Monthly Archives: August 2016

Ed News, Friday, August 12, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual
the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit 
until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings
and nowhere else.”
[Ed. note:  The “Ed News” will be taking an extended break in order to enjoy the remainder of the summer.
Look for the next edition the day after Labor Day on Sept. 6.]

And now to the news.

 
LAUSD Sets Record Graduation Rate
LAUSD Supt. Michelle King addressed a group of district administrators and special guests Tuesday and proudly told them during her first “state of the district” speech delivered at Garfield High that the LAUSD had produced its highest graduation rate ever, 75% for 2015-16.  That bettered last year’s record of 72.2% but still trails the national average of 82.3% for 2014-15  A front-page story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has all the numbers and includes a chart with district graduation rates since 2009-10.  “The milestone represents a breathtaking turnaround between December and June.  In December,” it notes, “only about half of seniors were on track to graduate under new, more difficult requirements that were taking effect for the first time. But a controversial triage already was underway, employing a lengthy list of programs that specialize in credit recovery.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Were you aware that the teachers’ lounge could be kinda, sorta, dangerous to your mental health?  The author of this piece explains “Why I Avoid the ‘Teachers’ Lounge, And You Should, Too” in her commentary for EDUCATION WEEK.  The author is a 3rd grade teacher in Texas.  “When faced with the opportunity to join in on the teachers’ lounge, we need to find a reason to walk away or a way to change the topic,” she suggests.  “We need to rise above the teachers’ lounge mentality and bring positivity back into our schools.  The task may not be easy, but if we can place these expectations on our students, then we should take on those same expectations.  Together, as constructive educators, we can defuse the teachers’ lounge of its power.”              In this age of shortages of properly trained teachers, you can add Utah to the list that now allows educators to be hired who are not licensed or experienced.  A brief item in ED WEEK (via the Associated Press) provides the discouraging details.  “Utah has long had a program that let people with bachelor’s degrees get teaching jobs before they got a license,”it explains, “but the new policy change lets them get a license right away and drops a requirement that those people take college teacher-training courses.”              Walt Gardner, on his “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK, has an interesting idea about how “New Teachers Can Learn From New Doctors.”  He suggests new educators learn a technique from new doctors called “escalation-of-care” policies.  He explains what that is in the context of medical training and how it could apply to new teachers.  “What these policies aim to do is to reassure new residents that calling for help from senior physicians is no indication of their incompetence,”he summarizes.  “In fact, it is just the opposite.  I maintain that a similar approach needs to be taken in public schools for new teachers in particular.  Whatever they have learned in their student teaching as part of the requirements for a license is rarely enough to prepare them for the realities of the classroom.  The trouble is that new teachers are reluctant to ask for help from veteran teachers.  They’re afraid that doing so will be held against them during their pre-tenure year evaluations.”             A new school year is about to commence.  Carl Draeger, A National Board Certified Teacher from Illinois who has taught both high school and community college math and served as a full-time teacher mentor, offers “Five Self-Empowering Things Teachers Can Do to Feel Appreciated This School Year.”  As an example, item #4 on his list is “Attend a workshop, conference, or institute.”  He fully explains why that and the others on his list can help to make the year a positive one.  Check out his other ideas if you are feeling unappreciated or just need a boost going into the new school year.  His commentary appears in the “CTQ Collaboratory” column in ED WEEK.  “This list is in no way exhaustive. There are many things you can do in your school, district, and community.  The point is that the most important change agents are the teachers,” he concludes.  “We are the preeminent and, ironically, the least utilized resource for school reform and transformation.  We have the heart, the experience, the wisdom, and the access to create the educational opportunities America’s children need and deserve.  Instead of feeling unappreciated, you can focus your energy on self-empowerment to do the world’s most important work.  Teachers, we’ve got this.”             Looking for some more good ideasas the new school year approaches? Another article from ED WEEK offers some practical suggestions for veteran and rookie teachers alike.  This one comes courtesy of Nancy Flanagan, a National Board Certified teacher, education writer and consultant who focuses on education leadership.  She taught music in K-12 classrooms for 30 years in Michigan. Her commentary is titled “10 Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School.”  Here’s one example: #10 “Tie Your Classroom to the World.”   She, too, explains each one of her suggestions in detail.              Do you ever wonder how teacher pay compares to other professions and jobs?  A new study from the Economic Policy Institute has the latest data and the picture is not pretty.  The title of the report pretty much tells the story: “The Teacher Pay Gap is Wider Than Ever: Teachers’ Pay Continues to Fall Further Behind Pay of Comparable Workers.”  Talk about being unappreciated (see Carl Draeger’s piece, above)!!! “In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994,” the report’s Summary states.  “This erosion of relative teacher wages has fallen more heavily on experienced teachers than on entry-level teachers. Importantly, collective bargaining can help to abate this teacher wage penalty.  Some of the increase in the teacher wage penalty may be attributed to a
trade-off between wages and benefits.  Even so, teachers’ compensation (wages plus benefits) was 11.1 percent lower than that of comparable workers in 2015.”              As the nation’s population becomes more and more diverse, the teaching profession remains predominantly white.  In 2014 the student population in the U.S. became, for the first time, majority minority.  An item inEDUCATION WEEK looks at some interesting demographic data.  “But while students in the nation’s classrooms are increasingly more diverse,” it relates, “the people educating them aren’t.  In a nation where nearly half of all children under five right now are non-white, and no racial or ethnic group will constitute a true majority in the United States by 2055, according to an analysis of Census data from the Pew Research Center, the teaching corps in K-12 classrooms remains overwhelmingly white.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
The U.S. isn’t the only nation experiencing a concerted attack on its traditional public schools as corporate “reformers” and privatizers attempt to introduce charters, choice, vouchers and other schemes to take over and benefit financially from the billions of dollars countries spend on their education systems.  Diane Ravitch, this time writing for U.S. News & World Report, has an eye-opening piece titled “Worldwide, Public Education is Up For Sale, From the U.K. to Liberia, the School Privatization Movement Gathers Steam.”  “For the past three decades, critics of public education in the United States have assailed it and used its flaws to promote publicly funded privatization,” she begins.  “Corporate and political interests have attacked the very concept of public education, claiming that the private sector is invariably superior to the public sector.  These developments are by no means limited to the U.S.; the same movement to privatize public schools is occurring in the United Kingdom, Africa and other regions – with troubling implications.”               Melinda Gates, in a speech this week to the National Conference of State Legislatures and in an interview with The Washington Post, vowed that the efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue to promote and support Common Core, charters and the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations would not waiver in the face of rather intense pushback from various sources.  “Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates,” the piece begins, “learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years.  Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.”
 
Charter Schools
The ACLU of Southern California recently published a report (highlighted in the “Ed News”) that found up to 25% of charter schools in California had admission policies that attempted to exclude certain types of students.  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times features one such charter, Roseland Accelerated Middle School in Santa Rosa, and reviews some examples of its admission requirements.  The editorial takes the charters to task for these policies which happen to be against state law.  “Charter schools — public schools — are clearly laying out obstacles bigger than those in the applications of private universities,”  it maintains, “with requirements that put low-income students, foster children and those from poorly educated or immigrant families at a disadvantage. . . . The state needs reasonable, clearly defined and well-enforced rules, but as with so many aspects of school accountability, it has none of these.”           Massachusetts voters will be determining the fate of Question 2 on their Nov. 8 ballot which, if approved, would authorize the creation of up to 12 new charter schools per year in the Bay State.  Proponents of the measure kicked off a deceptive $2.3 million ad campaign with a 30-second spot during the opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics.  A story in The Boston Globe describes the push to approve the question and includes a video of the introductory ad.           Diane Ravitch’s blog has a short item pointing out why the ad is deceptive (see above) and why voters should turn Question 2 down.  “Advocates for privatization have launched a $2.3 million advertising budget with a deceptive ad,” she complains, “calling on voters to vote YES for ‘stronger public schools.’  The ad refers to privately managed, unaccountable charter schools as ‘public schools,’ which they are not.”               Guess which company created the deceptive pro-charter school ad in Massachusetts (see above)?  The same one that produced those equally deceptive swiftboat ads during the 2004 presidential election that twisted John Kerry’s military record when he served in Vietnam.  Peter Greene, on his always entertaining and informative CURMUDGUCATION blog, dissects the 30-second spot mentioned above in fine detail and reveals some very interesting items.  He includes the ad in his piece in case you missed it when you read about it above.  Greene makes many of the same points that Diane Ravitch does in her article about how charters are not public schools.  “Are public schools perfect as is?  Not even close.  But the solution is not to rescue a favored few,” he concludes, “at the cost of making things worse for the many left behind.  If charter advocates wanted to approach this honestly, here’s what their proposal would say–Vote to have your taxes raised to finance a new entitlement for every child to have the option of attending private school at taxpayer expense.  Vote to shut down public schools and replace them with schools that aren’t any better, won’t serve some of your children, and aren’t accountable to you, ever.  Let the swift boaters make an ad to sell that.”             How many traditional public schools could get away with this underhanded scheme?  Eva Moscowitz, founder of the Success Academy charters in New York City wanted to start a pre-K program.  However, she was turned down by both New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the State Board of Education.  Soooooooo, she was able to get Gov Cuomo, a Democrat, to intervene and the Republicans in the State Legislature to introduce a bill in the final hours of the session with some vague language about charter oversight.  Nobody apparently read it very carefully because it contained an obscure provision that allowed Moscowitz to begin her program.  Gov. Cuomo and State Senate Republicans, it should be noted, are the recipients of large amounts of campaign donations from the charter industry.  Might that have anything to do with the passage of the legislation that aided Moscowitz?  A story in The New York Times has all the sleazy details.              A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the experiences of a teacher at a “no excuses” charter school.  The Washington Post features another column by a teacher at a similar school in New Haven, Connecticut.  In this article Julia Fisher describes what it was like to work at Achievement First Amistad Academy High School as a 10th grade English teacher.  “It’s much easier to teach behavioral management tactics than to foster deep passion and knowledge about an academic field,” she points out, “and Achievement First provided all the scripts and coaching necessary to get a willing body functioning as part of its behavioral management machine.  Inspiring kids with academic content wasn’t really part of the picture.”              Remember Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive Turkish imam who resides in a compound in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania?  He has been charged by the Turkish government with involvement in the recent unsuccessful coup attempt in his home country and his personal movement owns one of the largest charter networks in the U.S.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” have profiled him and the charges against him.  TheHOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL reports that the Texas Education Agency is looking into the misuse of federal and state funds and improper connections to Turkish vendors by the Harmony Public Schools charter network in Houston which is alleged to be run by the Gülen organization.               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a look at two recent developments and suggests “How Populism is Rewriting the Charter School Narrative.”  What are the two events?  The NAACP’s stance calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and the defeat of a slate of pro-charter candidates in the Nashville school board race (both covered extensively by the “Ed News.”  Are we doing a great job, or what?) Bryant contends that a rising tide of Populism, so evident in the presidential election, is beginning to derail the expansion of charters in this country.  “Of course, charter school propagandists still have plenty of rhetorical arrows in their quiver.  But what’s  abundantly clear is that while they’ve been completely free to write the charter school narrative in their own words,” he concludes, “now the people are telling their version of the story.  And the ending is no doubt going to look way different.”
 
Student Transiency and Learning
How does student mobility affect learning?  That’s the important question tackled by a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  What is mobility, how many and what types of students and schools are impacted the most and how should it be dealt with are among the subjects addressed.  “It’s always tough to be the new kid in the middle of the school year: to find new friends, adapt to new teachers and rules.  But for more than 6.5 million students nationwide,” it begins, “being the new kid can be a frequent occurrence—and one that exacts a cost to their social and academic development and that of their classmates.  As more states begin to use longitudinal data to improve schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act, a growing body of research suggests student mobility may be a key indicator to identify vulnerable students and keep them on a path to academic achievement.”
 
Testing
Do you really know how student test scores are determined?  If you think it’s simply the correct number of answers on a standardized test you definitely need to read Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post titled “Student Test Scores: How They Are Actually Calculated and Why You Should Care.”  She cites a new study co-authored by a professor at the University of Michigan and a nonresident senior fellow at the nonprofit Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C.  “The paper is the latest in a series of reports over years,” Strauss indicates, “that have urged caution in the use of standardized test scores to make high-stakes decisions about students, teachers, principals and schools — but policymakers at the federal and state levels have for years ignored the warnings.”  The article includes two links to the full report (6 pages) titled, rather colorfully, “Student Test Scores: How the Sausage is Made and Why You Should Care.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
And finally, what is the demographic profile of the participants in the opt out movement?  A new report from Teachers College, Columbia University, offers some interesting details regarding the who and why of opting out.  It’s featured in a story on the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “A new survey of those involved in the assessment opt-out movement,” the ED WEEK article begins, “finds that typical participants are white, well educated and well off, and very worried about the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.”  You can find the full report (67 pages) titled “Who Opts Out and Why?  Results From a National Survey on Opting Out of Standardized Tests” by clicking here.  It includes results from 1,641 respondents representing 47 states who were questioned between January 29 and March 31 of this year.

                                                                                                   http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

 

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Ed News, Tuesday, August 9, 2016 Edition

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.”
Corporate “Reform”
If the corporate “reform” cabal can’t take over local district school boards in order to push their agenda of charters, choice and privatization they turn their attention to pouring vast sums of money into candidates at the local, state and federal level who favor their program.  Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What? blog illustrates this phenomenon via his home state of Connecticut, which, by the way, has one of the best traditional public school system in the country.  Front groups are formed to back the pro-charter DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) that target specific races in order to influence candidates that favor the corporate “reform” proposals.  “The charter school industry has spent in excess of $9 million,” he reveals, “lobbying on behalf of [Connecticut] Governor Malloy’s charter school and education reform agenda.  In addition they have provided massive amounts of campaign funds to Malloy and other pro-charter school candidates at the federal, state and local level in Connecticut.”  Connecticut held its Democratic primary election for state, district and municipal offices today.  For a more detailed look at specific races targeted by those front groups for DFER (see above) click here for a story from the ct mirrorwebsite.  “Two national and regional charter school groups,” it begins, “have created political action committees in Connecticut in time to make independent expenditures to influence a handful of the 10 Democratic primaries held [today] for seats in the General Assembly.”              The last couple of editions of the “Ed News” highlighted the corporate “reformers” attempt to take over the school board in Nashville and the well-deserved defeat they experienced during the recent election in the Music City.  We return to the Dad Gone Wild blog, written by T.C. Weber, a Nashville public school parent who recapitulates the battle leading up to the election and recounts how traditional public school proponents enjoyed a big victory.  “What has happened in Nashville is proof that the conversation about what is needed in public education is changing,” Weber conveys.  “People are recognizing that the policies of the reform crowd are not good for kids.  We need to seize on this momentum to drive home policies that are good for kids, like equitable funding for our schools, increased daily recess time, decreased emphasis on testing, empowering teachers, and more.  Reformers like to point to Nashville as a ‘model’ for their success stories.  This election now provides a model on how to fight back and win against corporate reform.”  Diane Ravitch calls this“a great post” and notes that the group Stand for Children (SFC), which pumped vast sums of money into trying to defeat the pro-public school candidates, “got its tail kicked by the people of Nashville.”
 
Election 2016
Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT (American Federation of Teachers), sat down for an interview with THE HECHINGER REPORT on the last day of the Democratic Convention.  Weingarten, who addressed the delegates on the first day of the gathering in Philadelphia, guided the AFT to an early (and controversial) endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  She addresses what her hopes are for education policy under a potential Clinton administration. In answer to one question, Weingarten responded: “If you look at the platform for the Democratic Party, it’s the most progressive in terms of education that we’ve seen for as long as I can remember.  You get the controversies on the fringes, as opposed to what we need to do to ensure that public education is sacrosanct again.”               IF Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, who might she select to be her Secretary of Education?  That speculative query was addressed in an interesting piece in the “Politics K-12” column of EDUCATION WEEK.  The author throws out a number of names (two have California connections) for readers to ponder.  “Now that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and her running mate, Tim Kaine are officially hitting the campaign trail,” the item begins, “it’s time to start speculating: Who might her education secretary be if she wins the White House?  It’s not too early to ask the question.  After all, at this point in 2008, a lot of folks were pretty sure that President Barack Obama was going to choose Arne Duncan, his basketball buddy and the superintendent of Chicago public schools, to run the U.S. Department of Education.  But Democrats we spoke to were far less confident this time around about who is on Clinton’s short list, or if she even has one yet.  However, because this kind of thing is fun, we couldn’t help asking some Democrats to give us their very best speculation, anonymously of course.”
 
Student Activism
A progressive middle school in New York City offers its 7th and 8th graders a unique curriculum in student activism and social justice.  The program is profiled by Carolina Drake,a Spanish teacher at the school, in an article for truthout.  She describes this year’s focus: learning about the issues surrounding Syrian refugees to the U.S. and advocating for their entrance and fair treatment in this country.  “For the campaign around Syrian refugees,” Drake explains, “students learned about the complexities of history, the realities of ISIS and why Syrians are fleeing their country.  An effective activism curriculum doesn’t deny these types of realities.  Rather, it helps students find ways to defy reality with actions and in the process, learn that even the smallest acts matter.”  
Testing
New Jersey has discovered a way to get around students opting out of its Common Core-aligned standardized assessment known as PARCC.  MAKE IT A GRADUATION REQUIREMENT!  Yes, you read that correctly.  If students and their families don’t wish to take your test just turn the screws on them a little tighter.   The TAPintowebsite has the details of this bizarre action.  Both the PARCC and the SBAC exams have been criticized as not properly aligned to the standards, not age appropriate and much too difficult.  So now The Garden State doubles down and makes their assessment a graduation requirement.  “High school students will no longer have the option of ‘opting out’ of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing starting with the Class of 2021.  The State Board of Education unanimously voted Wednesday,” the story explains, “to make the controversial tests a mandatory requirement to graduate in New Jersey. . . .  According to the resolution passed by the state board Wednesday, students entering eighth grade this fall will have to pass the PARCC language arts and Algebra I tests in order to get their state diplomas.  Students that ‘fail numerous attempts’ to pass those exams can only graduate high school if they appeal to the state with a portfolio, according to the measure.”              Someone with inside access apparently released over 400 items from the newly redesigned SAT to the Reuters news agency.  Mercedes Schneider, on her EduBlogat deutsch29 talks about the security breach.  “Perhaps the leak is a way for those at the College Board,” she surmises, “who believe the new SAT is a load of junk to try to unburden their own consciences for having helped create it.”
 
Charter Schools
The State of Michigan is finally flexing its oversight powers andclamping down on two for-profit charters who have been flagrantly breaking the law.  The eclecta blog reports on the state’s action against the Detroit Community Schools and the Universal Academy for various violations including running a school without proper certification and improperly firing a group of teachers.  “It’s no secret that the for-profit charter school industry is like the Wild West,” the piece begins, “when it comes to being able to do just about anything they want.  Michigan is one of the most permissive states in the country when it comes to oversight of charter schools and there are miscreants out there taking full advantage of that in order to maximize the flow of tax dollars directed into their bank accounts.  This week, however, a couple of them are finally being held accountable, a rare but important step.”              Would you like a glimpse of what’s it like to teach at a for-profit charter school?  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints remarks from a fully certified middle school social studies teacher who describes his experiences at a for-profit campus in Detroit.  He’s also worked at a traditional public school.  ““So if you want to know what it’s like to teach in a charter middle school in Detroit,”  he concludes, “it devalues your life as a teacher, takes away your power and values just like it takes away the students’ power and values, substitutes them with gimmicks and buzzwords, and tells you that it’s your sole responsibility to uplift students out of poverty.”  It doesn’t sound at all appealing!             The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) issued a press release today supporting the NAACP’s recent decision to seek a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools in this country (see the Aug. 2, edition of the “Ed News).  “The NAACP resolution is a powerful statement that is about our children and their communities, not about politics and policies. The NAACP is taking a principled position,” it states, “based on the long and counterproductive record of charter schools in this country.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Finally a reporter has a sympathetic piece about teachers.  So many politicians, pundits and billionaire philanthropists blame teachers and their unions for everything that ails the public schools today.  Too few people really take the time to examine what teachers are facing these days and the disrespect and poor treatment they receive from a certain segment of the population.  Roger Williams of theFort Myers FLORIDA WEEKLY interviews a number of classroom teachers who tell him what causes them the most grief in an extensive piece titled, simply, “Troubled Teachers.” “Teachers now face what is arguably the most difficult and demanding stampede of challenges in the contemporary history of public education,” he suggests.  “And that’s not good for students who face, in turn, a range of contemporary social challenges they might not have experienced en masse in previous generations.”  If you don’t read anything else this week be sure to check this one out!              The budget ax continues to fall in Chicago.  After years of underfunding, the Chicago Public Schools will once again faceprogram reductions and teacher and staff cut-backs.  Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel keep sticking it to the CPS.  Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog has the figures.  The mayor and the head of the CPS “pulled the trigger on nearly 1,000 CPS teachers and staff,” Klonsky writes.  “That includes 494 teachers — including 256 tenured teachers.  The layoffs broke down this way: 302 high school teachers and 192 elementary school teachers for a total of 494; and 352 high school support personnel and 140 elementary school support personnel, for a total of 492.”             Chicago Public Schools are AGAIN facing massive budget cuts and devastating lay-offs (see above).  The Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to go on strike AGAIN in response.  Diane Ravitch’s blog AGAIN reprints a statement from CTU Pres. Karen Lewis about possible union action in the face of the cuts.  “Cuts to our pay and benefits must be negotiated,” Lewis insists in the press release.  “We have been bargaining in good faith since the middle of last year and we have yet to come to an agreement.  At some point a line has to be drawn in the sand.  Chicago teachers do not seek to go on strike.  We want to return to clean, safe, resourced schools.  We want a fair contract.  We will continue to partner with parents and community residents in fighting for the schools our students deserve.”             Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacted angrily and rather profanely (some of his words are x-rated) to the proposed cuts to the Chicago Public Schools (see the two items above).  “The Chicago Board of Education – made up of members all of whom are appointed by the mayor – decided to layoff 1,000 teachers and staff at the city’s public schools,” he recounts, “just a month before opening day.  Sure, some may keep their jobs through reassignment, but hundreds will be unemployed.  This after a recent history of closing more than 80 schools and slashing thousands of jobs.  Just last February, the district laid off 62 employees, including 17 teachers.  In January, it laid off 227 staff members.”
 
Value-Added Models (VAMs)
The “Ed News” has featured a number of works from the person known as “SomeDam Poet.”  This time the target is thosequestionable value-added models for evaluating teachers with a parody of The Band’s song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” titled “The Night They Drove Statricksy Down.”  Diane Ravitch’s blog relays this latest effort.  You can check out the original version of the tune by clicking here, courtesy of YouTube.
 
Summer School
With the spread of virtual, online credit recovery classes for high school students who need to retake classes they didn’t pass so they can stay on track to graduate, one would think that old fashioned summer school would be going out of favor.  Not true.  With the LAUSD’s stricter graduation requirements kicking in this year, students are looking for options to make up credits and summer school offerings are growing.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Timeschronicles the phenomenon.  “This summer was the first time since 2008, before the recession,” it relates, “that L.A. Unified also offered some enrichment classes, including theater arts.  A wider variety of required academic courses also was available.”              Teachers and students eagerly look forward to their summer break.  (It’s likely a much different story if you ask parents).  However, research tends to demonstrate that that time off can contribute significantly to the achievement gap.  Low-income and minority children have far fewer opportunities for summer learning and enrichment than their middle and upper class classmates.  An op-ed piece in THE HECHINGER REPORT looks at the phenomenon and offers some ways to change it.  “Given our nation’s growing graduation and skills gap among young adults from low-income communities,” it concludes, “school in the summer has never been more urgent.  And we all have a role to play to ensure that all of our children have the same opportunities for school engagement.  Because our children — and our community — just can’t afford to miss summer learning.”
 
LAUSD Watchdog Dies
Scott Folsom, who spent most of his career in both official and unofficial positions with the LAUSD, died last week after a two-year battle with cancer.  He had long-time roles with the state and local Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and served as a parent representative on various committees in the district.  He was also the founder of the 4LAKIDS blog.  An obituary in yesterday’s L.A. Times announced his passing at age 69.  “On his blog or on a committee,” it describes, “Folsom could be counted on to speak his mind, including when he raised early, prescient concerns about district plans to provide an iPad to every student — a costly venture that eventually collapsed under political, technical and budgeting hurdles.”
 
LAUSD Loses Funding Appeal
Gov. Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula earmarked extra state money to the most needy students, i.e., ELLs, low-income students and kids in the foster care system.  The LAUSD used some of those dollars for its general fund and a coalition of community groups, with the help of the ACLU, filed a complaint with state education officials who ruled in their favor.  The district appealed that decision and on Friday they lost again.  “Under the rules of the recently adopted school-funding formula,” a story in today’s L.A. Timesexplains, “districts can use some of the new funds they get for other purposes if they can show that they already are spending extra money to help students who are learning English, come from low-income families or are foster children.  Los Angeles Unified receives an additional $1.1 billion annually for those high-needs groups.  The district freed up $450 million of that pot for general use, arguing that schools spend that amount on disabled students who also are in the three categories.”
 
An Early Program for School Desegregation in the LAUSD
And finally, two former students from Hamilton High School (LAUSD), one white, one black, describe an early attempt at school desegregation in the district in 1969.  Their reflections appear in an op-ed piece in today’s L.A. Times.  “A desegregation lawsuit had already been filed on behalf of minority students; busing plans and protests would come later.  In 1969, when we started at Alexander Hamilton High School,”  they reminisce, “we were part of a pilot program of voluntary integration at LAUSD:  Project APEX — which stood for Area Program for Enrichment Exchange.  The exchange allowed students of any race to apply to attend a few classes a week at a high school where they would be in the minority.  White kids could go to black schools; black kids could go to white schools. Our class — the class of 1972 — was  first up.”  The authors proceed to detail how the program worked and how successful it was.
 

                                                                                                   http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

                              

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

                 

 

Ed News, Friday, August 5, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “We will continue to chase rainbows unless we recognize that they are rainbows 
  and there is no pot of gold at the end of them.” 

― Diane Ravitch

Charter Schools
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a brand new report in EDUCATION WEEK from the ACLU Southern California that found that over 20% of the charters they studied in California followed illegal policies in their  admissions procedures.  Wednesday’s L.A. Times amplified on that study and offered some California details.  “In a written response to the report,” the Times piece mentions, “the California Charter Schools Assn. urged its member schools to revise their policies, saying, ‘charter schools must be open to any student interested in attending’.”            Andrea Gabor, on her eponymous Andrea Gabor website, writes about the disaster that befell Michigan when that state voted to expand the number of charters.  Her primary concern is her home state of Massachusetts which faces a ballot initiative in November to authorize a major expansion of charters.  Gabor’s analysis is certainly germane to other districts or states contemplating a similar action.  She takes a detailed look at a recent report (highlighted in the “Ed News”) about the serious financial impact charters have had on traditional public schools in Michigan.               Why is there a big push for charter expansion in Massachusetts (see above) which has one of the highest rated traditional public school systems in the country?  A partial answer: follow the (hidden) money.  The corporate “reformers” and privatizers who are pushing the initiative have invested millions of dollars into the campaignitself and have also helped fill the coffers of state and local politicians who are supporting the action, according to a story fromWGBH, the PBS affiliate in Boston.  The author is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.  “The privatization effort in Massachusetts is a construct of several wealthy families,” he concludes, “and the campaign has been going on longer than is generally realized.  Also, a good deal of the campaign is ‘off the books’– at least so far as campaign finance disclosure goes.  Tracing this money is no casual task and the interconnections are vast.  The privatization effort is much more expensive and hidden than we realize and there is no grassroots.”  Diane Ravitch describes this piece as “an appalling story of a wealthy elite using their money to undermine democracy and to steal public schools from the community that paid for them.”           Two researchers from Harvard and Princeton who are members of the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) studied charter schools in Texas and came away with some rather startling conclusions about test scores and future earnings.  “We find that, at the mean, charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings.  No Excuses charter schools increase test scores and four-year college enrollment,”  the introductory Abstract points out, “but have a small and statistically insignificant impact on earnings, while other types of charter schools decrease test scores, four-year college enrollment, and earnings.  Moving to school-level estimates, we find that charter schools that decrease test scores also tend to decrease earnings, while charter schools that increase test scores have no discernible impact on earnings.”  The full report (77 pages) is titled “Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes” and can be accessed by clicking here.  Diane Ravitch called this “an astonishing study.”              The Washington Supreme Court last year tossed out an initial charter school law in the state ruling its funding formula was unconstitutional.  The legislature went to work and created a revised law. Now a coalition of groups has brought suit challenging that effort according to an article in EDUCATION WEEK.  “In 2012, voters passed Initiative 1240,”  it reviews, “making Washington the 42nd state to approve charter schools.  The measure provided for the opening of as many as 40 charter schools within five years.  The first opened in the fall of 2014; there are now eight, in Spokane, Tacoma, Kent, Highline and Seattle.  Last year, the Washington Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to invalidate the initiative, finding charter schools were not eligible for public school funding because they are controlled by a charter school board — not by local voters.”               Here we go again!  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, regales his readers with yet another example of financial funny business in nine Pennsylvania charter schools.  This time it has to do with several schools collecting taxpayer money, to the tune of $2.5 million, to pay for leases for properties they already own. That just so happens to be in direct contravention of Pennsylvania Dept. of Education guidelines.  “It’s shocking that so many charter school operators would consider themselves entitled to state money,” Singer complains, “for something that doesn’t cost them anything to provide.  They are supposed to be running public schools, but they continually flaunt their ability to disobey the law at state expense.  This money doesn’t do a thing to help students learn.  It goes directly into charter operators’ pockets.  For education advocates, this is one of the most pervasive problems with the charter industry.  Making profits is put before educating children.  At traditional public schools, surplus earnings are not allowed by law.  All taxpayer funding goes to provide services for the students.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
New York State and Long Island have continued to be ground zero in the opt out movement.  A story in POLITICO has specific numbers as to where in the Empire State the test refusal trend is focused.  Suffolk County, in eastern Long Island leads the way with 55% of its students refusing to take standardized tests; Clinton County, in the very northeastern corner of the state was second with 45%.   “In spite of the state’s efforts to quell the movement,” the piece spells out, “about 230,000 eligible third- through eighth-grade students (about 21 percent of the total) refused to take the state standardized, Common Core-aligned math and ELA exams this spring — a 1 percent increase from last year.  The state led the nation in 2015 with the highest number of students opting out.  More than 220,000 students refused to take the exam last year.”
 
Bill Honig Resurfaces
If you weren’t around in the 1980s and 90s you probably won’t recognize the name “Bill Honig.”  He was a long-time educator who was elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1983 and served in that position for 10 years.  He recently created theBBS Building Better Schools website.  You can find his home page by clicking here.  From there you can read his autobiography and peruse some of his early efforts.  Bookmark the site if you wish.  “I urge you to read it,” Diane Ravitch suggests.  “Bill is a staunch friend of public education.”
 
Common Core and Testing
The author of this commentary on THE HECHINGER REPORTposes an interesting question: “Can Common Core Reading Tests Ever Be Fair?”  It focuses on the PARCC assessment for English and Language Arts as seen through the eyes of teachers, students and the principal of one low performing elementary school in Newark, New Jersey.              Are test scores being manipulated AGAIN in order to justify all that testing?  That’s the charge leveled by Leonie Haimson, founder of Class Size Matters and a member of the NPE (Network for Public Education) and NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education), who believes the latest scores released in New York State are fishy, at best.  Writing on the NYC Public School Parents website, she identifies 4 ways to artificially increase scores on standardized assessments: “1. Make the tests shorter  2. Allow more time to take them  3. Make the questions easier  4.  Change the cut scores and/or translation from raw scores to performance levels.” Haimson thinks the state did numbers 1, 2 and 4.  She illustrates her well-argued piece with a number of graphs, charts and a telling cartoon.
 
Corporate “Reform”
How does a corporate “reform” funded improving teaching conference compare to one supported by actual teachers?  Thanks to ALOED member Larry Lawrence we can all find out.  Lawrence invited Tom Ultican to attend the Bill Gates bankrolled and Common Core promoting “Better Together California Teacher’s Summit” in San Diego after both had taken part in the Network for Public Education’s gathering in Washington, D.C., last month.  Ultican, a high school math and physics teacher in San Diego compared the two conferences on his TULTICAN blog.  He offers some very enlightening insights.  “This is a real and present danger to the teaching profession, quality public education and democracy in America,” Ultican laments in conclusion.  “As enjoyable as lunch paid for by Bill Gates and conversations with fellow educators was, I feel the hidden purpose behind the Better Together California Teacher’s Summit was the end of the teaching profession and public education as we know it.  That is not a good thing!”              The Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania charges that corporate “reformers” and their push to “disrupt” traditional public schools in order to promote their agenda of charters, choice and privatization are, in effect, “devastating” childrens’ educations.  Those are VERY strong words but Pam Grossman, writing on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blot in The Washington Post, makes an extremely convincing case.  “‘Disruption’ — the philosophy that’s worked its way through so many industries — has become a buzzword among education reformers,” Grossman begins.  “Tear up the systems.  Invent something new.  Iterate through the failures until you find success.  But in education, disruption that ignores research about what works can disrupt children’s lives and opportunities.  As we have seen in the cities where these experiment are being tried on the biggest scale — Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia — when disruption fails, the consequences for children are devastating.”  She suggests readers look at Detroit where “reform” has gone terribly wrong and concludes with some ideas of how education can be improved based on previous research and strategies that have proven successful in the past.                The previous two editions of the “Ed News” highlighted stories about the corporate “reformers'” attempt to take control of the school board in Nashville.  Guest what?  Their plans came a cropper.  The Nashville News Sentinel describes a major defeat in The Music City for the pro-charter, pro-choice privatizer crowd.  “More than $750,000 buys plenty of campaign mailers and advertisements,”  it begins.  “But it doesn’t necessarily buy election wins.  Stand For Children, an education advocacy organization, found that out the hard way Thursday night.  After spending a small fortune, all four candidates it backed in the Metro Nashville school board election and a handful of state GOP primary challengers lost their races.”               Stand for Children, the group that bankrolled the corporate “reform” attempt to take over the Nashville school board (see above) may have violated campaign finance laws according to a consumer rights group and a Nashville parent who both intend to file a petition seeking an investigation into improper coordinationbetween SFC and some pro-charter school candidates it supported according to a story in THE TENNESSEAN “The petition cites a recent story by The Tennessean,” it relates, “that details emails sent by the head of a prominent Nashville nonprofit showing she coordinated with Stand For Children to find campaign workers for the four school board candidates.”         Delaware has an interesting way of handling possible financial funny business in its charter schools.  Tom Wagner, the State Auditor, simply covers it up or at least that is what appears to be taking place.  When Kathleen Davies, an employee in the auditors office, was finalizing a report on some charter schools’ handling of petty cash she was abruptly placed on a “leave of absence” and her report was quietly deep-sixed.  You can read about all the dirty details on the Exceptional Delaware blog.  “So now we have an elected official voluntarily choosing to cover up information,” the author of the piece explains.  “This makes the very bizarre action against Davies’ look even more suspicious.  Who knows what other activity is being ‘stopped’ by Tom Wagner.  Lord only knows how much else she found.”
 
Douglas County, Colorado, Voucher Program Tossed Out AGAIN
A Denver District Judge ruled Wednesday that the reconfiguredvoucher program in Douglas County was still unconstitutional.  The same judge who tossed out Douglas County’s previous program decided that this latest iteration still did not meet constitutional muster.  The Denver Post has the details on this latest ruling.  “The district’s voucher program has been mired in various legal challenges since it was first introduced in 2011,” it explains.  “After the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 that the state constitution banned the use of public funds for sectarian instruction, the district in March introduced a new version of the program that would allow taxpayer money to help cover a private school education, as long as those schools didn’t have a religious affiliation.”

The Teaching Profession
Dr. Mitchell Robinson, on his Keep Talking . . . blog, is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Education Department at Michigan State University.  In this edition he writes about the state of music education in our K-12 schools.  In some places it’s doing just fine and in others, he illustrates, it still faces a number of obstacles.  “Whenever I get a chance to hang with music folks we have the best conversations–and by that, I mean that I hear some absolutely jaw-dropping, eye-popping stuff about what is actually happening out in their schools with respect to educational policy and practice,” he explains.  “To be clear, in many school districts, things are going swimmingly: music programs are healthy and robust, performing ensembles are full and thriving, and schedules are constructed so as to make students’ learning comprehensive and teachers’ duties reasonable.  But in too many places, decisions are being made that just don’t make sense.”             A guest blogger on the EduShyster website has a critical review of Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like A Champion.”  The title of her commentary is “Teach Like It’s 1895” and she’s rather shocked at the techniques being espoused by the book that’s particularly popular in charter schools, especially those “no excuse” practitioners.  “The pedagogical model espoused by Lemov,” she charges, “is disturbingly similar to one that was established almost a century ago for the express purpose of maintaining racial hierarchy.  Like Teach Like a Champion, this initiative was implemented largely through teacher education and funded and directed entirely by wealthy white businessmen and industrial philanthropists.”              Everyone seems to be touting technology as a way to improve student learning and achievement.  Is possible the trend is going too far?  Giles Scott, a high school English teacher, explains why he no longer allows his students to bring laptops and tablets to his class.  His commentary appears on Valerie Strauss’ column in The Washington Post.  “I’m not convinced,” he argues, “that the best way to equip students with the ability to negotiate technology is to further attach them to it.”
 
Teacher Ed
And finally, charter schools continue to proliferate despite questions about how effective they are.  Is charterization now taking aim at college and university teacher preparation programs?  That’s the question addressed by an article in the LIVING in DIALOGUEblog.  It’s concerned with the entry of the Relay Graduate School of Education into Connecticut.  Relay, as you may remember from previous items in the “Ed News,” is an “alternative” method for earning a teaching credential as opposed to the traditional path of getting it through a college or university program.   The author of this piece is an associate professor of education at Connecticut College and she decries the entry of Relay into her state.  “These efforts to privatize and deregulate teacher education are being pushed in large part by charter school operators and their supporters,” she maintains, “who have stood to benefit from the charterization of teacher education.  For example, the first campus of the charter-school affiliated and charter-like Relay Graduate School was founded in New York City in 2007 by representatives from three of the most well known (and oft-critiqued) charter school chains (or as they tout themselves ‘public school networks’): KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First.  In the years since, Relay has birthed 11 more campuses nationwide, backed by funding from the same bevy of philanthropists and corporations.”

                                                                                                   http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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

                 

Ed News, Tuesday, August 2, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

        “It is the present living generation that gives character and spirit to the next. 
      Hence the paramount importance of accomplished and energetic teachers 
      in forming the taste the manners and the character of the coming age.” 

― Alexander Campbell

CalSTRS Reports Small Earnings Gain
Currently retired?  Retiring soon?  Retiring some day?  If you are a California teacher this news is for you.  CalSTRS, the California State Teaches Retirement System, reported a 1.4% increase in earnings for the past fiscal year.  That was well below the 7.5% target for the program.  A brief item in EDUCATION WEEKreports on the numbers and what they mean.  “CalSTRS lost money in global stock markets but made up for it with gains in its private equity, real estate and fixed income portfolios,”  it states.  “The CalSTRS investment fund had just under $190 billion when the fiscal year ended June 30.  The pension system serves 900,000 teachers and their families.”
 
John Deasy Resurfaces
John Deasy, the discredited former LAUSD superintendent who resigned under a cloud in Oct., 2014, has reappeared in public.  He is working towards starting a new nonprofit to open alternative juvenile prisons in hopes of reducing the recidivism rates of young offenders.  A story in Friday’s L.A. Times has the details of Deasy’s reemergence.  “Deasy’s embrace of helping troubled youth mirrors that of former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,” it notes.  “Duncan, a Deasy ally, left the Obama administration in late 2015 and joined the nonprofit education organization, the Emerson Collective, launching an initiative to help dropouts avoid prison by returning to school or finding work.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
The July 29th edition  of the “Ed News” described the looming battle for control of the school board in Nashville between the corporate “reformers” and privatizers and supporters of traditional public schools.  T.C. Weber, a Nashville public school parent, who blogs under the title Dad Gone Wild, provides the details behind that battle as the Music City moves front and center in a fight that similar cities have experienced.  His piece is titled “Tell Me Again How it’s About the Kids.”  “Nashville has, for the last several years, been an under-the-radar playground for the education reform movement,” he begins.  “People may be familiar with the stories of New Orleans, Newark, Los Angeles, and lately, Denver, but the battles have been just as fierce in Nashville.”              Things are heating up again in Washington State.  After 3 unsuccessful attempts to get voters to approve charter schools, Bill Gates and his billionaire buddies finally succeeded by a razor-thin margin in 2012.  However, last year the state Supreme Court ruled that the way charter funding was set up was unconstitutional.  You would think that would be the end of the story, but no, the corporate “reformers’ and privatizers are not done.  They are bankrolling a candidate in today’s primary election to run against Barbara Madsen, the court’s chief justice, who wrote the opinion in the charter funding case.  The Seattle Times has the details about who is donating the dollars.  “The political arm of Stand for Children spent $116,000 this month on independent expenditures supporting Greg Zempel, Madsen’s chief opponent,” it explains, “in what constitutes the biggest infusion of outside cash in a Washington judicial race since 2010.  The group is funded by some of the same wealthy donors who supported the 2012 initiative to allow charter schools in Washington, which the court’s decision overturned.”             Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, has a profile of the pro-charter group Stand for Children and how they are attempting to defeat the judge in Washington who wrote an anti-charter opinion (see above).  “So,[Greg] Zempel [Chief Justice Madsen’s opponent] basically has three-quarters of a million dollars available for ads promoting his campaign,” Schneider uncovers, “and Madsen has $30,000.  One can see where this is going: Stand for Children WA PAC wants to coat the Washington public with a thick layer of Zempel ads so that there will be no more Madsen to, uh, interfere with the Washington taxpayer money flow to those unfortunate charter schools.”              Peter Greene, aka the author of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, also takes a close look at the group Stand for Children (SFC) (see above).  The organization began 2 decades ago as a social justice group and a strong advocate for poor and minority children but itsfocus changed drastically about 6 or 7 years ago into a supporter of pro-charter, pro-choice politicians and policies as chronicled by Greene in his commentary titled “$tand for Children: The Astroturfing of Advocacy.”  “By the time the current decade had rolled around,” Greene suggests, “all traces of the original group and its original priorities had vanished.  In 2011, Texas faced serious budget problems and the prospect of serious education budget cuts.  The old SFC would have advocated for protecting schools and children from those cuts; the new SFC was busy throwing its weight behind new teacher evaluation programs.”             Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, weighs in on the attempt by a group of corporate “reformers” to defeat the chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court (see 3 items above).  “It’s news, but the general practice isn’t exactly new. For years now,” she writes, “wealthy proponents of school choice and corporate school reform have spent a good deal of money to fund like-minded candidates and referendums wherever they happened to be across the country.”  Strauss references the article in the Seattle Times (see second story in this section) and cites several other places where gobs of money were contributed in support of pro-charter, pro-choice candidates including an expensive school board race in Los Angeles in 2013.
 
Picking a New Superintendent–Insider or Outsider?
When a school district is in the market for a new superintendent, should it stick with an insider or go with an outsider?  Larry Cuban on his School Reform and Classroom Practice blog uses the need for a new chief for the Washington, D.C., schools as his case study and offers some suggestions on how to make the selection.  Cuban was a former high school social studies teacher (14 years), district superintendent (7 years) and college professor (20 years).  He is currently Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University and a prolific author, researcher and blogger.  “On performance, 30 years of research have determined that neither outsider or insider school chiefs perform better because of where they come from,” he suggests.  “Sure, how one defines performance is important and will vary.  But on various measures of the district’s  student outcomes,  teacher and parental satisfaction, relationships with community and unions, there is no substantial differences between districts appointing insiders or outsiders.”
 
The Opt Out Movement
The State of New York, ground zero of the opt out movement for several years, increased its percentage of students skipping the standardized tests in 2016.  Peter Greene, on hisCURMUDGUCATION blog, has a brief item about the latest numbers and their significance.  “Despite various state attempts to pressure, brow-beat, threaten, cajole, and distribute a huge case of the PR-spin whirlies, the opt out numbers in NY actually went up,”he writes.  “The increase is marginal– in 2015, 20% did not test, and in 2016, 22% did not test.”
 
Charter Schools
Delegates to the national convention of the NAACP, meeting in Cincinnati last week. approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools nationwide.  The action will not become official policy until the National Board meeting in the fall according to a short piece by Julian Vasquez Heilig on hisCLOAKING INEQUITY blog.  By taking this position, he believes, “the NAACP, the nation’s vanguard of civil rights, has AGAIN demonstrated and articulated critical leadership sorely lacking from many other civil rights organizations on the issue of school choice.”             Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, has a detailed analysis of the NAACP decision on charter schools (see above).  “Make no mistake, the tide is turning,” he concludes.  “It is becoming increasingly difficult for charter supporters to claim their products boost minority children’s civil rights.  Too many people have seen how they actually violate them.”             The nation’s first school to convert into a charter via the parent trigger law has won an arbitrator’s ruling to remain in its current building.  Desert Trails Preparatory Academy had a charter agreement with the Adelanto, California, Elementary School District through June 30, 2016.  The district refused to renew the charter contract earlier this year and the academy was threatened with the loss of its campus.  The “K-12 Parents and the Public” column in EDUCATION WEEK picks up the story.   “While the ‘parent trigger’ concept was popular a few years ago,” it points out, “the movement has waned recently as parents and advocates have struggled with the practicalities of taking over public schools.”               The long running battle between the LAUSD and the charter school movement MAY be easing.  A story in the “Education Watch” column of Sunday’s ” L.A. Times describes how Supt. Michelle King favors allowing charters to be part of the “enrollment menu” presented to parents as they attempt to decide where to enroll their children.  “There are about 10 types of public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” it points out, “many with their own admissions processes and schedules.  To address that problem, the school district has discussed creating a ‘unified enrollment system,’ a one-stop-shopping experience for choosing between district schools.  Initially, the plan only included district schools and not independent charters — the publicly funded but privately run alternatives that are often accused of draining money and enrollment from L.A. Unified.”             A charter school up in the Bay area is closing despite recently winning a 5-year renewal of its charter.  The Silicon Valley Flex Academy in Morgan Hill served 240 students in grades 6 to 12 according to the SF BAY NEWSwebsite.  Last week “the academy’s board told the county the academy would close,” the article reports, “because of ‘fiscal unsustainability’ after its service provider, K12, cut their contract, county officials said.  Classes for the new school year were set to begin on Aug. 11, according to the school’s website.”  Just another example of a charter school leaving the kids behind!               A new report from the AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA finds that admission policies violate state law at over 1 in 5 of the 1,200 charter schools in California.  You can read a summary of the paper (1 page) by clicking here.  “Among the myriad violations cited in ‘Unequal Access: How Some California Charter Schools Illegally Restrict Enrollment ‘ are policies that establish admission requirements in violation of the California Charter Schools Act,” it describes, “which plainly requires charter schools to ‘admit all pupils who wish to attend,’ regardless of academic performance, English proficiency, immigration status or other factors.”  The summary includes a link to the full report (26 pages).             Charter schools often open and close at astonishing rates.  What happens when those campuses fail?  Lindsay Wagner, writing on the EdNC blog, takes a detailed look at the impact of those closures in North Carolina.  “10 charter schools in North Carolina have closed since 2012,” she writes, “displacing more than 1,100 students, according to the state Office of Charter Schools.  Four of them closed during their first year of operation.  Most closed because of financial problems, but some also closed because of academic failings or improper governance—or all three.  The closing of a charter school is a highly disruptive event for students and their families, and costly for taxpayers as well.  Charter schools that closed in their first year of operation spent altogether about $3.5 million in taxpayer funds with little to show for that investment.”
 
Election 2016
As both major political party conventions have concluded, will K-12 education issues fade further into the woodwork of the general election campaigns?  Critical topics like Common Core, testing, charter schools, teacher evaluations, unions, tenure and others were rarely discussed during the primary season by either Republicans or Democrats.  Will they be relegated even farther into the background as the November 8th election approaches (less then 100 days away)?  A story in EDUCATION WEEK grapples with that question.  “Based on the dynamics at the just-finished Democratic and Republican conventions—and the profiles of the two nominees—K-12,” it suggests, “is likely to lag behind other issues in a tumultuous election year dominated by national-security concerns, immigration, and sheer force of personality.”  Check out the interesting sidebar titled “Party Platform Highlights” for a comparison of some of the wording of the two party’s documents.             Prior to the 2 major party’s national conventions last month,ED WEEK put together an interactive graphic comparing the education policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Now that those gatherings have concluded the publication has updated its offering to include material from party platforms and the candidates themselves.  If you’d like to peruse the K-12 positions of the candidates running for the Green, Libertarian and Constitution parties and the Socialist Party USA click here for a story from the same publication.
 
“Love Letter to My Dead Student”
[Ed. note: The following item is be a bit of a downer but it describes a situation that all too many teachers experience nowadays.]  A Chicago high school teacher pens a story with the title headlined above on the EduShyster blog.  She recounts what happened to a troubled student of hers who was gunned down on the street a couple of weeks ago.  “Darrell lived a short, furious, and I hope, frequently happy life.  I hope that he has found some peace, now that his murder, the one that he predicted and anticipated, has happened.  His is not the first death I have encountered as a teacher,”  she concludes, “and it will not be the last.  And that reality makes me sick.”
 
Common Core
Steven Singer begins the piece on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG titled “Why Is Common Core Still Here?” with a couple of jokes.  If parents, teachers and students are against the standards why are they still around?  “So why do we keep using Common Core? Why haven’t our schools thrown this bad idea on the trash heap of failed education policies?  In short – because industry is making a lot of money off it,” he responds matter of factly.  “Common Core was created by private industry.  It was not made by the states, nor was it written by the federal government.  It was created to sell a new generation of standardized tests and textbooks.  It’s raison d’etre is profit not education.  School children didn’t need a unified set of academic standards.  Big business needed them to sell more books and tests.”  Singer goes back to the beginning of the standards and how they came about and brings the issue right up to our current election for the next president.  He ends, as he began, with a little humor.
 
Lessons Learned from LAUSD Lockdown
And finally, how many of you remember waking up on Tuesday, Dec. 15, last year and suddenly discovering that the entire LAUSD was on lockdown due to an email threat received by the district late the prior evening?  Then outgoing Supt. Ramon Cortines received both praise and criticism for his decision to close the nations second largest school district.  Over the intervening 7+ months the district has learned a number of lessons from the episode which are recounted in a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “The shutdown was praised, but also mocked,” it relates.  “Some parents were thankful schools were taking no risks.  Others were critical of they way they were informed; New York City got the same email and knew it was a hoax — its schools stayed open.  Eight months later, the district and police are preparing an ‘After Action Report,’ and the state is trying to determine how much money the district should recoup in lost student funds.”

                                                                                                   http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk

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