Ed News, Friday, February 12, 2016 Edition


             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.

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




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