Ed News, Tuesday, August 9, 2016 Edition


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.”  
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.



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




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