Ed News, Tuesday, May 17, 2016 Edition


             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

      “Congress and state legislatures should not tell teachers how to teach, 
       any more than they should tell surgeons how to perform operations.”

― Diane Ravitch,     The Death and Life of the Great American School System: 

This comic strip appeared in Saturday’s L.A. Times:
 LA CUCARACHA   By Lalo Alcaraz
Inline image 1

When Celia Oyler, on her personal blog, had an anonymous 4th grade teacher describe her concerns about the PARCC English/Language Arts test, she didn’t bargain for the blow back she would receive from testing officials which led to a tempest on the blogosphere.  (See the May 13th edition of the “Ed News” for original details.)  PARCC CEO Laura Slover ordered her to remove the post from her blog and to reveal the name of the offending teacher.  When Diane Ravitch included a link to the blog she, too, ran into trouble from PARCC officials about it and her related Tweets.  Other authors who commented on the original post also received threatening correspondence from testing representatives.  Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, reviews the situation and expresses his outrage that it occurred in the first place and that members of the mainstream media have pretty much ignored the story.  He titles his piece “Ed Bloggers Take On PARCC Test, Defying Intimidation Efforts.”             On hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, Peter Greene was equally outraged at the bullying tactics of PARCC officials over a post about the 4th grade English test (see above).               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, writes an open letter to the Laura Sloverwho threatened a number of people with various legal actions over publishing or republishing the piece about problems with the 4th grade PARCC test.  Schneider has some questions and clarifications she’d like Slover to provide.              Diane Ravitch’s blog chimes in on the kerfuffle over PARCC’s test.  Ravitch is one of the prime characters in the whole drama and suggests she and others won’t be intimidated by PARCC’s corporate riches and legal tactics.  “They have the money.  We have the numbers.  There is power in our numbers,” Ravitch defiantly concludes.

Impact of Student Poverty

Once again the debate returns to an impassioned plea that “Student Poverty Isn’t an Excuse; It’s a Barrier” which happens to be the title of a piece in EDUCATION WEEK.  As has been chronicled many times in past issues of the “Ed News,” corporate “reformers” want to ignore the impact of poverty on student learning as they rush to scapegoat “poor” teachers and their unions for the problems facing education today.  However, things may be looking up as the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act  begins to shift the focus, according to the 4 co-authors of the article.  “Education policy in the United States has taken a turn in a new direction, and anyone with a stake in public education should celebrate this. Policymakers increasingly recognize that stresses related to student poverty—hunger, chronic illness, and, in too many cases, trauma—are the key barriers to teaching and learning,” they maintain.  “And calls for tending not only to the academic but also the social, emotional, and physical needs of children are gaining ground across the country. Indeed, the inclusion of the whole-child perspective in the Every Student Succeeds Act shows that this mindset has moved from the margins to the mainstream.”  Bravo.  It’s about time!  [Ed. note: You may want to explore more about what the authors’ organization, the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), is doing to address the issues of poverty and educational achievement. You can find their website by clicking here.] 
“No Excuse” Charters
Want a peek behind how those “no excuse” charter schools deal with student misbehavior?  The Progressive has a article by Ashana Bigard, a parent and social justice advocate, who provides a portrait of how discipline operates in the nearly all-charter New Orleans Recovery District.  She has a couple of students describe how the system works and Bigard has some suggestions about how to make it a bit more humane.  “I work as a student advocate and trainer in New Orleans schools,” she mentions.  “My daughter Brandon Bigard and I give regular talks to students around the city about strategies to navigate the school district’s  punitive, ‘no excuses’ charter school system.  . . .  At one recent talk  we told the young people we were sorry about the lack of freedom and tolerance in New Orleans schools, and that we thought they deserve better.”

Teacher Training Program Blasted
Peggy Robertson is beside herself that the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) approved the Relay Graduate School of Education to train teachers in her state.  Guest posting on theBust*ED pencils website she refers to the RGSE as a “fake graduate program” and is dumbfounded that no voices were raised around the state in protest.  “One of the greatest news stories of the year.  The destruction of the teaching profession making progress in Colorado.  And why didn’t anyone speak up?  Where was the state union? Where were the colleges of education in Colorado?  Where were the educational researchers?  No where to be found,”she rails.
The Teaching Profession

The rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Detroit Public Schools(DPS) that let teachers in that city to hold a two-day “sick-out” that closed almost 97% of the city’s campuses is the topic of a “Back Story” column in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “The walkout was yet another troubling episode for a long-beleaguered school district that is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt,” it notes, “and behind on payments to its retirement system.  It was also another reminder of how the destiny of schools is guided by shifting demographics, the growing charter-school sector and poor economics, though Detroit is an extreme example.”  If you thought things were bad in your district, after reading this story just be glad you don’t teach in Detroit.               Based on this next item fromEDUCATION WEEK, you may not want to teach in the Chicago Public Schools either.  “Long Building, Chicago Schools’ Fiscal Crisis Reaches Boiling Point” is the title of another depressing article about a financially starved public school district, the nation’s third largest.  “Chicago’s situation echoes the education finance woes of Detroit, Philadelphia, and other urban areas.  But as a flagship urban district with some 392,000 students, most of them students of color,” it reports, “Chicago is in a class of its own.  Its financial situation is unique even in Illinois, where political wrangling has delayed a new budget for nearly a year.  Schools in Chicago are now increasingly relying on goodwill to raise money for everything from toilet paper to instrument repairs.”               All this battling over adequate funds for schools in Chicago and Detroit has a terrible impact on students, teaches and parents as this follow-up story in ED WEEK on the crisis in Chicago indicates.  It focuses on a couple of campuses and how severe budget shortfalls are effecting teaching and learning.               Well, this edition of the “Ed News” has reports on the poor working conditions for teachers in Detroit and Chicago (see above) due to budget battles but wait until you read how Pennsylvania is addressing its funding problems–by blaming teachers!  Yes, the Keystone State, faced with funding shortfalls for education has decided to ignore the question of providing adequate money for its schools and instead, the legislature voted to to strip teachers of tenure in order to make it easier to fire them.  You read that correctly.  Legislators, not willing to fund the schools adequately, shift the blame to the classroom teachers.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALLBLOG,describes what’s taking place in Harrisburg, the state capitol.  Fortunately, he reports, Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto the bill.               Teachers don’t often confront ethical dilemmas in their classrooms but occasionally they do and don’t always know how to react.  Meira Levinson, a Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Jacob Fay, an advanced doctoral student at the HGSE, offer some suggestions on how to deal with those ethical issues that sometimes crop up in classrooms.  Their article appears on the HARVARD EDUCATION PUBLISHING GROUP website.  The authors present a typical situation that occurs in an elementary classroom with a disruptive student and offer some ideas on how to deal with it.  Their article is titled “Ethics in Everyday Teaching Practice.”                The U.S. seems to constantly face a shortage of teachers of color in its classrooms.  Why is it important to have a diverse teaching corps in this country and what can be done about this chronic problem?  Those issues are addressed by Travis J. Bristol, a former high school English teacher in New York City and teacher educator with the Boston Teacher Residency program who is now a researcher with the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.  His commentary appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  “As a nation, we are faced with the challenge of a teacher workforce that does not represent our country’s increasing racial/ethnic diversity,” he writes.  “With changes to current practices and policies, we have a chance to make progress on ensuring our children have teachers who look like them.  In so doing, we move closer to honoring that most sacred ideal—out of many, one.”
Election 2016
You can tell the 2016 race for president is heating up and becominga rather nasty affair when you read a headline like this one: “Hillary Clinton is Not as Bad as Donald Trump–She’s Worse.”  BTW, it’s by Steven Singer on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG.  He semi admits he wrote it in order to get your attention and it does a pretty good job of that (“On the face of it, the title of this article is pure bull crap,” he begins.)  Singer proceeds to list a number of ways the two candidates are not the same but then quickly conflates the two.“There is an area where both candidates have significant overlap.  If you remove the names and the personalities, if you ignore political affiliation and past history,” Singer suggests, “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton begin to look very similar.  Who does Trump represent?  The 1%.  Who does Clinton represent?  The 1%.  It’s really that clear.” Singer, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, goes on to make the argument about why a progressive third party is desperately needed.               If Donald Trump is elected president, he may have some difficulty tapping Republican officials with K-12 experience to serve in his Department of Education and other related positions according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “Faced with the prospect of working on education policy in a presidential administration headed by Donald Trump, some veterans of past Republican education departments, aides to GOP members of Congress, and other old policy hands are saying, ‘No thanks.’  After eight years working outside of government during President Barack Obama’s presidency,” it relates, “many had pondered joining the U.S. Department of Education under a Republican administration or advising a GOP president—perhaps one headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or another of Trump’s former rivals for the White House.  But these same policy experts say Trump, now the presumptive Republican nominee, is simply too unpredictable, offends their personal beliefs about presidential conduct, or hasn’t expressed the kind of grasp of or interest in education policy that would provide a clear sense of direction for those under him.”  While some GOP hands see an opportunity to guide education policy after spending most of the last 8 years on the sidelines under Pres. Obama, a few would serve under a sense of obligation to assist a fellow Republican.  However, a number of figures quoted in the article simply find Trump too much of a loose cannon and someone who they’d rather not be associated with.  
Letters to the Times
Two letters appear in Sunday’s L.A. Times reacting to a piece the paper ran on Thursday about how college counselors at different schools assisted two teens from similar backgrounds to get into college (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”).
Brown v Board of Education Anniversary 
Today is the 62nd anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  Diane Ravitch’s blog marks the occasion and notes that school segregation is again on the rise as she links to the latest UCLA Civil Rights Project research brief on the subject.  “The most intensely segregated states,” she notes, “are New York, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and California.”               A new report from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempts to quantify the trend to more high-poverty and racially segregated schools in the U.S.  It’s highlighted in an article in the “Politics K-12” column inEDUCATION WEEK.  “The percentage of U.S. schools in which students are mostly  black and Hispanic  and also from low-income backgrounds has risen in the last several years,” it points out, “a condition associated with schools that have fewer resources and important academic opportunities for students, a congressional watchdog agency reported [today].”
Another Sexual Abuse Settlement for the LAUSD 
And finally, in the second largest settlement in district history theLAUSD agreed to pay $88 million to 30 students and their families at two campuses to settle sexual abuse cases.  A story in today’s L.A. Times has the sordid details.  “The cases at De La Torre Elementary in Wilmington and Telfair Avenue Elementary in Pacoima, emerged in the aftermath of better-known sexual misconduct at Miramonte Elementary, south of downtown,” it reports.  “Altogether, a spate of prosecutions and lawsuits led to huge settlements and spurred the district to announce a raft of reforms at the nation’s second-largest school system.”


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




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