The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
[Ed. Note: The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Look for the next edition on Friday, Dec. 4.]
“What all good teachers have in common, however, is that they set high standards
for their students and do not settle for anything less.”
Oxy Protests End
As the student protests on the Occidental College campus continued, a sort of backlash is developing against the dissidents by other students and some faculty who believe they are going too far. A front-page item in Saturday’s L.A. Times describes what’s beginning to happen on the Eagle Rock campus and others around the country. It’s headlined “Sharp Divisions Emerge on Campuses as Some Criticize Activists’ Tactics as Intimidation.” “Protests at Occidental, Claremont McKenna, Yale, Ithaca, Brown and other campuses throughout the nation appear to have wide support,” it points out, “as they demand action to address the bias some minority students say they face. But sharp dissent over the movement’s tactics is also emerging, as critics have begun to step forward.” The “Mailbag” feature in the same paper includes a comment from the paper’s letters editor and 4 letters addressing the topic of the campus protests. All were critical of the campus “crybullies.” The “Numbers and Letters” feature in Saturday’s Times noted the “838 printable letters to the editor were received between last Friday and this Friday. 354 letters were about the attacks in Paris and the aftermath, the week’s most discussed topic. . . . 37 readers discussed the protests on U.S. college campuses, the runner-up topic.” Student leaders of the sit-in at Occidental College announced they ended the action late Friday but that they would continue their fight to end racial discrimination on the campus. A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times provides the details. “Since Monday [Nov. 16], students have occupied the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center, demanding greater funding for minorities, more diverse faculty,”the article explains, “and the resignation of President Jonathan Veitch, among other things. . . . Veitch refused to step down. But he announced he agreed with several of the student demands this week, including diversifying the faculty, creating a black studies program, increasing funding for diversity initiatives and training all campus staff on minority student needs.”
Role of Principals
EDUCATION WEEK has put together a package of articles about the role of and challenges faced by school principals today. Two of the contributors wrote about how to keep good principals. You can find links and short summaries of each item by clicking here. “The job of the school principal is a difficult and demanding one,” the introduction to the collection points out, “and the attrition rate bears this out: According to a 2014 study from the School Leaders Network, 25 percent of principals leave their schools each year, and 50 percent of new principals quit during their third year.”
The Teacher Shortage
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles about the recent teacher shortage in California and other states. Stephen Mucher, head of the Bard College MAT program here in L.A. and an attendee at several recent ALOED events, analyzes why so many college graduates are hesitant to enter the profession and offers some concrete suggestions for alleviating the shortfall. His commentary appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post. “When our brightest young college graduates, especially those who reflect the increasing diversity found in our public schools, eschew teaching we need to ask why,”he urges. Mucher mentions Occidental briefly in his essay.
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
First it was the plain vanilla titled Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Next was the more grandiose No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and after that the athletic sounding Race to The Top (RtTT). The latest iteration of the federal education law that a Senate/House Conference committee is grappling with is called the rather grandiloquent Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). EDUCATION WEEK takes a very detailed look at what it covers regarding the critical issue of accountability. The proposed legislation still requires math and English testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school. “But beyond that, states get wide discretion in setting goals, figuring out just what to hold schools and districts accountable for, and deciding how to intervene in low-performing schools,” the article explains. “And while tests still have to be a part of state accountability systems, states must incorporate other factors that get at students’ opportunity to learn, like school-climate and teacher engagement, or access to and success in advanced coursework. And, in a big switch from the waivers, there would be no role for the feds whatsoever in teacher evaluation.”
Need Some Education Information?
Have you ever wanted some historical information about a particular aspect of education? If so, you may want to check out a valuable publication from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). It’s titled “120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait” and you may want to bookmark it for future reference. [Ed. note: I just did.] The paper (115 pages) was published by the U.S. Department of Education in 1993 but that shouldn’t discourage you from at least being aware of its existence as an excellent factual reference. It is chock full of tables, charts and graphs with all sorts of data from the past. Just one example of many is Table 20 on page 56: “Public Scho0l Districts and Public and Private Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1929-30 to 1990-91” which outlines the number of schools by type listed. Check out the declining number of “one-teacher” elementary schools in the U.S. during that 60-year period. Interesting. Diane Ravitch helped work on the publication while she was an Assistant Sec. of Education. “I can say now in retrospect that this publication was the most useful thing I did during my two years in the federal government,” she confesses. “You too can browse its pages and charts and graphs via the Internet to see the growth of education in the United States. Although not many people know of its existence, it is still the only reliable source of historical data on American education.”
The Teaching Profession
A teacher in Ohio was taking her state’s mandated training regarding bullying when she all of a sudden came to the realization that by the definition she was being presented with her state was guilty of harassing her and her fellow teachers. Peggy Robinson, on her Peg With Pen blog, has some brief comments about the issue and reprints the proposed lawsuit the teacher intends to file against the state. “As a teacher in the State of Ohio,” she charges, “I suddenly realized that I am being harassed by the Ohio Department of Education’s own legal definition as well as from legislators who are passing harmful laws to hurt me as well as many harmful laws that hurt my students.” The arrival of the Thanksgiving Holiday provides everyone with a moment to reflect on all the things we should be thankful for. EDUCATION WEEK has an inspirational piece explaining why teachers should be among those we give thanks to. “This time of year is notoriously tough for teachers, especially those who feel their efforts are not being appreciated,” the author of the piece notes. “As our way of expressing gratitude for the hard work educators do, we have compiled some of our favorite inspirational posts from the EdWeek archives into a Storify to serve as a pick-me-up for any teachers who might need an extra boost to get through the year.” Take some time the next couple of days to read why what teachers do is so important. It will make you feel as good as that glass of wine or that cocktail.
The latest initiative from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will ultimately channel $34.7 million over the next 3 years to several different teacher preparation programs. Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, provides a list of where the funds are going and mentions several other programs and how much they’ve been granted. Some of the groups on the list raise some eyebrows: Relay Graduate School of Education, The New Teacher Project and Teach for America. “There are already excellent working models for just about everything that Gates has funded in public education in the last 15 years — how to design and operate small schools, quality standards, fair and reliable teacher evaluation, and now, teacher prep. How many times.” Strauss complains, “do educators need to attempt to reinvent the wheel just because someone with deep pockets wants to try when the money could almost certainly be more usefully spent somewhere else?”
Anthony Cody, founder of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, was recently invited to speak at a conference on education. He was not able to deliver the address in person so he recorded a video (11:46 minutes) of his remarks. Topic: “Privateers and Profiteers in Our Schools.” He looks at how the corporate “reform” movement is trying to privatize the public school system in order to make money. You can read a transcript of his talk and/or view the video by clicking here. “As we near the end of the Obama administration, it is a good time to take a closer look at what has happened to public education over the past seven years. Some very powerful people have used money and the political influence that money buys, he maintains, “to undermine and set the stage for the elimination of public education as we have known it for the past 100 years.” He concludes with some sound suggestions for improving education without having to privatize the system.
U.S. Continues to Fall Behind Other Countries
A new study finds the U.S. continuing to fall behind other nations in the number of college-educated graduates we turn out AND the number of our children enrolled in preschool programs. THE HECHINGER REPORT highlights the new survey released todayfrom the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that provides data from the educational systems of 46 countries. “The United States continues to fall behind internationally in producing a college-educated workforce as other nations send more of their citizens to university. And in the very early years,” the article begins, “many countries are now sending a much higher percentage of their kids to preschool than the United States.” If you really have a lot of time you can read the full report (568 pages) titled “Education at a Glance 2015, OECD Indicators” by clicking here.
Common Core and Testing
Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a “public service announcement” from Bob Shepherd, a veteran curriculum and assessment designer, who now teaches in Florida, He has some interesting thoughts about the Common Core Curriculum Commissariat College and Career Ready Assessment Program which he refers to with the acronym CCCCCCRAP. He also suggests that readers take the PARCC test and spell it backwards to see what he thinks of it, too. Shepherd strongly believes both the standards and the tests should be eliminated and provides some highly readable reasons why. Have an extra minute between the turkey and the dessert? Check out some of the comments.
Texas Teen Sues Over Clock Incident
And finally, remember the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas teen who brought a self-made clock to school in mid-September and was handcuffed, arrested and suspended for three days when school police thought his experiment was a bomb? The “Ed News” highlighted the incident at the time. EDUCATION WEEK reports he has now brought a $15 million suit in damages against the city of Irving and the Irving school district.