The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
“Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.”
An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”) urged the passage of Prop. 58 by California voters and the resumption of bilingual education in the state. It prompted 5 letters that appeared in Saturday’s paper. The first is from Stephen Krashen, emeritus professor of linguistics and also education at USC. Marc Tucker, the author of an opinion piece in EDUCATION WEEK, is the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy and has written extensively about countries with the best educational systems. He poses an interesting question in the title of his essay: “Are the Republicans Abandoning Public Education?” Tucker provides a history of how both political parties have, in the past, been major boosters of public education in the U.S. He targets the beginning of the GOP’s drift away from support for the public schools to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. “The famous Reagan-era federal report on education, A Nation at Risk, had made it abundantly clear that the education establishment had presided over a catastrophic decline in student performance (which, incidentally,was not true). The charge,” Tucker suggests, “was that the professional educators had stolen control of the schools from the public to benefit themselves. They were acting as monopolists, driving up the price while providing a product of increasingly shoddy quality. The appropriate response to monopoly providers is competition. The market will do what it does best, raise quality and responsiveness, while lowering cost. Enter, stage right, vouchers and charters.” Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reacts to Donald Trump’s education policy speech that he delivered at a Cleveland charter school on Thursday (covered extensively in Friday’s “Ed News.”) You can tell pretty quickly what she thinks of his proposals by the title of her piece, which happens to be a quote from Diane Ravitch: “If This Guy is Elected, You Can Kiss Public Schools Goodbye.” “Trump declared his intent to use public funds for students to attend private schools and to promote the growth of charter schools,” Strauss writes, “employing the language of Republicans who refuse to call public schools public schools and instead refer to them as ‘government-run education monopolies.’” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), weighed in on Donald Trump’s speech in Cleveland on Thursday in which he laid out some specific education policies (see above and Friday’s “Ed News”). Her reaction appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Weingarten focuses on his plan to divert $20 billion from the federal education budget as a block grant to the states to be used for choice programs. Trump’s speech on education[last] week repeats the same message the anti-public education zealots have been shilling for years. As far as we can tell,” she complains, “Trump never bothered talking to educators to find out what support they need in order to give every kid a great education. His rhetoric . . . was just one more sound bite from a reality TV star turned presidential nominee.” How should a teacher present the issues and candidates of this presidential election? Valerie Strauss invites Elliott Rebhun, editor-in-chief of Scholastic Classroom Magazines, to offer some practical advice to educators in her column for The Washington Post. He breaks his discussion down to different grade levels: K-2, 3-6 and 6-12. “For educators, the 2016 election is proving trickier than most to talk about with students,” he begins. “From nasty debates to controversial positions on the issues, this election can be a tough one to discuss in classrooms at any grade level. But educators across the nation don’t want to miss this chance to teach kids about how our democracy works, and to engage them in the democratic process. Teachers have only four opportunities, at best—from the time students start kindergarten until they graduate from high school—to let their kids experience a presidential election. And the civics of this election doesn’t need to be lost in the circus. Like any controversial topic, the election can be taught as long as it’s handled appropriately for each grade level.”
Can a taxpayer supported charter school kick out a student due tothe actions of his parents? Apparently, the answer is a resounding, “yes!” If you don’t believe this could take place you need to read a column in the Saratoga Herald-Tribune because just such a scenario happened to a well-behaved second-grader who loves the school. “It was done without a hint of due process or so much as a warning,” the paper’s columnist writes. “Technically, it was called a reassignment, a word that just does not fit the facts. The kid was given the boot.” [Ed. note: Could this type of situation play out at a traditional public school? Just asking.] How much influence do billionaire philanthropists have on school policies? Would you believe almost $2 million in favor of Measure 2 facing Massachusetts voters in November that would expand the number of charters in that state. That’s how much Alice and Jim Walton of Arkansas have contributed according to an investigative piece by Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29. That’s only part of the story. Schneider further reveals that 4 individuals and 2 non-profit lobbying groups, all from out of state, have donated over $8 million to the “Yes on 2” campaign. “Astounding and disgusting all at once,” she concludes.
Under threat of a lawsuit and pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, education officials in California agreed to guaranteeEnglish language services to all 1.4 million English learners in the state. Saturday’s L.A. Times has the latest developments. “Up and down the state,” it reports, “for at least a decade, according to the federal government, tens of thousands of English learners in elementary, middle and high school received no services to help them learn the language and keep up academically while they did, even though the law required that they get it. . . . The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department echoes the earlier resolution of a lawsuit covering the same ground, but goes further in establishing the state’s role to ensure that these students receive high-quality instruction.”
School Names Tied to Slave Owners
The president of the San Francisco School Board, Matt Haney, wants to change the name of any school in his district that is tied to slave owners. That would include George Washington High School, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Francis Scott Key Elementary and James Monroe Elementary. A story in the San Francisco Chronicle has the details. “Under Haney’s proposal, schools would be encouraged to form committees consisting of students, parents, teachers and administrators to study the issue,” it explains. “If the committee favored a name change, the school board would consider it.” The idea has not met with universal approval, as you might imagine. The full board has the ultimate authority to change any school name.
Not all the billionaire philanthropists and foundations support the corporate “reform” agenda of choice, charters, union busting and test scores. It only seems that way. The Inside Philanthropywebsite has actually identified one business, the San Francisco Bay area high tech company Salesforce.com, that has made a major [Ed. note: And we MEAN major] commitment to supporting the traditional public schools in the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts. “Salesforce started with a $2.7 million gift to SFUSD in 2013. Then, in 2014, it gave $5 million. In 2015, it raised the amount to $6 million. Much of this grant support,” the item points out, “went to fund infrastructure and technology improvements, an area where the school district is particularly weak. But Salesforce also made $100,000 available to each middle school principal through an innovation fund to spend as they see fit. Now, Salesforce has increased its commitment further, putting another $8.5 million behind its successful partnership with San Francisco Unified School District, and adding their neighbor across the Bay, Oakland Unified Schools. The primary focus of the new funding will be supporting computer science education, with Salesforce sticking to an area it knows well.”
A new poll (parts of which were highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”) from the Rossier School of Education at USC and Stanford University’s Policy Analysis for California Education finds that many parents in California are unaware that they can have a say in how funds are spent at their local school under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that was passed in 2013. The survey was conducted at the end of August and queried 1,202 California voters regarding their attitudes toward a number of education issues. A piece in Saturday’s L.A. Times features responses to several questions from the poll. “Gov. Jerry Brown hailed the law [LCFF] as fairer than the system it replaced. One of its eight priorities is parent engagement. Specifically,” the story relates, “districts and schools must ‘promote parental participation’ in special-needs programs and include parents in decisions concerning spending.” A new draft proposal on spending regulations under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was unveiled recently. The key issue addressed was the fear that some districts would use the new federal money to supplant rather than supplement state and local funds. An analysis inEDUCATION WEEK attempts to bring clarity to the proposals. “Overall, the proposal, which has been highly anticipated for months, doesn’t seem to have shifted the political landscape on the debate over supplement-not-supplant. Superintendents, state chiefs, and others still say the department has put forth something unworkable,” the article maintains. “But civil rights groups and ESSA’s Democratic sponsors—Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia—argue the new rule strikes the right balance in ensuring the poorest students get access to their fair share of resources, while giving local leaders the flexibility they need.”
The Teaching Profession
Monday’s L.A. Times included an op-ed about improving the teaching profession by training, mentoring and supporting teachers rather than firing them (highlighted in the “Ed News”). It prompted7 letters-to-the-editor that appear in Sunday’s paper. Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. THE HECHINGER REPORT demonstrates how one New Jersey school district teachers its students, many of whom don’t remember those events or weren’t even born yet, about what took place on that tragic day. The article is titled “9/11 is Now a History Lesson for Most School Kids–In a New Jersey School District, the Way Teachers Talk About 9/11 in the Classroom is Changing.” “Teachers across the country now have access to a bank of free, online lesson plans and teaching guides through the Newseum website,” the story suggest. “The way those materials were curated is representative of a shift in how the education world is handling 9/11 in the classroom. Talking about and commemorating 9/11 on the anniversary is no longer enough to help many students understand why this event is such a painful memory for so many people, and why it continues to have a lasting political impact. Someone has to teach them.” Have you ever noticed that when corporate “reformers” close schools they are almost always located in low-income, minority communities and the teachers most impacted are Black and who most likely live in the neighborhoods being targeted? Kristina Rizga, author of “Mission High” about an underfunded and poorly supported public school in San Francisco that was able to turn itself around and is, by the way, the ALOED Book Club selection for the summer of 2017, writes about the phenomenon of Black teachers disappearing in the September/October issue of Mother Jones. Her piece is titled “Black Teachers Matter” and focuses on what happened to several educators in Philadelphia. According to figures she cites in her extended piece, between 2000 and 2012 New Orleans lost 62% of is Black faculty, Chicago lost 39%, Cleveland 34%, Los Angeles, 33% and San Francisco 32%. “In all, that means 26,000 African American teachers have disappeared from the nation’s public schools—even as the overall teaching workforce has increased by 134,000,” Rizga reports. “Countless black principals, coaches, cafeteria workers, nurses, and counselors have also been displaced—all in the name of raising achievement among black students. While white Americans are slowly waking up to the issue of police harassment and violence in black communities, many are unaware of the quiet but broad damage the loss of African American educators inflicts on the same communities.” The concept of tenure was challenged in the Vergara case in California. The initial court decision found it to be unconstitutional. That outcome was overturned on appeal and the state Supreme Court recently upheld the appellate court’s ruling. Hence, tenure still exists in the Golden State. That hasn’t deterred other states from attempting toeliminate teacher job protections. The latest–Kansas. That state’s supreme court heard oral arguments today challenging the constitutionality of a law passed in 2014 that strips teachers of tenure protections. The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the details about this latest assault on teacher rights. “The Kansas National Education Association is challenging the law on technical grounds,” it notes, “contending that the legislature passed the measure in a manner that evaded proper legislative review by attaching it to an omnibus education appropriations bill, House Bill 2506.” If you are a ‘veteran” teacher [Ed. note: I’ll leave the definition of that phrase up to you for the purposes of this item] you probably taught before technology became ubiquitous in U.S. classrooms. What is it like working with students in what the author of this piece for the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for ED WEEK refers to as the “Web. 2.0 Era?” She’s a 7-year veteran of 7th and 8th grade English and Language Arts classes in North Carolina. “When I attend a tech-heavy professional development session,” she confesses, “I still leave with my head in a cloud and experience the same amount of panic all of us feel when something new is put on our plates. What I have learned about the benefits of embracing these tools is that I just need to always be on the hunt for technology that will make me a more effective and more efficient teacher. . . . I must admit that I truly owe a great amount of my job satisfaction to Web 2.0’s contributions to the teaching field. I can’t wait to see what is going to be available next to improve my work as an educator.”
2 Single-Sex Schools Debut in the LAUSD
The “Education Matters” column in Sunday’s L.A. Times featurestwo single-sex schools for girls that opened for the first time this year. One emphasizes athletics and is located in Panorama City and the other math and science in the Mid-City area of L.A. “Title IX, a federal law best known for the provision requiring schools to allow boys and girls to equally participate in sports,” the piece points out, “initially barred single-sex schools. But as more people asked, regulations softened. In 2006, the government explicitly allowed the creation of a school for one gender as long as its district also provided a ‘substantially equal school’ for the other one.” The article includes a short video (1:39 minutes) about one of the campuses.
Jesse Hagopian, the Seattle Social Studies teacher, civil rights activist and one of the first educators to lead an opt-out movement of his faculty against standardized testing, believes the Black resistance to corporate “reform” is just beginning. He cites recent decisions by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools as a pivotal starting point. His op-ed on the subject of the future of Black education appears on the truthout website and is titled “Black to School: The Rising Struggle to Make Black Education Matter.” “A world where Black lives matter and Black education is empowering will not come easily. It won’t be funded by benevolent philanthropists. It won’t be promoted by corporate lobbyists or legislated by the politicians they own. It will only happen,” he predicts, “with an uprising beyond even the scale and militancy of the last century’s civil rights and Black Power movements.” [Ed. note: ALOED member Larry Lawrence and I heard Hagopian speak to a group of education students at Antioch University’s satellite campus in Culver City last year. He was quite dynamic and engaging.]
Student-centered learning is helping to transform and modernize two public high schools in Massachusetts and Maine. The author of this article in EDUCATION WEEK believes that “Our Education System Isn’t Broken; It’s Outdated.” He proceeds to describe how the technique works and why he thinks it’s best suited to our 21st century education system. “The transformation of our high schools will not happen overnight. But make no mistake: It will change the face of public education for the better,” he concludes, “with the help of dedicated teachers, administrators, and communities working together to equip our students with the critical-thinking and 21st-century skills needed to achieve at high levels for the rest of their lives. Our system of public education is not broken—it just serves a different purpose than it did 100 years ago. It is well past time for an upgrade.”
Schools of Opportunity
Do schools have to be rated by test scores? Many rankings use that as their primary criteria with some adding other characteristics like graduation rates or AP classes taken. A new program called Schools of Opportunity, that began as a pilot project in 2014, is rating schools on very different measures. Valerie Strauss, on her blog forThe Washington Post, has two entries about the award. The first one explains the philosophy and methodology of the Schools of Opportunity program. “Now there is a high school honors list that has a different set of priorities. It’s the Schools of Opportunity, a project launched by educators who wanted to highlight public high schools,” Strauss explains, “that actively seek to close opportunity gaps through 11 research-proven practices and not test scores, which are more a measure of socio-economic status than anything else. What kind of practices? They include health and psychological support for students, judicious and fair discipline policies, high-quality teacher mentoring programs, outreach to the community, effective student and faculty support systems, and broad and enriched curriculum. [Ed. note: Those sound a whole lot better than using test scores.] Schools submit applications explaining why they believe their school should be recognized.” The second posting is written by the two founders of the program and a third person involved with it. They announce the 20 winners of the gold and silver awards for 2015-16 and why they were selected. Two schools from California are on the list; one earning gold and one earning silver. “Schools that applied for recognition,”the 3 authors write, “submitted information about six different education-opportunity practices that they are successfully implementing. They needed to show, for example how they create and maintain healthy school culture; broaden and enrich school curriculum; use a variety of assessments designed to respond to student needs; and support teachers as professionals. Then the applications went through four levels of screening, including rubric-based ratings and in-person evaluation visits to the potential ‘gold’ schools.”
PBS Program Alert
Tomorrow night (Wednesday) PBS station KOCE will broadcast at 9 pm a 2-hour NOVA special with the title “School of the Future.” Nancy Bailey is a former special ed teacher who has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Florida State University. She has been writing her pro-public school blog NANCY BAILEY’S EDUCATION WEBSITE for almost 3 years and is a bit skeptical of the program’s seemingly innocuous title. She’s concerned the program will push the corporate “reform” agenda of digital learning as the way to close the achievement gap. “The advertisement [for the special] tells us much. They are warning that the future for children demands that students need better preparation to succeed due to globalization. What they probably won’t tell us,” “Bailey warns, “is that this future will likely continue to be manipulated by corporations. . . . This abstract, strange future they speak about (possibly puzzling to the smartest among us), will be about technology, of course. . . . Technology isn’t bad. It can benefit teachers, students and parents. But it should not be made to appear like it will miraculously improve the way students learn used alone.” The influential group “Parents Across America” is also raising concerns about the growing reliance on education technology in America’s classrooms. EDUCATION WEEK conducted an interview with Julie Woestehof, the current interim executive director of the organization, regarding her group’s misgivings about the proliferation of ed tech. As an example of their conversation, here’s the last question and Woestehof’s response: “Parents Across America has actively opposed what you describe as the ‘corporate reform’ agenda, including common core, standardized testing, test-based teacher evaluation, and charter school expansion. To what extent are your warnings about education technology and personalized learning an extension of those fights? Just look who is behind it all. Look who is selling the merchandise. It’s still Pearson, still Bill Gates and his foundation, still all the same usual suspects. We’re just peeling back the layers and trying to show parents what’s behind the hard sell.”
9/11 Memorial at Occidental Vandalized
And finally, The Occidental College Republican Club sponsored a memorial marking the 15th anniversary Sunday of the 9/11 attacks. It included the placement Saturday of 2,997 American flags on the campus quad to represent the number of people that died on 9/11. Sometime early Sunday morning the memorial was vandalized when a many of the flags were kicked over, some were broken and a number of them were tossed into trash cans. A story in today’s L.A. Times describes what took place on the Eagle Rock campus and varying reactions to it. “The incident prompted a flurry of statements by student groups, “it mentions, “as well as a pledge by university administrators to investigate the incident.”
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.