Ed News, Friday, September 23, 2016 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   “Knowledge is a unique kind of property, indeed: you can share it with others,
    while still possessing it.” 

― Eraldo Banovac*

LAUSD Board Approves Plan to Start School Year Later
The LAUSD board voted 5-2 Tuesday to begin the school year laterthan it has the last couple of years.  Classes commenced on Aug. 16th this year.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reviews how the vote came about and what changes are to be implemented over the next couple of years.  What the board approved was actually a compromise measure introduced shortly before voting on the original proposal.  “The nation’s second-largest school system on Tuesday moved away from its brief experiment with an earlier school start,” the piece explains, “edging back closer to the traditional day-after-Labor Day schedule.  Starting next year, school will start a week later than it did this year.  In 2018, classes will begin later still, one week before Labor Day.”              The LAUSD board’s vote this week to delay the start of the school year (see above) prompted 3 letters that appear in today’s Times.  Only the last one was opposed to the decision.
School Integration
The NPR program “This American Life” takes a look at school integration and finds it to be one of the best, if not the best, tool for closing the achievement gap.  Host Ira Glass talks with New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones about her many years of writing about school reforms and what works and what doesn’t.  She relates how she is the product of a school busing integration program in Waterloo, Iowa, when she grew up. The segment (61:32 minutes in a Prologue and 2 parts) is titled “The Problem We All Live With” and focuses on a successful integration program at a district in Missouri and the battles that took place to achieve it.
Corporate “Reform”
Marion Brady, veteran educator, author and activist, doesn’t believe our traditional public schools are “failing,’ but suggests the failure lies with the corporate “reform” movement and its advocacy for Common Core and standardized assessments.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, invites Brady to comment about the current state of education in the U.S. today.  “The core curriculum has major problems,” Brady complains.  “The core subjects are important, but they’re being dumped on kids many years too soon.  Their number, specialized vocabularies, differing conceptual organizers, varying levels of abstractness, and their disconnectedness from each other and from life as kids live it, create a confusing mental mish-mash.”
The Opt Out Movement
Anthony Cody raises a very interesting question on his LIVING in DIALOGUE blog: “Is Competency/Computer Based Education Co-opting the Opt Out Movement?  If that doesn’t seem to make sense at first or sounds a little confusing, read what he has to say about the issue.  “So while I agree that we need to raise awareness about the limitations of educational technologies, and the dangers posed by Competency Based Education, ‘personalized’ learning, and the like,” he suggests, “I do not think we should leave behind the opt out effort.  Technology can be a useful tool, but it should be used to give students and teachers greater power.  When it is used by a top down ‘learning system’ to rank and sort students and teachers, then it is time to opt out once again.”
Charter Schools
When a charter school opens in a small, tight knit community, what impact does it have on the local traditional public school district, the town and the people and what happens when it proposes to expand?  Jennifer Garcia is a resident, business owner, parent of 3 public school children and activist in Red Bank, New Jersey (population 12, 213 in 2013).  She paints a vivid picture of how her community changed as a result of the arrival of the charter in 1998, which now serves almost 200 students in a Pre K-8 school, and her fears of its proposed expansion in an article on the app(dot)com(Asbury Park Press) website.  “Everything came to a head last year when the charter school asked to expand.  We were faced with the already existing negative effects multiplying — less funding, deeper segregation.  Our community was floored,” she explains.  “But we pulled together to block the expansion.  As we did, we had a chance to educate our larger community even more about the negative effects the charter school has on our district.”             Is thepopularity of charter schools beginning to decline?  That’s the intriguing premise of an analysis from truthout titled “A Turning Point for the Charter School Movement.”  It discusses Measure 2 facing voters in Massachusetts in November that seeks to lift the cap on charter schools in that state along with several other events that indicate to the author that the corporate “reform” movement is in decline.  “The entire mission of the modern charter movement, allegedly, is to end educational inequality.  It premises itself fundamentally on the notion that public schools are failing,”she relates, “and that a marketplace of choices will give students and families better options.  A better education, as goes the American way of thinking, is the way out of poverty.  But that rhetoric just doesn’t hold up against the onslaught of stories of fraud, theft, civil rights violations, student push-out and a call to action by the nation’s most important movement for racial justice in a generation — a movement led by Black youth with an immediate stake in the fight for equality.”               Mark Weber, theJERSEY JAZZMAN, ventures far afield to Massachusetts where voters are facing Measure 2 (see above) on the November ballot.  He looks at “attrition rates” in the state’s charter schools as compared to the traditional public schools.  The conventional wisdom is that the latter have much higher rates of student attrition than the Bay State’s charters.  Not true, says Weber, who supports his findings with a number of statistics, graphs and charts.  “In the last decade, Boston’s charter sector has had substantially greater cohort attrition than the Boston Public Schools,” he states.  “In fact, even though the data is noisy, you could make a pretty good case the difference in cohort attrition rates has grown over the last five years.”              Recently the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives both urged a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  Up until then, most civil rights groups had been in favor of vouchers, choice and charters, arguing that those were important civil rights issues for their constituencies.  Yohuru Williams, Professor of History at Fairfield University in Connecticut, author and education activist, makes the case why the NAACP’s decision is a critical step towards saving traditional public education.  His commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “The Civil Rights Movement was about inclusivity,” Williams maintains, “while those who appropriate its language to buttress corporate education reform do so largely in support of programs that promote exclusivity at the public’s expense.  Charter school advocates nevertheless persist in the mythology of trickle down edu-nomics, the idea that charter schools and high stakes testing can somehow deliver educational outcomes that will not only level the playing field but save the nation’s inner cities.”            Venice resident and public school parent activist Karen Wolfe attended (along with ALOED member Larry Lawrence) the pro-charter “Rally in the Valley” on Saturday in Pacoima.  She has a brief comment about the event and a short video (7:19 minutes) posted on the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) website.  [Ed. note: Larry is the gentleman with the red t-shirt promoting public schools who can be seen on the video very briefly around the 1:13 mark.)
Student Privacy and A “Bill of Rights”
The PARENT COALITION FOR STUDENT PRIVACY issued a press release this week announcing their approval that the “Safe Kids Act” (S. 1788) was pulled from consideration from the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee just prior to it being marked up.  The PARENT COALITION’S statement quoted Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters and the co-chair of the organization, “We would like to work with Senators Daine and Blumenthal and the other members of the Commerce Committee on improving this bill to ensure that student privacy is strengthened rather than further eroded, given the push from some sectors of the ed tech industry to exploit our children’s personal information and to treat them as consumers rather than as students.”           Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog takes exception to an editorial in the Chicago Tribune that offers a “Schoolchild’s Bill of Rights.”  Klonsky is not at all surprised at what the paper, a pro-corporate “reform” mouthpiece, proposes.  “The only thing surprising here is the Trib editors’ use of Bill of Rights lingo to promote their extreme right-wing reform agenda.  Remember it was the same board members who, in a previous editorial, called for [Chicago Public Schools] to be taken over by an autocrat with ‘Mussolini-like powers’ to execute and implement that agenda.”   He includes a link to the original editorial and concludes with a list of rights he’d like to see implemented.  Be cure to check out the picture of who Klonsky thinks the Tribune would like to see as school chief.
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, identifies a “predator” that’s loose in our schools.  “He is reading her homework assignments, quizzes and emails.  He is timing how long it takes her to answer questions, noting her right and wrong answers.  He’s even watching her body language to determine if she’s engaged in the lesson,” Singer maintains.  “He has given her a full battery of psychological assessments, and she doesn’t even notice.  He knows her academic strengths and weaknesses, when she’ll give up, when she’ll preserver, how she thinks.   And he’s not a teacher, counselor or even another student.  In fact, your child can’t even see him – he’s on her computer or hand-held device.  It’s called data mining, and it’s one of the major revenue sources of ed-tech companies.”  Singer proceeds to discuss the very important issue of student privacy and some of the legislation passed to deal with it and whether its effective or not.  In addition, he looks at how ed tech companies are hoping to expand the reach of data mining and how they do that in order to INCREASE THEIR PROFITS!
The Teaching Profession
A brief item in EDUCATION WEEK reports that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) began a strike authorization vote on Wednesday that will run through today (Friday).  Results of the voting won’t be make public right away.  The CTU contract expired in June, 2015.  “The union needs 75 percent support, which is expected.  A similar vote in December,” the piece points out, “garnered support from roughly 88 percent of the voting members.  Union members say the second vote offers legal cover.  If the union goes on strike, they have to give the district 10 days notice.  The earliest a walkout could take place is mid-October.”  The union last went out on strike for 7 days in 2012.              How important is the role of the principal in the retention of teachers?  According to a new study, featured in the “Teacher Beat” column in ED WEEK, finds that not only is it important but it is VERY important.  Susan Burkhauser, research associate at Loyola Marymount University, is the paper’s author.  “Burkhauser bases her work in part on the intuitive assumptions that working conditions are a prime factor in a teacher’s decision to stay or go and that principals may be in the best position to shape working conditions,” the item suggests.  “Principals, she says, can influence a teacher’s perception of the job by changing actual conditions—by offering more academic and moral support, more opportunities to develop teaching skills and advance their careers, more say in school policy, and the like.”  The article includes a link to the full report (20 pages) titled “How Much Do School Principals Matter When it Comes to Teacher Working Conditions?”              How does a teacher, a school and its students cope when the father of one of the pupils at the school is shot by police in Tulsa last Friday?  Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to a very moving account by Rebecca Lee, a teacher at the KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory school (grades 5-8), who describes what took place as she was facilitating 3 small group discussions about the incident.  Her piece is titled “Teaching Through Tears in Tulsa After a Student’s Dad is Killed by Police.”  “I want to share what I experienced with the kids today,” she writes by way of introduction, “because I am convinced that if you can put yourself in the shoes of a child of color in Tulsa right now, you will have a clearer understanding of the crisis we’re facing and why we say black lives matter.”               The “Ed News” has recently highlighted several items about the teacher shortage facing a number of states this year and how it is only going to get worse in the future.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews some of the stories and features a new report about the problem (see the Sept. 16th edition of the “Ed News).  He’s a little surprised that a few skeptics out there continue to deny the existence of a teacher shortage.  “Regardless of the evidence, studies finding deep and intractable problems in the teacher workforce always seem to draw the doubting crowd,”  he reports incredulously.  “Republicans, in particular, have always been resistant to the idea there is a teacher shortage.”
California Judge Rules Against Mandating Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers
And finally, in another victory for teachers unions in California, a Contra Costa County judge rejected a suit filed, once again, by the group “Students Matter” that would have required districts to makestudent test scores a major component of teacher evaluations.  The opinion in Doe v Antioch was released Monday and is reviewed in a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Teachers unions argue that judging teachers by test scores,” it notes, “overlooks the effects of poverty and other external factors on student achievement.  They also challenged the focus on test scores as a uniquely important measure of student progress.”

* Eraldo Banovac is an energy expert and a university professor. He was born in 1955, in Pula, Republic of Croatia.

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


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s