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