Ed News, Friday, March 25, 2016 Edition


             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

       Sunday is Easter
       Inline image 1
“There are, and always have been, destructive pseudo-scientific notions linked to race and religion; 
these are the most widespread and damaging. Hopefully, educated people can succeed in shedding light 
into these areas of prejudice and ignorance, for as Voltaire once said: 
Men will commit atrocities as long as they believe absurdities.” 
― Martin Gardner
Religion in the Classroom
Can Christian teachers share aspects of their faith with their public school students?  That tricky issue is tackled in an article in The Washington Post titled “These Christian Teachers Want to Bring Jesus Into Public Schools.”  It describes an organization, The Christian Educators Association International, that is challenging the concept of the separation of church and state in the classroom through various events and activities aimed at elementary and secondary school students.  “The organization is a nonprofit with broad goals that include supporting Christian teachers and ‘transforming public schools through God’s love and truth.’  It is a professional association that serves as an alternative to traditional teachers unions,” the story points out, “offering its approximately 6,000 members liability insurance and other benefits.  Although the Christian Educators Association is small, it is at the center of a pending Supreme Court case that has the potential to substantially weaken public sector unions in more than two dozen states.  The association is a plaintiff in the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges the right of teachers unions to collect dues from nonmembers.”
Student Activism in High Schools on the Rise
High school students around the county are become more active in political causes that impact their lives and their schools according to a story in The CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR.  It details student movements in Boston, Chicago, Newark, Detroit and Houston and suggests that social media is playing a role in the protests.  “The lightning-fast social networking of students has stunned organizers who came of age in the era of circulating fliers and knocking on doors,” the item points out.  “But social media’s role in student activism has been evident for at least a decade.  In 2006, 100,000 students around the country walked out of public schools in the course of a week.  The walkouts were largely sparked by undocumented immigrant students who took to Myspace.com calling for protests against a tough immigration bill proposed in Congress that they feared would break up their families.”
The Teaching Profession
A middle school language arts teacher in Wisconsin explains how hereads aloud to his students.  He and a teaching partner use the technique to share novels and short stories with their pupils.  His piece appears courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK.  “Reading aloud is also a way to differentiate,” he explains.  “The common texts allow all students to share a foundation from which they can build upon with their own experience and ideas.  Each year I have a few students that come to loathe reading and writing.  Many times it is due to low reading skills, but not always.  They’ve spent so many years simply trying to figure out how to say the words in a text, instead of becoming immersed in the story itself.”
Are you involved in Twitter?  If so, do you think it’s a useful tool for teachers?  The author of this item on EDUCATION WEEK looks at the social media platform and answers some questions for those who may not be that familiar with it and how it can be used effectively by educators.  “Twitter bloomed into a global behemoth since being launched in 2006,” he mentions by way of introduction, “but while many educators extol its virtues as a tool for communication and professional development, many others continue to wonder if it’s worthwhile. . . .  We will try to answer some of the central questions that those who are still reluctant to join Twitter may have, and demonstrate how educators and others have addressed some of these concerns.”
Ever Heard of “DFER?”
DFER or Democrats for Education Reform (sounds pretty innocuous) is one of those groups whose name belies what they really stand for.  As The Center for Media and Democracy’s  “PR Watch” points out it might be more accurate to call the group “Hedge Funders For Education Reform” (HFFER) because that is what they really are.  “It was co-founded by hedge fund managers,”the investigative piece notes, “even though DFER’s board has been chosen to show the faces of a diverse group–of former or failed Democratic politicians.  In fact, ‘former’ is the first word in each of their bios on the DFER site.  (For example, DFER Board Member Adrian Fenty lost his bid for second term as DC mayor; KenChavous lost his bid for re-election to the DC Council; Craig Johnson lost his bid for re-election to the New York state senate; Maureen Stapleton lost her bid for re-election to the Michigan state house; Mary Ann Sullivan lost her bid for the state senate; and the others left their elected positions.)”  In the latter category is former California Senate leader Gloria Romero who leads DFER’sCalifornia affiliate and who helped lead the push to pass Prop 32 in 2012.  That measure would have limited the ability of public unions to get involved in elections. Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for passing this article along.   [Ed. note: For more information about Prop 32 click here.]
Education Vocabulary
Peter DeWitt has a 2-part series in EDUCATION WEEK about education vocabulary.  His first piece is titled “Should These 10 Educational Words be Banished?”  It includes such terms as grit, rigor, accountability and high stakes testing among others.  His second offering is headlined “12 Words That Should Be in our Educational Vocabulary” and on it he includes learning, collaboration, engagement and growth.  He offers you the opportunity to comment on his lists and invites readers to add their own to each.  They certainly make for an interesting discussion.  Check out the comments at the end of each of his articles for some valuable insights.
Make Your Plans to Attend the NPEConference in Raleigh
The Network for Public Education is holding their 3rd annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17.  The focus this year is on civil rights.  Get your income tax forms in early and plan to attend.  Anthony Cody, on hisLIVING in DIALOGUE blog extends a personal invitation and lists some of the highlights of the gathering.  Be sure to note the Movie Night event on Friday evening prior to the formal conference.  Dawn O’Keefe will be sharing segments from her fascinating documentary “Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District” about the Pasadena Unified system.  The film was screened on the Occidental College campus as part of the ongoing ALOED Education Film Festival in Oct., 2014, and featured a stimulating panel discussion with the filmmakers, Dawn and her husband.  In addition, Diane Ravitch and Jesse Hagopian will be featured speakers.  The former spoke at Oxy and the latter gave a talk in L.A. that was attended by two ALOED members. With all that going on, you can’t afford to miss this one!  Cody’s article includes links to the conference schedule and registration information.
Inline image 1
April 16 – 17, 2016
Raleigh, North Carolina

Common Core

The Common Core State Standards have sparked a lot of controversy and discussion.  No where is this illustrated more than the attitudes toward them here in California.  The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK features a new survey fromWestEd that reports that teachers and administrators in the Golden State disagree on how well the implementation of the standards is proceeding.  “While over 70 percent of district leaders deemed their[CCSS] progress as either good or excellent,” the story notes, “teachers say there’s room for improvement and have a wish list for moving forward.”  The article raises some questions about the low rate of responses and if the data is statistically significant.  It includes a link to the full report (4 pages) titled “California Standards Implementation: WestEd Insights.”
Chicago Teachers Vote for a “Day Of Action” April 1
The Chicago Teachers Union voted overwhelmingly to hold a “Day of Action” April 1st to protest ongoing budget cuts, furlough days and the  underfunding of  schools.  Targets of the action include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.  The DNAinfo website provides the details.  “The action is needed because the budget impasse and political stalemate in the [state legislature] have led to unfair working conditions for teachers in Chicago Public Schools,”  it reports.  “The lack of a state budget has placed tremendous financial burden on the school system.  Teachers already have been asked to take three furlough days so the district can save $30 million, with the first furlough day scheduled for [today]. . . .  The district has not yet followed through on threats to force teachers to pay a 7 percent pension contribution it has previously picked up — a cut in take-home pay teachers said would be a violation of the contract they’re now working under.”  [Ed. note: The headline on this article states the teachers voted to “strike.”  That’s not what they did.  They will be taking part in a 1-day protest action. As the story points out, the union must go through certain steps prior to going out on strike.]
Corporate “Reform”
A Broad Academy-trained superintendent has stirred up a racially tinged hornets nest  after taking over as chief of the Oakland School District.  Author of the piece, John Thompson,writing on theLIVING in DIALOGUE blog, works for the Oklahoma City Public Schools and describes some similar things taking place there after a Broad Academy superintendent took control.  “Words alone – whether they are sincere or whether they are just the Broad’s spin – won’t defuse the bitter and dangerous situations that corporate reformers have created.  Across the nation,” Thompson accuses, “Broad and other market-driven reformers are stepping up the use of mass school closures to defeat teachers, unions, and parents who oppose them.”
How the Anti-Government Movement is Hurting Kids
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, has an intriguing essay about how the anti-big government movement  and the politicians and leaders who support it is doing major harm to the nation’s children. He uses two examples to make his point: lead in the water in Flint and the deteriorating urban schools.  “After years of electing people who declare, ‘Government is the problem’ and who avow to ‘drown it in a bathtub,’ the results are apparent that, yeah, government might not work so well when you have people who hate it in charge,” he begins.  “New reports reveal that years of hating government are taking their toll on the nation’s infrastructure, in particular, those government services, such as safe drinking water and public schools, which are essential to children.”
The number of states utilizing the PARCC or SBAC Common Core-aligned assessments in 2015-16 has dwindled from 45 six year ago to only 21 today.  A survey in EDUCATION WEEK discovered the declining numbers as more and more states seek alternatives to the two major shared exams.  California is sticking with the SBAC test for now.  The ED WEEK story has several interactive charts and tables describing the status of testing in each state.  Some are relying on the SAT or ACT at the high school level or have created non-consortium exams of their own.  Click on the box in the middle of the story marked “State Testing” for state-by-state breakdowns.
Opt Out
Teachers in New York are being threatened not to speak ill of the state’s standardized tests or encourage opting out.  A piece in The New Times explains how some administrators are reacting to teachers informing parents about the exams and their right to refuse to have their children take them.  “Several principals said they had been told by either the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, or their superintendents that they and their teachers should not encourage opting out,” it explains.  “There were no specific consequences mentioned, but the warnings were enough to deter some educators.  Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said that teachers were free to express themselves on matters of public concern as private citizens, but not as representatives of the department, and that if they crossed that line they could be disciplined.  Asked what the disciplinary measures might be, Ms. Kaye said they were determined case by case.”
Private Kindergartens
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an “Education Watch” column in Monday’s L.A. Times about the competition to get into private kindergartens in L.A.  The item prompted a singleletter that appears in today’s edition of the paper that was critical of what kindergartens have become in the age of Common Core.  It was written by the former director of the UCLA Child Care Services.  “Preschools and kindergartens should not be run like businesses; rather,” she writes, “they should provide humane, accepting and loving adventures where children may make mistakes, learn from them and become good citizens.
Ravitch’s Blog Hits a New Milestone
And finally, congratulations to fellow blogger Diane Ravitch.  HerDiane Ravitch’s blog reached 26 million page views last night.  She started it in April, 2012.  “The goal of the blog is ‘a better education for all.’  Not a better education for a few,” Ravitchexplains, “but a better education for all.  Great nations have great public school systems, not choice programs that privilege a few and impoverish everyone else; not entrepreneurial schools run by rank amateurs, wannabe educators, and charlatans.  Great nations treat their teachers with respect.”  Hear! Hear!

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



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s