Ed News, Friday, September 9, 2016 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

     “Our experience of the governments of the world, 
     our knowledge of the weapons at their disposal, 
     and our awareness of our own limitations justify pessimism. 
     But some mysterious factor deep in the human psyche 
     has produced a countervailing conviction that educating, 
     organizing, uniting, and acting will make a difference. ” 

― David T. Dellinger

School Reform
Many education experts cite Finland as an example of a country that provides an exemplary education for its students.  Some people get tired of hearing about comparisons between the U.S. and the Finnish system.  If corporate “reforms” think choice, charter schools, union-busting, standardized tests, Teach for America and others are such great ideas, why aren’t the Finns adopting them?  That’s the premise of a column in USA TODAY by William Doyle, a best-selling author and award-winning TV producer who spent the past year as a visiting scholar and lecturer on education and the media at the University of Eastern Finland as a Fulbright Scholar. “Why Finland is Rejecting U.S. School Reforms” is the title of Doyle’s op-ed.  “Finland’s reforms were based on research and evidence and developed by educators, with lots of input from parents and children,” he writes.  “Its latest education vision could hardly be less like the one that ill-informed politicians are imposing on public schools in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.  In the U.S., this has exacerbated widespread system failure and confusion.”               Who benefits most from school choice?  Corporate “reformers” like to tout the concept as especially appealing to low-income and minority parents whose children attend “failing” schools.  Jeff Bryant, on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, suggests that may not be the case.  He uses as his example what’s taking place in Denver. “Certainly, you can’t criticize parents for wanting to navigate to the best of their abilities any system of education,”  Bryant maintains, “whether it’s based on choice or not.  But it’s hard to see how a system based on school choice – that so easily accentuates the advantages of the privileged – is going to benefit the whole community, especially those who are the most chronically under-served.”             The group Parent Revolution, founded in 2009, was behind the legislation in California that created the parent trigger law.  How successful has the organization and the legislation been?  Karen Wolfe turns her PSconnect blog over to Caroline Grannan, a copy editor at The San Francisco Chronicle and a public school activist, who profiles Parent Revolution (PRev) and its founder Steve Barr.  “Despite the fanfare . . . .  PRev has succeeded in turning only one school into a charter school – Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto (San Bernardino County), Calif., in 2012,” Grannan recounts.  “That effort ripped the school community apart — splitting up friendships, creating deeply hostile factions and even leading to schoolyard fights among the kids.  Reports on the results of the charterization are wildly mixed, and the mainstream media, which descended on Adelanto eagerly to cover the battle, lost interest in following up afterward.”
Ravitch’s Blog & ED WEEK Reach Milestones
Diane Ravitch’s blog hit 28 million page views on Tuesday.  The “Ed News” is approaching 2,200 (that’s 2.2 thousand) in about the same time period.  “We will not simply preserve public education,”Ravitch holds in her post.  “We will stand together to make American public education better than it has ever been, for every child in every zip code.”  [Ed. note: We don’t have quite the reach that she does but we do have similar goals and I’ll be willing to bet that she doesn’t have any more fun and enjoyment in creating her blog than I do in creating mine.]              EDUCATION WEEKmade its debut on Sept. 7, 1981, making this year its 35th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, the publication’s “Education and the Media” column discussed briefly what’s taken place over those 3-and-a-half decades.  “After 35 years,”  it concludes, “the debates over standards and accountability, school governance, teacher preparation, and the proper role of the federal government, have not been settled.  And Education Week is still around to help lead the coverage and the conversation.”  The current piece includes a link to the lead story from 35 years ago about the changing role of the Federal government in education.
Back to School
[Ed. note: I taught for 37 years and my first day(s) back each year before the students returned was/were never like this:]  Check out how the faculty at the Bay Shore, Long Island, New York, districtbegan the 2016-17 school year.  The video (4:12 minutes–its says it’s 13:59 minutes, but it’s not) comes courtesy of Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post. It references Common Core, testing, opt-out and  NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  Strauss includes the lyrics if you want to follow along.  Enjoy!
The Teaching Profession
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News’ highlighted an op-ed in the L.A. Times about providing support for teachers rather than firing them.  Walt Gardner, on his “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK, agrees with that position.  Gardner taught for 28 years in the LAUSD and was a lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education.  “The percentage of bad teachers is estimated to be between 1 percent or 5 percent.  Let’s try to help them improve,” he suggests, “before seeking to immediately fire them.  Rehabilitation is far more cost-effective and fairer than punishment.”              As a new school year commences, many students will be returning to classrooms that don’t have a regular teacher yet due to teacher shortages that are plaguing states nationwide.  FAST COMPANYoffers a “2 minute read” that looks at the problem.  “Simply increasing teacher pay to unrealistic levels is probably not the answer that can scale-up.  But from growing teacher shortages around the country,” the piece concludes, “it’s clear that governments need to do something to make teaching a desirable profession once again.  At least it’s got one thing going for it: it’s one of the few jobs that robots aren’t going to take over anytime soon.”  [Ed. note: I hope they’re right!]                The “Ed News” has previously highlighted several stories about some states that are experiencing various degrees of  teacher shortages (see above). EDUCATION WEEK explores the issue and reviews how some states are easing teacher licensing rules to deal with the problem.  It focuses on the situation in Utah, Oklahoma, New York and Wisconsin but other states face similar difficulties.  “With policymakers across the country increasingly worried about teacher shortages,” it begins, “one after another, state licensing authorities have been loosening certification rules.”               Some teachers are having so much trouble making ends meet on their meager salaries that they are resorting to moonlighting as Uber drivers.  The next time you make use of the ride service, the driver may be a fellow educator.  A story in THE Nation features a high school history and economics teacher [Ed. note: That’s what I taught!] who works in San Jose.  It’s titled “Teachers are Working for Uber Just to Keep a Foothold in the Middle Class.”               A new poll by two researchers at the USC Rossier School of Education finds California voters strongly support teachers and would urge young people to join the profession.  1,202 voters were questioned about various attitudes toward education in the Golden State in August.  The “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEKfeatures a summary of the survey that was conducted by the group Policy Analysis for California Education.  “In other interesting results: Nearly all respondents said it was important for teachers to contribute to students’ learning and get students to work hard and try their best.  Most respondents also said it was important for teachers to maintain classroom discipline,” the story describes, “and provide students with a love for learning.  Just 59 percent said it was important for teachers to help improve students’ scores on standardized achievement tests—a much lower percentage than those who supported teachers’ skills regarding classroom environment and students’ social and emotional health.” The article includes a link to the full poll.  
Election 2016
In November, California voters will be selecting a president, U.S. Senator, members of the House and a number of state and local offices.  In addition, there will be a number of state propositions.  Prop 58 would restore bilingual education in the Golden State.  Prop 227 passed by voters in 1998 ended such programs.  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times supports the resumption of bilingual education and urges a “yes” vote on the measure.  “Proposition 58 seeks to overturn the 1998 edict, providing more flexibility to schools and parents to choose how to teach English learners,”  it reports.  “Schools would no longer be required to teach them in English-only programs unless parents specifically requested otherwise, but could offer a variety of programs, including bilingual ones.  Parents of English-language learners would no longer need to sign waivers to allow their children to participate in bilingual programs.”               Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a Cleveland charter school yesterday and outlined some of his education policies including choice, Common Core and merit pay, according to a piece in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK “The charter school that Trump visited—and where he spoke to a group of students prior to his speech—does not exactly have a stellar academic record, according to its most recent report card,” it reports.  “The Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy got an F for overall progress, achievement gap-closing, and received a D and an F on two achievement measures.”   The New York Timeshas a more detailed look at the Trump proposals on education that he unveiled at a Cleveland charter school (see above).  “Mr. Trump’s release of his education plan marked the second consecutive day that he laid out concrete policies along traditional conservative lines,” it points out, “after calling for expanded military spending on Wednesday.  It also reflected a new push by Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, to broaden his appeal outside his traditional base of support.  On Saturday, he visited a black church in Detroit.  Critics say his outreach is aimed less at black voters than at attracting whites who may have been turned off to his candidacy by the racially tinged remarks he has made in the past.”                          THE HECHINGER REPORT dissects Trump’s call for more school “choice” that he mentioned during his stop at a Cleveland Charter school (see 2 items above).   “The philosophical basis for Trump’s policy should sound familiar.  It seems to come out of the playbooks of both Republican and Democrat reformers,” the author of the item suggests, “who advocate for vouchers and/or charter schools.  Charter and voucher advocates may distance themselves from the nuclear Trump and his policies, but they will have a hard time distancing themselves from his rhetoric, which reveals how gamey the word ‘choice’ is.”           Diane Ravitch has been hoping to meet with Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton and talk with her about her education policies. Ravitch got her (very brief) chance on Aug. 28th at a Clinton fundraiser in New York City.  She recaps the encounter on her Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “I had a few minutes to talk to her privately,” Ravitch reports.  “I gave her my ‘elevator speech’ about the disaster of the privatization and testing policies of the past 15 years, and the need for a revival of support for public schools.”   [Ed. note: Ravitch is a strong supporter of Clinton for president and has written about that position several times.]  Be sure to check out the series of photos of Ravitch’s meeting with Clinton.  Ravitch explains they were taken on her cellphone by a Clinton staffer.               Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, got a chance to amplify on theRavitch/Clinton meeting and got the former to add some comments beyond what she wrote on her blog about the encounter (see above).  “Ravitch has been a sharp critic of some of the positions that Clinton holds,” Strauss explains, “such as her support for the Common Core State Standards, and has noted that some of Clinton’s top aides have been part of the reform movement.”  Strauss includes one of the Clinton/Ravitch photos.
Common Core
Diane Ravitch was interviewed on “The Brian Lehrer Show” yesterday morning on NPR station WNYC about the Common Core State Standards as part of  its 30 election issues series.  This one is titled “What’s So Good (or Bad) About Common Core?”   The segment runs 32 minutes.
School Police
The growth of school police on many of the nation’s K-12 campuses has been pretty dramatic.  The Obama administration is urging districts to cut back on the use of school police, often referred to as school resource officers (SROs), to enforce school rules.  Many examples of school police overreacting to student misbehavior have gone viral and are mentioned in a story in THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “Over the past two decades, the number of police officers stationed in K-12 schools has risen dramatically in the name of student safety,” it recounts.  “The federal government has contributed to this rise in school-based police officers . . . . by funding between 100 and 150 such positions each year through DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.  The vast majority of the roughly 19,000 school resource officer positions in K-12 institutions, however, are funded on the state or local level.”
New School Evaluation System Approved
Yesterday the California State Board of Education approved a new system for evaluating schools in the state.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes the new program which replaces the old Academic Performance Index (API) and its single number based on student test scores with multiple criteria.  “The state Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday,” it reports, “to rate schools using an evaluation that includes many more factors — among them academics, graduation rates, college preparedness and the rates at which non-native speakers are learning English.  The evaluations will incorporate scores on new science tests when those tests are ready.  Attendance data also will factor in eventually.  But unlike in the past, schools will not get an overall rating.  Instead, they’ll receive results on how they’re doing across the new categories, for different groups of students. The results will focus not just on how they’re doing now but how they’ve progressed from year to year.”
The Next Sec. of Education?
Education experts have been speculating about who might be the next U.S. Sec. of Education.  Of course, that decision depends totally on which candidate is elected president in November.  However, it doesn’t do any harm to play the guessing game.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, has tapped author C.M. Rubin to interview 6 prominent people in the field of education about what they would do if they were selected to head the U.S. Department of Education.  Her first Q & A took place while the “Ed News” was taking a break at the end of August.  It was with Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, on Aug. 24th and you can find it by clicking here.  The second in the series is with Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.  In response to a question about how to make the teaching profession more prestigious Weingarten answered: “Prestige begins with properly preparing, inducting, supporting, paying and respecting teachers.  It includes ensuring teachers have the time, tools and trust they and their students need to succeed.  And we need a higher bar for entry into the profession, along with much better support and mentoring for new teachers than most now receive.”  Part 1 and 2 both include a list all six people in the series.
Charter Schools
And finally, if you thought Ohio, Utah or Pennsylvania had the worst statewide charter system in the nation, you may want to reevaluate after reading Carol Burris’ first in a 4-part series on charters in CALIFORNIA that appears on Valerie Strauss’ blog inThe Washington Post.  Burris is an awarding winning former New York principal who is currently the executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE).  Strauss adds some introductory comments about the sad state of charters in the Golden State before turning her column over to Burris.  “California has the most charter schools and charter school students in the nation,”Burris relates.  “In 2000, there were 299 charter schools in the Golden State.  Last year there were 1,230.  Twenty-percent of the students in San Diego County attend its 120 charter schools. . . .  Sixteen percent of the students in Los Angeles attend charters, which has cost the district half a billion dollars in the last 10 years. . . . Over 25 percent of all students in Oakland attend charters, in which African American students are dramatically underrepresented.”  Burris provides a litany of ways the charters in California are “messed up” including an exposè of the California Charter School Association (CCSA).  The next 3 parts of her series should be real barn-burners!  Stay tuned!  Diane Ravitch suggests you “please sit down before you read this column.”
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             

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