Ed News, Tuesday, July 12, 2016 Edition


             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

            “Children are our future. We teach them today; what will they do tomorrow?”

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

LAUSD’s Graduation Rates Questioned 
The second of a two-part editorial in the June 26th L.A. Times(highlighted in the June 28th edition of the “Ed News”) raised a number of questions about how the LAUSD was going about increasing its graduation rates.  It prompted 3 letters in the June 29th paper.                Diane Ravitch’s blog comments on the two editorials published in the L.A. Times about graduation rates in the LAUSD.  “Chasing better data is not the purpose of education,” she relates, “and we make a grave error by doing so.  As the LA Times acknowledges, most of what has been produced at a cost of many billions over the past 15 years are creative efforts to game the system.”
Is The Opt-Out Movement Under Siege?
Are the new regulations being promulgated by the U.S. Dept. of Education for the Every Student Succeeds Act  targeting the opt-out movement?  That’s the premise of a commentary in the Socialist Worker.  As Opt-Out grows in strength it continues to threaten the push for more standardized tests that reached a zenith under NCLB and continued under the Obama administration’s Race to The Top program.  The overuse of the assessments was supposed to be addressed under the ESSA.  “But in what can only be read as a tightening of the noose around the growing movement to ‘opt out’ of state tests, [DoE Sec. John] King’s new regulations threaten states with financial sanctions should they fail to put a stop to test boycotting.”
SF Mime Troupe Performs “Schooled”
All sorts of organizations, groups, individuals and platforms are weighing in on the topic of education and schools.  Even the San Francisco Mime Troupe which is offering its 57th season of free shows in various parks and venues in Northern California with a performance of ‘Schooled” now through Labor Day.  The San Francisco Chronicle describes the program and reviews the show.  “In ‘Schooled,’ the San Francisco Mime Troupe argues that the purpose of education is to build citizens, to prepare young adults to make informed decisions in their civic life,” it reports.  “The company’s free summer show of its 57th season also makes a compelling case that art is foundational to a healthy democracy. . . . The Mime Troupe is run as a Democratic Socialist collective, and all its shows impart that same philosophy.  ‘Schooled’ is no different.  It pillories the flaws in the U.S. education system, especially its dependency on digital technology as a Band-Aid for deeper structural problems — underfunding, the achievement gap — and, in tandem, its overreliance on the corporations that profit from that technology.”  If you can’t catch a live performance, the piece includes a short video (51 seconds) promoting the show by a member of the Troupe and a 33 part slide show with pictures from the July 4th program in Dolores Park in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Teacher Tenure and Seniority
George Skelton’s “Capitol Journal” column in the June 27th L.A. Times (also highlighted in the June 28th “Ed News”) described a California Assemblywoman and former teacher who was battling the big, bad California Teachers Association over trying to alter the rules for teachers in the state regarding tenure and seniority rules.  It elicited a single letter that appeared in the June 30th edition of the paper.
Corporate “Reformers” 
Diane Ravitch had a chapter in her 2010 best seller (and ALOED Book Club Selection) “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” titled “The Billionaire Boys Club” which delves into the individual corporate philanthropists who have been bankrolling the charter and privatization movements.  Jonathan Pelto, on hisWait What? blog, updates the list and provides a detailed chart of the main players in a piece titled “The Bevy of Billionaires Undermining Public Education.”  “The colossal and disastrous effort to privatize public education in the United States is alive and well thanks to a plethora of billionaires who, although they’d never send their own children to a public school,” he charges, “have decided that individually and collectively, they know what is best for the nation’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.”  If you’ve ever wondered who the characters are, how much they are worth and how they are spending their billions, check out Pelto’s spreadsheet.  It’s a real eyeopener!                Here’s the latest strategy for privatizing the public schools by the corporate “reformers” and conservative politicians–refer to the traditional public schools by the phrase “government schools.”  That will certainly raise the ire of the Tea Partiers and the right-wingers.  Case in point: the State of Kansas.  An article in The New York Times details the ploy. “Kansas has for years been the stage for a messy school funding fight that has shaken the Legislature and reached the State Supreme Court.  Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican,” it relates, “and his political allies threatened to defy the court on education spending and slashed income taxes in their effort to make the state a model of conservatism.  Somewhere along the way, the term ‘government schools’ entered the lexicon in place of references to the public school system.”  [Ed. note: I’d like to get in on this game.  When the corporate “reformers” refer to “failing” or “bad” public schools, I think we should, instead, characterize them as “under-funded and poorly supported” public schools.]              Diane Ravitch’s blog reacts to the article (see above) in The New York Times about the use of the term “government schools.”  A reader of the blog from New York, who teaches high school, comments on the Times article and draws some interesting parallels with the privatization of the prison industry.  “The New York Times published an article about how critics of public schools now call them ‘government schools.’  This is supposed to conjure up an image of a faceless, unaccountable bureaucracy, like the IRS,” Ravitch writes, “not your neighborhood public school whose teachers you know well.  I first heard this term used at the Hoover Institution.  At first I didn’t know what they were talking about, then I realized that the public schools were, in their minds, ‘government schools,’ a heinous institution that should be replaced by private schools, vouchers, religious schools, charters, home schooling, anything but those hated ‘government schools.’  I began to wonder if they referred to highways as ‘government highways’ and found a way to avoid them; if they referred to public parks as ‘government parks,’ to be avoided or privatized; if they referred to public beaches as ‘government beaches’.”
Weapon Searches on LAUSD Campuses
An article in an earlier L.A. Times featured a dispute over the policy of conducting random weapon searches of students on LAUSD middle and high school campuses using hand-held wands.  The Green Dot Charter Chain, which shares space on LAUSD campuses, objected.   An editorial in the July 5th edition of the paper chastises Green Dot by not abiding by district policy AND the LAUSD for not reviewing the efficacy of that 23-year old procedure. “The district gets to make the rules for its campuses, and Green Dot has to obey them when it operates on district property,”  it concludes.  “But just because the L.A. Unified policy goes back 23 years, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily the best method to reduce weapons on campus.  L.A. Unified should examine the metal-detection policy with an open mind to ensure that it is both effective and fair — and listen to critics to consider whether there are other, better or additional, ways to improve campus safety.”
Election 2016
With the Republican National Convention set to convene in Cleveland from July 18-21 and the Democrats gathering in Philadelphia the following week (July 25-28), Anthony Cody decided to question a few of his FaceBook friends about some key education issues.  He publishes their responses on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “The 2016 presidential election has generated equal portions of hope and frustration,” he suggests.  “The Democrats are likely to offer us Clinton, and with Trump as the chief rival, some feel we have little choice but to support her, even though she does not offer much evidence that she will take on the issues we care about most.  But that choice is such a narrow question, and leaves out where we are in this moment in history.  There are many choices far more important than this that are available to us, and I hope we can engage in the vital discussion of how to make real change beyond the framework of this year’s election. . . . Here are the three questions I posed:  What should we do as activists beyond the vote?  What should we do about the Democratic party?  Who will get your vote in November?”              Ahead of Hillary Clinton’s speech to the annual convention of the NEA (National Education Association) on July 4th, the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK asks “What’s Hillary Clinton’s Record on Teachers?”  The piece looks back at her time as first lady of Arkansas and her time in the White House when husband Bill was president, some of her proposals as a U.S. Senator from New York and a sampling of her rhetoric on the current campaign trail.              Hillary Clinton addressed the national convention of the NEA last Tuesday and while her speech was generally well received, Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, explains why the likely Democratic nominee for president experienced a few boos, despite the fact the union’s leadership endorsed her candidacy back in October.  “Why did teachers from the association boo the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee?  And for that matter,” Strauss writes, “why are education activists upset with the draft version of the Clinton-led education plank of the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform?  The bottom line: The activists are worried that if she becomes president, she won’t depart much from President Obama’s education reform policies, which critics say have contributed to the privatization of public education.”  Of additional interest, Strauss publishes a draft of the education portion of the Democrats Party Platform.              Peter Greene got a hold of that draft and was not happy with what it contains.  He had some choice ideas about where it could go. The picture he repeats three times in his piece on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog will give you a strong hint.  “So if you were hoping for a sign that the Democratic Party even knows what the issues in public education are or has any interest in addressing them, the early draft is not encouraging.  They could more honestly address toxic testing,” he proposes, “or they could make an actual commitment to the institution of public education instead of the business of charter schools. They could speak out against the privatization of a historic and foundational public resource.  They could express some sort of meaningful support for the teaching profession.  And they could make a commitment to getting each school the funding that it needs and deserves.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll do all that in the next draft.  But mostly I’m afraid that if you had hopes that the Democratic Party would emerge as a champion of public schools and the teachers who work there, well, I think I know where those hopes can go.”               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is a little more kind towards the draft Democratic Platform proposals on education. But only a little bit.  To start his analysis, he compares the Dems version to that of the Republicans (and includes a link to the GOP document).  “The Republican document gets education policy wrong from  the very first sentence,” he bemoans, “by asserting, ‘Parents are responsible for the education of their children.’  Although it’s true parents certainly need to be involved in their children’s education, have a voice in how schools are run, and take responsibility for encouraging and maintaining their children’s educational development, putting the sole burden for education on parents guarantees inequity of education opportunity and is, frankly, un-American.”              Local L.A. blogger Karen Wolfe (who was a panelist at ALOED’s Education Film Series screening in November), on her PS connect website, comments on the latest amendments to the education section of the Democratic platform. “There has been much debate in the last week about whether the Democratic Party is signaling a change in education policy, and this weekend’s Convention Platform meeting provides the best measure,” Wolfe speculates.  She provides the complete texts of the amendments and a sampling of comments about each.               Peter Greene, aka the author of the CURMUDGUCATIONblog, zeroed in on just the portion of the platform that dealt with charter schools.  His piece is titled “The Dem Platform, Randi and Charters.”  He’s not totally enamored of the outcome, but I’ll let him tell the story in his own unique way.  “Come November,” he concludes, “public education is still screwed– but at least for one moment, we got the Democratic Party to sort of pay attention to real, substantive criticism of charter schools. ‘It could have been worse’ is not a phrase I live by, but still, this could have been worse, and in this election cycle, I think that’s as good as it’s ever going to get.  But sucking less and not sucking at all are still two different things.”               If you’d like to watch some of the discussion and debate over the Democratic platform regardingcharters and testing check out the video (19:06 minutes) courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  If you are really into this whole platform discussion on education, C-SPAN has nearly complete coverage (2:41:59 hours) for your viewing pleasure.              Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, looks at the changes the Democrats made in their platform pertaining to education issues.  “In an unexpected move,” she announces, “Democrats have revised the K-12 education section of their party’s 2016 platform in important ways, backing the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, qualifying support for charter schools, and opposing using test scores for high-stakes purposes to evaluate teachers and students.  Some of the changes are being welcomed by public school advocates who have been fighting corporate school reform, which includes standardized test-based accountability systems and the expansion of charter schools.”
Improving Schools
Great Public Scho0ls Now (GPSN), a nonprofit pushing for charter expansion in (or the takeover of?) the LAUSD has the latest panacea for  improving what it calls “failing” or “bad” schools–find ones that are succeeding and simply clone them.  That is easier said then done, but whatever.  The organization, which is basically a front for the Broad Foundation, wants to identify thriving campuses and replicate them.  I’ll bet the only schools they find that are worth duplicating are charters, despite what GPSN claims, but that’s just my humble opinion.  An item in the July 4th edition of the L.A. Times is titled “Cloning Great Schools is Latest in Long Line of School Reforms.”  “To skeptics, including L.A. school board President Steve Zimmer, the newly unwrapped plan looks like a thinly veiled effort to spur the rapid growth of charter schools, which he opposes,” the item relates.  “He believes the loss of student funding to charters would leave the district with limited resources to help students left behind — likely the most expensive and difficult to serve.”
The Teaching Profession
For various reasons that have been explored in previous editions of the “Ed News,” it’s getting harder and harder to attract good candidates into the teaching profession.   A new survey, highlighted in a brief item in the “High School & Beyond” column inEDUCATION WEEK discouragingly reports that even high school students are showing less and less interest in entering the field.  “An ACT survey of high school graduates who took its college-entrance exam shows that in the class of 2015, only 4 percent said they planned to become teachers, counselors, or administrators.  In 2014,” the article reports, “5 percent said they had such plans, and in 2010, 7 percent did.  Twenty years ago, 9 percent of high school students who took the ACT said they were planning education careers.”              With the tragic events of the last couple of weeks in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas and others before those, Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post,offers “Teaching About Race,Racism and Police Violence: Resources for Educators and Parents.”  She has a long list of valuable materials(with links) from the Teaching Tolerance project and other sources. I know its the summer and most teachers aren’t in their classrooms but school will be in session soon and these issues will still be critical and on the minds of your students.  The materials Strauss provides will prove helpful to parents and grandparents, too.  These are resources “that teachers and parents can use to help educate children about race, racism and police violence,” she explains, “at a time when the country is reeling from a string of killings of black men at the hands of police in cities across the country, as well as the killing of five white police officers by a black gunman in Dallas.”
Students And Exercise
Adults hear it all the time–exercise is important for overall health.  It applies to students and learning, as well, according to a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that is highlighted in a story in the July 5th L.A. Times.  A group of researchers from the U.S., Canada and Europe issued a “Consensus Statement” on the issue addressing “Children, Youth, And Physical Activity in Schools and During Leisure Time.”  “The experts, from a variety of disciplines, gathered in Copenhagen this spring to assess the value of all kinds of exercise, including recess and physical education classes in school, organized youth sports leagues and old-fashioned outdoor play,” the piece reports.  “Though all of these activities take kids out of the classroom or away from their homework, they are still a good investment in academic achievement, the consensus statement says.  Even a single break for moderate-intensity exercise can boost ‘brain function, cognition and scholastic performance,’ according to the statement.”  You can read the full statement (1 1/2 pages) with 4 key “Themes” and/or you can access the Press Release (1 page) by clicking here.
SOS Gathering
The SOS (Save Our Schools) march and conference met Friday and Saturday in Washington, D.C.  Julian Vasquez Heilig addressed the participants on Friday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  You can watch his short remarks (5:50 minutes) titled “Will You Answer the Call For Education and Democracy?” on YouTube.              Becca Ritchie, a member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs), attended the SOS march and conference (see above) along with participating in some other activities boosting public education while she was in the nation’s capital.  She offers a “Reflection” of what she did while there and what she experienced.  “A full week of my life,” she begins, “has been an incredible blur of advocacy for our profession, our communities, and our students.”
Suit Filed Against New California Vaccination Law
California’s new vaccination law took effect on July 1.  Opponents of the new legislation immediately filed a lawsuit to block its implementation, according to a piece in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “The new law, which took effect [July 1],” it explains, “bars parents from citing religion or other personal beliefs as reasons to not vaccinate their kids.  SB 277 is one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the country and drew many protesters when it was debated in Sacramento.   A group of parents and the nonprofit Education 4 All filed a suit Friday to overturn the law in U.S. District Court in San Diego.  The suit claims that the law violates California children’s right to an education under the state’s constitution.”
Ed Tech
With the rise in use of technology in the classroom, the need for credential programs to provide tech training to new teachers becomes more and more necessary.  What happens when teachers don’t have the background to properly utilize the hardware and software to supplement their lessons?  They make use of tech coaches if they are available.  EDUCATION WEEK has a timely piece titled “Ed-Tech Coaches Becoming Steadier Fixture in Classrooms” that looks at how this is accomplished.  Programs in schools in South Carolina and Virginia are featured.  “The use of technology coaches in classrooms,”  it mentions, “is on the rise, according to ed-tech experts.  While coaches still meet with teachers outside the school day to plan, rehearse, and reflect, they are now becoming a steadier fixture inside classrooms.  They do everything from observing to co-teaching, passing on their knowledge about technology so that teachers can be more productive and effective.”
LAUSD’s 20th St. Elementary Turned Over to a Nonprofit
After a protracted battle over control of 20th St. Elementary Schoolthat involved the parent-trigger law, a compromise has been reached that will see management of the campus turned over to the nonprofit (and non-charter) Partnership for L.A. Schools, which already controls 17 campuses in the LAUSD.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times details the negotiations that took place around the agreement.  “United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl wrote in an email,” it points our, that he is ‘troubled’ by the agreement because the school’s faculty and many parents have not shown support for the Partnership taking control of the school.”
Charter Schools
Diane Ravitch’s blog publicizes an event on July 30 in Richmond, California, that will be fighting the expansion of charter schools in the state.  She includes a link to the flyer for the all-day conference for your information.  “California public education is threatened with destruction,”  it begins.  “In 1992 the Charter laws passed that set up a two-tier system in our state.  While public schools have to have transparency and accept all students, charter schools are exempt from such rules and they are run by a private board without democratic accountability. . . .  This education conference will look at what the charters are, who is behind them and what they are doing to public education.  It will also look at how we can defend our public schools,” it continues, “and also educate teachers, parents and our communities about these schools.  The time to act is NOW.”              Why would charter schools need guidance on how to manage their credit card spending?  BECAUSE SO MANY OF THEM ABUSE THE PROCESS!!!  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, discovered a service that assists charters (and other businesses) with controlling their purchasing habits so they, hopefully, won’t get themselves into trouble.  It’s called “Procurify” and it provides software for organization to manage their purchases.  On its website it offers “6 Reasons Why Charter Schools Fail” that relate to budgeting, expenses, oversight and accountability.               They didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing (naturally) but the online California Virtual Academy (CAVA) reached an $168.5 million settlement on Friday with Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office.  The San Jose Mercury-News,which published an extensive investigative series into the practices of CAVA and its parent company, K12 Inc., has the latest developments in the case.  “Harris’ office found that K12 and the 14 California Virtual Academies,” it explains, “used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission — issues that were exposed in this news organization’s April report.  The settlement could help spur legislation that would prevent for-profit companies like K12 from operating public schools in California.  The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data . . . .”  Yesterday’s L.A. Times had a similar story with a local slant and some slightly different details including a different dollar amount for the settlement (POLITICO notes why the figures are in dispute.  Scroll about half way down to the heading “-Speaking of Charter School”).              At least in California the online schools reach a settlement and move in.  Not in Ohio!  The largest online charter school, Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), sued the Department of Education in an attempt to prevent an audit of attendance figures.  The Columbus Dispatch has the details.  “The state’s preliminary attendance review of ECOT in May raised questions,”  it reports, “noting that ‘most log-in times from these files did not substantiate 5 hours per day of log-in time for the students reviewed.’  The accuracy of attendance figures is crucial because they are the key factor in determining how much state money a school receives.  ECOT gets about $107 million per year for more than 15,000 students.”  [Ed. note:  Why would anyone refuse to turn over attendance records?  Silly question, Dave.  THEY MUST BE HIDING SOMETHING!  Public schools records are available for audit at any time.  Sounds like a double standard to me.]               An Ohio judge yesterday denied a motion by ECOT to block a state audit of its attendance records (see above) according to a piece in the “Digital Education” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Superintendent Rick Teeters warned the review could ultimately lead to the closure of the 15,000-student school,” it notes, “long under scrutiny by media and state officials for its poor performance.”  [Ed. note:  Why might they have to close?  Silly question, Dave.  They won’t be able to operate with the amount of taxpayer funds they will properly be getting from the state.]
LAUSD Board Reelects Zimmer As President
LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer, who is an Occidental College Professor and participated in a panel discussion at a screening of the ALOED Education Film Series last November, was unanimously reelected to serve a second 1-year term at the group’s meeting Wednesday.  An item in Thursday’s L.A. Times reports on this latest action.  “In his first year, Zimmer frequently became the public face of resistance to a proposal, spearheaded by local philanthropist Eli Broad,”  it reports, “to move at least half of district students into charter schools, based on the premise that the school system performed abysmally. . . .  Zimmer personally was a staunch opponent of the charter expansion but tried to modulate his tone when speaking for the board, whose members have a diversity of perspectives.”
Teacher Training
Diane Ravitch’s blog and several others have been highly skeptical of the Relay “Graduate School of Education” and Match “Graduate School of Education.”  She describes them as simply charter school teachers training others to become charter school educators in order to raise test scores and work in “no excuse” environments.  Ravitch adds to that list of institutions Aspire “University” and reprints some of the publicity about the program.  “These are programs where charter teachers teach future charter teachers how to raise test scores.  It is an insult to all graduate schools of education,” she complains, “to call Relay and Match ‘graduate schools of education.’  There is not a single doctorate on their ‘faculties,’ just charter teachers.  They teach how to raise test scores and how to control classes.  These institutions award master’s degrees.  They have no research capacity, no studies of psychology, child development, economics, history, politics, testing, or sociology.  They are a sham. “
The U.S. Supreme Court and Education
The U.S. Supreme Court recently wrapped up its 2015-16 term. EDUCATION WEEK takes a look book and some of the key decisions from the court regarding k-12 and post-secondary education.  “The high court’s recently concluded term,” it begins, “had the potential to be more momentous for education than it turned out to be—the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia at age 79 dominated the second half and resulted in deadlocks for two major cases of importance to educators, one involving teachers’ union fees and the other, undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children.  Still, the court issued important rulings on affirmative action, public employees, and voting rights.”
U.S. Invests Very Little in its Youngest Children
And finally, the U.S. does one of the worst jobs of investing in children under the age of 5 among the developed nations of the world.  That’s the disheartening conclusion of a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT titled “What Do We Invest in the Country’s Youngest?  Little or Nothing.”  “A growing body of research has demonstrated the value of high-quality preschool for both children and their communities,” it maintains.  “Nearly every industrialized country has recognized that value and begun offering a version of universal public preschool for its children.  Not the U.S.  On every level — local, state and federal — this country invests little to nothing in the first five years of a child’s life, putting us decades and dollars behind the rest of the developed world.”


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




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