Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ed News, Friday, October 28, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 Boo!  Monday is Halloween
                   
                  Inline image 1
       “I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, 
     skilfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war.” 

― John MiltonOf Education

 
Chocolate Milk

The L.A. Times has not been a big fan of the LAUSD for quite some time now.  If the paper is not critical of “failing” schools, “bad” teachers or overly powerful teachers unions it finds something else to blame the district for.  What could it possibly be this time?  How about chocolate milk?  Last week the LAUSD board decided to bring back flavored milk (see last Friday’s “Ed News”) as a possible way to combat the huge waste of regular milk.  So, of course, an editorial in Wednesday’s paper takes the district to task for that seemingly innocuous course of action.  “L.A. Unified schools are in a tough position.  The only drink they are allowed to offer students that meets federal school-lunch rules for high-nutrition foods is milk,” it mentions.  “Under federal rules, that milk can be sweetened and flavored.  But under a separate L.A. Unified rule, sugar-sweetened drinks are banned — including flavored milk.  So in effect, the only drink schools can provide to students in their school lunches is plain milk.”  The editorial makes some valid points but you have to wonder what the Times will disapprove of next.                 The editorial over the re-introduction of chocolate milk to the menus of LAUSD students (see above) prompted one letter-to-the-editorin the Times today.  The author is a school food service director and is critical of the district’s decision.  
 
Testing
The New Jersey State Board of Education recently decided to usescores on the PARCC standardized test as a graduation requirement.  That didn’t go over very well with a number of education experts.  Several civil rights organizations and parent advocacy groups have filed a legal challenge to that decision based on their belief that using the test in this way violates a New Jersey graduation statute and other applicable state laws.  The ELC (EDUCATION LAW CENTER) website explains the law suit.  “The decision to tie high school diplomas to specific test scores is a state policy decision, not a federal mandate.  Currently, fewer than one-third of all states use high school exit tests,” it points out, “and several states have used the transition to new assessment systems to eliminate them.  Many states continue to give tests for diagnostic and accountability purposes without using the scores to make graduation decisions for individual students.  A bill now pending in the NJ Legislature (S2147/A3849) would allow for that alternative.”              Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, takes a critical look at the “racism of standardized testing.”  His analysis goes back into the history of these types of assessments, beginning during World War I, and suggests some (racial) reasons why they were developed.  “When you define a standard, an ideal, you make certain choices – you privilege some attributes and denigrate others.  Since the people creating the tests are almost exclusively upper middle class white people, it should come as no surprise that that is the measure by which they assess success,” he argues.  “Is it any wonder then that poor kids and children of color don’t score as well on these tests?  Is it any wonder that upper middle class white kids score so well? . . .  It doesn’t mean poor and/or black children are any less intelligent.  It just means rich white kids have the things for which the test designers are looking.  Some of this is due to economic factors like greater access to private tutoring, books in the home, parents with more time to read to their kids, coming to school healthy and more focused.  However, a large portion is due to the very act of taking tests that are created to reflect white upper class values and norms.”               The latest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test scores for science were released this week.  Although California’s results were below the national average, some particular groups of students made gains.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times has the latest science scores.  The assessments were given to a random sample of 4th, 8th and 12th grade students in 2015.  The last time the science exams were administered was in 2009.  “Nationwide, the average score for fourth-graders rose from 150 to 154 out of 300,” the story notes.  “For eighth-graders, scores rose from 152 to 154.  In 2015, California’s fourth-graders scored 140 [up from 136 in 2009], on average, and eighth graders scored 143 [up from 140 in 2009].”  The Golden State is in the process of implementing a new science framework, the story points out, known as the Next Generation Science Standards.
 
A Day-in-the-Life of a Public School Activist
The “Ed News” has reported on the activities of several public school activists.  Leonie Haimson fights  for smaller class size, better funding for schools, and student privacy.  She is the founder of the groups Class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters.  On theNYC Public School Parents website she describes what a typical day for her is like as she constantly battles for the public schools.  She titles her essay “A Busy Day: Protesting Billionaires Pushing Charter Schools & Then Winning Our Lawsuit vs the DOE on School Leadership Team Meetings.”  If you think you have a full day, check out what Haimson is able to accomplish in one 24-hour period.
 
Election 2016
Many observers have noted a lack of substantive discussion of critical K-12 education issues in the current presidential campaign.  The debates have certainly been short of questions on topics like charters, testing, Common Core and others.  A commentary on the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK makes the case that that may actually be a positive development.  It’s titled “K-12 Education is Lucky to be Shut Out of this Election, Some Experts Say.”  “When an issue gets dragged onto the presidential stage,”the item maintains, “it becomes politicized, giving candidates’ less room for what may end up being necessary compromise on sticky issues like charter school expansions, said Conor Williams, a senior researcher in the New America Foundation’s education policy program.”
 
Charter Schools
The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story in  Monday’s L.A. Times about increased LAUSD board scrutiny of its charter schools.  That piece prompted 2 letters that appear in Wednesday’s paper.   The first one was in favor of the increased oversight.  “If citizens want charter schools, they should have them,” the author writes, “but these schools should be strictly accountable to the people who pay for them.  Anyone who wants a school with total autonomy needs to raise his or her own money, because those schools are called private schools.”  The second letter blames the teachers unions for the close attention.   This must feel like a kick in the teeth to traditional public school teachers in Massachusetts.  They pay into their pension fund only to find out that Wall Street companies are tapping into that account to help support Question 2 on the state’s November ballot that would lift the cap on charter school expansion. David Sirota writes about this situation in the “POLITICAL CAPITAL” column for theInternational Business Times in a piece he titles “Wall Street Firms Make Money From Teachers’ Pensions–And Fund Charter Schools Fight.”  “Executives at eight financial firms with contracts to manage Massachusetts state pension assets have bypassed anti-corruption rules and funneled at least $778,000 to groups backing Question 2,” he reveals, “which would expand the number of charter schools in the state.  Millions more dollars have flowed from the executives to nonprofit groups supporting the charter school movement in the lead-up to the November vote.  Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, himself a former financial executive, is leading the fight to increase the number of publicly funded, privately run charter schools in Massachusetts — and he appoints trustees to the board that directs state pension investments.”              Former U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan is revealing his true colors about charters.  Speaking in Boston recently, he came out in favor of Question 2 (see above) on the Massachusetts ballot in November that would lift the cap on charter expansion in that state.  A story on the CommonWealth site explains his position on the measure and reviews arguments for and against it.  “Wading into a battle that has become increasingly contentious and has divided Democrats like no other domestic policy issue, President Obama’s longtime education secretary, Arne Duncan, said allowing more charter schools in Massachusetts is the right thing to do,” it begins, “particularly for poorer black and Latino children who too often have no one fighting for them.  . . .  The charter school ballot question, which would allow up to 12 new charter schools or expansion of up to 12 existing schools each year beyond the current state cap, is drawing national attention, and millions of dollars of spending on both sides.”                I wonder if Arne Duncan (see above) and the voters in Massachusetts have read this recent 32 page report by Michael Robinson titled “Massachusetts Charter School Special Education Performance: By the Numbers” which takes a detailed look at how charters in the Bay State deal with students with disabilities. Robinson’s findings are not favorable.  Here are a few of the things he discovered: “25% of Massachusetts charter schools have zero full-time special educators, as compared to only 3% of public schools.  Public schools report one special-education teacher for every 22 students with disabilities, charters report one special-education teacher for every 36 students with disabilities.  67% of the ‘districts’ with the lowest service to students with disabilities are charter schools.  Students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools are three times as likely to be disciplined as students in public schools (14% vs. 5%).  91.3% of the districts with the highest rates of disciplinary actions for students with disabilities are charter schools.  Students with disabilities are 2.4 times more likely to be suspended at charter schools than at public schools.  80% of the districts with the highest rates of suspension/expulsion of students with disabilities are charter schools.”  Remember: Question 2 in Massachusetts wants to EXPAND the number of charters in the state.            High school graduation rates increased in Nevada and nationwide.  However, charter schools in the Silver State lagged behind traditional public schools in that metric according to a story in the Las Vegas Sun.  “Nevada’s high school graduation rate is up slightly, according to data released  by the state Department of Education.  The statewide, four-year graduation rate is 72 percent this year,” it reports, “up nearly 2 percent from last year.  It’s the third year in a row that the state graduation rate has seen a slight uptick. . . .  The lowest graduation rate was posted by the state’s charter schools.  One charter school, Silver State High School, posted a graduation rate of only 18 percent.”                Here’s an interesting development regarding charter schools uncovered by Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  The National Federation of Municipal Analysts (NFMA) is calling for more transparency and disclosure of financial information about how charters are run.  Why is that group important?  One of its goals is to promote “professionalism in municipal credit analysis” and late last month it published a draft report with best practices for analyzing the financial health of charter management organizations.  Charters love to claim they are “public” schools so they can take taxpayer money, but demand they be treated like private entities when it comes to fiscal disclosure and other matters.  You can’t have it both ways!  “In short, NFMA wants comprehensive ‘sunlight’ on charter schools,” Schneider summarizes, “so that investors fully understand the charter school ‘nvestment’– including disclosing both federal as well as varied state charter regulations (or the lack thereof).”              Many “no excuses” charters run their campuses in a strict, militaristic, toe-the-line style.  Pedagogy can become so confining that some of the schools have introduced “joy” into their curricula to try to take some of the edge off.  Joan Goodman, writing on the EDUSHYSTERblog, takes a dim view of this tactic.  She’s a professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and a psychologist. [No excuses schools] stimulate ‘joy’ so that their students will greet the strict codes of discipline and daunting academic expectations at these schools with eagerness and excitement.  But genuine joy cannot be canned or imposed.  As C.S. Lewis described it, true joy is experienced as descending upon us, stabbing us unexpectedly; unlike pleasure, it is not in our power to procure. Real joy must come from within.  While it is possible to set the stage for a joyous experience, it is inauthentic, even manipulative, to demand, regulate, and use ‘joy’ to improve a test score or make students pliant to authority figures.”               Need a picture of how detrimental charter schools can be to a traditional public school district?  Check out what’s taking place in Jackson, Mississippi, as charter expansion is seriously threatening the very existence of the public schools in that city.  It’s a cautionary tale of what could happen in other districts around the country and urges proponents of public schools to be aware of the lessons that occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  The story appears on THE HECHINGER REPORT and is rather scary– even for this Halloween season.  “I have some advice for the Mississippi Charter School Association: Don’t allow a financial storm to be your Hurricane Katrina,” the author suggests, “the disaster that led to dismantling the public school system in New Orleans.  Don’t offer the trite language of ‘choice’ as a solution. . . . Jackson Public Schools must be given the chance — and the resources — to improve.”
 
Corporate “Reform”
John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, once again returns to a review of one of his favorite recent books: “Learning From the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”  The “Ed News” has highlighted several items about this book since it came out in July.  This time Thompson focuses on several of the specific articles in the anthology to draw out some important lessons from the last 20 or 30 years of education “reform.”  “The money and energy devoted to the test, sort, reward, and punish approach to school improvement precluded a serious commitment to holistic and humane science-based efforts,” he suggests.  “The market-driven reform movement ignored decades of social science research.  Often it has devolved into ‘magical thinking.’”
 
Obama’s Education Legacy
Pres. Obama has less than 3 months left in office.  What will his education legacy be?  Jeff Bryant, on his Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews a speech Obama recently delivered (highlighted in the “Ed News”) in which the outgoing president chronicled the education accomplishments of his administration.  “Every politician,” Bryant maintains, “wants to be able to point to statistical proof of how effective their policies have been – how many jobs were created, money saved, crimes reduced, etc.  Obama is no different in this regard.  But how good really are his education ‘numbers,’ and are Democrats talking about the education numbers that matter most?”  Bryant proceeds to dissect some of the education numbers touted by Obama and he’s not totally impressed.
 
LAUSD Slow in Resolving Teacher Misconduct Cases
And finally, a newly released audit from the state of California finds the LAUSD takes an inordinate amount of time to resolve misconduct allegations against district teachers.  The lengthy investigations cost the district millions of dollars every year even though the LAUSD is making strides in reducing the time it takes to resolve cases.  A story in today’s L.A. Times provides the details of the audit and what the district is trying to do to improve.  “In most situations, a teacher must be paid while an internal probe is under way, so the cost for paying inactive teachers relates directly to the length of investigations.  In general,” it relates, “L.A. Unified was quick to remove a teacher after it determined that a plausible allegation was made, but in about half of the cases reviewed by auditors, it then missed internal deadlines for following up, often at multiple stages of the review process.  These delays occurred despite the work of a special investigations team established after an earlier critical state audit.”

                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, October 25, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   “For in this Case, we are not to give Credit to the Many, who say, 
  that none ought to be educated but the Free; but rather to the Philosophers, 
  who say, that the Well-educated alone are free.” 

― EpictetusAll the Works of Epictetus

 
Housing for LAUSD Teachers
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story in the L.A. Times about an effort by the LAUSD to provide housing for some of its teachers.  The article noted that due to income ceilings no teachers were actually residing in the complexes.  That piece drew 2 letters that appear in Saturday’s Times. 
 
The Teaching Profession
In the past the “Ed News” has highlighted stories about student privacy.  Is teacher privacy ever an issue?  The answer to that is “yes” as illustrated by a Supreme Court case in Pennsylvania featured on Peter Greene’s CURMUDGUCATIONblog.  It involves the use of Right-to-Know laws and people demanding to be told the home addresses and phone numbers of public school teachers.  Greene briefly reviews the the decision and concludes with its implications for student privacy, as well.  “We should also note that the ruling re-asserts the principle in PA that breaches of privacy are supposed to weigh public benefits against private costs,” he asserts, “and that principle certainly takes a beating any time someone wants to argue that all sorts of student personal data and testing data and God-knows-what-else data should be hovered up and handed over to testing companies and whatever other entities they choose to share/sell it to.” The U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) recently made public new regulations regarding teacher preparation programs.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted stories about them and some critiques of what they will do.  Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Lauren Anderson, professor and chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College, and Ken Zeichner, professor of teacher education at the University of Washington at Seattle, who have some major misgivings about the new DoE regulations.  “The new federal teacher-preparation regulations reveal much about how contemporary education reform ‘works’ — and for whom.  And given how the regulations are likely to work on teacher education in the coming few years,” Anderson and Zeichner warn, “they should be cause for concern — both about the future of teacher education in the United States and the increasing penetration of education policymaking by private interests.”  They proceed to catalog a series of specific “problems” they see with the new regulations.
 
Voucher Battle in Texas
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the battle over vouchers is certainly one of them.  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been pushing them for several years and the fight was renewed recently in the state legislature.  NPR station KUT 90.5 FM in Austin provides the latest details.  You can read the story and/or listen to an audio segment (2:40 minutes) from the station.  “Groups like the Texas Catholic Conference are still pushing the ‘tax credit scholarship’ concept.  But the focus has since shifted to the latest fad in private school choice: education savings accounts, or ESAs,” the piece explains, “which award taxpayer dollars directly to parents in the form of debit cards.  Parents can use those funds for a variety of education-related expenses, including private or parochial school tuition or expenses related to home schooling or virtual schooling.”
 
Charter Schools 
This story carries a certain irony.  Just weeks after the Chicago Teachers Union averted a threatened strike against the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), teachers at a charter school network in the Windy City were on the verge of walking out last week.  The UNO Charter School Network (UCSN), a group of 15 publicly-funded but privately-run campuses has been engaged in prolonged contract negotiations with the CPS.  A piece on the IN THESE TIMES website previews the issues involved and the nature of the impending action.  “As education reformers have aggressively pushed the nationwide expansion of charter schools in recent years, teachers unions have fought back on two fronts.  In addition to opposing continued charter growth,”it notes, “they have poured resources into unionizing existing charters in order to thwart what many believed was the central rationale of charter schools: chipping away at unions and driving down wages and working conditions in the industry.”               A follow-up story on the World Socialist Web Site announced a tentative agreement was reached early Wednesday between the UEU (United Educators at UNO), the UCSN union, and the CPS (see above).  “Teachers in the UEU had voted to strike by a 95 percent margin, but three hours after the midnight strike deadline,” it reports, “negotiators accepted an agreement without finalized contract language.  If the strike had gone forward, it would have been the first open-ended strike by a union at a charter school.”  The story provides some early details about the contract settlement.               Many corporate “reformers” and pro-charter politicians like to tout the “success” of those schools without ever enlightening anyone on some critical policies the schools’ pursue.  Mark Weber, aka the Jersey Jazzman, once again returns to Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot that would lift the cap on charter expansion in that state.  He digs deeply into the idea of “attrition” and how it contributes to inflated “success” rates in Boston charters. “When I last weighed in, I pointed out that the ‘successes’ of Boston’s charter sector could not fairly be compared to the ‘failures’ of the public schools,” he suggests, “because the two sectors were educating fundamentally different students.  One indicator of this is the cohort attrition rate: the shrinkage in the size of a cohort that occurs because students leave a school, but are not replaced with new students entering.”  Weber offers lots of graphic examples to support his argument.                After giving virtual carte blanche to charter expansion and renewal for years the LAUSD board is exercising more oversight and demanding more transparency.  Charter proponents are squawking about the increased scrutiny and a possible conflict-of-interest in having the school board oversee charters in the district that the traditional public schools have to compete with.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes the growing animosity between the district and the charters it oversees.  “UCLA education professor John Rogers wants state law to require more transparency from charters.  And he’d give districts more latitude in evaluation,” it reports.  “School boards, he said, should be able to consider whether a charter is having a negative effect on the students of the district as a whole.  Or whether it has encouraged parents, community members and possibly students to take part in leading the school.  In responding to criticism of the denials, José Cole-Gutiérrez, head of L.A. Unified’s charter division, said a charter group’s past success is just one factor the district considers.  Schools are not static, he said. Their situations and performance evolve.  Charters have much freedom, he said, but ‘there is an exchange. Autonomy for accountability.’”               Last week the LAUSD board turned thumbs down on 5 charter renewals while approving, with some personnel modifications, the charter for El Camino Real Charter High School.  Those actions were highlighted extensively in Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” and in several previous ones.  Carl Petersen, a self-described “political junkie and education activist” who is running for a seat on the LAUSD board, attended the meeting as he often does.  He challenges some of the critics of the board’s actions who claim they nit-picked reasons for not granting the charter renewals.  His commentary appears on theK-12 NEWS NETWORKS THE WIRE website.  Petersen also questions some of the legislation governing charter oversight.  “To be fair,” he notes, “the ability of the LAUSD to provide oversight is limited by a charter law that was not well thought out and a governor who has vetoed any attempt to tighten control.”               Carol Burris concludes her 4-part series on the state of charter schools in California.  This one, like the previous 3, appears on Valerie Strauss’ blog inThe Washington Post and is titled “Why the Shine is Off the Charter School Movement.”  Burris cites a number of factors in what she sees as possibly the beginning of the downward trend for charters.  “There is hope, however, that California can alter its course,” she suggests.  “Despite all of the obstacles that stand in the way, there are Californians who want charter reform.  They are exposing corruption, illegality, profit-making schemes and schools that are clearly not in the best interest of children.  In this final piece, I will highlight some of their work.”  One of the topics Burris focuses on is how Los Angeles is finally beginning to push back against charter expansion.  [Ed. note: Burris includes links to the first 3 parts of her highly informative and perceptive series.]
 
Election 2016
As of today (Tuesday) there are only 2 weeks left until the Nov. 8th election.  Despite there being a hotly contested presidential election and other races for federal, state and local offices plus, in California 17 state propositions in addition to any local measures, K-12 education issues have gotten scant mention in most races.  The “Ed News” has highlighted several items bemoaning the lack of policy initiatives and discussion of important education programs.  If you can’t get any information out of the candidates themselves see what their surrogates are saying.  Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blogenlists Carl Paladino, Trump’s New York State co-chair, to provide some details about the Republican candidate’s stance on K-12 issues.  “If there was any doubt, Trump surrogate Carl Paladino made it perfectly clear,” Klonsky begins, “that if his boss is elected his goal will be nothing less than the elimination of public education and complete liquidation of the nation’s teacher unions.”  Klonsky compares that with Hillary Clinton’s positions and concludes: “You get a clear picture of the choice available to voters on Nov. 8th.  It’s not a great choice, but it’s a choice.”              Think California is the only state with some key education related propositions on the ballot?  Think again.  The Badass Teachers Assocation (BATs) provide an extensive list of measures, questions, initiatives or propositions, call them what you will, that ask voters in a number of states to make some critical decisions regarding education policies.  Above all else, the BATs urge you to study up on these issues and be sure to VOTE!  [Ed. note: At the very end of this article they include an interesting link to a site called BALLOTPEDIA, which calls itself a nonpartisan, nonprofit encyclopedia of politics.  You can also find it by clicking here.  It contains an exhaustive trove of election materials for California and all the other states.  Give it a try.]               The election isn’t over, obviously, but pundits and pols like to speculate what might happen under certain scenarios.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK looks at what might happen if the Democrats take control of the House and/or the Senate and win the presidency.  It looks at how the leadership might change in the various Education committees in the two houses and what types of issues might be brought up in each one.  It’s titled “What Could Be in Store if Democrats Get More Power in Congress?”
 
ESSA Shifts Focus to States
The new law knows as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) shifts much of the educational focus from the federal level back to the states.  After 15 years under NCLB, it ushers in a rather radical change in emphasis.  The big question facing the states is: How will they deal with their new responsibilities?  A feature in THE HECHINGER REPORT, titled “States Can Change the Way They Think About Education, But Will They?” looks at the new course of education policy and describes some of the groups being organized to assist the states to carry out their mandates.  “For 15 years, student test results and graduation rates have served as the main measures of success – or failure – for public schools.  Annual test scores in math and reading,” the piece notes, “helped determine the future of teachers’ jobs, classroom funding and, in the most dire cases, whether or not a school remained open.  Students were tested on how well they measured up to grade-level expectations.  The new federal rules will upend that system.  And ESSA could serve as a catalyst to super-charge new ways to educate children without tying schools to the old model that had students marching in lock-step through kindergarten and the subsequent 12 grade levels.”
 
Malala Yousafzai Makes Surprise Visit to Denver High School
And finally, this story should make your day.  If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with you.  Malala Yousafzai, the now 19-year old Pakistani young woman who was shot by the Taliban 4 years ago for her advocacy of education for girls in her native country, made a surprise and tumultuous visit to Denver’s South High School last week.  The Denver Post has all the details about the visit that took the student body totally by surprise.  “South High School is called a ‘newcomer center’ with programs designed for refugees who have had limited or interrupted education in their home countries,” it explains.  “Students there represent more than 60 countries.  On Friday, three students shared their stories about immigrating to the United States before Yousafzai appeared on stage to tell her story and offer encouragement.”  The story includes a short video (2:42 minutes) about her appearance.
 

                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Friday, October 21, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

             “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. 
         It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” 

― Anatole France

LAUSD Lowers Boom on 5 Charters, Saves 1
The LAUSD board voted at their regular meeting Tuesday to deny charter renewal petitions for 5 campuses.  3 are run by the Magnolia Schools network and 2 by the Celebrity Educational Group.  El Camino Real Charter High got a reprieve but the founding executive director agreed to leave his post in return.  The board vote, in all cases, was 6-0 with one abstention.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” highlighted various problems with the Magnolia and El Camino Real charters.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times reviews the problems at the campuses and provides details of the board’s actions which can be appealed to the county and state. “District officials maintained that all six of the schools had problems that justified taking action,” it notes, “despite their academic performance, which ranged from acceptable to much better.”                Karen Wolfe, parent, pro-public school activist and Venice resident, attended the LAUSD board meeting that denied the renewal of 5 charters (see above).  She briefly describes her experience on her PSconnect blog.  
Cartoon of the Day
 
Frazz                                                                          by Jeff Mallett
 
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The Teaching Profession
The job of a classroom teacher is tough enough these days, without having to deal with housing issues.  Since the Great Recession that began in 2008 many teachers’ salaries either stagnated or were cut.  It’s only recently that those paychecks have seen any relief. During that period housing costs continued to soar and many educators found themselves not being able to afford housing in the districts where they worked.  The LAUSD attempted to deal with the situation by constructing several low-income apartment complexes intended to house teachers priced out of the market in other areas.  Strange but true: as of today no teachers reside in any of the buildings.  A front-page story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times describes the factors leading up to the district’s decision to construct the complexes and explains why they are not housing teachers.  “The problem for teachers, as district officials learned after they had signed the lease agreements and developers had secured funding, was that even the newest hires earned too much to qualify for the units,” it points out.  “Although the district had used its available land before to build affordable housing in Glassell Park, it had never tried to tailor units to teachers.  In attempting to do so, it ran headlong into federal rules that forced developers to set strict income requirements for the apartments.”               The first year of teaching can be one of the most difficult challenges a person can face.  Rachel Thompson is a Dec., 2015, graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, who shares some of the victories and failures of her first full year of teaching English and Latin at a high school in San Antonio.  Her observations appear on EDUCATION WEEK.  ‘So now I am a month into my first full year as a teacher and armed with my many learning experiences from last year,” Thompson shares.  “I’ve been reminded that a teacher’s work is endless, and sometimes I am so tired when I get home from work that I feel I won’t have enough energy to do it all again tomorrow.  Despite the fatigue common to all teachers, though, my classroom management has improved greatly, I am going out of my way to make sure my kids who seem especially closed-off know that I’m thrilled to be their teacher, and I’m planning the best lessons I possibly can.”
 
Obama Reviews His Administration’s Education Initiatives
As his final term in office winds down, Pres. Obama is looking towards cementing his legacy.  Earlier this week he delivered a speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, a well regarded magnet program in Washington, D.C., in which hereviewed his administration’s education policies.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post reprints his full remarks to the students, faculty, staff and special guests.  “So bottom line is:  higher graduation rates, higher college attendance rates, more money for Pell grants,” Obama lists, “and work to make sure that the interest rate on student loans haven’t gone up; working to expand early childhood education and preschool; continuing to watch and work with states as they try to implement reforms to make K-12 better; holding colleges more accountable for giving information so that students can make good decisions.  We’ve made a lot of progress.  We have made a lot of progress in terms of making sure that young people across the country get the kind of great education that you’re getting here at Banneker.  And I am really proud of what we’ve accomplished.             Strauss offers her own follow-up piece to Obama’s speech (see above) in which she analyzes his administration’s programs and pointedly mentions several things he left out of his remarks like testing, Common Core and charter schools.  “It’s what he didn’t say that was most revealing,” she writes.  “A fuller evaluation of the Obama education legacy would look somewhat different from the one he offered.”
 
Charter Schools
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a rather bizarre quirk in California law that allows one school district to authorize the opening of a charter school in a different district.  A California Appellate Court decision handed down Monday ruled against this particular anomaly.  An article in the San Diego Union Tribunedetails the court’s finding in the case.  “The decision is being celebrated as a victory for school districts up and down California,” it explains, “that have lost students and state attendance funds when far-flung charters open ‘resource centers’ in their boundaries without their approval or oversight.”            Carol Burris, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, commented on thesignificance of the court ruling regarding charters (see above).  Burris is the now retired award-winning New York principal who is currently the executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education).  “It is a stunning victory against these charters,” she writes, “which had the full support of the California Charter School Association (CCSA).  CCSA, which is funded by billionaires such as Reed Hastings, Eli Broad, the Waltons and Doris Fisher, is now the most powerful lobby in the state.  The Court of Appeal reversed a lower court decision and its decision covers the entire state. . . . Congratulations to the Anderson Union High School District who had the guts to stand up for its taxpayers and students.”   Last week the NAACP national board ratified a proposal approved at its annual convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion (highlighted in several previous editions of the “Ed News”).  Editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post castigated the venerable civil rights organization for its position. Both Mercedes Schneider and Peter Greene, on their respective blogs, came to the defense of the NAACP against the attacks (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  An essay in ALTERNET takes the Times and Post to task for their commentaries.  “The Times and the Post fail to see the charter school industry for what it is—a privatization juggernaut.  It receives massive funding from the richest Americans,” the author suggests, “who incorrectly blame traditional schools for not solving poverty.  It benefits from seductive marketing that goes unquestioned, with major media often acting as its propaganda wing.  In too many communities, charters present a false hope, as many local activists and parent groups have found.  Scarce funds are redirected from traditional schools, students are cherry-picked as communities are roiled and divided, and better educational outcomes are not guaranteed.”  (This article includes links to both editorials.)               Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story in the L.A. Timesabout the Huntington Park City Council voting to extend a ban on the expansion or creation of new charters in the city.  In a follow-up article, the Times reported yesterday that the council did, in fact, vote 4-1 Tuesday night to make that moratorium last until September of next year.  However, there is a question about whether municipalities can enact such bans.  “It’s unclear whether the city has legal authority to enact the ban.  Only school districts, counties and the state can authorize or reject charter schools,” the article points out.  “Cities, however, do control zoning and can decide whether or not to grant permits.  The California Charter Schools Assn. has said it may sue the city over the moratorium.  The city is attractive to charters because its zoning policies are looser than those of other nearby cities.”               The concept of charter schools is approaching its 25th anniversary.  For most of that quarter century charters have been in the ascendancy.  However, as the 2016-17 school year dawns, charters are facing some serious challenges.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, points out some of those problems.  “But as school year 2016-17 rolls out, the charter industry finds it faces formidable new challenges from many unexpected corners,” he maintains, “including prominent civil rights groups, grassroots organizers, and an increasingly skeptical Democratic party.  What happened?  A new omnibus report helps answer that question by explaining what made charter schools an instant public relations hit, how they were able to fly under the radar of public scrutiny for so long, and why challenges to the sector are arising now.”  Bryant proceeds to chronicle some of the challenges now facing the charter sector and reviews the study he mentioned.
 
Corporate “Reform”
The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) were able to improve student test scores enough to avoid a Republican-engineered takeover of the district.  A brief item on the Sheperd EXPRESS website explains the threat the district was under and how it was able to avoid the takeover.  “It’s a huge victory for MPS,” it declares, “and the many public school advocates—including Schools and Communities United, the teachers’ union and MPS parents—who pushed back on the takeover.” 
 
Spending on Education Creeps Up
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has a new report out that demonstrates the amount of overall national spending on K-12 education has increased by 1.2% from the 2013 to the 2014 fiscal year.  Federal spending declined by the same percentage (3.9%) that state funding increased according to the figures.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a short item about the NCES study.  Here’s a link to a short summary of the report from the NCES Blog and you can find the full paper (43 pages) titled “Revenues and Expenditures for Public and Secondary Education: School Year 2012-13 (Fiscal Year 2013)” by clicking here.
 
Chocolate Milk Making a Comeback?
The LAUSD board voted Tuesday to reintroduce flavored milks to a few campuses on an experimental basis.  Students appear to be more and more averse to drinking plain milk and much of it is ending up in the trash.  “What [board member Monica] Ratliff proposed, and the board endorsed, is a four-part study in 21 schools that would treat school cafeterias as behavioral science laboratories,”  a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times explains.  “Will L.A. Unified school children drink more plain milk if they are also offered the sugary variety, as one study suggests?  How might they respond if plain milk is offered to them in an appealing display case, or if they are shown an information campaign about how milk is good for them?”
 
Election 2016
The third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took place Wednesday in Las Vegas.  Like the previous two, there was scant attention paid to K-12 education issues.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEKreviews what little was said on the topic and concludes with some specific questions that could (should) have been asked.  “So concludes a long, parched walk in the desert for education in these debates.  Education was barely mentioned at all in the first debate,” it complains, “with child-care issues getting slightly more attention.  And in the second debate, Clinton criticized Trump for setting a bad example for children, following a question about that issue posed by a teacher—but other than that, there wasn’t much at all.”   Be sure and check out the photo of the young protester in front of the White House and what he would like to see the candidates achieve.  😊  (It’s toward the end of the piece.  You can’t miss it.)
 
Over Reliance on School Police Officers
A new study from the ACLU finds that many school districts in California give overly broad powers to school police in dealing with student misbehavior.  A item in yesterday’s L.A. Times features the report’s findings and some of its recommendations.  “School administrators often outsource what used to be routine, in-school discipline to police officers. And when they do,” it relates, “the effects are disproportionately harsh for poor, minority and disabled students, who are more likely to be arrested than their peers.”  The story includes a link to the full ACLU report (44 pages) titled “The Right to Remain a Student: How California School Policies Fail to Protect and Serve.”
 
Adolescent Brain Science
And finally, the last book discussed by the ALOED Book Club in September was Laurence Steinberg’s “Age of Opportunity” about adolescent brain development and how it impacts learning.  A commentary in EDUCATION WEEK by Thomas Armstrong, educator, psychologist and author, covers some of the same ground that Steinberg does and suggests some ways the latest brain science can translate into effective teaching techniques.  “Some educators may be content to continue making the conversation on secondary school reform be about raising academic standards,” he writes, “creating more-rigorous courses, or achieving ‘excellence’ in other ways.  But the most tangible element in middle school and high school learning is the adolescent brain—this incredible three-pound organism designed by nature over hundreds of thousands of years to react with excitement and awe to the amazing world that stretches out before it.”  Armstrong’s latest book, out in July, is titled “The Power of the Adolescent Brain: Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students.”
                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “Education is the best weapon to fight against the adversity of life.” 

 ― Debasish Mridha

 
Charter Schools

The LAUSD reached an agreement to fund the retirement benefitsof 10 educators who worked for several years at the El Camino Real Charter High School before returning briefly to the LAUSD.  The details are a bit convoluted but are covered in a story in the Oct. 10, L.A. Times.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted the situation.  “Six months ago, when senior officials learned of the employees’ intentions,” the article explains, “L.A. Unified refused to provide the benefits, which will cost the district and taxpayers $2.5 million to $3 million over the life of the retirees, according to actuarial estimates.  Nearly 50 charter teachers had done the same in the past without opposition from L.A. Unified.  But this time, district officials came under scrutiny after The Times inquired about the practice.  And they disliked that El Camino paid bonuses as high as $30,000 apiece if the employees took their retirement costs away from El Camino.”              El Camino Real Charter High School is getting closer to having itscharter revoked despite some previous personnel changes made to deal with problems related to the misuse of a school credit card.  An article in Friday’s Times outlines the latest LAUSD board action aimed at retaking control of the Woodland Hills campus.  “The school district has accused the school of inappropriate spending,” it reports, “poor accounting and oversight, and violations of public meeting rules. . . . The latest Los Angeles Unified School District report acknowledges that the school has academic strengths but claims the charter has not done enough to fix its operations.”                3 Gülen-linked Magnolia Science Academy campuses in the LAUSD may lose their charters over the hiring of Turkish teachers and other infractions according to a story in Thursday’s Times.  The 3 are located in Van Nuys, Reseda and Carson and are part of a group of 10 campuses in the LAUSD with ties to reclusive Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen.  The district’s board received a report outlining the hiring practices and other financial irregularities last week and is scheduled to vote on applications to reauthorize the schools’ charters today.  The article indicates that district staff will recommend they be denied. “Magnolia’s schools have attracted increased attention in the wake of a failed coup in Turkey in July.  The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” the item notes, “has accused Turkish cleric Muhammed Fethullah Gülen of masterminding the revolt.  Erdogan claims American charter schools with Turkish ties supported — and even helped fund — Gülen’s alleged activities.”             The Turkish government has formally requested that the Obama administration extraditeFethullah Gülen in order to face charges that he helped plan and carry out a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July (also see above).  The U.S. government is not completely convinced that the evidence presented to them relating to the charges is compelling enough to comply with the request.  However, Turkey is a key NATO ally, partner in the fight against ISIS and hosts a major U.S. airbase.  Turning down the extradition application could cause a major rift in the alliance.  All of this is laid out in a piece in Saturday’sTimes.  “Gülen, now 75, has lived the last 17 years in self-imposed exile at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, and rarely goes out,” it explains.  “He leads what he describes as a peaceful religious, educational and cultural organization.  He has acknowledged that some of his followers may have participated in the attempted government overthrow, but he said they were not acting on his orders and that he played no role. . . . To hear Turkish authorities tell it, Turks loyal to Gülen, and trained in what critics portray as a cult-like empire of schools and mosques, have steadily, over years, infiltrated Turkish institutions and moved into positions of power.  Gülen’s followers penetrated, this version contends, the top echelons of Turkey’s military; many levels of the judiciary, intelligence services and police; financial institutions; schools across the board; newspapers and other media.”               The NAACP’s national board endorsed the resolution passed at the organization’s annual convention that called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools in this country.  You can find the News Release announcing the action on the NAACP’s website byclicking here.  “Historically the NAACP has been in strong support of public education,” it reads, “and has denounced movements toward privatization that divert public funds to support non-public school choices.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, defends the NAACP for its action on charter schools(see above) and chastises a New York Times editorial for being critical of the civil rights group’s decision.  See also reprints the press release issued by the NAACP calling for the charter moratorium and includes a link to the Times’ editorial calling the action “misguided.”                You can probably imagine how charter proponents reacted to the NAACP decision to place a moratorium on charter expansion (see the two items above).  If you think they were not happy campers, you’re absolutely right!  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reviews some of the flak the civil rights organization has been taking for its position and counters some of the charges leveled against the group.  Greene’s piece is titled “The NAACP: Ignorant Dupes?”               The corporate “reformers” love to complain about failing” public schools and why they should be closed.  They almost never mention the under-funding and the poor support those schools receive.  Those same “reformers” never talk about failing charter schools.  The (Raleigh)News & Observer describes the Hope Charter Leadership Academy in that city that serves 123 minority students and is threatened with losing its charter over low test scores and poor academic growth.  “With Hope’s charter set to expire after June 2016,” the story points out, “the State Board accepted the advisory board’s recommendation to give a three-year renewal.  But the renewal came with a stipulation that Hope had to meet annual growth targets on state exams.”           Award-winning high school principal (now retired) Carol Burris, who is currently executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), publishes the third of her four part series on charter schools in California.  In this installment, which appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, she investigates the very tangled web of for-profit and nonprofit charters in the Golden State.  Burris uses the Wise Academy located at a Girl Scout camp west of San Rafael as her case study.  The campus is a prime example of a bizarre aspect of the law that allows a charter school to be authorized by one school district even if it’s not physically located in that district.  Yes, you read that correctly!  “How many students attend Wise Academy and how well do they achieve?  For the taxpaying public, that is a mystery.  You cannot find this K-6 charter school, which has been in operation for three years, on the state’s Education Department website.  Rick Bagley, the superintendent of the Ross Valley School District in which Wise is located, was never informed of its presence as required by law.”   You’ll need to sit down and fasten your seat belt to follow the twist and turns of the Wise Academy story.  If you want to further understand the charter “mess” in California, it will be well worth the “drive.”  If you need or want a review you can catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of Burris’ series.               Is the tide of charter expansion beginning to ebb?  Check out the next two items for a possible answer.  First, the LAUSD board could decide today at their meeting to revoke the charters of 6 district schools: 3 Magnolia Science Academies, 2 from the Celebrity Educational Group and the El Camino Real Charter High School.  The reasons for the actions are detailed in a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “All the schools do pretty well or better academically,” it explains, “which leads those who support charters to assert that the recommendations are unfair.  Critics of charters — and those who have issues with the six under review — are applauding L.A. Unified for holding these schools accountable for their entire operations, inside and outside the classroom.”               Second, the City of Huntington Park, located a little south and east of downtown L.A., may vote today to place a one year ban on new charters within the city limits.  City council members previously decided to ban them for 45 days and will be debating at their meeting whether to extend the moratorium.  “The small, densely populated city of Huntington Park is peppered with schools,” an article in today’sTimes notes, “about two dozen in 3 square miles.  At least 10 are charters, and city leaders contend they’re bringing in unwanted traffic.   Their solution is to try to ban new charter schools. . . . The city once was a cultural and shopping destination for Mexican and Central American immigrants in southeast Los Angeles County, but local businesses have struggled recently.”  [Ed. note: Full disclosure: I worked at Huntington Park High School for 26 years before retiring in 2009.  To my knowledge, there were just a couple of charters in the community during the last several years that I was there.]
Chicago Teachers Union Reaches Last-Minute Contract
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) was poised to hit the picket lines on Tuesday, Oct. 11, but a late-night tentative agreement was reached with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on Monday and the strike was averted.  The contract still needs to be approved by the union’s House of Delegates and voted on by the rank-and-file members.  The Chicago Tribune has the down-to-the-wire, last-minute details. “Monday’s late night dramatics followed well over a year of negotiations to replace a contract reached after a seven day strike in 2012.  A key union demand,” it relates, “has been more money for schools, particularly from special taxing districts, and indications were [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel’s administration was coming through on that front.  Emanuel agreed to declare surplus from tax increment financing districts of $175 million, three sources told the Chicago Tribune.  CPS would get at least half of that amount, the sources said.”               A follow-up story in EDUCATION WEEK provides additional details of the contract agreement reached between the CTU and CPS last Monday (see above) but suggests it might be very temporary and could conceivably fall apart.  “Teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district,” it begins, “pulled back from a threatened strike after a tentative last-minute contract agreement that Chicago officials acknowledged Tuesday may amount to a temporary fix and parents worried would fall apart. . . .  But even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who fought bitterly with [CTU Pres. Karen] Lewis before and during the 2012 teachers’ strike, praised the union and the Chicago Public Schools in a speech in which he introduced his 2017 budget proposal, it still isn’t clear how the financially strapped city will pay for the four-year deal.”
 
The Teaching Profession
How would you describe the teacher-principal relationship at your school?  In an piece titled “Teacher-Principal Relationships: Are We Building Bridges or Burning Them?” Peter DeWitt, on the “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK, looks carefully at that critical partnership.  He’s a former K-5 public school principal so he has some experience in that area.  DeWitt looks at the perceived relationship from both points of view and offers some suggestions for making it a bridge building partnership.  “Schools will only be a better place for learning when the adults learn how to work better together. This is not a huge surprise…no big secret here.  Yet, time and time again,” he maintains, “principals and teachers seem to be working from different sides and use language that helps create barriers instead of bridges.”                 Cartoon of the day:
 
 Frazz                                                                                 By Jeff Mallett
 
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Nationwide Rally in Support of Public Schools
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, recaps the series of nationwide rallies held at over 2,000 schools in 20 cities on Oct. 6.  Organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), the “walk-ins” reportedly drew over 100,000 parents, teachers and community activists.  “The walk-ins, rather than tightly scripted affairs, were mostly an opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns about public education where they live,”Bryant writes, “and their support for their local schools and public education in general.  Despite the lack of coordinated messaging, crowds were surprisingly unified in expressing their exasperation with government leaders who continue to shirk their responsibilities to provide all children with the opportunity to get a high-quality education.”  Bryant attended one of the protests in Raleigh, North Carolina, where NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen Garcia addressed the participants.  Events in a number of other cities are highlighted including mention of what took place at one school in Fresno.
LAUSD Magnets are VERY Popular
The “Education Matters” column in Friday’s L.A. Times describes how difficult it is to gain acceptance to the LAUSD’s more competitive magnet school programs.  Applications for the popular campuses are being accepted until Nov. 10.  “Fewer than half of students who applied to a magnet for the 2016-17 school year were accepted: There were approximately 44,000 applicants, about 21,000 of whom received an initial spot,” the item points out.  “And though it wasn’t so hard to get into many of the magnets, and the median magnet school acceptance rate for this school year was 83%, a small number of top schools got a large number of applicants.  The most popular magnet accepted just over 3% of those who applied.”  The article includes a graph illustrating the most competitive campuses and provides some tips for navigating the points-based lottery system for acceptance.
 
Corporate “Reform”
Diane Ravitch’s blog has been featuring, on occasion, the works of Some DamPoet who parodies famous verses in order to poke fun at different education policies and personalities.  This time the target of ridicule is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their string of failed attempts at corporate education “reform.”  Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” provides the basis for the parody.  [Ed. note: Full disclosure: This is one of my favorite poems since my dad introduced it to me when I was 11 or 12 years old.]   This effort is titled “The Charge of the Gates Brigade” and begins like this:

                                                                         Half a wit, half a wit

Half a wit onward,

                                                                        All in the Valley of Dumb

                                                                        Bill and Mel foundered

If you’d like to check out the original version of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” you can find it by clicking here.       If you’re not quite sure how to counter the corporate “reform” arguments for why public schools should be run like businesses, check out this handy graphic from Ben Orlin on his Math with Bad Drawingswebsite.  He’s a math teacher, currently residing in Birmingham, England, who previously taught in Oakland, CA.  His contribution to the cause is titled “Why ‘Competitive Marketplaces’ are an Awkward Fit for Education.”               Why do the billionaire philanthropists and their foundations continue to push for corporate “reforms” that are not research based?  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, ponders that same question.  His commentary bears the alliterative title “Rich Reformers Reject Research.”   Thompson once again references the recently published volume “Learning From the Federal Market-based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” from the NEPC (National Education Policy Center) out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, that the “Ed News” has highlighted on several occasions.

                                    

Election 2016
As of today (Tuesday) there are exactly 3 weeks remaining before the Nov. 8, election.  Besides the usual votes for President, U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, judges and other local offices and measures, California voters will be faced with a daunting 17 propositions.  3 of them involve education-related issues, Prop. 51, 55 and 58.  The latter two deal with extending a tax increase on the wealthy to help pay for schools (55) and reinstating bilingual education programs (58).  They were both highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News.”  The very first statewide initiative on the ballot that voters will be faced with is Prop. 51,  a $9 billion bond issue for construction and modernization of schools.  An “Election Watch” feature in Saturday’s L.A. Times offers a Q & A with information about the measure.              EDUCATION WEEK joins the discussion over Prop. 58 (see above) that would return bilingual instruction to California.  “Nearly 20 years after voting to restrict bilingual education in a state with more than 1 million schoolchildren who don’t speak English as their first language,” it begins, “California voters appear poised to reverse that ban.  Next month, voters will decide the fate of a statewide ballot question that would bring an end to the restrictions of Proposition 227 and close out California’s official era of English-only instruction.”              Valerie Strauss, on her blog in The Washington Post asked both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to respond to a series of identical questions about their position’s on important K-12 education issues.  “Public education is one of the most important issues the country faces,” she writes by way of introduction, “but there has been little discussion about it during this campaign cycle.  The Post’s education team asked questions about a number of topics, including school funding, school choice, standardized testing, early-childhood education and the Common Core State Standards.  And we asked some personal questions, including whether they ever cheated in school.”  You can read their responses (or lack thereof) by clicking here.                Steven Singer, on hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, notes the dearth of discussion about education policy at the second presidential debate last Sunday, so he creates a hypothetical give-and-take between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the topic.  Singer plays the part of the moderator and his scenario is humorous in parts, scary in parts and a bit uncouth in parts.  So sit back with your favorite beverage and enjoy it for what it is.  [Ed. note: Full disclosure: Singer was for Bernie Sanders.  His final comment makes it abundantly clear what he thinks about the two major candidates.]
New Federal Rules for Rating Teacher Prep Programs
The U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) released final rules on how states will evaluate their teacher preparation programs.  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK has an overview.  The highly anticipated regulations were first proposed in 2014.  They “aim to hold teacher-training programs accountable for the performance of their graduates, and they make it mandatory for states to provide aspiring teachers a way of pre-evaluating programs.  Under the rules,” the item relates, “states will be required each year to rate all of its traditional, alternative and distance prep programs as either effective, at-risk, or low-performing. . . .  The annual ratings are to be based on several metrics, such as the number of graduates who get jobs in high-needs schools, how long these graduates stay in the teaching profession, and how effective they are as teachers, judging from classroom observations as well as their students’ academic performance.”  Student test scores do NOT have to be part of the evaluation although that determination is ultimately left up to the individual states.                An editorial in The New York Times describes teacher training in the U.S. as “abysmal” andsupports the new rules promulgated by the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) regarding how states can evaluate their teacher preparation programs (see above).    “The new rules represent a necessary first step in broader reforms of teacher preparation,” the piece concludes.  “Eventually, for example, schools of education will have to become more rigorous and selective if the country is to get the caliber of teacher that it clearly needs.”                John Merrow, on his THE MERROW REPORT, is critical of the rules published by the DoE for reforming teacher prep programs and, by extension, The New York Times editorial that supports them (see two items above).  Merrow concedes that teacher training in this country can be improved but believes the ideas laid out by the DoE are not the best way to proceed.  He proposes improving the teaching profession so that top quality candidates would be attracted to a career in education and wouldn’t be so quick to leave due to the fact“teaching has become a crummy job.”  This would cut down on the high rate of teacher turnover and contribute to the reduction in the number of teacher training programs.
Coaching Principals
Most experts would agree that coaching as a form of professional development can be very beneficial to new teachers as well as experienced ones who may be struggling.  What about providingcoaching assistance for principals?  Peter DeWitt, on the “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK, argues “why not!”  His commentary is titled “If Coaching is So Powerful, Why Aren’t Principals Being Coached?”  “Building synergy among leaders and getting them to try new strategies to build collective efficacy among their staff,” DeWitt suggests, “is something coaches can help do, and they often offer an outside perspective because they have worked with many other leaders.”
Graduation Rates Reach New High
The national 4-year high school graduation rate hit a new high of 83.2% for the 2014-15 school year the Obama administration announced yesterday.  It was 82.3% the previous year.  Rates for specific groups also rose across the board.  California’s percentage moved from 81% to 82%.  Number 1 among the states was Iowa with 90.8%.  The District of Columbia was the lowest at 68.5%.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the latest figures plus a link to the state-by-state numbers.  “Graduation rates have now risen for students overall from 79 percent in the 2010-11 school year–the first year all states used the same method to calculate graduation rates,” it reports.  “But over that same period graduation rates for black students rose even faster, by 7.6 percent.  And graduation rates for Hispanic students grew by 6.8 percent.  What’s more, the rates for English-language learners, students in special education, and disadvantaged students also grew faster than for students overall.”               Emily Richmond, writing on the ewa (EDUCATION WRITERS ASSOCIATION)website, believes the latest graduation rates touted by the Obama administration (see above) need to be taken with a grain of salt.  The overall gains are certainly reason to celebrate, she suggests, but digging deeper into the statistics raises some issues and indicates there is still much room for improvement. “To be sure, there still are significant gaps to overcome.  While the average graduation rate for black students rose to 74.6 percent from 67 percent in 2011,” she writes, “that’s still almost four full percentage points lower than where white students were four years ago.  In other words, struggling students might be making gains, but they are not improving fast enough to catch up to their more affluent and white classmates.”
 
Student Privacy Concerns
And finally, Leonie Haimson, writing on the NYC Public School Parents blog, raises some serious issues regarding student privacy over the use of the new Summit/Facebook software platform.  The program is being utilized in over 100 schools.  37 in California and several in L.A.  (You can find the full list of schools on the Summitwebsite by clicking here.  Scroll down about a third of the way to the state-by-state chart.)  She describes how the program is revealing/selling personal student data and not being at all open about it to parents, teachers and school officials. “The Summit platform has never been independently vetted for security protections – or shown to yield any educational benefits,” Haimson suggests, “and I believe is a very radical way to outsource instruction and student data to private companies.”  She prints a long list of questions addressed to Summit regarding their procedures, processes and motives.
 
                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

Ed News, Friday, October 7, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[Ed. note: The “Ed News” will be taking a short break.  
Look for the next edition on Tuesday, Oct. 18.]
“I have always been dismayed by the West’s failure—or unwillingness—
to recognize that establishing secular schools that offer children 
a balanced and nonextremist form of education is probably the cheapest 
and most effective way of combating this kind of indoctrination.” 
Teacher Training
The Relay Graduate School of Education offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree.  The program was created by charter proponents to mostly train educators for charter schools.  The course of study for the degree is rather questionable and for a number of reasons Pennsylvania rejected Relay’s application to offer it in the Keystone State.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “Edublog” at deutsch29, outlines the problems the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education (PDE) reported for turning down the request.  In should be noted that New York, for some reason, approved Relay’s request to offer its MAT in the Empire State.  “Based upon the detailed PDE criticisms levied against Relay for its sham of a masters, I cannot imagine it thinks it stands a chance on appeal in PA,” Schneider writes.  “However, I really would like to see how Relay would manage to pull together a grad-level research library in a charter school back yard.  New York should be embarrassed for its role in pseudo-legitimizing the Relay MAT in the first place.”  [Ed. note: For a more detailed look at the Relay program, see the Carol Burris story on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post by clicking here.]
 
Comparative School District Information
Have you ever tried to find detailed information about school districts much less tried to compare several districts?  It’s not an easy task. EDUCATION WEEK describes a new website that compiles data on 114 cities in 49 states and the District of Columbia compiled by the (gulp) George W. Bush Institute in Dallas.  “Website users, for example, can compare graduation rates, per-pupil spending, teacher salaries, and the availability of early-childhood-education programs in Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa; and San Francisco. . . . Among other measures,” it reports, “that users can see across cities: percentages of new teachers, chronic student-absenteeism rates, completion of federal financial-aid forms, performance on state tests in reading and math, and middle school algebra-completion rates.  Users can further compare cities using filters such as geography, population, race, child-poverty rates, median income, and charter school enrollment.”  The Bush Institute did not make any attempt to rank or grade any of the districts.  The article includes a link to the data base.  [Ed. note: I checked out average teacher salary adjusted for cost of living and came up with these figures: Los Angeles = $66, 167, New York City = $60, 587, Chicago = $56,580; spending per pupil yielded these numbers: Los Angeles, $12,807, New York City, $25,243, Chicago, $14,542.  If you are any kind of an education data nerd or just want to see some hard to find statistics, try it out.]
 
Charter Schools
John Thompson, writing on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, features some new research on charter schools and choice programs being pushed by the corporate “reformers.”  Proponents of those types of policies will not be pleased.  He reviews an anthology of articles in book form titled “Learning From the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) out of the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Thompson’s article is titled “Charters and Choice: Research Shows Negative Impact.”  [Ed. note: The “Ed News” highlighted this volume when it first came out earlier this year.              One of the biggest criticisms of charter schools is their lack of accountability and transparency.  Even in light of these issues, foundations, philanthropists and even the federal Dept. of Education continue to poor millions of dollars into charters.  Now the DoE’s own inspector general is blasting the department for a serious lack of oversight of the grants it awards under its own Charter Schools Program.  An audit conducted by the watchdog agency is featured in Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post.  It “looked at the relationship that several dozen charter schools have had with their own charter management organizations (CMOs),” the piece mentions,  “It found, among other things that there were ‘internal control weaknesses’ related to the schools’ relationships to their CMOs that were so severe that the department’s own program objectives were at ‘significant risk.’” Strauss includes a link to the full report (67 pages) titled “National Assessment of Charter and Education Management Organizations.”  She cites another survey that found some major problems with charters in California: “A 2015 study reported that more than 200 charters have closed in California, nearly one out of every five that have opened, due to a range of issues including financial mismanagement, unsafe school conditions, and material violations of the law.”               U.S. News & World Report also features the audit from the Office of Inspector General (see item above) regarding the effectiveness of charters and the organizations that run them, claiming that they pose a risk to U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) programs and goals. .  The article focuses on some different findings in the report which covers 33 campuses in 6 states which were audited between July, 2011 and March, 2013.  “Specifically, the report found instances of financial risk, including waste, fraud and abuse, lack of accountability over federal funds,” it notes, “and lack of assurances that the schools were implementing federal programs in accordance with federal requirements at 22 of the 33 schools they looked at, all of which were run by management organizations. . . . Moreover, the inspector general’s report found that the Education Department did not have effective internal controls to monitor, evaluate and mitigate those risks, nor did it ensure that state departments of education were overseeing charter schools and their management organizations.”  After findings like this, one has to wonder if the DoE will continue to pour millions of dollars into its Charter Schools Program.                Jeff Bryant, blogging on theEducation Opportunity NETWORK, weighs in on the audit conducted by the Office of Inspector General into charter school funding by the U.S. DoE (see two items above).  He reviews the findings of the report and chronicles a number of states (including California) that have major problems with their charter school sector. His commentary is titled “Federal Government Continues to Feed Charter School Beast Despite Auditor’s Warning.”  “The federal auditor’s report recommends the convening of a formal oversight group to look into charter school financial malfeasance, more rigorous review of charter school operations by federal agencies, and legislative changes in Congress to firm up government oversight,” Bryant concludes.  “Here’s another recommendation: Stop federal funding to expand these schools.”            Mercedes Schneider, on her blog at deutsch29, continues to monitor the millions of dollars, much of it from out of state, being channeled to the committees in support of Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot in November.  The measure would lift the cap on the number of charters in the state.  “To date, the ballot committees in favor of Question 2,” she points out, “have raised just shy of $14.5 million in unique dollars to expand charters in MA– with $8.6 million of that amount (60 percent) coming from New York-based Families for Excellent Schools– and being dumped into the coffers of Great Schools Massachusetts.  In contrast, the single ballot committee opposing Question 2, Save Our Public Schools, has raised $7.2 million– just under half of the amount raised by the pro-charter-expansion camp.” Why is so much money being funneled into promoting Question 2 when a recently released poll of 403 “likely voters” in Massachusetts conducted between Sept. 27th and Oct. 3rd found 47% opposed, 34% in favor and 18% undecided?  I’ll let you answer that question.             Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a court decision that would force Ohio’s largest online charter, ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow), to refund over $60 million in taxpayer dollars it collected for what turned out to be inflated attendance figures.  A follow-up story in The Columbus Dispatchmentions 8 other cyber or online schools that could be forced to turn over to the State Dept. of Education about $23 million also for over reporting attendance numbers.  “In all, the eight schools reported 4,998 students, but the state verified 1,654 students, one third of the total,” it reveals.  “That includes Quaker Digital Academy and the Buckeye Online School for Success, which got credit for zero students.”               Have you ever attended a traditional public school district board meeting?  How about a charter school board meeting?  The “Teacher in a Strange Land” column in EDUCATION WEEK is titled “Seven Things I Learned From Attending a Charter School Board Meeting.”  It’s written by Nancy Flanagan, who describes herself as “a school board meeting veteran,” and who decided to attend the local charter school board meeting of the Grand Traverse Academy.  A K-12 campus in Traverse City, Michigan.  “I did this,” she writes, “because the charter in question had been ‘coopted by [an] unreliable and ethically challenged operator.’  This is no longer a secret, but the school operated for more than a decade before its founder and ‘curriculum’ creator was indicted for tax fraud.  Steve Ingersoll, an optometrist–the aforementioned ethically challenged operator –was charging the school $12,500/month for this so-called curriculum, Integrated Visual Learning, Ingersoll’s ‘intellectual property,’ an ‘extension of behavioral optometry into the field of education.’  Two years after his indictment, he was still collecting $12,500, monthly.”  Flanagan’s descriptions of the meeting and observations of the board are quite enlightening.               The troubled El Camino Real Charter High School announced amanagement shake-up yesterday in an attempt to stave off having their charter revoked by the LAUSD board for certain financial irregularities and questionable spending with a school credit card.  Several previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted problems at the campus.  A story in today’s L.A. Times details the latest developments.  “The moves were the latest efforts to prevent the Woodland Hills campus from being taken over by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which owns the property and ran the school until 2011.  L.A. Unified sent El Camino a ‘Notice of Violations’ in August, a possible precursor to shutting down the independently operated charter school. The district accused charter leaders of inappropriate spending, poor fiscal controls and open-meeting violations.  Charter supporters insist that the school has made great strides and that being run once again by the school system would be a step backward.”
 
National Anthem Protests

San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting police treatment of African-Americans by quietly kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at the start of games this season.  As some previous editions of the “Ed News” reported, that action soon spread to college, high school and even younger athletes.  EDUCATION WEEK offers a primer from Frank LoMonte, a First Amendment expert and Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, who explains how school officials should react to such protests if they occur at their schools.  LoMonte provides answers to some FAQs about the actions.  One key question he addresses: “Can schools discipline students for national-anthem protests?  I think you’ll find his responses most enlightening.
 
The Next Sec. of Education
Before it was Arne Duncan; now it’s John King.  What would you do if YOU were the next U.S. Secretary of Education?  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, contemplates that scenario in a piece he titles “If I Were Secretary of Education–A Classroom Teacher’s Fantasy.”  Singer lists 5 things he would do as Sec. of Education.  I agree with everyone of his proposals but I’m especially enamored of this last one: “Do Everything I Can to Increase Teacher Autonomy, Respect, Pay and Training.” About that idea he writes: “Finally, I would use my position as Education Secretary to boost the greatest resource we have to help students learn – teachers.”  Hear, Hear!               C.M. Rubin has been conducting a series of interviews with possible candidates to be the next Secretary of Education under a Trump or Clinton administration beginning in January of next year.  The first 3 were featured on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post and were highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News.”  I found her fourth and most recent conversation on Rubin’s own CMRubin World blog and it’s with, none other than, Diane Ravitch.  In response to a question about the legacy of NCLB and Race to the Top, Ravitch answered this way: “In my view, historians will look on this era as a period of failed mandates, of willful and ignorant attacks on public education and the education profession and as a time in which entrepreneurs sought to turn education into a marketplace for profit.”
 
Testing and Assessment
Since NCLB took effect over 15 years ago the mantra that’s been repeated over and over is that standardized testing is the ONLY way to assess the educational achievement of American students.  Recently, through a number of scholarly research projects, the opt out movement and other things, that idea is being called into serious question.  Now the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, has issued a new report titled “Assessment Matters: Constructing Model States Systems to Replace Testing Overkill” that takes a detailed look at alternative assessments for measuring student academic progress.  Monty Neill, executive director of the organization, writes a guest column on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post about his group’s latest report. “The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced NCLB,” he points out, “allows states to shift the thrust of accountability away from punishing schools and teachers.  Instead it allows them to focus on providing genuine help to improve educational quality and equity.  ESSA also includes an ‘Innovative Assessment’ pilot project, which opens the door to significantly better assessments.  The word ‘assess’ comes from the Latin term meaning ‘to sit beside.’ Assessing implies a direct and active relationship between or among people.  Assessing could involve an observation by a teacher, a conversation between teacher and student, or reviewing a student’s work.  It typically includes interaction to provide feedback or find out more about the student’s thinking or depth of knowledge.”

The Teaching Profession
Now that the new school year is in full swing, new teachers are getting their feet wet in the profession.  Cristie Watson, author of this piece for EDUCATION WEEK, is a National Board Certified teacher of 6th grade English Language Arts and social studies in North Carolina, offers advice in the form of 5 questions those new teachers should ask about their teaching assignment and the school where they are working.  One example: “What support can I expect to receive?”  “As everyone in education knows, it’s not just the students who feel nervous, excited, and hopeful about the beginning of the school year,” Watson concludes.  “Teachers of every experience level feel some anxiety, knowing it’s impossible to have all the answers when standing in front of students.  Schools can ease anxieties, though, by promoting honest conversation about expectations, culture, and community during those first few weeks.  And it benefits all teachers to remember this life lesson that we work so hard to impress upon our students—sometimes the key to meaningful learning and success is simply asking the right questions.”              Do things like merit pay and other performance based rewards work in education and other fields?  Alfie Kohn, on his eponymous Alfie Kohn website makes the case that they don’t.  Kohn is a widely read author and speaker on human behavior, education and parenting.  He reviews some of the latest research on handing out rewards and bonuses for certain types of behaviors.  “For nearly half a century, research has raised troubling questions about the practice of dangling rewards in front of people to get them to do what we want,” he begins.  “It doesn’t matter whether the people in question are male or female, children or adults.  It doesn’t matter whether the rewards are stickers, food, grades, or money.  It doesn’t matter whether the goal is to get them to work harder, learn better, act nicely, or lose weight.  What the studies keep telling us is that rewards, like punishments, tend not only to be ineffective — particularly over the long haul — but often to undermine the very thing we’re trying to promote.”              Even with a well documented teacher shortage plaguing a number of states, this member of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs), who happens to be a veteran teacher, is having trouble finding a job.  The author, wishes to remain anonymous but reveals that he/she is a veteran public school elementary teacher.  Writing on theundercoverBATS Blog the person offers “47 Reasons I Can’t Find a Teaching Job.”               Most educators and people in general are aware of bullying between students.  What they may be less aware of is workplace bullying between adults.  Cheryl Binkley, the author of the Third Millenium Teacher blog, a writer and former teacher who lives in Virginia, addresses the little known issue and fingers the corporate “reform” movement as a prime culprit for its existence.  Her essay is titled “Has Education Reform Turned the Schools of America into Hostile Workplaces?”  She looks at a Badass Teachers Association (BATs)/AFT Quality of Work Life Survey from 2015 for some surprising data on workplace bullying in schools and lists some of the behaviors experienced by adult victims of bullying.  “After 20 years of ever tightening Education Reform, it may be the single achievement of Corporate Reform that it has turned school, one of the most positive places in society,” Binkley maintains, “into possibly the most toxic hostile workplaces in the country.”               The financial services website Wallethub does an annual survey to rank the best and worst states for teachers based on 16 indicators of “teacher-friendliness.”  Can you guess which state came in at #1?  Check out the article for the answer (hint: it wasn’t California which rated 35th–ugh.  The worst state was Hawaii.)  Be sure to scroll through the entire article for the full rankings.  Clicking on a state on the map under “Main Findings” will yield it ranking and about 3/4 of the way down you’ll come to “Methodology” which describes the 16 indicators and how the rankings were arrived at.               Any idea what percentage of the U.S. teaching force is in their first or second year in the classroom?  Based on an EDUCATION WEEK Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Dept. of Education, the figure nationwide is 12%.  Some states have as much as 15%.  That’s a fairly high number, according to Ed Week, when you consider how difficult the first couple of years of teaching can be.  What do you think the figure is in California?  9%.  The state with the highest number of novice teachers is Florida with a whopping 29%  The lowest reported was 6% in Georgia.  “The data, while still under review, are consistent with other recent research pointing to a ‘greening’ trend in teaching over the past 20 years,” the item mentions.  “They also raise questions both about the overall stability of the teaching force and the ability of school systems to provide adequate support to so many novices. . . . However, the prevalence of inexperienced teachers varies significantly from state to state and district to district.  And experts caution that the problem is often pronounced in particular schools, so it may be, in effect, more of a local than a national issue.”  This piece includes an interactive map which you can click on to see individual state’s percentage of new teachers.
 
Election 2016
Both major party presidential candidates have offered little in the way of policy proposals regarding education.  Republican candidate Donald Trump recently presented some proposals regarding school choice and early-childhood education.  EDUCATION WEEKoffers an analysis of those plans.  It found the programs a refreshing change from the previous lack of initiatives on those subjects but was critical of Trump’s lack of detail.  The piece compares Trump’s ideas to those of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.  “Observers also expressed concern not only that the substance of Trump’s plans lack detail or leave many unanswered questions,” it suggests, “but also could cause problems down the road if he were to actually push them in a presidential administration.”
 
Clown Costumes Banned at Some Schools 
What is going on here?  With Halloween at the end of the month, a series of social media-based threats hinting at violent things people dressed as clowns may do has caused some school districts to ban clown costumes on campus.  No kidding!  This is not the first time certain types of costumes have been banned according to a column by Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.  She focuses on the New Haven School District in Connecticut but mentions others with current bans and reviews previous proclamations against certain outfits including a mention of one California elementary school clamping down last year on any racially or ethnically themed garments.  Strauss references a news story in her paper about the rash of “clown threats” around the country.  You can find that article, titled “Scary Clown Rumors, Threats Feed Hysteria, Leading to School Lockdowns, Arrests,” by clicking here.  It describes a scary threat involving a clown at James Madison University.  “The James Madison University clown fright was just one of hundreds that have erupted this week at colleges, high schools and grade schools across the country,” the two reporters relate,” forcing learning institutions to respond seriously to a growing national hysteria that many had previously regarded as a laughing matter.”              Just how bad are things getting on the clown threats front?  The Modesto Bee reports a 16-year-old boy was arrested and booked into juvenile hall for making threats about killing all the students at his continuation high school.  That’s how bad!  “Using a clown-themed twitter handle,” the brief story reports, “the teen posted on Instagram on Wednesday night that he would go to Escalon High School on Thursday morning and ‘kill all you kids,’ according to police Chief Mike Borges.  He said it was accompanied by a photo of a blood-stained bed.”  The town of Escalon is about 80 miles due east of San Francisco in the Central Valley.             Another clown incident was reported in Lincoln, Nebraska and one in Oregon.

Negotiators in Chicago Trying to Avert Another Teachers’ Strike
4 years ago the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) walked out of their classrooms for 7 days.  Several weeks ago they set another strike deadline for Oct. 11.  Negotiations will continue through the upcoming Columbus Day weekend in an attempt to avert another strike.  EDUCATION WEEK has the latest details as the deadline rapidly approaches.  “With the uncertainty over the strike, the district has published contingency plans for students and parents.  While classes would be canceled,” it reports, “schools would be open, and students would be able to get free breakfast and lunches, take online classes, and participate in arts and crafts. The district was also planning to work with community programs to help coordinate child-care options for parents.”
 
“Walk-Ins” Take Place Around the Country
While Chicago teachers are preparing for a possible walk-out of their classrooms next week (see headline above), the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) organized a series of “walk-ins” yesterday in  200 cities involving 2,000 schools.  THE HECHINGER REPORT describes the day’s actions and what was hoped to be gained by the demonstrations.  “On their day of action, hundreds of affiliated parent, education and student groups,” it explains, “rallied to end what AROS called ‘the long-standing and systematic under-funding of their public schools.’”
 
Too Big to Jail
And finally, Valerie Strauss once again turns her column in The Washington Post over to a guest blogger.  This time it’s Larry Cuban, who was a high school social studies teacher for 14 years, a district superintendent in Virginia for 7 and is professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and the author of a number of books.  He raises an intriguing point about how banks and their  CEOs are treated quite differently from school personnel when both are involved in questionable activities.  No one has been jailed in the recent Wells Fargo Bank funny business regarding unwanted accounts;  not one bank CEO went to jail for events surrounding the Great Recession that began in 2008.  And yet 11 Atlanta educators were tried and convicted of involvement in a standardized test cheating scandal and are now serving from one to seven years in various Georgia prisons.  Cuban sees a serious double standard at play here.  The corporate “reformers” are constantly demanding accountability from the traditional public schools and their teachers to the point that educators are sent to jail for their involvement in a test cheating scandal.  Where’s the same type of accountability from banks and their CEOs when they lie, cheat and steal from the public?  Cuban goes into great detail about the wrongdoing by the banks and educators and attempts to explain why the two groups are treated so differently.  “Corporate leaders, backed by large sums of money, hired lobbyists to influence legislators to deregulate airlines, banks, pharmaceuticals, and other industries so that more money would flow to the already rich,” he concludes.  “To the rich, public institutions were  feeding at the tax-payer trough and were not as efficient and effective as private sector companies.  Accountability was needed, business leaders said, to hold public officials in schools, hospitals, and prisons to be responsible for student outcomes, curing illnesses, and punishing criminals.  And that is how I explain why no CEO of a company heavily involved in the chicanery of the Great Recession of 2008 has gotten convicted while some Atlanta school employees went to jail.”
 
 
                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, October 4, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Education helps you to create a new world 
 which is uniquely yours to live and enjoy.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Heat and Faulty Classroom AC
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article in the L.A. Times about a number of LAUSD classrooms that had issues with their air conditioning.  It prompted 2 letters that appear in Saturday’s paper.
 
Testing
Of the two testing consortia, PARCC and SBAC, that were created to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core, the former is facing severe financial challenges due to numerous states abandoning the consortium.  The situation became so dire thatPARCC solicited advice from various organizations about how it could right its ship.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” atdeutsch29, reviews the suggestions collected from the RFI (Request For Information) and, in a fairly lengthy post, shares them with her readers.  If you’d like to know the (sorry) state of one of the members of the consortia, take some time (she suggests you make yourself comfortable and grab a favorite beverage) and see for yourself what the standards and testing have come to.  “PARCC now has its RFI suggestions.  It needs to decide what it wants to do,”Schneider concludes, ” and it has until the end of the 2016-17 school year (June 2017, to be precise) before its contract with PARCC, Inc., expires.  We’ll see if PARCC hands itself over to Smarter Balanced– or if Smarter Balanced even wants oversight of PARCC.  I would not be surprised if some PARCC states are already considering jumping the PARCC ship in favor of seemingly more stable Smarter Balanced.  But those states need to be willing to pay the Smarter Balanced membership fee.  Frankly, I don’t see PARCC recovering from this situation as a consortium. We’ll see.”              Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG,detects a bit of hypocrisy among people and groups who oppose the opt out movement and yet claim that testing is democratic and an important civil rights tool.  His main objection has to do with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that left opt out rules to the states but retained the federal mandate that at least 95% of students be tested in each state.  If that benchmark isn’t achieved, the federal government dangles the threat of cutting off funding.  Singer titles his essay “You Can’t Be Anti-Opt Out and Pro-Democracy.”  “Make no mistake. Standardized testing doesn’t help poor minority children.  It does them real harm.  But the testing industry wrapped themselves up in this convenient excuse, ” he argues, “to give lawmakers a reason to stomp all over parental rights.  The conflict wasn’t between civil rights and parental rights.  It was between parental rights and corporate rights.  And our lawmakers sided with the corporations.  Let me be clear: legislators cannot be against opt out and in favor of individual rights.  The two are intimately connected.”
 
The Teaching Profession
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park System.  What does that have to do with education?  Guest blogger Linda Rosenblum, writing for the “Global Learning” column inEDUCATION WEEK, provides some concrete suggestions for “Using National Parks to Teach Global Competencies.” She’s the Education Program Manager and Servicewide Teacher Ranger Teacher Coordinator for the National Park Service.  [Ed. note: Boy!  How can I get that job?] “National Park Service (NPS) parks and historic sites,” she begins, “provide unique opportunities for students to study history, science, civics, culture, and global issues by providing access to primary historical resources, scientific data, subject matter experts and professionals, and community connections to local cultural heritage.”
 
Cartoon of the Day
                                     
 Pearls Before Swine                                                by Stephan Pastis
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Election 2016
The NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION ACTION (NPE ACTION) did not endorse any candidate for president during the primary season.  They are neutral no more.  On Saturday they came out in favor of Hillary Clinton in an announcement on their website.  “Prior to the conventions, NPE Action submitted a position paper to both the Republican and Democratic platform committees.  The Board of NPE Action was heartened to see many of those ideas incorporated into the final draft of the Democratic platform,” it states.  “If Ms. Clinton is elected, NPE Action will lobby for an end to high-stakes testing, a moratorium on new charters, and for regulations to end charter abuses and ensure transparency.  We will also demand a commitment to community schools that are democratically governed so that parents—especially parents of color—have voice in how their children are educated.”               An editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times urges a “no” vote on Prop. 55 on the November ballot in California.  The measure would extend the “temporary” tax increases on wealthy taxpayers until 2030 to pay for schools, healthcare and other programs enacted by voters via Gov. Brown’s Prop. 30 in 2012.  The paper makes the argument about it being unfair and unwise to expect people making over $250,000 to have to pay more in taxes (an additional 1%) because of volatility on Wall Street.  [Ed. note: Yeah, I wasn’t too convinced by that reason, either.]  “The measure would allow the higher sales tax to expire at the end of this year but would continue higher income taxes on top earners,” the piece attempts to argue, “that otherwise would expire in 2018: 1% on annual earnings over $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples, then 2% on higher amounts and finally 3% on the highest earners, in addition to the previous top marginal rate of 9.3%.”  [Ed. note: Could someone explain to me how that’s unfair for a group of wealthy earners who are getting huge tax breaks at the federal level and as the income gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in this country continues to expand?  In addition, the traditional public schools are being bled financial by the growth of charters and Prop. 55 would, at least, give them a fighting chance to compete.  I’m voting “yes” on Prop. 55.]             The one and only vice presidential debate takes place this evening between GOP candidate Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Democrat, current Virginia Senator (and former governor of the state), Tim Kaine. The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEKcompares their education policies as governors of their respective states.  The article uses NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) tests scores as a basis for comparison but offers a strong caveat about drawing any kinds of conclusions from them.  “Which state saw the biggest gains in student achievement, Kaine’s Virginia or Pence’s Indiana?  And maybe more importantly: Does this data say anything about what kind of vice-president either man would be when it comes to education? . . . You should be careful about jumping to big conclusions based on NAEP scores,” it warns.  “The data is fun to look at, if you’re the kind of person who reads wonky education blogs.  But you shouldn’t put a ton of stock in it.  Experts we interviewed for a similar story we wrote just over a year ago say it’s nearly impossible to tell whether a particular governor, or their policies, made any difference when it comes to student achievement.”
 
New California Agency to Assist School Districts
Have you heard of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE)?  If not, don’t feel bad.  It’s a brand new state agency created by law in 2014 that is ready to open for business.  It’s task is to focus exclusively on improving the lowest performing schools and districts in the Golden State.  EDUCATION WEEKhas a profile of the oversight board.  “The agency is budgeted at around $24 million a year and soon is expected to take on a list of five pilot districts or schools,” it details, “and help them design and execute specific and tailored school turnaround programs.  And unlike in most states, districts will opt into the work, rather than having the state pick which districts need work.”  Check out the “At A Glance” sidebar for a quick summary of the CCEE.
 
Charters & Choice
Ohio’s troubled charter network lost another round in court.  A County Common Pleas judge ruled against ECOT’s (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) request to stop the state from requiring it to submit student attendance records in order to collect $106 million in funding.  A story in The Columbus Dispatch outlines the latest case against the charter company.  “The ruling comes four days after the Department of Education informed ECOT that, based on its attendance audit, the district’s reported enrollment last year was inflated by 143 percent.  Instead of the 15,322 full-time students that ECOT was paid for, the department said that based on log-in durations and other data provided by the school, the actual number is 6,313.”  You may wonder why ECOT would inflate its attendance figures.  Ohio, like California, funds students based on daily attendance per pupil.             Stephen Dyer, who blogs on the 10th Period website, put the ECOT ruling (see above) into context and added a few choice words of his own about what it means for traditional public education in Ohio.  His commentary is titled “Taxpayers, Kids Win.  ECOT Loses Lawsuit.  May Have to Repay $60 million.”  Dyer recounts a number of ways ECOT has failed to deliver on a number of promises it has made while fraudulently raking in millions of taxpayer dollars.  The school was founded in 2001.  How have they gotten away with their malfeasance for so long?  They have powerful political allies who have continued to protect them.  “I applaud the Ohio Department of Education for finally standing up to the bully.  I applaud those in the legislature on both sides of the aisle,” he concludes, “who stood up for kids and against the adults who would fail them while robbing their parents blind.  I applaud those pro-charter school reformers who stood up for quality choices for Ohio’s kids rather than more bad ones like ECOT.  Most of all, I applaud the members of the media and advocates who have banged this ECOT drum for 15 years.  And while for too many of those years the drum’s beat was lost on the winds of political power, today it was heard.  Loud and clear.”               Most charter schools are non-union but a good portion of them are also anti-union.  You may ask how is that different but the distinction is key.  Slate has a lengthy investigative piece titled “How Charter Schools Bust Unions.”  It’s sub-titled “By Intimidating Teachers.  By Scaring Parents.  And Sometimes by Calling the Cops.”  The story begins with an attempt to unionize teachers at a high school in Thousand Oaks, California but also surveys movements to organize educators in other cities as well.  “One of the animating impulses behind the push for more charter schools and the broader school-reform movement has been an antipathy toward some of the entrenched institutions of public education—like teachers unions and the teacher protections they champion,” it reports, “which many charter advocates often see as an impediment to accountability and student achievement.  Unlike their counterparts in traditional public schools, charter teachers work for private companies or nonprofits, which typically hire them on annual contracts and are legally allowed to fire them without cause or a formal grievance process.”
Here’s one underhanded way the corporate “reform” movement promotes its agenda of choice.  Close the local traditional public schools in a neighborhood and bingo–instant choice, i.e., parents now get to “choose” which charter they want to send their children to.  Don’t believe it?  Read what’s happening in Philadelphia on thephilly(dot)com website.  The author is a retired Philadelphia teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.  “Education reformers continue to argue that opening more charters at the expense of public schools means increased ‘choice’ for parents,” she concludes.  “Is this really a choice for parents – to send your children to a charter school or pull up stakes?  Parents don’t want to go school shopping any more than consumers wanted to pick an electric company.  They want districts to distribute resources equitably, so that children in every neighborhood have access to safe and stable schools.”               How does Eva Moscowitz and her Success Academy charter schools get totake a school day off on Sept. 28th to allow her teachers, students and their parents to attend a mayoral political rally?  Good question!  Answer:  Because she can.  On Oct. 6th the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools (AROS) is planning a series of “walk-ins” in support of traditional public schools (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”).  Will those teachers, students and parents get to take that school day off?  Answer:  Absolutely not.  That demonstration will take place prior to the start of the school day.  Why?  Answer:  Required by state law.  Does anyone else beside me detect a double standard and question of fairness here?  Alan Singer, social studies educator at Hofstra University, writing on THE HUFFINGTON POST, also sees some serious funny business in what Moscowitz did and he’s not shy about titling his commentary “How Success Academy Charter Network Uses Children.”              Even the LWV(League of Women Voters) is getting suspicious of how for-profit charters operate.  A committee from the Florida organization looked into the real estate practices of Charter Schools USA’s (CSUSA) and uncovered all sorts of shady things.  The League produced a report summarizing their findings which you can find by clicking here.  CSUSA operates 49 campuses in 12 counties in Florida and also has 17 schools in 6 other states (none in California).  “Pat Hall and her League committee have been digging deep.  They want to understand where tax money goes when charters are managed by for-profit companies.  There is gold in those excavations,” an introduction to the report maintains.  “Unfortunately, the children are not profiting. . . .  Read more to really understand the business process.  It is your money, and it is a lot of money, that is not being spent on students.”              Tom Ultican, high school math and physics teacher in San Diego, writing on his TULTICAN blog, describes how charters are making serious inroads into the Sweetwater Union High School District south of San Diego.  His commentary is titled “Charter School Scourge in Sweetwater.”  “Past time for an immediate moratorium on new charter schools in California.  Unwinding this unstable costly charter school system,”he suggests, “will benefit students and taxpayers.”
 
Who Might Be The Next U.S. Sec. of Education?
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, continues to print a series of interviews of possible future candidates for the position of U.S. Sec. of Education in the next administration.  The Q & As are conducted by author C. M. Rubin.  Strauss includes links to the first 2 conversations with Andy Hargreaves and Randi Weingarten (both highlighted in previous editions of the “Ed News) and lists 3 future subjects.  The latest discussion is with Howard Gardner, Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and creator of the famous “theory of multiple intelligences.”
 
New Education Laws in California  
And finally, the current California legislative session ended on Friday.  What education bills became law this year and which ones didn’t?  The “Education Matters” column in today’s L.A. Timesreviews some of the measures signed by Gov. Brown and a couple he didn’t approve.  Topics include gender-neutral bathrooms, creation of an ethnic studies curriculum for high school students, charter accountability and oversight, making it easier for high school students to earn community college credit, dealing with the teacher shortage in the state and some others.  In addition, the article discusses a key court decision regarding tenure and seniority.

                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Friday, September 30, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Our education system often teaches us how to conform 
  more than how to wonder and venture.” 

― Debasish Mridha

LAUSD Supt. Proposes an Ambitious Strategic Plan
LAUSD Supt. Michelle King ran her newly revised 3-year strategic plan by her board on Tuesday.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Timesoutlines some of her rather ambitious goals like a 100% graduation rate.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t No Child Left Behind aim for all students to be 100% proficient in math and English by 2014.  Tell me again how successful that was.  King has some other, more realistic goals, that are mentioned in the article.  She should stick to ones that have some semblance of achievement.  Don’t get me wrong, setting goals is a very good idea but they need to be reasonable or you are just setting yourself up for failure.  “Her plan includes a push to increase popular school options such as magnets,” the piece reports, “and dual-language programs, as well as modest gains on standardized tests and in the graduation rate year to year.”  That’s more like it.
 
School Police Taser Students
Here’s a rather disturbing story.  Any idea how many times students have been tasered by campus police in the past 5 years?  THE HUFFINGTON POST, in conjunction with THE HECHINGER REPORT has a disquieting account titled “Set to Stun” outlining how many and what types of incidents have prompted the use of the electroshock weapon.  It begins with two students fighting in the hallway of a North Carolina high school.  “This is one of at least 84 incidents of children being Tasered,” the story reveals, “or shot with a stun gun by a school police officer since September 2011, according to media reports tracked by The Huffington Post. The number is a gross underestimation because not every incident is reported, and no state or federal organization track how often children are zapped at schools.  The children, who were all hit by a Taser or stun gun by school-based police officers, also called school resource officers, were 12 to 19 years old when the incidents occurred.”              In a follow-up to the above story, THE HECHINGER REPORT describes 4 additional incidents of students being struck with stun-guns since August.  “There is little official data on how often school police have used Tasers on students at school.  The use of these devices have resulted in devastating physical effects,” it explains.  “In 2013, Texas high school student Noe Nino de Rivera was stunned at school after trying to break up a school fight, according to reports from his attorney.  After the Taser was fired, Nino de Rivera fell to the ground, hit his head and spent nearly two months in a medically induced coma.”
 
Teach for America
Nancy Bailey on her NANCY BAILEY’S EDUCATION BLOGraises a number of questions about Teach for America.  You can probably guess what her position is on the group by her title: “Do Americans Hate Teachers, Or Are They Duped by Teach for America?”  She notes that TFA collects almost $300 million a year from government and corporate/philanthropic sources.  “Teach for America would be better as Teacher Aides for America.  Those interested in teaching,” she suggests, “could spend time working under the supervision of real teachers.  They could then return to college to earn a legitimate education degree before being permitted to teach.  But they should not earn the right to lead a class without being fully prepared.  They should not replace the career teacher.  Think what it would be like for America’s public school students, if all of the TFA donors got behind real career teachers.  What a wonderful world it would be!”  Bailey includes a link to a “long, long list” of donors to TFA from the group’s own financial statement which you can also find by clicking here.  Take a minute and scroll through the 29 page document.  The donor list begins on p. 4 and runs all the way to the end.
 
Charter Schools, Choice & Corporate “Reform”
CAPITAL & MAIN profiles another one of those billionaire philanthropists who has nothing better to do than throw millions of dollars into the corporate “reform,” choice and charter movement.  This time it focuses on Doris Fisher, co-founder of the Gap “Even if some of the charter schools Fisher champions have been a success,”it counters, “she’s secretly supported efforts that critics regard as undermining the success of the public school system and teachers.  A recent investigation by California Hedge Clippers, a coalition of community groups and unions, found that Fisher was one of a number of wealthy Californians who in 2012 used a dark money network involving out-of-state organizations linked to the conservative Koch brothers to shield their donations to controversial campaign efforts that year.  The money was used to oppose Proposition 30, a tax on high-income Californians to fund public schools and public safety, and support Proposition 32, which, among other things, would have severely limited the ability of organized labor, including teachers unions, to raise money for state and local races.”             The always dynamic Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, uncovers the close ties between L.A. billionaire Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation of Arkansas (and Walmart fame) as the former, through his foundation, continues his push to charterize up to 50% of the LAUSD.  Broad took a lot of flak for being the poster child of the effort so he went underground and created a front group, Great Public Schools Now, to promote his agenda.  Schneider is on top of this subterfuge and points out the group’s secretive funding, going so far as to issue a challenge for them to make their funders public.  “Like Walton, Broad expands choice, and it funds corporate-reform-minded organizations,” she notes, “that can provide the minions and leadership transplanting necessary to transform a traditional school district into a decentralized, under-regulated, market-fed, billionaire-directed farce.”             El Camino Real Charter High School (LAUSD) is in the midst of a controversy involving several administrators who made use of the school’s credit card for “numerous seemingly exorbitant personal and/or improper expenses” according to an independent investigative report authorized by the district.  On Wednesday, one group of parents and teachers protested in front of the school against the people involved in the alleged mismanagement and lack of oversight while another group of staff members gathered in support.  TheL.A. Daily News has the details about the problems at the school and the two counter demonstrations.              Award-winning New York principal (now retired), Carol Burris, who is currently the executive director of the Network for Public Education (NPE), presents the second of her 4-part exposè on the state of charter schools in California.  This one is headlined “Why California’s Charter Sector is Called ‘The Wild West'” and appears on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post. If includes some introductory remarks by Strauss. who starts off with a list of some of the problems facing charters in the Golden State.  “Although the original intent of the independent charters may well have been to scoop up at-risk kids and give them a second chance,”Burris writes, “the lack of criteria for student placement, along with inadequate regulations have led to obvious abuses.  There are now far too many independent learning charter schools whose operators, some with no background or expertise in education, make substantial salaries, while cash-strapped districts grab students and revenue from other districts miles away.  Worst of all, the students who need the most support and daily guidance from adults are in charters that do not require much contact at all.”  If you missed Part 1 of Burris’ series or if you just wish to review it again, click here.  The entire series will become part of an extended national report on charter schools to be published by the NPE next year. [Ed. note: I can’t wait.  It should be a doozy!]               On Wednesday, the U.S. Dept. of Education announced the awarding of $245 million in grants, as part of its Charter Schools Program (CSP), to 8 state departments of education (including California) and 15 charter school management organizations (3 are headquartered in California).  The press release discussing the awards can be found on the U.S. Department of Educationwebsite.  Diane Ravitch’s blog was nonplussed, to say the least, about the continued granting of federal taxpayer dollars to the charter sector.             If Diane Ravitch is not happy with all the federal money going to charters (see above), how is she going to react to an Eli Broad front group handing out grants to charters in L.A. under the guise of improving “public education” in the city?  A story in today’s L.A. Times reports how the Great Public Schools Now organization is distributing grants to fund new (charter) campuses in the LAUSD.  “The organization was born out of a confidentially circulated plan, obtained by The Times, that envisioned pulling half the students from the nation’s second-largest school system into charter schools.” it mentions.  “Charters operate independently of L.A. Unified and their growth to date — with about 16% of district enrollment — is one important factor contributing to the district’s budget woes because education dollars follow the students. . . . Wednesday’s announcement marks the second installment of grants.  Earlier, the group awarded funds to Teach for America, an enrichment program and a charter school.”               The Nevada Supreme Court ruled yesterday on a 4-2 vote that the state voucher program’s funding formula is unconstitutional and should remain blocked.  The Reno Gazette-Journal has details about the decision that saw both sides claiming victory.  “The ruling says the program authorized last spring by the Nevada Legislature did not have its own dedicated funding source,” the piece notes, “and is contradicting the Nevada Constitution by drawing on money allocated for public schools in the state’s Distributive School Account.”               Gov. Brown vetoed SB 739 yesterday and AB 709 today.  Both bills attempted to inject some much needed transparency and accountability into the burgeoning charter industry in California.  An item on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post describes both measures and why Brown rejected them.  “An alliance of business and political leaders in the state had urged Brown to sign Assembly Bill 709, which would have required that all charters be transparent about how they spend public funds, and would have barred charter school board members and their relatives from profiting from their schools,” she writes.  “The bill also would have insisted that charter schools be subject to the state’s laws involving conflict of interest, open meetings and open records.  Brown’s veto message said that he had vetoed a similar bill in 2014 and that he felt that the new legislation went too far in telling charters how to operate.  On Thursday, he voted Senate Bill 739, which was narrower than AB 709.  It sought to prevent financially troubled school districts from authorizing charter schools to operate in other school districts that haven’t approved them.”  Interestingly, Strauss includes both veto messages Brown penned rejecting the measures.  Diane Ravitch was disgusted by Brown’s decisions.  “He has succumbed to the privatization movement,” she complains bitterly, “those who would destroy our communities and the public education system.
 
Election 2016
If you are not enamored of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton’s education policies, what are your options?  What about Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson?  Politico caught up with the former governor of New Mexico and asked about those policies.  His responses, unfortunately, require a subscription but Diane Ravitch’s blog, comes through again and provides them for your to peruse.  She headlines her piece “Don’t Vote for Gary Johnson.”
 
Chicago Teachers Set Oct. 11 Strike Date
With their previous contract expired in June, 2015, the 27,000 member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Wednesday set an Oct. 11 strike date if a tentative agreement is not reached with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the nation’s third-largest school district.  TheChicago Tribune has the latest developments and reviews some of the key issues on the negotiating table .  “The CTU is required to give 10 days’ notice before a walkout,” it points out, “and a strike remains only a threat that the union can use for leverage in ongoing talks.  Even with a strike date set, the union could opt to stay on the job if negotiations show progress.”  The union last went out on strike for 7 days in 2012.
Single-Gender Schools
When the 2016-17 school year began in August, the LAUSD had 2 new single-gender schools, the first such campuses in almost 20 years.  EDUCATION WEEK takes up the often controversial issue in an article titled “Single-Gender Schools Prove Best for Some Students.”  It focuses on one K-8 STEM school for girls in Dallas.  “Single-gender schools have long held appeal for students and parents who,” the story explains, “believe they provide a learning environment with fewer distractions and devoid of biases about what academic pursuits are best for boys or girls, but their numbers are relatively small.  Several urban districts, however, opened new single-gender public schools this school year, including three in Dallas, as a way to provide more options for families, attract parents who might otherwise leave for charter, private, or suburban schools, and increase access to specialized academic programs.”
 
“Walk-Ins” Slated Oct. 6 to Support Public Schools
You probably know what a “walk-out” is, but what about a “walk-in?”  The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is planning a series of nationwide “walk-ins” on Thursday, Oct. 6, in support of public schools.  This is the third such event organized by AROS.  They held similar gatherings on Feb. 17 and May 4 of this year.  You can find a 2-page leaflet on the organization’s website about the event by clicking here.  It contains a list of 27 cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, that are planning to participate on Oct. 6.  “What are Walk Ins?” the flier asks.  Answer:  “Just that!  Parents, Teachers and students gather out front of their school 30-45 minutes before their duty-day starts.  They picket, have donuts, coffee, etc.. And then they all Walk-In together.  Given the never ending attacks on public education that many of our cities endure, this provides a positive action that that says that these are our schools and our communities. It also builds solidarity amongst our members as they will feel the power of collective action.”  You will find more information about The Alliance on their website.
 
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U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on Some Important Education Cases
And finally, the U.S. Supreme Court traditionally opens its new term on the first Monday in October which happens to arrive this Monday.  According to an analysis in EDUCATION WEEK, the eight justices (minus Antonin Scalia, who passed away unexpectedly in February–his seat remains unfilled) will face an active docket of cases dealing with some pivotal K-12 education topics including special ed, government aid to religious schools and gender issues.  “The Feb. 13 death of Scalia led the court to deadlock on several decisions last term,including a major case on whether teachers’ unions could continue to collect service fees from nonmembers.  Until that case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which included several school districts as nominal parties,” it points out, “the Supreme Court had gone five years without taking up any cases with public school districts or administrators as parties.  That is changing in earnest in the new term.”  Be sure to check out the sidebar titled “Education at the Supreme Court” which previews 4 specific cases before the court this term.

                                                                                                     http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.