magnet and a charter school?  Raise your hands if you’d like to answer that one.  OK, Peter Greene, author of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, what have you to say on the subject?  Greene offers a series of 4 hypothetical “conversations”to help illustrate his response.
Student Motivation
What really motivates students to work harder?  Is it money?  Rewards handed out at school?  Something else?  THE CONVERSATION website highlights a study out of Vanderbilt University that looked at several ways of motivating students to see what worked the best.  The results may surprise you in that financial incentives did not prove to be the most effective option.  “We found that the students who were offered up to $100 for regular attendance [at a free, afterschool tutoring program] were no more likely to attend sessions than if they were offered nothing at all,”the authors of the study discovered.  ” In other words, money made no difference.  Alternatively, when students received a certificate of recognition for attending tutoring sessions regularly, the differences were dramatic.  The students in the certificate group attended 42.5% more of their allotted tutoring hours than those assigned to the control group.”
High School’s Art Collection on Display at the Autry
Some high schools are known for their athletic teams, others for their band and music programs and a few for their academic achievements, but how often is a school singled out for its art collection?  A fascinating story in the “Calendar” section of yesterday’s L.A. Times describes how Gardena High School(LAUSD) students collected world class art beginning in 1919 in an initiative started by the principal at that time and continuing until 1956 when the school moved to a new campus.  “The program, launched at the suggestion of then-principal John Whitely, was a veritable community event for Gardena,” it reveals.  “Students would visit art galleries and meet with artists as part of their research and the student body would then vote on which works would be acquired.  Once a work had been chosen, it was exhibited along with other pieces from the collection, as well as others the students had seen along the way.  The annual exhibition was such an event that in 1930 California’s lieutenant governor showed up to give a speech.”  A current exhibition at the Autry National Center of the American West, running through October of next year, features 9 of some 90 works from Gardena’s collection.
Oxy Prof Wins School Board Seat
Suzie Abajian, Assistant Professor of Education at Occidental College, won a South Pasadena USD school board seat on her second try on Tuesday.  A brief item from the Pasadena Star-News has some details about the results.  [Ed. note: Dr. Abajian will be one of the panelists discussing the documentary “Education, Inc.” sponsored by ALOED and The Oxy Ed Department on Wednesday.  See the “Upcoming Event Reminder” at the very top of this edition.]
Inline image 2                             Newest SPUSD school board member Dr. Suzie Abajian

In other 2015 election news, voters in Mississippi turned down a proposal to fully fund public schools in their state. Nearly complete returns showed 54% against Measure 42 and 46% in favor.  The(Jackson) Clarion-Ledger has the sad details.   “Voters on Tuesday night rejected Initiative 42,”  it begins, “a proposed constitutional amendment supporters hoped would force lawmakers to fully fund public schools after nearly 18 years of underfunding.”

“What Makes a Good School?”
That’s the headline of an editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Timeswhich points out that California is ahead of the rest of the nation in holding schools accountable.  With the advent of Common Core assessments, the state is in the process of revising how it ranks the effectiveness of schools.  The state Board of Education jettisoned the old API (Academic Performance Index) as a way to measure schools and met this week to select new criteria for grading campuses.  Standardized test scores may play a very minor role or none at all. The Times believes that test scores provide an easy way for parents and the general public to compare how schools are doing and should  be retained, in some way, as the state formulates new accountability measures.
Teacher Evaluations
A Florida school district is terminating its partnership with the Gates Foundation which promised to fund, to the tune of $100 million in 2009, a Gates supported remake of the teacher evaluation system in the district.  Why the falling out?  The process the two parties came up with WASN’T WORKING!  It relied on student test scores for 40% of the rating and the other 60% on observations by “peer evaluators.”  In the end the system wasn’t meeting its goals and ended up costing much more than the district anticipated according to a story in the Tampa Bay Times.  “After six years of effort, high hopes and more than $180 million spent,” the piece begins, “the Hillsborough County school system is unraveling the teacher evaluation system it developed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. . . . [The news] arrived as the once-cordial relationship between the district and its teachers union imploded Thursday. The two sides walked away from each other in anger as talks over a salary agreement for the current school year broke down.”               You may find this next one hard to believe.  Mitchell Robinson on his Mitchell Robinson blog describes a new way to evaluate student teachers using a “virtual classroom” with “avatars as students.”  You read that correctly.  This new system is brought to you by the ETS (Educational Testing Service)–the same people that provide the SAT, GRE and the AP Exams which raises some red flags from the get-go.  Could this be another profit-making product for a private education company?  You’ll just have to read Robinson’s piece to get all the disturbing details.  “It is also worth mentioning,” he adds, “that the funders for this initiative include the New Schools Venture Fund, Gates, Broad, Walton, Pearson, Bloomberg; aka, the usual suspects when it comes to corporate reform projects.”
The Teaching Profession
Why do people choose to go into teaching in the first place?  That’s the question tackled by a new United Kingdom-based surveyhighlighted in EDUCATION WEEK that was commissioned by LKMco and Pearson, Inc.  It used answers from  a questionnaire that 1000 U.K. teachers filled out.  “Researchers found that, in addition to making a difference in students’ lives, the most common reason those surveyed cited for going into teaching is that they thought they would be good at it, with 93 percent also citing that as an important factor,” the story reveals.  “A love for the subject, the chance to make a difference in society, and the desire to work with young people were also among top five reasons for going into teaching.”  It also looks at reasons why educators remain in the profession.  You can find the full report, titled “Why Teach?” by clicking here.
Election 2016
In answer to a question about the Common Core, GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson ends up praising homeschoolers and criticizing public education.  The short clip (1:05 minutes) is from earlier this year and appears courtesy of C-SPAN.   
Principal Prep Programs
EDUCATION WEEK describes some new training programs for principals that emphasize business practices.  The piece features several specific plans that offer leadership and management training around the U.S.  “As organizational leaders,” the item explains, “principals need to have the same kinds of skill sets that effective managers in other professions possess: the ability to create a compelling vision, lead high-performing teams, think like problem-solvers, put strategic plans in place, and execute on those plans.”
LAUSD Supt. Search
The L.A. Times posted an intriguing graphic on its website on Wednesday with pictures and background information about 43 possible candidates to fill of the position of LAUSD superintendent.  You can sort the list by a number of criteria including “Chance of Being a Contender.”  Familiar names the paper includes: Antonia Villaraigosa, Eric Holder, Jr., Henry Cisneros, Ted Mitchell (former Oxy president), Caprice Young and Marshall Tuck.  Click on each picture to get more information.  Who do you think the school board will select?               The LAUSD has been hosting a number of open forums around the district for the past two weeks to elicit input from the community about selecting the next superintendent.  The response from the public has been underwhelming as described in a front-page story in yesterday’s Times.  “According to the search consultants, more than 1,200 people attended at least one of more than 100 scheduled meetings,”  the article relates, “an average of fewer than 12 per meeting.  In addition, consultants sought input on written and online surveys; about 8,000 of them were returned through last week.”
Corporal Punishment
In light of the incident last week where a South Carolina African American teenage girl was violently pulled from her desk, slammed to the floor and handcuffed by a school police officer for a situation involving her cellphone, Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog revisits the issue of corporal punishment in schools.  “There is a related issue that has smoldered under the surface for decades,” he suggests.  “While all fifty states have laws against intentional cruelty to animals, in 19 states it is legal to paddle students for misbehavior.  Recent attention has been drawn to the fact that African American and disabled students are more likely to be suspended or expelled – and this pattern is seen in the use of corporal punishment as well.”  Cody references a documentary film about corporal punishment titled “The Board of Education.”  He includes the trailer (2:55 minutes) of the film in his article and has a link to the full movie (32:35 minutes).
Teens and Their Smartphones
If you teach tweens/teens, are a parent of one or more or will be or just know a few this story from the “Business” section of Wednesday’s L.A. Times could prove to be a real eyeopener (or not).  It highlights a recent study of over 2,500 8 to 18 year-olds that found the teens (13-18) spend, on average, 9 (!) hours a day staring at the screens of their smartphones, watching television or listening to music.  Now if most of that time was looking up history or science information, reading a classic novel or viewing lessons from the Khan Academy most educators and parents would have nothing to complain about. However, the research finds that a huge chunk of those hours is spent on, you guessed it, social media.              A follow-up piece on the above item, posted on the Times website Tuesday morning delves deeper into the study that was done by Common Sense Media.  Ever wonder why that homework doesn’t get done or is completed poorly?  “Multitasking is the new normal when it comes to homework time.  Most teens listen to music while doing their work, but many also watch TV (51%), use social media (50%) and text (60%).  And, no, they don’t think it’s a problem,”this article suggests.  “Most, in fact, think multitasking has little impact on the quality of their work.  The jury’s still out on this one. But there’s evidence suggesting that multitasking makes it harder to retain information, according to Common Sense.”
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, revisits the status of the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (and its current iteration, No Child Left Behind).  He approves of the revisions that reduce the amount of testing, allow parents to opt their children out of the assessments and eliminates the AYP (Average Yearly Progress) measure that was used to punish under achieving schools.  He doesn’t believe either the House of Senate versions go far enough in correcting the serious flaws of NCLB but understands, and explains, the political realities in Congress in trying to get a compromise bill passed and signed into law.  “What would be preferable, of course, is to have federal education policy based on a more robust idea of what works and designed to achieve outcomes that are truly desirable,” he concludes.  “But if stopping the tyranny of the testocracy is the best we can do right now, that alone seems a good enough reason to hope Congress acts and passes a revision of NCLB before the year’s end.”
Other LAUSD News
3 letters were published in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reacting to the paper’s story on Monday (highlighted in the “Ed News”) about the lack of funding for arts education in the LAUSD.  All 3 were critical of the district’s actions although 1 pointed out how after-school-programs help pick up the slack.               A panel of outside experts released a report that warns the LAUSD may be facing bankruptcy in the near future.  The causes of the looming deficits were blamed on overgenerous employee compensation agreements (cough!, cough!), bloated bureaucracy (that’s more like it) and declining student enrollments due to inroads made by charter schools (that’s pretty obvious).  An article in today’s Timesdescribes the situation and what the panel recommends.  “The panel made numerous recommendations,” it points out, “including: improving student and teacher attendance, offering an early retirement program, advocating for increased funding and reducing the total staffing in line with declining enrollment.  The report also called for lowering the cost of services provided to disabled students.  The committee will formally present its findings at next week’s school board meeting.”  [Ed note: Former LAUSD teacher and board member David Tokofsky was interviewed on KNX 1070 “News Radio” this morning.  He was highly critical of the panel’s predictions, noting they focused on district expenditures and seemed to ignore the possibility of increased revenue from the state.]               Another story in the same paper describes the settlement that was reached in answer to a lawsuit filed against the LAUSD that prevents students from being programmed into “fake” classes that offer no credit or that simply send students home instead of having them enrolled in academic courses.  “Students in six schools in Oakland, Compton and Los Angeles that are predominantly low-income and minority were taking these types of classes,” the item notes.  “The schools are Castlemont High School and Fremont High School in the Oakland Unified School District; John C. Fremont High, Thomas B. Jefferson High School and Susan Miller Dorsey High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District; and Compton High School in the Compton Unified School District.”
Common Core
And finally, Steven Singer, author of theGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is baffled why so many teachers still support the Common Core.  He reports that 76% of educators supported the standards two years ago.  Today that figure has plummeted to 40%.  “The only explanation I can come up with,” he suggests, “is Stockholm syndrome.  The phenomena, also called capture-bonding, occurs when hostages empathize with their captors.  Kidnapping victims sometimes feel sorry for the very people who abducted them.  Something similar seems to be happening with the few hardcore supporters of Common Core that are left.”  Singer reviews some of the myths surrounding the creation of the Common Core.

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

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