Ed News, Friday, January 29, 2016 Edition


           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking a short break.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, February 9.]
“The essence of education is, in the words of William James, to teach a person what deserves to be valued,
 to impart ideals as well as knowledge, to cultivate in students the ability to distinguish the true and good 
from their counterfeits and the wisdom to prefer the former to the latter.” 
― William J. BennettChoosing the Right College: 
Single-Sex Schools
An op-ed in Mondays L.A. Times, highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News,” that discussed the drawbacks of single-sex schools, drew the ire of a single letter-to-the-editor that appears in Wednesday’s paper.  It was written by the director of girls education at the Young Women’s Leadership Network.  “Providing inner-city girls a choice to pursue a rigorous single-sex public education,” she argues, “with supports similar to the best private schools, means that they too now have access to an outstanding education and better future.”
Election 2016
Peter Greene’s CURMUDUGUCATION blog has a 2-part analysis of Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s newly released education plan.  Part 1 of the “Jebucation Follies” is titled “The Conservative Conundrum” and can be accessed by clicking here.  It includes a link to the original document (10 pages).  Part 2 is titled “The Nuts, Bolts and Screws.”  “To me it looks like rehashed reformsterism with a side order of Same Old Thing We’ve Had for the Past Decade.  There’s not a new idea in sight, and not a single old idea that comes equipped with an example of how well it worked anywhere,” Greene concludes.  “I suppose Bush can get points for having scrubbed Common Core from his resume, but it’s going to take a lot more than that and sucking up to all the venture vultures who want their slice of money baked in an edu-charter pie to resuscitate the Bush shot at the Presidency.  Certainly, I don’t see anything new and exciting or worn and practical about which to get edu-excited.”
Something REALLY Scary
Were you aware that the unelected emergency manager, appointed by Michigan Gov. Scott Snyder, who made the unilateral decision to switch the City of Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the polluted and highly toxic Flint River causing that city’s ongoing water catastrophe is now the unelected head of the Detroit Public Schools?  Teachers in that school system staged a one day walkout recently to protest unsafe conditions that include, among others, large class sizes, under staffing and rat and mold infested and crumbling classrooms.  DEMOCRACY NOW! has a short video segment about this scary (how could this happen?) story!  You can view the video (4:41 minutes) and/or read the transcript by clicking here
Value-Added Models (VAMs)
The PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA (PAA) website is calling for an end to teacher evaluations that rely on student test scores andvalue-added models for rating teachers.  They believe the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens the door to this outcome.  This piece also includes a link to the full, 2-page report with references and a link to a 2-page “Fact Sheet” on VAMs.               Several weeks ago the “Ed News” highlighted the video of a talk delivered by David Berliner in Australia about the many pitfalls ofusing student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on her VAMboozled blog, believes it to be such a valuable source of information about using test scores to rate teaches and valued-added models that she transcribed the key elements of the speech so everyone would have a hard copy of it.  Berliner offered 14 reasons why using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers was “nearly worthless.” which she includes in her piece.  Amrein-Beardsley also has a link to his original speech (it’s about an hour long) if you’d like to access it again or for the first time.
Friedrichs v CTA
A high school math teacher in New York City pens an “open letter” in the “PROVE IT” column in EDUCATION WEEK to the plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case explaining how their position coulddo harm to students and the teaching profession.  “The plaintiffs in Friedrichs,” he maintains, “would have you believe they are working to end political speech in education, but the real impact of their success would be to ensure that politics move to have a more direct impact on schools’ and students’ day-to-day lives.”
The Teaching Profession
John Merrow recently retired after a long and distinguished career in education journalism.  He’s still a strong proponent of public education and teachers.  At his own expense, he’s created some bumper stickers promoting teachers (see below) which he’s selling at cost on his THE MERROW REPORT website.  “One of every 100 Americans is a public school teacher,” he notes in a brief piece accompanying his pitch, “1% of the population.  Of course, teachers are not ‘The One Percent’ that possesses most of our wealth, et cetera.  But teachers ARE the 1% that deserves our support.”  Merrow has one of the stickers on the front bumper of his car and one on the back.  [Ed. note: The “Ed News” makes it a policy not to promote commercial endeavors but I’ve made an exception in this case as the sentiment is so worthy of our attention.  If anyone want to complain, tough!]

Arkansas doesn’t fund its schools at nearly the level they need but the Governor just announced that the state will spend $3 million to hire Teach for America candidates to staff schools in the south and eastern part of the state.  In addition, private donors have added $3 million to hire TFA people to work in schools in Little Rock, the capital.  This is all included in a story in the ARKANSAS TIMES.    [Ed. note: I guess that’s one way to save money so that you can cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations like Walmart.  I mean, what’s more important?]                When teachers get sick they require a substitute to take over their class.  There’s not many professions that do that.  Preparing to be out for a day means leaving lesson plans and preparing materials in advance.  What happens when you are going to be out for an extended period of time?  Karla Duff is a middle school teacher in Iowa and has a practical guide for what to do when you need to be out of your class for more than a day or two.  Her suggestions appear on the “CTQ Collaboratory ” column inEDUCATION WEEK where she answers the question: “How should a teacher get ready for a long-term absence?              EDUCATION WEEK has a new special report titled “Teacher Recruitment: New Challenges, New Strategies.”  “This special report,” the introduction explains, “explores the factors behind the recent teacher shortages in many areas and highlights initiatives designed to improve district hiring processes and tap new pools of prospective educators.  Intended to give education leaders actionable intelligence on the teacher-recruitment landscape today, the stories examine both larger policy issues and more discrete school human resource practices.”  The ED WEEK article highlighted includes links to stories on the topic.

Passage of ESSA
Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, concludes her exclusive conversation about the new Every Student Succeeds Act with David P. Cleary, chief of staff to Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.  In Part 9 of the Q & A she asks: “How does ESSA affect Common Core?  Some say ESSA ‘locks in’ CCSS.  True or false.”  Cleary responds in his “short” answer: “States are completely, totally, 100 percent free to set their standards on their own and relegate the Common Core State Standards to history, if they choose.”  He provides much more detail to Ravitch’s query in his “long” answer.  Ravitch includes links to all 9 parts of her interesting conversation with David Cleary or you can also find them in the Jan. 19, 22 and 26 editions of the “Ed News.”
Common Core and Testing
States around the U.S. have been raising the scores on their Common Core assessments to mark the level where students are considered “proficient.”  A new study from EducationNextfeatures the intriguing data.  “Since 2011, 45 states have raised their standards for student proficiency in reading and math,” it begins, “with the greatest gains occurring between 2013 and 2015.  Most states set only mediocre expectations for students for nearly 10 years after the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Now, in the wake of the Common Core campaign, a majority of states have made a dramatic move forward.”               EDUCATION WEEK has a handy interactive map with standardized test results from 2014-15 for all the states that have reported scores.  It indicates which test they used, PARCC, SBAC or other and by clicking on an individual state you can view the test results.  “The 2014-15 school year marked a big change for many states,” it points out, “because they switched to tests that for the first time reflect the Common Core State Standards.”                TheDA–District Administration website publishes a newsletter for K-12 administrators nationwide.  It’s January edition features a poll about attitudes regarding Common Core and Testing.  In answers to a query about whether the opt-out movement will grow in their state, 60% either strongly agreed or agreed while only 24% strongly disagreed or disagreed.  Some of the other responses were equally surprising.  “Resistance and frustration over standardized assessments and learning standards,” the introduction to the survey suggests, “may have reached critical mass,” at least as far as administrators are concerned.  
The Case Against School Choice
The corporate “reformers” and some billionaires and their foundations (Gates, Walton, Broad, et. al.) have, as one of their main goals, the idea of school choice as a way to cure what ails the public schools.  That, along with vouchers, charters and privatization constitute their main agenda.  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG, dissects the idea of school choice in an essay titled “Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice.”  “On the surface of it, school choice sounds like a great idea.  Parents will get to shop for schools,” he begins, “and pick the one that best suits their children. . . . .  But that’s not at all what school choice actually is.  In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.”  Singer proceeds to list 10 reasons why school choice is not good for parents, students or the public schools.               Tomorrow marks the end of National School Choice Week (Jan. 24-30), an annual celebration of things like charters, vouchers, online schools, magnets, private schools and homeschooling.  You can read all about it on the National School Choice Week (NSCW) website.             In response to the above event, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette has an editorial against vouchers in that state.  Despite the claims of success of the program by supporters “though the number of voucher recipients grew by 13 percent this school year, there is no evidence tax dollars are being spent effectively.  Instead of approving two voucher expansion bills, lawmakers should instead call for a comprehensive and independent study of Indiana’s five-year-old entitlement program,” the piece continues.  “Do they truly believe support of private schools is an effective use of tax dollars, or do they fear that data on Indiana’s program will reveal the same results as voucher evaluations elsewhere?”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a peek at who and what is behind the National School Choice Week organization and event.  He reviews what some other writers have discovered about the group and finds some rather enlightening things “The reality is that what most people really want, the guarantee of a high quality public school accessible to all students,” Bryant concludes, “is a rapidly diminishing opportunity in this country.  Any staged political event trying to sell you a product called ‘school choice’ is just an empty song and dance.”
Corporate “Reform”
Next Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 heralds the end of this year’s football season.  The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) has created a graphic that they title the “Ed Reformers Playbook.”  Here’s what it looks like:
Inline image 1 
If you need some verification of this list check out number 2–“Starve Schools of Funding.”  Don’t think that’s taking place?  The Washington Post features a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics that notes that per pupil funding for K-12 public schools fell in 2013 for the third year in a row.  If schools don’t get the money they need class sizes increase, school conditions deteriorate, experienced educators quit, test scores decline and the corporate “reformers” are quick to scream how the schools are “failing” and we need more charters, vouchers and school choice.  Don’t believe that’s taking place?  See the items under the heading “The Case Against School Choice” above.  Check out the map at the beginning of the Washington Post article and the chart at the end to see how California (or any other states you might wish to) fares.  You can read the full report (52 pages) from the NCES titled “Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2012-13 (Fiscal Year 2013) First Look” by clicking here.  Page 7-9 of the study has per pupil spending by the largest districts in the country. 
New LAUSD Supt.
Howard Blume has an extended front-page profile in yesterday’sL.A. Times of new LAUSD Supt. Michelle King.  It follows her career from kindergarten in LAUSD to Palisades High, to UCLA, to teaching stints at Porter Junior High and Wright Middle School, vice principal and then principal at Hamilton High and finally into administrative positions at the district’s downtown headquarters.  She’s been connected to LAUSD almost her entire life as a student, teacher, administrator and now superintendent.  “If there’s not much recent public evidence by which to evaluate King’s suitability for one of the most important positions in education,” the reporter explains, “it’s because 10 years ago the district swallowed King into the upper reaches of its labyrinthine bureaucracy.  In a home movie of her life, that would be the point at which we switch from vibrant color into grainy black and white.”
Student Earns Perfect Score on AP Calculus Test
A 17-year-old Lincoln High School (LAUSD) senior, Cedrick Argueta, earned  a perfect score on his AP Calculus test according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Of the 302,531 students to take the notoriously mind-crushing test,”  it notes, “he was one of only 12 to earn every single point. . . . Cedrick and his classmates took the AP Calculus AB exam, a 3-hour and 15-minute test administered by the nonprofit College Board for possible college credit, in May.  Cedrick learned over the summer that he had scored a 5 – the top score – on the exam but had no idea he’d gotten every single question right until last week.”  The item includes a brief video profile (1:32 minutes) of Cedrick.
Charter Schools Versus Magnets
Anyone curious as to why charter schools in L.A. are getting more federal dollars than magnet schools?  That’s the rather startling reality as reported by a federal lobbyist for the LAUSD, Joel Packer, to the district’s school board.  The LA SCHOOL REPORT has the disquieting details.  “For all the successful magnet schools in LA Unified and elsewhere, they are not attracting as much federal support as charter schools,” the item begins.  “That was a stark message from the district’s federal lobbyist, who told a district board committee this week that Washington is increasing national support for charter schools by nearly 32 percent but by only 6 percent for magnet schools, a difference that surprised some of the school board members.”  Packer suggested the reason this is happening has to do with money and political clout in Washington.  Isn’t that always, or nearly always, the case?
Porter Ranch Gas Leak
A report in today’s L.A. Times indicates that all schools within a 5-mile radius of the SoCalGas company’s Porter Ranch gas leak with be getting air purifiers provided by the utility. 18 schools are affected with the largest being Granada Hills Charter High School.  “The school requested the purifiers even though the telltale odor has not reached the campus,” the article relates, “according to administrators. The gas company also is providing active carbon filters that will be installed in all heating and air conditioning units.”
Over-Worked Students
And finally, are parents, teachers and society, in general, over-burdening children with too many activities and overloading students with too much work?  That’s the premise of an op-ed in today’s L.A. Times by Vicki Abeles, author and documentary film director and producer.  [Ed note: Several ALOED members viewed a screening of her film “Race to Nowhere” several years ago as part of the group’s Educational Film Series.]  Her piece is titled “How Not to Raise a Workaholic.”  “Parents and educators tend to fear that less homework and more down time will make things ‘easy’ for students,” she concludes, “removing challenge, rigor and purpose from their academic lives.  Let us free ourselves of that false notion.  There are many ways to succeed in life and many paths to a sufficient and satisfying livelihood.  None of them require childhood burnout.”

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



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