Monthly Archives: February 2016

Ed News, Friday, February 26, 2016 Edition

 The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
               “Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then…do something. 
               Don’t just stand there, make it happen.” 
― Lee Iacocca

Letters to the Times

The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a second “Capitol Journal” column by George Skelton that appeared in the Feb. 15thL.A. Times about how to attract young people into the teaching profession.  It prompted two letters in last Thursday’s paper that seconded his suggestion of increasing teacher pay.               A pair of letters appeared in last Friday’s Times concerning an op-ed in last Tuesday’s paper about how the LAUSD was “neglecting black students.”  [Ed. note: I neglected to include the link to that article which you can find by clicking here.]  The first was written by Stu Bernstein a former administrator with the district who concurred with the op-ed’s view. 
 
The Teaching Profession
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides all Americans with freedom of speech.  Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs), senses a growing trend that is attempting to silence that right among teachers.  She cites two examples in Ohio and Mississippi.  “A new trend,” she worries, “has appeared on the horizon – laws that silence teachers!   In most states teachers are not allowed to engage in political activity while in school but what has appeared in the last few months, thanks to lawmakers in Ohio and Mississippi, is frightening.”               Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, opines about the teaching profession and free speech.  He headlines his essay with an important question: “Should Teachers Have Strong Opinions?”  “I am an opinionated person.  I am also a public school teacher.  Those two things should not be mutually exclusive,” he writes.  “You should not have to give up the one to be able to do the other.  Teachers should not have to relinquish their judgment in order to run an effective classroom.  In fact, you might expect good judgment to be a prerequisite to doing the job well.  Yet it seems many people disagree.  They like their teachers tame, docile and opinion-free.  That’s just not me,” he continues.  “Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying teachers should instruct their students to think just like them.  I’m not saying they should indoctrinate or unduly influence the young people in their care.”               The “Ed News” has, unfortunately, published a number of “Why I’m Quitting Teaching” stories over the past several years as educators get increasingly fed up and can’t take it any more as low pay, poor working conditions and blame for what ails education pile up.  It’s time to turn the tables with this uplifting story from EDUCATION WEEK titled “Why I Plan to Stay in Teaching.”  It’s written by Justin Minkel, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher in Arkansas.  He offers 3 solid reasons (#1 is “The Kids”) why he plans to keep teaching until he’s a happy old man.  “These gloomy tales of departure also demand an equal and opposite reaction: stories by teachers who have chosen to stay,” he writes.  “Those of us who plan to teach for the rest of our careers need to speak up about why we have made that choice.”  If you are feeling burned out or need a boost after a tough week (month, year) sit down with your favorite beverage and recharge your batteries as you read his piece over the weekend.  You’ll feel better after you do.  Guaranteed!!!               Need an assist with that lesson or how to handle that unruly student?  Welcome to the 21st century and online teacher-coaching services.  THE HECHINGER REPORT describes this new type of teacher support program that works with both neophytes and veteran educators.  It profiles several different plans providing these services and zeroes in on a couple of teachers who have made good use of what they offer.  “EdConnective is among a handful of startups and education nonprofits offering virtual coaching,” the article relates, “both to new teachers struggling to control their classrooms and to experienced teachers hoping to boost critical thinking and engagement.  Virtual coaching’s backers promise teachers a sustained high dose of feedback, personalized action plans for their classrooms and follow-up during implementation, three vital features missing from most professional development according to a parade of recent reports.”
 
Charter School Protest
You’ve certainly heard of the labor protest called a “walk-out.”  But what about a “walk-in?”  That’s what UTLA and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools organized last Wednesday to protest plans to expand charter schools in the LAUSD.  The action took place at several campuses around the district.  Similar events took place in other cities around the country as detailed by a story in last Thursday’s L.A. Times.  “Union representatives,” it reports, “said the event was . . . . an effort to take back schools ‘for the public, for teachers, for students,’ and away from the ‘billionaire privatizing agenda,’ said United Teachers Los Angeles spokeswoman Anna Bakalis.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, explains “What School Walk-Ins Teach Us,” referring to the the events above that involved over 900 schools in 30 cities around the country.  He suggests that the widespread labor actionproves that the American public has not given up on its school system despite what the corporate “reformers” and privatizers would have you believe. “What’s A ‘Walk-In?’  Walking into schools – as opposed to walking out – is a symbolic gesture of support for public education,” he responds, “and an opportunity for concerned citizens and the media to see the conditions and challenges these schools face.  The walk-in concept originated in North Carolina and St. Paul, Minnesota, where teachers and students – unable or unwilling to walk out of schools – held walk-ins to voice their concerns, educate their communities, and galvanize support for public schools.” Bryant describes what took place in several other cities including Los Angeles.
 
Undocumented Students Threatened With Deportation
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of the federal Department of Homeland Security has been cracking down on undocumented minors who entered the U.S. to avoid violence and threats in their Central American home countries.  Six high school students were arrested in North Carolina and are now being held in federal detention centers in the south according to a story on the Global Voices website.  Teachers and the local school board are protesting the government’s actions.  “Support for the students is growing.  A vigil was held in Charlotte on February 12,”  it points out, “for the teens who are in ICE prisons awaiting deportation, despite the fact that none of them have criminal records, all of them are now either 18 or 19 years old having crossed the border as minors, all have legitimate fears about returning to their country of origin (which should qualify them for refugee consideration), and all are, by DHS’s own standards, low priority for arrest and deportation.”
 
LAUSD Graduation Rates
 Despite warnings to the contrary, graduation rates in the LAUSDare projected to reach some truly high levels this year.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times details the turnaround.  “The early grim news had arrived in December,” the piece relates. “At the time, only 54% of seniors were projected to graduate based on stiffer requirements that took effect for this year. The figure would represent a free fall from last year’s 74% rate — despite more than a decade of preparing for the higher standards.  Then came the seeming impossible,” it continues.  “As of the beginning of February — after a three-week winter break and one month of school — the estimated graduation rate rose to 63%.  And officials say they are optimistic the rate will rise much higher, perhaps to 80%.”  One reason: online classes, and that raises some additional issues.               Two letters in Wednesday’s Times reacted to the story above regarding the possibility of the LAUSD achieving its highest graduation rates ever.  Both were critical of some of the policies and methods the district is utilizing to achieve those result.               A follow-up article to the first one in this section appeared in Wednesday’s paper.  It described how the LAUSD board, at their meeting on Tuesday, reacted to the news that graduation rates may reach 80% this year and why they are on the increase.  “The beleaguered Los Angeles Board of Education,” it begins, “had that rare moment Tuesday when it could celebrate good news that verged on the spectacular: The nation’s second-largest school system seems headed for a record graduation rate despite more rigorous standards and despite fears — as recently as last week — that half of students would not make it into their caps and gowns.”   An editorial in today’s Times is uncertain about the LAUSD’s attempt to stiffen graduation requirements  and wonders about the district’s use of questionably rigorous online “credit-recovery” classes for students to make up credits they failed to earn in the past.  The piece is skeptical of the jump in the graduation rates over the past several months due to the latter.  “Setting high standards for graduation is a fine idea, but they must be achievable or else they can be counterproductive,” it concludes.  “And once they’re set, students must be helped to meet them fair and square.  Not through shortcuts or last minute brush-ups.  That means building a solid scaffold of curriculum, instruction and other programs that improve actual learning, which was supposed to be the goal all along.”
 
Chinese Students Visit U.S. Schools
Students from China always seem to excel on those international tests and their country is held up as an exemplar of how to educate children today.  So what kinds of impressions did a group of 60 kids from China have about U.S. schools after spending several weeks in classrooms in Tacoma, WA?   An interesting piece from The Tacoma News Tribune describes what the Chinese students experienced here.  “While many Americans admire the high test scores produced by students in China on international tests,”  it relates, “Chinese parents are interested in having their children learn the independence and creativity they see in American students.”
Death of Novelist Harper Lee
The death of “To Kill A Mockingbird” author Harper Lee last Friday had a profound impact on millions of students and teachers.  The “Education” column in Saturday’s L.A. Times relates how the death of Lee resonated with  both educators and their pupils in L.A. who read her Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece.  “The novel became a staple in classrooms across the country,” it explains, “as people of all ages found resonance in its timeless characters, including Scout, the precocious narrator who gives us her account of the wrongly accused Tom Robinson and his defense by her trial attorney father, Atticus Finch.”
 
Election 2016
The executive director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER, a pro-charter proponent of school privatization (despite the “democratic” name) prefers Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders because of the former’s stance on charters.  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, finds that to be a great reason to back Bernie Sanders as the Democratic candidate for president.  “If an odious organization like DFER is in favor of Clinton,” Singer wonders, “shouldn’t the rest of us back Sanders?”             The field of presidential contenders has been winnowed down from about 17 Republicans to 5 and from 3 Democrats to 2.  How do the remaining candidates stack up on education issues?  EDUCATION WEEKoffers another of their “Election Guides.”  This one focuses on 5 key issues including early-childhood education, charter schools, The Ed. Dept., Common Core and K-12 funding among others and what the individual contenders’ positions are.             Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall gathering in South Carolina yesterday ahead of the Democratic primary in that state tomorrow.  She took time to expound on her proposals to expand the school day and year as reported by Anthony Cody on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  
 
Science Bowl Competition
This is not only the season for basketball, hockey, golf and tennis.  Saturday found almost 240 students from 25 high schools around the city locked in fierce competition during the L.A. Department of Water and Power’s Science Bowl in which the “athletes” demonstrated their knowledge in subjects like math, science and technology.  The winning team was seeking a trip to Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl.  Check out a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times for all the exciting results and to find out which team was victorious.  “The purpose of the Science Bowl,” the article mentions, “is to encourage high school students from all backgrounds to pursue studies and careers in math, science and technology fields.  More than $25,000 will be presented to members of teams who place among the top four in the buzzer competition and top four in the Water and Power Community Credit Union Hands-on Competition.”
 
“Acting” U.S. DoE Sec. John King Faces Confirmation Hearing
When long-serving U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan stepped down in December, Pres. Obama named John King  as “acting” secretary because the president didn’t believe he could get his nominee approved by the Republican controlled Senate (see the ongoing battle over a needed Supreme Court nominee).  Recently, Obama received signals the GOP leadership in the Senate may be amenable to the King nomination so hearings began yesterday before the Senate education committee.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to now-retired Long Island high school principal Carol Burris, a staunch opponent of King since he was New York State Commissioner of Education, who pens a piece titled “Three Key Things to Know About Obama’s New Education Chief.”  “The new Every Student Succeeds Act — the federal education law that succeeds No Child Left Behind — is supposed to move educational policy in a new direction.  Its implementation requires open communication,” she concludes, “flexibility and a willingness to let states do the work of school improvement with minimal federal interference.  John King’s history as New York’s education commissioner calls into question his ability to get that job done.  As New Yorkers learned, leadership matters a lot.”               The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) is urging everyone to contact Senate Education Committee Chair Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to turn down King’s appointment as Sec. of Education.              In light of the hearings on the confirmation of John King (see the first item in this section) here’s an interesting question [Ed. note: You may not think so.] posed in the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK:“How Many Education Secretaries Have Been K-12 Classroom Teachers?”  FYI: The U.S. Dept. of Education was created in 1980 under Pres. Jimmy Carter. In all 11 different secretaries served under 6 presidents (including Mr. King).  So, how many do you think were full time K-12 classroom teachers?  [Full disclosure: John King has teaching and administrative experience but most has been in charter schools.]  You also might want to ask how important it is for DoE secretaries to have teaching experience?         Are you sitting down, because you may not believe what I’m about to write?  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, seems to come out in FAVOR of John King as the secretary of Education.  But if you read his full piece carefully and completely you’ll notice his reasons are rather convoluted and is that “endorsement” really tongue-in-cheek?  “I’m just hoping that King can do for the nation what he did for New York,” Greene concludes.  “Spread opt out across the country.  Galvanize parents.  Tout reformster ideas with so little sense or restraint that even the most casual observers will start to think, ‘Hey, those seem like really bad policies.’  What do you think?  Did I read his column correctly?         The confirmation hearing for John King to assume the job as Secretary of the Department of Education kicked off in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee yesterday.  EDUCATION WEEK describes the friendly and collegial nature of the questioning, at least so far.  The committee plans to vote on the nomination on March 9, and, if approved, send it on to the full Senate for debate and a vote.
 
Student Privacy
How would you feel if personal student data like social security numbers, home addresses and mental health records were going to be revealed to two nonprofit groups based on a federal court ruling regarding a special education case?  That is what’s in the offing according to an item in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The groups allege that the state is not providing a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities, as is required by law,” the article reports.  “School districts began notifying parents this week that the data would be provided to comply with a recent court ruling in the case.”               An L.A. Times editorial yesterday weighs in on the issue of releasing personal student data as a result of a federal judge’s ruling (see above).  The piece argues for the information being kept private and offers some suggestions if that isn’t possible.  “One reasonable compromise might be for the California Department of Education to redact students’ names, addresses and the like, while agreeing to turn over the useful underlying data in an anonymized format,”  it proposes.  “But the state is not arguing for such a compromise.  Instead, it is vehemently objecting in court to providing pretty much any demographic material at all, arguing that in some cases — such as when a student is the only one of a particular race in a small school — the information, even if anonymous, could be used to figure out who that student is.”
 
Standards-Based Grading
First it was the roll-out of the Common Core and then the assessments that are aligned to them.  The latest catch-word is “standards-based grading” and it has to do with how teachers individually evaluate their students’ learning and understanding of the Common Core standards.  If you were comfortable with your old classroom grading system you may need to make some modifications.  The author of this piece in the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK teaches English and Language Arts at a middle school in North Carolina.  She offers some practical guidelines for “Putting Standards-Based Grading into Action.”  “To begin, let me share my interpretation of aligning my grading to standards,” she writes, “instead of assignments.  Standards-based grading aims to communicate how a student is performing against a set of essential standards. A student is ‘judged’ on what she knows, not how many assignments she has completed.”
 
LAUSD Student Dress Codes
A situation regarding a dress code violation back in October at the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts (LAUSD) in downtown has led to a reappraisal of how those code infractions are handled so that students don’t have to miss valuable class time because of them.  A story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times describes the particular incident and its ramifications.  The local area administrator wants to be sure the school’s dress code is aligned with district policy.              The above item prompted one letter-to-the-editor published in yesterday’s Times.  It offers a simple solution to dress code issues–uniforms.
 
Investing in Education Can Yield BIG Profits
Can you keep a secret?  The next big opportunity for private investors to make huge profits is in the field of . . . . EDUCATION.  Shush!  Don’t tell anyone!  Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a commentary titled “How to Get Rich From Public Schools (Without Actually Educating).”  “So how do you get your hands on some of those delicious taxpayer greenbacks?   You gotta’ invest.  No!  I don’t mean increase education budgets for traditional public schools that can barely make ends meet!  I mean invest in shiny new charter schools.  Here’s how it works.  Lend money to a for-profit company to build a new charter school.  If you do it just right, you’re almost guaranteed to double or triple your money in seven years.”  If that all sounds too good to be true, read Singer’s article.  He lays out the details for you.  Just think, if you make enough money you can give up that low-paying, lousy working conditions, under-appreciated teaching job and retire to the life of Riley. 
 
Is Flint Water Disaster Repeating in Calif. School? 

“High levels of lead have been discovered in drinking fountains at Healdsburg Elementary School’s main building, county school and public health officials said Wednesday.” That’s how a story from theSonoma Press Democrat begins amid visions of what happened in Flint, MI.  The lead contamination was discovered over the Thanksgiving break and levels were found to be almost 60 times above what the federal EPA requires for corrective action.  One wonders how many other schools have similar toxic situations brewing as elevated levels of lead are particularly dangerous in children.


Vergara vs California
Remember the Vergara case from 2014?  It’s baaaaaack.  The landmark ruling in June of that year by an L.A. Superior Court judge tossed out tenure and seniority rights for teachers among other things. The decision was appealed by the defendants and their allies including Gov. Brown and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.  Arguments were heard before a 3-judge state appeals court in L.A. yesterday.  A story in today’s L.A. Timesreviews the original case and discusses some of the arguments presented and questions raised during the appeal process.  The court has 90 days to issue its ruling and observers predict that the losing side will appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.             EDUCATION WEEK’s “Teacher Beat” column has an item titled “Understanding the Vergara Teacher-Tenure Appeal: What You Need to Know” that provides, in a simple Q & A format, the basics about the original case, the appeal process and what comes next.  The information is informative, interesting and easy to understand.  If you are at all unclear about what Vergara entails and the stakes involved, don’t skip this one.  “In my 11 years covering education and teachers,” the author of the piece begins, “nothing has even come close to generating the level of sheer angst, anger, and high-pitched PR battles that have accompanied Vergara v. California, a case challenging nearly every aspect of California’s teacher tenure rules.”
 
Charter Schools 
A recent edition of the “Ed News” featured a secret video taken in an Eva Moscowitz charter school in Brooklyn, New York, of a first grade teacher berating a student for an incorrect response during a math lesson.  The segment went viral and elicited a not particularly effective response from Moscowitz.  An article in The New York Times features the mother of the child in the video who has since withdrawn her daughter from the charter and enrolled her in the neighborhood public school.  “In two lengthy interviews, [the parent] said that she did not know what was happening in her daughter’s classroom before she saw the video,”  the piece explains.  “She said that she was so upset by what she saw — and by the network’s rush to rally around  [the teacher in question], while showing little concern for her daughter or other students — that she took the girl out of the school in late January.”              Dave Powell, author of “The K-12 Contrarian” column inEDUCATION WEEK, reviews some of the “scandals” surroundingEva Moscowitz’s Success Academy charters in New York City and wonders why she and her network are still held up as some kind of successful alternative to the public schools.  Powell references a column by John Merrow (link included) that tries to describe  Moskowitz as “Education’s [Richard] Nixon” only to realize that analogy is a total stretch.  “Actually, now that I think of it,”  Powell concludes, “maybe Merrow was right.  Threats, intimidation, arrogance—maybe Moskowitz is the new Nixon after all.”              The NBC NEWS website has an investigative piece on online charter schools titled “Online Charter Schools Tested by Setbacks and Self-Inflicted Blows.”  “Online charter schools have soared in popularity in recent years,” it reports, “based on a deceptively simple promise: delivering quality instruction — anytime and anywhere — to any student with an Internet connection.  But new questions about the quality of that education, and how the schools operate, are threatening to stifle that growth.  Supporters of traditional public school systems say the online schools lack accountability and are too dependent on for-profit school managers.  High-profile scandals have added to the perception.”
 
A Way Forward for Real Education Reform
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK,reviews what he believes are the discredited attempts at corporate “reform” and offers some encouraging ideas for a “New Deal” in education.  He discusses a revitalized project called The Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) that began in 2008, was moribund for a few years, and now is making a comeback.  It wants to focus on issues of equity and promote the concept of community schools. 
 
The High School of the Future
What would high schools look like if students could design them?  A group of 6th and 7th graders at the Brooklyn Charter Lab School were given the task of creating the school of their dreams.  THE HECHINGER REPORT describes what they came up with.  “The day would start later and end earlier,” the kids proposed.  “Testing and school uniforms would be banned.  There would be dancing in the hallways.  And – some changes adults might get behind, too – there’d be more art, more projects and more computers.”
 
Slam Poem on Education
And finally, Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column inThe Washington Post over to 2 high school students from Florida who have written a slam poem about the state of education today from their perspective.  If you don’t know what a slam is Strauss provides an explanation and after reading the students’ work you’ll get the idea.  Their work is titled “Education Shmedumacation” and includes these lines as a sample:  
       “Education is clearly a priority in our nation and nations elsewhere as well.
And because this subject is valued so highly by our society
I stand here today to tell you how much it sucks.
Oh, excuse my language, I mean, how much it displeases me to my core, my common core.”
Enjoy this and, BTW, they earned an A+ on the assignment.
 
                                                                                                               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)
Member of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, February 16, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             
 
[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” needs to take a short break.  Look for the next edition on Friday, February 26.]
 
      “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today,
are not popular as places of education and teachers, 
but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept
to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parent.” 

                                                                                                                                                                ― George Bernard Shaw

Community Schools
The Feb. 9th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about“community schools” and how they were being utilized in New York City.  The Center for Popular Democracy has a new report titled “Community Schools: Transforming Struggling Schools into Thriving Schools.”  An introduction to the report can be found on the group’s website.  “For at least a decade, the dominant idea about how to improve outcomes for children and youth has focused on control and compliance; holding adults accountable for raising test scores.  This approach has proved least effective for our most vulnerable students,” it begins.  “In our search for silver bullets, reformers and policymakers alike have overlooked strategies that have long shown promise and for which there is mounting evidence of success.  Community schools is one of these strategies.”  The piece includes a link to the full report (60 pages) which includes profiles of several community schools around the country including one in Los Angeles (p. 33-36).  Thanks to ALOED member Ron Oswald for suggesting this article.
Gov. of Maine Appoints Himself to State Dept. of Ed
No, I don’t make this stuff up.  When the governor of Maine, PaulLePage, couldn’t convince his state legislature to appoint the person he wanted to head the state DoE, he simply appointed himself.  Honest, I didn’t make this up.  Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog provides the bizarre details and, no, he didn’t make this up either. Greene outlines some of the other wacky things LePage has said and done and concludesLePage is all about charters and choice and an unfortunate attachment to competency-based education, and his tenure as his own education commissioner should keep that rolling right along.  It’s probably just as well; the only person who could possibly run the department in the full-on crazy manner preferred by LePage isLePage.  One can only hope that he will extend this level ofwacknuttery to his entire government, eventually declaring himself King of Maine.”
Common Core & Testing
The Wall Street Journal has a story titled “The Common Core Has Its Supporters” that focuses on a particular elementary school in New York.  Readers of the piece might get the impression that everyone at the school supports the standards.  “Some teachers [on the campus] have Common Core apps on their phones,” it reports, “so they can check its goals quickly.  Jennifer Chernis, a special-education teacher, said some teachers were resistant because of a fear of change but joined in when they saw students succeed.”                The Badass Teachers Association (BATs)was quick to respond to the article above.  One parent, who has a child in the district, offers an opposing view.  “In closing, we all share the goal of giving our children the best educational experience we can,” he explains, “and I respect the professionals who tout the standards the right to their own opinion but I must respectfully disagree with them.  We must provide our children with a challenging but developmentally appropriate curriculum and I believe we must expose our children to all of the academic subjects in a more balanced manner.”  In addition, several New York teachers add their reasons for being against the Common Core in a piece tacked on to the end of the first one.              Leave it to a third grader to explain what’s wrong with all those standards and prep time in order to take all those assessments.  Allow Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, to introduce you to Cadence Mulrooney, third grader at the Challenger School [K-8 Science and Math] in Hernando County, Florida as he addresses the local school board.  Strauss has a transcript and video (2:11 minutes) of his presentation.  What does one do for a child who says “I no longer love school and no longer want to go?”   You may want to have some tissues close at hand.
 
California Teacher Shortage
George Skelton’s column in last Monday’s L.A. Times about how to attract young people into the teaching profession (highlighted in the “Ed News”) prompted two letters-to-the-editor that were printed in Sunday’s paper.  “Increasing a teacher corps with quality individuals is not about forgiving college debt or other ideas around the margins,” the first one suggests.  “It’s about competitive starting pay and meaningful raises.”               In a follow-up piece,Skelton writes in his “Capitol Journal” column in yesterday’s Timesabout why young people are not going into the teaching professionin California.  He received a very high volume of responses to his previous item (see above) from veteran educators and quotes from several of those in his latest effort.  “In the last decade, there has been a 70% drop in people preparing to be California teachers,”Skelton indicates.  “Last year, 15,000 new credentials were issued, but 22,000 were needed, says state Supt. of Public Instruction TomTorlakson.”
 
Charter Schools
Thanks to ALOED member Ron Oswald for sending along this item from the DAILY KOS which rather shockingly reports that EvaMoskowitz’s Success Academy charters in New York City areremoving foreign languages from the curriculum and substituting . . . . wait for it . . . . chess!  “It would behoove Eva Moskowitz, as well as anyone else in charge of a school’s curriculum, to rethink their attitudes about foreign language studies and incorporate the subject back into their programs,”  the reporter suggests.  “Not only can it lead to more job opportunities, it can also lead to a greater knowledge of the world in which we live, and thus a more enhanced life.”               Last fall the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the way the state funded charter schools was unconstitutional.  That major setback has not deterred charter proponent Bill Gates.  His foundation is now attempting to get around the court ruling through the political process in his home state and in Massachusetts.  Philanthropic dollars are not easily used to influence the judicial system but can be much more effective when it comes to legislatures and governors according to this story by Anthony Cody on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “The Gates Foundation is ostensibly a charitable enterprise, and enjoys significant tax benefits as a result of this status. Bill Gates himself described the organization’s work a year ago as ‘R & D,’ and asserted that they stay out of the political process.  But two cases from opposite sides of the country show the Gates Foundation playing a growing role in the political process, especially when their most prized strategies are in danger.”               A complaint was formally filed by a public school teacher and parent  today with the California Department of Education against the Magnolia Charter Chain claiming it has improperly used state and federal funds and other financial irregularities.  Karen Wolfe describes the details in a story on her PS connect website.  “Magnolia is headed by Caprice Young, former president of the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD),” the article points out, “and founder of the powerful lobby, the California Charter Schools Association. Under Young’s leadership, Magnolia runs 11 schools, including eight in LAUSD, and recently submitted petitions for eight more schools in Anaheim, LAUSD, Garden Grove, Fremont, and Oceanside. The complaint states that if all eight charter schools were to be approved, the cost to the state of California would be in the billions of dollars.”             Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” featured a secret video taken of a Success Academy Charter teacher berating and chastising a first grade student for making a mistake on a math lesson.  According to Diane Ravitch’sblog, the segment has gone viral and Ravitch includes links to several examples along with her brief comments on the incident.             Success Academy founder Eva Moscowitz promptly called a press conference to defend the teacher and lambaste The New York Times for its negative coverage and “biased” reporting.  ChalkbeatNEW YORK fills you in on those details.               The Washington Post has a blog post on the video that comments onMoscowitz’s reaction blasting The New York Times for the way they handled the video which only seems to have made it into a bigger story. ” Success Academy defenders may take issue with the emphases of the New York Times story, its presentation, its thrust, its language, whatever — but they cannot refute that videotape,’the author maintains,  “Nor did they try: Moskowitz made clear at the press conference that neither she nor Dial [the offending teacher in question] condoned the teacher’s classroom behavior.”           Alan Singer, writing on the HUFFPOST EDUCATION blog, was so upset by what he saw on the video he’s calling for an investigation of the Success Academy chain and the ultimate closure of the entire network of campuses.  He titles his essay “Success Academy’s War Against Children” and he doesn’t mince any words.  “The issue is not just the behavior of an individual teacher.  This is about a charter school network that systematically terrorizes young children,”  Singer complains, “almost all African-American and Latino, to maintain total control over their behavior.”
 
Election 2016
The topic of education has pretty much taken a back seat to most other issues so far in the race for the presidency by both parties.  However, knowledgeable commentator Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, believes there’s “An Emerging New Narrative for Education.”  “For decades,” he suggests, “politicians have told the easy story that our public schools were ‘broken,’ that they lacked ‘accountability,’ and that the way to ‘fix’ them was to impose mandatory outcomes – higher test scores and graduation rates – that would be evidence of better ‘results.’  Now we know that story was flawed.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Thanks to past ALOED president Jill Asbjornsen for forwarding an encouraging item from THE NEW YORKER titled “Stop Humiliating Teachers.”  It can’t understand why teachers are the target of corporate “reformers,” certain politicians and others who blame them for most of the ills plaguing public education today.  The author has a couple of reference to Dana Goldstein’s bookTeacher Wars (a recent ALOED Book Club selection).  “By the time kids from poor families of all races enter kindergarten, they are often significantly behind wealthier children in vocabulary, knowledge, and cognitive skills,” the article perceptively notes.  “Of course, good teachers can help—particularly that single teacher who takes a kid in hand and turns him around.  But, in recent years, teachers have been held responsible for things that may often be beyond their powers to change.  They are being assaulted because they can be assaulted.  The real problem is persistent poverty.”               If you’re retired now or thinking of it in the near future or whenever you may want to keep your eyes on theCalpensions website.  Thanks to ALOED member Darlene Wilson for forwarding an article about a court challenge to a San Diego ballot measure, passed by 66% of voters in June, 2012,  that changed the way most public employees will receive pension benefits.  The initiative is specific to San Diego but depending how the court rules, it could have ramifications statewide.  “San Diego has become,” the item explains, “California’s test of what many public pension advocates fear: a switch to 401(k) plans that frees governments from future retirement debt critics say is unsustainable, but also shifts unpredictable investment risk to employees.”               Many states are experiencing teacher shortages.  [See the item toward the beginning of this edition headlined “California Teacher Shortage.”]  A number of experts have tried to pinpoint why this is happening.  Dave Powell, author of the “K-12Contrarian” column in EDUCATION WEEK suggests you ignore all those other analyses and contemplate his far more simple thesiswhich he describes in his commentary titled “Coming Up Short When it Comes to Teacher Shortages.”  “At the heart of education policy as it relates to teaching,” he suggests, “is a stunningly absurd paradox: we think we’ll get more productive teachers, apparently, by requiring them to do more while compensating them less.  You can have high expectations and couple them with high pay (which we haven’t really tried); or you can pair low expectations with low pay (which we have).  But high expectations with low pay?  Who in the world would sign up for that?  It’s an amazing compliment to the American people that we’re able to produce as many teachers as we do under these conditions.”
 
California Academic Decathlon
It’s official.  Granada Hills Charter High is the winner of the LAUSDAcademic Decathlon competition.  The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at Hollywood High on Friday evening according to an article in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  Marshall High finished second and Franklin High was third.  They and  10 other district schools will advance to the state championships which will be held next month in Sacramento.  The national finals are at the end of April in Anchorage, Alaska.  “Granada Hills has six district titles.  The top district teams are always favorites in the state and national competitions.  Over the last 20 years,” the piece notes, “schools from L.A. Unified have won 20 state contests and 16 national titles.  Granada Hills has four national crowns.”  Those are excellent results for a district that gets knocked for “poor” academics.
 
iPadgateRedux
Ever wonder whatever happened to all those iPads the LAUSD was going to distribute to every student and staff member but eventually pulled the plug on the project amid cost overruns and charges of an unfair bidding process?  You don’t need to understand German to get a kick out of this humorous short video (32 seconds)from snotr.  Want some additional laughs?  Check out some of the comments appended to the end of the link. 
 
The Death of Justice Scalia and theFriedrichs Case 
The unexpected passing of U.S. Supreme Court justice AntoninScalia on Saturday will certainly roil the political landscape and the presidential election this year.  But how does the jurist’s death impact pending cases, particularly Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association?  Howard Blume, in a piece in yesterday’sL.A. Times, briefly reviews the case and finds that Scalia’s passing may be a break for the union movement “In Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., many court watchers had expectedScalia to deliver the deciding vote against unions,” Blumespeculates, “limiting their ability to collect membership dues and other fees.  Without Scalia, a 4-4 split is considered likely.  That would maintain the status quo — a huge win for unions, at least for now.”                EDUCATION WEEK has a feature looking at thelegacy of Judge Scalia regarding education issues.  It reviews a number of school-related cases he ruled on and briefly describes the impact of his death on the Friedrichs case.  “On the major education cases of his era, Scalia consistently voted against the consideration of race in higher education and K-12 schools,” the piece notes, “backed a low wall of separation between church and state, and generally favored school administrators over students and their rights.”              Steven Singer, on hisGADGLYONTHEWALLBLOG, was not at all sad at the demise of Judge Scalia.  I’ll let him explain why: “In his 30 years on the bench, Scalia hurt an awful lot of people.  And I mean real, live people – not ideological constructs, not hypotheticals – but moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons.  The aggregate amount of misery in the world was drastically increased by his being in it,” Singer continues.  “And now that he’s gone, much of that misery may be relieved.”  Singer recounts some of the previous cases Scalia was involved with and references the Friedrichs case.
 
Education Journalism
John Merrow retired last year after a 41-year career in education journalism with PBS.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog in The Washington Post, turns her space over to John Harvey who conducted a wide-ranging interview with Merrow about his distinguished career.  Harvey is the executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable and the author of a number of books and articles about education.  He concluded the Q & A with a question about Merrow’s “biggest fear.”  Merrow“I worry that schools will remain isolated from the larger society and be expected to solve problems for which they are not equipped. We need to stop blathering about the ‘achievement gap’ while isolating children by race and economics. Community schools and the like are essential.”  [Ed. note: See my entry at the start of this edition headlined “Community Schools.”]
 
LAUSD Criticized
“Is LAUSD Neglecting Black Students?” is the title (in the print edition-online it’s slightly different) of an op-ed in today’s L.A. Times.  It’s written by Sikivu Hutchinson, the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project who is also a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign.  She cites some gains the LAUSD had made in dealing with Black students in areas like reducing suspensions and increasing graduation rates but is still critical of how the district deals with these students in regards to AP  and Honors classes and in identifying them for gifted programs.  The author urges newLAUSD Supt. Michelle King to make improving the lot of Black students one of her main priorities.  “Of course, the LAUSD is hardly unique among school districts,”  Hutchinson relates, “in its negligence toward black students. But because of the demographic shift from majority black to Latino in South Los Angeles schools, the culturally specific needs of black students are especially at risk.”
 
Valentine’s Day Postscript
And finally, we leave you with this:  
                                Inline image 1
The poster is from the Badass Teachers Association (BATs)website.
                                                                                                               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)
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

               

Ed News, Friday, February 12, 2016 Edition

 The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
       Monday is the Presidents’ Day Holiday
         Inline image 2
 
               
 “To some education is just a bore; to most education is food for the brain 
             and enrichment for the present and future.” 
UTLA Seeks Dues Increase
Fewer dues paying teachers due to declining enrollments largely as a result of the inroads that charters have made in the LAUSD has led UTLA to seek a dues increase vote of its members.  The union needs the boost in revenues in order to continue fighting charter expansion and fund pivotal school board races according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “The teachers union needs money to fight back.  There are, however, far fewer teachers to pay dues to United Teachers Los Angeles.” it indicates.  “So this week the union asked its 32,000 members — down from 45,000 in 2008 — to raise their dues by nearly a third, to about $1000 per member annually, and also to allow UTLA to pass on to members any future increases in dues owed to state and national parent unions.”               The votes were counted on Wednesday and the results were promptly announced on the UTLA website.  Over 16,000 ballot were cast and the increase passed overwhelmingly with an 82% yes vote.               A follow-up story in yesterday’s L.A. Times reported on the results of the vote involving a dues increase for UTLA (see first item above) and the implications of that outcome.  “Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the additional money is needed to fight well-funded opponents,” it notes, “including foundations and wealthy donors who have sought to reduce teacher job protections, limit union fundraising and spur the growth of nonunion charter schools.”
 
“A Day in the Life of a Principal”
EDUCATION WEEK offers its annual “Photos: A Day in the Life of a Principal” feature.  It includes a slideshow of 54 photos (some are short videos) submitted by principals from around the country that attempt to illustrate what some of their responsibilities are on a typical day.  Each one includes a very brief description of the event by the person who submitted it.  “Our aim is to gather a wide variety of images from school leaders in remote, rural, suburban, urban, and even international settings,” the editors explain by way of introduction, “to show the differences and similarities that principals share in their demanding, yet rewarding jobs.”
 
Charter Schools
An initiative that would repeal the California Charter  Act of 1992was cleared by the Secretary of State to allow the collecting of signatures for a possible appearance on this November’s ballot.  The proposal requires over 300,000 valid signatures to be approved for voter consideration.  Channel 13, the CBS affiliate in Sacramento has the details and a video segment (3:02 minutes) about the story.  “A grassroots coalition,” the piece reports, “is calling California charter schools discriminatory and unconstitutional.”  Keep your eyes out for those petition signature gatherers at your local supermarket or mall.              A coalition of pro-charter groups recently sent a letter to the LAUSD school board, which the “Ed News” highlighted in Tuesday’s edition, complaining about that body’s “unfair” scrutiny of charter applications and renewals.  Something must have gotten lost in translation because the board, on Tuesday, approved several charter applications according to an article posted on the L.A. Times website Wednesday afternoon.  “The Board of Education did reject one proposal for a new charter, but members approved two others,” it discloses.  “Backers withdrew four other start-up petitions rather than face an anticipated thumbs-down.  In addition, one current charter won its bid for another five-year operating agreement even though the L.A. Unified charter division had called for it to be closed.”             If this is what school “choice” entails, count me out.  Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy charters in New York City have a reputation for high academics.  However, a secret video  of an incident in a 1st grade class in Brooklyn during a math lesson calls into question some actions by the teacher.  A story in The New York Timesdescribes the particular situation and mentions some other issues of questionable handling of student behavior.  It includes a video (1:16 minutes) of the incident.  “Success is known for its students’ high achievement on state tests, and it emphasizes getting — and keeping — scores up.  Jessica Reid Sliwerski, 34, worked at Success Academy Harlem 1 and Success Academy Harlem 2 from 2008 to 2011, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal.  She said that, starting in third grade,” the piece relates, “when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.”               The “charter school scandal of the day” involves a massive teacher-led cheating problem at a high school in New Orleans.  The interesting twist to this story is that it was the parents who suspected something was seriously amiss with the school’s test scores and arranged for an investigation.  Guess What?  They were right.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune has a detailed investigative piece about the cheating and how it was systematically uncovered.  “Skeptical of the numbers, the school’s parent organization, the Algiers Charter School Association, launched a 16-month investigation — without telling Landry-Walker’s principal — into what some feared could be widespread, teacher-enabled cheating,” the piece reports.  “The association undertook a detailed analysis of student performance, hired outside lawyers and, for the spring 2015 round of testing, placed independent monitors in every single examination room at its flagship school, according to internal documents.”
 
Teach for America and Randi Weingarten
Did AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten really attend TFA’s 25th reuniongathering in the nation’s capital last weekend?  Answer: Yes.  Why?  I’ll let her answer that question.  She did take quite a bit of flack on Facebook and Twitter for her action.  You can read her response on the Medium website.  “At the end of the day, we can’t bring about the sea change needed in public education by talking only with people who we think agree with us,” she concludes.  “It’s not fun being the person invited to provide the countervailing view, but I’ll keep doing it.  Because I feel that the AFT and our members can provide the path forward to reclaim the promise of public education and to create public schools where parents want to send their kids, students are engaged and educators want to work.  And I’ll take the fight for that vision anywhere I can.”
 
Election 2016
Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished a surprising second with 15.8% of the vote in the Republican primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday after polling in the low single digits since the campaign season commenced.  Does this now make him a major player in the GOP race?  It might, and Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog forThe Washington Post reviews his education record in a piece titled “The Education Mess in Ohio Under Gov. John Kasich.”   “Ohio Gov. John Kasich is campaigning for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination by touting ‘successes’ in his state, including his education record.  But a look at that record,” she maintains, “offers a somewhat different picture than the one he paints. In fact, some see a real education mess created by the Kasich administration since he took office in 2011.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Is it more difficult to teach in a low-income school?  Interesting question but one that may not have a definitive answer.  However,EDUCATION WEEK has a commentary titled “Teachers at Low-Income Schools Deserve Respect.”  It’s written by Bruce Hansen who taught public school for 35 years and is now an adjunct professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.  He’s had experience in both low and high socioeconomic-status schools.  “We need to elevate our respect and the skills for teachers at high-poverty schools,” he suggests.  “Training and support for an add-on credential could go far to contribute to the stability and quality of the teachers who serve our most fragile students.  It is time to recognize and reward these educators for their hard work, so we can stop them from walking out the door.”
 
Transgender Issue Over Locker Room Use
The use of a locker room at a San Diego high school has stirred a debate over transgender rights and privacy issues.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times sorts out the legal aspects involved.  “A teenager who was born female and uses the boys’ locker room at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego has triggered a dispute over a state law that seeks to accommodate transgender students. . . .  The law states that K-12 public school students who are transgender or gender nonconforming.”  the piece explains, “are allowed to participate in classes and activities without regard to their birth sex.  It also allows transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms without regard to their sex at birth.”
 
King Officially Nominated to Head DoE
When U.S. Dept. of Education Sec. Arne Duncan stepped down from his post in December the thinking was that John B. King Jr.would be designated as the “acting” secretary since Democrats were pretty sure they could not get his appointment approved by the Republican controlled Senate.  That strategy has now changed as Pres. Obama officially put the nomination before the Senate according to a story in The Washington Post which reports:  “Officials at the White House had said before the announcement that the president was encouraged by the bipartisan support King has received in Congress, especially the commitment Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has made for a speedy consideration of his nomination.  King, who took office when Arne Duncan stepped down in December, was originally going to remain the acting head of the department for the rest of Obama’s time in office.”
 
Bill Gates and Teacher Preparation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has had several corporate “reform” goals regarding education.  From the “small school movement” to pushing charters they have now turned their focus to altering teacher training programs.  Mercedes Schneider turns her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 over to guest columnist Laura H. Chapman, a retired arts educator, who writes a piece titled “Gates Efforts to ‘Transform’ Teacher Training.”  Chapman concentrates on how Gates Grants are impacting teacher preparation programs in Massachusetts. 

“I think that these latest initiatives from the Gates Foundation are designed to eliminate academic freedom among faculty engaged in teacher preparation,” Chapman summarizes, “to by-pass/override faculty governance of content and requirements for programs, eliminate preparation grounded in scholarship in favor of multiple tests and triage of candidates, and fend off justified criticism of unrelenting quests for standardized and increasingly de-humanized education.”               Schneider had another guest columnist on her blog analyzing the Gates initiatives regarding teaching training which she has links to in the item above or you can find it by clicking here.  This one is penned by James Kirylo, professor of teaching and learning at Southeastern Louisiana University, and is titled “The Selling of Teacher Education (And Why We Should Resist).”  Kirylo writes: “As most know, Bill Gates, through his foundation, has worked hard in an attempt to disturbingly shape K-12 education in his own image.  Next on his radar is teacher preparation—with the awarding of $35 million to a three-year project called Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers funneled through five different projects, one of which is the Texas Tech based University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (U.S. Prep) National Center.”


School Finance

And finally, you might find this hard to believe but Gov. Jerry Brown is opposing a $9 billion school construction bond that will go before California voters in November.  You’ll have to read the story in today’s L.A. Times to discover why he’s against the measure along with some other groups who oppose it.  “When he unveiled his budget plan last month,” it mentions, “the governor said the bond measure would not change the state program that determines how school facilities are built and maintained.  That process prioritizes districts that submit early applications for projects — which Brown said favors affluent districts over cash-strapped ones.”
 
Ana Monnar earned a Master of Science Degree in the area of Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Florida International University (FIU).  Ana Monnar has been teaching for 30 years.  She’s taught second, third, and fourth grades. She also had the opportunity to work as a Reading Curriculum Specialist and Reading Leader.
 
                                                                                                               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)
Member of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, Februay 9, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

           A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
 
 Sunday is Valentine’s Day–
Don’t Forget Your Valentine
 
        Inline image 1
 
“Both of these students- both high school seniors both old enough to vote in the upcoming election-
 thought ‘Al’ Qaeda was a person. At that time the United States had been at war for five and a half years 
and here were two students two young adults leaving the educational system who had never heard of al Qaeda. 
Both by the way had passed the multiple-choice reading section of the state’s high school exit exam.” 
― Kelly GallagherReadicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading 
                         and What You Can Do About It

School Shootings, Bomb Threats on the Increase

The entire LAUSD was shut down for a day in mid-December after threats of violence were received.  According to a piece in Mother Jones, school shootings and bomb threats increased during 2015.  “Amid an atmosphere of insecurity from a bad year of mass shootings in 2015,” it notes, “a wave of violent threats has hit schools across the nation.”   The article proceeds to discuss how the threats are manifested and offers some suggestions on how school administrators should respond.
 
Community Schools
Many people offer suggestions for ways to “improve” the “failing” public school system.  Most ignore the issues of poverty and inequality.  What if someone had a formula for addressing those pressing issues?  yes! magazine has a very intriguing piece titled “A Bold Shift to Make Public Schools Serve Low-Income Students” that puts forward the idea of community schools which it defines as “places of learning that strive not only for academic excellence, but for the holistic development of youth and the strengthening of families and neighborhoods.”  The article goes on to describe how New York City has been working with schools in poor neighborhoods by stressing academics but also providing wrap around services like counseling, health services and much more.  Check this one out.  It offers a possible model that doesn’t require charters or privatization!  [Ed. note: I wonder if those billionaires and their foundations would be willing to pour their money into an idea like this?  I’m not holding my breath!]
 
Unclaimed Lottery Prizes go to Schools
Thursday was the deadline for an unknown winner to claim a $63 million California lottery jackpot.  What happens when prizes are not picked up?  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times walks you through the answer.  “This would be the largest single unclaimed prize in the California lottery’s history,” the reporter writes, “and more than schools usually receive from unclaimed prizes.  Last fiscal year, a total of $27.2 million from unclaimed prizes went to schools.   Keep in mind that even $1.4 billion doesn’t actually translate to very much per student — about $181 per student during the 2015-16 fiscal year, according to education department estimates.  In total, lottery contributions account for less than 2% of total K-12 funding in the state.”
 
New LAUSD Superintendent
The Feb. 4 edition of the LAWEEKLY has a feature article titled “Can Superintendent Michelle King Save LAUSD?”  It reviews her biography and details some of the problems facing the nation’s second largest school district.  They include declining revenues and student enrollments, challenges from charters and political divisions among board members.  “At its peak in 2002, LAUSD educated nearly 750,000 kids.  Today, that number is well under 550,000, and shrinking,” the piece explains.  About half of the loss of children is due to a veritable exodus of all kinds of families to independent charter schools, which educate around 100,000 kids within LAUSD borders, nearly one in six children in the district.  Just as significant is L.A.’s declining birthrate.”
 
More Bad News on the Journalism Front
The “EDUCATION WATCH” column in Wednesday’s L.A. Timesdescribes how the LA SCHOOL REPORT has been taken over by Campbell Brown’s “The Seventy Four” organization.  The LA SCHOOL REPORT was begun 3 years ago amid a contentious school board election.  It was initially a supporter of corporate “reform” and charters but in recent years demonstrated a more neutral stance.  Brown’s takeover signals a possible swing back to the pro-privatization, pro-charter positions of her group.  “The group’s entry into Los Angeles has alarmed union leaders and some supporters of traditional public education,” the Times article relates.  “They say it could undermine trust in the reporting of education controversies. . . . The group’s funders include a roster of charter school supporters, such as the Walton Family Foundation, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund and Bloomberg Philanthropies.  Critics call the Seventy Four an advocacy effort on behalf of a pro-charter school, anti-union agenda.  The organization, critics say, uses opinion pieces and reported stories to promote charter schools and to find fault with traditional campuses and teachers unions.”               Not sure why Campbell Brown’s takeover of the LA SCHOOL REPORT (see above) is a bad thing?  Check out the janressegerblog.  The author is a long-time advocate for public schools in Ohio.  Her piece is titled “What Gives Campbell Brown Standing to Spin the News About Public Education?”    Jan Resseger reviews Brown’s background and where she gets her funding and references the article above.  “How does all this relate to those of us who don’t reside in Los Angeles?” Resseger asks.  “Clearly there is an ideological battle going on in public education policy.  Reading the news these days requires thoughtful discernment.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The last edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a student at Lincoln High (LAUSD) who earned a perfect score on the AP Calculus test.  Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column in the L.A. Times, profilesAnthony Yom who teaches the class at the school.  “When he was first asked to teach calculus five years ago, Yom quaked, “Lopez writes.  “It had been so long since he’d studied the subject, he didn’t feel qualified.  So he cracked the books, late into the night, to prepare for his new challenge.  He also tapped a mentor, Lincoln High math teacher Sam Luu, for advice.”               Lopez’s column (see above) prompted two letters that appeared in Friday’s Times.  The second was from former LAUSD board member David Tokofsky.  “Steve Lopez’s column shows the quiet dedication of a great immigrant teacher working with immigrant working-class students,”  Tokofsky relates.  “This is a success story on par with the late Jaime Escalante, a great math teacher at Garfield High in the Los Angeles Unified School District.”               Remember the Sheri Lederman case in New York?  She’s the 18-year veteran Long Island elementary school teacher who got consistently high evaluations until her 2013-14 rating labeled her “ineffective.”  She promptly sued, claiming the state’s value-added model (VAM) was flawed and inaccurate and should not be used to evaluate teachers.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, who authors the VAMboozled blog and is serving on Lederman’s team in the suit updates readers on what’s been happening recently in the case.  The New York State Attorney General offered to settle the suit but Lederman and her attorney husband declined.  Amrein-Beardsley fills in the details.                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, takes a scalpel to the latest National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report titled “Learning About Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs to Know.”  He includes a link to the original study. Greene complains about the NCTQ’s indictment of “failing” teacher training programs as well as this latest study.  “The National Council on Teacher Quality is one of the great mysteries of the education biz,” Greene begins.  “They have no particular credentials and are truly the laziest ‘researchers’ on the planet.”  Diane Ravitch is equally dismissive of the NCTQ and its new report writing on her blog: “So, sixteen years later, NCTQ has fulfilled the purpose of its founding: It has become a giant wrecking ball aimed at traditional teacher education programs.”
 
Charter Schools
A “parent trigger” petition drive to turn the campus into a charter has been started at 20th Street Elementary School (LAUSD) south of downtown according to a story in Friday’s L.A. Times.  Parent organizers of the action claim they tried to work with the district without resorting to this action but the changes made were too slow and not sufficient to meet their expectations.  “The petition drive, announced Wednesday, was carried out with the help of locally based Parent Revolution,” the item reveals, “which has taken a lead role in organizing dissatisfied parents using a state law that makes it easier for parents to exert control at low-performing campuses.  Parents at 20th Street Elementary had been prepared to submit a petition nearly a year ago but backed down when the district pledged to address their concerns.  Organizers now say the district failed to keep its commitments. . . . Parent Revolution receives money from groups that support the growth of charter schools, including the Walton Family Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Arnold Foundation and the Broad Foundation.”               Here we go again.  Democratic Gov. Daniel Malloy of Connecticut is proposing, in the state’s next budget, increases in funding of $9.3 million for charter schools and cuts of $52.9 million in various programs for the public schools.  the ct mirror website has the depressing details.  “In [the City of] Stamford,” it points out, “the governor’s proposal means the public schools will not get the $225,000 increase they would have received, but the new charter school in town will get about $3 million more so enrollment can increase.  That charter school and another in Bridgeport are to expand by about 650 seats.”                Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What? blog was incensed when he read about Gov. Malloy’s budget plans for charters and public schools (see previous item).  He wonders how this could happen.  Answer: follow the money.  “Call it the new American Way.  The billionaires, millionaires and corporate elite who fund charter schools,” he complains, give generously to Democratic and Republican politicians and the politicians return the favor by shifting public funds into the coffers of the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.”    Pelto quotes extensively from the article cited above.            The Progressive Magazine has created a humorous (?) video (2:15 minutes) about charter management companies titled “Shake Off Those Charter Chains.”   Want another one along the same lines?  This one (1:50 minutes) is titled “Profitship! Cashing in on Public Schools.”               Charter schools often claim they are more popular than neighborhood public schools and they have waiting lists to prove it.  A commentary, written by the superintendent of the Northside Independent School District in the San Antonio Express-News, reveals that much of that claim, in Texas at least, is a myth.  “The often-stated phrase that charter schools in Texas have a 100,000-student waiting list is only partially true.  Texas Education Agency staff reported that while the wait list exists, it applies only to specific charter schools,”the author reveals.  “Staff went on to say that when examining charter school capacity across the state, 108,000 seats are available over current enrollment.  Public tax dollars continue to expand charters even though 30 percent of the current capacity is unutilized.”                Several charter school networks are complaining that the LAUSD school board is overly scrutinizing their applications to open new campuses or renew current ones according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Since July 1, L.A. Unified has denied six petitions and approved five others, according to figures from the California Charter Schools Assn,” it notes.  “That’s less than a 50% approval rate. Two years ago it was 89% and last year it was 77%, according to the association.  In a letter emailed to the board Monday, leaders of charter groups accused the district of obstructing their efforts to improve public education.”                Ever heard the argument (usually voiced bycharter school supporters) “but charters are public schools?”  Steven Singer, on his GADGLYONETHEWALLBLOG, titles his essay “Most Charter Schools are Public Schools in Name ONLY.”  He looks at how charters are often funded by taxpayer money but they are NOT at all like public schools.  “Sure, charters are funded by tax dollars.  However, that’s usually where the similarities end,” Singer maintains.  “They don’t teach like public schools, they don’t spend their money like public schools, they don’t treat students or parents like public schools – in fact, that’s the very reason they exist – to be as unlike public schools as possible.”  Singer details 5 ways charters are different than public schools despite their claim that they are public schools.
 
New California History/Social Science Framework Sparks Controversy
After years of delay, a draft edition of the new CaliforniaHistory/Social Science Framework was finally released in December.  It initially drew little public attention but 2 lines concerning “comfort women” during World War II have sparked heated debate over the 10th grade World History curriculum.  “The passage has been met with celebration among Korean American groups that have campaigned to bring attention to the issue in the U.S., and concern from some Japanese groups that consider it an unfairly negative portrayal of their home country,”  explains a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The Japanese and Korean groups are only the latest to bring their historic contentions to California classrooms, where the subject of world history is increasingly entangled with questions of personal identity and family history rather than a set of supposed facts that designated experts hand down from ivory towers.”
 
Rating the States
Many organizations and groups like to rate the individual states based on various education characteristics.  The “Ed News” has made an effort over the years to highlight some of those.  THE NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION (NPE) is out with its evaluations titled “Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card.”  A brief overview of the survey can be found by clicking here.   It includes two links to an interactive map with summaries for each state.  For a detailed, one-page report on each state click here.  Among the criteria rated include “Rejecting high stakes testing,” “Supporting teacher professionalism” and “Education spending.”  California’s overall grade was a “D.”  On the items listed in this summary the Golden State earned a “B,” “C’ and “D’ respectively.  Be sure to read that one-page report for the complete details on all 6 criteria.             Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post has a review of the NPE report cited above.   “How do the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia,” she begins, “support their public schools? Badly, according to a new report card  which evaluates their performance on six key criteria and finds all of them wanting. The best overall grade is a C, with most states earning D’s or F’s.”  Strauss includes a copy of the full report (31 pages) and also has a link to it at the bottom of her piece.
 
It’s Academic Decathlon Season
There’s college basketball’s “March Madness,” pro football’s Super Bowl, baseball’s World Series and many other championship events among various sports.  For students it’s the Academic Decathlon and competition kicked off this week at the district and county level.  A raucous story in Sunday’s L.A. Times describes what took place when the LAUSD held its Super Quiz competition at the Roybal Learning Center in downtown on Saturday, the only one of 10 events that is open to the public.  This year’s theme: India.  “Granada Hills Charter High School, the defending national decathlon champions, unofficially won the L.A. Unified Super Quiz with a perfect score of 72.  Some say Saturday’s quiz is a good indication of who will place in the overall competition, even though it’s a relatively small portion of the entire score.  The winners of the competition will be announced officially Friday, and teams with the highest overall scores will advance to the statewide competition.”  The state championships will be next month in Sacramento with the national finals at the end of April in Anchorage, Alaska.
 
Corporate “Reform” Refuted
Gene V. Glass, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at  Arizona State University and senior researcher at the National Education Policy Center, addressed the Ohio Deans Compact in Dublin, Ohio, on Thursday.  The topic of his talk was “Advancing Democratic Education: Would Horace Mann Tweet?”  On his Education in Two Worlds blog he provides a transcript of his rather lengthy presentation (24 pages) which Diane Ravitch glowingly describes thusly: “Glass has written one of the most brilliant, most perceptive commentaries on the billionaires’ reform movement that I have ever read.  He gives a witty, well-sourced analysis of the familiar corporate reform narrative and punches giant holes in it. . . .  Glass is one of our nation’s most celebrated and honored researchers,”she continues.  “He called VAM ‘stupid’ back in 1998.  Unlike many ivory-tower academics, he is taking sides: he is on the side of public education, democracy, and truth.  If you don’t read this, shame on you.  Please tweet it, post it on Facebook, share it with your friends and your elected officials”  His lecture is amply illustrated with pictures, charts and graphs to illustrate his point so it’s not 24 pages of straight text.  Monday is the President’s Day holiday so bookmark Glass’ talk and read it when you have some extra time over the 3-day weekend.  
 
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Gene V. Glass
 
California Teacher Shortage
THE HECHINGER REPORT has a detailed piece on the teacher shortage in California titled “California Faces A Dire Teacher Shortage: Should Other States Worry, Too?”  It features a new report on the problem from the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute headed by Linda Darling-Hammond, a previous ALOED Book Club author.  “According to federal data, enrollment in California’s teacher preparation programs fell from more than 719,000 during the 2008-09 school year to 499,800 during the 2012-13 school year,” the article points out.  “The number of teaching credentials issued in special education dropped by 21 percent between 2011-12 and 2013-14, according to the Learning Policy Institute report, and over the past four years, the number of credentials issued to new math teachers dropped by 32 percent.  At the same time, the demand for teachers has increased, according to the report, with the state’s educator job website listing twice as many open positions at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year as it did during that time in 2013.”                 The “Ed News” has previously highlighted a rather acute teacher shortage nationwide.  California has certainly not escaped that problem as George Skelton reports in his “Capitol Journal” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  He reviews the issue and describes several bills currently before the state legislature that attempt to lure more people into teaching.  “My favorite bill,” he mentions, “is one by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), a former middle school teacher.  It would reinstate a student loan forgiveness program that was eliminated during the recession.  Pavley’s proposal would require teachers to spend at least four years in a school with a large proportion of disadvantaged students, or in a rural school with lots of staff vacancies.  The teacher also would be required to demonstrate financial need.”
 
The Opt-Out Movement
And finally, the United Opt-Out (UOO) National conference will convene at the end of this month in Philadelphia.  ALOED member Larry Lawrence is planning to make the trip across the country to attend.  According to John Merrow, on his THE MERROW REPORT, convention goers will be serenaded by a knock off of the chorus of the popular Kenny Rogers tune “The Gambler.”  It’s titled “You Gotta Know When to teach em . . . .”  If you’d like to check out the original (3:31 minutes) you can find it on YouTube by clicking here. Merrow has a couple of links with information about the UOO gathering if you’d like to join Larry and many others and hear the song for yourself.
 
 
                                                                                                               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)
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.