Monthly Archives: December 2015

Ed News, Tuesday, December 22, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             
                                    “Education occurs when students set out to educate themselves…
the student will only learn, can only learn, what he chooses to learn…
(An) advantage of not pushing is an innate sense 
(his) education is (his) responsibility and reward.” 
[Ed. note: The “Ed News” is going to take a break to enjoy the holidays and so I can fulfill my civic obligation to serve jury duty the week of Dec. 28th.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, unless I end up on a lengthy case.]
     Merry Christmas 
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     And a Happy New Year to one and all
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And now to the news.
LAUSD Shut Down
A front-page story in Thursday’s L.A. Times about lessons that could be learned by various groups in L.A. regarding the LAUSD’s decision to close the district in light of an email threat sent to board members prompted 5 letters-to-the-editor published in Saturday’s paper.  The second one was from a current district teacher who concluded: “I’m just glad I don’t work in New York City, which received a similar threat but chose to keep its schools open.  What would New York’s leaders have said if it turned out that the threat was not a hoax? ‘Oops, we’re sorry’?”                Following the closure of the LAUSD on Tuesday, several other districts in Florida, Texas, Indiana and California received similar threats. EDUCATION WEEK recounts what happened in those districts and how officials in each handled them.  “The closure of a large U.S. district because of threats is rare, and the move in Los Angeles—with the nation’s second-largest school system—reflected the lingering unease in Southern California after the attack that killed 14 people at a holiday luncheon two weeks ago in San Bernardino.  Some of the districts affected by the latest threats,” the article points out, “are among the nation’s largest — Miami ranks fourth, Fort Lauderdale’s Broward County system is sixth, Houston seventh, Orlando 10th and Dallas 14th.”
 
Passage of ESSA
Now that Congress has passed and Pres. Obama has signed the Every Students Succeeds Act, what comes next?  Many commentators are speculating about the ramifications of the new law.  Joanne Yatvin, retired teacher, principal and superintendent, has a piece on her the treasure hunter blog titled “The New Law is Better But Not Good Enough.”  
She notes, as many others have, that major responsibility for education policies has shifted from the federal government under ESSA to the states.  “We need to put pressure on state legislatures to use their funds and power to make intelligent decisions for our schools,” Yatvin urges.  “If we are silent, thinking that all is well now that NCLB is dead, the future will be no better than the past.”                An Associated Press photographer shares six behind-the-scenes pictures he snapped during Pres. Obama’s signing ceremony for the ESSA on Dec. 10th at the White House.  EDUCATION WEEK’s “FULL FRAME Photo Blog” provides the shots and a brief commentary about the event by the cameraman.             The U.S. Dept. of Education sent a letter this week to state school chiefs offering some guidelines and suggestions about how they should deal with the issue of standardized tests opt-outs in light of the passage of ESSA.  EDUCATION WEEK reviews the contents of the letter.  “Under ESSA, states must figure low testing participation into school ratings, but just how to do that is totally up to them,” the article reports.  “And states can continue to have laws affirming parents’ right to opt their students out of tests (as Oregon does).  This is the year of opt-outs, and no less than a dozen states—Rhode Island, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, Delaware, North Carolina, Idaho, New York, Colorado, California, Connecticut, and Maine, received letters from the U.S. Department flagging low-participation rates on the 2014-15 tests—statewide or at the district or subgroup level—and asking what they planned to do about it.  The department is reviewing the information it got from states.  So far, the administration has yet to take serious action (like withholding money) against a state with a high opt-out rate.”
 
New Book
Pedro Noguera, professor of education at UCLA, reviews Vicki Abeles’ new book Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation for The New York Times Sunday Book Review.  Abeles, director of the popular 2010 documentary “Race To Nowhere” (which several ALOED members viewed as part of the group’s Education Film Series) writes about how all those corporate “reforms” have made real learning difficult for an entire generation of students.  Diane Ravitch calls Noguera’s piece “a terrific review of an important book.”  Abeles has also created a documentary film by the same title.  For more information about it, including the official trailer (3:05 minutes), click here.
 
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The Teaching Profession
Bob Braun was the longtime (50 year) education reporter for the Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey.  He retired and now writes an education blog (Diane Ravitch calls it “one of the best in the nation”). He unabashedly “supports teachers and their unions,” opposes charters and he doesn’t “get paid to do it.”  You’ll have to read his full post (Ravitch refers to it as “one of his best”) on hisBob Braun Ledger blog to figure out what he means by that last comment.               The Florida Education Association has filed a complaint with  the state Department of Education and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over a new one year teacher bonus plan linked to educators’ SAT or ACT scores that they took in high school. Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a copy of the press release from the FEA about the issue.                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, borrows a headline from a Florida paper’s editorial that referred to the state’s $44 million teacher bonus plan (known, by the way, as the “Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarships”) as the “worst and dumbest” education program.  As bad as the whole idea is, Strauss points out, it could get even worse: “And now, Florida lawmakers want to extend the program to go beyond one year.  In fact, the state House education committee recently approved a bill to do just that.  So this nonsense could easily last more than one year and waste more than $44 million.”  Unbelievable!!!         In the same vein, teachers in Georgia are opposed to the governor’s merit pay plan that’s tied to student test scores.  In a commentary on the “Get Schooled” column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the executive director of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators explains why the plan is “unfair” to teaches and students. “Georgia’s 1.7 million students deserve to learn from educators who are committed to their academic progress,”  she concludes, “their development as critical thinkers and their ability to pursue creative expression rather than focus on standardized test scores and how those scores will affect their evaluations and pay.”                Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog has an extended essay titled “Advice for My Students: DON”T ‘Teach for America.'”  Katz, Director of Secondary Education and Secondary Special Education Teacher Preparation at Seton Hall University, writes in conclusion: “It is past time for young people to stop lining up to ‘Teach For America,’ and there is no reason that my students – who have earned the title of professional teacher through years of hard work – should ever join them.  I work with amazing and talented young people, many of whom are passionate about working with our schools’ most at risk children.  They can do that brilliantly, and more effectively, without Teach For America.”               BURNOUT.  You hear the term all too often these days, as veteran teachers detail the travails of their profession.  THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website has a piece titled “Surviving Burnout: A Teacher’s Story” in which a 30-year veteran teacher at a inner-city school in Philadelphia describes two episodes she experienced of burnout and how she dealt with them.  “Burnout occurs often in the field of teaching.  Rarely does it have anything to do with the children that we teach.  Usually, it has to do with decisions made by non-teachers and the ever-increasing paperwork that comes with those decisions.  I went through two burnouts during my teaching career,” she candidly reveals.  “I survived one and continued teaching for many years afterward.  The second burnout resulted in my early retirement.  I am sharing them with you so that you know that you are not alone.”
 
Charter Schools
Memphis is one city that turned a number of its under-performing schools over to an Achievement School District (ASD) where they were transferred to a charter operator.  Glowing promises were made that the schools would soon be scoring in the top 25% of campuses in Tennessee.  Guess what?  It didn’t happen and the Shelby County (Memphis) School board has declared a moratorium on any new conversions to the ASD.  You can read the official resolution submitted to the superintendent on the Shelby County School website.  Under the “Be it Resolved” section is this item intended to “address the District’s challenges:”  “Co-existence with the ASD and a moratorium on the ASD takeover of additional schools until they show consistent progress in improving student academic achievement.”               Want a tour of one of Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy Charters in the Bronx?  They claim they are very successful so you’d think they’d want to show off what they are doing.  When Andrea Gabor, professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College/CUNY, tried to join a tour she was at first accepted and then 3 days later was “disinvited.”  You can read the account of her tale of woe on her Andrea Gabor website.  A person Gabor knows (“an anonymous educator source”) did go on the tour and provides her with some detailed information about what the participants witnessed.                 The school board and superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District last week issued a press release requesting a temporary moratorium on approving charter schools in the district.  The action asked “legislators [to] fix the overly permissive law that enables charters to operate on a business model whose main goal is to make money.”   The statement appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.                   It seems the trend of elected public school boards turning down charter requests is spreading.  The Glendale News-Pressreports on a recent action in which board members unanimously denied a request to approve a charter application for a campus in Glendale “Glendale school officials found fault with the charter’s proposed staffing, educational and financial plans. . . . In their 18-page staff report recommending denial of the charter school,” the reporter writes, “a team of 10 Glendale Unified administrators concluded that the charter school would not likely fulfill local families’ needs.”  Glendale USD board member and ALOED member Jennifer Freemon is quoted at the end of this piece.                  Charter vs. traditional schools?  The debate can be endless as each side cites studies and research to bolster its case.  A new study from UC Berkeley, featured in an article in today’s L.A. Times, finds that students who enter charters often are more academically advanced to begin with than those in traditional schools.  “Charter students in middle schools also stand out academically after they enroll in charters,” the story further points out, “making faster gains than similar students in traditional schools, according to the study.  The findings add more fuel to the debate over charters but stops well short of settling the question of whether these schools are more effective at educating students.”  The Times piece includes a link to the full study (41 pages) titled “Differing Effects From Diverse Charter Schools: Uneven Student Selection and Achievement Growth in Los Angeles.”              The federal Charter Schools Program received significant boosts from both the passage of ESSA and the budget approved by Congress last week according to an analysis in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Slated to receive $333 million for fiscal 2016, the Charter School Program will be at its highest level of funding ever,” it notes, “according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  That’s a big deal to the fast-growing charter sector, especially in areas of the country that don’t have access to a lot of philanthropy dollars. . . .  ESSA makes several changes to the program that will help expand its reach.”
 
Testing
Oops!  Sorry about that.  The Indianapolis Star reports that “thousands” of high-stakes tests in Indiana could have been miss scored due to an apparent computer “glitch.” Wouldn’t it be lovely if your high school graduation, or teacher evaluation or your teacher pay or school rating was based on those scores?  Just asking.  And, by the way, did the company in question, CTB McGraw Hill promptly correct the error and offer profuse apologies to all involved?  “The company that scored the exam on behalf of the state — testing giant CTB McGraw Hill — decided to leave those potentially faulty scores in place, even after the problem was brought to management’s attention. . . . Seven supervisors who spoke with The Star disagreed.  All said they believed the problem was more widespread,” the article reveals.  “Two estimated that tens of thousands of test questions were likely given incorrect scores. Others said it is difficult to put a number on the problem, but it was pervasive enough to merit rescoring the potentially impacted tests.”  The story proceeds to outline how the malfunction took place and provides a summary of a response to the issue from the company to the Department of Education.  McGraw Hill refused to respond to inquiries from The Star regarding the scoring.                 THE HECHINGER REPORT describes how some high tech tools developed to aid disabled students to be more successful on standardized tests may have had the opposite effect for some.  “The Common Core tests, which are based on learning goals adopted in 43 states and the District of Columbia, offer many state-of-the-art technological tools to level the playing field for special education students,” it explains.  “. . . .School employees across California have reported glitches in the tests’ enhancements for students with disabilities. . . . According to teachers and administrators, special education students across California spent days last spring toiling over computerized tests that their teachers say often made it more difficult, not easier, for them to access the material.”  The story details some specific issues some elementary special education students in a San Francisco classroom experienced as they took the assessments last spring.
 
LAUSD Supt. Search
LAUSD school board members met late into the evening on Saturday but at the conclusion of the marathon session no white smoke was visible indicating a selection had been made for a new superintendent.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times has the latest details on this critical decision.  “The board has held four lengthy meetings over the last seven days as it tried to make its most important hire,”  it relates.  “Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, 83, left the school system Dec. 11 but is reachable on an emergency basis until Jan. 1.  The district’s No. 2 administrator, Michelle King, will serve in place of Cortines, but will not receive the title of interim superintendent.  King already effectively has those duties because Cortines is on vacation until his retirement.”                LAUSD Deputy Supt. Michelle King has quietly taken over the reins of the districts from Supt. Ramon Cortines who began using his vacation days on Dec. 11 in anticipation of his retirement.  King is a top contender to take over the post on a permanent basis.  The school board was hoping to name a successor after meeting on Saturday but nothing was announced.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Timesupdates events in the superintendent search.   “King has experience serving for short periods as acting superintendent, especially when she worked under Cortines’ predecessor, John Deasy, who frequently went out of town for conferences and meetings,” it explains.  “Last week, she oversaw the staff presentation at a board meeting over a sensitive topic: the temporary closing of two schools because of a natural gas leak in the northwest San Fernando Valley.”
 
2016 Election
Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential contender, often brags about his negotiating ability and about some of the great deals he’s closed.  However, when it came to battling the LAUSD he came in second best.  A page two “Back Story” Feature in Sunday’sL.A. Times, titled “In At Least One Huge Deal in L.A., Trump Got Schooled,” describes the battle royal between the master negotiator and two progressive members of the LAUSD school board over theold Ambassador Hotel site that lasted for years beginning in 1989.  “The 23.5-acre property, much of it open space, became a rare object of desire in a densely built part of the city.  The Board of Education already had its eye on the property for a badly needed high school,” the fascinating story notes, “when a Trump syndicate swooped it up for $64 million in 1989 and announced plans to erect a 125-story office tower.  The school board countered with a 7-0 vote to take the property from Trump via eminent domain.  Usually that would start a process in which the parties and their appraisers, or a court, would settle on a price.  But not when one of the parties was Trump.”  He attempted to gain ownership of the parcel but eventually lost.  Today it houses the Robert F. Kennedy Community School, a K-12 campus that’s incorporated into some significant portions of the venerable hotel’s structure.  [Ed. note:  Several years ago a group of ALOED members toured the school.]  If you’d like more information about the RFK School, check out their official website by clicking here.
 
What Might Arne Duncan Do After He leaves DoE?
U.S. Department of Education Sec. Arne Duncan will be leaving his post, after almost 7 tumultuous years, at the end of this month.  What might he do next?  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post has some ideas based on an interview Duncan gave to a Post colleague a couple of days ago.  In the interview “Duncan made clear that he will work on gun control in some way after he officially vacates the post he has held for seven years,” Strauss believes.  She includes several links to that full interview conducted last Wednesday in which Duncan lays out what he sees as the successes and failures of his tenure at DoE.  It’s well worth a read to see Duncan’s perceptions of his time in Obama’s cabinet and its impact on education.
 
Common Core
And finally, how do New Yorkers feel about the Common Core?  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, takes apart anew poll from the pro-Common Core Center for American Progressthat reports that a survey of New York voters found overwhelming approval for a sample of ELA and math standards for grades 4 and 8.  “The poll is as fine an example of scrambled thinking used to fuel PR as you’ll find anywhere,” Greene scoffs.  “In the world of polling, there are two types of polls– a poll that seeks to find out what people are really thinking, and a poll that tries to make it look like people are thinking what I want them to think.  This would be the second type of poll.”  Greene includes a link to the full poll (18 pages).
 
Happy holidays to everyone.  Look for the next edition in January.  Thanks for reading!
                                    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, December 18, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
                “When we teach a child patience we offer them the gift of a dignified life.” 

― Allan LokosPatience: The Art of Peaceful Living

 
LAUSD Shut Down
As reported in Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News,” both the LAUSD and the New York City schools received similar emails threatening specific types of violence throughout both districts.  Whereas L.A. chose to close all schools and offices the NYPS remained open.  A story in Wednesday L.A. Times analyzes the two different decisions and how they were made.  “Shortly after 10 Monday night — about 1 a.m. on the East Coast — public school officials in Los Angeles and New York received nearly identical emails promising imminent attacks on campuses involving explosives and gunmen.  The immediate response in both cities was the same: Call the police and the FBI.  There, however, the parallels ended,” it begins,  “An hour before the sun rose in Los Angeles, the head of the sprawling school district made the dramatic decision to close the district’s more than 900 schools for the day, upending the routines for 640,000 students and setting off a massive response as police began to scour campuses.  Police in New York, meanwhile, concluded the threat was bogus — the unconvincing work of an impostor.  Cross-country sniping followed quickly.”                 Late Wednesday night the Times posted on their website a copy of the emailed threat sent to LAUSD board members.                Classes resumed on Wednesday in the LAUSD and a story in yesterday’s paper describes what students and parents experienced as they returned.                The postmortems and analysis of the decision to close the entire district were quick to arrive.  A front-page story in yesterday’s Times contained some suggestions about how the City of Los Angeles could have better handled the situation from several of the participants including Mayor Garcetti, Supt. Ramon Cortines and board Pres. Steve Zimmer.  “A day after that decision, which has drawn some criticism because the threat turned out to be a hoax,” it relates, “key players acknowledged that their effort could have been better coordinated.  Cortines, who was awakened with news of the threat seven hours after it was received, said in an interview that he should have been called earlier.  Garcetti said one lesson of Tuesday’s school shutdown was that officials of different agencies should try to coordinate more closely during future city emergencies.”               The action to shut down the LAUSD on Tuesday drew a number of letters to the editor in yesterday’s paper.  The first was rather blunt in its criticism of NYPD Commissioner William Bratton who described the decision as an “overreaction.”  The writer concluded by telling Bratton to “keep your mouth shut and butt out.”               In light of the situation in L.A. earlier this week, EDUCATION WEEK has a piece titled “Five Factors Leaders Consider Before Closing Schools to Respond to Threats.”  “Closing a school or even a district to respond to a security threat is not completely unheard of,” it explains, “but its rare to see school systems of this size [LAUSD and New York City] respond to such issues in such a public and conflicting manner.”
 
Muslim Students
Have any Muslim students in your class or attending your school?  With Islamophobia rampant in some segments of American society it may take some special handling to deal with these sensitive issues.  A high school social studies teacher in New York, who works with Muslim students, offers some suggestions on how to tackle any challenges that may arise.  His commentary appears inEDUCATION WEEK.  “Our Muslim students exist in a societal and educational zeitgeist in which the tenants of their faith are often perceived as inherently violent.  The cultural interpretations of  the Muslim faith (e.g., veiling practices) are oftentimes perceived as repressive and backwards by the uninformed, and a simple Google search of their ancestral countries yields pages of results that begin with words like ‘terror.’  It is precisely at moments following a national or global tragedy that we, as educators,” he perceptively maintains, “must be self-reflective in a way that  mirrors what we uphold as an essential value, and examine what we transmit to our Muslim students.”               “How Should Schools Respond to Anti-Muslim Actions Against Students? ” is the title of an essay on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog inThe Washington Post.  She turns her column over to two professors, one, a Palestinian, teaches in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and the other, an Israeli, teaches in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.  “Given the anti-Muslim rhetoric circulating across our nation, many Muslim students confront hostile school climates in which even in the absence of acts of physical violence, they are subject to hate speech and microaggressions.  While this is a sad reality that members of other groups face in schools as well,” they begin, “the struggles of Muslim students have been a growing problem since 9/11 and have reached a crisis point for many in the current political atmosphere.”  They offer 3 practical steps to deal with anti-Muslim actions and rhetoric on our nation’s K-12 campuses.
Charter Expansion in LAUSD
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items about billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad’s proposal to turn up to 50% of schools in the LAUSD into charters by 2023.  Cynthia Liu, writing in The Progressive, has an essay titled “L.A. School Communities Resist Take Over by Charter Schools’ ‘Hurricane Eli.'”  The search for a new superintendent for the LAUSD is also a critical factor in how the charter plan might fare in the future, according to Liu.  “Advocates of public education in the district are braced for terrible news even as they work to counter the money, power, and greed deployed against them,” she relates.  “Right now it feels as if the dominoes could fall in any number of ways.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Anyone work with middle school students?  They can be a tough bunch, no?  [Ed. note: I worked in what was then called a junior high (grades 7-9) for 11 years at the start of my LAUSD teaching career before moving on to a high school in the district.]  A veteran of more than 20 years in middle school classrooms who is currently teaching in Michigan offers “Making the Middle Grades Matter” for those who work with this age group or may in the future.  She has some very practical advice on how to deal with middle schoolers and grabs your attention from the outset with this: “‘A place where your parents drop you off to be ripped apart by your equals.’  The Urban Dictionary’s definition of middle school is mostly accurate, slightly terrifying, and certainly something most teens and parents have thought at times.  But when teachers use their knowledge of this unique age to structure their classroom routines, middle school can be years that truly matter, both educationally and emotionally.”
 
Passage of ESSA
What might the impact on individual states be of the recent signing into law of the Every Student Succeeds Act?  Chalkbeat NEW YORK answers that question from the point-of-view of New York but if you substitute any state (California?) the analysis will be pretty much the same.  “ESSA, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, hands authority from the federal education department to the states,” the story points out, “which could eventually lead to important shifts in how the state tests students and what happens to struggling schools. . . .  The new education law does not address teacher evaluations at all, leaving state officials free to make big changes without concern about losing federal funding.”                Implementing the new ESSA has already begun at the U.S. Department of Education (DoE).  EDUCATION WEEK describes some preliminary spade work on how that process is beginning.  “The Every Student Succeeds Act is just over a week old,” it begins, “but the U.S. Department of Education wasted no time in getting out initial guidance to states on how the transition process will work from the No Child Left Behind Act and the waivers (which expire on Aug. 1, 2016) to this new law (which kicks in fully in the 2017-18 school year, when a new president and education secretary will be in place).  The department also gave a preliminary picture of how it would like to proceed on regulation.  Bottom line: It’s in the market for input from state schools chiefs, teachers’ unions, the civil rights community, etc.  There will be two public meetings next month, one in Washington and one in Los Angeles for input.”
 
Oxy Revokes Cosby’s Honorary Degree
Occidental College became the latest institution of higher learning to revoke an honorary degree  it granted to Bill Cosby in 1992.  The actor and comedian has been accused by a number of women of sexual misconduct.  “Occidental is the latest university to strip Cosby of honors as more than 50 women have come forward to allege that the actor and comedian drugged or sexually assaulted them in past decades,” a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times notes.  “Last month, California State University revoked an honorary doctorate awarded to Cosby in 1992 by Cal Poly Pomona.  On Monday, Boston University revoked an honorary doctorate it awarded in 2014.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
The corporate “reform” movement has all kinds of “ideas” on how to fix our “failing” schools.  The president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) the chief union representing most classroom teachers in New York City writes an opinion piece forEDUCATION WEEK in which he discusses “Three Wrongheaded School ‘Reform’ Myths.”  “No area of human effort is free from bad ideas and mistaken theories, but the quest to ‘reform’ public education is particularly awash in misguided convictions.  Concepts like ‘merit pay,’ the scapegoating of teachers, and the alleged superiority of charter schools,” he lists, “manage to stay alive as policy options despite clear proof that they don’t work.”
 
Charter & Online Schools
Charters are publicly funded schools that are supported by the taxpayers of their respective states.  What happens when a charter closes down for whatever reason?  Often times the state and its taxpayers are left holding the bag for any debts incurred by the organization that ran it.  The Miami Herald reports on over $70 million that Florida has forfeited as a result of charter closures in the Sunshine state.  “Charter schools, which are public schools run by private groups, have received more than $760 million from state taxpayers since 2000 according to an Associated Press analysis of state Department of Education records.  Schools can use the money for construction costs, rent payments, buses and even property insurance. . . .Yet charter schools in 30 districts,” the article reveals, “have wound up closing after receiving as much as $70 million combined in such funding, the AP’s analysis showed.”                Charter schools in Ohio have one of the worst reputations of any state in this country.  That’s partly due to the lack of regulation and accountability that has let them get away with murder.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a commentary from the former Commissioner of Education in Ohio, who now runs the watchdog Equity and Adequacy  (E & A) Coalition, titled “Highway Robbery is Legal in the Ohio Charter Industry.”  He provides a lengthy and eye-opening list of actions that are legal in the charter business in his state.  Here are just a couple of examples: It is legal: “For a charter operation to help subsidize a worldwide religious movement”or “For a charter operator to buy legislation via obscene levels of political contributions” or how about this one: “For charters to spend unlimited amounts of funds on marketing and promotion.”               A Washington State Supreme Court ruling in September that charter school funding in that state was unconstitutional could have major ramifications for the charter movement in other states.  EDUCATION WEEK reports on these latest developments.  “National advocates have been weighing what impact that decision could have on charter schools in other states,” it suggests.  “Although the Washington Supreme Court doesn’t have jurisdiction beyond its state, its ruling could provide a roadmap for charter school opponents elsewhere, they say.”               K12 Inc, the virtual charter management company, held their annual stockholders meeting in the nation’s capital this week and faced arevolt by shareholders inside the gathering and protests by unionized teachers outside.  BuzzFeedNews has the details.  “K12, which has made a business for itself out of operating publicly funded online charter schools across the country, is at its lowest stock price in five years, down 75% from a high in September of 2013,” the reporter of the story writes.  “In the past few months, it has faced an investigation by California’s attorney general and an onslaught of criticism from the rest of the education world, which has largely turned against online schools and their operators because of their students’ poor performance.”
 
What About a Shorter School Week?
Besides the traditional September to June, 5-day, typically 8-3 pm school schedule, there have been experiments with year-round calendars and others.  But how about a 4-day week?  Just over 9% of public school students in Idaho will be attending classes 4 days a week this year.  How is it working out?  The ID ED NEWS has an interesting story about this concept.  A typical day for these students runs 45 to 60 minutes longer than a 5-day week but it means a 3-day weekend with Fridays off EVERY week.  “No one can say with certainty whether the four-day schedule helps or hinders student growth,” the item notes.  “Nor does the concentrated schedule seem to save districts much money.  Opinions are rampant.  Hard statistics are scarce.”  The article proceeds to take a detailed look at the pros and cons of this type of calendar and includes a short video (42 seconds) in which two students describe what it like to experience a shorter “work” week.  A second video (49 seconds) contains brief comments from the governor of the state about the schedule.
 
More Federal Money for Schools 
The proposed federal budget legislation that is currently making its way through Congress and is expected to be approved in coming days contains a $1.2 billion increase for targeted education programs in the  U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services.  EDUCATION WEEK lists some of the specific programs and how much they would gain once the bill is approved by the president.               Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, reviews a recent report (highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News”) about the continued state under funding of public schools even as the nation rebounds from the Great Recession.  Corporate ‘reformers” want to talk about all sorts of issues but tend to ignore this critical topic. “State funding is a key factor in any assessment of the health and well being of the nation’s public schools.  K-12 schools generally rely on their respective state government to supply about 46 percent of their funding.  Local governments provide another 45 percent,” he calculates, “and the federal government chips in only 9 percent on average.”
 
Vergara v California Redux
Elizabeth Vergara was the lead student plaintiff in the pivotalVergara v State of California case that challenged the concept of tenure.  Vergara, than an 8th grader, claimed she got a poor education because her teachers were inferior.  In June of last year the case was decided in favor of the plaintiffs by a superior court judge and it is currently under appeal by Gov. Brown.  Vergara’s English teacher, Anthony Mize, has written a book titled I Am Elizabeth Vergara’s Teacher: This is My Story.”  Diane Ravitch’s blog has an extended excerpt which you can read by clicking here.  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending this one along.  Mize draws an interesting parallel with his case and an infamous event from over 300 years ago: “On Tuesday June 10, 1692 Bridget Bishop was the first person hung from a tree during the Salem Witch Trials after being found guilty of being a witch.  One of those that falsely accused Bishop was a child named Elizabeth.  322 years to the day, Tuesday, June 10, 2013  [Ed. note: Remember Mize was not her math teacher.  The year was 2014.]Judge Rolf Treu ruled in favor of the nine student plaintiffs, and their legal team funded by a billionaire businessman, who accused 16 of their former teachers of being grossly ineffective educators, in the case of Vergara vs. The State of California.”
 
Teacher Shortage
Does your district face a teacher shortage?  If so, why not start your own teacher training program?  That’s exactly what’s happening in Sonoma County in northern California.  An op-ed by the superintendent of schools for the county in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat fills you in on the plan which should be fully up and running by 2018.  “We are particularly excited to offer the ‘Be a Teacher’ intern program,” he enthusiastically writes.  “This program aims to enroll one or two cohorts of about 35 teacher candidates in early 2016 and have them working in classrooms as paid teacher interns by the fall.”
 
Gas Leak Forces Closure of Two LAUSD Campuses
And finally, this next story just plain stinks!  An ongoing natural gas leak in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles will force the temporary closure of two LAUSD elementary school campuses and the relocation of faculty, staff and students to alternative quarters after the upcoming winter break.  The school board made the decision on the move at a meeting last night according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  In addition, the board authorized its attorneys to possibly file suit against the Southern California Gas Company in an attempt to recoup costs related to the move.  The two schools affected by the leak are Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebray Lane Charter Elementary.  “Concerns have mounted since the leak was detected at the Aliso Canyon facility Oct. 23,” the article explains.  “The release is mostly methane, which is not dangerous outside of confined spaces and poses no long-term health risks, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.  But nontoxic odorants added to natural gas to help in detecting a leak appear to be causing short-term health effects.  Residents of the northwest San Fernando Valley community — including students in the two schools — have reported nausea, headaches, nosebleeds, vomiting and other symptoms.”
                                        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, December 15, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
                   “If you’ve had the right kind of education, 
                 it’s amazing how many things you can find to feel guilty about.” 

― Pete McCarthyMcCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland

    
Passage of ESSA
Reactions to Pres. Obama’s signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Thursday morning continue.  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, believes the impact on public education at this time is still unknown.  It’s too early to make any concrete predictions about what’s in store.  “The problem is this – it’s an over 1,000 page document,” Singer points out, “that’s been open to public review for only two weeks.  Though it was publicly debated and passed in the House and Senate, it was finalized behind closed doors and altered according to secure hurried Congressional votes.  As such, the final version is full of legal jargon, hidden compromise, new definitions and verbiage that is open to multiple meanings.  How one reader interprets the law may be exactly the opposite of how another construes it.”              Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post offers a couple of the oddities found hidden deep in the newly approved ESSA.  One has to do with a ban on abortion funding at school-based health centers.  “It turns out that the country’s new K-12 education law, the successor to No Child Left Behind which President Obama signed on Thursday,” she discovers, “includes language that prohibits school-based health centers from subsidizing abortions — but it has no real effect because the Public Health Service Act already includes such a ban.”   So why is it in the bill?  Strauss provides a political reason.   Click on the link at the bottom of this column titled “The Weirdest Thing in the New K-12 Education Law” for an even stranger provision.  [ Ed. note: Hint: It deals with an over-century old BOXING legend.  In a significant education bill?  Who would have known.  Our legislative process works in strange ways sometimes.]              The ever-observant blogger Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29,notes that the original ESEA (1965) was 32 pages long and NCLB (2001), which took its place, logged in at 670.  Any guesses how long the ESSA is?  Would you believe 1,061?!?!  Due to some of the odd additions to the bill (see above) it is longer than the other two, but 1,061 pages?  “ESEA has become really complicated,” Schneider relates, “and through it, the federal government has made standardized testing its centerpiece and has shaped the document in favor of market-based education reform. . . .Fifty years after the initial ESEA, we’re at 1,061 pages that were finalized out of view of the public and altered accordingly to secure hurried Congressional votes and an exiting, charter-under-regulating, test-happy president’s signature.  I think this ESSA is in for public resistance heretofore unknown to ESEA,” she predicts.  “The public is surely more aware (and more critical) of this ESEA reauthorization than it was of any of the previous reauthorizations, NCLB included– and rightly so.”               Three professors from Penn State, Georgetown and U Mass, Amherst offer their views on the ESSA.  They describe the new law as “tepid legislation” and take a wait-and-see attitude about its impact after it expires in 4 years and a new president has had a crack at it.  Their remarks appear in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “The new law strives to preserve important elements of federal accountability structure as it shifts the content standards and consequences of accountability back to states and districts.  This frees them of some federal requirements, but what will they do with this freedom?  Some states may pioneer new approaches to educational quality and equity, but historically the states’ record on innovation is mixed,” they warn.  “Civil rights advocates rightfully worry that without federal pressure, state policies will exacerbate educational inequalities rather than redress them.”
Rafe Esquith Case
Last week the “Ed News” highlighted a number of details about why Rafe Esquith, award-winning 5th-grade teacher at Hobart Blvd. Elementary School (LAUSD), was fired.  An editorial in Sunday’sL.A. Times raises some issues about the evidence and how it was made public.  “Today, it’s still not entirely clear — because the evidence is not all available — whether the district was right to fire Esquith, but there were obviously enough disturbing findings to have justified the investigation.  When protecting children, only the facts and a calm, deliberative process must prevail,” it concludes, “not hasty assumptions based on what people wish were true.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog posts a comment from a reader of her column regarding the “heated exchanges on the blog” over the Rafe Esquith case.  It’s titled “Give Rafe a Break!”  If you get a chance read some of the responses this post elicited.
 
TFA Creates Rapid Response Team
Why do they need this?  A nonprofit group has put together a rapid response team to counter negative publicity about Teach for America.  An article in The Washington Post describes the initiative.  “The new campaign, called Corps Knowledge, is an offshoot of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now (NYCAN),” it notes, “a network that supports public charter schools and school choice and wants to weaken teacher tenure laws.  Derrell Bradford, NYCAN’s executive director, said the campaign aims to counter attacks on Teach for America’s image, which some people loyal to the program think has been damaged by ‘a few disgruntled alumni’ and other critics.”              Gary Rubinstein, a TFA alum but one of the targets of the Corps Knowledge drive (see above) because of his continuing criticism of Teach for America, writes on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, that he’s planning to attend TFA’s 25th anniversary event.  Why?  Read his commentary and he’ll explain why he’s playing the role of Gary in the lion’s den:  “Why should I go somewhere where I’ll likely be frustrated by what I’m seeing,” he wonders, “where there will surely be some people there who really don’t like me and have even written complete blog posts about what a terrible person I am?”
 
School Funding STILL Lags
Almost 8 years after the Great Recession commenced, a number of states are still funding their schools at less than they were before the economy tanked.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, features a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities with the depressing numbers comparing state funding per pupil for 2008 and 2014.  She includes a state-by-state graph with the grim figures.  You won’t find California listed, so check out the footnote at the bottom of the chart for the explanation.    You can find the full report (16 pages) byclicking here.
 
A Truth About School Choice
A Denver Teacher posted an intriguing and brief comment about theidea of school choice on  Diane Ravitch’s blog :  “I’m keenly aware of the flip-side of so called school choice… schools choosing their students. School Choice is an outright lie.”  The person describes what’s taking place in her/his city but the sentiments certainly apply to many other urban school districts.
 
Sad, Tragic Anniversary
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the tragic massacre atNewtown Elementary School in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 faculty and staff.  The shooter took his own life after the rampage.  EDUCATION WEEK takes a moment to remember the event and reflect on some of the lessons learned about school safety.  “The shootings were a catalyst for discussions that continue today about schools’ responsibility to keep students safe,’ the item explains somberly.  “For many educators, those discussions have led to a broader understanding of what safety means for students—both physically and emotionally.”
 
CTU Votes to Authorize Strike in Chicago
An overwhelming 96% of Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) members voted yesterday to authorize a strike against the Chicago Public School (CPS) system according to story in the Chicago Sun-Times.   The current CTU contract expired over the summer.  If a strike were to take place it would be months away, union officials pointed out.  Teachers in Chicago last walked off their jobs for 7 days in 2012.  This piece includes a short video (2:23 minutes) about the vote.                Diane Ravitch’s blog has some details about the vote and reprints the statement about it from CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey describing the action and detailing what the union is hoping to gain.  “Chicago Teachers Union members do not want to strike,” Sharkey reminds, “but we do demand that you listen to us.  Do not cut our schools, do not lay off educators or balance the budget on our backs.”  
 
LAUSD Supt. Search
The LAUSD school board intended to keep the names of candidatesit was considering to fill the position of superintendent as hidden as possible both for their sake and for the candidates.  Last week theL.A. Times (and the “Ed News” highlighted) a story speculating about who, specifically (it named names), might be on the short list for the job.  “An important drama involving the Los Angeles Board of Education — selecting its schools chief — is playing out in private,” the article in yesterday’s paper begins, “and officials this week said they are determined to keep it that way, even though some details are getting out.  Exactly nine district people know precisely which individuals are being considered for the job, according to L.A. school board President Steve Zimmer and others, and he, for one, seems confident that they are keeping mum.  Despite this pact of secrecy, word has spread about some people being considered.”  Read the article to discover who those “nine district people” are and find how particular names were included in the Times’ article last week.
 
Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog reports that the corporate “reformers” and the folks who want to privatize public education have not been faring well as of late.  She provides a litany of setbacks and some recent research that has debunked many of the group’s claims.  “It is best to be on the side of children and their families, not on the side that attempts to use children as political pawns and to set children against their teachers,” Ravitch maintains.  “‘Corporate reform’ is a mean-spirited venture that has spread disruption in the schools and disruption in the lives of children and their teachers.  Some of its backers are there because of their worship of the free market; some are enjoying the novelty of being on the board of a school, ‘their’ school; some are in it for profit, making money from charter leases or technology; some are naive innocents, not aware that they are in league with the anti-union, anti-worker Walton Family of billionaires, ALEC, and the rogues’  gallery of rightwing governors.”
 
Graduation Rates Increase; Achievement Gaps Decline
Nationally, graduation rates increased slightly to 82.3%, an all-time high, for the 2013-14 school year while achievement gaps continued to decline according to new, updated figures released today by the U.S. Dept. of Education.  The DoE report is highlighted in a piece inEDUCATION WEEK.   Check out the state-by-state breakdown of grad rates provided at the bottom of the article.  How did California do?  81%
 
LAUSD Shuts Down Today After District-Wide 
Threat of Violence
And finally, a late-night email sent yesterday to current and some former members of the LAUSD board threatened violence at a number of unspecified campuses today and led Supt. Ramon Cortines to make the unprecedented decision to close down  the entire district.   The L.A. Times has several articles about the story and you can access up-to-date information on their general website at www.latimes.com“District officials have been looking into the threat since at least 10 p.m. Monday,” one item on the paper’s website reports, “according to a school police source.  But LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines told the Times he was not notified of the threat until 5 a.m. on Tuesday.  He made the decision to close the schools and initial alerts went out at 6:30 a.m.”  The New York City school system and several other districts received similar warnings but the NYPS decided the threat was not credible and remained open.  An editorial about the situation and the decision to shut down appeared on the Times’ website at 12:25 this afternoon.  “As Supt. Ramon Cortines noted, the district receives threats all the time,” it states.  “But with the San Bernardino shootings still a vivid memory, and with a somewhat more detailed threat in hand, district officials believed they had little choice but to close the schools.  Had anything happened to a student or teacher, the horror would have been unspeakable, a wound from which it would be hard to recover.  It’s easy to understand why the district erred on the side of safety.”
 
 
                                        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 Edcation
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

Ed News, Friday, December 11, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
                     “Being able to ‘go beyond the information’ given to ‘figure things out’ is one of the few untarnishable joys of life. One of the great triumphs of learning (and of teaching) is to get things organised in your head in a way that permits you to know more than you ‘ought’ to. And this takes reflection, brooding about what it is that you know. The enemy of reflection is the breakneck pace – the thousand pictures.”

― Jerome S. BrunerThe Culture of Education

 
Documents Released in Rafe Esquith Case
After acquiring materials through a California Public Records Act request, the L.A. Times on Wednesday reported on the evidence used by the LAUSD board to fire acclaimed Hobart Blvd. Elementary School 5th-grade teacher Rafe Esquith.  The records “allege ‘immoral’ and ‘egregious’ misconduct by the educator who taught at the school for more than 30 years.  The documents also charge that Esquith had acted dishonestly,” the article reveals, “was unfit for service and persistently violated or refused to obey district rules.  Esquith, who has denied wrongdoing, did not appeal his termination, district officials said.  His lawyers have sued L.A. Unified, accusing them of retaliating against Esquith for filing a lawsuit and class action litigation that alleges age discrimination and violations of due process and whistleblower protections.”  The story provides detailed evidence to back up the claims made against the educator.               The LAUSD took some major flak from Esquith’s attorneys for releasing the disciplinary file to the public that contains the evidence that led to the educators firing.  A follow-up story in yesterday’s Timescontains details about that aspect of the case.  “The attorneys called on the district,” it mentions, “to release all documents related to Esquith’s case, including internal L.A. Unified emails and more information on the team that conducted the investigation. Esquith’s attorneys accused the district of hacking into the educator’s private email account.  They also claimed that the portions of the emails released were out of context.”     The law firm representing Esquith, Geragos & Geragos, issued a statement in reaction to the release of information regarding his personnel matter.  You can read it on the Scribd website by clicking here.                How much detail do you want regarding the specific charges brought against Esquith?  The LA SCHOOL REPORT posts a heavily redacted copy (names have been left out) of the school board’s official “Statement of Charges”(32 pages) in seeking the dismissal of the celebrated educator. 
 
The Teaching Profession
Computer Science is a pretty enticing topic or title for a class for most students.  How about those students who may be hesitant to get involved?  Neil Plotnick teaches “Exploring Computer Science” at a high school north of Boston and is piloting, this year, a new AP Computer Science Principles course.  Writing in EDUCATION WEEK he offers a piece titled “7 Ways to Get Students Interested in Computer Science.”  “By approaching computer science as a flexible tool that is vital in many disciplines,” he suggests, “students will appreciate how learning to program can benefit them in whatever career path they chose.  Teachers in all content areas can also see the value in integrating computer science principles in their practice.”
 
Arts Education
The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog continues its series on the role of the arts in educating our students.  Part 5 is written by Steven Singer an 8th grade teacher who describes how journal writing allows students to express themselves in many different ways.  “Not just scribbles on a page.  Not something done just to please the teacher.  This is an excavation of the soul,” he WRITES.  “We dive into the depths of ourselves and come back all the better for it.  That’s why my students journal almost every day.  That’s why we put mechanics and spelling and grammar aside for a few moments and just write what we need to say.”  The introduction to this piece includes links to the other items in the series.
 
That Holiday Spirit
In the spirit of this holiday season, the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) has created its own “wish list” of education-related things that members would like to receive and a few things they’d gladly see taken away.   A few examples of the former: “No more useless testing,” “Philanthropy that addresses the scourge of poverty in the USA” and “Less Data.”  What would be on your list?  Be sure to read the BATs favorite response to this exercise in the form of a “Dear Santa” letter.  
 
Rewrite of ESEA/NCLB Passes and is Signed Into Law
BIG NEWS:  The conference report for the Every Student Succeeds Act (HR 1177) passed the Senate Wednesday morning by an overwhelming vote of 85-12.  Next step?  The legislation will be sent to the president’s desk for action.  Obama is expected to sign it which will formally end the era of No Child Left Behind according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK “Hear that collective whoop from the Capitol?  That’s the sound of education advocates and lawmakers cheering at the finish line as the first rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in more than a dozen years sails through Congress and on to the White House. . . .But even as educators and policymakers toast the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act” it speculates, “the next set of battles—over how the measure will be regulated in Washington and implemented in states—may just be getting started.”               Let the reactions to the bill’s passage begin!           The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is ecstatic about the new law“ESSA, for which NAfME has been advocating for the better part of the past year, includes a critical stand-alone listing for music in the legislation’s all-important new definition of a ‘Well-Rounded Education’ (previously known as ‘Core Academic Subjects’). This definition connects to various provisions throughout the bill,” the group exclaims, “which have the potential to support music in a variety of ways.”   Their piece goes on to detail other provisions in the bill that support music education.                The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) issues a press release titled “AACTE Commends Congress on ESEA Reauthorization, Urges Responsible Implementation.”  Their main concerns have to do with the lowering of teacher credentialing standards through the creation of teacher training “academies” by individual states that could offer the equivalent of a master’s degree in teaching.  “The academies would not have to meet the same requirements as traditional higher education providers.  Higher education has long been held to state standards for key aspects of educator preparation, including academic credentials of faculty, physical infrastructure, number of required course credits, course work previously completed by candidates, the process of obtaining accreditation, and admissions criteria.  The new academies,” the statement complains, “are exempt from such restrictions.”               Nicolas Tampio, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, writes on ALJAZEERA AMERICA about his qualms regarding the ESSA.  He believes the act will simply shift the attempts at corporate “reform” to the individual states.  “How can people say that the new bill is a U-turn from the education policies of the past 14 years?  Under it, the federal government would not be able tell states what academic standards to adopt or how student test scores should be used in teacher evaluations. Nonetheless,” he writes, “states would have to submit accountability plans to the Department of Education for approval, and these accountability plans would have to weigh test scores more than any other factor.  Furthermore, under the act, states would have to use ‘evidence-based interventions’ in the bottom 5 percent of schools, determined, again, by test scores.”              Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog, takes the New York Times’ Editorial Board to task for a recent piece they published defending the annual testing of students that is still contained in the ESSA.  “There is a limited role that standardized test data can play in a comprehensive system of school monitoring, development, and accountability,”  he suggests, “but it must play a small role at best in coordination with a system that is premised on support and development.  However, no school accountability system, regardless of premise, is capable of turning around a 40 year long, society spanning, trend towards inequality and segregation.  That requires far more than clinging to annual, mass, standardized testing as our most vital means of giving every child access to an equitable education, and if The Times and other testing advocates really cannot see past that, then they are not merely shortsighted; they are clinging to damaging and delusional policies.”              Pres. Obama, as promised, signed the ESSA yesterday.  EDUCATION WEEK describes what the president said as he put pen to paper and signed the bill into law at the White House.  “‘This bill upholds the core value that animated the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson, the value that says education, the key to economic opportunity, is a civil right,’ Obama said.  He said that while the authors of the No Child Left Behind Act, the previous iteration of ESEA, were well-intentioned, ‘In practice it often fell short’ and led to too much time spent on testing, among other problems. And while his administration offered NCLB waivers, he said, ‘The truth is, that could only do so much.'”
 
Inline image 1
Pres. Obama signs the ESSA at the White House on Thursday.
 
An article from THE HECHINGER REPORT comments on the president’s action yesterday.  Kati Haycock, founder and head of the Gates-funded and pro-testing organization Education Trust, believes the new law opens the door for people to continue working to close the achievement gap, promote educational equity and help minority students and students of color.  “Let’s be clear: ESSA isn’t a perfect bill.  Far from it,” she reports.  “But it does include serious protections for vulnerable students.  And it creates important leverage for parents, communities, and advocates to continue their push for equity and accountability for all students.”  Haycock goes on to outline what some of those provisions are.  [Ed. note: Formore information on Education Trust see this item from earlier this year by Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.]              The L.A. Times covered yesterday’s bill signing ceremony in a story in today’s paper.  “The signing of the new law culminates a period when schools were graded and deemed to be successes or failures based on their students’ standardized test scores,” it reports.  “It marks a recognition by  many educators, states, researchers and districts that what happens in a school is much more complex than a single number could ever show.”               An extended editorial in today’s Times suggests that the ESSA will leave even more “struggling students” behind than No Child Left Behind, which it replaces.  [Ed note:  That’s what the item says.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s the lead paragraph from the editorial: “Is anyone mourning the No Child Left Behind Act?  Its clumsy regulations and harshly punitive measures against low-performing schools left many, many students behind and worsened education in multiple communities around the nation.  But the Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Obama signed into law Thursday morning to replace it, is even more of a lie.  This measure doesn’t even pretend to create situations in which large numbers of academically struggling students will succeed, let alone all or even most of them.”  See, I didn’t make that up.  That’s a direct quote.  Read the whole editorial to see the paper’s reasoning behind their position.  I dare you!]  
 
Teen Exercise & Mental Health
A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times highlights a study that suggeststeens need to get more exercise at school and that would help their overall health. “American teens have a reputation for being among the most sedentary in the world,”  the item notes, “with only 8% getting the recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day.  That exercise deficit sets them up for a a host of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  It also saps their brainpower and causes their grades to suffer, studies show.  To see when and where teens were (and weren’t) getting exercise throughout the day, researchers outfitted 549 volunteers from Seattle and Baltimore with GPS monitors and activity trackers.  The trackers recorded their location and their movement once every 30 seconds for about a week.”
 
Charter and Virtual Schools
Corporate “reformers” are quick to demand the closure of low-performing public schools.  How come the same rules don’t seem to apply when that poor performing school is a virtual academy?  The answers may, or may not, surprise you.  Kevin Huffman, education commissioner for Tennessee from 2011-2015, describes his inability to close the “worst school” in his state, the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) run by K12, Inc.  “This past summer, the state released the school results from the 2014-15 school year.  The Tennessee Virtual Academy earned a Level 1 [on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the lowest] in growth for the fourth year in a row.  It clocked in at #1312 out of 1368 elementary and middle schools in the state.  It is no longer the most improved lousy school in Tennessee,”Huffman points out.  “It is just plain lousy.  It is, over a four-year time, arguably the worst school in Tennessee.  K12 Inc. lives on in Tennessee.  The Tennessee Virtual Academy opened its online doors again in August.  State officials tell me that they aren’t thinking about other legal steps.  After all, if and when the school fails again this year, they will close it down.  I will believe it when I see it.”  Why do charters and online schools get to play by different set of rules than the public school system?  Shouldn’t the playing field be level for one and all or does the ides that one group has a pack of highly paid lobbyists give them special privileges?  Huffman’s comments appear on The Seventy Four website along with a link to a response to the article from K12, Inc.              Turkey has hired a U.S. law firm to look into problems associated with the Gulen Network of over 100 charter schools in the U.S. run by the Turkish expatriate cleric Fethullah Gulen, who currently resides in seclusion in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.  The PR Newswirewebsite has the press release from the Amsterdam & Partners LLP, company.  The Gulen Network “has become the subject of federal and local law enforcement and regulatory investigation in the United States,” the statement indicates.  “According to separate cases filed against Gulen affiliated schools, the group has allegedly engaged in systemic abuse of the American visa system.”              EDUCATION WEEK is highlighting two new reports about charters and school choice.  The first one (179 pages) from Fordham University is titled “America’s Best (And Worst) Cities for School Choice.”  It  “ranked 30 cities,” according to the article, “based on how friendly they are to all forms of school choice, including charter schools, magnet schools, vouchers, and other forms of private school choice, and even inter-district choice.”  New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Denver were the top 3 while Pittsburgh, Austin and Albany were rated the worst.  Los Angeles?  Right in the middle of the pack at #15.  The second report (141 pages) is from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and carries the title “On the Road to Better Accessibility, Autonomy and Accountability: State Policy Analysis 2015.”  Indiana and Nevada tied for the strongest oversight policies based on this survey with Maryland, Virginia and Kansas rated the weakest.  California?  Tied for thirty-first with Pennsylvania.  The ED WEEK article includes links to both reports.              A brand new report from the NEPC (National Education Policy Center) at the University of Colorado Boulder, outlines how financially lucrative the charter school industry can be for individuals, investors, operators and companies.  This item contains a brief summary of the report and a full copy of it (56 pages) which is titled “The Business of Charter Schooling: Understanding the Policies that Charter Operators Use for Financial Benefit.”  “To illustrate how charter school policy functions to promote privatization and profiteering,” the short introduction states, “the authors explore differences between charter schools and traditional public schools in relation to three areas: the legal frameworks governing their operation; the funding mechanisms that support them; and the arrangements each makes to finance facilities.”               Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, comments on the reportfrom the NEPC cited above.  “While charter schools can claim to be doing ‘a reasonably good job of satisfying parents and students,’ the authors contend, the academic results of these schools are mixed at best,  Bryant suggests, “and there is considerable evidence charter schools have acted to further racial segregation and privatization of our education system.”   On the other side of the coin comes an extensive briefing book from a pro-charter advocacy group BELLWETHER EDUCATION PARTNERS.  It is chock full of numbers, statistics, tables and charts about the state of the charter movement today and serves as an excellent, up-to-date source of anything and everything you might want to know about charters.  The full report (92 pages) can be found by clicking here “This briefing book reviews,” the Overview relates, “the current state of play of the charter school movement, recent accomplishments, and opportunities and challenges going forward.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
John Thompson, in a piece titled “The Rhino in the Room: Time to End Disruptive Reform” on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, writes that the corporate “reformers” need to stop complaining about “failing” schools  and start doing something about them.  One suggestion: improve the working conditions at those low-performing schools to attract the experienced, high-quality teachers those students deserve.  We will not  “address the teacher quality gap,” he argues, “until we tackle the rhinoceros in the room, corporate school reformers who have adopted their weird vision of ‘teacher quality’ as a silver bullet for reversing the effects of generational poverty and discrimination.”            Teachers’ unionsoften find themselves in the cross hairs of the corporate “reform’ movement.  The organizations are singled out for being “too powerful” or only out “to protect bad teachers’ and really “don’t care about students.”   A new study released in early October from an Economics professor at Wellesley College, under the auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and that was pretty much ignored by most media outlets, paints a much more positive picture of unions.  Jeff Bryant, this time writing on theCAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE website, highlights the report (60 pages) with the overly scholarly title “The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers: Evidence from the District-Teacher Matched Panel Data on Teacher Turnover.”  Bryant summarizes:“On three basic questions – whether unions protect bad teachers from being fired, harm the quality of the teacher workforce long term, and do little to advance student outcomes – the answers to all three were ‘no.’”
 
Some LAUSD Supt. Search Candidates Revealed
After two rounds of behind-closed -doors interviews, the names of several possible candidates for the job of superintendent of the LAUSD began to emerge via various sources according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  One name in the running is Michelle King, a current deputy superintendent of the district and two others are former employees of the LAUSD.  “A large field has emerged,” the article offers, “compiled by an executive search firm hired by the board.  And although a dark horse may surface, the front-runners appear to be Carranza and King, with Morris close behind.”  The piece provides brief profiles of several of the candidates mentioned.             Meanwhile, outgoing LAUSD Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, 83, who has expressed a desire to leave his current post and return to retirement at the end of this year sat down for an hourlong interview with Times columnist Steve Lopez on Wednesday.  A story in today’s paper reports on the highlights of their conversation.  Cortines had this to say about the Broad Foundation proposal to convert half of LAUSD schools into charters by 2023: “‘I think he was ill advised,’ Cortines said of Broad. ‘ I think somebody brought him an elixir without having it be tested to see if it will really do what it is promised to do.’  The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has characterized the leaked proposal as a draft meant for discussion purposes.  The Broad plan has led to the creation of a nonprofit that officials said will work to create high-quality schools of any kind, charter or otherwise.  The superintendent noted, however, that after the plan became public, Broad’s foundation toned down its pro-charter rhetoric.  Cortines defended traditional schools and the dedication of their employees.”  Be sure to read the rest of the piece to see what else the superintendent spoke about.              How difficult is it to do the job of superintendent of schools?  EDUCATION WEEK highlights a new 5-year survey (the last one was done in 2010) released this week by the AASA (American Association of School Administrators aka The School Superintendents Association) that finds that most people in the position enjoy what they do.  However, dealing with the local politics and social media cause most of their headaches.  Responses from 845 district leaders provided the information for the findings.  “About one third of school superintendents plan to retire within five years,” the article notes, “and for those who leave the job, politics is often one of reasons behind their departure.  But overall, superintendents love what they do, with over 80 percent saying they would choose the profession all over again, although women tended to have a slightly lower job satisfaction rate than their male counterparts.”  You can find a slightly more detailed 2-page “Summary of Findings” from the full report from the AASAwebsite by clicking here.  The full report, unfortunately, requires a login account.
 
More Opt-Out Numbers
And finally, the Catalyst CHICAGO website reports that almost 10% of Chicago Pubic School (CPS) students opted-out of taking the PARCC standardized test this spring.  “CPS students skipped the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers math and reading tests at a rate more than twice as high as students statewide and 10 times as high as occurred during testing in the 2013-14 school year,” the story states.  “This past year, a disproportionate number of the CPS students who skipped the test were more affluent — just 9 percent of low-income students sat it out.  As a group, they also were disproportionately white — 18 percent of white students skipped the test, a rate nearly twice as high as Asian, Latino and African-American students.”  The article also reports on test results and other details about the assessments in the CPS.
    
                                        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, December 8, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
                       “Education becomes most rich and alive when it confronts 
the reality of moral conflict in the world.” 
       

[Correction:  In Friday’s edition of the “Ed News,” the editor, in his haste to turn Chanukah into a 9-day holiday, had the festival starting 24 hours before its actual time. Chanukah officially commenced at sundown on SUNDAY.  He regrets the error.] 

 
And now to the news.
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
Much has been reported on the contents of the rewrite of ESEA, referred to as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which passed the House of Representatives last week.  However, none of the analyzes in the “Ed News” has looked at its impact on teacher training programs.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Kenneth Zeichner, professor of teacher education at the University of Washington, Seattle, who has some serious concerns about the provisions regarding teacher preparation.  “There are provisions in the bill,” he warns, ” for the establishment of teacher preparation academies – and they are written to primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs. . . .  “The provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act that relate to teacher preparation academies have been primarily written to support entrepreneurial programs like those funded by venture philanthropists,” Zeichner continues ominously.  “These include fast-track teacher education programs such as Teach For America, Relay and TNTP, which place individuals in classrooms as teachers of record before they complete certification requirements.”  The rest of his report is equally disturbing.            WBAL TV, the NBC affiliate in Baltimore, has a brief (2:03 minutes) overview of ESSA.  It includes a quote from AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten and mentions the proposed legislation’s impact on Maryland schools.  The segment comes courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog and is titled “NCLB Left Behind?”               Peter Greene on his CURMUDGUCATION blog offers his take on the ESSA which will gets its first vote in the U.S. Senate today.  Like many analysts, a number of which have been highlighted in the “Ed News,” he’s not enamored of everything in the bill.  Some aspects he’s happy with, some he’s not.  “The struggle is not over.  It has just shifted venue.  Get ready for the next rounds of debate– all fifty of them.  The one big change is the, unlike its predecessors, ESSA mandates relatively few things.  But it opens the doors of opportunity wide to many many things, both good and bad.  It’s up to all of us,” he challenges in conclusion, “to be vigilant about what walks through those doors.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post weighs in on her thoughts about the ESSA.  She highlights certain aspects of the bill and reviews what some commentators have written about it.  Her essay is titled “The Successor to No Child Left Behind Has, It Turns Out, Big Problems of its Own.”  “Finally, the No Child Left Behind era — which in fact left many children behind — will be over,” she writes, “and its successor is being hailed by some in the worlds of education, business, and public policy as a big step toward increasing educational opportunities for the nation’s students.  But anybody expecting the Every Student Succeeds Act to be a fix-all will be disappointed.”               [Ed. note:  My secret Senate Source told the “Ed News” that the ESSA, officially known as HR 1177, passed a procedural vote this morning and is scheduled for a final vote on the Senate floor at 10:45 EST tomorrow.  Stay tuned.]                   Assuming the Senate passes ESSA (a pretty foregone conclusion) and Pres. Obama signs it into law (he has said he would do that) the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, FairTest, is beginning to look to the future under the new legislation.  What can students and teachers look forward to in the way of assessments under ESSA?  “The new law,” the group warns, “presents both opportunities and dangers for the testing resistance and reform movement.”  The article proceeds to outline what those “opportunities and dangers” are.
 
The Teaching Profession
Any of you work with students whose parents speak limited or no English?  If so, this item from EDUCATION WEEK should be helpful. It’s titled “Tips for Connecting With Non-English Speaking Parents” and is written by a secondary ESL teacher in North Carolina who offers some concrete suggestions for communicating with parents of any non-English language.  “American schools are becoming more culturally and linguistically diverse.  While many students quickly attain proficiency in English, there’s often a language barrier when communicating with parents. A s an ESL teacher,” she proffers, “overcoming language and cultural barriers have become part of my job description.  Although I’m fortunate to be fluent and literate in Spanish, many of my students and their families are not Spanish speaking, so I find myself in the same predicament as many regular education teachers when having to communicate with non-English-speaking parents.”               Due to a shortage of substitute teachers a number of districts in Northern California have boosted daily rates of pay.  An article in the Contra Costa Times notes recent per day pay hikes in San Ramon Valley Unified from $110 to $130 and in Livermore Valley Joint Unified from $125 to $137.  “It’s Economics 101 — as the economy improves, unemployment drops and employers typically pay more for workers.  Area school districts,” it points out, “are getting a lesson in this now: It has become increasingly hard to find substitute teachers as more of them land full-time jobs in education or, increasingly, other professions.  In response, a number of East Bay school districts have either bumped up substitute teacher pay recently or are considering doing so.”  The end of the story includes a list of pay rates in a number of other districts in the area.              A number of surveys have reported on low teacher morale and dissatisfaction with their jobs due poor working conditions, low pay, high class sizes and a lack of respect for the profession, among others.  A new poll finds educators complaining more and more about a lack of independence in their classrooms according to a story in ED WEEK.  A representative sample of over 37,000 public elementary and secondary teachers participated in the survey published by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).  “Teachers can still close the classroom door, but after more than a decade of federal and state accountability systems,” the piece notes, “teachers feel they have less independence in what they do inside, federal data show.   In everything from instructional and discipline strategies they use each day to how much homework students receive each night, teachers reported in the federal Schools and Staffing Survey that they feel they had less professional autonomy in 2012 than in 2003.”  The article includes a link to the full report (23 pages) titled “Stats in Brief–Public School Teacher Autonomy in the Classroom Across School Years 2003-2004, 2007-2008, and 2011-12.”                
 
New Book on Corporate “Reform”
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, offers excerpts from each of the 5 chapters and reviews a new book titled The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education. It’s written by David Hursh, professor of education at the University of Rochester and was out at the end of last month.  “Hursh’s ‘The End of Public Schools’ will prove to be an excellent resource for readers seeking to understand both the power behind corporate education reform and the climate that has made such power possible,” Schneider remarks in her review.  “More importantly, Hursh’s book provides information to equip both scholars and activists in confronting the devastating grip of the corporate privatization agenda upon the  nation’s public schools.  What Hursh proves in this valuable work is that its title need not come to pass, that the fight to prevent the end of the public school is far from over and not yet lost.”
 
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Charter Schools
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” reported on the non-renewal of the charter for the former Desert Trails Elementary School by the Adelanto Elementary School District board.  The reason that action is significant is because that is the first example of a school takeover through the provisions of the California parent-trigger law.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reports on Jack Covey, a reader who took a detailed look at the finances of the company that managed the reconstituted Desert Trails charter and the members of the organization’s board of directors.  What he discovered is not very encouraging and that’s putting it mildly.  Covey cites a number of specific documents and concludes they appear to reveal a major scam.     A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Thursday issued a preliminary injunction against Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest charter chain in L.A., preventing them from interfering in their teachers’ right to organize a union.  This latest action follows up on a temporary restraining order the judge issued in October.  The LA SCHOOL REPORT provides the latest details.  “In his ruling,” it summarizes, “Judge James C. Chalfant said Alliance administrators should be enjoined from: 1)Maintaining or sponsoring petitions on its website soliciting employee signatures that affirm opposition to unionization.  2) Polling certified employees about their positions on unionization.  3) Denying UTLA representatives access to school sites after-hours.  4) Blocking UTLA emails to Alliance employees.”               A charter school in Kansas City was overpaid by $4.3 million after an audit disclosed it had falsified attendance data.  After 5 years in business the campus closed in 2014.  The story appears in EDUCATION WEEK via the Associated Press.  “State Auditor Nicole Galloway,” it reveals, “said that Hope Academy reported a 97 percent attendance rate when the actual rate was about 32 percent.  She also noted that several students who had graduated were included in the perfect attendance records.  The inflated attendance boosted the school’s budget because charter schools, like traditional public schools, receive state funding based on student enrollment and attendance.  The audit also found students received credit for classes in which they weren’t participating and for unapproved activities outside of the classroom, such as grocery shopping, house cleaning and dog walking.”               Peter Greene turns hisCURMUDGUCATION blog over to guest columnist Emily Kaplan an elementary teacher in the Boston Public Schools who previously worked at one of the highly regarded charters in that city.  She describes her experiences and lessons learned at a “no excuses” charter “Our obsession with meaningless, deceptive standardized test scores creates schools,” she complains, “like the “no excuses” charter at which I taught, which seem to excel— but fail in the ways that truly matter.  There is simply no excuse.”
 
Charter Expansion in LAUSD
The LAUSD board could, at its regularly scheduled meeting this evening, take up a revised motion dealing with the Broad Foundation plan to eventually have up to 50% of  students in the district attend charter schools.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times explains what the board will be dealing with.  “Los Angeles school board member Scott Schmerelson, who recently urged his colleagues to oppose a massive charter school expansion plan, has revised a proposal to make it more general — opposing market-driven education reforms,” it begins.  “Schmerelson’s amended version has moved away from asking the board to vote to take a stand against efforts by the locally based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which had been spearheading the charter plan.”               The recently formed non-profit that’s fronting for the Broad Foundation’s attempt to charterize up to 50% of the LAUSD by 2023 provided an updated list of 49 district schools that it considers modelsfor what it would like to create.  An earlier article in today’s Times included what turned out to be an incomplete list of 28 campuses encompassing charters, magnets and regular LAUSD schools.  “The full list includes 23 magnet programs, 19 charter schools and seven traditional neighborhood schools,” the story noted.  “Each has a low-income enrollment of at least 75% and more than 60% of students met state targets in English.”
 
Common Core & Testing
How are the Common Core State Standards impacting student instruction?  That critical question is addressed by Tom Loveless, former 6th grade teacher and Harvard policy professor, on the Brown Center for Education Policy’s “Chalkboard” blog for the Brookings Institution.  He looks at the lack of increase in the recently released NAEP scores for math and English and offers some theories as to why that occurred.  One idea: the CCSS have led to a decline in the reading of quality fiction and that’s contributed to the lack of progress in English test scores but, he qualifies, it may be too soon to tell.  What do you think about his theory and analysis?               Steven Singer places much of the blame on poor test results on the Common Core’s stress on “close reading.”  Writing on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG he notes: “No matter how you look at it, reading involves complex processes.  A whole bunch of stuff is going on to make it happen – all of it essential.  Yet when we evaluate reading comprehension these days, we put the focus squarely on one or two of those multifarious processes.  It’s reductive, reactionary, and lame.  It’s a dumbing down of the cognitive and metacognitive process,” Singer continues.  “But it makes things easy to grade on a standardized test.  That’s what the fad of close reading is all about.  It’s an attempt to make the mysterious and complex mind something that can easily be labeled right or wrong.”              The head of the education and skills section of the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Andreas Schleicher, calls it a “myth” that American students are over-tested.  His “findings” are highlighted in a column in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  However, if you read the entire article the perception that over-testing in the U.S. is a myth is mixed, at best.               Diane Ravitch’s blog found Schleicher’s ideas about testing in this country to be shortsighted.  She turned to two international experts on education, Yong Zhao and Pasi Sahlberg, for their reactions to his theories.  Each promptly forwarded responses to Ravitch’s request.  She includes a link to Zhao’s full post from his own blog.  Suggestion: Why not read all the pertinent items in this controversy and decide for yourself who is right.
 
Arts Education
The LIVING in DIALOGUE blog continues its series on the role of art in student education.  Part 4 is titled “Art Helps Students Become Whole” and is written by Amanda Koonlaba, a National Board certified teacher and a Visual Art instructor in Mississippi.  “I believe arts education is the antithesis of the corporate reform and privatization regime,” she argues.  “I believe arts education is the best tool that schools have to reach all learners.  I believe the arts belong in every school because they are important to our humanity.  I believe all students deserve access to high-quality arts instruction.  I also believe that the arts should be integrated with the traditional subjects of math, science, reading, etc.”  Koonlaba provides some concrete research to back up her claims and the article includes links to the previous items in the series.
 
Oxy Student Protests
Occidental College Pres. Jonathan Veitch met with students and faculty Thursday for a sometimes “testy” Q & A following a nearly week-long occupation of the administration building prior to Thanksgiving.  The students had a list  of grievances regarding campus diversity, removal of the LAPD from campus and a requirement that Veitch quit if their demands were not met.  Veitch took over the helm of the college in 2009 and has a contract that runs through 2020 according to a piece in Sunday’s L.A. Times.
 
Active Shooter Drills on Campuses Described
In light of the devastating massacre in San Bernadino last week and other mass shootings in the U.S., schools are having to go through active shooter drills to prepare for that possibility.  A parent whose son attends a high school in Redlands describes the brief lockdown he experienced while 14 people were being murdered in nearby San Bernadino.  Her comments are in the form of an op-ed in today’s L.A. Times.  “Teaching kids to ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ reinforces the nihilistic view that mass shootings are inevitable, diverting energy from the struggle to stop them.  Instead of crafting catchy phrases to help kids stay safe in the event of an atrocity,” she maintains, “we should work toward stronger gun ownership background checks and assault-weapon restrictions.  We need more than preparedness; we need prevention.”
 
LAUSD Supt. Search
And finally, the LAUSD board today held a second round of interviews in search of a superintendent to lead the nation’s second largest school district.  The meetings were not held at school headquarters in order to avoid anyone staking out the building to see who appeared.  Today’sL.A. Times describes this latest development.  “About seven candidates initially are being considered,” it reveals, “from a pool of more than 100 brought forward by a search firm; their names have not been released.”

    
                                        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, December 4, 2015 Edition

The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
                       
             The 8-day Jewish holiday of Chanukah begins at sundown tomorrow.
 
                  Inline image 1
 
“Of all the purposes of education, I think the most useful is this: It prepares you to keep yourself entertained.
 It gives you a better chance of an interesting job.” 
                         ― Roger Ebert
Cellphones are Back
Remember when cellphone use by students in the classroom was verboten?  Well, guess what?  They’re baaaack.  An article in the Nov. 25, L.A. Times describes how the devices are being used as part of class assignments.  The reporter visits an English class at the Social Justice Humanitas Academy in San Fernando (LAUSD) to demonstrate how teachers are now presenting lessons that require the use of the phones.  “Nationwide, most school districts are reversing their bans on student mobile devices, said Liz Kolb, an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Michigan.  Districts have found that banning cellphones fails,” the story notes, “because students will always find ways to bring them in — and because many teachers think phones have some educational value.  An added benefit, said Kolb, is that allowing students to bring in devices is often a more affordable option to schools than providing one for each student.”
 
Police in Schools
truthout has an interesting piece about the history of police involvement on public school campuses in this country, dating back to 1958, and some ideas on how to lessen their impact and participation in light of the recent incident in South Carolina between a female African-American teenager  and the campus school resource officer (SRO).  “Police weren’t always in schools.  They don’t need to be there.  They can be removed.  If we are going to protect disadvantaged students from unnecessary arrests,” the author argues, “and take steps to deconstruct the school-to-prison pipeline, police must be removed from the public school system.”  [Ed note: Check out the photo at the top of the article of two police officers standing in front of Venice High School (LAUSD).  The story doesn’t focus on the LAUSD but that was the picture selected to accompany it.]
 
Learning from “A Failing School”
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK,features a new book by a reporter who spent 4 years observing what was taking place at Mission High School in San Francisco.  The school was labeled as “failing” but what she found was a principal, a staff of teachers and a group of low-income students who were producing some rather remarkable results  in spite of how they were tagged.  The full title of the book is Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made it Triumph.  It sounds like a real positive story and in this day and age those are few and far between in the education field.  Bryant reviews the book and conducts an interview with the author, Kristina Rizga, the education reporter for Mother Jones .  “When Mission High principal Eric Guthertz welcomed Rizga into his school, she observed something that frustrates students, parents, and educators across the country: As these schools do everything in their power to serve their students, they continue to be judged as failures by a process that seems completely remote and disconnected from the school,” Bryant explains in the introduction to his piece.  “As she walked the halls of Mission High, observed classes, and spoke with the students and their teachers, Rizga came to see a very different story about the school—one of committed educators and persevering learners doing all they can to succeed despite the judgments and prescriptions of policy makers.”  Maybe we should add this to our ALOED book Club list.
 
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Teacher Evaluations
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing off on his demand thatteacher evaluations in his state be made up of at least 50% of student test scores.  The New York Times reports on this rather startling turn of events.  The reason why he’s changing his mind is also rather significant.  “Facing a parents’ revolt against testing, the state is poised to change course and reduce the role of test scores in evaluations And according to two people involved in making state education policy,” the story reveals, “Mr. Cuomo has been quietly pushing for a reduction, even to zero. That would represent an about-face from January, when the governor called for test scores to determine 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.”               Teacher evaluations that include a high percentage for student test scores have been a key goal of the corporate reform movement.  New York may be backing off from that course of action (see above) and Jeff Bryant, writing on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, reports that the trend may be fading in other areas as well.  Hillary Clinton recently made a statement about the practice, Bryant notes.  “Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently shook up the education policy world when she challenged one of the pillars of the education establishment for the last 10-15 years,” he points out, “that teachers’ job evaluations and pay should be linked to how students – even students they don’t teach – perform on standardized tests.”                A judge in New Mexico issued a preliminary injunction this week prohibiting school districts from using the student test-score heavy teacher evaluations to reward or punish teachers until the fairness of the process can be determined by a court.  EDUCATION WEEK has the details of this significant decision.  “It’s a win—for the moment—for the AFT-New Mexico and its Albuquerque affiliate, which argue that the system is based on flawed or incomplete data and should be tossed out.  In New Mexico’s system, student-achievement growth counts for up to 50 percent of a teacher’s rating,” the article explains, “with teacher observations and other factors making up the rest of the evaluation.  But unions in the state have repeatedly tried to prevent it from taking effect.”               Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, an authority on value-added models (VAMs) as a tool for evaluating teachers appeared as an expert witness in the New Mexico case cited above.  She testified for the plaintiffs against the use of student test scores and VAMs as a way to punish or reward teachers.  On herVAMboozled blog she reviews the judge’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction and speculates about its ramifications.  Amrein-Beardsley also includes a link to the full order issued by the judge.
 
Homework
The “Explainer” feature in the Nov. 25, edition of the L.A. Timestackles the topic of homework with a Q & A that’s mostly geared to parents.  However, the information is valuable for anyone.  “As more students in high school take advanced classes and Common Core guidelines have made kindergarten an academic experience,”the introduction to the piece states, “many parents feel like their children have too much homework.  So how much is too much, and what can parents do about it?  Education Matters spoke to experts in the field to answer these questions.”  The online version of this item has several more questions than the print edition.
Opt-Out Movement & Testing
How successful was the opt-out movement in convincing students to skip their standardized tests this past spring?  An item in The Washington Post highlights a new report from the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) with some rather startling figures.  The survey found that in 7 states 550,000 students opted-out of the assessments.  New York led the way with 220,000, New Jersey was second with 110,000 and Colorado third at 100,000.  “Students and parents across the country have been pushing for the right to opt out of federally required tests. Some oppose the tests themselves,” the story suggests, “others object to overtesting and still others, including teachers unions, object to using test scores to measure the performance of schools and teachers.”               Steven Singer, author of theGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers a peek into a not too distant mythical (?) future where students take standardized tests every day.  He also paints a vision of what teachers will be doing, what classrooms will look like and the role unions will have.       California is at the forefront of the movement to lessen the focus on standardized tests around the country.  EdSource describes what the Golden State is doing as it changes, in a major way, how schools are held accountable.  “So rather than being against all tests, the state is moving toward establishing a much broader accountability system, of which tests – improved ones, according to proponents – will comprise just one part.  In California,” the story mentions, “the new accountability system will be based on ‘multiple measures’ rooted in eight ‘priority areas’ established by the state in the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula law championed by[Gov.] Brown.  In addition to scores on the Smarter Balanced tests, these could include measures of middle and high school dropout rates, attendance rates, absenteeism and graduation rates, parent engagement, and ‘school climate,’ as revealed in suspension and expulsion rates and student surveys.”
 
Reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB
As the rewrite of ESEA/NCLB wends its way through the U.S. Senate and House, the L.A. Times last Friday had an extended editorial on what it hoped the final legislation would encompass.  “Somewhere between rigid, punitive rules and the pre-accountability era is a sweet spot of reason that this nation has failed to reach,” it points out.  “Standardized testing has a valid place in education, though it was endowed with too much importance as the only measure of a school’s worth.  Testing shows the sometimes yawning gaps between what schools say their students have learned and what they actually know.  In particular, No Child Left Behind made the nation aware, as never before, of just how poorly students of color or with low incomes were faring.”               Two letters appeared in the Times on Tuesday in reaction to the paper’s editorial (see above) about the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.  The first one was from Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of education at USC.  “Instead of spending billions on unnecessary testing,” he concludes, “let’s invest in protecting children from the impact of poverty by expanding and improving food programs, improving healthcare and building better libraries in high-poverty areas.  The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, sick and have little access to reading material.”               An additional letter was printed in yesterday’s Times about the paper’s editorial regarding NCLB.  This one is from the director of education reform at the George W. Bush Institute and was obviously much more favorable toward the legislation passed during Pres. George W. Bush’s term.              EDUCATION WEEK has a detailed analysis of what’s contained in the latest version of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that was officially made public on Monday and what’s still to come.  Under the heading”Teachers” it notes “that states would no longer have to do teacher evaluation through student outcomes, as they did under waivers.  And NCLB’s ‘highly qualified teacher’ requirement would be officially a thing of the past.”               The Washington Post takes a look at some of the provisions regarding the key issue of school accountability contained in the compromise legislation.  “Federal lawmakers on Monday released the final text of a compromise bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind,” the reporter begins, “including closely watched language outlining how the nation’s K-12 schools would be judged — and how struggling schools would be improved — if the legislation passes.  The bill, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act, would largely shift authority from the federal government to states and districts, giving local officials far more power to define what it means for a school to be successful and to decide how and when to intervene in schools that persistently fail to live up to expectations.”          Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, turns her considerable expertise to an analysis of the language of the compromise “framework” released on Monday regarding the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.  She includes a link to a previous post she wrote with additional information about the bill.              The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) has been a long-time vocal critic of the misuse of standardized testing.  However, they are offering qualified support for the ESSA, the current version of the ESEA/NCLB rewrite.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Monty Neill, executive director of the organization, who explains why they are in favor of the legislation.  “The proposed new law will be due for its own reauthorization in 2020, after four years.  If ESSA passes, it will mark the beginning of the next stage of the campaign.  FairTest’s recommendation,” Neill concludes, “is to take what we have gained now as a basis for winning more in the near future.”                A statement signed by a number of civil rights, disability and other education groups offers tepid support for ESSA.  EDUCATION WEEK provides a brief excerpt of their announcement and includes a list of the groups that signed it.              The Badass Teachers Association (BATS) weighted in on the proposed legislation in the form of a letter you can send to your Representative/Senator.  “This letter is in response to the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is due to be heard in the House this week and the Senate next week,” it commences.  “We have some concerns about the Act and would like to share them with you as the process of reauthorizing ESEA moves forward.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, brings you further up to date on the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB after the House passed the bill by a vote of 359-64 on Wednesday.  You can pretty much ascertain what his position is on the legislation by his title: “Go Ahead, Pass Every Student Succeeds Act, But Don’t Celebrate it.”   “For sure, there are things to like and dislike about the bill, but while lawmakers and policy wonks are back-slapping and glad-handing each other,” Bryant cautions, “this is also an opportune time to reflect on where we are in the evolution of education policy compared to where we should be.”  Diane Ravitch describes Bryant’s piece as “the best analysis of the Every Student Succeeds Act that I have seen to date.”  That is mighty high praise.               EDUCATION WEEK fills you in on the details of the House passage of the bill.  “The debate on the House floor Wednesday was full of bipartisan backslapping and a sense from lawmakers across the political spectrum that ESSA strikes the right balance between flexibility for states and civil rights protections.”    If the bill is approved in the Senate and Pres. Obama signs it (he’s signaled that he will), it would become fully operational for the 2017-18 school year.               Despite the fact that out-going U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan has been touting ESSA, the final bill will reverse a number of his favorite initiatives and policies as a commentary in ED WEEK titled “Duncan’s Legacy Undercut as ESEA Rewrite Advances” explains.  “Case in point: The bill—which the House of Representatives passed on Tuesday by a 359-64 vote—would restrict or outright prohibit attempts by the secretary to dictate or influence states’ decisions about their content standards, assessments, and teacher-evaluation requirements.  Those are three areas where Duncan has been especially active,” the story notes, “most controversially by waiving provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the current version of the ESEA, in return for states’ adoption of certain policy measures.  Such conditional waivers originating from the education secretary would be barred by the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
The Teaching Profession
Program alert:  The Bard College MAT, Los Angeles, program is hosting a series called “Teaching What Matters–Public Conversation About Public Education.”  On Thursday, Dec. 10, from 6:30 to 8 pm they will be discussing “Scenes from Entre les Murs” a French film about a new teacher facing some difficult students in his Paris classroom.  For more information and to view other upcoming events please click here.               Are child predator teachersprevalent in our schools?  If you believe some media outlets and anti-teacher groups, the answer is a resounding “yes!”  However, the reality of this very serious situation is far from that perception.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG, looks at the issue and offers some statistics on the problem and a simple (though expensive) solution.   
 
Campus Protests
The “Numbers and Letters” feature in Saturday’s L.A. Timesreported that “572 printable letters to the editor were received between Friday [Nov. 20] and  Friday [Nov. 27].  101 letters were written about the Paris attacks and the aftermath, the weeks most-discussed topic.  44 readers discussed the protests against racism on college campuses,” the second-most discussed topic.
 
Election 2016
Teaches often have to deal with situations in their classrooms involving bullies.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUEblog, likens GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to a bully.  His commentary is titled “Teaches Know Bullies: Trump is One.”  “The bully lives in fear that he will be seen as weak, and projects that fear onto others.  So long as the bully is the strong one, he cannot be made to suffer the humiliations that the weak must endure.  So the quest is constant for those to mock,” Cody explains, “those who can, by their inferiority, prove the bully to be superior.  And when this mockery finds a receptive audience, the whole school environment can become toxic. . .   Donald Trump has emerged as the personification of the American bully.”
 
Students Suspension Rates Decline in State
The state of California has made a concerted effort over the past couple of years to reduce student suspension rates.  The results are encouraging according to a recent report from UCLA’s Center of Civil Rights Remedies highlighted in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “The number of suspensions statewide declined from 709,580 for the 2011-2012 school year to 503,101 for the 2013-2014 school year,”the article notes.  “Most of that decline stems from schools using suspension less frequently to address ‘disruption or defiance.’  That catchall category includes acts of ‘willful defiance,’ such as purposely interrupting a teacher or distracting a class.”  The piece includes several graphs illustrating the findings, however, the two  links to the full study apparently are not correct.
 
New Approach to School Discipline in LAUSD
The LAUSD has been experimenting with a more humanistic, less harsh approach to student discipline over the last couple of years.  A story in Monday’s L.A. Times describes how counseling and other techniques are replacing arrests and citations.  The item focuses on one school police officer who patrols the Peary Middle School campus in Gardena.  It also includes a brief video (2:02 minutes) that follows him around the school.  “In L.A. Unified, police Chief Steven Zipperman and his force worked with community organizations to launch a landmark reform last year,” the article explains, “that has ended citations for most fights, petty thefts and other minor offenses in favor of redirection into counseling programs.  In the last year, he said, about 460 students who would otherwise have been cited were sent to counseling instead, with only 7% failing to complete their programs.  The reform builds on earlier efforts to end tickets for truancy, which resulted in a steep decline in citations to 3,499 in 2013 from 11,698 in 2010. In the last year, he said, about 460 students who would otherwise have been cited were sent to counseling instead, with only 7% failing to complete their programs.”
 
Using Writing and Poetry to Turn Lives Around
An innovative program that brought at-risk students from an alternative high school in Pomona into contact with a writer and poet with a prison past is described in an upbeat story in Monday’sL.A. Times.  Poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, who served a 5-year prison sentence for drug related charges, spoke to the students about using writing to deal with their difficult lives and how it might help to turn them around.              In a similar vein, Michelle Gunderson, a 29-year veteran elementary teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, points out how poetry and other arts can be used to combat the misuse of standardized assessments in education today.  Her commentary appears on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog and is one in a series of pieces on the topic.  Links to previous essays are included. “Let us put ourselves in the shoes of Chicago teachers (and many around the country) who experience a draconian environment where ‘measure to manage’ is almost a religious mantra.  We have network chiefs and administrators who insist that every single lesson and unit plan be aligned to the Common Core.  We fill out time allotment schedules where each minute must be accounted for in instruction geared towards testing.  And when we stray from these plans there are many schools where teachers face reprimand,” she complains bitterly.  “This is when teaching poetry becomes an act of resistance.  It is a defiance of the testing regime that seeks to punish, sort, and divide our students.  And it is a reclaiming of our profession.”  Gunderson also provides several examples of poems from her first graders and even prints one she wrote.
 
Charter Schools
The first-ever takeover of a school in California by way of the parent-trigger law came to an end recently when the Adelanto Elementary School District Board voted to withdraw the charter for the Desert Trails Preparatory Academy.  The campus, located in San Bernadino County, had been converted to a charter after a lengthy battle over petition signatures and a judge’s ruling in favor of charter proponents according to the account in The San Bernadino Sun.  “The problem isn’t with what’s happening academically at Desert Trails Prep, school board president Teresa Rogers said Tuesday,”  the story reports, “but with what’s happening administratively. . . . [School director Debra] Tarver and other officials had failed to file the necessary paperwork for multiple issues, Rogers said, putting the school and district afoul of state regulations.”  If you are so inclined to read the full resolution (7 pages) from the Adelanto school board, in which they denied the school’s request to renew its charter, including the specific reasons why they took that action, please click here.
Millions of Dollars in Pro-Charter LAUSD School Board Contributions Hidden by PAC
What might they be trying to hide?  Over $2 million in contributions from charter school proponents to recent LAUSD school board candidates were not revealed until months after the election.  A prominent front-page investigative piece in Wednesday’s L.A. Times describes how a political action committee (PAC) was able to hide the individual sources of the donations until well after the balloting had taken place.  “The contributions — from philanthropist Eli Broad, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and others — were made to California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, a political action committee in Sacramento, before the May 19 election.  That group then forwarded those funds to a local committee,” the article reveals, “which poured the money into the campaigns of pro-charter-school candidates.  At stake were four seats on the seven-member Board of Education — and the direction of the school system, whose leaders have been in a pitched battle over the growth and oversight of charters in the nation’s second-largest district.”  It all is apparently legal but one has to ask again: What are they trying to hide?               Two letters are printed in today’sTimes about the article (see above) regarding hidden donations to pro-charter school board candidates.  The second letter is from the executive director of the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. You can probably guess what his position is on the issue.
 
Another Warning About a “Grassroots” Education “Reform” Group
And finally, it has a fancy, grassrooty sounding name, but Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What? blog, sounds a warning about Students for Education Reform (SFER).  The organization was founded in 2009 and “although Students for Education Reform is ‘run’ by students,” Pelto reveals, “the self-described ‘grassroots’ group is governed by a Board of Directors that is made up of some of the biggest corporate executives and players associated with the Corporate Education Reform Industry.”
                                        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.