Ed News, Tuesday, October 4, 2016 Edition


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.
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
Inline image 1
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.

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



Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s