The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
“The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown;
you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote,
the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.”
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
― Donna Quesada, Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers
The Ongoing War on Public Education
Last week the L.A. Times had an editorial in their print edition titled “The Ongoing War on Charters” (it bore a different title online) that the editor of the “Ed News” objected to (see the Jan. 5th edition of the ‘Ed News”). He was incredulous that anyone would consider charters the “victim” of a war against them. The real “war,” as many pundits have pointed out, is aimed at traditional public education. Here’s another example of how some of the powers that be are targeting public education. In Chicago members of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board of education are appointed by the mayor. So what does Mayor Emanuel do to stick it to traditional school advocates and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)? He appoints Jaime Guzman, a Teach for America alumnus and Illinois Charter School Commissioner, to the city board of education. Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints the press release issued Wednesday by the CTU decrying the selection. “With the mayor’s selection . . . more than half of the Board of Ed’s members are now unabashed charter supporters,” the statement complains. “Considering that charter schools only serve 15 percent of CPS students while taking in 18 percent of the district school-based funds—not to mention the additional funding and support received from CPS’ Central Office—it is clear that the mayor and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool intend to greatly expand charter schools in Chicago. The public, on the other hand, has shown time and time again that it chooses publicly run neighborhood schools over privately run charters.” Just one more example of the ongoing war on public education, despite what that Times editorial wants people to think. The Catalyst CHICAGO website also reported on the latest appointment to the CPS board. It found both critics and supporters of Mayor Emanuel’s pick. Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, is puzzled by Mayor Emanuel’s appointment of a pro-charter advocate to the CPS school board, especially given all the other trouble he’s provoked with various constituencies in Chicago. She headlines her piece “Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel Is On the Ropes–and Now He Does This?” Strauss reviews some of the actions taken by Emanuel that have alienated large voting blocs in his city with emphasis on several of his more controversial decisions regarding the schools. The Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) is not taking these shots across their bow lightly. Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints another press release in which the union calls for Mayor Emanuel and Cook’s County State Attorney Anita Alvarez to step down in light of their actions covering up the police shooting of LaQuan McDonald and other decisions undermining the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
An editorial in the Tampa Bay Times points out the poor “return on investment” taxpayers are getting for their dollars spent oncharters in Florida. “Florida has invested heavily in privately run charter schools for years,” it begins, “and the payoff for taxpayers has been uneven at best. While some successful charter schools fill particular needs in local communities, too many have failed and research shows they have not outperformed traditional public schools in the state.” The Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame) has pledged $1 billion (that’s with a “b”) over the next 5 years in support of current and future charter schoolsaccording to a story from the AP (Associated Press). “The foundation has spent more than $1 billion on K-12 education over the past 20 years,” it mentions, “including $385 million to help start charter schools in poor communities. The new money will be spent in places where the foundation already has ties — creating new schools and developing ‘pipelines of talent.'” In light of the September ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court that the financing system for charter schools in the state was unconstitutional, the state legislature has been scrambling to make needed changes to save the charter system in Washington. A second bill was introduced to retain the state’s charter campuses according to an article in EDUCATION WEEK. “This second bill would amend the law so that charter schools draw from a different pool of money, which includes lottery revenue, whereas the bill filed earlier this week would require charter schools to be overseen by local school boards,” it points out. “Although making charter schools accountable to school boards may tweak the law enough to pass constitutional muster, it’s not necessarily an ideal solution for many charter advocates who support the schools because they are independent from local districts.”
The “Ed News” has highlighted several items about the disciplinary technique known as “restorative justice.” If you are still not well versed on it, here is another piece that explains what it is and how it works using a New Hampshire high school to illustrate. The story appears in THE HECHINGER REPORT. “In traditional school discipline programs, students face an escalating scale of punishments for infractions that can ultimately lead to expulsion. But there is now strong research that shows pulling students out of class as punishment can hurt their long-term academic prospects,”the article relates. “What’s more, data show that punishments are often unequal. Nationally, more black students are suspended than white students, for example. As a result, alternative programs like restorative justice are gaining popularity in public schools from Maine to Oregon. Early adopters of the practice report dramatic declines in school discipline problems, as well as improved climates on campuses and even gains in student achievement.” It almost sounds too good to be true but the proof is undeniable.
2016–The Year Ahead in Education
The Atlantic magazine asked a number of education experts what gives them cause for hope and despair in the coming year in the field of education. Among the contributors are Linda Darling-Hammond and Amanda Ripley, former ALOED Book Club authors, Anya Kamenetz, a future Book Club author, Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the NEA and Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT and Diane Ravitch. No current teachers or administrators were included. As an example from the article, here’s what Diane Ravitch wrote: “Reason for hope: The reasons for hope are two-fold: first, the public doesn’t want to abandon its community public schools. No district or state has ever voted to privatize its schools. Second, every so-called ‘reform’ has failed to promote better education or equal opportunity for the neediest children. Neither charters nor vouchers consistently get better results for children,” she continues, “unless they exclude the weakest students. Measuring teachers by student test scores has been a costly failure. The great majority of the public admires their public schools and their teachers and wants them to be better, more equitably funded, not eliminated. If democracy works, these misguided ‘reforms’ will be consigned to the ashcan of history.” Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, lists “5 Education Storiesto Keep Your Eye On In 2016.” “Given widespread concerns over terrorist attacks and an economy careening toward troubled ground,” he predicts, “education will be relegated to a backbench at best.” His broad topics include “Charter Schools, The Test Rebellion” and the “Friedrich’s” Supreme Court case among others. These are important stories with major ramifications and he concludes: “Hold on to your seats.”
Now that the Every Students Succeeds Act is the new federal law on education, states and school districts are scrambling to understand its ramifications and to begin implementation. EDUCATION WEEK has created a “special report” on the new legislation which you can review by clicking here. “Big questions loom,” the article notes, “about just where states and districts will take the leeway granted to them under the newly minted Every Student Succeeds Act—and just how their decisions will affect the perennially foundering schools and traditionally overlooked groups of students and schools the NCLB law was designed to help. It’s equally unclear just how much power the U.S. Department of Education will have [under] the law, the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” The last part of this story reports on how California is considering how to implement ESSA. To access the full report, with links to a number of articles about ESSA, click on the “Complete Coverage” item in the upper-right-hand-corner of the Ed Week story or click here. The new ESSA makes some significant changes to how the federal government wants states to evaluate teachers and it loosens some of the requirements for teacher certification. An article in ED WEEKanalyzes some of the revisions. “The new law does not require states,” the story explains, “to set up teacher-evaluation systems based in significant part on students’ test scores—a key requirement of the U.S. Department of Education’s state-waiver system in connection with ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Are you familiar with the EWA (Education Writers Association)? If not, you should check out their website. They include a number of “working journalists” who are employed as education reporters. They do not include independent education bloggers. Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, believes that degree of exclusivity is bothersome (especially since it excludes him). He wonders why the EWA isn’t open to a wider field of education writers. His piece is titled “The Crucial Debate the Education Writers Association Refuses to Hold.” “Every reporter covering education need not be a former teacher,” Cody concludes. “But the professional organization that brings these reporters together should make efforts to include, rather than drive away, education writers with firsthand understanding of the issues faced by public schools. The Board of Directors of the EWA should revisit this issue as soon as possible.”
The Homework Debate
A former teacher and current parent tackles that perennial topic for discussion–homework. Sarah Blaine has some serious concernsabout the matter which she writes about on her parentingthecoreblog. “Homework has become a monster,” she laments, “devouring childhood.”
The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article, under the “Common Core” headline, from FORTUNE magazine about how corporate America has invested its resources in helping to promote the Common Core and standardized testing. The focus of my item was a statement from ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson regarding students as “products” and the VERY negative reaction it engendered from a number of writers. Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is a little tardy in joining the bandwagon of criticism of Tillerson’s comment but he personalizes his reaction to it by relating it to his just turned 7-year old daughter. “That little girl is my pride and joy. I love her more than anything else in this world. Make no mistake – She is not anyone’s product. . . . And somehow Tillerson, this engineer turned CEO, thinks she’s nothing more than a commercial resource to be consumed by Big Business,” Singer laments. “He thinks her entire worth as a human being can be reduced to her market value. It doesn’t matter what she desires for herself. It only matters if she fills a very narrow need set by corporate America.” The rest of his piece is full of passion, too. Diane Ravitch describes it as a “terrific post.”
State Education Report Cards
For the 20th year EDUCATION WEEK has published grades for the U.S., each state and the District of Columbia based on several education criteria. The national average (74.4) for the “Quality Counts” ratings was a solid “C” grade. No state achieved an “A” but Massachusetts (86.8) earned the only “B+” followed by New Jersey (85.1) and Vermont (83.8). Nevada (65.2) was the lowest with a “D” grade. Mississippi (65.6) was the second lowest followed by New Mexico (65.9). California (69.8) ranked 42nd with a grade of “C-.” You can read an overview of the complete report with links to the full document, individual chapters and an interactive map byclicking here.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) offered some of his most detailed positions on education of the campaign during as address in October before a gathering of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Anthony Cody, on hisLIVING in DIALOGUE blog provides a transcript of Sanders’ remarks. “I am for better or for worse – you’ll have to judge – a product of public education,” Sanders noted by way of introduction. “I believe in public education and I believe that public education is one of the strongest democratic institutions in our country, and we’ve got to fight against the privatization of public education, and I intend to do that.” As a follow-up to the above piece and several others that he’s penned, Cody came out in support of Bernie Sanders for president in an essay on his blog. “Our students and schools have suffered as the concentration of wealth has accelerated over the past decade. President Obama has not confronted or curtailed this trend, and, sadly, there is little to indicate that Hillary Clinton will either,” Cody sums up. “Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has rejected support from super-PACS and spurned Wall Street. His education platform could be stronger, but he is not captive to the wealthy donors that have controlled both parties for years. Our students need a president who confronts the scourge of poverty, and I believe Bernie Sanders is the best for that task.”
The Corporate “Reform” Movement
Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to veteran educator Marion Brady who provides a primer on the corporate “reform” and privatization movement over the last 30 years. What can be done to thwart this juggernaut? Brady responds: “A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.”
And finally, a new U.S. Dept. of Education database with lots of detailed information about individual students is not passing muster with privacy groups. Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, describes the complaint the organization filed against the DoE. “The Electronic Privacy Information Center[EPIC], a Washington D.C.-based non-profit public interest research group that focuses on civil liberties issues and the First Amendment,” she writes, “has sent the department a formal objection to the system.” Strauss’ piece contains a copy of the governments new program and a copy of EPIC’s complaint regarding it. [Ed. note: The Jan. 5th, edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a new California law that took effect Jan. 1, that contains stringent protections for student information.]