Ed News, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Edition


             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            “We can’t build a nation by keeping the teachers hungry.”

                        ― M.F. Moonzajer

[Correction: The editor failed to include the link for the story in Friday’s “Ed News” about the shareholder revolt against Pearson.  A sharp-eyed reader caught the oversight.  You can find that “missing link” by clicking here.  The editor regrets the error.]
And now to the news.
A Blast at the L.A. Times
Ellen Lubic, a public policy educator and writer has several bones to pick with the L.A.Times.  She continues to find their reporting biased and one-sided towards charters and privatization and openly supportive of  the corporate “reform” agenda.  She cites a number of recent examples, many of which were highlighted by the “Ed News,” in a piece for the LA Progressive.  Lubic titles her commentary “Why Does the LA Times Hate Real Teachers and Public Schools?”
The Teaching Profession
Over the years the “Ed News” has highlighted many articles about ways to improve the teaching profession.  Marc Tucker is the current president of the National Center on Education and the Economy and he writes a piece for EDUCATION WEEK titled “How to Get a First-Rate Teacher in Front of Every Student.”  It features some soon to be released research by Linda Darling-Hammond and a team of experts who looked at teacher quality policies and practices in several highly successful countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).  Darling-Hammond and her group will formally release several volumes soon of case studies and analysis.  Tucker briefly summarizes some of their findings.  “You MUST buy the books when they come out, later this year.  Having read several draft chapters from one section of the cross-case analysis and several from the case studies,” he enthusiastically reports, “I promise you that it will be worth every penny and as much of your time as you can spend.  This will be the landmark study on teacher quality for many years to come.”                Andy Goldstein, a middle school teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida, recently delivered an appeal to his local school board opposing a merit pay plan proposed by the Florida legislature.  You can view the video (3:50 minutes–the beeping sound you hear at the 3-minute mark is an indication to him that his allotted time has expired) of his remarks and/or read the complete transcript by clicking here.  They are from Diane Ravitch’s blog.
Could It Happen Here?  Is It Already?
Rick Perlstein, magazine correspondent for the “Washington Spectator” and an author, has an extensive investigative piece for the JACOBIN about how a small, wealthy corporate elite has parlayed their money, power and influence to engineer a “hostile take-over” of the Chicago Public Schools.  Perlstein lives in the Windy City.  The tale is long, complex and SCARY. Diane Ravitch describes this piece  as “a well-written story of arrogance, greed, corruption, and deceit.”  Could the same scenario play out in the LAUSD?  “NO!” You answer?  Eli Broad and other members of the “billionaire boys club” may have already hatched their plot.  Be afraid.  BE VERY AFRAID!
Teach for America
Diane Ravitch’s blog has been featuring a series of podcasts on YouTube created by the Network for Public Education (NPE) about Teach for America.  The April 12th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted episodes 1 and 2.  Episode 3 (52:15 minutes), again co-hosted by Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jameson Brewer, invites 3 TFA alums (from 1991, 2001 and 2004) who attended the 25th anniversary of Teach for America and who relate their experiences with TFA.    You can find #4 (48:41 minutes), titled “Not Special Education” which includes a conversation with two TFA alums who were assigned to work with special education students and who describe the experiences they had.  Part 5 (40:30 minutes) is titled “The Bestsellers” and features an interview with two authors of bestselling books about TFA alums who worked in 15 cities around the country.                Were you aware that Teach for America has gone global through a series of “network partners?”  Well, they have.  You can read all about the Teach for All program in 40 countries and note its principles by clicking here which will take you to the Teach for All website.  You can peruse the world map to see where their network partners are located.  And you just thought TFA was in the U. S. only!
School Climate 
School climate has recently become an important metric for measuring how successful a school is at providing a strong education for all its students.  EDUCATION WEEK focuses on a new free online survey tool developed by the U.S. Dept. of Education that will allow districts to measure school climate.  If you’re not familiar with that concept be sure to read the sidebar to this article titled “What’s Measured” to get an overview of what if means.  “The survey, developed by a panel of school climate experts, uses questions from existing surveys that were tested with panels of students to ensure their validity,” the article explains.  “The site creates an instant analysis of a school’s results, and administrators can save the data in existing local data systems so they can track results over time.  Its release comes as schools are increasingly exploring the effects of non-academic factors on student success, and as states are poised to broaden their accountability systems under a new federal education law.”  This story briefly refers to a statewide school climate survey in California.
More Reactions to Latest Vergara Decision
Thanks to a reader of this blog, Shellby Ribakoff, for forwarding an op-ed piece in THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, who comments on the recent California appellate court ruling in the Vergara case“California schools desperately need to be improved.  But eliminating job security,” he concludes, “for teachers will do little, if anything, to achieve it and it may make it worse if it makes harder to attract and keep talented teachers.  The Court of Appeal got it right.  Now my hope is that the California Supreme Court will deny review and that will be the end of this litigation in California.”               EDUCATION WEEK has another interesting analysis of the recent appellate decision in the Vergara case.  It’s titled “Vergara Reversal Spotlights Ongoing Equity Concerns.”  “Regardless of which way any future decision goes, the fallout from the appeals decision has made several things clear.  First, it is unlikely to stop legal challenges to California’s teacher-employment laws, although future lawsuits could well take a different tack.  Second,” it suggests, “there appears to be little appetite among either party to strike a legislative compromise to rework portions of the laws in question.  And finally, although the new ruling has been billed as a win for the teachers’ unions,Vergara has already brought significant attention to the sometimes counter intuitive processes by which teachers are hired, fired, and assigned.  As a result, unions are likely to continue to face pressure to come up with or accept changes.”  If nothing else, check out the sidebar titled “Teacher Job Protections on Trial: A Timeline” which lays out the key events in the case from May, 2012, to the date next month when an appeal must be filed with the California Supreme Court.
Charter Schools
Eva Moskowitz’s chain of Success Academy charters in New York City have been held up by the corporate “reformers” as campuses that really “work” and they are constantly touted for their high test scores.  So, just how successful have the schools been?  Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog  attempts to find out how SA’s students did on the New York State Regents exams.  He has a little trouble finding out as you will discover as you read his account.  He also checks into the high school’s enrollment figures and unearths some interesting information there.  Tell me again why those corporate “reformers” as so enamored of these schools?
Election 2016
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has somemajor complaints regarding the campaign Hillary Clinton is waging against Bernie Sanders.  Singer discusses 5 concrete problems with what’s taking place including suppressing the Democratic vote in Arizona and New York, how the Democratic National Committee seems to be openly taking sides in the race and playing the sex card, among others.  “If the Clinton campaign continues to disenfranchise voters, receive an unfair advantage from party leaders, silence dissent and misappropriate sexism,”  Singer concludes.  “I may end up casting a write-in for Sanders or voting for the Green candidate Dr. Jill Stein.  Either way, I won’t be bullied into giving my vote to a candidate that’s done nothing to deserve it and has worked to make sure people like me often don’t get the chance to vote at all.”              Did Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz just blame public education and bad civics for opposition to his brand of conservatism?  If you don’t believe it, you can hear him say it himself in a short RIGHT WING WATCH piece that includes the soundbite. If you think that’s bad, wait until you read what the article reports Cruz’s dad said about communism and the public schools.  Bizarre!  
Transgender Bathrooms
The last two editions of the “Ed News” highlighted news about the first all gender restroom in the LAUSD at the Santee Education Complex, a demonstration against its existence and counter activities in support.  A 4th U.S. Circuit Court of  Appeals decision, on a 2-1 vote, should help provide some legal clarity to the issue.  It ruled that a federal court judge was wrong when he failed to take into account a U.S. Dept. of Education interpretation of the Title IX law from 1972 regarding gender identity and restroom use.  You can read all the details in a story from EDUCATION WEEK.  “The ruling, the first by a federal appellate court on the issue,” it notes, “affirms the Obama administration’s position on allowing transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, which it has increasingly asserted in legal briefs and civil rights agreements with school districts in recent years.”
U.S. News & World Report’s List of Top High Schools Downplayed
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the annual List of Top High Schools as compiled by U.S. News and World Reports.  In a very brief piece, Diane Ravitch’s blog was most dismissive of the rankings.  She urges readers to “pay no attention” to the rankings” because “they are meaningless.”  Ravitch offers a couple of specific reasons why she feels this way.  If you get the chance, check out the comments at the end of the article.  They are much longer than Ravitch’s original item and provide some additional insights. “I think someone should publish a ‘best news magazines’ ranking,”suggests reader SomeDAMPoet, “I’m sure that by any reasonable standard (accuracy, lack of bias, etc) US News would consistently come out near the bottom.”
Why Not Magnet Schools?
In the ongoing discussion/debate between traditional public schools and charters in the LAUSD, magnet schools often get short shrift.  They really need to be part of the conversation as they tend to do quite well academically in the district.  One major problem: a shortage of seats for parents who’d like to enroll their children in the coveted slots.  The “Education Watch” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times revisits the magnet program in the LAUSD and describes some nascent plans to expand it.  “The district already expands magnets wherever there is room and demand, said Keith Abrahams, the head of student integration services.  There are 146 magnets that share campuses,” the story explains, “and 52 with their own campuses.  Some of the most popular magnet schools, though, don’t have room to expand. . . . This fall, 16 new magnet programs will open with about 5,800 seats, and 14 schools will expand by one to three teachers, adding 515 spots.”
Education Reform
Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, has an extended exchange of ideas on what needs to change in the field of education with Whitney Tilson, one of the founders of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) a pro-charter, anti-teachers union group, despite their name.  In her blog post, Ravitch begins with a brief introduction of Tilson and how they came to exchange emails.  ” I have never met Whitney,” she notes, “but our emails have been very cordial, so I consider him a gentleman (no matter what he has written about me on his blog).  He was gentleman enough to suggest that we exchange views, and he initiated the dialogue by sending me a list of statements that represent what he believes.  I responded, closing out the conversation after midnight [on Sunday].  It seems that Whitney never sleeps, as he posted the exchange immediately this morning.  He has promised to write a response to my comments.  When he does, I will post them too.”  This first piece is rather long but offers a frank and open discussion between two people who often agree but not on every position.  Give this one a chance.  Read it in chunks, if you have to.  [Ed. note: Just for clarity, once the exchange commences, Tilson’s comments on in gray and Ravitch’s are in blue.]
Opt Out
Mercedes Schneider turns her “EduBlog” on deutsch29 over to a parent who explains why he’s opting his child out of standardized testing in Louisiana for the second year-in-a-row.  Besides being a father, James Kirylo is a professor of teaching and learning at Southeastern Louisiana University so he approaches the topic from two critical points-of-view. “Fourteen years later since NCLB was introduced—standardized tests, as they are currently administered, interpreted, and used in school communities across the country, do not work, have not worked, and will not work as they were presumably intended,” he argues.  “In fact, the adverse effects of them are overwhelming.   Nevertheless, we continue to use them like a bad drug to which the desperate addict keeps crawling back.”
Need A Lift?
And finally, if you’re having a bad week or are just feeling down or are in need of a little boost, check out this commentary from a former Omaha Public School (OPS) high school teacher who is now an instructor in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  She has some uplifting words on the OMAHA (dot)com website for those of you in the classroom, administrators, staff and everyone else who works with students.  Her comments are directed to teachers in the OPS but I give you permission to pretend they’re meant for you.  “I see you.  I see your work,” she leads off.  “I know you are doing innovative, creative, pedagogically sound things.  I know how much you care about your students and how hard you love them.  I know this because I’ve been in dozens and dozens of your schools in the past three years and have been blown away by your talents, skills and resilience.”  Now, after reading that doesn’t it make you feel even a little bit better?


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




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