The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
“there is one right thing for the student to do, that is, to develop the habit of weighing worths,
of sensing the relative values of the facts that he meets.”
― Frank Morton McMurry, How to Study and Teaching How to Study
New LAUSD Student School Board Member
The “Education Watch” column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has a profile of Karen Calderon, the newest student member of the LAUSD board. She was elected by other student leaders in the district, was sworn in on July 6, doesn’t have a vote on the board but has plans to serve as a strong representative of her 650,000 constituents. “The newest Los Angeles Unified School District student board member — elected by other high school student leaders in the district — will have a voice at school board meetings,” the piece explains. “At 16, she will be able to put items on the agenda up for discussion at meetings, comment and vote. But her vote is just advisory, so it doesn’t factor into decision-making. . . . So she plans to dig into the issues she cares about — financial literacy, access to better drinking water, rigorous graduation standards — before board meetings. To make her voice count, she wants to talk to board members when they’re making the decisions. It’s a strategy that Steve Zimmer, the (adult) board president himself, applauds.”
A very brief item in the “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK reports that 84% of the delegates who attended the Representative Assembly at the recent National Education Association (NEA) convention endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Jeff Bryant, writing on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews the battles that took place over education issues during the drafting of the Democratic platform. He zeroes in on the eventual wording that was agreed to by both Sanders and Clinton supporters regarding the party’s stance on charter schools. “The ascendancy of the populist rebellion in the Democratic Party being led by Sanders and others,” Bryant concludes, “has been very much driven by the values of democracy and support for the public good over private interests and profit. Education has yet to advance to the forefront of this rebellion, but it will not be immune to it.” The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” had several items with copies of the Democratic Party’s Platform on education policy and analysis by various commentators. You can find a copy (4 pages) of the latest iteration by clicking here. For an unofficial transcript of the session (7 pages) where the document was hammered out on July 8 and 9 click here. An article in the “Early Years”column in EDUCATION WEEK indicates the Republican platform on education rejects the idea of public prekindergarten. “One of the 112 members of the committee,” it relates, “said the party’s opposition comes because pre-K ‘inserts the state in the family relationship in the very early stages of a child’s life’.” The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item in which Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, questioned some of his FaceBook friends about some key election issues and he published responses from 11 of them. In a follow-up piece he prints some additional perspectives that came in after his original was published. He titles this one “Election 2016: Education Activist Views Part 2.” When choosing which political candidate to support, what are the most important issues among adults aged 18-30? A “GenForward” poll of over 1,950 respondents found that education was one of the top political issues among this demographic according to an item in the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK. “Results were also broken down by responses from African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites,” it notes, “who were asked about a variety of public policy issues. Among those four groups, African-Americans were the most likely to select education as a top issue—35 percent did so—while whites were least likely to single out education.” The item
also provides some results from a Pew Research Center survey of registered voters and what are their key issues.
A copy of the “GenForward” survey (34 pages) is included at the end of the story. The Republican National Convention kicks off in Cleveland on Monday. Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is expected to formally name Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
as his running mate tomorrow. Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What?
blog, describes Pence as an extreme anti-public education supporter. “Not only is Indiana Governor Mike Pence the most anti-choice governor in the country, he is nothing short of a puppet for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies. As Indiana’s governor,” he points out, “Pence has driven an anti-teacher, anti-public education political and legislative agenda that has included dramatically expanding charter schools and diverting scarce public funds to voucher programs that, in turn, have allowed private individuals to use taxpayer money to send their children to religious schools.” Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, notes that Gov. Pence continues to go against the will of Indiana voters in regard to various education issues. She describes the ongoing battle between the Republican Pence and Glenda Ritz,
the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction and the only statewide elected Democratic official, who actually garnered more votes than Pence in the 2012 election . Ritz is currently involved in an re-election campaign while Pence is joining the Republican presidential ticket. “Ritz and Pence fought over school choice, with the governor pushing the expansion of charter schools and vouchers, and Ritz thinking that these initiatives took public money away from traditional public schools that educated most students,” Strauss writes. “Earlier this year, Ritz urged state lawmakers not to expand vouchers — which are essentially tax dollars used to pay private school tuition for students — which cover nearly 2.9 percent of Indiana’s students.” EDUCATION WEEK
has an interactive feature comparing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
on various education issues like “Academic Standards,” “School Choice,” “Testing” and “Teacher Quality” among others. You can click on the topic you’d like to compare Clinton and Trump.
Spending Increases for Education Lag Way Behind Increases for Prisons!
A article in The Washington Post is depressingly titled “Since 1980, Spending on Prisons Has Grown Three Times as Much as Spending on Public Education.” How can that possibly be true? An analysis of federal data by the U.S. Dept. of Education bears out this reality. “From 1980 to 2013,” the story reviews, “state and local spending on public schools doubled, from $258 billion to $534 billion, according to the analysis. Over the same period, the number of people incarcerated in state and local prisons more than quadrupled, and spending also increased by more than four times, from $17 billion to $71 billion.” Check out the state-by-state chart comparing school spending to prison outlays.
Are charter schools public? “Why, of course,” the corporate “reformers” maintain. Ann Berlak, a reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog, begs to differ as she makes the argument they aren’t. “Most public schools are accountable to an elected school board made up of community
members. Residents of that community have the right to be present at Board meetings, weigh in
on votes and debates, and access public financial documents,” Berlak argues. “Charter schools are run by executive boards, committees or corporations whose members often
live outside the community in which they are located and are not accountable to parents or
the taxpayers/community members who fund them.
” She proceeds to offer some more compelling reasons why charters aren’t public schools. The Supreme Court in the State of Washington ruled that the state’s funding of charter schools was unconstitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit this week making the same claim against Mississippi’s system. It’s based on a recent change made by the Mississippi legislature regarding how charters are funded. Jackson, the state capital, has the only two charters in the state with a third to open in the fall. A story in THE HECHINGER REPORT has the details about the action. Add Nevada to the list of states where challenges have been filed against charter schools and voucher programs. On July 29, the state’s Supreme Court will hear a case claiming the Silver State’s“voucher program is unconstitutional and illegal.” Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a statement from Educate Nevada Now (ENN) about the suit. “Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program,” the announcement reads, “would siphon off critically needed funds from Nevada’s public schools – as much as $30 million a year! That money would be available to any Nevada family to pay for private education, even if that family already has the means to pay and currently affords private education for their children.” The Jersy Jazzman, aka Mark Weber, blasts the charter industry and those pushing charters for convincing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to divert funds from the traditional public school system into the charter business. His piece is titled “How the Charter Cheerleading Industry is Abetting the Destruction of Public Schools.” “I know I swore off wasting my time (and yours),”Weber begins, “criticizing reformy edu-bloggers. But I’ve been watching a back-and-forth on social media for the past few days that is such a good example of how destructive the charter cheerleading industry has become (fueled with an insane amount of money from ideological foundations) that I have no choice but to comment.” He
illustrates his piece with several charts and graphs to buttress his points. A new study finds that charter schools in Michigan
are causing major financial problems for the traditional public schools in that state. Jennifer Berkshire, aka theEduShyster,
interviews the lead author of the report. She has several links to the full report (45 pages) titled “Which Districts Get Into Financial Trouble and Why: The Michigan Story” from The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.
New Science Standards
The Next Generation Science Standards have been adopted by 18 states, including California. The “Making the Grade” program on the PBS NEWSHOUR has a video segment on how the standards are being implemented in schools in Wyoming. You can view the program (7:59 minutes) and/or read a transcript by clicking here. EDUCATION WEEK has a brief item about the above program on the new science standards. It includes a map showing which states have adopted them and which ones have not.
Reducing Student Suspensions
Building a sense of respect and empathy between pupils and teachers can lead to a reduction in student suspensions
according to some new research led by a social psychologist from Stanford University that’s featured in a story in EDUCATION WEEK. “A one-time intervention to help teachers and students empathize with each other,” the article reports, “halved the number of suspensions at five diverse California middle schools, and helped students who had previously been suspended feel more connected at school.”
Well-known Hobart Blvd. Elementary School (LAUSD) teacher Rafe Esquith, who was fired after allegations of inappropriate behavior, won a victory in an L.A. Superior Court when a judge ruled his defamation suit against the district could proceed. An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times has the latest details on the ongoing case. “Esquith has not been charged with any crimes,” it points out, “and his lawyers have denied any misconduct. [One of Esquith’s attorneys] contends that other allegations from the district are also false and an attempt to undermine Esquith’s credibility after he began to criticize the district’s handling of teacher investigations.”
The SOS (Save Our Schools) march and conference met last Friday and Saturday in Washington, D.C. Diane Ravitch addressed the participants on Friday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. You can watch her remarks (9:46 minutes), courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.
New Book on School Privatization
“Education and the Commercial Mindset” is the relatively unrevealing title of an important new book that makes the point that privatizing public education is not a good idea. The author, Samuel E. Abrams, is the Director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and a former teacher at Beacon High School in New York City. Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post,has an interview with the author. Strauss includes a link to a review of the book Deborah Meier. Meier gives it 5 out of 5 stars and states at the outset of her piece “This is a book that you should rush out and buy/read.”
Want an idea of what corporate “reform” and privatization looks like and what the future might hold for your district? You don’t have to go any farther than the Denver Public School system which went all in on school “choice.” The author of this piece is a guest blogger on the EduShyster website and is a recent teacher with the DPS. “Much of Denver’s school reform has focused on the creation of new charter schools,” she laments. “Since 2005, DPS has opened more than 70 schools, most of which are charters. One of these opened near my former school, causing our enrollment to decline, which then triggered more budget cuts in our already bare-bones staffing. But at least my school stayed open. Forty eight schools have closed in the past ten years. In fact, DPS officials attributed the enrollment loss that triggered the most recent round of budget cuts and teacher layoffs in part to school closures.” Why does it seem that most of the billionaire philanthropists and wealthy foundations, who claim to want to “help kids,” direct most of their money to charter schools? Wouldn’t it “help kids” if they spent some of those billions on the public school system? Thomas Ultican, a high school math and physics teacher in San Diego, writing on his TULTICAN blog, looks at how the influential San Diego Foundation pours million of dollars into mostly private and charter schools. His commentary is titled “San Diego Foundation Biased Toward Privatizing Schools.” He includes a list of some of the foundations involved in the same types of practices in Los Angeles. “It is clear that all recent education agendas coming from corporate entities have been about what is good for the adults at those corporations. Reform has become,” he suggests, “almost exclusively about fleecing taxpayers at the expense of their children.”
Proposed School Accountability Measures in California
And finally, Anthony Cody, on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, assesses the proposed school accountability system in California. “The new system being proposed for California schools,” he explains, “was designed by technicians at West Ed, and it creates a matrix of color-coded squares that indicate both the absolute status and the direction of change for ten different categories of data. Thus we get a system with ten categories of information, and seventeen color coded boxes.” Cody lists the 10 categories and provides a prototype of what a school’s report card might look like. He’s glad California will no longer use a single number, the API (Academic Progress Index), that was closely tied to student test scores to rate schools but he’s not totally enamored of the proposed new system either.
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.