Ed News, Tuesday, October 25, 2016 Edition


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.

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



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