Monthly Archives: June 2016

Ed News, Tuesday, June 28, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                
               Monday is the Independence Day holiday. 
            It marks the 240th birthday of the United States of America.
               Inline image 1
 [Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the holiday.  Look for the next edition on July 12th.]
                “Privatizing our public schools makes as much sense as privatizing 
                  the fire department or or the police department” 

― Diane Ravitch

And now to the news.

Charter Schools
Another legislative deal yields some big prizes for charter schools in New York.  Republicans in the state legislature in Albany  agreed to grant New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio one more year of control over his city’s schools in return for 2 major provisions that charter schools have been seeking.  A story in The New York Timesdiscusses the trade-offs.   One major victory for charters will now allow them to hire even more uncertified teachers than is currently allowed.                What happens when a school with a large number of high needs students is turned over to a private company for a makeover and a turnaround?  Great things, right?  NOT so fast, pardner!  Case in point?  Boston’s Paul S. Dever Elementary Schoolwas turned over to Blueprint Schools in 2014 and in the two years since, things have not gone so well.  The June 21st edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story from the Boston Globe that detailed what took place at the school.  Jennifer Berkshire, on her EduShysterblog, takes a closer look at the Globe article and adds some analysis to what happened at the school and why in a piece titled “As the School Spins.”  Sub headline: “A Boston School Turnaround Spins Our of Control. . .”  “Today’s topic: what happens when state officials hand a school whose students are among the highest needs in Boston to a team of outside turner-arounders who have never before run a school?” she begins.  “The answer, as [the June 20th] Boston Globe report indicated, is nothing good.  But might there be more, by which I mean less, to this story than meets the eye?  Grab your handrails, reader, and steer clear of the fairground corn dogs. Things are about to get awfully spinny around here.”               An Alameda County, Calif., grand jury report found that charter schools in Oakland ” aren’t outperforming their district-run counterparts, and on average, performed worse last year in statewide results,” according to a story in The San Jose Mercury News.  In addition, the report called for better management of the schools and more oversight.  “The grand jury chose to examine Oakland’s charter schools because the district has the highest number of any city in the county,” the article notes.  “Nearly 25 percent of the city’s public school children attend charters, compared with the national average of 6 percent.”  You can find the full report (134 pages, see pages 85-94 for the charter school chapter) titled “2015-16, Alameda County Grand Jury Final Report” by clicking here.               Two education non-profits have merged.  5 years ago former LAUSD Supt. John Deasy announced an ambitious plan to raise $200 million through a partnership with wealthy philanthropist Megan Chernin to aid students in the LAUSD.  That organization, the Los Angeles Fund for Education, fell far short of its goal and this week announced a merger with LA’s Promise a group that currently manages 3 district schools.  The new group will be called the LA Promise Fund whose goal will be to help form and support charter schools (what else?).  An article in today’sL.A. Times has all the details.  “While L.A. Unified students are expected to derive some benefit,” the piece suggests, “the mega-district now is left without an outside foundation devoted to supporting the 550,000 students in district-operated schools.  By contrast, the target of the Beverly Hills Education Foundation is to raise an average of $1,000 per student, or about $4 million annually for its more than 4,000 students.”                What happens when the parents of some students at a cyber charter become suspicious of some financial chicanery and other monkey business and begin asking questions?  Why the founder of the school turns around and sues six of the parents for slander, libel and civil conspiracy!  You don’t believe that could happen?  Read what occurred to some parents of the Agoura Cyber Charter in Pennsylvania in a story in the Philadelphia Enquirer.   “The parents denied the allegations and said they had merely sought information about the taxpayer-funded school their children attended,” it explains.  “The parents – and several legal experts – said the case had all the marks of a suit aimed at quashing public debate or stopping criticism of officials known as a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (SLAPP).”  Diane Ravitch calls this “one of the strangest stories of the week or year.”
 
Teacher Training Programs

A coalition of alternative teacher training groups has written a letter to Congress and the U.S. Dept. of Education asking them to create a system for evaluating teacher preparation programs based on a number of metrics.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATIONblog was unable to hide his disdain for this idea.  “Yes, it’s one of the Top Ten Dumbest Reform Ideas Ever, back for another round of zombie policy debate.  The same VAM-soaked high stakes test scores that has been debunked by everyone from principals to statisticians to teachers, the same sort of system that was called ‘arbitrary and capricious’ by a New York judge, the same sort of system just thrown out by Houston– let’s use that not just to judge teachers, but to judge the colleges from which those teachers graduated.   Why would we do something so glaringly dumb? The signatories of the letter say that consumers need information.”  Greene includes a link to the group’s original letter (3 pages) with a list of some of the metric they’d like to see included, for your perusal.               The two authors of a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT are involved in the Seattle Teacher Residency program and make a case for projects like theirs as being the best way to train teachers.  Although residencies can be expensive, they claim that in the long run they are much more cost effective than traditional teacher training methods.  “The residency model is a better way,”they argue.  “It’s an investment, streamlining the costs of hiring and turnover in a district while mitigating the negative impact that chronic turnover has on a school culture and the education of a child.  Most importantly, this approach prepares teachers to deliver on the promise of public education for every child, preparing students for lasting success in the classroom and beyond.  So we ask again – can we afford not to train our teachers this way?”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Has it really become one of the goals of certain corporate “reformers” and privatizers to have kids fail more?  If you don’t believe that you need to be introduced to the concept of “productive failure.”  Yes, you read that right, “productive failure.”  Alfie Kohn, author of a number of books on education, parenting and human behavior, looks at the idea and finds it rather wanting.  This piece, from his Alfie Kohn website, is headlined “The Failure of Failure” and is adapted from his book “The Myth of the Spoiled Child” that was published in paperback in March of this year.  “We may wishthat students who do poorly at something,” he mentions, “will react by squaring their shoulders and redoubling their efforts until, gosh darn it, they turn things around.  But that result is more the exception than the rule.  When kids ‘learn from failure,’ what they’re likely to learn is that they’re failures.”               Does offering parents more choices of where to send their children to school mean better schools?  If you listen to the corporate “reformers,” the answer is “absolutely!”  The facts tell a different story.  Case in point–Detroit.  An extensive investigative item in The New York Times ,titled “For Detroit’s Children, More School Choice But Not Better Schools,” puts the lie to that corporate “reform” argument.  “While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters [in Detroit] has created a glut of schools,” it reveals, “competing for some of the nation’s poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles.  Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.”
 
School Funding
A few states, like California, are attempting to provide extra funds to schools with the highest needs students.  The Golden State’s Local Control Funding Formula has been accomplishing that now for a couple of years.  NOT New Jersey.  Republican Gov. Chris Christie has proposed a budget plan that would provide an equal number of dollars to all districts.  An editorial in The New York Times is rather astounded at Christie’s hubris.  “While it sounds reasonable, a flat amount would make it impossible for poor communities to provide a sound education,” it points out, “for disadvantaged children who need classrooms with more resources.  The state is required by law to send more money to those communities because they simply don’t have the tax base or property values to raise additional revenues on their own.”  Christie wants to amend the New Jersey constitution to do away with that provision in order to provide property tax cuts for the wealthy.  
 
Graduation Rates Questioned
An extended editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times raises some questions about those increases in graduation rates that many districts and states are reporting.  It is the second in a 2-part series on graduation rates.  A link to the first editorial is included in this one.  The first one, which was highlighted in last Tuesday’s “Ed News” was skeptical about LAUSD’s “recovery courses” for students to make-up credits towards graduation.  Part 2 outlines a number of ways the Times believes states and districts are artificially increasing those graduation rates, i.e., simplifying or doing away with exit exams, not counting all students and offering those “watered down” credit recovery  classes.  “The question, though, is whether schools will bring those [graduation rates] up the hard way, by improving the quality of education – or by falling back on shortcuts and gimmicks,” this editorial wonders.  “Early indications suggest that they’ll do a combination of both.  States and school districts, not just locally but across the nation, have already come up with a wide array of ways to make graduation rates look good on paper.”
 
Killing Teachers in Mexico
The June 21st edition of the “Ed News” highlighted several items about a rally in Mexico over proposed education reforms in whichseveral teachers were killed by police in a violent clash on June 20th.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG,  weighs in on the deaths in a piece titled “Killed For Being A Teacher–Mexico’s Corporate Education Reform.”  “Conflict between teachers and governments has become commonplace across the globe,” he suggests, “as austerity and neoliberalism have become the policies du jour.  Tax cuts for the rich lead to shrinking public services.  And investment in the next generation through public education becomes a thing of the past. . . . Though in America educators have been ignored, unjustly fired and even arrested for such protests, the Mexican government has resorted to all out murder.”
 
New LAUSD Budget
The LAUSD school board approved a $7.6 billion budget for the 2016-17 school year at their regular meeting last week.  The “Explainer” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times takes a look at 3 key issues regarding how the dollars will/should be spent.  
 
A Little History of School Desegregation in California
70 years ago, when Sylvia Mendez was 10 years old, her parents filed a lawsuit in California to allow her to attend a predominantly white school in her Orange County neighborhood.  Their case was the first to challenge segregated education in the country and after two court rulings in their favor legislation was signed making the Golden State the first to ban segregated neighborhood schools.  She was recently the graduation speaker at a school that bears her name, Mendez High in Boyle Heights that opened in 2009.  The “Education Watch” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times tells her story and profiles the now 80-year old pioneer for school integration.  “When Mendez entered elementary school during World War II,” it relates, “about 80% of Mexican American students in Orange County attended segregated schools where speaking Spanish was prohibited, boys trained for industrial jobs, and girls were taught how to cook and crochet.”
 
The Teaching Profession
In the past the “Ed News” has highlighted stories about student absenteeism.  Now comes a study about teacher absenteeism from the Education Week Research Center that dug deeper into data provided by the U.S. Dept. of Education.  It found that slightly more than 25% of teachers missed 10 or more days a year reports an article in EDUCATION WEEK. Hawaii (75%) and Nevada (49%) had the highest rates of teachers missing 10 days or more while Utah (16%), South Dakota (17%) and Idaho (18%) had the lowest figures. California?  24%.  Check out the interactive map with figures for all 50 states.  “Both Education Week’s analysis and a 2013 study by NCTQ found teacher absenteeism was virtually the same for schools with high and low concentrations of students in poverty,” the piece mentions.  “Schools with high concentrations of low-income students were about equally likely to have high rates of teacher absenteeism as other schools.  (The Education Week analysis did not include racial data.)”                Amazon is getting into the education materials business.  Yesterday, the company announced the launch of “Amazon Inspire” which will be a free service providing digital education resources for teachers and other educators.  Another Story in ED WEEK has a preview of the site.  According to the article the site will contain ” thousands of free lesson plans, activities, and other instructional materials for teachers.”  You can access the amazoninspire beta site by clicking here.
 
Co-Location in LAUSD
A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the topic of “co-location,” the sharing of space on LAUSD campuses with charter schools and the battles being fought between the two sides.  Last week the school board voted to create a committee to deal with the contentious issue according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times “The school board directed the superintendent to form a group,” it explains, “that will suggest ways to make the process for giving charter schools space on district school campuses more transparent for all those it affects.  The group could include parents, district school principals, teachers and charter school leaders. . . .  In 2015-16, about 50 charter schools used space on campuses of L.A. Unified schools.”
 
Tenure and Seniority
In the initial ruling in the Vergara case in 2014 the judge tossed out teacher tenure and seniority rights claiming they violated the California constitution.  In April of this year a state appellate court overturned that decision and now the state supreme court is contemplating whether to take up the case.  In the interimAssemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) introduced legislation to deal with some of the issue raised in the original lawsuit.  George Skelton, in his “Capitol Journal” column in yesterday’s L.A. Timesdescribes her battles with the CTA (California Teachers Association), which he calls “ arguably the most powerful labor union in the state.”  Regrettably, he makes the union out to be the ogre in the fray. 
 
Election 2017 (That’s Not a Misprint) 
The charter movement continues making inroads into the world of politics.  If they’re not getting involved in school board races or state legislative contests they are looking for other offices to conquer, i.e., mayor of Los Angeles.  Steve Barr, founder of the Green Dot Charter chain in L.A., announced that he would challenge incumbent Eric Garcetti for mayor of L.A. in 2017.  A front-page story in today’sL.A. Times profiles Barr and his strategy for the race.  “Barr’s entry into the 2017 race,” it mentions, “comes amid a historic push by local activists to expand charter schools as an answer to problems in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and is likely to revive debate around a recurrent theme in L.A. government: the relationship between LAUSD and City Hall. L.A.’s mayor, unlike those in Chicago or New York City, has no formal authority over the school district.”
 
SOS Event July 8-10
And finally, the Save Our Schools “People’s March for Public Education and Social Justice” is taking place this year on July 8-10 in Washington, D.C.  For information about the event, a detailed schedule of activities and to register click here.  “The big news is that the march and rally will be at the Lincoln Memorial,” the publicity states, “and the SOS Activists Conference will be at Howard University!  Our coalition of grassroots groups, union organizations, and activists is growing, so join the mass gathering of children and adults who are rallying and marching in support of education and social justice this summer!”  ALOED member Larry Lawrence will once again be attending.

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

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Ed News, Friday, June 24, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            “American Education has a long history of infatuation with fads and ill-considered ideas. 
            The current obsession with making our schools work like a business may be the worst of them, 
            for it threatens to destroy public education. Who will Stand up to the tycoons and politicians and tell them so?” 

― Diane RavitchThe Death and Life of the Great American School System: 

                                             How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
 
LAUSD Approves New Budget
The LAUSD board approved a $7.6 billion (that’s with a “b”) budgetat their regular meeting Tuesday evening.  That works out to over a 10% increase from the previous year’s spending plan.  That’s the good news.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times provides the details but also reviews some of the controversy over how the extra funds should be allocated.  That’s the bad or not so good news.  “The vote comes at a time of financial uncertainty,” it notes, “as state officials and advocates argue with the nation’s second-largest school system over its spending priorities.  Under the state’s funding formula, most of the new dollars are supposed to help low-income students, students who are learning English and students in the foster-care system.  But L.A. Unified is spending a lower percentage of this money on these students than other school systems, say advocates who have sued the district and accuse it of violating state law.”
 
The Teaching Profession
How does U.S. teachers’ pay compare to their peers around the world?  In most cases the answer is “it is severely lacking” suggests a story on the BROOKINGS website.  Bottom line: “While American salaries aren’t the lowest, many other countries not only pay better, but the gap is really, really big.  The simple summary: Other countries make teaching a more financially attractive career for college graduates than we do.”  The piece makes use of several graphs to illustrate its points about “Teacher Pay Around the World.”
   
More on Grit
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a review of Angela Duckworth’s new bestseller “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”  David Denby, in THE NEW YORKER takes amore jaundiced and nuanced view of her book.  His review is titled “The Limits of ‘Grit.'”  “Duckworth’s work,” he notes, “has been playing very well with a second audience: a variety of education reformers who have seized on ‘grit’ as a quality that can be located and developed in children, especially in poor children.”  “I strongly recommend  that you read this review” Diane Ravitch writes on her blog.  “The popularity of ‘grit’ may be just one more of those ‘silver bullets’ that reformers grab onto,” she adds, “as a way to avoid the central problem of our society: growing inequality.”
 
Election 2016
Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic Party nominee for president, is a big supporter of Pres. Obama’s administration.  Does that mean she will follow a similar path to the one he did regarding education policy?  That’s the concern of Joseph Ricciotti, the author of an op-ed on the CT NEWS Junkie website, who is a retired educator from Connecticut.  “Sadly, [the] forces of privatization received major support from Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education appointed by President Barack Obama.  No other Education Secretary, especially Democratic,” he complains, “has done more to privatize and weaken public education than Arne Duncan who was also obsessed with standardized testing.  Under his regime, public schools across the nation experienced two failed programs with Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  His so-called ‘testocracy’ grossly neglected the impact of childhood poverty on learning for children from impoverished homes.”  Ricciotti believes Clinton will signal the direction she plans to take on education policy by the person she selects to head the Dept. of Education, should she be elected president in November.  He offers a name that he’d like to see her consider and it may, or may not, surprise you.               The NPE (Network for Public Education) formulated 5 concrete proposals for education policy that it hopes the Democratic Party will include in its platform this year.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a press release from the group describing what they’d like the party to support regarding K-12 education issues “In response to the Democratic Party’s request for platform input,” it states, “forty-six national and local grassroots groups join the Network for Public Education Action in its petition that five pro-public education principles be included in the party platform.  The allied groups are united in their opposition to the privatization of public schools, which has been enabled by both political parties.”  Here’s item #1 from their proposals: “1. Eliminate High Stakes Testing.”  Ravitch’s piece includes links to the full statement (7 pages) sent to the Democratic Party and to the Republican Party (also 7 pages).               Does it seem to you that most, if not all, of the presidential candidates this year were woefully uninformed about education issues?  That’s the impression Dave Powell, a former high school teacher and associate professor of education at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, has and what he writes about In his “The K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  His commentary is titled “Educating Our Low-Information Politicians About Education Policy.”  “Over the course of the recently-concluded presidential primary season much digital ink was spilled over the fact that the candidates just weren’t, to the eyes of many observers, saying enough about education,” Powell begins.  “Sure, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over the particulars as they debated the best way to bring down the cost of college—should it be tuition free or debt free?—but a lot of what we heard was either factually incorrect, buried in platitudes, or simply unhelpful.  Especially on one side of the proverbial aisle.”  His solution?  It’s up to teachers and other educators not only to educate their students, as they do every day, but in addition, to inform our politicians, in various ways, about important education issues. 
 
Charter Schools
An editorial in Tuesday’s L.A. Times deals with the contentious issue of “co-location” between charter schools and the LAUSD, in this case.  Co-location has to do with the sharing of classroom space on district campuses with charter schools.  Sounds pretty straight forward but the devil is in the details.  The editorial defines the term, lays out the issues and offers some suggestions regarding a proposal before the LAUSD board as to how to deal with it.  “School districts are required by law to offer unused, surplus space to charters for a fee under a provision of Proposition 39, which was passed in 2000,” the piece explains.  “Though voters may have figured at the time that the proposition referred to schools that would otherwise be closed, in reality, the space is usually at a less-than-full campus.  A few sharing arrangements have worked smoothly, but most have not.  You’d be amazed how complicated it can be to define what an empty classroom is.”                 This is a pretty good gig if you can get it.  Start a charter school with taxpayer funds.  Makes lots of money through kick-backs and other shady deals.  Get caught by the Securities and Exchange Commission for securities fraud.  Be granted a huge severance package when you resign from the charter.  Get a minor slap on the wrist for your wrongdoing and a tiny fine.  Walk away from the whole episode a wealthy man.  Can’t/wouldn’t happen, you say? Check out, on theFRED KLONSKY blog, the story of Juan Rangel, leader of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), one of the largest charter networks in Illinois and how he pulled off just such a scheme “Most of the money that Rangel was accused of scamming,” Klonsky writes, “came from a state grant greased by Governor Pat Quinn and Speaker Michael Madigan.  UNO received all but $15 million of the $98 million provided by the state.”              Three Teach for America educators were forced to resign from their Blackstone Valley Prep charter school in Rhode Island after they were caught texting very disparaging comments about some of their students.  The PROVIDENCE Journal has the dispiriting details.  “In the expletive-ridden messages,” it relates, “teachers spoke casually about students, calling them ‘idiots,’ and ‘dumb [expletives].'”  Kind of makes you wonder what TFA is teaching those candidates in their abbreviated 5-7 week training sessions.
 
Ed Tech            
An article in EDUCATION WEEK profiles 5 education schools that have integrated technology training into their teacher preparation programs.  The good news is, one of them is in California,; the bad (sad?) news is, it’s not Occidental.  “In December, the U.S. Department of Education released the fifth iteration of its National Education Technology Plan, a sweeping vision of how technology should be used in schools.  The plan criticizes the current state of teacher-preparation programs,” the ED WEEK article begins, “saying that across the board, they are failing to prepare teachers to use technology effectively.  Instead of a stand-alone course on educational technology, the report said, programs should incorporate educational technology in all courses.  New teachers should be ready from day one to select and use apps and tools that support their states’ learning standards, department officials decreed.”  [Ed. note: ALOED continues to harbor a hope that Oxy will re-institute its highly regarded credential program and bring it into the 21st century with a strong tech training component.  The time certainly seems right and the need it there for exactly that!  It would be great to see Oxy on that list the next time someone writes an article about teacher prep colleges and universities that include a stress on technology.]              Want a glimpse of a classroom where technology takes center stage?  You have to check out Nicholas Provenzano’s English class at Grosse Pointe South High School in Michigan.  The profile is courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK.  “Step into Nicholas Provenzano’s high school English classroom and you won’t see a dusty chalkboard or students scribbling in notebooks.  Instead,” it explains, “his classroom is mostly paperless.  He has a set of iPads, and most of his students have been taking notes with Evernote for four years now.  The app, which students can use to organize and access their notes, has been a game changer, he said.  Excitement creeps into Provenzano’s voice when he talks about new technology in the classroom.”
 
Testing
During standardized testing season this year and in years past, the “Ed News” highlighted some stories about states that had major technical and mechanical problems with the testing process.  Texas was one of those that experienced major snafus this year as it attempted to administer the assessments.  The Lone Star State had jettisoned Pearson as its testing vendor last year and ETS (Educational Testing Service) began a new four-year contract to provide testing services this year.  Problems solved?  Not even close!  An investigative piece in the TEXAS OBSERVER recounts the myriad difficulties faced this year regarding testing.  It’s a pretty bleak tale and reflects very poorly on the whole testing idea.  The article is titled “All the Ways STAAR Has Screwed  Texas Schools (So Far).”  “Texas’ standardized testing program wasn’t exactly popular before the 2015-2016 school year, but this year’s State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) has been an especially frustrating experience for Texas students, parents and school officials,” it gloomily relates.  “New testing contractor Educational Testing Service, in the first year of a four-year, $280 million contract to administer the STAAR, has seemed overwhelmed by the task: It misdelivered tests, lost records of test answers, and took weeks longer than promised to deliver test scores.”  And those are just some of the problems faced in Texas. The article lays out a number of additional ones.
 
LAUSD’s Credit Recovery Courses
A lengthy editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times (highlighted in the previous edition of the “Ed News”) raises some questions about the content and quality of some make-up classes the LAUSD is offering for seniors who fall behind in their credits for graduation.  It prompted two letters that appear in Wednesday’s edition of the paper.
 
ESSA Hearings
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story questioning whether the U.S. Dept. of Education was going beyond its mandate of writing rules for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and actually altering the law itself.  DoE Sec. John King appeared before the House Education Committee yesterday to quell fears that his department was making changes to the legislation.  EDUCATION WEEK details his testimony regarding accountability and spending plans.
 
Corporate “Reform”
And finally, corporate “reformers” are constantly demanding that the public schools operate more like a business.  Many real education experts have consistently pointed out why that doesn’t hold water.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews, once again, why turning schools into businesses , students into “products” and parents into”customers” just doesn’t make any sense.  He makes a strong argument for why we have to stop seeing schools as businesses.  He uses the for-profit college sector as a prime example.  [Ed. note: For another view of this topic please see the quote at the top of this edition from Diane Ravitch.]             Another thing the corporate “reformers” keep doing is repeating over and over that the traditional public school system is somehow broken or failing.  They repeat those terms so often that the uninformed public begins to believe them.  Once they buy into those ideas, the corporate “reformers” can offer all kinds of (money-making) “solutions” like charters, choice and privatization.  The author of this item in The Atlantic, titled “America’s Not-So-Broken Education System,” is an assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.  “Are the schools perfect?” he asks.  “No.  But they are slowly improving.  And they are certainly better today than at any point in the past.  So why the invented story about an unchanging and obsolete system?  Why the hysterical claims that everything has broken?”

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             [Ed. note: I forgot to remind everyone that Sunday was
            Father’s Day so, with sincere apologies, here’s a rather late wish:
                    Inline image 1
             And BTW, summer snuck up on me too, officially arriving yesterday at 3:34 pm PDT.]
 
 Inline image 1

           

And now to the news.


           “Those things for which the most money is demanded are never the things which the student most wants. 
Tuition, for instance, is an important item in the term bill, while for the far more valuable education 
which he gets by associating with the most cultivated of his contemporaries no charge is made.” 

― Henry David ThoreauWalden

 
Former Beverly Hills Superintendent’s Conviction Upheld
Former Beverly Hills Unified School District Superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard who was convicted in 2012 of misappropriating school funds had that decision confirmed by the California Supreme Court late last week.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times reviews the case and explains the latest ruling and its implications.  “In January 2012, Hubbard was convicted in Los Angeles County Superior Court of two felony counts of misappropriating public funds,” it relates, “while superintendent from July 2003 to June 2006.  He joined Newport-Mesa Unified as superintendent after leaving Beverly Hills and was fired the day after he was convicted.  Hubbard appealed the trial court decision to the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, and in 2014 a three-judge panel reversed his conviction.  Prosecutors then petitioned the state’s highest court to review the decision.”
 
New York’s Opt-Out Movement
Long Island has been a focal point of the opt-out movement for a couple of years now.  A story in the Long Island Press reviews how the movement started, how it has grown and what the future holds.  “It remains to be seen how this evolving protest movement,”it speculates, “will improve or replace the current education agenda.  According to local public education advocates, the answer is multi-tiered.  It includes elections: first at the state level and then at the local school board in an effort to tackle education policy from all sides.  The goal is a shift away from schools’ increasing test-prep focus almost exclusively on math and reading skills—eschewing the arts and play-based learning—to a comprehensive curriculum that addresses what some advocates call the ‘whole child.’”
 
If Second Graders Could Design Their Dream School
As part of an initiative in Boston to rally support of for the public schools, a 2nd-grade teacher in that city had her students work on a project to design their dream school.  She reports on what her students came up with on the DEY (Defending the Early Years)website.  What kinds of wild things did the consider?  Their “dream” school is pretty basic and how sad it is that they can’t have some of the things that others take for granted.  “My students, attending a chronically underfunded school, instead requested things like pencils, markers, and glue sticks.  One student,” the teacher relates, “asked me if he was allowed to simply say that his dream school would be ‘shiny and new.’  Another student asked if it was too big to dream of a school where kids who felt sad could have a room with soft things and people to talk to.  Many students dreamed of a better playground and some asked for a class pet and field trips to far-away places.  As they were working, a student came over to ask me if some schools have a whole library in them rather than just one in their classroom.  When I said yes, he changed his mind from a swing set to a library.”
 
Grit
Angela Duckworth was one of the earliest proponents of teaching the character trait she calls “grit” to low-performing students and to others. She has a new best-seller out titled “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” which is reviewed in an extended piece in Slate.  “Duckworth’s best-seller peddles a pair of big ideas: that grit—comprising a person’s perseverance and passion—is among the most important predictors of success,” the author of the article writes, “and that we all have the power to increase our inner grit. These two theses, she argues, apply not just to cadets but to kids in troubled elementary schools and undergrads at top-ranked universities and to scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs.”
 
 
Election 2016
Need a laugh?  Have 8:48 minutes to spare?  Check out thishilarious graduation speech by an 8th grader(!) at Thomas Middle School in suburban Chicago.  Jack Aiello turns the talk into a series of impersonations of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Pres. Obama, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  The NBC affiliate in the Windy CityWMAQ 5 has a video segment of the speech and a transcript with highlights.  “Aiello’s entire roughly 350-student graduating class was tasked with writing a graduation speech as part of an English assignment,” it notes.  “The speeches were then evaluated by teachers and staff before three finalists were selected. . . .  ‘He was hands down No. 1 because it was going to speak to the kids,’ principal Brian Kaye said.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Deborah Meier, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, comments on the concepts of tenure and seniority from Meier’s perspective as a former principal.  “Tenure and seniority are often attacked by people of good will,” she begins,  “As a former principal of several schools, I embrace it.”               The use of digital learning games is becoming more prevalent in the nation’s K-12 classrooms according to a new survey by Project Tomorrow, an Irving, Calif. nonprofit.  The findings are based on an online questionnaire completed by over 500,000 students, teachers, other educators and parents, a story in EDUCATION WEEK reports.  “The number of teachers in the United States using games in their classrooms—particularly with younger students—has doubled during the past six years, according to a large survey released this month that measures national ed-tech use,” the item mentions.  “In 2015, the survey found, 48 percent of K-12 teachers and almost two-thirds of K-5 teachers reported using game-based learning environments in their classes, up from 23 percent of all K-12 teachers in 2010.”  Be sure to click on the two sidebars for expanded graphics about the findings contained in the poll.  You can find the full report (16 pages) titled “From Print to Pixel: The Role of Videos, Games, Animations and Simulations Within K-12 Education” by clicking here or you can read the 3-page Press Release with a summary of the findings.                 A teacher who lasted only 6 months at one of Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy schools in New York writes about her experiences on her personal SASHA GUIRINDONGO blog.  “I had heard horrors about SA prior to accepting the job: the long hours and pressure to perform, but coming from another charter school I had confidence that I could accept and overcome any difficulties; Besides I was coming from teaching in East New York and nothing toughens you up more than working in a school where someone is shot dead at the end of the school block during Parent-Teacher Night.  So was I intimidated by SA?  No.  But once I began teaching as a newly baptized SA teacher I quickly realized the toxic environment SA strived to create,” she confides, “and force feed educators who had real passion for teaching.  SA had managed to create an educational environment that disregarded the well-being of the teacher.  It promoted a cut-throat, monetarily incentivized corporate environment in which you prayed for the demise of your peers for an opportunity to inadvertently glorify yourself.  Is this what teaching is about?”                If you think teachers and their unions are being targeted for criticism in this country you should see what’s been happening in Mexico.  Since the current president of Mexico publicized his education reforms in 2013 (which were heavy on privatization and the testing of teachers) educators have been holding protests over the provisions.  Nothing wrong with that except at least 6 civilians were KILLED during clashes with police at protests on Sunday in Oaxaca.  A story in today’s L.A. Times has the frightening details.  “In the poor southern region where Oaxaca is located, teachers are tasked with the daily challenge of providing shelter and food for their students,” it points out, “along with the mandate to boost test scores and improve reading comprehension.  There teachers quite literally must build the schools in which they work and then find furniture to fill their classrooms.  Students arrive at school barefoot, ache with intestinal parasites, and learn native languages before Spanish.”               A co-director of theBadass Teachers Association (BATs) Action Team reacts to the violence in Mexico and identifies the 6 victims as teachers.  His piece is titled “They Are Killing Teachers in Mexico and We Will Not Be Silent!”   “We in the U.S. are no strangers to the oppression of corporate privatizers and anti union fascists,” he laments, “who target teachers for various reasons.  Chief among them are that teachers are now, and always have been, the voice for social change.  We educate and enlighten the next generation.  We lead by example. We encourage our students to strive to make a difference in the world.  That is a threat to the elites who refuse to relinquish their power.”                The NPE (The Network for Public Education) issued a statement calling for an end to the violence against teachers in Mexico.  “During the past few days,” it begins, “extreme violence has been used against teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico who were protesting governmental education ‘reforms.’  This has resulted in the deaths of at least eight people.  The Network for Public Education joins with those condemning this violence and calls for a dialogue to resolve the underlying issues.”             It may be summer break for most educators but not everything is hunky-dory when it comes to public perceptions of what teachers do during that time of the year.  We’ll leave it to Steven Singer and his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG to educate the public about what teachers experience during those supposedly relaxing and blissful months off during the summer.  His essay is titled “Summer Break–The Least Understood and Most Maligned Aspect of a Teacher’s Life.”  Sit back on your porch with a cool drink during these hot days and contemplate what he has to say.                 Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about how Utah was dealing with a teacher shortage by hiring educators who have no formal education training.  At least 4 other states (Alabama, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Kansas) are in the same predicament as Utah and are following in that state’s footsteps.  TheRuss on Reading blog, written by Russ Walsh, wants to know “Where is the Outrage?”  “The move to get unqualified people into the classroom gives the lie to the real goal of education reformers,”he notes.  “On the one hand we hear that ‘the teacher is the the most important single in-school factor in student achievement.’  This is generally followed with breathless treatises on how teachers suck and how we need to improve teacher performance in the classroom, get rid of bad teachers and measure that performance with standardized tests.”
 
Charter Schools
The long, drawn out battle between charters and traditional public schools continues.  However, a new front has opened.  The charter industry appears to be fighting among themselves as brick and mortar charters take on the virtual, online providers.  A recent report (highlighted in the “Ed News”) found that K12 Inc., the largest purveyor of online charter classes was not doing a very good job of boosting student achievement and the regular charters are worried that will sully the entire industry.  An article in theWASHINGTON Examiner scrutinizes the growing split between the two charter groups “There are 180,000 students in 135 full-time online charter schools across 23 states, as well as Washington, D.C.  About 70 percent of full-time virtual charter schools,” it points out, “are run by for-profit organizations, compared to only 15 percent of all public charter schools.”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog weighs in on thecharter vs charter conflict.  “The cyber-charter industry is not just going to knuckle under to their bricks-and-mortar brethren,” he predicts, “nor are they going to ‘fess up to their increasingly obvious failures.  But if they are going to just keep stinking up the charter school business, the bricks-and-mortar charters will just have to come after them with a bigger stick.  I would just settle back with my bag of popcorn, were it not for all the real, live students who will continue to be collateral damage in the cyber-battle to keep a bad business model afloat just so some rich guys can get richer.”               Thomas Ultican, on his TULTICAN blog, reviews the movement to privatize the public schools in California.  He’s a high school math and physics teacher out of San Diego.  He doesn’t hesitate to name the organizations and individuals behind this effort to dismantle public education in the Golden State and goes into chapter and verse about how they are going about it.  In conclusion he writes: “Public schools are important to both American democracy and a vibrant just culture. They are worth fighting to save from arrogance, ignorance and greed.”
 
Reform Battle Plays Out in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh may be the latest front in the reform battle between the corporate privatizers and those who follow a more traditional path to change.  For years the school board was under the control of the former who were able to select a kindred spirit for superintendent.  In recent years the pendulum has begun to swing back to control by parents and educators who were able to gain a majority on the elected school board and selected a new superintendent, Anthony Hamlet, when the previous one announced his intention to retire effective this July 1st.  Then the corporate “reform” comeback began with a savage hit on the prospective superintendent’s resumé over a petty issue of plagiarism.  I’ll let Steven Singer and hisGADDLYONETHEWALLBLOG pick up the rest of the story.  Warning: it’s not a pretty tale.  “[Hamlet] is set to takeover the district on July 1, but a well financed public smear campaign is trying to stop him before he even begins,” Singer notes.  “Big money interests oppose him. The public supports him.  Meanwhile the media helps fuel corporate attacks on the 47-year-old African American because of criticisms leveled by a Political Action Committee (PAC) formed to disband the duly-elected school board.”  Fights like this have already played out in various cities and are likely to continue in your city or one near you.
 
Quality of LAUSD’s Credit Recovery Courses Questioned
The LAUSD has been making steady progress at improving its high school graduation rate.  One reason for that trend has been the offering of online recovery classes as well as Saturday and after school classes for students who fall behind in their credits towards completion.  An extended editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times calls into question the content and quality of those courses.  How does credit recovery work?  “Students who flunk a course can make up the credit by taking classes either in computer-equipped rooms at school, or at home if they have the equipment and Internet access.  Teachers lecture on videos,” the piece explains, “the computer displays the readings or practice problems, and students take tests that are automatically graded.  Written work is supposed to be reviewed by a district teacher.  The courses have certain benefits: Students can replay a lecture for missed material, something that can’t happen in a regular classroom.  When they can’t concentrate any longer, they can put the course on hold and take a break.”  A Times editorial writer was able to take one of the online classes–first semester 11th grade English Language Arts–and a description of the content is included.  A number of questions are raised about the quality and content of the courses and the piece concludes with several suggestions for improving the oversight and accountability of them.
 
How are Vouchers Faring?
At least in Milwaukee, with the nation’s oldest (25 years) voucher program, the answer to the question in the headline is “abysmally.”  Michael R. Ford, a professor of public administration at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, writes on Diane Ravitch’s blogthat 41% of schools that have accepted vouchers have closed during the quarter century the program has been in existence. That’s pretty dismal by anybody’s reckoning!  You can get a brief overview of his and a colleagues research in this article.  Unfortunately, one has to purchase the full report.
 
Drawbacks of Ed Tech
Most educators are pushing education technology (see item in this edition about digital games under the headline “The Teaching Profession” above).  However, as the “Ed News” has chronicled in the past, there are certain obstacles that have to be overcome.  The author of the “Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK is a former social studies teacher and current consultant who warns of “3 Drawbacks of Bringing Tech to the Classroom.”  “Just as you as a teacher must do your research on how to best extract benefits from technology,” he concludes his brief piece, “you must also do your homework when it comes to being prepared to combat the negative impact technology can have.  Make sure you’re equipped to handle not just the best, but also the worst of what happens when the modern age comes to school.”
 
Turning Schools Around
“What Happens To A Turnaround High School When Transformative Principal Walks Away?” is the title of an appealing story in THE HECHINGER REPORT about Shabazz High School in Newark.  When Gemar Mills, the popular principal, left after a 4-year stint in which he transformed a violent, dangerous, low-achieving campus the students, teachers and community were concerned about what the future held.  [Damon] Holmes, 40, took over in September from Gemar Mills, the enormously popular and successful principal,” the article describes, “who abruptly left in the midst of a remarkable and widely hailed turnaround for this long-troubled Newark institution.  Mills had earned the moniker ‘The Turnaround Principal for changing the culture of a school that had been so violent the media dubbed it ‘Baghdad.”’. . .  The departure also illuminates one of the most vexing, crucial questions in the education landscape: When a talented, transformative principal leaves, can a school sustain success?”  They needn’t have worried as the item relates how seamlessly the new principal fit in and continued in his predecessors footsteps.                 Having a state step in and take over an under performing school is not always the best option for turning a campus around.  Not convinced of that?  Wait until you read what’s happened to 4 schools in Massachusetts after they were taken over by the state in 2014.  The tale, as related in an article in The Boston Globe, is a rather discouraging one.  “The promised turnaround,” it suggests, “has not happened — at least not yet — and the troubling picture raises questions about whether state education agencies can do a better job than local districts in lifting up schools stubbornly stuck at the bottom.” This item offers one case study and describes what has gone wrong.
Education Journalism and the L.A. Times
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, has been questioning the journalistic ethics of the L.A. Times in conjunction with its controversial publishing of individual teachers’ value-added (VAM) scores in the paper in 2010.  He wondered where a mystery $15,000 grant came from that helped cover the cost of the analysis that the paper used to interpret the scores.  Cody has now uncovered the mystery.  “The VAM analysis used by the LA Times to rate the effectiveness of thousands of teachers,” he reveals, “was partly paid for by a conglomeration of corporate foundations that included the Gates Foundation, among others. The Hechinger Institute was interested in what the test score data would show, and provided the funding, but did not endorse the publication of teacher names their funding made possible.”  He then proceeds to wonder if all this was journalistically ethical.  Cody provides links to his previous columns on the topic.
 
Implementation of ESSA
Is the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) attempting to rewrite the new Every Student Succeeds Act rather than simply providing implementing regulations?  Valerie Strauss turns her column inThe Washington Post over to Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), who has been closely following what the DoE has been doing regarding key “accountability” provisions as it works to clarify how the new law is to be implemented.  “While the accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are superior to those of No Child Left Behind,”  he begins, “the Department of Education’s draft regulations intensify ESSA’s worst aspects and will have the effect of perpetuating some of NCLB’s most damaging practices.”  Neill offers a series of “recommendations” for the DoE to properly implement the letter and spirit of ESSA.
 
Chicago Teachers to Hold Mass Rally Tomorrow
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is calling for a mass rally tomorrow in downtown Chicago to protest a proposed 39% (!) budget cut for the 2016-17 school year.  Diane Ravitch’s blogreprints a brief announcement about the action and an agenda for the day’s activities.  “The Union, parents, students, education justice activists and others,”  it reports, “are calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago City Council and other lawmakers to fund public schools and implement a series of measures that will lead to long-term sustainability of the district,” it begins.
 
Common Core
And finally, we hear a lot about the Common Core English/Language Arts and math standards but not much about thewriting standards.  A study from Education Trust found that although the standards expect students to write a lot more and to create higher quality products those expectations are not, as yet, being met.  EDUCATION WEEK has a package of articles around the topic of student writing and the Common Core.  The lead-off piece is titled “As Teachers Tackle New Student-Writing Expectations, Support is Lacking.”  “A noticeable uptick of writing in schools has taken place,” it relates, “as most states have implemented the standards, said Tanya Baker, the director of national programs at the National Writing Project, citing anecdotal evidence since there isn’t a way to track the exact amount of writing occurring in classrooms.  Still, for the most part, educators say students aren’t writing as much as the standards require.”  Be sure to check out the sidebar titled “Next Draft: Changing Practices in Writing Instruction” for titles and links to 7 additional articles in the collection.

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

               

Ed News, Friday, June 17, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             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 RavitchThe Death and Life of the Great American School System: 

                      How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
 
Charter Schools
The Recently formed non-profit organization, Great Public Schools Now (GPSN), which serves as a PR front for the Broad and Walton Foundations which heavily funds it, released its latest plan yesterday.  The 16-page document is basically an assault on the LAUSD.  The LA SCHOOL REPORT, which is now owned by Campbell Brown’s corporate “reform” group “The 74” details this latest effort to undermine public education in L.A. “The widening focus is a shift from an early plan leaked last year that was developed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to expand charter schools in LA. . . . .The other notable change from the draft plan is the dearth of details,” the story explains.  “The new plan does not list a specific dollar amount the organization aims at raising, it does not give a timeframe for getting the 160,000 students at the struggling schools enrolled in successful ones, it does not list potential donors, and it does not name any specific school — charter, magnet or otherwise — as a model it wants to replicate.”               Howard Blume has a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times about GPSN’s plan for the future (see above).  “The newly released plan differs substantially from a draft obtained last year by The Times.  That draft,” he writes, “which was not intended for public release, harshly criticized L.A. Unified and identified charter schools as the path forward, with the goal of moving half of district students into charters over eight years.  The draft appeared to have been prepared to give to potential funders.  Critics probably will continue to view that draft as the real blueprint and the document released this week as public relations.”               Amid much fanfare and hoopla yesterday, the organization Great Public Schools Now (GPSN), the non-profit, pro-charter, Eli Broad front group (see above), announced the first three recipients of its grant program.  They went to an Equitas Academy Charter network ($2 million), an after-school and summer enrichment program ($500,000) and Teach for America ($2 million).  A story in today’s L.A. Times outlines GPSN’s initial largesse. “Great Public Schools Now  said Thursday that the TFA dollars exclusively will benefit L.A. Unified,” it mentions.  “But that is not precisely the case, said Lida R. Jennings, executive director of TFA-Los Angeles.  The grant money will go into the organization’s general budget.  Still, several dozen recruits are likely to work in L.A. Unified, which has asked TFA to provide as many as 50 teachers for mild to moderately disabled students, Jennings said.  That $2 million would be enough to cover most of TFA’s cost for the L.A. Unified contingent.”               Author and retired educator Edward F. Berger, on his EdwardFBerger(dot)com website, takes a critical look at the impact of charters and the “choice” movement on the traditional public schools of this country.  “‘Choice’ is a marketplace idea wrongly applied to education.  The assumption that most parents have the information they need to make intelligent decisions about the education their children need, and the education children need to be effective citizens, has been proven wrong,” he complains.  “School choice has failed to improve our schools.  In fact, choice has created a chaos of confusion for parents who have risked (gambled) on moving their children out of comprehensive education programs to place them in partial education programs.”              A major national charter school advocacy group is concerned that poor performing online, virtual charter schools may be giving all charters a bad name.  It wants those programs to be more carefully monitored and regulated according to a piece in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “In a report released [yesterday], the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called on state policy makers to rethink the way virtual charter schools are governed,” the story states, “and to move quickly to close those that perform poorly.  Further, the group argued it might be necessary for virtual (or online-only) charter schools to be separated from the charter designation completely.”  You can find the full report (16 pages), titled “A Call to Action–To Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools,” by clicking here.
 
A Progressive Agenda for the Public Schools
As the 2016 presidential election shifts focus from primary season to party conventions, a group of professors from 5 different universities propose taking education policy in a more progressive direction.  Many critics view the Obama administration’s positions on K-12 education as mirroring those neoliberal policies espoused by his predecessor George W. Bush.  The 5 authors are co-editors of a 4-volume series titled “Defending Public Schools.”  Their current comments appear on the LIVING in DIALOGUEblog.  “Progressives everywhere must begin doing more to demand that our institutions of public education foster critical citizenship skills to advance a more viable and vibrant democratic society. They must push for schools to become organized around preparing young people for active, democratic citizenship,” they suggest, “through engagement with real-world issues, problem-solving, and critical thinking, and through active participation in civic and political processes.  Informed citizenship in a broad-based, grassroots democracy must be based on principles of cooperation with others, non-violent conflict resolution, dialogue, inquiry and rational debate, environmental activism, and the preservation and expansion of human rights.  These skills, capacities, and dispositions need to be taught and practiced in our nation’s schools.  Progressives must also push harder to ensure that all schools are funded equally and fully,” the piece continues, “eliminating the dependence on private corporate funds and on the property tax, which creates a two-tiered educational system by distributing educational monies inequitably.  Promoting greater equality in educational opportunity must also include demands for universal pre-k and tuition-free higher education for all qualified students in state universities.”
 
The Teaching Profession
In light of a teacher shortage in Utah a person can now be hired in that state to teach certain subjects without a program in education.  The “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK explains what is going on in the Beehive state.  “The Utah State Board of Education voted [last] Friday to create an alternative pathway to obtaining a teaching license.  School districts and charter schools can hire individuals with professional experience in certain content areas like computer science,”  it relates, “as long as they have a bachelor’s degree, submit college transcripts to education administrators, pass the state test required for teacher certification, complete an educator ethics review, and pass a background check.  After being hired, that individual will have to go through three years of supervision and mentoring from a ‘master teacher’ designated by the school before receiving licensure.”
 
Students and Sleep
If you are feeling a little drowsy, you may want to hold off reading this next item.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, explores some of the latest research on theamount of sleep young children and teens may require in order to maximize their efforts in the classroom.  “Anyone who has ever watched children get on a school bus before the sun is up in the morning,” she begins, “or teens walk into their first class clutching a jug of coffee knows that too many young people aren’t getting enough sleep.  In fact, experts say that more than a third of the U.S. population doesn’t.”   She also references a previous report that proposed having middle and high-schools not start classes before 8:30 am to accommodate teen sleep patterns and needs.  
 
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Blaming Public Schools
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a simple request: “Stop Treating Public Schools as Society’s Whipping Boy.”  He chronicles all the ways certain politicians and corporate “reformers” blame the public schools for what are often society’s responsibilities.  “Public schools in general – and public school teachers specifically – have become our easy scapegoats, our whipping boys.  It’s about time we realized that such criticisms aren’t helping.  In fact,” he concludes, “they’re being used by the same people who are destroying our schools as an excuse to destroy them further.  The so-called failure of public schools has been used to justify massive school closures especially in neighborhoods of color.  It’s been used to create more privately run charter schools.  It’s been used to excuse cutting school funding, and making it even less palatable to be a teacher.  Too many of us believe these are good ideas.  Americans believe a lot of stupid things, but perhaps THESE are the dumbest of them all!”
 
High Test Scores and Success Later In Life
The corporate “reform” crowd likes to suggest that high student test scores lead to success later in life.  What proof do they offer?  Good question.  Jay Greene, endowed professor of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, writing on his Jay P. Greene’s Blog, has previously cited some other studies that refuted that claim and now offers another one from the group MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization based in New York City and Oakland, CA.  It followed students at the SEED charter boarding school in Washington, D.C.  “While the initial test score results are very encouraging, the later life outcomes are disappointing.  . . .  In fact, SEED may be doing a great job in a variety of ways,” Greene maintains, “but when we look at longer term outcomes for students on a variety of measures the evidence demonstrating SEED’s success disappears or even turns negative.”  This item includes a link to the full report (143 pages) titled “Going Away to School–An Evaluation of SEED DC.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
Corporate “reformers” like to point to Denver as an example of how their policies of charterization are working in an urban school district and are a justification for a future rapid expansion of charters in that city.  Wait just a minute, urges Jeff Bryant in a story for ALTERNET.  He suggests everyone take a closer look at how charters are actually performing in Denver and if they do, they may not be so quick to tout what’s taking place there.  “According to CPD[Center for Popular Democracy], based on the school performance framework Denver uses to evaluate its own schools, ‘Forty percent of Denver charter schools are performing below expectations.’  And of those schools, 38 percent are performing significantly below expectations.  Nevertheless, numerous articles and reports in mainstream media outlets and education policy sites,” Bryant worries, “enthusiastically tout Denver as the place to see the next important new ‘reform’ in education policy in action.”
 
Local Groups Criticize LAUSD Spending Priorities
Several local civil rights and civic groups are once again faulting the LAUSD for how it is prioritizing spending under Gov. Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula that mandates increased state dollars go to the most needy students according to an article in yesterday’sL.A. Times.  “The criticism, which echoes that of state officials, centers on hundreds of millions of dollars in increased state funding,”  it points out, “that is supposed to benefit students who are among the most challenging to educate and who have persistently lagged behind academically: low-income students, students learning English and those in the foster-care system.  Providing extra resources for these students is a centerpiece of funding reforms pushed through by Gov. Jerry Brown.”
 
Opt-Out Students Being Punished 
The opt-out movement has been growing by leaps and bounds.  As more and more families make the decision to have their children refuse to take standardized tests it seems that more and more districts are retaliating in various ways against the students.  Valerie Strauss turns her Washington Post blog over to Carol Burris who describes how some of the students are being punished.  “Nearly half a million families across the country made the decision to opt their children out of Common Core state exams in 2015,” Burris writes.  “As a result, most districts are scrambling to come up with ways to adjust their policies and processes when decisions about students are made on the basis of test scores.  Sadly, some refuse to adjust and seek to punish opt-out students instead.”  She proceeds to relate how districts in Florida, California and especially several in New York retaliated against students who opted out.
 
Election 2016
California conducted its Presidential Primary Election last Tuesday.  One important issue for voters in the Golden State and others around the country has to do with the vast amounts of money flowing to candidates of both major parties.  Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, looks at the impact ofcharter school money on down ticket races in California in a commentary titled “How Long Can Big Money Keep Democrats in the Charter School Camp?”  “In California and beyond, charter school advocates also team up with big finance to influence Democratic Party candidates in state and local elections,” the piece indicates.  Bryant reviews a number of articles that comment on the influence of charter money on election races.
 
Teacher Evaluations
A story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times (highlighted in the previous edition of the “Ed News”) described the new teacher evaluation system in the LAUSD.  The piece drew two letters-to-the-editor that appear in today’s paper.  “In order to evaluate any professional (doctor, lawyer, teacher, librarian and so on),” the first one begins, “other experienced and skilled professionals must be involved in the process.”               Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, on herVAMboozled! blog, cites another study that shoots down the use of value-added models (VAMs) for teacher evaluations.  This one is written by Steven Klees of the University of Maryland writing for the Educational Researcher.  Klees concludes rather unequivocally: “The bottom line is that regardless of technical sophistication, the use of VAM is never [and, perhaps never will be] ‘accurate, reliable, and valid’ and will never yield ‘rigorously supported inferences as expected and desired.”
 
Real School Reforms
And finally, Diane Ravitch’s blog features an essay from Joanne Yatvin, former teacher, principal and superintendent, now retired, who has some realistic reforms for the public schools as opposed to the agendas pushed by the corporate “reformers.”  Yatvin titles her piece “If I Were the Queen of Schools.”  “My version of school reform,” she prefaces her proposals, “is based on two premises: (1) poverty and its accoutrements are the major causes of students’ poor academic performance (2) the principals and teachers who live their professional lives in schools are the ones best qualified to make decisions for schools and to implement them.”  Wow!  Haven’t heard those kinds of ideas in a while but they certainly make sense.  Here’s just one of her down-to-earth proposals: “Evaluate teachers on their own performance, not those of students.”
 

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
    “Respect is not the equivalent to ‘liking’ a student or teacher; it is the ability to have 
      a high regard for the role of another. In order to receive respect, we should demonstrate it first…” 

― Tanya R. LivermanMemoirs of an Educarer: An Inspiration for Education

 
Who Owns the Public Schools?
Julie Vassilatos, is a public school parent and blogger in Chicago.  She writes the Chicago Public Fools (that’s not a misprint) blog and she’s fed up with politicians who impose drastic cuts on schools and who close community campuses and with billionaire philanthropists who drain the local schools of resources in order to open charters.  What has particularly gotten under her skin is the latest proposed Chicago Public School (CPS) budget put forward by Mayor Rahn Emmanuel.  After years of severe cuts the mayor has proposed an additional cut of 39% for the coming school year.  Vassilatos tries to “rally the troops” by reminding them that the parents own the local schools and shouldn’t have to put up with these constant financial assaults on what belongs to them.  “Friends, readers, CPS parents, public school parents of the nation, hear this.  Your school is yours.  Our schools belong to us,’ she concludes.  “Do not forget it.  We have some power we need to retake here.  We have a district to reclaim.”  Her words may be specific to Chicago but they relate to any public school system under attack from the powers-that-be.  Diane Ravitch calls this “one of the best posts ever.”               Parents in Kansas are apparently taking Julie Vassilatos’ battle cry to heart as they fight to get adequate funding for their schools after years of severe budget cuts needed to offset steep tax cuts championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.  A story in The New York Times describes the conflict taking place in the Sunflower State.  The situation has gotten so toxic the state supreme court had to intervene to save the public schools from having to shut down.  “The ruling exacerbated tensions over budgets enacted by Mr. Brownback and the Legislature,”  the article notes, “that education officials say have led school districts to eliminate programs, lay off staff members or even shorten the school week. . . . As in other states, the effect of reduced funding varies from one district to another.  In poorer districts like Kansas City and Wichita, students are crammed into deteriorating buildings with bloated class sizes.  One district in southeast Kansas, facing a budget shortfall, recently pared its school week to four days.”
 
Testing
This bit of research could certainly put the kibosh to lots of people pushing technology in the classroom.  A recent study from MIT found that students who used computers and the internet in class did substantially worse on their exams.  Interestingly, the study was conducted among 726 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the findings were featured in a story in the theguardian.  The article is titled “Students Who Use Digital Devices in Class ‘Perform Worse in Exams.”  It’s subtitled “Study finds use of computers by students in lectures and seminars has ‘substantial negative effect’ on performance.”  “But even for the cream of the US army’s future crop, the lure of the digital world appears to have been too much,” the article suggests, “and exam performance after a full course of studying economics was lower among those in classes allowed to use devices. . . .  The new research is distinctive because it analyzed the results of students in classroom conditions rather than as part of an artificial experiment.”  You can find the full report (44 pages) titled “The Impact of Computer Usage on Academic Performance: Evidence From a Randomized Trial at the United States Military Academy” by clicking here.
 
Whatever Happened to Arne Duncan?
Remember Pres. Obama’s long-serving Sec. of Education?  Ever wonder what became of him after working in that job for almost 7 years?  Well, look no further.  Peter Greene, on his always informative and entertaining CURMUDGUCATION website, has a piece titled “Thought Leader Duncan Has a New Job.”  Duncan recently became a member of the board of directors of a company called Pluralsign which began in 2004 as a classroom training business but quickly morphed into one that provides online training.  A press release issued upon Duncan’s appointment to the board of directors describes him as “one of the most notable and highly-regarded thought leaders of twenty-first century education.”  Greene was rather non-plussed by that description.  “Arne Duncan– Highly Regarded Thought Leader.  Holy smokes.  I mean, holy frickin’ smokes,” Greene sputters indignantly.  “Duncan was not even a particularly apt Thought Sayer, and I can’t remember a single time that Duncan stood up to speak and folks from all across the nation fell in behind him, excited by his vision and his leaderliness.  Not to be mean, but I’m not sure that Duncan ever proved to be a Thought Haver.  Is there a Duncan policy that didn’t come from somewhere else?  Anything?  Test-and-punish, charter schools, data mining, Common Core– pretty sure that someone else did the thinking on those.”
 
LGBT Students
A “Making the Grade” PBS NewsHour video segment (8:49 minutes) by an EDUCATION WEEK correspondent, that aired last week,  profiles the experiences of a transgender girl who works to bring changes to her Kentucky high school.  “The battle over bathroom access for transgender students is heating up” a very brief written introduction to the film explains.  “The U.S. departments of Justice and Education issued a directive last month for the nation’s schools to allow students access to the restrooms, locker rooms, and sex-segregated activities that match their gender identities.  Stuck in the middle of the legal battle are transgender students, who say that their needs at school extend well beyond bathrooms.”                In light of the horrific massacre at an Orlando gay night club over the weekend, how can schools be made safe for LGBTQ students?  A story from THE HECHINGER REPORT offers 3 concrete suggestions for reaching that goal.  “These safe spaces might be as informal as a supportive teacher or a group of close friends,” the item suggests.  “If they are lucky enough to have support from the school’s administration, some might form or join an inclusive and affirming student-led organization like a Gay-Straight Alliance. These are great places for a young person who is struggling to find comfort and support.  Unfortunately, this isn’t enough.  Every space should be a safe space for an LGBTQ young person.”
 
Grit
Is Paul Tough, a previous ALOED Book Club author for his 2012 volume “How Children Succeed” which details how schools could teach character qualities like “grit” to students, having second thoughts about all of it?  In an extended preview of his new book, “Helping Children Succeed” in the June issue of the The Atlantic, he seems to back off a bit from his earlier prescriptions.  “What is emerging is a new idea: that qualities like grit and resilience are not formed through the traditional mechanics of ‘teaching’; instead,” he now claims, “a growing number of researchers now believe, they are shaped by several specific environmental forces, both in the classroom and in the home, sometimes in subtle and intricate ways.”  Tough proceeds to detail some of the latest research on the topic and offers some new ways to approach it in the classroom.               John Thompson, writing on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, critiques Tough’s article (see above) and finds some positive things to take away from it but is still concerned that the corporate “reformers’ who were so quick to jump on Tough’s bandwagon before may not be so eager to do so this time. “I suspect that many accountability-driven reformers,”Thompson worries, “will respond as they have long been doing with Tough’s and others’ indictments of data-driven, competition-driven reform; they will quote Tough and continue – or even step up – the policies that Tough argues against.”
 
Common Core
A member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) and a 17-year veteran of teaching levels a withering attack on the Common Core in a piece titled “Common Core is Destroying Our Children.”  Robyn Brydalski, elementary teacher and local union activist, claims that teaching and the fun of learning have been so altered by the standards that she doesn’t recognize what goes on in her classroom any more.  “It is a shame this is what has become of public education.  I confess I have snuffed the flame from my students this year,” she grumbles, “as I attempted to achieve the state and district curriculum expectations for meeting the demands of the common core.”
 
Charter Schools
A bill recently introduced in the California Assembly (AB1084) would prohibit online or virtual charter schools from being run by for-profit companies.  The legislation, if signed into law, would put companies like K12 Inc. out of business in the Golden State.  A recent two-part investigative series (links included) in the San Jose Mercury News (highlighted, BTW, in the “Ed News”) found most of the schools run by K12 to be seriously under-performing.  “The series highlighted research that shows online schools’ hands-off learning model isn’t appropriate for most children” it notes, “and found that accountability for student performance is sorely lacking.  In fact, the districts tasked with overseeing K12’s California schools have a strong financial incentive to turn a blind eye to problems because they receive a cut of California Virtual Academies’ revenue to oversee them.”               The concept of “charter” schools began back in 1991 when the first bill was approved by the Minnesota legislature.  This month marks the 25th anniversary of that event and to commemorate that milestoneEDUCATION WEEK has a trio of articles about the history of charters, a discussion of diversity in charters and a video (5:52 minutes) titled “A Tale of Two Charters” which visits one teacher-run campus in St. Paul and a high school which is part of the largest charter network in L.A. You can access all 3 pieces of the package, titled “Charters at 25,” by clicking here.               Teachers at 3 Cleveland area charters voted to unionize under the auspices of theaft (American Federation of Teachers).  The organization issued a Press Release announcing the action.  “The contract covers three high-performing charters that educate more than 900 students in the Cleveland metropolitan area,” it enumerates.  “The new contract creates a labor-management committee to increase teacher input, guarantees planning time, and rewards experienced teachers who make a commitment to the school and advance their own education.  This contract makes strides toward meeting teachers’ and the community’s goals of reducing teacher turnover and providing a voice for professional educators.”
 
Education Reform
Arthur Camins, former teacher and administrator in New York, Massachusetts and Kentucky and current director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey dissects the corporate “reform” narrative of a “crisis” in our public schools and says “yes” there are problems but the “reformers” answers will not solve them. He offers 3 solid suggestions for improving what ails public education today.  He titles his essay for the HUFFPOST EDUCATION column “Three Strategies Fair, Diverse and Broad Education’ and details how to achieve each of those important goals.  “The crisis we face in education is not about test scores.  Rather,”he wraps up, “it is that we cannot achieve satisfactory results amidst the far broader crisis of growing inequality, eroding democracy, and escalating divisiveness.  Widespread demands for an education system that is fair, diverse, and broad is one place to wage the struggle together.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, interviews Diane Ravitch about the updated version of her 2010 bestseller “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”  They spoke about the new edition of the book and education reform in general.  In answer to a question about what Ravitch might say to Pres. Obama if she got the chance to sit down and speak with him, she responded, “President Obama, I wish I could have talked to you back in 2008 or 2009.  I will never understand why you decided to align your education policy with that of George W. Bush.  I still remember the times you said the right things about teachers (respect them) and testing (there are too many and they take too much time away from learning), but your policies emphasized the very things that you denounced rhetorically.”  Be sure to read the rest of the Q & A.  Ravitch has some interesting things to say about Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  
 
School Climate
Peter DeWitt worries that the emphasis on test scores tends to ignore characteristics like school climate.  He is an author, presenter and former elementary school principal and writes the “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  In this commentary he describes why a positive school climate is critical to student learning and may be a more important metric than those pesky test scores.  He presents 5 key components of school climate and how to achieve them if your school is lacking any one or all of them. “School climate is vitally important.  Visitors know within minutes,” he concludes, “whether a school has a positive climate or not.  And in these days of social media, parents are talking about whether you have a positive school climate or not.  We can’t possibly make everyone within our school happy, but we can certainly keep trying.  The bottom line is that if we don’t have a positive school climate, then we have a lot of students, parents and teachers who are not reaching their full potential.”               How’s this for improving school climate?  A group of high school students and grassroots community organizations banded together to successfully convince the LAUSD police to remove military grade weapons from their inventory.  ALTERNET has the remarkable details of what was accomplished over a sustained two-year campaign including the issuance of letters of apology from several LAUSD board members and the head of the school police.  “A coalition of Los Angeles high school students and grassroots organizers,” the piece begins, “just accomplished the unthinkable.  After nearly two years of sit-ins and protests, they forced the police department for the second-largest public school district in the United States to remove grenade launchers, M-16 rifles, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle and other military-grade weaponry from its arsenal.”
 
Did Administrators Ignore Lead Tainted Water in Portland Schools?
A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes how administrators acted extremely slowly in reaction to reports that high levels of lead were found in the water at schools in Portland, Oregon.  “Portland, Ore., recently discovered high levels of lead in its school drinking water, and the agonizing drip-drip-drip of additional revelations that has ensued has left the Rose City with a toxic hangover,” it relates.  “Public records, including newly released emails, have revealed that school officials not only knew the water was unsafe, but allowed students and teachers to drink it while officials decided on a course of action.  The district also failed to disclose all it knew, and the schools’ health officer was found to have misled the public.”  Members of the community are outraged by the tardy response and a campaign has begun to get rid of the school district’s superintendent.  Two officials involved in the situation have been placed on paid leave by the superintendent pending an investigation into their actions or lack thereof.
 
International Baccalaureate Program
You are probably aware of what AP (Advanced Placement) classes are.  What do you know about IB (Interntational Baccalaureate) classes?  Students who are successful in their IB classes can earn a special IB Diploma upon graduation from high school.  Some new research indicates that low-income students who participate in IB classes are helping to close the achievement gap.  THE HECHINGER REPORT features those findings.  “The IB Diploma is a rigorous two-year course of studies, typically taken by top high-achieving students during their junior and senior years of high school,” the article points out.  “The math is calculus.  The writing requires sophisticated analysis.  Succeeding in this program gives students entree to the most selective colleges in the country.  It’s a no brainer that kids who can accomplish that will do well and continue in school.”
 
ESSA
The infant Every Student Succeeds Act turned 6 month old last week.  The long overdue re-write of the ESEA/NCLB promises some major changes to the federal role in education.  One of the authors of the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEKinterviewed 4 key congressional figures who played a significant role in drafting the legislation.  John Kline (R-MN) is the chair of the House Education Committee and his Q & A leads off the quartet that also includes Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (rather aptly called the HELP) Committee.  The conversation with Rep. King includes links to the other 3.  
 
New Teacher Evaluations for the LAUSD
The LAUSD board is poised to formally endorse a new teacher evaluation system at their meeting today that relies more on observations than student test scores.  A story in today’s L.A. Times details the new process for grading teachers that was negotiated with UTLA as part of a contract revision.  “Notably missing in the latest system,” the piece notes, “is any direct reliance on student standardized test scores to determine whether teachers keep their jobs.  Test scores now are to be used instead for analyzing student needs, setting goals and reviewing progress toward achieving them.”
 
Chicago Public Schools in Serious Trouble
And finally, the Chicago Public School (CPS) district , the third-largest in the nation, is facing some serious challenges.  Whether its draconian cuts to school budgets proposed by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner or similar cuts offered by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, it all adds up to continuing massive budget reductions according to a commentary by Valerie Strauss in her column for The Washington Post.  She proceeds to details the political battles taking place in the Springfield, the state capital and in the city of Chicago where the schools are under the control of the mayor.  “The governor of Illinois is fighting with the mayor of Chicago over funding; the mayor is in a long-term fight with teachers over a controversial pension system, charter schools and other issues,”Strauss chronicles, “and many parents remain furious with the mayor for closing dozens of traditional public schools three years ago while promoting the expansion of charter schools.  Teachers are working under an expired contract and may soon stage their second strike since 2012, when their week-long walkout had public support.”  Other than those problems everything is fine!  [Ed. note: Not really, just kidding, unfortunately.]

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Friday, June 10, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

           
              
   “‎Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, 
let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, 
           and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: 
            To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; 
               and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.” 

― Barack Obama

 
New  Federal Report on Schools
The U.S. Dept. of Education’s (DoE) Civil Rights Data Collection survey released some new information about student suspension rates according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times. The article focused on elevated suspension rates for Black children compared to other racial and ethnic groups.  The surprising aspect of the data, at least to the editor of the “Ed News” is that those disparities began as early as PRESCHOOL.  [Ed. note: As a long time secondary school teacher I wasn’t aware that suspensions even occurred at the pre-K level. Silly, uninformed me!]  The survey covered over 50 million students in over 95,000 schools.  “Across all grades, 2.8 million students were suspended once or more.  Black students,” the article notes, “were nearly four times as likely to be suspended and almost twice as likely to be expelled as white students.  Students with disabilities were also twice as likely to be suspended as general education students.”  In addition to the statistics this piece provides, it also features an interesting study conducted by a social psychologist at Stanford who attempts to answer the question why are there such major differences in school discipline?              EDUCATION WEEK delves deeper into the new federal report, going beyond just suspension rates (see above) to look at other aspects of how disadvantaged students fare in their school experience.  “Black and Latino students are still more likely to be suspended,” the article reports, “more likely to attend schools with high concentrations of inexperienced teachers, and less likely to have access to rigorous and advanced coursework than their white peers, according to the data released [Tuesday] by the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights.”               You can find the full report (13 pages) titled “2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection: A First Look” by clicking here.             Another piece fromED WEEK, this one in the “Rules for Engagement” column, highlights the new report from the federal DoE (see first item above) but focuses on the problem of chronic absenteeism(missing 15 days or more of school per year). “About 13 percent of all U.S. students—more than 6 million—missed at least 15 days of school in the 2013-14 school year,”  the article reveals, “according to data released this week as part of the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The information comes from a new question added to a biennial survey of nearly every school and district in the country that covers a variety of factors, including discipline and access to rigorous academic courses.”  According to the data, Asian students had the lowest rate of chronic absenteeism at 6.9%, while Native American pupils were the highest at 22.2%.  The story lists some additional findings and offers some ways schools can address the issue.
 
Election 2016
Candidates backed by the California Charter School Association(CCSA) won a number of preliminary victories in Tuesday’s Presidential Primary Election in the Golden State.  The LA SCHOOL REPORT has the details along with some negative reactions to the results from LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer.   In the 43rd Assembly race highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News,” pro-charter Democrat Laura Friedman finished first with 32% of the vote compared to second place finisher, fellow Democrat and charter opponent Ardy Kassakhian with 24%.  Under the state’s new top two primary system, she will face off against Kassakhian in the November general election.  “LA Unified school board President Steve Zimmer railed Wednesday against the tactics used by the CCSA Advocates in the hotly contested 43rd Assembly District race,” the article points out, “and compared its spending in that race, at least $1.2 million, to special interest spending from oil and tobacco industries, which lobby for deregulation.”  At the end of this article is a list of other races that feature candidates backed by the CCSA.                 Diane Ravitch wrote back in March on theHUFFPOST POLITICS blog that she would not endorse a candidate for president during the primaries.  Now that both parties have their presumptive nominees, she indicates on her Diane Ravitch’s blog why she is going to support Hillary Clinton “Readers will say that she is too close to the people who are promoting charters, high-stakes testing, and the destructive policies of the Bush-Obama administrations. That is true.  I have fought with all my strength against these terrible policies.  I will continue to do so,” she argues, “with redoubled effort.  I will do my best to get a one-on-one meeting with Hillary Clinton and to convey what we are fighting for: the improvement of public schools, not their privatization or monetization.  The strengthening of the teaching profession, not its elimination.  We want for all children what we want for our own.”
 
Independent Education Journalism
Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, continues hisreview of independent education journalism in light of a recent editorial in the L.A. Times opposing the meddling of billionaire philanthropists in creating education policy (highlighted in the previous two editions of the “Ed News).  In this installment he wonders whether transparency and disclosure of journalistic funding sources is enough to protect against undue influence in reporters stories.  He raises a number of questions in the course of his latest article:: “But even if the funding source had been disclosed, would this be adequate protection from undue influence?  Can reporters and news outlets – and the Education Writers Association — be completely independent when they depend on donations from corporate philanthropies for their salaries and activities?  Does the fact that these donations are publicly disclosed dissolve these concerns?”  The discussion/debate is ongoing.
 
Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog has a piece titled “The Attack on Public Education in California” in which she chronicles the corporate “reform” attempt to charterize and privatize the public school system in the state.  She traces the effort back to when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor in 2003-11.  “Public education in California,” she begins, “is under siege by people and organizations who want to privatize the schools, remove them from democratic control, and hand them over to the charter industry.”               “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  The charter industry in California is relying on that old adage to get its way.  Diane Ravitch’s blog describes how Rocketship Charterswanted to open a new campus in Northern California.  They were turned down by the local school board so they turned to the Contra Costa County board which also rejected their petition.  Did that deter them?  No, they appealed to the State Board of Education which overruled the previous decisions and granted the charter’s request.  VICTORY!  “Another illustration of California’s willingness to sacrifice public schools and local control for the sake of the charter industry,” Ravitch complains.  “Once again, the 1% get their way, regardless of the will of the local community and its elected board.”
 
Rating Schools Under ESSA
The Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law by Pres. Obama in December changes the way schools are rated.  Under the previous NCLB law, schools were ranked based on a single number.  ESSA abandons that approach and expands the number of criteria for rating a school.  An article in Tuesday’s L.A. Times (it was posted on the paper’s website on May 27) has the details and zeroes in on how California is handling the changes.  The State Board of Education recently “voted on the components of its school measurement system: They include graduation rates, suspension rates, scores on upcoming science tests, chronic absenteeism and the rate at which students who are still learning English are becoming proficient,” the story notes.  “Board members are also trying to make the system mesh with another school measurement and funding system, the Local Control Funding Formula.”
 
Common Core and Testing
More discouraging news for the Common Core State Standards.  A new study from ACT Inc. finds that the English Language Arts and math standards do NOT prepare students for college and career as they were touted to be.  Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog forThe Washington Post reports on the results described in the report.  “The 2016 ACT National Curriculum Survey® looks at educational practices and college and career expectations,” she writes, “with results taken from surveys completed by thousands of K-12 teachers and college instructors in English and writing, math, reading, and science.  This year, ACT asked workforce supervisors and employees to complete the survey too to see what specifically is being taught in these subjects at each grade level and what material is deemed to be important for college and career readiness.”              Diane Ravitch’s blog received an anonymous note from a highly-placed member of the Florida Dept. of Education who was concerned about some matters regarding standardized testing and the Common Core that the department is keeping from the public.  “The Florida Department of Education,”  the person writes, “is days away from releasing students test results in grades 3-10 and weeks away from grading schools based upon a battery of tests that lack transparency and alignment to the resources available to teachers in Florida schools.”  The information provided pertains specifically to Florida but one has to wonder just what other states it impacts.               A whistle-blower has emerged with some rather startling charges about the newly redesigned SAT.  Manuel Alfaro is a former executive director of the College Board which owns the SAT.  He was hired by David Coleman, President of the College Board, in 2013.  Starting in the middle of May Alfaro has been posting entries on Linkedin with some VERY enlightening insights into the creation and implementation of the recently revised SAT that debuted in March.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, reprints a number of his comments with some brief commentary appended.              In a column titled “The SAT–Worse Than You Think,” Peter Greene references the SAT whistle-blower (see above) and the Mercedes Schneider’s post about him.  Greene adds some additional items and his always trenchant comments.  “It looked like a shaky product was even shakier.  You never want to see them make the sausage, but apparently SAT sausage is being made with even worse parts of unspeakable animals than we suspected,” Greene bemoans.  “And now a whistle blower has stepped forward to add to the story, and what we’re learning is that as bad as things seemed with the SAT, they were actually much worse.”
 
School Funding Woefully Inadequate
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK,plunges into the problem of terribly inadequate school funding.  His commentary is titled “Mindless Underfunding of Schools Continues, Doing Irreparable Harm to Kids.”  Bryant mentions situations in Chicago, Kansas, City, Philadelphia, Detroit and several other areas where funding shortfalls have reached critical levels.  “As states wrap up their budget seasons, many lawmakers are proving they simply aren’t up to the task of adequately funding schools.  State spending, which accounts for about half of most public school districts’ budgets,” he explains, “has been in steep decline for a number of years in most states, leaving most local taxing authorities, which provide about the other half, unable to keep up unless the populace is wealthy enough to withstand higher property taxes. (Federal spending accounts for less than 10 percent of school funding, historically.)”
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, need a morale booster as this school year ends and everyone moves into summer break?  A non-educator husband writes a piece in praise of his teacher-wife who he describes as “A Very Good Teacher.”  His comments appear on the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) website.  “My wife gives much more of her time than she gets paid to give.  She can go home at 2:25 but usually stays until well past 6 PM,” he relates.  “Dinner is always late at our house.  On some evenings she will wolf down dinner and go back to be with her students at one of their dances.  She doesn’t get paid for the dances and no one ever says ‘Thank You’.  She doesn’t have to go.  She wants to go and be part of their lives.”             Does teacher experience have any correlation to student achievement?  If you listen to the corporate “reformers,” the answer is “no,” which is why they promote  programs like Teach for America, have such disdain for veteran educators and advocate against things like tenure and seniority in hiring.  neaTODAYfeatures a new study from The Learning Policy Institute that looks into the issue.  Put simply, “The verdict: experience matters – even in the second decade of teaching and beyond.”  You can read the full report (72 pages) titled “Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness?  A Review of the Research” by clicking here.               “What are the best types of grading practices?” is the topic of this week’s “Classroom Q & A With Larry Ferlazzo” forEDUCATION WEEK.  It includes an audio discussion (it runs 10:11 minutes despite showing it lasting 6:45 minutes) with a college professor from Virginia and a vice principal and teacher from British Columbia, Canada.  In addition, Ferlazzo solicits comments on the subject from several other experts.  

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, June 7, 2016 Edition

 The ED NEWS

             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            
              
                       This weekend is Alumni Weekend at Occidental College when class reunions will be held on campus.  It just so happens to be my 45th reunion.
 
                 Inline image 1
 
           “education is one thing and instruction, however worthy, necessary 
              and incidentally or monetarily educative, another.” 

― Kingsley AmisThe King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage

 
State Chastises LAUSD for Improper Spending
State officials have directed he LAUSD to alter how it spends additional funds that are supposed to go to students with the highest needs.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times chronicles thislatest problem for the district.  “The heart of the dispute is how to spend increased funding,” it explains, “meant to help students from low-income families, those learning English and students who are not living with their parents.  About 84% of L.A. students fall into this category, according to district documents submitted to the state. . . .  The district moved money into its general fund that should have been spent specifically on low-income students, English learners or foster children.  The district interpretation was based on how spending for disabled students should be accounted for.”
 
Teach for America
Teach for America is undergoing another makeover.  This one marks how many in the organization’s over 25-year existence?  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, takes a look at this latest iteration in a piece titled “The New Teach for America–Now With Less ‘Teach.'”  “TFA still pitches itself as the group that is going to close the achievement gap,” he complains, “(despite the utter absence of any evidence at all that they can do it, or that they even know how to do it).  But they have amped up what was always one of their avenues of appeal– those two years in a classroom make a super resume builder.  They are, of course, not lying.  The ed reform industry (as well as the test manufacturing business and the textbook company sales force) is just packed with people calling themselves ‘former teachers’ based on two years of TFAing it up in a charter somewhere.”
 
The Teaching Profession
“Burnout” is a serious problem in some professions including teaching.  Symptoms include, but are not limited to, things like chronic fatigue, disillusionment, stress and lack of motivation.  A former teacher and administrator and current member of the Connecticut State Department of Education offers an article titled “Rx for Teacher Burnout.”  He lists a number of symptoms in the form of a questionnaire that you can take and his prescription for teacher burnout has to do with self-actualization and assuming a leadership role.  His essay appears as part of the “Teacher in a Strange Land” column for EDUCATION WEEK.              “What Do Beginning Teachers Really Need?” is the title of a piece for the “CTQ Collaboratory” column in ED WEEK.  It’s penned by Cindi Rigsbee, a National Board Certified, 37-year veteran North Carolina educator who was selected in 2009 as North Carolina Teacher of the Year and who was also a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.  She is currently working as a Regional Education Facilitator for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction providing support for new teachers.  In that role Rigsbee sent out a questionnaire to 100 teachers who were in their first 3 years in the classroom asking them what information did they wish they had when they were first starting out in the profession.  She offers the results of that survey (the answers may or may not surprise you) and other insights for new teachers.  “Research shows it has the most impact on teacher retention, and it’s two simple words: administrative support,”Rigsbee maintains. “A quick internet search will provide numerous articles and dissertations on the subject of principal support for teachers, but I don’t need the written word to tell me what I’ve seen for myself through the years.  School administrators can impact the retention of their beginning teachers by offering support.”             The teaching technique called “personalized learning” seems to have acquired two separate, and vastly different, definitions.  One provided by the corporate “reformers” and the other by classroom teachers and veteran educators.  The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) solicited its over 70,000 members for their individual definitions of the concept.  The group reprinted a number of responses on their website.  Here’s just one example: “Personalized learning means I don’t tell my students what to think. I teach my students HOW to think and I allow them to form their own ideas.”  “If a picture is worth a thousand words,” be sure not to miss the two photos illustrating the two differentdefinitions of personalized learning at the very end of this item.
 
Charter Schools
Bill Koch, one of the billionaire Koch brothers, wanted to start his own school so in 2011 he poured some of his millions into creating the Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Since then, everything has been just hunky-dory, right?  WRONG!  An extended exposé on the myPalmBeachPost website details problems with high turnover, sexism, waste, fraud and favoritism to name just a few.  “But curtained behind the wooded grounds and low-slung buildings at Military Trail and Community Drive say past and present employees,” it reveals, “exists a working environment led by President and CEO Robert C. Parsons that’s fraught with firings, high turnover, accusations of sexual harassment and an emphasis tilting from academics to athletics.”               Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the signing into law of the very first charter bill in the U.S.  It happened in Minnesota and the “Charters & Choice” column in EDUCATION WEEK marks the milestone with an interview with the former Democratic state senator who authored that original bill.  “The charter movement has since expanded to include 43 states plus the District of Columbia,”  the reporter of the piece mentions by way of introduction, “and over 2.5 million students—or about 5 percent of the total K-12 public student population.”               From the charter school “scandal-of-the-day” file Part 1 comes this tale of woe courtesy of  the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  It chronicles the largest case of charter school theft in Georgia history.  Atlanta’s Latin Academy Charter School  was closed by its board at the end of this school year after charges of theft, fraud  and mismanagement to the tune of over $600,000 were leveled against the campus’ founder, Christopher Clemons.  “Latin Academy, with its all-star board and experienced leader, seemed on track to thrive.  But behind that facade of apparent success,”  the article relates, “the school spent millions of tax dollars with little public scrutiny and operated with a lack of public input foreign to many traditional public schools.”  The details of Latin Academy’s demise are tragic but all too common when the lack of oversight and transparency, characteristics the charter movement touts, are allowed to flourish.               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, digs into thebackground of  Chis Clemons, the founder of Atlanta’s Latin Academy Charter (see scandal above).  While he was working on his MBA at MIT he was featured  in an article about his interest in running a multi-million dollar school organization.  Wonder why he was so interested in all that money?  “In September 2007, when Clemons was enrolled at MIT for his MBA,” Schneider writes, “and featured in [a] News@MITSloan article, entitled, ‘Back to School for Schools,’ no one would have guessed that less than a decade later, the same guy would be facing charges for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money entrusted to him for the education of hundreds of Georgia students.”               The charter school “scandal-of-the-day” file, Part 2, hits much closer to home (see part 1 above).  The L.A. Daily News uncovered the fact that the principal of the El Camino Real Charter High School (LAUSD), David Fehte, has a second job as a scout for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.  Nothing wrong with that.  Unfortunately, the paper also uncovered the fact that he was charging airfare, hotels and meals while performing that other job to the school’s credit card.  That’s a no-no!   “The Daily News obtained El Camino’s credit card statements and receipts for 2014 and 2015 under the California Public Records Act,” the story reveals.  “The school is run by a nonprofit organization and receives about $32 million in government funds annually, accounting for 94 percent of its revenue. Officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District, which oversees charters in its boundaries, notified El Camino last fall that its administrators had violated the school’s own financial policies. Without naming him, the district criticized Fehte’s use of the card for personal expenses, and said he only reimbursed El Camino a handful of times.”                 Here’s another point of contention between the LAUSD and one of its charter schools–district policy that requires random student searches for weapons with hand-held wands.  The Animo Jackie Robinson High School, a Green Dot charter in South Los Angeles, has resisted the district’s edict and is surprisingly joined by UTLA, the LAUSD’s teachers union.  A piece in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes the dispute.  “L.A. Unified officials say the district’s wanding policy has been in place since the early 1990s,”  it points out, “when a fatal shooting at Fairfax High School spurred then-Supt. Sid Thompson to start random searches as a pilot program at all middle and high schools.   In October, Los Angeles Unified administrators revised the district’s wanding policy to clearly state that charter schools on district property must conduct random daily searches, with metal detectors but they argue that the revision was simply reinforcing a requirement that had always existed.”               WOW!  How is this for a conflict-of-interest?  It seems the Walton Family Foundation helps fund the Illinois State Charter School Commission which has oversight over charters in the state.  Sounds OK, so far.  However, when the Chicago Public Schools recommended closing 2 failing charters in the district that were also funded by the Walton Foundation, the State Commission refused.  The Chicago Sun-Times provides the sordid details.  “Even in the complex history of public education in Chicago, the situation involving the two charters, the Chicago Public Schools, the charter commission and the Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation is unusual,” the article notes.  [Ed. note: It all sounds rather incestuous, no?]               Surprise!  Surprise!  Another story from the Sun-Times reveals that it’s the traditional neighborhood public schools that are boosting Chicago’s high school graduation rates, NOT the city’s charters.  The piece features the latest findings from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.  “Chicago’s open enrollment high schools were the driving force behind a steady rise in graduation rates citywide over the past 15 years,”  it reports.  “In fact, new findings by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research say graduation rates at schools that have to accept anyone have just about caught up to publicly funded, privately managed charter schools.”  You can read the Executive Summary (12 pages) of the full report titled “High School Graduation Rates Through Two Decades of District Change: The Influence of Policies, Data Records and Demographic Shifts” byclicking here.  [Ed. note: The full version of the report will be available online June 13th.]               
Election 2016
The NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION (NPE) has formulated a petition to the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee with a number of policy initiatives regarding education.  You can review the proposals and sign the petition, if you wish, by clicking here.  “The Democratic Party has the opportunity to lead a national discussion on the challenges our K-12 schools are facing and the roadblocks to that success,” it reads,  “It is imperative that the platform spell out a clear, well-supported, well-informed plan for K-12 education policy.  We expect that the Democratic Party will distinguish itself from the Republican Party and support a pro-public education agenda.”  [Ed. note: I added my name to the list.]              A VERY expensive battle over charter schools played out in the primary election race today for California’s 43rd Assembly District which covers Glendale,Burbank, La Cañada, La Crescenta, East Hollywood, Los Feliz, Silverlake and Atwater Village.  One pro-charter Democratic contender, Laura Friedman, is heavily backed by the California Charter School Association to the tune of over $1.2 million and another Democrat, who is an opponent of charters, Ardy Kassakhian, has the support of the California Teaches Association (almost $84,000).  The LA SCHOOL REPORT details the battle that’s splitting the Democratic party.               What happens when a 9-year old third grader wears a Donald Trump “Make American Great Again” hat to school?  Well, it certainly draws the attention of a few of the boy’s schoolmates and the school’s administration.  How both groups handled the situation is described in a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “According to the school district’s dress code,”  it relates, “hats can be worn only outside the classroom.  But if the hat causes ‘safety concerns, draws undue attention to the wearer or tends to detract from the educational process,’ it will be prohibited.” Since today is Presidential Primary Election day in California, the story makes for some most appropriate reading.  The article includes a short video (1:32 minutes) that has the young man explaining his position on the issue.
 
BATs Call For A  White House Conference to Address Key Education Issues
The Bad Ass Teachers Association (BATs) issued a press release calling for a White House conference on education and equity.  “Our organization stands firmly against the serious harm being perpetrated to public education by both corporate privatization and right wing fiscal starvation policies,”  it states.  “The current political rhetoric strengthens our resolve to reclaim the rights of all children to a free public education.”  They would like the President to organize a comprehensive gathering of teachers and other educational experts to publicize and seek solutions to the problems facing traditional public education today. The press release includes a formal proposal of what they’d like to see accomplished and a very interesting list of people and organizations they do NOT want  invited to participate, i.e., Teach for America, the Eli Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, members of ALEC and Democrats for Education Reform and on and on.  The list is a who’s who of opponents of traditional public education and is worth reading just to see who is included.  
 
Corporate “Reform”
3 letters appear in Saturday’s L.A. Times reacting to the paper’s rather surprising editorial on Thursday chastising corporate philanthropists, especially Bill Gates, for meddling in education policy where they really don’t belong.  The first one comes from a veteran teacher who is getting ready to retire after 52 years (!) in the classroom.  “Nobody, including The Times, listens to the teachers, the professionals who know what is needed to improve education. . . .  Unfortunately, almost all change is mandated from top down,”he writes,  “by people who are threatened by the creativity of the teachers.  They don’t trust us.  Too many administrators and philanthropists like Bill Gates, who ‘are generally not education experts,’ seem to think that one size fits all and that they have the quick and easy solution to the problems of education.  They don’t have the answer, but there is one: Listen to the teachers — and get out of their way.”  After over half a century in the classroom, that is, as we all know, sound advice.  Are the powers-that-be listening?             Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, is a little taken aback at the L.A. Times editorial (see above and the June 3rd edition of the “Ed News) that takes Bill Gates and other philanthropists to task for imposing their millions of dollars and failed ideas on education reform.  Cody suggests the Times shares as much blame (kind of like the pot calling the kettle black) as the targets of their editorial and further questions the paper’s journalistic integrity.  “How can the LA Times chastise the Gates Foundation – and their disciple John Deasy, without acknowledging their own embrace of Gatesian reforms?   The LA Times did not just report on the issue – they created their very own VAM system,” Cody charges, “and criticized Los Angeles Unified for not using such a system to weed out ‘bad teachers’ and reward those identified as ‘effective.’  They were active advocates, instrumental in the war on teachers that has been so devastating to morale over the past decade.”              On his blog, Cody follows up the above article with an even more withering attack questioning the independent journalism of the L.A. Times.  He goes after the paper’s controversial decision in 2010 to publish individual teachers’ value-added scores BY NAME.  In addition, he “follows the money” to discover who, exactly, was funding the effort.  No surprise as he comes up with some of the usual corporate “reform” culprits.               Does it appear that many corporate “reformers” seem to ignore research as they push their agendas for choice, charters, vouchers and privatization?  A new study from the William T. Grant Foundation may bear that idea out.  An article on theLIVING in DIALOGUE blog features the study titled “The Push and Pull of Research: Lessons From a Multi-Site Study of Research Use in Education Policy,” and includes a link to it.
 
Interview With U.S. Sec. of Education John B. King Jr.
One of the authors of EDUCATION WEEK’S “Politics K-12” blog sat down for a Q & A with the Sec. of Education John King about the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and other topics.  In response to a question about teacher shortages, the author summarized King’s answer this way:“King said the reasons behind a potential teacher shortage varies. Some states just aren’t paying teachers very competitively and will need to raise salaries if they want to attract educators.  And there are specific subject-area shortages, including for educators who can work with English-language learners, or in STEM subjects.   King touted the president’s ‘Best Job in the World’ initiative to improve the teaching profession and help recruit and retain educators in high-needs schools.  (Again, King didn’t say this, but it’s really unlikely the proposal will be funded this year.)  He also noted that the department is beginning to do work on teacher diversity.  And he stressed retention. ‘There are decisions school districts can make around the supports that they put in place that can make a real difference,’ in that area, he said.”
 
School Funding
“How Little is Too Little Money for Schools?” is the question addressed in a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  It explores how draconian state budget cuts for schools in Kansas City, Kansas, are impacting learning and achievement.  Adequate school funding has been an issue for years and this piece brings the situation into the open.  “Teachers in financially strapped urban districts are used to saving money where they can,” the article suggests.  “In that respect, Kansas City, where in 2014 nearly 90 percent of the students were poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, is not unusual.  But since 2009, according to David Smith, the district’s chief of communications and government relations, the district has had to cut more than $50 million from its already tight budget because of state cutbacks, threatening progress in a district that had seen some significant and surprising gains for its students.”
 
Characteristics of Top Principals
And finally, the “District Dossier” column in EDUCATION WEEKconducts a conversation with Benjamin Fenton, co-founder and chief strategy officer of the New York based non-profit group New Leaders, which aims to recruit and train administrators to work in poor and minority schools.  The organization recently published their first book “Breakthrough Principals: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Stronger Schools” that is co-authored by Fenton.  In the interview he discusses some of the “Traits of Top Principals” which just so happens to be the title of the piece and describes the groups’ concept of a transformational leadership framework.  “The framework lays out five big areas of focus for any school leader: learning and teaching; school culture; talent management; planning and operations; and a personal leadership category,”Fenton explains.  “[It] gives them a sense of the key practices in each of those areas that we saw consistently in place in high-performing schools.  It also shows what those practices look like across the stages of the school’s development.  The framework lets a principal and her team identify where there is a need for focus…and then focus their time and energies in that place.”

                                                                                                           http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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