Ed News, Friday, August 12, 2016 Edition


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.”
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.


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




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