Ed News, Tuesday, July 19, 2016 Edition


             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                “An educator will teach the students. An Educarer will reach the students.”

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

Possible New School Accountability System for California

Friday’s “Ed News” highlighted a review by Anthony Cody on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog of the proposed school accountability system being hammered out for California.  Saturday’s L. A. Timeshas an additional analysis of the new plan.  The new system would rate schools with a series of colored boxes rather than a single number–the old Academic Performance Index (API).  “The latest proposal,” it explains, “presented Wednesday at a meeting of the State Board of Education in Sacramento, is ‘the California Model,’ a display of 17 colored boxes that summarizes how a school is doing in such categories as math or career readiness, both in terms of current status and progress over time.  Performance is rated on indicators set by state and federal law as well as those evaluated under the state’s new school funding formula.”
Charter Schools
A new study of the voucher program in Ohio (known as “EdChoice”) from the conservative, nonprofit THOMAS B. FORDHAM INSTITUTE, an education policy think tank that supports charters and school choice, produced some rather surprising findings.  You can read a very brief summary of the report by clicking here.  One of the key findings:  “The students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state exams compared to their closely matched peers remaining in public schools.”  The piece includes a link to the full report (62 pages) titled “Evaluation of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program: Selection, Competition and Performance Effects.”  
U.S. Students Win World Math Olympiad
Why do the corporate “reformers” keep insisting American students lag behind their peers in the rest of the world?  6 U.S. students just won the 2016 International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO) for THE SECOND YEAR-IN-A-ROW.  The competition was held in Hong Kong and the DAILY KOS has the brief encouraging details.  “Huge Congratulations to Team USA for this remarkable performance!  This is a repeat of last year’s winning performance,”it explains, “which was considered a true breakthrough after 20 years without a win.  The USA team was not very competitive for a long stretch in this time frame.”              Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, has a more detailed article about the U.S. win at the world Math Olympiad (see above) including 3 problems from the competition (and a link to 3 additional problems if you want extra credit).  Go ahead, solve them!  “Americans are generally lousy at math, right?  At least that’s what we hear,” Strauss begins, “every time there is an international test and the United States doesn’t come in close to the top.  But consider this: The U.S. team of high school students just won the International Math Olympiad — said to be the most prestigious competition for high school math problem-solving.  And there’s more: It was the second consecutive win for the American team at the Olympiad, and Po-Shen Loh, head coach, thinks it says something important about Americans and their math ability.”
The Opt-Out Movement and Testing
The State of New York, and particularly Long Island, is ground zero of the opt-out movement and the phenomenon is spreading.  TheLas Vegas Sun reports that the number of students opting out of standardized testing this year was up slightly in the state.  “While Clark County [Las Vegas] saw a decrease, opt-outs statewide are slightly up from last year,” it notes,  “In Washoe County, the second largest school district in the state, schools saw a nearly 58 percent increase in SBAC opt-outs and test refusals over last year.  Most of those were in grades four and seven.”
SOS Gathering
It’s summertime and if you have a lot of extra time and want to watch a series of videos from the Save Our Scho0ls gathering you can view the events of the morning of July 8th (3:23 HOURS) and the afternoon of July 8th (2:02 hours).  Both have links to additional videos of events from Saturday, July 9th.  All appear on the livestream website.
Rafe Esquith
The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” had an update on the Rafe Esquith case.  A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles ruled last week that his defamation suit against the LAUSD could proceed.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a detailed review of Esquith’s case from an anonymous blogger who is a 20-year veteran of the LAUSD who goes by the name “Geronimo.”  “I know who he is; I have met him. But I am not telling,” Ravitch teases.             What has Esquith been up to since he was fired by the district in October?  Apparently, he’s not been sitting around moping about his situation according to one of his biggest supporters, Jay Matthews, in The Washington Post.  “After months of silence, Esquith has revealed that he moved his intricate, multi-layered teaching to a new classroom months ago,” Matthews writes, “and next year will revive his annual series of Shakespearean plays put on by elementary school students.  In the new program, whose location and sponsorship he did not specify, ‘the kids read four Shakespeare plays in addition to Great Expectations,’ he said in an email addressed to ‘Friends.’”
Charter School Ties to Attempted Turkish Coup?
Yes, you read the headline correctly.  The president of Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S., has survived a coup attempt and quickly accused a reclusive Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gülen for the attempted overthrow of his democratically elected government.  “So,” you ask,” where’s the connection to charter schools in this country?”  Gülen happens to own one of the largest charter networks in the U.S.!  “You’ve got to be kidding,” you reply, “where did you see this?”  In no less an authority than  a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times [Ed. note: It was NOT in the National Enquirer–I promise] that sorts out all the wild details.  [Gülen’s]influence is chiefly felt through Hizmet [the name for his personal movement], which includes think tanks, media enterprises and an international network of schools, including about 130 public charter schools in the United States,”  it points out at the very end of the story.  “The schools, including Truebright Science Academy in Philadelphia and two others in Pennsylvania, teach no religion.  All emphasize science, math and technology.  Still, suspicions linger.  Four years ago, a Gulen-linked group unsuccessfully tried to open a charter school in Allentown, an hour north of Philadelphia.  School directors cited the group’s evasiveness over its ties to Gulen as one of their concerns, though ultimately rejected the application on other grounds.”  Charters have been accused, and in too many cases found guilty, of fraud, embezzlement and other serious charges but having a connection, albeit a tenuous one, to a coup attempt is certainly unprecedented.  For a list of Gülen Charter Schools in the U.S., including almost a dozen in California, check out the chart on the CHARTER SCHOOL SCANDALS blog.              Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, also weighs in on Fethullah Gülen, his charter network, and claims he was involved in the coup attempt in Turkey.  “The man that Turkey’s leaders have blamed for a failed coup attempt by a group of army officers is an Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen,” it says, “who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and who has inspired a network said to include more than 160 charter schools in the United States.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that the coup attempt Friday was the work of army officers who are followers of Gulen, who had once been an ally but whose movement has become critical of the increasingly authoritarian regime.”              Who is Fethullah Gülen?   What is his Hizmet Movement?  How is this connected to the attempted coup in Turkey?  The Jersey Jazzman tries to connect all the dots for you and provides some answers to those questions.  “It’s well past time to clean up the charter school sector.  Standards of transparency and accountability have got to become much tougher,”  he suggests,  “Americans have every right to know who, exactly, is running their schools and under what circumstances.  If the Turkish coup and the growth of Gulen-linked charter schools teaches us anything, it’s that the consequences for not properly regulating the charter sector are potentially serious and far-ranging.”              EDUCATION WEEK weighs in on the connection betweenGülen’s charter schools and the failed coup in Turkey. The piece is titled “The Bizarre Link Between Some U.S. Charters and the Failed Coup in Turkey.”  “Fethullah Gulen, the founder of what is often described as a moderate Islamic movement which remains strong in Turkey,” it suggests, “has also been linked to science- and math-focused charter schools run by Turkish educators across this country.    Most recently, local media outlets in California, Ohio, and Texas have reported on charter schools with alleged ties to Gulen, though he does not directly run any charters.”             [Ed. note: In early November the ALOED Education Film Series is considering screening  the provocative documentary “Killing Ed” about “charter schools, corruption and the Gulen Movement.” Here’s a brief description of the film from the official website: “KILLING ED is a new documentary feature film that exposes a shocking truth: that one of the largest networks of taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. are a worst-case-scenario—operated with questionable academic, labor, and H1-B visa standards by members of the “Gülen Movement” – a rapidly expanding, global Islamic group whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.  KILLING ED enlightens its audiences everywhere with a shocking, first-hand look inside the schools while revealing the corruption of those attempting to privatize our public schools through education ‘reform’ in America.”   With what’s been going on in Turkey our timing (we have been thinking about showing it for a month or two) couldn’t be better.  Stay tuned for more specific details.  Based on recent headlines, you won’t want to miss this one.]
San Diego County Schools Superintendent to be Placed on Leave
It’s not just individuals at charters who get involved with  financial shenanigans.  This blog has chronicled a number of those examples.  Now, yesterday’s L.A. Times reports, the San Diego County Schools Superintendent, Randy Ward, will be placed on administrative leave while the school board conducts an audit looking into possible fraud and mismanagement.  Already one lawsuit has been filed and another is threatened.  “In the lawsuit,[attorney Cory] Briggs alleges the superintendent paid himself illegal retroactive increases without going to the board and accuses him of conflict of interest, self-dealing and abuse of public office,” the article points out.  “At least $100,000 should be paid back to taxpayers, Briggs said.   According to the lawsuit, Ward illegally authorized salary boosts for senior managers, including[Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Laura] Duzyk.  Duzyk is accused of acting improperly in her role as chief financial officer.”
Election 2016
This doesn’t have anything to do with education but since the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland yesterday, I thought I’d drop it into this edition of the “Ed News.”  Peter Dreier, Professor of Politics at Occidental College has penned a hilarious poem about the Trump/Pence presidential ticket.  It’s titled “The Donald Makes a Choice” and appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  Diane Ravitch calls it “funny.”  Here are two sample stanzas:
“We know that both are anti-gay
And both support the NRA;
Pence thinks that smoking makes you healthy
And busting unions makes you wealthy;”
The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK caught up with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee, as the GOP convention in Cleveland got under way, who chatted about various education issues related to Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Hillary Clinton and a future head of the Dept. of Education if Trump wins, among others.  Regarding the latter, Alexander wouldn’t name any names.            When the 2016-17 school year begins, the general election campaign will be in full swing.  A segment of “The Making the Grade” PBS NEWSHOUR program (6:26 minutes) looks at how U.S. Government teachers are approaching the issues, personalities and rhetoric of this election.  It focuses on one high school in Maryland.  [Ed. note: I taught U.S.  Government and U.S. History for 26 years and elections were always an exciting and interesting time to teach both those courses.  Talk about teachable moments.  Almost every day we had a topic straight from the newspaper or television about a particular candidate, issue or how the process worked.  I retired in 2009 and so will have to miss out on working with juniors and seniors (some of whom could vote) in this unique (bizarre?) election cycle.]               The “Ed News,” over the last couple of issues has highlighted a number of items dissecting the Democratic Platform as it relates to education.  With the Republicans wrapping up day 2 of their gathering in Cleveland today, it’s time to shift the focus to the GOP Platform.  An article inEDUCATION WEEK features some of the key components regarding education.  It includes a full copy of the document (66 pages) at the end of the item and a link to just the education section.  “The Republican Party has released its 2016 platform on education, and while much remains unchanged from the 2012 platform,”  The ED WEEK article begins, “there are a few notable shifts from four years ago on the Common Core State Standards and other issues.”
The Teaching Profession
The “Education” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times features a heartwarming feature about Keith Christian, a totally blind teacher, who works with students who are blind or visually impaired at the Clara Barton Elementary School in Anaheim.  He was recently named the National Braille Teacher of the Year and is the first completely blind educator to win that honor.  “Christian became a teacher, he said, because he hoped to help children avoid his steep learning curve.  He also wanted to have summers off with his kids,” the piece recounts, “and he was lucky enough to be near his son and daughter during the year too, while they attended the school.”               If some or all of your students have cellphones at school, be prepared when the new school year commences, for the wildly popular new mobile device game “Pokémon Go.”  Since its introduction early this month it has become the biggest mobile game ever.  The “Digital Education” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews how the sensational new game works and weighs the pros and cons.  “The unexpected summer surge has parents and educators buzzing about the potential for educational applications,” it relates, “and fretting about privacy and safety risks they’d prefer children to avoid.  Educators say they see opportunities to capitalize on students’ love for the game in the teaching of subjects like social studies, local history, math, mapping, and literacy.”
And finally, the plight of the woefully underfunded Detroit Public Schools (DPS) only seems to be getting worse under state control.  The district is deeply in debt and saddled with dilapidated school buildings and deteriorating infrastructure.  The Detroit Free Press continues its coverage of the situation.  “Michigan’s Emergency Loan Board on Monday approved measures to implement a $617-million financial rescue and restructuring plan for Detroit’s public schools,” it explains, “over the vocal objections of elected school board members and others who attended the meeting in Lansing. . . . Critics say the plan treats Detroit public school students as second-class citizens because they would be the only Michigan public school students who could be taught by uncertified teachers.  They also say much of the debt addressed by the plan was rung up while Detroit schools were under state control.”


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



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