Ed News, Tuesday, September 27, 2016 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Education is a weapon that doesn’t create destruction, that creates peace” 
LAUSD Offers Community College Courses on Some High School Campuses
The LAUD board last Tuesday approved a plan to partner with several community colleges to offer college-level classes to studentson some of the district’s high school campuses.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times explains the program.  “The Los Angeles Unified School District board approved an agreement [Sept. 20] with the Los Angeles Community College District,” it notes, “that will let high schools enter partnerships with their local community colleges to offer classes on campus, during the regular school day.  The schools hope to serve 15,000 L.A. Unified students a year. . . .  About 4,000 students last year had concurrent enrollment, which means they took some community college classes either on the community college campuses or at their high schools, said Jesus Angulo, director of the L.A. Unified’s academic and counseling services.  Some high schools, he said, already have agreements in which community colleges offer classes before or after school.”
Election 2016
Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, has been closely following Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot in November which would expand the cap on charter schools in the state (several previous editions of the “Ed News” have also highlighted the measure).  She is particularly intrigued by the vast sums of money being poured into the campaign supporting the issue and where the dollars are coming from.  In her latest post she updates the most recent contributions and notices that much of the money is coming from New York City hedge fund managers.  “The grand total spent on Q2 as of September 20th,” she points out,  “is $19.3 million– over 5.5 times the amount of money spent to date on the question of legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts– and more than 3.5 times the money spent on the other three ballot measures combined.”  Why is this question drawing, by far, the largest contributions as compared to the other 3 facing Bay State voters?  And why is a major chunk of the money originating in New York?  [Ed. note: Both good questions and, hopefully, readers of this blog can provide some very good answers.]              Charter schools have been poaching traditional public school students and classroom space over the years and now they are taking aim at school construction bonds in California.  The Bond Buyer details how this is taking place and the threat it poses to the traditional public schools.  Unfortunately, the item is behind a pay wall.  However,Diane Ravitch’s blog kindly makes it available for you to read in full.
Starting School Later in the Day
An op-ed in the Sunday, Sept. 17th L.A. Times made the case for starting the school day later for middle and high school students (see last Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  The “Mailbag” feature in Saturday’s paper included excerpts from 4 letters and a brief comment from a member of the Letters to the Editor department. 
The “Secret” to Finland’s Success
Finland is often held up as an example for its successful education system.  Proponents then go on to identify several factors in attaining that achievement.  The author of this piece intheguardian believes he can point to one characteristic that leads to Finnish success: the importance of “play” in early childhood development.  “The main aim of early years education is not explicitly ‘education’ in the formal sense but the promotion of the health and wellbeing of every child,” it suggests.  “Daycare is to help them develop good social habits: to learn how to make friends and respect others, for example, or to dress themselves competently.  Official guidance also emphasizes the importance in pre-school of the ‘joy of learning’, language enrichment and communication.  There is an emphasis on physical activity (at least 90 minutes outdoor play a day).”
Lawsuit Challenges School Conditions in Detroit
7 school children recently filed a lawsuit challenging thedeteriorating conditions of their Detroit classrooms, claiming they don’t allow students to receive an adequate education. Laurence Tribe, a well-known author and professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, pens an op-ed describing the suit and the conditions being challenged.  His commentary appears in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “Like the historic litigation leading to Brown vs. Board of Education,” he writes, “the Detroit lawsuit has the potential not only to improve the opportunities afforded to poor children of color in one community, but also to make good nationally on some of our most fundamental and cherished constitutional obligations.  Although the Brown ruling ended legally sanctioned segregation, it has not in practice eliminated separate and inferior schools for many students of color.  The conditions in Detroit will sound all too familiar to those acquainted with school-system failures across the country.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacts to the suit filed in Detroit by a group of students complaining about the poor conditions in their classrooms (see above).  “Like New Orleans,” he concludes, “Detroit is a reminder that what some reformsters say (‘Let’s try creative new solutions to provide education’) and what they actually do (‘Let’s avoid spending any money on Those People– at least not any  that we can’t at least recoup as revenue’) are two different things.”
Chicago Teachers Vote to STRIKE
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) held a strike vote last week and yesterday they announced the results in a brief statement on their website.  Over 90% of the votes cast were in favor of going out on strike for the second time since 2012.  The last walk-out lasted 7 days.  The CTU is required to give a 10-day strike notice to the Chicago Board of Education before they can go out.  “The Union’s Rules & Election Committee reported that on a 90.6 percent turnout, 95.6 percent of votes cast voted in favor to strike,” it states.  “This should come as no surprise to the Board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions.”
Ed Tech
The next big thing in education hardware appears to be the 2-in-1 device.  “This class of devices,” a brief item from EDUCATION WEEK explains, “feature detachable or convertible keyboards that can be used either as a traditional laptop or as a tablet.”  Some districts are debating whether to provide tablets to their students or laptops.  The 2-in-1 computer seems to solve that dilemma.  Be sure to click the “Enlarge” button on the “Poised for Growth” sidebar to see 2 sets of graphs about the growth of hardware sales in the U.S. and globally.             What about those specialized STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) campuses?  Are they only geared to elite students who are good in those fields or can they help the general student body including low-income and minority students?  THE HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at that second question and uses several science and technology high schools as an example (High Tech High in San Diego is not among them).  “While there is no hard data on the number of these schools, a reasonable estimate would be somewhere between 250 and 500,” it suggests.  “These new high schools, which rely on open admissions instead of competitive criteria like tests and grades, have multiplied to meet the exploding demand for workers with math, science and technology skills.”
How do standardized test score results impact individual students and their families?  Sharon Murchie, a self-described Michigan “teacher-mother-writer-arguer-runner-vegetarian,” describes, in great detail, what was on her daughter’s 4th grade assessments report card and why she’s rather disappointed, not in her child’s results, but in how they are presented.  Her remarks appear on herMandatory (a)Musings blog.  “You will be happy to know that my daughter is 100% adequate.  Or, to be specific, she is making ‘adequate progress.’  I was surprised at the naming of this progress indicator,” she points out, “since her scores are in the ‘Advanced’ range in Math and English Language Arts, and at the very top edge of the ‘Proficient’ range in Science.  But, for a 4th grader approximately 1/3 of the way through her K-12 education, her progress is deemed as adequate.  One must suppose then, that her teachers have also been adequate and her school is pretty adequate.”              Rhode Island is contemplating adopting the SAT as the state’s high school exit exam despite the fact that is not what it was designed for.  Jonathan Pelto, on his Wait What? blog, is appalled that the governor and state education officials are even considering this action.  “As numerous academic studies have revealed, grade point averages, not standardized test scores are the best predictors of college success.
In fact, these studies show,”
he complains, “that the SAT correlates with the income of the student’s parents and does not predict how a student will do in College.”
Charter Schools
You can add Alabama to the almost complete list of states that have charter laws on their books, according to a short article on the “Charters & Choice” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  The Alabama Public Charter School Commission voted last week to authorize the Accel Day and Evening Academy in Mobile to open next year serving students 16 years of age and older.  A second charter in Huntsville is awaiting a judge’s ruling on a desegregation order and a third application was rejected.  There are now only 7 states that have no charter law in place.  Care to guess which ones? (Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont.)
Heat Wave’s Impact on LAUSD Classrooms
How hot has it been where you live/work?  The current heatwave has seen temperatures soar into the triple digits in most areas of L.A.  [Ed. note: My wife and I live near the L.A. airport, about 5 miles from the ocean.  Yesterday it was 101 and today is supposed to top out at 93.]  The LAUSD and many other districts have been in session now for over a month.  How do temperatures over 100 effect local classrooms?  A story in today’s L.A. Times reports that all classrooms in the LAUSD are supposed to have functioning air conditioners.  However, it notes that almost 700 complaints were received about systems that weren’t working properly or not at all.  Long Beach Unified is also mentioned.  Not all of its classrooms are air conditioned but there is a local bond measure on the November ballot to remedy that situation.
And finally, the current (Oct. 3) edition of TIME magazine has a feature on mindfulness training for elementary school students.  Some experts believe it may be helpful in getting the kids to concentrate more, improve behavior and even boost test scores.  The article focuses on a 5th grade class in Louisville, Kentucky and explains how the classes work there and what is being taught.  “That mindfulness is taking its place alongside math in elementary school says something about the stressed-out state of kids’ brains these days,” it points out.  “Educators increasingly believe that mindfulness can be an antidote to three of the biggest mental-health challenges that kids face: anxiety, trouble paying attention and bullying.”
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             

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