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.”
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 concludes“LePage 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”]
“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: