The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
“If it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor
and council or any other general authority of the government,
than by the parents within each ward,
it is a belief against all experience.”
Teach for America
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item about some job cuts and retrenchment at Teach for America. TFA spun the actions as a “new strategic direction.” Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, takes her usual analytic look at what’s taking place at the organization. “TFA has a problem,” she concludes, “and it is one that image polish, a gentle Bellwether report, and a ‘leaner, more agile central structure’ cannot fix. A growing number of former TFAers are voicing their discontent with the damage TFA inflicts upon community-rooted education, discontent that will likely only increase over time.” Diane Ravitch describes Schneider’s article thusly: “Schneider’s post is a long read, but well worth your time.” Gary Rubenstein was an early member of Teach for America. He taught for a few years in Houston and then became a trainer for TFA. A couple of years ago he had a change of heart about the organization and became a strong critic. He decided to attend their 25th anniversary celebration and came away with some interesting observations about how TFA may be changing to stay up with the times. You can read his extended views of the gathering on his Gary Rubenstein’s Blog in a post titled “TFA25 Post Mortem.” “My feeling is that TFA is changing their messaging to stay current with the current strategy of the US Department of Education and the different ed reform groups,” he offers in summation. “They realize that their anti-teacher narrative is wearing thin and it is time to be a lot nicer. Are they doing this because they want to or because they have to, I think it is because they have to. Still, they do ‘appear’ to be improving.”
Common Core & Testing
The Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy think tank out of Washington, D.C., has produced a short video (1:39 minutes) that pokes fun at critics of the Common Core. You can view it courtesy of the FUNNY OR DIEwebsite. Peter Greene, aka the author of theCURMUDGUCATION blog, couldn’t wait to continue his critique of CAP and its video about the standards (see above). “One thing you can say about the Center for American Progress. Well, two things,” he begins. “One is that John Podesta’s little hobby lobby advocacy group has been a great holding pen for Clintonian staffers during the interregnum. The other is that they have
emerged as the most devotedly pro-Common Core group on the planet.” Greene was aghast to discover the existence of a “Standardized Testing Bill of Rights” from the#testbetter(dot)org website. He provides a link to their Bill of Rights or you can find it by clicking here. On hisCURMUDGUCATION blog Greene engages in a point-by-point analysis of the ideas contained in the Bill of Rights. He asks who is funding this group and here is his answer: “The usual gang of testocrats. CAP [see item #1 in this section]. High Achievement New York. Educators 4 Excellence. National PTA. The usual assortment of astro-turfed Gates-funded corporate stooges who are always there to assure us that tests are swell and we should all love them . . . .”
The previous edition of the “Ed News” included an item about Success Academy Charter founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz embarking on a PR offensive to counter some recent negative publicity about her network of schools in New York City. POLITICO NEW YORK obtained a copy of a memo circulated to Success Academy staff from its lawyers warning of certain mistakes that need to be avoided in the future. It clearly demonstrates why the network has a PR problem. “Success Academy’s legal team is hoping to help the charter school network get a handle on its public image with a new list of twenty ‘mistakes’ the charter network’s staffers should be careful to avoid,” the article reveals. “The common pitfalls described in the memo include providing any information — even seemingly innocuous facts — to journalists or politicians, engaging in arguments with parents over text message or email and informing the network’s legal team too late about accusations against teachers or students.” Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, quickly pounced on the memo to Success Academy staff (see above) as proof, once and for all, thatthese charters are NOT public schools, despite what they constantly claim (and is also the justification for them receiving taxpayer dollars). “Success Academy charters are not accountable schools. They are not even accountable to the invisible hand of the free market (how do parents make informed choices when they are barred from having information). And finally, and most importantly, Success Academy charters are not public schools,” he concludes, “and they should stop getting a single, solitary public tax dollar.” The spate of negative publicity for embattled Eva Moskowitz continues as a group of 5 current and former Success Academy parents are asking, in an open letter to Gov. Cuomo, to withdraw funding and increase oversight and accountability of charter schools in New York. The GOTHAM GAZETTE has the latest details. “The parents cite instances where their children were routinely suspended, singled out, and shamed or excluded from field trips,” it points out. “They say Success often called them midday to pick up their children without reporting these events as suspensions. And, they claim Success Academy retaliated by calling the Administration for Children’s Services on them when they spoke out against these practices.”
Mastery Charter Schools, a chain of campuses in Philadelphia, ismoving away from the strict, zero-tolerance “no-excuses” model of behavior management and is having some success as it does so. THE HECHINGER REPORT has an in-depth profile of the experiment and Mastery’s CEO Scott Gordon. “He frequently takes on the worst of the worst – and he’s had some success. As a result, he has become an increasingly important figure in the burgeoning charter school movement. . . . Yet not everyone is so charitable,”the piece suggests. “Critics accuse him of being an outsider who is dismantling the city’s public schools in an attempt to create a private education empire. Now Gordon faces his severest test yet. He is shifting his approach in running the schools away from a ‘no excuses’ model that has defined much of the urban charter school movement to a more supportive approach that takes into account students’ backgrounds.” The Chicago Sun Times has an investigative piece about the wild spending habits of taxpayer money by officials of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) charter network. Funds were spent on expensive restaurant meals, travel, spa visits and a lobbying firm among other things. “Despite being almost entirely government-funded, UNO leaders fought to keep the spending records secret,” the piece reveals, “arguing that they didn’t have to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Act because UNO is a private organization. But they ultimately released the records in a recent legal settlement with the Sun-Times.” Just another example of how charters what to have it both ways. They claim they are “public” when requesting millions of dollars of taxpayer money but argue they are “private” when asked to be accountable and transparent.
Virtual Field Trips–For Real
All of you know what a school field trip is and have certainly taken some during your student days and possibly led a few during your teaching career. Ever heard of a “virtual field trip (VFT)?” The “Time and Learning” column in EDUCATION WEEK has an interesting piece about how one school district in North Carolina takes students on virtual field trips in order to save time and money. “Dacia Jones’ official title is district science specialist for Durham Public Schools in Durham, N.C.,” it explains. “But her unofficial title is something like virtual field trip coordinator for the district. She describes these events as ‘an in-class experience to an out-of-this-world place’ and plans more than 100 of these trips every year primarily for K-5 students in 30 Durham schools. But, she says, typically students in more than 200 schools across North America watch along with them. All of these virtual field trips are filmed and archived so schools can watch them anytime.” The article includes a Q & A with Jones who describes how she sets up and runs the VFTs. It includes a audio soundcloud segment (2:08 minutes) with Jones describing a trip to an amusement park. Hang on tight during the ride!
CTU Votes for One Day Strike April 1
[Ed note: I was incorrect when I stated in Tuesday’s “Ed News” that what the Chicago Teachers Union voted to do on April 1 wasn’t a strike.] Michelle Gunderson, writing on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, provides an insiders account of what took place and the reasons for it when the CTU took their vote. Gunderson is a good person to provide this information as she is a veteran elementary school teacher in Chicago and attended the union meeting.
Senate Confirms John King as New Sec. of U.S. Dept. of Education
This picture appeared on the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) website regarding the confirmation of John King. It requires no further comment:
L.A. County Office of Education Has a New Head
LAUSD has a new superintendent who was promoted from within. Now the L.A. County Office of Education has a new head and she comes from the LAUSD also. Debra Duardo was selected by the County Board of Supervisors over two other candidates in a unanimous vote last week. Yesterday’s L.A. Times has a profile of her and the job she’ll be taking over on July 1.“Duardo, a veteran administrator, comes over from the mammoth L.A. Unified School District,” it mentions, “where she’s worked for two decades and heads the student health and human services division.”
Series on High School Exit Exams Continues
LIVING in DIALOGUE author Denise Hertzog Pursche continues her series titled “Why High School Exit Exam, Not Students, Are Worthless.” In Part 3 she interestingly reviews some of the discussions within the California Dept. of Education which has put that state’s exit exam (the CAHSEE) on hold while it determines its value and whether it can be aligned to the Common Core. “It is my suspicion that the California Department of Education has already made up its mind about the worth of the high school exit exam,” she suggests, “and based on these conversations, I fully expect the exit exam is not on its way out, but will be reinstated at some time in the future, either via SAT, ACT, or a consortia exit exam.”
Jeanette Deutermann, founder of the Long Island Opt-Out Movement, takes a minute to respond to the local Newsday newspaper’s editorial staff who have been consistently anti-teacher, anti-public education and anti-opt-out movement. “So don’t beat yourself up that your biased, angry, personal attacks are not hitting the mark,” she concludes, “(and gee wiz, it almost seems like it’s giving them more fuel!!). It’s not you. It’s us. We just can’t seem to get the well being of our children out of our heads.”
LAUSD Seeks Increase in Funding for After-School Programs
The LAUSD is seeking a $1 increase per pupil per day in state funding to help expand after-school programs. That works out to a boost of 13%. A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes what the district is hoping to obtain and why they are asking for the increase. “These programs allow parents to work full-time while their children are in a safe environment,” it notes, “and provide academic and extracurricular support that students might not receive at home, L.A. City Councilman David Ryu said in a news conference Friday, after the City Council approved a resolution supporting the increase.”
Broad-Trained Supt. Causing Chaos in Oakland
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article about how Broad Academy-trained superintendents were causing problems in Oklahoma City and Oakland. THE POST NEWS GROUP, the largest African American news weekly in northern California, has a much more detailed look at what’s going on in Oakland. Their piece is titled “Oakland Schools in Turmoil as District Threatens to Remove 17 Principals.” “Seventeen principals have received warning letters that they may be removed or reassigned,” it relates. “A number of schools have learned that they may have to move for charter schools to ‘co-locate’ onto their campuses and a large number of new teachers have just learned they will be fired at the end of June.”
BREAKING NEWS! Supreme Court Issues
And finally, some big, breaking news. The U.S. Supreme Court this morning upheld the charging of fees by public employee unions on a 4-4 vote in the landmark Friedrichs v California Teachers Association case. Because of the tie, the action upholds the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Most court watchers were predicting that the conservative majority on the court would rule in favor of a group of Orange County teachers who sued to have the agency fee concept overturned. The unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month robbed the majority of a decisive fifth vote that most likely would have upheld the plaintiffs in the case and ended the idea of agency fees. The L.A. Times posted a story about the decision on their website this morning. Look for a prominent (front-page?) article in the print edition tomorrow. “If the high court had overturned its 1977 precedent and struck down these fees on 1st Amendment grounds,” the post explains, “the decision could have had a crippling effect on public employee unions. Their officials feared that many employees, even those who favored the union, would choose not to pay the fees to support one if they were free to do so.” The Friedrichs case was argued before the court on Jan. 11 this year. For a more legalistic analysis of the ruling check out the authoritative SCOTUSblog by clicking here. “The most important labor union controversy to reach the Supreme Court in years sputtered to an end on Tuesday, with a four-to-four split, no explanation, and nothing settled definitely. The one-sentence result in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will leave intact, but on an uncertain legal foundation, a system of ‘agency fees’ for non-union teachers in California — with the legal doubts for public workers’ unions across the nation probably lingering until a ninth Justice joins the Court at some point in the future. The “School Law” column in EDUCATION WEEK naturally checks in on the ruling. Itrecaps the case and discusses the impact of the decision. “Backers of the challenge to the union fees have said that in the event of a deadlock, they would ask the high court for a rehearing,” the story spells out, “to be conducted after the vacancy on the court is filled. The court rarely grants rehearings for any reason, and the political uncertainty over President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to fill Scalia’s seat would seem to make that possibility in this case highly unlikely.” The “Teacher Beat” blog in ED WEEK offers some union reaction to the decision announced this morning. It references the item from the SCOTUSblog (see above)
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
Member of ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
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