The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
Friedrichs v CTA
If you are not quite sure what a ruling in the Friedrichs v California Teachers Association case will mean, check out this item from THE Nation titled “This Supreme Court Case Could Be Very Bad for Unions.” ” Back in the old days, unions could get crushed easily with police crackdowns and armed thugs,” it begins. “These days, business conducts its union busting the civilized way, in court and at the bank. The question before the Supreme Court earlier this week in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association wasn’t about free speech or workers’ rights on the job so much as it was about the right of unions to exist as financial and legal institutions.” After reviewing the arguments in the Friedrichs case and some of the questions and comments from the justices, EDUCATION WEEK publishes a piece titled “High Court Hearing in Fees Case Has Unions on Defensive.” “The case is a high-stakes battle between non-union groups and public-employee unions,” the item suggests. “Although the proportion of fee-payers in the 23 states that authorize such fees is relatively small, a decision against the unions would lead some full members to quit, since they would no longer face the alternative of having to pay the agency fee. That would hurt the unions’ treasuries, and potentially their political clout (even though agency-fee payers have never been required to support unions’ outright political activities).” You just knew that sooner or later Jeff Bryant would weigh in on the Friedrichs case on the Education Opportunity NETWORK blog. Well, here it is. He titles his commentary “A Ruling in Favor of Friedrichs Will Hurt Education.” He reviews the issues and some of the previous comments about the case and wraps up: “So a month or so from now, when you hear about the court has decided to uphold the plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case, and not the teachers union, as many expect will happen, please understand the judges’ decision won’t just hurt teachers’ paychecks and their rights to organize and speak out. It will hurt our children’s education.”
Suspensions/Expulsions Decline in California
The rate of student suspensions and expulsions continues to decline in California as local districts adopt alternative strategies for dealing with student misbehavior. EdSource highlights some new data from State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Dept. of Education. Keeping kids in school can be beneficial to their academic achievement, Torlakson notes. “Improved data reporting at the California Department of Education,” the story explains, “that began in 2011-12 drew increased attention to the high numbers of suspensions and expulsions in schools across the state, particularly for African-American students, the department said. The data prompted a new law, community actions and school district policy changes, the state said.”
A group of parents in New York has filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights claiming that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Network has been discriminating against students with disabilities for years. A story in the New York Daily News provides the details. “Critics of Success Network have long suspected its astounding test scores — among the highest in the state — are made possible by its shedding of children with disabilities. Those scores have greased the network’s rapid growth to 36 schools,” the reporter concludes, “garnered it tens of millions of dollars in private donations, and won effusive support from politicians in Albany. But when your charter network gets to be as big and wealthy as many suburban school districts, what’s the excuse for not appropriately servicing your special needs students? Maybe a federal probe will find out.” If you want to read the full legal complaint (23 pages), click here. It is posted on the Scribdwebsite.
Metal Detectors in Schools
Do metal detectors in schools do more harm than good? That’s the interesting issue raised in a story from ProPublica. It focuses on how the program works in the New York City School system but applies to any district that utilizes such a security program. “Almost as many New York City students run the gauntlet of x-ray machines each day as pass through the scanners at busy Miami International Airport,” the article explains. “And the procedure is numbingly similar. Students must remove belts, shoes, and sometimes bobby pins as the wait stretches as long as an hour. A ProPublica survey found that the daily ritual is borne disproportionately by students of color; black and Hispanic students in high school are nearly three times more likely to walk through a metal detector than their white counterparts.” The item describes the history of metal detectors in New York and how crime rates have dropped since they were installed.
Diane Ravitch’s Blog Hits Another Milestone
Diane Ravitch’s blog passed 25 million page views on Wednesday. She started writing it in April, 2012, and has been a strong and steady voice for public education and teachers for many years before that. She has a brief item on her blog about the accomplishment. Congratulations are certainly in order and here’s to the next 25 million.
GOP Plan to Declare Chicago Public Schools Bankrupt
Republican state legislators in Illinois have hatched a plan to push legislation that would declare the Chicago Public Schools bankruptand trigger a state takeover of the district. If that action were to take place it would likely lead to the abrogation of the union contract in the city, which might be the GOP’s target all along. CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS describes the plot. What are the implications of this action in Chicago? Mike Klonsky, on his SMALL TALK BLOG, peeks at what’s behind the attempt to declare the CPS bankrupt. What he sees is not pretty. “The move is also [Illinois Gov.] Rauner’s way of heading off a budget compromise and a contract agreement between CPS and the CTU,”Klonsky charges, “and cutting the heart out of collective bargaining rights for teachers public employee unions, statewide. It’s their alternative to raising taxes on their wealthy and corporate patrons to pay for the operation of a predominantly black and Latino school district.”
Passage of ESSA
Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, continues her exclusive conversation about the new Every Student Succeeds Actwith David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. In Part 2 of the Q & A she wonders if the law will still require part of teachers’ evaluations to include student test scores. Cleary again provides a “short” and “long” answer. In the former he states: “The federal mandate on teacher evaluation linked to test scores, as created in the waivers, is eliminated in ESSA.” Cleary expands on that in his latter response: “ESSA ends the waiver requirements in August 2016 so states or districts that choose to end their teacher evaluation system may. Otherwise, states can make changes to their teacher evaluation systems, or start over and start a new system. The decision is left to states and school districts to work out.” Part 3 of Ravitch’s give-and-take with David P. Cleary is about how ESSA deals with the bottom 5% of low performing schools. “ESSA does not require states to close the schools in the 5 percent category,” Cleary explains, “or convert them to charters, or fire the teachers or the principal, or any of the sanctions required under NCLB. States will now have the flexibility to determine what to do about these schools.” Part 4 asks about how ESSA deals with the Opt-Out Movement. What do different organizations think the federal role should be under ESSA? The U.S. Dept. of Education opened up the question to the public. Individuals and groups were invited to submit their ideas to the DoE via the Internet. The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a piece summarizing some of the ideas that were offered. “You probably won’t be surprised to learn that accountability took up a lot of the oxygen in the comments,” the author of the item relates. “And testing issues like how to handle opt-outs were also expounded upon. Plus, school turnaround issues and funding got some attention.”
Passing of Former Oxy Pres. Richard Gilman
An obituary in yesterday’s L.A. Times notes the passing of former Occidental College Pres. Richard Gilman. He died at his Pasadena home on Friday. He was 92 and the longest serving president in the college’s history from 1965 to 1988. “In addition to increasing the school’s endowment and faculty,” the story relates, “Gilman also called for the establishment of new academic programs, including American studies, urban studies and biochemistry. Occidental’s national profile grew under his leadership, The Times noted in a 1988 news article.”
Ethics and EDUCATION WEEK
The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a complaint about the L.A. Times accepting money from foundations and billionaires to help its coverage of education issues and that raised some serious issues regarding journalistic ethics. Diane Ravitch’s blog reveals that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave almost$2 million to EDUCATION WEEK “to broaden education digital media capacity in the U.S. to share analysis, best practice, and current innovation in public education.” “I wish the billionaires would keep hands off the independent media. Can EdWeek,”Ravitch rightly worries, “be independent of the man and the industry that underwrites their coverage?” Given the twoissues of journalistic ethics at the L.A. Times and ED WEEK addressed above, Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUEblog asks: “Will Ethical Walls Protect Education Journalism From Billionaire Influence?” He features a commentary by Alexander Russo who thinks the whole issue is a “tempest in a teapot.” Cody includes a link to Russo’s piece and raises some good questions about its conclusions. “Undoing the corporate influence on the newsrooms of America is not going to be easy,” Cody surmises. “But acknowledging we have a serious problem would be a valuable first step.”
GED Is Lowering Passing Score
The GED (General Educational Development) is reducing the passing score on its tests for high school graduation equivalency. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains the change. “The scoring change comes two years after the national testing company rolled out a more rigorous exam,” it notes, “aligned to national standards such as Common Core, that led to fewer people taking the test and fewer passing it.”
Detroit Teachers Call in Sick
A massive sick-out by teachers in Detroit on Wednesday caused the closure of a number of campuses in the beleaguered city. Educators were protesting poor working conditions, large class sizes and other issues. The action took place the same day Pres. Obama was visiting the North American International Auto Show in Detroit according to an article in the Detroit Free Press. “Teachers have been using rolling sick-outs in recent weeks,” the story reports, “to spotlight the poor conditions of dilapidated schools. Many say they’re also concerned about stagnant wages, super-sized classes and Gov. Rick Snyder’s controversial plan to divide DPS into two, one to pay off the district’s debt, the other to educate children.” Want some idea of how bad conditions are in Detroit Public Schools? A counselor at a school in the city provided the PBS NEWSHOUR with a description of some of the terrible problemsteachers and students are faced with. “Exposed wires hang from missing ceiling tiles. Watermarks from leaks abound. Kids either sit in freezing classrooms with their coats on or strip off layers because of stifling heat,” she complains. “How can you teach or learn in conditions like these?” Her account lists many other problems at her school.
Most Educated City in the U.S.
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
The U.S. Census Bureau recently came out with its rankings of themost “educated” city in this country. Any guesses before I spill the beans? [Spoiler alert: Cover your eyes if you don’t want to see the results.] Number 1 is Washington, D.C.; number 2 is San Jose. One other city was in the top 10 with San Francisco checking in at #3. Valerie Strauss has a brief item about the data on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post. She pointed out “that 2014 marked the first time that more women than men held a bachelor’s degree or higher — 30.2 percent to 29.9 percent.”
Standardized testing and materials publishing behemoth Pearson is shedding over 4,000 jobs or about 10% of its worldwide workforce in an effort to cut costs as profits have continued to decline. BBC NEWS has the latest developments. “The restructuring will include merging all Pearson’s businesses producing courseware material for teachers,” the item reveals. “Its assessment businesses in North America will also be integrated.”
The Teaching Profession
And finally, the “Ed News” has featured, over the course of its life, a number of items explaining what it means to be a teacher. Here’s another one titled “Just A Teacher!” that appears on the PUBLIC ED blog. It ties into the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday holiday from earlier in the week. “We are not ‘just teachers’, but we are advocates and activists standing for the students of our schools and our peers who teach them,” the author concludes. “So, before you say, ‘just a teacher’ again, remember the charge that lies with the phrase.” A California teacher is under fire for buying laptop computers for her students. Find out why in a story fromThe Fresno Bee. She certainly meant well but ran afoul of district procedures regarding approval of equipment purchases. If you were the superintendent of her Chowchilla Union High School District, how would you react?
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
Member of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.