Ed News, Tuesday, July 26, 2016 Edition


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

Election 2016
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” had several articles castigating Donald Trump Jr. for his disparaging remarks about the public schools during a speech he delivered at the Republican Convention last Tuesday evening.  Several of them were from veteran educators.  Jennifer Rumsey has been a public school teacher in Texas for the past 17 years and she too took umbrage with his remarks.  Her commentary appears in the Austin American-Statesman “The truth is that Trump and the public school bashers like him don’t know anything about public education. I am proud to be an American public school teacher,”  she concludes defiantly, “and I have heard enough of the un-American rhetoric that politicians and businessmen like him use to tear down a truly American establishment and condemn the millions of Americans working hard to care for the children of this nation.”               Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana is now the Republican vice presidential candidate.  An anonymous retired Hoosier State teacher writes about Pence’s education policies and what they did to the state on the Live Long and Prosper . . . blog.  “In Indiana, Pence’s education policies have negatively impacted every aspect of education,” the author complains.  “While [previous Gov.] Mitch Daniel’s administration made sweeping changes by introducing vouchers, state-mandated teacher evaluations, salary caps, and high stakes testing, Mike Pence continued the excessive executive power, disregard of law, and hostile aggression towards educators.  Mr. Pence devalued the teaching profession by lowering requirements for qualified teachers and establishing Pearson created competency testing.  He legislated how teachers are evaluated and paid, resulting in high-stakes evaluations and minuscule performance pay.”               With the Democratic National Convention now in full swing in Philadelphia, we can pick on them for a change.  You may not know too much about Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice president, but you should be aware that his wife, Anne, was the Sec. of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia until she stepped down from that post today to assist with her husband’s campaign for vice president.  Tim Kaine, former mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and current U.S. Senator, wrote 2 1/2 years ago a very encouraging piece about his experiences with the public school system in his state.  It’s titled “Lessons From 40 Years as a Richmond Public Schools Parent” and appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  He offers 7 things he’d like to change about K-12 education.  Here’s one example: “Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession.  We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.”  If you want to get some good insights into his thoughts about K-12 education and contrast them with the Trump/Pence ticket, you should check this out.              The Washington Post has a detailed profile of Tim Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, and her long history of advocating for children even before she became Virginia’s Sec. of Education in 2014 under Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  “Like most of her fellow Democrats in the state, she has opposed the expansion of charter schools and other school-choice measures,”  it points out, “and she has pushed for greater investments in public education, including teacher pay raises.”               Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, draws some interesting parallelsbetween the scam of Trump University and Donald Trump’s belief in “school choice.” Singer finds the whole proposition of a Pres. Trump setting K-12 education policy rather “ironic.”              While out on the primary campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has often repeated that she would continue many of the policies of the Obama administration.  Does that include following Obama’s K-12 education initiatives which some Democrats and most progressives were not pleased with? The “Politics K-12” column inEDUCATION WEEK takes a look at just how closely Clinton might mirror the incumbent’s education policies.  “Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, loves to tell voters that her administration would pick up the policy baton from President Barack Obama,” it begins.  “But, with the Democratic National Convention kicking off [this week], it’s tough to say how true that will be when it comes to K-12 education. That’s an area where Obama has antagonized many of the teachers that make up the Democratic Party base during his first six years in office, by tying teacher evaluation to test scores, encouraging districts to turn their low-performing schools into charters, and more.”              As the Democratic National Convention continues this week in Philadelphia, ED WEEK offers another analysis of the official party platform as it pertains to education.  “The platform reflects several of the top K-12 policy priorities of American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association,”  it relates, “both of which have backed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. . . .  It’s a strong repudiation of groups that favor test-based accountability as a key tool in identifying and addressing the needs of minority students and struggling schools.  There’s a pledge in there as well to end the ‘test-and-punish version of accountability.’  Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, there are still federally required state tests—but states have a lot more freedom in how they use them to judge students, teachers, and schools.”  The piece includes two links to the full platform (55 pages) one at the beginning and one at the very end.              Two teachers from Nevada, both NEA members and delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week, have differing views on whether they will support Hillary Clinton now that she is officially the party’s nominee.  ED WEEK profiles the pair who work in the same district in Clark County (Las Vegas).              Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a stirring speech to the DNC last night.  He vowed to do everything he could to defeat Donald Trump in November.  In addition, he made some brief comments about K-12 education and college students who graduate from school deeply in debt.  ED WEEK reviews his address and compares the education policies of Hillary Clinton and Sanders.  “He highlighted a proposal he and Clinton crafted together,” it mentions, “that would guarantee tuition-free access to public college and universities for children in families earning under $125,000 a year—the vast majority of Americans, he said.”
The Teaching Profession
How would you feel if a prominent person in your state believed that half of the teachers in your district “are virtually illiterate?”  If you don’t think that would ever happen you need to read a shocking item in the Chicago Tribune which obtained some emails about comments  regarding the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) written byBruce Rauner in 2011 prior to his becoming governor of Illinois.  “Rauner’s remarks were included in a batch of emails the Chicago Tribune requested from [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel’s office more than a year ago,” it explains, “in connection with its reporting about a controversial $20.5 million no-bid CPS principal training program at the center of former district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s guilty plea to federal fraud charges last year.  The mayor’s office heavily redacted some of the messages or withheld them entirely.  The Tribune then sued the Emanuel administration, and  . . . .Cook County Judge Anna Demacopoulos ruled the mayor’s office largely violated the state’s open records laws and ordered City Hall to turn over the emails.”               6 of America’s best teachers spent several days in Finland last month studying that country’s highly successful education system. The “Teaching Now” column for ED WEEK spoke with two of them to see what they learned.  It mentions 4 take-aways from that trip including these two: 1) “Finnish Teachers Are Trusted, Seen as Experts” and 2) “A Well-Rounded Education Is About More Than Grades “
Testing & Common Core
Could the use of certain digital devices for standardized testsnegatively effect student scores on those exams?  That’s the rather disturbing issue raised by an article in EDUCATION WEEK, particularly as more and more districts move to the online administration of those assessments.  “To date, however, relatively little is known about how comparable state tests are when delivered on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, or Chromebooks.  Each type of device,”  the piece indicates, “has different screen sizes and ways of manipulating material—touchscreen vs. mouse, for example—and inputting information—say onscreen vs. detached keyboard—factors that could contribute to different experiences and results for students.”               Diane Ravitch has an op-ed inThe New York Times blasting the Common Core State Standardsand the tests that accompany them.  She reviews many of the arguments she and others have made in the past against the standards.  “What is called ‘the achievement gap’ is actually an ‘opportunity gap.’  What we need,” she suggests, :are schools where all children have the same chance to learn.  That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning, and do nothing to help poor children at racially segregated schools.  We need to focus on that, not on promoting failed ideas.”
Charter Schools and Online Academies
What is it about charter schools that gets advocates of traditional public schools so upset?  According to Carol Burris, retired award-winning New York principal and current executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education), what gets their dander up most is referring to them as “public” schools.  Guest blogging, as she often does, on Valerie’s Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post, Burris explains why its such an affront to attach that adjective.  “Charters, regardless of their original intent, have become a threat to democratically governed, neighborhood public schools,”  Burris maintains, “and questions about their practices, opacity and lack of accountability are increasing as their numbers grow.  Placing the adjective ‘public’ in front of ‘charter’ is an affront to those who deeply believe in the mission of public schools.  Charter schools are privately run academies funded by the taxpayer.  Many are governed by larger corporations, known as CMOs [Charter Management Organizations]. Some are for-profit; others are not for profit yet still present financial ‘opportunities.'”               Georgia, like California, is not getting a very good return on its investment in online charters.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted problems the Golden State has been having with online schools run by K12 Inc., the company that gets millions in taxpayer funding and gets very poor results for those dollars.  Georgia is experiencing similar problems according to an extensive investigative article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution titled “Georgia’s Largest Online School Paid Millions, Earns a D.”  “Georgians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on one of the biggest online schools in the nation,” it notes, “yet nearly every measure indicates the high-tech, online education model has not worked for many of its more than 13,000 students. . . .  But results show that most of them lag state performance on everything from standardized test scores to graduation rates.”
Great News
And finally, last November the ALOED Education Film Series sponsored a screening, for a group of students, professors, alumni and guests on the Occidental College campus, of the documentary film “Education, Inc.” which chronicled an attempted corporate “reform” takeover of a suburban Denver School District.  A lively panel discussion was part of the event.  The movie recently won a Heartland Emmy award for Best Documentary.  [Ed. note: Can we pick em, or what?] Stay tuned for future screenings and congratulations to Brian Malone, producer/director/editor of this fascinating and timely film.  You can find out all about the award onFacebook.


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



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