Ed News, Friday, July 22, 2016 Editon


             A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

               “In an age in which the media broadcast countless pieces of foolishness,
                 the educated man is defined not by what he knows, but by what he doesn’t know.” 

― Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Teach for America Goes Global–Look Out World!
Teach for America has been providing teachers to low-income, inner city schools and charters for 25 years.  Did you know it provides similar services to a number of countries around the world?  THE Nation has an extensive profile of what TFA is doing in India where the program is referred to as, you guessed it, “Teach for India.”  “Since 2007,” it mentions, “adaptations of Teach for America’s controversial model have been implemented in 40 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, thanks to [ TFA founder Wendy] Kopp’s Teach for All network.  Though the organizations are financed through varying mixes of corporate, foundation, and state funding, there’s a remarkable continuity in the network’s so-called ‘Theory of Change,’ regardless of national differences in teacher training, student enrollment, and infrastructure quality.  Given the burgeoning presence of Teach for India in the nation’s troubled school system, the project of exporting the Teach for America model is being put to a high-profile test.  If deemed successful, this model will be poised to deliver large portions of India’s education system—and, indeed, others all over the world—into the control of the private sector on a for-profit basis.” 
Ever wonder how much those standardized assessments, SBAC and PARCC, cost districts and states?  A law passed in 2015 in Oregon requires the Sec. of State to conduct an audit to determine just how much the testing program is costing the taxpayers of the Beaver State.  A story on the PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA–OREGON website details the costs involved.  The numbers may surprise you and remember, Oregon is not one of our most populous states (it ranks #27 out of 50 in population).  “The original text of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965,” the item suggests after reporting the cost figures, “mentions the word ‘test’ exactly one time.  And, it doesn’t refer to the testing of children at all.  It says that the bill, or the program created by the bill, should contain an evaluation of itself.  ‘ncluding pilot projects designed to test the effectiveness of plans so developed’   It’s time to stop mercilessly testing children and to  adhere to the original intent of ESEA.  It is time to ‘test the effectiveness of the plans so developed’ — in this case by ESSA — and act accordingly in the best interest of children.”
Belmont High Serves Large Number of Unaccompanied Minors
The U.S. has been experiencing an influx of unaccompanied minors in the past 5 years fleeing violence in their home countries in Central America.  Many of those children and teens have been showing up at schools throughout Southern California and particularly the LAUSD.  A front-page story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reports that nearly a quarter of the 1,000 students at Belmont High (LAUSD) in downtown L.A. have arrived from Central America, many without their parents.  It tells the story of one young orphan man from Guatemala who is struggling to make his way in America.  “At Belmont, teachers contend with the trauma many of these children suffered in their countries of origin or along the treacherous journey north,” it explains.  “Some of the students struggle against resentment and abandonment issues while getting to know a mother, father or family member who left them behind. Some run away.”              The above article about Belmont High School and its large number of immigrant students, many of them unaccompanied minors, drew two letters that appear in today’s L.A. Times.  “This important story reminds us what courage is, what tenacity is,”  the first one writes, “and how lucky we are to have these brave young people who embody the best American values here with us. The article shows what the mission of our schools should be.”
Online vs Traditional Classroom Learning
A new study from Northwestern University finds that 8th grade students who look an online Algebra I class did not score as well on tests as their peers who took the course in a traditional classroom setting.  A brief item about the research appears on theNorthwestern School of Education and Social Policywebsite.  The full report can be found in the journal Economics of Education Review but requires a paid subscription.
Election 2016
Few of the presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican, spent much time talking about education issues on the primary campaign trail.  Now that the GOP has settled on its Trump/Pence ticket, it’s time to focus on what they might offer as future proposals related to education by looking back at some of their previous pronouncements and policies.  An article in The New York Timesputs veep selection Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s record on educationunder review. It focuses on 3 key issues: Charter Schools and Vouchers, Common Core and Testing and Preschool Expansion.  “As a congressman, [Pence] was one of just two dozen Republicans to vote against the No Child Left Behind act championed by President George W. Bush,” the piece mentions.  “Mr. Pence said he was concerned about federal intrusion into what had been a state and local issue.  He has largely hewed to Republican ideas of more school choice and a smaller federal role in education. But he has also alienated some members of his own party, who said Mr. Pence paid more attention to politics than to policy.”           Donald Trump’s son, Donald, Jr., delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night that included a scathing attack on traditional public schools in this country.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reviews the address and points out the son’s attitudes toward education are nearly identical to his father’s.  “Trump Jr. never went to a public school.  He attended private schools until he went to college at the University of Pennsylvania,” she points out.  “What does Donald Trump, the candidate, think? Education wasn’t high on the list of discussion topics during the primary season, but he has long been a supporter of school choice and a critic of traditional public schools.”               A member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) and a teacher in New York was up in arms over the speech by Donald Trump Jr., at the GOP convention Tuesday night (see above).  “Okay, not sure of the rest of the stupid arguments against teachers,”  he disgustingly concludes, “but those are the good old standards that the ignorant always roll out.  Just figured I would put all the nastiness in one place, save us time on moving from thread to thread defending our chosen profession.  God help this country.”     Another veteran New York City high school teacher, Arthur Goldstein, takes Donald Trump Jr. to task for his pejorative comments about teachers in his Tuesday evening address to the Republican Convention (see two items directly above).  His analysis appears on the nyc educator blog as he offers a point-by-point rebuttal to a number of the charges against educators leveled by Trump Jr..  “It’s absurd and obscene,” Goldstein concludes, “that we who devote our lives to helping children are vilified by the same people who make it impossible to fund their schools.  It’s even worse that their remedy for public schools is making it easier for zillionaires to profit from them.”            The Jersey Jazzman, aka Mark Weber, is having some problems with recent comments about education made by both Donald Trump Jr. and Hillary Clinton.  He has some major concerns about how public schools are funded and where Donald Trump and the Clintons sent their own children to school.  This item includes a video of  the speech by Donald Trump Jr. at the GOP Convention (16:39 minutes) and one by Hillary Clinton before the American Federation of Teachers in Minneapolis (31:51 minutes).             Gene V. Glass, on his Education in Two Worlds blog, prints a copy of the section of the GOP Platform on education without comment or analysis.                Big thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence for sending a hilarious  (scary?) (depending on your political point-of-view) item from The Atlantic titled “Why Are Third-Graders Afraid of Donald Trump?”  It profiles a pair of third-graders from Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb west of Boston, who have formed a “Kids Against Trump” group on their campus.  “Their group isn’t very big.  It’s just them and a few friends and neighbors,” the article points out, “plus they have support from about 200 people who have so far signed their Change.org petition.  Also, close to 500 people follow the group’s Facebook page, and have offered virtual support from far-flung states.”               Andrew Rotherman, who formerly worked in the Clinton administration and is a cofounder and partner of Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit that supports corporate “reform” and privatization, suggests that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are not yet done with those kinds of reforms.  Writing inU.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, he maintains that despite the wording of the party’s platform and recent comments Clinton made to the NEA and AFT, he wants to assure his readers that she’s still in favor of the things the corporate “reformers” want.  Rotherman’s commentary is titled “Democrats Aren’t Done With Education–Don’t Write Off Hillary Clinton or Democratic Party When it Comes to Education Reform.”             Donald Trump’s nomination acceptance speech at the Republican Convention last night was short on education specifics.  Few of the addresses during the 4-day parlay concentrated on that topic.  Two items from EDUCATION WEEK touch on the GOP and education policies.  The first reviews Trumps speech and some other comments that were made at the convention in Cleveland.  “Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump,”  it notes, “gave a shout-out to a long-treasured GOP priority, school choice, in his nomination acceptance speech here Thursday, and in a section on education attacked a long-time party bogeyman, “bureaucrats”. . . . But anyone who wanted policy details about where Trump stood on education before the convention kicked off on Monday was just as in the dark when the balloons hit the floor four days later.”  The second highlights some Trump pronouncements over the course of the campaign and before on K-12 policy.  Here’s one sample:“On who he listens to about education:  ‘I was with Dr. Ben Carson today [a one-time rival for the nomination] … We spoke for over an hour on education.  And he has such a great handle on it.  He wants competitive schools.  He wants a lot of different things that are terrific, including charter schools, by the way, that the unions are fighting like crazy.  But charter schools work, and they work very well.’ – GOP debate in Miami, March 2016”
The Teaching Profession
THE HECHINGER REPORT provides 4 concrete ways to improve math instruction for elementary teachers.  The ideas came from Finland, Japan and China. “Why don’t American students really get math?” it begins,  “Because their elementary school teachers don’t either, says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a policy institute that studies what America can learn from the world’s best-performing education systems.”  Here is lesson #2 from the article: “Require that elementary school teachers specialize in content areas.  Most primary school teachers in the U.S. teach all subjects.  In many top countries, teacher candidates specialize in either math and science or language and social studies.”                The corporate “reformers” love to paint teachers unions as the bogeyman when it comes to improving education.  “What if Everything You Thought You Knew About Teachers Unions Turned Out to Be Wrong” is the title of a piece on Jennifer Berkshire’s EduShyster blog that features some new research about those unions.  She interviews the author of a brand new study by Eunice Han, who has a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and will be joining the economics faculty of the University of Utah in the fall.  Dr. Han’s report looks at a number of fallacies some politicians and privatizers love to perpetuate about teachers unions.  “By demanding higher salaries for teachers, unions give school districts a strong incentive to dismiss ineffective teachers before they get tenure,” Han explains in response to one question.  “Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them.  Using three different kinds of survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics, I confirmed that unionized districts dismiss more low-quality teachers than those with weak unions or no unions.  Unionized districts also retain more high-quality teachers relative to district with weak unionism.  No matter how and when I measured unionism I found that unions lowered teacher attrition.”  Berkshire’s article includes a link to the full report (62 pages) titled “The Myths of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers” that was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Diane Ravitch suggests you “Send this link to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and any other reformers you can think of.”              A nine-year veteran English teacher in Louisiana tackles some of those myths about teachersshe’s heard over the years.  One of the myths she dispels: “Whining about how bad we have it.”  Her comments appear on THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website.               POP QUIZ time.  What is a “VLC?”  If you answered “virtual learning community” you are correct.  For EXTRA POINTS can you describe what a VLC is?  Briefly they are online professional development resources for teachers often through group or peer-to-peer learning communities. Need/want more information about VLCs?  The “CTQ Collaboratoy” column at EDUCATION WEEK has a piece titled “How Teachers Can Benefit From Virtual Learning Communities” which provides a primer for you so you can score 100% on the next quiz about VLCs.  “Part of the challenge of teaching in the 21st century is that many (most?) of us received 20th century educations,” the author writes.  “We connected to others through face-to-face study groups and relied heavily on in-class discussions.  We worked largely in isolation outside of school, or in face-to-face collaboration during the school day.  Only in the last decade or two have we increasingly relied on virtual collaboration as a way to connect, collaborate, and improve our individual and collective practice.”
Paul Tough, in his book “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” (A previous ALOED Book Club title), was one of the early proponents of the concept of teaching “grit” to students, particularly low-income ones.  In his latest volume, “Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why” he walks that idea back a bit.  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, reviews Tough’s latest title and comes away much more encouraged about what he’s read.  Thompson’s essay is titled “Paul Tough Turns Away From Punitive Education Reforms.”  “What most separates reformers and educators who oppose them is their punishment fetish.  We don’t deny that accountability and consequences are facts of life,” he concludes, “and those extrinsic measures have a role to play.  Corporate reformers remain firm that the punitive must play a decisive part in school improvement.  These measures also are a tactical device aimed at discrediting, disrupting and replacing public schools.  Tough speaks softly as he articulates a constructive message that emphasizes the better angels of human beings.  Perhaps he will help win the competition-driven reformers over to his collaborative vision.  Or, maybe, they won’t change until they taste defeat.  I hope we don’t have to wait until that final battle before incorporating Tough’s wisdom into a new era of school improvement.”
Fethullah Gülen and the Attempted Turkish Coup (Continued)
An attempted coup in Turkey failed last Friday (the previous edition of the “Ed News” contained several items relating to the event).  The surviving Turkish government has accused a reclusive Turkish Imam, Fethullah Gülen, who resides in the Pocono Mountains in the northeastern portion of Pennsylvania as the leader behind the coup.  Interestingly, Gülen owns one of the largest charter chains in the U.S.  Valerie Strauss, in her column in The Washington Post,details several actions the government has taken to curtail the activities of Gülen.  “The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked education officials in Texas and California to investigate publicly funded charter schools in those states,” it begins, “that it says are linked to a Muslim cleric living in the United States, a man the government alleges was the mastermind of a coup attempt this month.  The Turkish government also is planning to bring more complaints in other parts of the U.S.”  Strauss includes a link to the formal legal complaint filed in California against the Magnolia Public Schools that are connected to Gülen.
Educational Inequality
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers a “modest proposal” for dealing with educational inequality: let the rich kids get the same teachers, schools, curricula and tests, i,e. corporate “reform,”as the low-income ones.  Not following any of this?  Check out his piece and he’ll explain in his own unique style.  “So I’m asking, please, let the children of the rich and powerful experience these same corporate educate reforms.  Every child deserves the right to be taught by an untrained instructor,” he suggests.  “Every child should have an education devised by non-experts making huge profits off the results.  Every child’s success should be determined through mass marketed, standardized, A,B,C exams.  Every child should get to go to a school where the administration can reduce services and maximize profit.  Only then can we finally compare test scores between rich and poor. Only then will be one America!  Only then will no rich child be left behind.”
Charter Schools
The vehemently anti-charter United Teachers Los Angeles and a local charter (most charters are rabidly anti-union) actually came to an agreement on a key issue. A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a battle between 9 teachers at El Camino Real Charter High School and the LAUSD.  The charter did not want to pay retiree benefits and offered to pay the group of teachers to return to the district just long enough so that it would be on the hook for their benefits.  That’s when UTLA jumped in on the side of the charter!  If this all sounds rather convoluted, it is!  Check out a story in the “Education Watch” column in today’s L.A. Times that sorts it all out for you.  “El Camino is unionized,” it explains, “which is a main reason the teachers have retiree health benefits in the first place.  These benefits help cover what isn’t handled by Medicare, the federal health program for retirees.  Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl said his organization would fight ‘to enforce our members’ rights under the UTLA/LAUSD contract.’  He noted that the district agreed to give El Camino teachers up to five years to return to L.A. Unified after El Camino became a charter.”                 Are charter schools leading the way to the re-segregation of our public schools?  Jeff Bryant, writing for ALTERNET, tackles that question and he uses what’s been taking place in Little Rock, Arkansas, as his example.  His extended essay is titled “Charter Schools and the Waltons Take Little Rock Back to its Segregated Past.”  “This time, those being accused of segregating students aren’t local bigots. Instead,” Bryant maintains, “Little Rock citizens see segregation as being imposed upon them by outsiders, operating under the guise of a reform agenda. . . .  And new entities, such as charter schools (publicly funded schools that are privately operated) and private foundations controlled by a small number of rich people, sow divisions in the community.”
Proposed New School Accountability System
And finally, the previous two editions of the “Ed News” (July 15 and 19) contained items about a draft proposal from the California State Board of Education about a new school accountability system.  It is much more detailed than the old single number rating API (Academic Performance Index).  The new plan uses a number of different criteria to measure school growth and progress and a series of color-coded boxes.  The draft proposal drew the ire of theL.A. Times.  An editorial in today’s paper took the board to task for making the process overly cumbersome and difficult to understand.  “The board’s determination to measure schools by more than merely test scores is laudable and has led national thinking on the topic.  But the new system is more than overly warm and fuzzy,” it complains. “Making sense of it is practically impossible.”


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




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