Ed News, Tuesday, November 10, 2015 Edition


              A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Why not treat yourself by attending the ALOED screening on the Oxy campus of the timely documentary “Education, Inc.” from 6:30 to 9 pm in Mosher 1. For more information and to RSVP please click here.
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Our present education is geared to industrialization and war, its principal aim being to develop efficiency;
and we are caught in this machine of ruthless competition and mutual destruction.
If education leads to war, if it teaches us to destroy or be destroyed, has it not utterly failed?”
Cops on Campus
In light of the recent incident in South Carolina where a teen aged African-American girl was pulled from her desk by a campus police officer, thrown to the floor and handcuffed, THE Nation takes a look at the history of armed offices on school grounds and some of the violent interactions they’ve had with students.  It’s titled “A Short History of Cops Terrorizing Students.”  “The massive expansion of school police is predicated on the idea that this makes schools safer, but this just isn’t true,” the article maintains.  “Students in schools with heavy police presence consistently report feeling less safe than students in similar schools with no police.  There is no evidence that [school resource officers] reduce crime or have prevented any mass-shooting incidents.”               The event in South Carolina referenced above is not an isolated incident according to a commentary from the The Center for Public Integrity.  It chronicles several previous incidents of police violence against students as young as 11 and includes a brief video (15 seconds) of what happened in South Carolina if you still haven’t seen it by now.  “Nationwide, in incidents that rarely get publicly aired, thousands of students are also getting arrested, ticketed, interrogated and searched by police officers, often in connection with minor indiscretions or allegations they were disruptive.”  At the end of the piece is an interactive graphic titled  “A State-by-State Look at Students Referred to Law Enforcement.”   Virginia comes in at number 1 with 15.8 per thousand, Delaware is second at 14.6.  The national average is 5.7 and California is 20th among all the states at a rate just behind that of 5.6.
Arts Education Lacking in the State
A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an L.A. Times article that discovered a major lack of arts education in the LAUSD.  However, the problem is not confined to just that district according to a follow-up piece that outlines deficiencies up and down California.  “Arts programs across California have waned in the wake of budget cuts,” it notes, “and a sharpened focus on academic subjects measured on standardized tests.  Thousands of students in the state don’t have access to arts classes, a violation of state law. . . .  State law requires that schools provide music, art, theater and dance at every grade level.  But the law lacks teeth and few districts across the state live up to the requirement.”
Charter Schools
Do some charter school target disruptive students in order to get rid of them?  That’s the essence of a story in The New York Times titled “At A Success Academy Charter School, Singling Out Pupils Who Have ‘Got to Go.'”  “Success Academy, the high-performing charter school network in New York City, has long been dogged by accusations that its remarkable accomplishments are due, in part, to a practice of weeding out weak or difficult students.  The network has always denied it.  But documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with 10 current and former Success employees at five schools,” it uncovers, “suggest that some administrators in the network have singled out children they would like to see leave.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, responds to an articlewritten by Mike Petrelli who argues that charter schools serve a valuable purpose by providing a place where low-income, high achieving students can learn in an environment away from students whose behavior is disruptive.  Greene suggests that instead of charters pushing out disruptive students (see story above), maybe they should become the repository of those pupils who misbehave and let the public schools work with those “low-income strivers” that Petrelli addresses.  By the way, Greene includes a link to Petrelli’s original piece from Bloomberg View in his article.               The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) has begun what they promise to be an ongoing series on “Charter Fraud and Mismanagement.”  Part 1 lists articles from a number of states experiencing problems with their charters.  Links are included and, it should be noted, some of the items were highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News.”  The article about New York is actually featured in this edition (see first article in this section).                Is Boston going the same route as L.A.?  Eli Broad and his billionaire cronies have a plan to convert 50% of LAUSD campuses into charters by 2023.  The new mayor of Boston may be planning something similar in his city.  Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire,reports on a plan to close 36 Boston city schools and turn them over to charters or the parochial system. Pierce refers to this as pulling a “full Scott Walker” (he explains that phrase) in “honor” of the governor of Wisconsin.              Mayor Walsh’s Chief Communication Officer issued a prompt rebuttal to Charles Pierce’s article about closing schools in Boston (see above).  It appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.                The boston.com website reviews Walsh’s statement and includes a follow-up reaction to it by Charles Pierce who stands by his original piece.           The LAUSD school board is considering two proposals at its meeting today that deal with charter expansion and transparency.  “One of those,” according to a front-page story in today’s L.A. Times, would have the school board go on record opposing plans by the Broad Foundation and others to enroll half the district’s 650,000 students in charter schools within the next eight years.  The other would require charters to disclose much more information about their operations, including salaries, actions taken by the board against the schools and the services available to disabled students.”  Two of the seven board members appear to be in favor of the first item, two are opposed and the remaining three have “expressed reservations about the charter expansion.”               “It’s Time to Stop Whining About Charter Schools” is the headline of an editorial in today’sL.A. Times referring to the proposal to oppose charter expansion that the LAUSD board is considering today (see previous story above).  “Here is the charter school resolution,” the item concludes, “that L.A. Unified needs: It’s time to end the conjecture about whether charter schools enroll students selectively or whether they make the achievements of their students look better by pushing out low performers.  L.A. Unified should research the issue.  If charters are doing that, go after them; if not, stop complaining about them.”           Diane Ravitch’s blog had some pithy comments in reaction to the above Times editorial and Eli Broad’s role in charter expansion.  To further see how people feel about Broad, check out some of the comments at the end of Ravitch’s piece.               How pervasive are charter schools becoming?  The 10th annual report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools provides all kinds of numbers.  A brief story in EDUCATION WEEK, that highlights the survey, notes that 6 school districts now have at least 40% of students attending charters.  Number 1 is New Orleans (93%), Detroit is second (53%) and Flint (Michigan) is third (47%).  Did you know that the LAUSD tops the list of districts with the highest number of students attending charters?  New York City is second and Philadelphia is third in that category.  The article contains several links to the full report (14 pages) titled “A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities” with lots of charts, graphs and a map.
The Teaching Profession
Nancy Bailey is former special education teacher,  current author and activist who blogs on her Nancy Bailey’s  Education Website.  She was taken aback when Bill and Melinda Gates (she refers to them as the “Common Core king and queen) said that working to reform the education system was harder than finding a cure for malaria.  “Duh” might have been her response.  She proceeds to challenge the Gates to spend some time in the public schools and provides them with a (long) list of things that make education truly hard for teachers, students and parents.  “I could go on with this list but it is tiring.  A lot of children and their teachers are not being treated well in a country that should honor both. And I for one do not understand why the U.S. of America would let a rich individual take over the public schools that should be owned by the people.  So at least I can make this request,” Bailey concludes, “come down from your ivory tower, visit some schools, spend a longer period of time talking to teachers and parents about Common Core and the other issues you are involved in, and see what it is really like to face hardship in school.”              Alabama’s 2014-15 Teacher of the Year and a veteran educator has decided to quit after being informed she would need additional certifications to continue teaching the grades she’s worked with for 21 years.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” for deutsch29,
fills you in on the sad (outrageous) details.  Schneider includes excerpts of notes the teacher sent to her school board and to her students.                 Peter Greene, aka the author of theCURMUDGUCATION blog, has read too many of those “why I am quitting” letters and decided it’s time to fight back.  So he sat down and penned what he headlines as “A Not Quitting Letter.”  It contains a few salty terms so I can’t quote it directly or it won’t get past those filters on some of your school email servers.  If you’ve ever felt discouraged about the way the profession is heading, take a moment a read what Greene has to say.  He is speaking for a lot of us out there.
A group of 38 public high schools in New York, the New York Performance Standards Consortium (highlighted in the “Ed News” previously), has waivers from the state to skip most standardized tests AND  has higher graduation rates as compared to other schools.  Is there a message to be cleaned from those two facts?  THE HECHINGER REPORT has a Q & A with the executive director of the consortium who explains how her students are assessed if it’s not by standardized exams.  “While most New York students must pass state exams in five subjects to graduate,” the introduction to the interview relates, “the consortium’s 38 schools have a state waiver allowing their students to earn a diploma by passing just one exam: comprehensive English.  (An additional nine schools have a  partial waiver.)  Instead, in all subjects including English, the students must demonstrate skill mastery in practical terms.  They design experiments, make presentations, write reports and defend their work to outside experts.”                Anthony Cody is beside himself over Pres. Obama’s latest “Testing Action Plan.”  First it was testing under No Child Left Behind and then it was new, improved testing under Race to The Top and now the president and his Education Department are pushing even better testing under the guise of “competency-based learning.” Cody explains what this latest “panacea” is and how it’s supposed to cure all that ails education today just like the previous attempts promised.  “There are two unwritten assumptions that are constant from the beginning of NCLB and carry through to this new version.  Teachers are not trusted to make judgments about what students learn, how they learn it, or how learning is assessed,” he maintains.  “Assessment is defined as the external monitoring of the work inside the classroom.  The second assumption is that data and technology must be instrumental in whatever process is devised.  The main innovation here is the more thorough and intrusive penetration of the classroom via computers capable of monitoring learning.  Both of these assumptions are unsupported by any evidence or track record, in terms of their ability to enhance learning.”  [Ed. note, Cody references, positively, the type of work being done by the New York Performance Standards Consortium (see story above)].
LAUSD Rolling Out New Approach to Discipline Problems
A prominent front-page story in Sunday’s L.A. Times describes anew approach to handling discipline problems in the LAUSD.  The district is turning to a system called restorative justice to deal with student misbehavior.  But like many new initiatives in the massive LAUSD, this one is not without its complications.  The biggest complaints from some teachers and administrators is a lack of proper training prior to implementation.  The LAUSD is trying to cut down on student suspensions and has banned them for “willful defiance.”    ” [Many teachers] blame the district for failing to provide the staff and training needed to effectively shift to the new approach — and their complaints are backed up by L.A. schools Supt.Ramon Cortines,” the piece notes.  “He said the new discipline policies, which were pushed through by the Board of Education and former Supt. John Deasy and which he supports, were poorly executed.  He compared the implementation to the flawed effort to equip students and teachers with Apple tablets.”               Sandy Banks, in her column in today’s L.A. Times, delves deeper into the issue of restorative justice and the rocky roll-out the discipline system has received in the LAUSD (see story above).  Banks visited Westchester High School last week and describes how the program works and some of the problems that have surfaced during its implementation.  “But — with good intentions and bad planning — Los Angeles school officials put the cart before the horse: A restorative justice process should have been in place when the no-suspension policy took effect,” she offers.  “Instead, the district is phasing it in so slowly that two-thirds of campuses haven’t been trained on what it is and how it works.”
Election 2016
Hillary Clinton answered some questions about her ideas and policies regarding charter schools during a town hall meeting in South Carolina.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog forThe Washington Post, reviews and comments on her responses.  In answer to whether she supports the expansion of charters Clinton answered: “I have for many years now, about 30 years, supported the idea of charter schools, but not as a substitute for the public schools, but as a supplement for the public schools.”  [Ed note: Interestingly, Strauss references the first story in the “Charter Schools” section above.]               Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, thinks Clinton’s answers about charters (see above) indicate she has a “Charter School Problem.”  He thinks she wants to have it both ways.  “So Clinton’s solution to the charter school crisis is what exactly?  She seems to be saying that charter schools have major problems, but the best way to fix them is to redouble our belief in this flawed and failing system. . . . It’s a non-answer,” he points out, “an evasion.  It’s the kind of politics Hillary Clinton excels at – say something so empty and middle-of-the-road that both sides of a position can find something to like about it.  Take something and focus group the hell out of it until it’s almost meaningless.”
Teach for America Wins $50 Million Grant
The Walton Family Foundation presented a $50 million grant to Teach for America.  The money will support 4,000 instructors over the next 3 years in southern California and around the country.  The foundation is the charitable arm of the founders of WalMart.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “The Arkansas-based Walton foundation has provided millions of dollars in start-up funding for charters,” it explains, “and is a major supporter of the California Charter Schools Assn.  Both Walton and TFA are potential major players in a proposal, spearheaded by philanthropist Eli Broad, that would move half of L.A. students into charter schools over the next eight years.  About 70% of TFA instructors work in charter schools in the L.A. area.”
Is it Time to End the Use of All That Education Jargon?
A long-time education reporter who now works for THE HECHINGER REPORT revisits the issue of a burgeoning vocabulary of education terms (she refers to them as “edu-speak”) that make it difficult for laypeople to join the conversation.  “I’ve ranted about this before, but now I’m determined to fight back,”she exclaims, “and I’m urging all journalists who cover education to do the same.  In the name of public service, let’s agree to stop abetting the school establishment’s ‘edu-speak.’  Stop passing along empty buzzwords and clichés. Let’s finally make the conversation about challenges and solutions accessible to all.”
Warning About New Education “Reform” Group
And finally, beware of a new education “reform” group called#TeachStrong.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, explains why you need to watch out.  He lists what organizations make up this bunch (including the AFT and NEA!) and what their goals and mission are.  “As for NEA and AFT?  I don’t even know how to wrap my brain around their willingness to break bread with charlatans like NCTQ or the TFA folks who have conducted a frontal assault on the profession for years.  If this is the seat at the table that we’ve been angling for– well, the table is a lousy table, and we should probably not be sitting at it,” Greene complains, “so much as throwing it over.  The #TeachStrong launch party is today, and I’m sure we’ll be learning more in the weeks and months ahead. But mostly this looks like a big steaming pile of manure.”

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

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