Ed News, Friday, January 15, 2015 Edition


            A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

              Monday is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
  Birthday Celebration.
 Happy Holiday
                      Inline image 1
       “Unless education promotes character making, unless it helps men to be more moral, 
        more just to their fellows, more law abiding, more discriminatingly patriotic and public spirited, 
              it is not worth the trouble taken to furnish it.” 
― William Howard Taft

New LAUSD Supt.

Now that the LAUSD board has selected its Chief Deputy Supt. Michelle King to take over the reins of the district the reactions are beginning to come in.  A front-page story by L.A. Times education reporter Howard Blume on Wednesday described in some detailhow the process played out and how the board settled on one of its own.  “King also emerged as an unlikely consensus candidate, it notes, “in a district mired by divisive issues such as charter school expansion, teacher evaluations and technology investment.  The powerful teachers’ union believed it could work with her, as did charter school advocates — groups often at odds with each other.”  This piece includes a very short video (43 seconds) of the board’s announcement of the appointment.                Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column in the Times wondered if the “safe” choice of King is the “best one.”  “What’s clear is that LAUSD board members made the safe choice,” he opines.  “They decided on someone who has been a good, low-profile soldier rather than a strong,independent voice, and for now at least, I find that disappointing.  The 7-0 vote by board members suggests that they’re comfortable with King.  But their comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing for anyone but themselves.”                Michelle King is the first African-American to lead the LAUSD but not the first woman.  To discover the last woman superintendent of the district one needs to go back to the 1920s.  Susan B. Dorsey led the Los Angeles City School District (that’s what it was called back then) from 1920 to 1929 according to a fascinating historical piece in Wednesday’s “California Retrospective” column in the L.A. Times.  “Dorsey’s district was very different from the one over which King will preside,” it explains.  “At that time,Los Angeles had two districts: Dorsey’s was for elementary and junior high school students, and there was another for high schools.”  The article includes a copy of the front page of the Times after Dorsey resigned.               Theredqueeninla blog was pretty pleased with the selection of Michelle King as the new LAUSD superintendent calling it “The Right Jewel for LAUSD’s Crown.”               District insider or someone from outside the LAUSD for superintendent?  That question looms whenever the district is selecting a new leader.  Over the past 45 years, what’s been the origin of LAUSD’s chief?  The “Education Matters” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times notes that of the previous superintendents going back to 1971, 8 have been promoted from within the district and 5 were outsiders.   Michelle King, the latest selection is a REAL insider.  She started kindergarten in the district and matriculated at district schools through graduation from high school.  For the past 30 years she’s been a district teacher, school-site and then “downtown” administrator.  Now that’s an insiders insider!               New LAUSD Supt. Michelle King sat down with the L.A. Times for her first extended  interview yesterday.  An article in today’s paper reports on what her philosophy of leadership is and some of her goals for the district.  “King talked more about the ‘listening’ she intends to do in coming weeks than specific decisions she may make,” it describes, “suggesting that she’ll take a cautious, measure-twice, cut-once approach to problems at the Los Angeles Unified School District.”
Charter Schools
Most charter schools insist they don’t cherry-pick their students or try to get rid of troublesome kids, i.e., ELLs, special ed or behavior problems, who might bring down their test scores.  When one of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy principals in New York City was quoted as having a “Got to Go” list of students he was trying to get rid of, things began to get interesting, especially when some parents of students on that list filed a lawsuit.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, reports on the suit and and uncovers some interesting details about the specific school and Success Academy in general.                “From Walton to Zuckerberg: HowEducation Philanthropy Has Changed” is the title of a piece in the “Charters & Choice” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  It includes a conversation with Jeffrey R. Henig, political science and education professor at Teacher College, Columbia University and co-editor of the book The New Education Philanthropy. 
A column in the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald argues that the current emphasis on standardized testing takes away from the benefits of a good education.  ” We simply must stop the severe over-testing and give students real-life opportunities to be prepared for life after high school graduation,” the author concludes.  “We must trust teachers to evaluate their students’ understanding using portfolios, simulation and other assessment techniques.  If we truly want our high school graduates to be ready for the next steps in their lives, we have to let go of over-testing and support helping them learn and experience the things that will prepare them for life.”               Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, is nearly apoplectic over a piece written by a Chicago charter school kindergarten teacher, Bailey Reimer, about how she got her 5-year-olds to “love testing.”  Greene includes a link to Reimer’s original piece.  “I don’t know if Reimer is full of it when she says her students love testing,” he concludes in near despair.  “But there’s no reason on earth to report that as if it’s a good thing.  This is the kind of clueless amateur that reformsterism has set loose in classrooms.  May Heaven help our children.” Diane Ravitch, on her blog, was equally troubled by Reimer’s words: “This article by Bailey Reimer is one of the most horrible statements I have ever read.  She needs help in learning about the purposes of education.”
Passage of ESSA
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in early December and the U.S. Department of Education has been gearing up for the transition to it from NCLB.  Previous Secretary Arne Duncan ended his tenure at the end of the year and the new interim Sec. John King has assumed the top post at the department.  EDUCATION WEEK speculates on some of the changes coming to the DoE as a result of the new legislation.  “The new Every Student Succeeds Act,” it maintains, “does more than just give states and districts a big say over accountability—it contains a laundry list of prohibitions aimed at preventing the U.S. secretary of education from issuing marching orders on standards, teacher evaluation, school turnarounds, and more.”               The new ESSA is requiring states to re-evaluate how they grade schools and hold them accountable.  Under NCLB, most states relied on standardized test scores to rate how schools were doing.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes how the California State Board of Education is approaching this issue.  “In addition to measures of academic progress,” it mentions, “under the new law states must take into account at least one out-of-the-classroom factor, such as suspension rates, attendance or school climate, a sense of how safe students feel in school.”
Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association
Rebecca Friedrichs, lead plaintiff in the case that bears her name that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, sat down with Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four website in Washington , D.C., on Tuesday for an interview about how she became involved in the case and how her day in court went.  In response to a question about how she thought the oral arguments went, Friedrichs replied, “I was very pleased – you could tell that [the justices] have heard our message.  They seemed to understand.  I felt things were done very fairly and I really enjoyed learning the process, just watching it all happen.  I felt very hopeful at the end.”              Harold Meyerson, writing in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, is a little confused about the Friedrichs case.  39 years ago, in the case of Abood v Detroit Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that unions had the right to charge “agency fees” to employees who did not wish to be a member of a public sector union.  Why, then, has that issue come up again?  Meyerson has some intriguing and insightful ideas: “What’s changed is the conservative justices’ assessment of unions—reflecting, I’d argue, the changed assessments of both business and Republican elites.”             If the Supreme Court rules against unions in the Friedrichs case, as is widely speculated, the power and influence of all public sector unions could be vastly diminished.  If that happens how would the teaching profession be affected?  John Thompson, the author of a piece on the LIVING in DIALOGUEblog, likens the profession of the future under a Friedrichs ruling to the expanding “gig economy:” temporary, part-time, low-wage, non-unionized jobs. He sees some of the same forces in action that Harold Meyerson identifies (see above).  
LAUSD Charter Expansion
With the business of choosing a new superintendent now behind them, the LAUSD board tackled another key issue: charter expansion.  At their regular meeting on Tuesday, the board approved, on a 7-0 vote (!),  a resolution (highlighted in a recent edition of the “Ed News”) by member Scott Schmerelson that opposes charter expansion according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “Board members have traditionally been divided on charter school growth,” it reports, “but on Tuesday they voted 7 to 0 in support of a resolution opposing initiatives that ‘view our communities as a public education marketplace and our children as commodities.’  The board then directed new Supt. Michelle King to analyze how the outside plan, which was developed by the Broad Foundation, will ‘affect the district’s enrollment, fiscal viability and ability to provide an outstanding public education.'”  Upon hearing of the board’s action in this matter, Diane Ravitch exclaimed “Will wonders never cease!”               The California Charter Schools Association sued the LAUSD this week claiming that bond money for construction of charter campuses was reduced by almost half by the district.  A piece in today’s Times explains the details.  “L.A. Unified’s general counsel, David Holmquist,” it reports, “said that the bond measure does not require that a specific amount be spent on charters and that the school board is free to move funds to projects identified as priorities.  He said charters have benefited from those shifts in the past.
Obama on Education
Pres. Obama delivered his seventh and final “State of the Union” address on Tuesday night.  THE HECHINGER REPORT reviews the several points he raised regarding education “The President’s remarks about education were brief, largely promises to build on existing success,”  it begins.  “He highlighted five areas of concern: expanding early childhood education for all, improving high school graduation rates, attracting more American students into studying the sciences, recruiting and supporting more teachers, and making college more affordable.”               The “Politics K-12” column inEDUCATION WEEK also reviews what the president said in his speech.  In addition, it adds a recap of the Republican response to the speech.             How have the president’s previous “State of the Union” initiatives on education fared over time?  EDUCATION WEEK recaps some of the proposals he’s made since 2010 and how they’ve worked out.  
Schools and the California Lottery
When California voters were faced with a proposition in 1984 to create a state lottery, one of the key selling points was it would raise money to help the schools.  So, how has that panned out over these past 30+ years?  Not as well as you may think.  With the Powerball jackpot on Wednesday passing $1.6 billion (that’s billion, with a “b”), lottery frenzy had gripped the state and people began to wonder what impact all that money would have on the public schools.  A piece in Wednesday’s L.A. Times titled “Lottery Fever Won’t Be A Big Win for California Schools; Never Has, Never Will” provides the somewhat disappointing details.  “While the numbers fluctuate slightly, over time the California Lottery has provided slightly less than 2 cents of every dollar in what’s spent to operate K-12 schools,” the story mentions.  “In fact, two pennies of every dollar is the high-water mark.  Data compiled by the independent legislative analyst’s office shows that for most of the past decade, the lottery has been closer to 1% of school funding.  In the 2016-17 budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, K-12 education is slated to receive a total of $86.5 billion from all sources; the lottery’s share is about $1.1 billion [1.27%].”
Election 2016
Ironically, the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last month could push the issue of education further off the table as a topic for discussion during the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns.  The primary season commences with the Iowa caucuses less than 3 weeks away.  EDUCATION WEEKexplores this development.  “School policy—already an underdog topic in the 2016 presidential campaign—could be further marginalized as an issue by recent developments in Washington,” it suggests, “not the least of which is the newly minted Every Student Succeeds Act, which is expected to scale back the direct federal role in K-12 education. . . .  And the new law resolves, at least for the next several years, some big questions about federal power over such issues as testing and teacher evaluations.”              Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) issued a major policy pronouncement on Monday evening at the Iowa Brown & Black Forum regarding school funding  He is suggesting that the federal government provide a major chuck of K-12 school funding rather than relying on state and local taxes to supply the dollars.  Steven Singer, on his GADGLYONTHEWALLBLOG, describes Sanders’ position and what it means to the campaign dynamic.  “That is going against the political tide.  Who would vote for such a thing?  Probably not Hillary.  Or any of the Republican candidates.  Or more than a handful in Congress, either.  But it’s exactly the right thing to do.  The reason?  The biggest problem with America’s public school system isn’t test scores, lazy students, or teachers unions. It’s poverty, segregation and inequitable funding.”  
Opt-Out Movement
The opt-out movement may have gotten a boost from the passage of ESSA and how it deals with student numbers required for taking the standardized tests.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK discusses how the landscape has changed and what might be in store in the future.  “Several leaders within the so-called testing opt-out movement,” it points out, “which has gained considerable traction in New York and also found a foothold in states like Colorado and Connecticut, say they will continue to push parents to refuse to allow their children to take standardized exams, particularly state tests, for as long as it’s necessary.”
Ethnic Studies
Some school districts/states are adopting ethnic studies courseswhile others are doing away with them.  Do these classes have any kind of impact on students?  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, uses a recently adopted curriculum in San Francisco as a positive example.  “In San Francisco,” he begins, “a recently implemented Ethnic Studies course has been startlingly successful in boosting student attendance, GPA, and earned credits. That is the conclusion of a Stanford University study.”  Cody includes a link to that study.
Teach for America Turns 25
And finally, TFA celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.  EDUCATION WEEK has produced a special report on the organization as it marks an important milestone.  You can read an overview of that report by clicking here.  You’ll find an annotated table of contents of the full package, titled “New Realities: TFA at 25” by clicking here.  “Conceived in an undergraduate thesis in 1989,”  it states in the introduction, “the controversial teaching organization now commands a budget of some $300 million and has 40,000 alumni, many of whom have become influential leaders in K-12 education.  But the group has also faced criticism and internal challenges.  In this special package, we look at recent changes TFA has embarked on as it enters a new era and the questions they raise about its model, impact, and future course.”

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




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