Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ed News, Friday, November 18, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the Thanksgiving holiday. 
Look for the next edition on Friday, Dec. 2.]
 
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“A true education prepares you not only for living but also for life.” 

Next Sec. of Education?

I never thought I’d be reading, much less providing a link to, the alt-right site BREITBART NEWS, but here goes. If you want information about President-elect Trump it may be one of the better sources.  It reports that parents groups are urging the new president to select someone to fill the post of Sec. of Education who is against the Common Core and for a much less powerful role for the federal government in education.  The story includes a hopefully authoritative list of who Trump is considering to head the U.S. Dept. of Education. Forget those speculative pieces about who might fill that post from the mainstream media.  Steve Bannon, head of Breitbart, was recently named as a senior policy advisor for the incoming Trump administration, so who better to speak for the new president.  Anyway, see what you think.  “While on the campaign trail,” the article notes, “Trump said Common Core is a ‘disaster’ and that Washington, D.C. should leave education to states and local school districts.  Most of Trump’s recent discussion about education has been in the area of school choice.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog commented on the above article.  [Ed. note: That’s where I found it.]  “Trump and his allies don’t seem to know that the federal government can’t get rid of Common Core,” she points out.  “It was foisted on the states by Arne Duncan and Race to the Top, but the decision about whether to keep it, revise it, or abandon it belongs to the states, not the Feds.”               Would anti-Common Core candidate Donald Trump select as his Sec. of Education a pro-Common Core supporter?  There are rumors floating around to that effect. Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, passes along two names being bandied about to become the new Sec. of Education who are both in favor of the State Standards: Michelle Rhee and Eva Moscowitz (see the following article).  Strauss references the Breitbart article highlighted at the start of this section.  “When Donald Trump was running for president,” she reminds her readers, “he said repeatedly that the Common Core State Standards initiative has been a ‘total disaster’ and he would get rid of it if he landed in the White House.”             POLITICO adds to the intrigue about who might be the next Sec. of Education by floating the name of Eva Moscowitz, founder and CEO of the controversial Success Academy charter network in New York City.  They didn’t just make that news up.  It was confirmed by a Trump aide, according to the story.  “Her political power in New York has already been tested over the last year” the item suggests, “following a spate of negative press about her schools’ discipline practices and internal workings, a federal investigation conducted by the Office of Civil Rights, and mounting criticism from local elected officials.  It is unclear whether Moskowitz could be confirmed as a cabinet official of an agency that is investigating her schools.”               You can scratch Eva Moscowitz’s off the list of prospective candidates to become Sec. of Education in the Trump administration.  She took her name out of contention yesterday according to a brief item in the NEW YORK POST.  “Speaking at [ New York] City Hall, Moskowitz vowed to work with Trump and whomever he ultimately appoints to the post,” it reports, “but said she’s still got unfinished business in New York. . . .  Moskowitz has been mentioned as a possible challenger to [New York City Mayor Bill] de Blasio in 2017.”                Add billionaire and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to the list of possible Secretaries of Education under Trump.  The Detroit News has a profile of her.  “DeVos, 58, is a staunch supporter of charter schools and vouchers,” it reviews, “which supporters argue give parents and students more freedom to seek a higher-quality education but critics view as an effort to privatize education at the expense of public schools.  DeVos is also a billionaire power broker with deep political ties at the state and national level.  She served as a Republican National Committeewoman in the 1990s and was twice elected chair of the Michigan Republican Party, most recently from 2003 to 2005.  Her husband, Amway heir Dick DeVos, ran unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2006.”             Mercedes Schneider pauses to review some of the names that have been floated as a possible Sec. of Education in a Trump administration and updates you on their latest status.  Her handicapping appears on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 as of 3 pm, CST yesterday.  “Stay tuned, America,” she concludes. The conservative group, Parents Against Common Core, cobbled together a quick online petition urging President-elect Trump to select someone for his Sec. of Education who is against the standards.  The organization even suggests a person they’d be in favor of according to the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION.  “Williamson Evers,” it mentions,  “a former Bush administration education official, who is serving on Trump’s education transition team.  Evers, a veteran of California’s math wars, has been a vocal opponent of the standards.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The “Ed News” somehow missed this story when it first came out.  A 40-year veteran high school history teacher in Mountain View, California, was briefly suspended from his job for teaching a lesson comparing the rise of Adolf Hitler to that of Donald Trump.  The MONTEREY HERALD provides the initial details.  “Frank Navarro, who’s taught at the school for 40 years, was asked to leave midday Thursday [Nov. 10] after a parent sent an email to the school expressing concerns about statements Navarro made in class,” it explains.  “Mountain View/Los Altos High School District Superintendent Jeff Harding confirmed the incident Friday but declined to describe the parent’s complaints.  Navarro, an expert on the Holocaust, said school officials declined to read him the email and also declined his request to review the lesson plan with him.”  The piece includes a short video (2:03 minutes) with an interview with Navarro from KPIX–5, the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area.                 After being placed briefly on “administrative leave,” Navarro was allowed to return to his classroom on Monday (see above).  A article from THE HUFFINGTON POST updates the situation. “In an interview with a local newspaper, Navarro said his lesson plan was based on historical fact,” the item states, “and described Hitler’s persecution of Jews and rise to power as having ‘remarkable parallels’ to Donald Trump’s statements about Latinos, Muslims and African Americans.  When questioned, Navarro told school officials: ‘I’m not pulling these facts out of my hat.  It’s based on experience and work, and if I’m wrong, show me where I’m wrong.’  He reported school authorities responded with ‘silence.’”               The UESF (United Educators of San Francisco) issued a statement in supportof Frank Navarro’s right to teach (see above 2 items) titled “Affirming the Right to Academic Freedom.”  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints it.  “UESF has an unequivocal stand that academic freedom must be defended in our classrooms and in our schools,” it reiterates.  “Our students need teachers who can teach without fear of censorship or reprisal for encouraging students to be critical thinkers.”
 
Corporate “Reform” and Privatization
Tom Ultican reviews an interesting new book on his TULTICAN website.  The book is titled “Education and the Commercial Mindset,” by Samuel E. Abrams, and it looks at the history of the for-profit movement to privatize public education along with profiling some of the key individuals involved going back to Chris Whittle and his Channel One on TV.  [Ed. note: How many of you remember that?  Editor:  “I do, I do!”]  “For people interested in public education, “Education and the Commercial Mindset” is an important asset.  The privatization movement,” Ultican concludes his review, “has been fueled by a misunderstanding of effect and cause.  Public schools were struggling, not due to misguided pedagogy or ‘bad teachers’, but from bad policy and an unwillingness to adequately fund education in poor communities.  The top down and misguided federally driven remedies and for profit cannibalism have only made the problem worse.”               Diane Ravitch also reviews Samuel E. Abrams new book (see above) along with Mercedes Schneider’s “School Choice: The End of Pubic Education?” in a lengthy piece for the Dec. 8th edition of The New York Review of Books.  “As these two fine books demonstrate, there is no evidence for the superiority of privatization in education.  Privatization divides communities,” she complains, “and diminishes commitment to that which we call the common good.  When there is a public school system, citizens are obligated to pay taxes to support the education of all children in the community, even if they have no children in the schools themselves.  We invest in public education because it is an investment in the future of society.”
 
Election 2016 Aftermath
In the aftermath of the Nov. 8th election there has been a number of postmortems trying to explain why Donald Trump was able to pull off such a stunning upset.  Mike Klonsky, on his Mike Klonsky’s Small Talk Blog suggests that former Sec. of Education under Pres. Obama, Arne Duncan, may have provided an assist to Trump’s victory with some of his comments in support of the Common Core.  “Did Duncan’s disdain for white suburban parents have an impact on last week’s election results,” he asks, “and the Democrat’s failure to pull votes from suburban districts that went for Obama in ’08 and 2012?  Especially in the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.”               [Ed. note: As a former U.S. History and American Government teacher–now retired–this next story caught my eye.]  The co-authors of a commentary for THE HECHINGER REPORT wonder “Was Nov. 8 a Massive Failure of Civics Education?”  They are part of a national nonprofit organization, Generation Citizen, that teaches young people to be active participants in their democracy.  “If nothing else, this election has demonstrated the importance of an engaged and educated citizenry,” they maintain.  “The only road to such an outcome is giving students the chance to become civically engaged early on.”              Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, addresses a recent story that blames teachers for stirring up fear of a Trump presidency.  Teachers get unfairly blamed for all kinds of things but this is a new one.  “Educators can’t get a break,” she begins.  “Teachers are routinely blamed for poor student achievement — even when kids come to school in no condition to learn — and for being greedy, with their outlandish desire for adequate pay and collective bargaining rights so they can’t be fired without cause.  School leaders are accused of being tradition-bound and motivated too much by a desire to maintain the status quo (and their jobs).  Now there’s something new: Educators are being accused of fanning fear of Donald Trump.  As if Trump hadn’t scared a lot of kids with his own rhetoric about, for example, tossing out millions of undocumented immigrants,” she continues, “banning Muslims from entering the country and mocking a reporter with a disability.  As if many teachers didn’t confront kids coming to class already crying.”  Strauss discusses the offending article and offers some counter-points to it.
 
Student Privacy
A coalition of education, parent and privacy groups is urging the U.S. government not to end a ban on a centralized  federal database containing individual personal student data.  They issued a Press Release on the subject on the PARENT COALITION FOR STUDENT PRIVACY website.  Want to know how extensive the information collected is?  “K-12 student data currently collected by states that would potentially be incorporated in the federal database often include upwards of 700 specific personal data elements,” it mentions, “including students’ immigrant status, disabilities, disciplinary records, and homelessness.  Data collected ostensibly for the sole purpose of research would likely be merged with other federal agency data and could include information from their census, military service, tax returns, criminal and health records.”  The groups are concerned that the information could easily be hacked or used for commercial purposes.                What kind of groups would be in favor of a centralized federal database of individual student information (see above)?  How about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for one.  A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog, Laura Chapman, did some research on this and provided her findings to the blog.  They are rather eyeopening, to say the least.  What could possibly be in this expanded database that would be of interest to the Gates Foundation?  Check out Chapman’s piece and find out.  “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has set its sights on data continuity from cradle to the workplace,” she reveals.  “In an unusual move, it has announced its data-priorities for postsecondary education.  This initiative is for a national and substantially privatized postsecondary data gathering system, one that even calls for a Congressional modification of the Higher Education Act.”               How will the incoming Trump administration handle the issue of student privacy?  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, provides some possible answers.  “How President-elect Donald Trump would feel about such a database is unclear.  He has criticized a strong federal role in education — and even threatened to eliminate the Education Department,” she suggests, “but he has not made an issue of student data privacy. Williamson Evers,  a former assistant education secretary and one of the people Trump is thought to be considering for education secretary, has expressed concerns about student privacy.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Now that the 2016 campaign is behind us and the next election for voters in Los Angeles is not until our municipal primary in March. it may be a good time to address the important question: “Is It Appropriate for Teachers to Discuss Politics in School?”  That just so happens to be the title of an essay in the “K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  Before reading it, how would you answer the question?  “Should teachers talk about politics in school?  Can they?  These are tough, uncomfortable questions,” the author relates, “but our hand has been forced.  We have to talk about them.”
 
LAUSD Reaffirms Status as a “Safe Haven”
The LAUSD board on Tuesday reaffirmed its status as a “safe haven” for its students who are in the country illegally.  They also decided to send a letter to President-elect Trump  “affirming the American ideals that are celebrated in Los Angeles”according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “The Los Angeles Board of Education voted to approve a resolution reaffirming L.A. Unified’s current policy,” it reports, “which directs school staff members not to allow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents onto school campuses unless their visit has been approved by the superintendent and the district’s lawyers.  Board members also seconded a policy that protects the immigration information and identities of students, family members and school staff.”
 
Trump Education Policies?
And finally, want a possible preview of a Pres. Trump’s education policies?  An item in the “Morning Education” column for POLITICO,  titled “Hoosier Policies Head to Washington,” suggests that you might want to take at peak at Vice President Mike Pence’s initiatives in his home state of Indiana. Since Trump has never held a job that requires creating plans for education (except maybe the scandal-plagued Trump “University”) experts are predicting that Vice Pres. Pence will probably take the lead in that area.  If you are a fan of traditional public schools the picture is not a pretty one.  “Pence used his platform as Indiana governor to aggressively expand a voucher program that allows taxpayer money to flow to religious private schools.  Pence also pushed for more charter schools,” the piece mentions, “and choice has now become a defining element of Trump’s vision for education.”  Be sure to peruse some of the other stories in this Friday feature for POLITICO.              One of the few pronouncements regarding education that Trump made during the campaign was about diverting $20 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) of federal taxpayer money into a voucher program that students could use at either public or private schools. How feasible is that plan and what would it take for its implementation?  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK tackles those critical questions.   One of the issues it addresses is where, exactly, that amount of money would come from.  
                                                                                                           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.             
                 
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Ed News, Tuesday, November 15, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The best that any education can do is to add understanding of the past and present, 
to gird one for the future, to sharpen the intelligence, to enable one to evaluate whatever comes along, 
to listen, to learn, to question, to be interested in what is going on, to be involved, 
to believe ‘this concerns me,’ above all to keep the mind alive.”

Charter Schools

The ALOED Educational Film Series screened the timely documentary “Killing Ed” on the Occidental College Campus on Thursday evening (see Friday’s “Ed News”).  The film is about the shadowy connection between reclusive Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen and a large chain of charter schools in this country.  Gülen has been accused by the Turkish government of being involved in a failed coup attempt in that country in July and requested his extradition by the Obama administration, which has so far not acted on the application.  With a change in administration taking place in January, chances of the extradition call being approved may be improving according to a story from Newsweek online.  “Shortly after Trump’s win in Tuesday’s vote, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim congratulated the construction magnate on his win but also called for him to extradite the cleric,” it explains, “who has lived in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999.  Ankara has grown frustrated with Washington’s refusal to extradite Gulen over his alleged role in the failed takeover.  But U.S. authorities are examining evidence of his purported role in the coup.”              A CMO (charter management company) that runs 4 charters in California (2 in Livermore and 2 in Stockton) filed for bankruptcy protection last week.  The two campuses in the former city suffered a mass exodus of students at the start of the school year amidst suspicions of financial mismanagement and possible criminal wrongdoing. The EAST BAY TIMES has the details and the possible impact on parents, students and staff.               Why do charters continue to expand in California despite a growing collection of evidence that they don’t always deliver on their promises? Answer: they have millions of dollars in backing collected from billionaires and their foundations to buy influence with state legislators in Sacramento.  An investigative piece from the CAPITAL & MAIN website reveals some of this targeted spending.  “California’s ‘school choice’ movement has always benefited from generous subsidies by a narrow spectrum of big-spending entrepreneurs, many of whom are billionaires,” it discovered.  “Their wealth has helped give the state the highest number of charter schools in the U.S., even as their election largess has left it with the nation’s most expensive school board elections.  Capital & Main’s analysis of the latest campaign-finance records for the five largest charter school IECs [independent expenditure committees] reveals that those same personal fortunes are at the center of the charters’ apparent attempt to buy some Sacramento political insurance against a growing resistance among both lawmakers and the public to the industry’s unbridled expansion in the state.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers like to promote charters as a benign option to traditional public schools.  Do they pose any sort of threat?  Simple answer: YES!!  Not only do they skim off the easiest students to educate, in many cases, but they also seriously challenge the financial well-being of public schools by diverting millions of dollars that those campuses are in dire need of.  Jonathan Pelto, writing on THE HILL website, explores some of the fraudulent activities associated with charter finances.  “With more than 6,700 charter schools spread across 42 states and the District of Columbia,” he reports, “fraudulent activities associated with the publicly funded, but privately owned, charter school industry have become the fodder for almost daily news stories.”  Be sure not to miss Pelto’s review of the problems plaguing the charter sector in California as uncovered by Carol Burris in a recent 4-part exposé (highlighted in the “Ed News”).
 
Election 2016 Aftermath
Prop. 51 on last Tuesday’s ballot in California was a major bond issue for school construction.  It passed by a vote of 54% in favor to 46% opposed.  Prop. 55 extended income tax rates for wealthy residents to help pay for schools and other projects.  It passed by an even larger margin, 62% to 38%.  Voters in local races also approved a number of bond issues. A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times reviews the very encouraging results of those elections and what it all means for future spending on K-12 education in local districts and around the state.  “It was hard last week to find a school or education funding plan that California voters on the state or local level weren’t willing to pay for,” it points out.  “In liberal Los Angeles County, voters approved 28 of 29 school-funding measures.  Kern County, a conservative bastion that voted 56% for Republican President-elect Donald Trump, approved 11 of 12 school bonds.”               The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) Board of Directors issued a “Statement on the Election of Donald Trump” on their website Saturday.  “We oppose the attempt to privatize our public school system and the fact that the weapons of privatization have been used to attack public education in black and brown communities.  Now, more than ever,” it concludes, “it is vital for us as educators to use our voices to stand and advocate for those who have been marginalized and silenced.  It is time for us to actualize the work we have done, mostly through a national online platform, and grow it as a viable living presence in each and every one of our communities.”               Now that the election is over and Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States, what can the supporters of our traditional public schools do?  Rachel Levy, a writer, teacher and parent who currently resides in Virginia, offers some sound advice and encouragement and some specific recommendation on how to proceed on her All Things Education website.  Here’s one example: “Recommendation #3: If you are not already, now is the time to get engaged in your local and state governance.  That is the only thing that is left.  Learn all about your local and state governing bodies, including your school boards.  Learn about the issues and policies.  Get informed.  Talk with your fellow community members about the issues and policies.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 joins the discussion of what a Trump presidency will look like in regards to K-12 education.  Her essay is titled “Donald J. Trumps ‘Vision’ for Education.”  She goes to the donaldjtrump(dot)com website to glean some information about the new president’s understanding of and proposals for education.  “There is one vision of education that Trump will have to face prior to taking office: On November 28, 2016,” she reminds readers, “Trump is supposed to go to court on the six-year-old Trump University fraud case.  On November 10, 2016, US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel (San Diego) advised both sides to come to an agreement.  Trump’s lawyers want to further delay the case since Trump is now president-elect.”  Want to know more about the status of the lawsuit against Trump and his Trump University?  Schneider includes a link to a story from Reuters with up-to-date information about the case, including a video segment (1:26 minutes) with the latest details, or you can skip straight to the article by clicking here.              Emily Talmadge, writes on her Save Maine Schools blog about education issues in the Pine Tree State and beyond.  This one is titled “Trump Won.  Now What?”  She, as almost everyone else, was intending to write about a Hillary Clinton administration and what it would mean for education in her state and around the country but quickly had to shift gears and speculate about what a Trump administration will do to education.  “Several weeks ago, I wondered in a blog post whether or not public education would survive the next administration,” she begins.  “Admittedly, I was all but certain at the time that Hillary Clinton would be our next president, and my predictions were more than dismal: more screen time for even our youngest children, inflated local budgets, invasive school-wide and individual data collection, a proliferation of low-quality online K-12 and higher education programs, etc.  Ever since the big shock of Tuesday night, however, I’ve been scrambling to say something coherent about what we can expect now that Donald Trump really is going to be our next president.  Will public education survive?”   Check out the very brief video (about 5 seconds) at the very end of this item with a cat and an alligator.              Mark Weber, aka the Jersey Jazzman, was invited to speak to the New Jersey Education Association convention shortly after the election last week.  He wrestled with what to talk about and settled on focusing on the implications of the new administration on teachers unions and the teaching profession in general.  The picture he paints is not a pretty one but he offers some suggestion for making it better.              The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of pundits and commentators reacting to the election of Donald Trump.  How about checking in with some students to see show they feel about the results?  Good idea.  EDUCATION WEEK has an article titled “After Election, Students Express a Mix of Emotions” which does just that.  “When teachers walked into their classrooms the morning after Donald Trump claimed the presidency in a stunning victory, they had their work cut out for them.  Some students were jubilant,” it mentions, “with many wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and shirts in celebration.  Others were angry and upset, with some crying in class.  Immigrant students, or those from immigrant families, expressed fear that they or their family members would be deported under the Trump administration.”               Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, asks a simple yet critical question on many peoples’ minds: “Will Donald Trump Destroy U.S. Public Education?”  She goes on to explain there’s a short and a long answer to her question and she addresses both.  “The short answer is that he can’t all by himself destroy America’s most important civic institution, at least not without help from Congress as well as state and local legislatures and governors. . . .  But the more complicated response,” she suggests, “is that if he pushes the education policies that he espoused during the campaign — especially for more ‘choice,’ such as voucher programs in which public money is used for private school tuition — he can drive the privatization of public schools with unprecedented speed, furthering the movement that has been growing under former president George W. Bush and then President Obama.  Some public systems are already threatened — and nobody knows what the tipping point for many others could be.”               Steven Singer literally had a heart attack on election day.  True, it was before the election results starting coming in but it was a heart attack nonetheless.  On hisGADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG he offers 4 “Lessons for Moving Forward” given a Trump presidency.  He admits he voted for neither Trump nor Clinton but cast his ballot “happily” for Jill Stein of the Green Party.  “These are just some of the ways we can move forward in the days and weeks ahead.  It will be a rough road  but I’m sure we can come out of it together,” he writes as he convalesces.  “Just like my aging body, our nation is ill. For me, the result was a heart attack. For us, the result is President Trump.  Will we turn it around?  I’m sure going to try.”              Since last Tuesday’s stunning upset by Donald Trump there has been a series of almost daily protests in various cities around the country complaining about the real estate mogul’s election.  Yesterday thousands of students walked out of classes in the LAUSD to add their voices to the demonstrations roiling the nation according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “Nearly 4,000 students from about 18 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” it notes, “participated in walkouts throughout the day Monday, said Steven Zipperman, chief of the L.A. School Police Department.  Students from numerous Eastside schools left their morning classes to gather at Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza and Lincoln Park in Lincoln Heights and marched to City Hall for a rally.  At schools in other parts of the city, such as Hamilton High, students left their classes later in the day.”                  Need some more ideas and inspiration about how to protect traditional public education from the corporate “reformers” and privatizers and the incoming Republican administration?  Arthur Camins is the Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, and he has 11 concrete suggestions for how to stand up for our public school system.  His commentary appears onTHE HUFFINGTON POST and is titled “All We Have Is Struggle”  and is basically a call to arms.  “Take a deep breath because now it is the time for a protracted struggle to revitalize the struggle for democratic, equitable education,” he exhorts.  “Now is the time to reassert an ethos of citizen’s responsibility for one another in education policy and practice.  Now is the time to reassert an ethos of improvement for all over the restrictive idea of improvement for a few.  Now is the time to utilize the revitalizing power of collaboration instead of the divisiveness of competition as the primary lever to advance the academic, social and emotional learning of all students.  Now is the time to advance the broad promises of education to prepare every student for life, work, and citizenship.”                 How effective were the big national teachers unions in last week’s election?  According to a story in EDUCATION WEEK, they had little to show for the millions of dollars they invested in various races nationally and around the country.  “This campaign season, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association bolted out the gate early,” it relates, “with presidential endorsements, a flood of campaign spending on high-priority races and ballot measures, and plenty of organizational muscle to push their agendas.  But with a few notable exceptions, they came up dry.”
 
Race to the Top
Pres. Obama has a little over 2 months to go in his final term in office.  How effective was his signature education program Race to the Top (RTTT)?  The U.S. Dept. of Ed. commissioned a study to answer that question.  You are welcome to read the full report (267 pages) titled “Race to the Top: The Implementation and Relationship to Student Outcomes” which is chock full of charts, tables and figures by clicking here or you can rely on Peter Greene to plow through it for you (or at least most of it) and offer his always trenchant analysis on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  The original study set out to examine 6 elements in relationship to the legislation and Greene lists those for you before proceeding to offer his comments on the report and its conclusions.  Needless to say, he was not impressed with RTTT or the DoE study.  Don’t believe it?  Check out his conclusion: “Race To The Top (and waiveriffic RTTT Lite) was a disastrous extension of the worst of NCLB policies that brutalized the teaching profession and demanded that states turn schools into test-centric soul-mashing data centers, all while making a tiny toy god out of bad data badly used.  The best thing you can say about it,” he continues, “is that it was so bad, so disastrous, so universally indefensible that it did what no issue in the last ten years could do– it created bipartisan Congressional will to actually do their job.  It is the rotten center of Obama’s shameful education legacy.  And nobody really needs 267 pages to say so.”  
 
The Achievement Gap
A favorite meme of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers is that teachers are to blame for the achievement gap.  If they could just eliminate “poor” and “lazy” educators by getting rid of those pesky tenure and seniority rules then, presto, the achievement gap would magically disappear.  And what evidence do they offer to support that position?  Very little, if any.  An item in THE HUFFINGTON POST features a new study from the Mathematica Policy Institute, under the auspices of the U.S. Dept. of Education, that suggests that students from poor and wealthy families are both supported by excellent teachers.  It’s titled “Proof You Shouldn’t Blame Teachers for the Achievement Gap.”  “Overall, researchers only found small differences in the average effectiveness ratings given to teachers working with low-income and affluent students,”the article reports.  “The average teacher of a low-income student rates around the 50th percentile, while the average teacher of a more wealthy student rates around the 51st percentile.”
 
Election 2017
No, that year is NOT a misprint.  As the 2016 presidential election fades into the past it’s time to pivot to the next event on the election calendar.  March of next year brings Los Angeles’ municipal primary balloting which includes votes for mayor and local school board races.  The general election will follow in May.  Saturday was the deadline for candidates to file their intention to run for seats on the LAUSD school board which will see 3 districts out of the 7 total being contested this time around.  Incumbent Monica Garcia will be defending her District 2 seat which covers the area of downtown L.A. and surrounding neighborhoods.  She drew 4 opponents.  Current board president Steve Zimmer represents District 4 which includes the westside and west San Fernando Valley.  [Ed. note: I reside in Zimmer’s district.]  He also drew 4 opponents.  The District 6 seat which encompasses the eastern San Fernando Valley is the only open spot available this time around.  It drew 9 candidates to fill the position of one-term incumbent Monica Ratliff who is giving up the post in order to run for the L.A. City Council. A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times has all the details about the election which is less than 4 months away.  “To actually make the ballot,” it explains, “candidates must submit petitions with at least 1,000 signatures from registered voters in their district.  Candidates can submit just 500 signatures if they are willing to pay a $300 filing fee.”  If you are not yet overloaded with elections, just wait.  2018 not only brings the midterm elections nationally but also statewide races in California for governor, superintendent of pubic instruction and others.
 
Schools of Opportunity
Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, has been featuring the individual winners of the Schools of Opportunity competition.  She explains the program seeks successful schools that stress the closing of the opportunity gap through 11 research-driven practices and not student test scores.  In this post she highlights William Smith High School in Colorado.  Two guests co-author a piece about what makes the school successful.  “William Smith High School serves a diverse group of students who seek a personalized education,” they explain, “grounded in deep exploration of academic content through project-based learning, local community connections, travel, and service experiences. Located in Aurora, Colorado, which is immediately east of Denver, William Smith’s approach is strong collaboration among administrators, staff and students, plus investment in a school community marked by shared values and a desire to do meaningful, relevant work.”  Strauss includes links to the two previous columns she wrote, highlighted in the “Ed News,” about two other winners of the award.
 
Teach for America
Quick word association.  If I say “Teach for America,” what comes to your mind?  Most people would probably respond that it’s a group that takes recent college graduates, provides them with several weeks of teacher training and sends them off to fill slots in classrooms around the country for at least a 2-year commitment.  How many people would mention that TFA collects a hefty sum of money for each corps member it places within a school district and that it has a political action group that has nothing to do with training teachers?  Any idea what the latter does?  Laura Chapman, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, describes TFA’s Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE).  “Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) was founded in 2007 as a 501(c)4 [a nonprofit organization that exclusively promotes social welfare causes] spin-off of Teach for America.  It offers coaching for Teach for America alumni or staff,” she explains, “and networking for TFA alumni who are interested in elected office and other leadership positions.  Candidates for elected office receive support up to the legal limits for in-kind contributions, at no charge to the candidate.  LEE offers political and policy fellowships for current and former TFA alums.”
 
Speculation Over Next Sec. of Ed.
Prior to the election there was a lot of speculation over who a possible Clinton or Trump administration might select to be the next Sec. of Education.  You can now eliminate any lists associated with the former, for obvious reasons, and focus on who president-elect Trump is considering.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK offers the latest names being bandied about.  “President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t have a track record on education,” it begins, “which means that his choice of education secretary will send a really important signal on where he wants to go in terms of policy on the Every Student Succeeds Act, higher education, and more.”  Any of the folks on this list look encouraging to you?
Social Media and Schools  
And finally, do social media have a role to play in our schools?  The “Tech Smart” column in THE HECHINGER REPORT is titled “Getting Schooled in Social Media–Tweets, Texts and New Apps Help Link Schools With Parents and Community.”  You can guess how it answers the questions that leads off this section.  The article chronicles how a small district in Wisconsin and others around the country are making more and better use of different social media platforms to inform parents about what’s taking place on their campuses and involving students in the process.  
                                                                                                           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, November 11, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“I can see education is everywhere, and many people were educated. 
 But I realize that common sense is not that common.”
 
 
School Accountability
The California State Board of Education has been considering a new school accountability system.  The old API (Academic Performance Index) which assigned a single number to every school has been tossed on the ash heap of history and a new multi-criteria, color-coded system is now on the table..  An editorial in Tuesday’s L.A. Times is not convinced that’s the best route to follow.  “Despite complaints from school reformers and others,” it begins, “the State Board of Education appears intent on going ahead with an overly complicated, color-coded system for judging public school performance and progress.  It’s vague and confusing, larded with too many factors.  Using it to compare one school with another is pretty much impossible.”
 
Election 2016 Aftermath
Here are some education related election results that may have gotten passed over in the media rush to report and explain what happened in the more glamorous races.  Voters in California passed 3 K-12 education measures on Tuesday’s ballot.  Prop 51 authorizes new bonds for school construction. It passed 54% to 46%.  Prop 55, which extends taxes on the wealthy to raise revenue for schools and other programs, passed 62% to 38% and Prop. 58, which repeals the bilingual education ban, was approved 72% to 28%.  Closely watched Question 2 on the ballot in Massachusetts that would have lifted the cap on charter expansion was defeated, 38% in favor and 62% opposed.  Voters in Georgia turned down Amendment 1 (40% in favor, 60% against) that would have authorized the Governor to take over “low-performing” schools and place them in an “Opportunity School District.”  The state Supreme Court judges in Washington who ruled that funding for charter schools was unconstitutional were returned to the bench despite a concerted effort by charter proponents, corporate “reform” billionaires and privatizers to unseat them.             Diane Ravitch’s blog reacts to the stunning upset by Donald Trump and what it might mean for education.  Full disclosure: Ravitch was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton.  “The Republican Party is committed to school choice,” she indicates.  “Trump rarely spoke about education but this is the little we know.  He pledged to take $20 billion from existing federal programs, probably Title I, and give it to the states to be used for charters and vouchers.  It will be up to the states to protect what they can of public education.”              With the White House now under Republican control and GOP majorities retained in both houses of Congress, Donald Trump will have pretty much free reign over federal education policy.  What does this bode for the future?  An article in EDUCATION WEEK takes a peek.  It looks at how a new Trump administration will interpret and implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and what types of issues will be on Congress’ agenda when it convenes in early January.  “The real worry for many observers and advocates,” the story speculates, “is that education will be sucked into any broader and more-divisive partisan dynamics that prevent Congress from getting much work done.  Fierce debates about how the department should regulate ESSA also show that education hasn’t been totally immune from the more-typical Washington bickering that can impede legislation or regulations.”               What has been the impact on our children and students of the long, divisive and too often uncivil campaign that came to an end on Tuesday?  A guest commentary on ED WEEK addresses that issue.  “Sadly, we have spent the last year and a half,” the co-authors of the piece begin, “showing our children the worst of human behavior.  In the public squares, in our dens and in our coffee shops, they have witnessed adults as liars, tattle-tellers, bullies, racists, and hate mongers.  In other circumstances, we are the first to argue that these behaviors are unacceptable. In light of this election, however, that is like telling them not to smoke while a lit cigarette dangles from our lips.”               A high school history teacher from New York offers some suggestions about how to answer those questions your students will have about our new president.  His essay appears on THE HECHINGER REPORT.  “My role,” he explains, “is to help them feel better as a matter of trying to alleviate despair, anxiety or indignation, but also to feel better in the sense of thinking more clearly, to bring their hearts and their heads into greater alignment (or, at least, greater consciousness of each other).”               Jennifer Berkshire, who blogs at EduShyster, offers some analysis on why Question 2 went down to defeat in Massachusetts (see the first item in this section).  She reports that the opponents of the measure were able to assemble a broad coalition of groups and came up with a simple message to counter the 3-pronged strategy put together by proponents.  “I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames,” she mentions.  “It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot.  Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them.”               Peter Greene is trying to grapple with what he will tell his students about the new president and what might be in store for them.  He teachers 11th grade English and has many black, brown, female and gay students who are feeling very anxious about the future.  Greene writes on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  “I don’t know how to teach my students about us,” he worries.  “I don’t know how to prepare them to go out into this new, uglier America.  The next days are going to be awful, ugly, just plain bad.  Keep your heads down, brothers and sisters. Watch out for each other, and cast an eye toward the future.  I don’t know who we are any more, but we have to be better than this.”               There’s lots of speculation and punditry about what a Trump administration will mean for public education.  Here are 3 examples.  The first is from Liz Dwyer on the takepart blog who suggests one of the first actions taken by Pres. Trump will be to eliminate or seriously curtail the Department of Education.  Dwyer proceeds to offer several other possible Trump policies related to education.  “Despite his campaign rhetoric, [Pres.] Reagan found that slashing the Department of Education could produce disastrous results for students,”she points out, “teachers, and the economy.  Similarly, an analysis this September from the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund found that if the Department of Education were dissolved, roughly 8 million low-income students would lose the Pell Grants they depend on to afford college, and ‘5 million children and students with disabilities would lose $12.7 billion used every year to ensure that they receive a quality education.’”                The second is from Emily Deruy of The Atlantic.  She doesn’t think Trump will try to do away with the DoE and offers some possible candidates for the next Sec. of Education.  In addition, she believes he will promote an increased emphasis on school “choice” and other initiatives. “One area where the Trump administration could make changes, and where officials might use the muscle of the Education Department,” Deruy guesses, “is in expanding the use of vouchers that would let students use federal money to attend the schools of their choice, be they charters, private or parochial schools, magnet programs, or traditional public schools.  Trump has proposed $20 billion to move that idea forward.  Whether it becomes a reality is obviously unclear, but with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate, there’s a good chance some sort of federally backed voucher program could move forward.”               Number 3 is from EDUCATION WEEK which was quick to jump into the fray in trying to predict what a Trump administration will attempt to accomplish in regards to education.  “But uncertainty prevails, both in terms of what Trump will take an interest in,” it indicates, “and how much he will push to get education bills and initiatives over the finish line.”               As indicated in several stories above, Pres. Trump may try to dismantle the U.S. Dept. of Education.  Just what would that entail?  Another piece in ED WEEKtackles that fraught topic.  “Slimming down—or getting rid of—the department won’t necessarily be a slam dunk.  Past attempts to eliminate it,” it maintains,” including one in the early 1980s, when Reagan took office, and another in the mid-1990s, when Congress flipped to Republican control, haven’t gotten very far.  Both times though, the administration and Congress were from different parties, which won’t be the case next year.  But even in the current Republican-dominated political landscape, abolishing the department would cost Trump and his allies political capital that they might rather spend elsewhere.”  If the department should survive, the article concludes with several suggested candidates to fill the post of Sec. of Education.               In the aftermath of the surprising Trump victory on Tuesday, several schools districts around the country were providing counseling support to students and staff.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, reprints letters from various superintendents, principals and college presidents offering assistance and urging calm.  “Parents dropping their students off at schools in different areas,” she writes, “reported seeing teachers crying, and teachers said non-white students expressed fears that they and their families would be negatively affected by a Trump administration.”               Despite Donald Trump’s stunning upset of Hillary Clinton and the Democrat’s failure to gain control of the Senate, Jeff Bryant finds some glimmer of hope in a couple of education-related victories around the country.  On the Education Opportunity NETWORK he cites the defeat of Question 2 in Massachusetts, Amendment 1 in Georgia, the retention of several Supreme Court judges in Washington State and a couple of other state and local wins.  Despite the bitter GOP victories at the federal level, the election was not all doom and gloom for advocates of traditional public schools.  If you are feeling depressed, read what he has to say.  It may not make you feel better but at least it won’t make you feel any worse.  “Sorting through this week’s humiliating defeat by Donald Trump at the polls, Democrats are having a hard time finding any bright spots in all the darkness.  But Trump’s victory was a very close one (he lost the popular vote [60,467,601 to 60,072,551 as of the latest count at the time of publication]) and may be easy to reverse in 2020 with a better campaign.  So amidst the dead ashes of defeat,” he begins, “where are the red-hot coals that may spark new fire in the populist rebellion that represents the party’s only hope?”
 
TFA’s Finances
Teach for America may be facing a little bit of a financial crunch according to Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  She obtained the organization’s latest tax return and discovered some interesting figures.  TFA’s recruitment has fallen by 35% over the past 3 years and because it generates revenue based on teacher placements, it’s assets fell over that time frame.  “TFA’s total end-of-year assets for 2014-15 were $445 million, down from $494 million at the beginning of the tax year,” Schneider reveals.  “In both 2014-15 and 2013-14, TFA’s expenses exceeded its revenue (by $26 million in 2013-14 and $75 million in 2014-15).  According to TFA’s 2014 tax form, it spent $1 million on ‘direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials, or a legislative body.’  Of course, that million was spent in TFA’s lobbying for itself.”
 
Charter Schools
Jeff Bryant, this time writing on The Progressive, offers “5 Truths About Charter Schools.  He writes in response to several critical editorials aimed at the NAACP’s decision to demand a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  Here’s one example from his list: “There’s no research consensus that charter schools outperform public schools.”  Bryant continues: “Often the loudest proponents for charters—hedge fund CEOs, real estate moguls, and wealthy individuals in the tech industry—never attended public schools themselves and don’t send their children to them.  Although they promote charters because of their supposed success with low-income students of color,” he concludes, “these wealthy individuals are the very same people who take advantage of loopholes in the tax code that enable them to avoid paying tens of millions in personal income taxes.  And those taxes could go to support the public schools the students they purport to care so much already attend.”
“Killing Ed” Screens at Oxy
And finally, ALOED and the Occidental College Education Dept. co-sponsored a screening of the timely and controversial documentary “Killing Ed” last evening on the Oxy campus.  The film begins with a review of the rapid expansion of charter schools around the U.S. The second part reports on the reclusive Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who has connections to a large charter school network in this country.  Gülen lives in a guarded compound in the Pocono Mountains in western Pennsylvania.  The final part of the movie chronicles the political influence Gülen allegedly has over his native country.  A sparse crowd (the event was up against the after affects of Tuesday’s election, the national telecast of Thursday Night Football, the start of the 3-day Veterans Day Holiday and probably, worst of all, “beer night” on the Eagle Rock Campus) gathered in Johnson Hall for refreshments provided by the Ed. Dept.  Attendees were treated to another informative presentation on the Global Media Board about the film while munching on those always delectable Oxy chocolate chip cookies.  Everyone repaired upstairs to the spectacular Choi Auditorium for the screening followed by an engaging and provocative discussion led by event co-chairs Larry Lawrence and Dave Alpert.  The numbers may have been small but, other than that, it was a very successful evening. 
 
   Enjoy the rest of this Veterans
Day Holiday weekend. 
                                                                                                           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, November 8, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 
 
“A true education opens the mind and lets us see the world with wonder and joy. 
It teaches us to accept change with love, and it teaches us to be harmonious 
with humanity and nature. If any education teaches us to close our minds, to accept dogma, 
and to violently inhibit questioning then that is not an education. That is a prison for the mind.” 
― Debasish Mridha

Challenge to Tenure in Minnesota is Dismissed

The Nov. 1 edition of the “Ed News” highlighted the Vergara-style case challenging teacher tenure laws in Minnesota and the fact a county judge tossed the suit out on various grounds.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, reviews some of the reasons the judge dismissed the case, focusing on how student test scores relate to tenure. Forslund vs. Minnesota was backed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s anti-teachers union Partnership for Educational Justice among other groups.  “The reason for dismissal of the suit,” Schneider points out, “is straightforward: No established, direct connection between teacher tenure laws and those dastardly low test scores– with the low test scores of charter schools (which have non-tenured teachers) blasting the no-tenure, higher-test-score pseudo-argument.”
 
School Schedules
What if school schedules more closely mirrored a typical work day 9-5 routine?  How would that impact students and parents?  Interesting questions.  Both of which are addressed by an article in the “Time and Learning” column for EDUCATION WEEK that highlights a new report on the topic from the Center for American Progress titled “Workin’ 9 to 5: How School Schedules Make Life Harder for Working Parents.”  A link to the full study (91 pages) is provided. “There’s a big disconnect between school schedules and the schedules of most working parents.  Schools are often closed,”the ED WEEK item begins, “when parents are expected to be at work.  And school start and end times don’t align with the traditional work day causing lots of problems for moms and dads, especially those with low-wage jobs that don’t offer much flexibility.”
 
Diane Ravitch for Sec. of Education?
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, continues reprinting a series of 6 interviews with prominent possible candidates for the post of future U.S. Secretary of Education.  The conversations were conducted by author C.M. Rubin.  Number 4 is with Diane Ravitch (links to the first 3, which were highlighted in the “Ed News,” are included).  Here’s an example of their Q & A:  Q) What should the role of education be in solving our income inequality problems? A) Education is opportunity.  For some children, it will be their path out of poverty.  For many others, schools are unable to overcome the burdens of poverty.  We most certainly have far too much income inequality. . . .  Education should offer equality of educational opportunity to all children.  Schools in every neighborhood, regardless of zip code, should offer an excellent education, including the arts, foreign languages, play, technology, history, literature, the sciences, mathematics, and opportunities to create and make things.”
 
U. of Minnesota Severs Ties to TFA
The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development has ended its alternative program for teacher certification for Teach for America corps members. A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog forwarded a press release from the Dean’s office of the school.  “Reasons for ending the partnership program,” it states, “include an unsustainable funding model for the program and dwindling numbers of corps members.”
 
The Teaching Profession
TEACHERS AREN’T PAID ENOUGH!!!  Anybody want to argue that point?  For too long teachers have been praised for the important job they do and yet their salaries in no way compensate them for that highly significant work.  Need a concrete example?  Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to an elementary school teacher in Washington state who relates her personal story of dedication to her job and the inadequate salary she receives in return and how that impacts her and her family.  Millions of other educators probably find themselves in the same predicament as Rachel Wiley.  The key question is WHY?  “Why can’t we be compensated fairly?” she asks reasonably.  “According to a recent study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, ‘The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever.   In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17 percent lower than those of comparable workers — compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994.’  This is a reality we face as educators.”
 
Charter Schools
Former pro tennis star Andre Agassi has been pursuing a second career of building and supporting a charter schools in his home state of Nevada.  Unfortunately, the campus is not performing nearly as well as its founder did on the tennis court.  A story by TV station 8 News NOW, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, reports Agassi Prep Academy may be turned over to another charter operator due to poor academic progress “A teacher at the academy told 8 News NOW that the school could potentially be taken over by or it may have to partner with Democracy Prep Academy,” it relates.  “In a flyer sent to parents by teachers at the academy, a staff member says the new partnership could lead to longer school days and silent lunch periods.”  This item includes a short video segment (1:24 minutes) about the possible changes to Agassi Prep.  Nevada’s charters have the lowest graduation rates of any public school system in the state according to a Press Release from the State Public Charter School Authority.  Overall, the preliminary state public school graduation rate for the class of 2015-16 was 72.62%; for Nevada charters it was only 52.10%.
 
Election 2016
Do campaign comments and attitudes filter down into the nation’s classrooms?  The answer is “unfortunately, yes” as described by a professor of education studies and an author at UC San Diego, Mica Pollock. Her remarks are reprinted on Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post.  The item is titled “The Frightening Effect of ‘Trump Talk’ on America’s Schools.”  “Children and youth hear the words adults hear,” Pollock reports.  “They hear them on the Internet, over a shoulder and repeated by other kids on the playground or in the classroom.  And words matter.  They shape what young people think about themselves, each other, adults and their country.”  She reviews some of the more negative campaign rhetoric and the affect it has on children at school.  In addition, she provides some timely suggestions on how to deal with it.               For some specific examples of how this campaign season impacted students there’s this story in EDUCATION WEEK titled “Election’s Intolerant Tone Stokes Fears for Latino Students.”  It commences with a horrific example of anti-immigrant actions at a high school in North Carolina.  “Teaching Tolerance, an education project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, took an informal, unscientific poll of educators last spring to gauge how the presidential campaign had affected schools,” the article points out.  “The organization queried teachers who subscribe to its weekly newsletter to collect anecdotes.  More than two-thirds of the 2,000 teachers who responded reported that students—mainly immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims—expressed concerns or fears about what might happen after the election.”             The ASA (American Statistical Association), as part of its “This is Statistics” initiative, invited 450 high school and college students from 37 schools to predict the outcome of this year’s presidential race.  3 high schools in California and one CSU campus were among the groups submitting individual or team entries.  They had to present their conclusions and discuss the methodology they used to arrive at them.  Check out their predictions and, after all the ballots are counted, compare how well they did with the final results.              The “Ed News” has been following the battle royal over Question 2, the charter measure on the ballot in Massachusetts.  Valerie Strauss, in her column in The Washington Post, discusses the extensive involvement in the campaign, both for and against, and the national implications of the outcome.  “Question 2, an initiative on Tuesday’s ballot to approve the raising of the state’s cap on charter schools,” she writes, “is the most expensive ballot initiative in the country — with at least $35 million reportedly raised by both sides — and it’s been as bitter as any.  The campaign in support of Question 2 seemed sure to be a success when it started, enjoying bipartisan support, but as time went on, opposition grew.  And now, whatever happens on Tuesday in Massachusetts could affect the national fight over the growth of charter schools,  which supporters say give parents more educational choices for their children, and which critics say drain resources from traditional public schools, typically under-serve the highest-needs students and are not accountable to the local communities.”              EDUCATION WEEK asks a key question about this election: “What’s at Stake for Schools?”  K-12 issues got short shrift during the presidential campaign but it’s a different story at the state and local level “A different dynamic has taken hold at the state level, with education issues getting a relatively large amount of attention in states such as California, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Oklahoma,”  the article mentions, “where ballot measures and governors’ races have put the K-12 policy debate squarely in front of voters.  And among states overall—even in places where education has been overshadowed by other issues—the results of Tuesday’s vote could still have a major impact on approaches lawmakers take and just who makes the decisions on the Every Student Succeeds Act, which in December replaced the No Child Left Behind Act and which goes into full effect less than a year from now.”             How much do you know about elections in this country?  Valerie Strauss, in The Washington Post, offers a 10-question quiz about U.S. elections.  Here’s one example: “8) True or False: All members of the electoral college are  required to vote for the candidate that got a majority of the state’s popular vote.”  The answers are provided at the end of the quiz along with brief explanations. [Ed. note: It’s not an easy quiz.  I taught high school U.S. History and American Government for 26 years.  I got 6 out of the 10 questions right.  How did you do?]
 
Different Philosophies on Bilingual Education
And finally, the issue of bilingual education has always sparked controversy and that continues.  Voters in California today are facing Prop. 58 that will expand how bilingual education is offered in the state.  THE HECHINGER REPORT takes a look at how different states approach bilingual education.  It focuses on Massachusetts and Texas and how they offer language instruction with a passing reference to what’s taking place in California.  The piece is titled “How Can Being Bilingual Be An Asset for White Students and a Deficit for Immigrants?”  
 
 
                                                                                                     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, November 4, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Upcoming program note: The ALOED Educational Film Series will be screening the timely and controversial new documentary “Killing Ed” about the largest charter chain in the U.S. that happens to be controlled by a reclusive Turkish cleric who lives in a compound in the Pocono Mountains in Western Pennsylvania.  The film will be shown in Choi Auditorium on the Occidental College campus on Thursday, Nov. 10.  Refreshments at 6:30 pm with the screening to begin at 7.  A lively discussion will follow.  Join us.  The program is free of charge–so you can’t complain it’s too expensive.  For more information and to RSVP please click here.  To view the official trailer click here.
 
Important reminder: Daylight saving time ends officially at 2 am Sunday.  Turn your clocks BACK one hour.
 
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Another important reminder: Tuesday is Election Day, as if you needed a reminder.  Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm.  Vote if you haven’t already.
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And now to the news.

 
 “A deep commitment to general education is impossible in a context in which faculty and students 
 prize above all their ability to teach and study what they want.”

Pro-Charter Billionaires Attempt to Control San Diego County School Board, Washington Supreme Court & New York State Senate

The San Diego Free Press titles its story “Who’s Behind The Big Money Takeover of San Diego County Schools?”  Doe that sound familiar?  It should.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” carried a very similar headline about an attempted takeover of the Oakland School Board via thousands of dollars of contributions funneled to pro-charter candidates  for seats on the board from the usual billionaires and their foundations.  That piece mentioned that other cities have experienced the same sort of tactics.  “This election is an obscure race that few even know exists, yet it has become the focal point of a high-stakes political shoot-out.  The total cost of this race,” the Free Press article mentions, “is likely to run into the millions of dollars this season, while in the past, those costs were unlikely to pass a few thousand dollars.  This puts this minor election on track to be the most expensive race for a county office of education seat in the history of San Diego. . . .This is truly a big conflict in a very small place.  And one where people have the chance to say no to millionaires and billionaires trying to buy an election to serve their interests—rather than the interests of the children, who shouldn’t be pawns in this kind of game.”             Now it turns out those pro-charter billionaires and their foundations are not just interested in influencing local school board races (see above), but they also want to buy control of Washington State’s highest court.  Why? Because that Supreme Court ruled last year against the charter law in that state and judges on that court are elected by the voters.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, uncovers this latest intrusion into the electoral process.  “Washington State has been a disappointment to many of its tech billionaires.  Bill Gates and his friends had to spend several million dollars on several different tries to get a charter school law passed,” he writes, “and then the state court turned right around and declared that law unconstitutional (something about spending public monies on a private education-flavored business).  There was some agitated freaking out and an attempt to do an end run around the ruling.   But there is of course a simpler solution.  Pack the court with judges who are more agreeable.  And so  three judges in the Washington Supreme Court face challenges this year (the first such challenge since the 90s).”              If it’s not attempting to influence local school boards or state court elections (see two items above), 17 wealthy pro-charter financiers are turning their attention to buying control of several seats in the New York State Senate.  “Not possible,” you say.  Check out a piece on Diane Ravitch’s blog that cites findings from a new report.  “The report from the activist group Hedge Clippers,” Ravitch suggests, “showed that the bulk of the money – about $10.6 million – went to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a super PAC created by the pro-charter school group StudentsFirstNY.  Three other education reform PACs were also recipients of donations from the group of 17, the report found.”
 
Voucher Programs are Failing Students
Mark Pocan is a member of Congress from Wisconsin and a former member of that state’s legislature.  From those two posts he’s had a bird’s-eye-view of Wisconsin’s voucher program and from his perch, he doesn’t like what he’s been seeing.  The Badger State has the nation’s first and largest taxpayer-funded voucher program.  His commentary, appearing on The Progressive website, is titled “The Privatization of Public Education is Failing Our Kids” and analyzes a number of school “choice” plans around the country.  “The GAO [Government Accountability Office] found that participation in taxpayer-funded voucher programs has more than doubled in the last five years, from 70,000 to 147,000 students,” he notes.  “The bill to taxpayers has grown from $400 million five years ago to $859 million today.  It seems to me that before you dramatically expand a program the way vouchers have ballooned, you might first want to know if they are somewhat effective at teaching our kids.  That hadn’t happened.  And the anecdotal evidence is not good.”
 
The Teaching Profession
How would you feel if your pay was tied to your teaching evaluation?  The good news: that’s not being proposed in California; the bad news: the Utah State Board of Education is contemplating just such a course of action.  Diane Ravitch’s blog passes along a note from a reader about this idea.  The reader says “This will be a DISASTER.”                Are teachers still underestimating the math abilities of their female students?  That’s the finding of a new report conducted by researchers from New York University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and West Chester University featured in the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Throughout the last two decades,” it points out, “gender gaps in math achievement continued to persist, and teachers continued to rate the math performance of girls lower than that of similarly performing and engaged boys.  The study was published last week in AERA (American Educational Research Association) OPEN.  You can find the full paper (19 pages) titled “Have Gender Gaps in Math Closed? Achievement, Teacher Perceptions, and Learning Behaviors Across Two ECLS-K Cohorts” by clicking here.               Steven Singer titles this commentary on his CURMUDGUCATION blog “Why Teaching to the Test is Educational Malpractice.”  If that doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will!  “Malpractice is defined as ‘careless, wrong, or illegal actions by someone (such as a doctor) who is performing a professional duty.’  In some fields it can get you arrested.  In most it’s at least frowned upon.
In education, however, it’s encouraged.  In fact,”
he declares, “as a teacher, you can be singled out, written up or even fired for refusing to engage in malpractice.  You are bullied, cajoled and threatened into going along with practices that have been debunked by decades of research and innumerable case studies.  Take the all-too-common practice of teaching to the test.”  Singer proceeds to offer 5 main reasons why teaching to the test is not only harmful but flies in the face of most educational research on best practices and winds up with some “Recommendations and Conclusions.”              This is about the time of year when many brand new teachers begin to “hit the wall,” if they haven’t already.  They begin to realize this “teaching biz” is really difficult and challenging and they begin to look around for some guidance and assistance.  Roxanna Elden is an 11-year veteran of the classroom and pens an essay titled “Helping New Teachers Through Their Hardest Days” for EDUCATION WEEK.  She’s a National Board Certified teacher and wrote a popular book, “See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers,” which has helped thousands of neophyte educators become veterans of the profession.  She has also created a series of one-month emails aimed to help newbies survive that first year.  At the end of her article are informational links to both those items.  If you are a brand new teacher, I hope you find this item helpful and if you know of a brand new one, please share it with him or her.  [Ed. note: I, as most of you, can relate to how difficult that first year in front of students can be.  I have been forever grateful to the chair of my department who took me under his wing.  Without that help I probably wouldn’t have made it to year number 2.  As a result of his direction and caring, I’ve tried to dedicate a goodly portion of my time each year I was teaching–I’m now retired–to looking out for those first-timers and offering any kind of guidance and assistance that was needed.  I have never regretted that effort and truly found it most gratifying and time well spent.]              This next item may be of help to both beginners and vets.  It’s written by a middle school Language Arts teacher, Ariel Sacks.  Her piece, also for ED WEEK, is titled “Five Questions to Ask When Conflict Arises With a Student.”  If you teach for more than 5 minutes you are apt to have some type of run-in with a student and she offers a technique of conflict resolution for dealing with those always uncomfortable moments. “Developmentally, adolescents are hardwired to resist authority, because they are working to establish their independence.  At the same time,” Sacks points out, “they’re still building critical thinking skills and need guidance to be able to responsibly handle the independence they want.  Navigating my role as an adult and teacher of students has gotten easier with experience, but no less complex.”
 
Charter Schools
A new analysis of schools in Chicago finds that traditional public schools are outperforming charters on a number of metrics.  epaa (The Education Policy Analysis Archives) conducted the study and you can read the brief Abstract by clicking here.  “This study uses comprehensive data for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years to show that, after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools,” it states, “Chicago’s charter schools underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways.”  The Abstract includes a link to the full report (40 pages) titled “An Analysis of Student Performance in Chicago’s Charter Schools.”               EDUCATION WEEK has a new exposé on the troubled cyber charter industry titled “Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry.”  It includes 4 separate article (links included).  “With growing evidence that the nation’s cyber charter schools are plagued by serious academic and management problems,” the introductory item explains, “Education Week conducted a months-long investigation into what is happening in this niche sector of K-12 schooling.  The result is a deep-dive account of what’s wrong with cyber charters.”   The introduction has a short video (1:09 minutes) overview of the series.                Last month the city council of Huntington Park voted to extend a temporary 45-day ban on charter expansion in the city into a 1-year moratorium.  At the time, there were questions raised about whether that action was legal.  This week the California Charter Schools Association filed suit in L.A. County Superior Court against the city for its decision.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes the litigation.  “City leaders approved the moratorium during a contentious meeting last month,” it explains.  Charter supporters pointed out local charters’ comparatively high test scores, cited individual success stories and criticized city leaders for standing in the way of a top-flight education for other families.  Charter critics argued that charters undermine traditional schools by attracting students who are easier and less expensive to educate.”               Some charter schools like to tout their long waiting lists as proof of their popularity among parents.  A reporter for WGBH, the NPR affiliate in Boston, raises some questions about the truth of that oft-repeated contention.  He digs into the numbers and looks at what it means to be on a “waiting list.”  “Data from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education analyzed by WGBH News,” he discovers, “would seem to cast doubt on every part of that assertion: While many students appearing on those lists may indeed be ‘stuck’ in schools of lesser preference, charter school wait list numbers provide little, if any reliable indication of how many.”
 
Chicago Teachers Ratify Contract
A majority of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Tuesday voted to ratify the recently negotiated 4-year contract with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s administration.  A story in the Chicago Tribune has the latest details.  “In addition to financial provisions, the contract includes changes to district policies sought by the union.  Among those,” it describes, “are an agreement to cap the city’s number of independently operated charter schools and restrict their enrollment to just above their current capacity.  The district also agreed to obtain outside funding to pay for as many as 55 ‘community schools’— at an annual cost of at least $500,000 per school — while creating a task force to select those buildings and determine how they could include community health care, after-school activities and support for homeless or chronically truant students.”  The Chicago Public Schools board is scheduled to vote on the contract on Dec. 7.
 
School Accountability System Debated
The California State Board of Education has been working out the details of a new school accountability system.  This week they debated over how to utilize student test scores but were unable to reach a consensus so the decision was put off.  An article in yesterday’s L.A. Times discusses the details of the discourse on the topic along with some other items on the board’s agenda.  “In a previous meeting, the group voted to move toward a color-coded system: red for schools that need extra help, green for schools doing well,” it points out.  “But it’s been harder to agree on details.  On Wednesday, the board delayed a vote on a proposal to define those test scores that would have given a school a green rating for academics.  The initial cutoffs were at least 51% of students proficient in math and 60% in English/language arts, with that performance maintained from year to year, on state standardized tests.”
 
Group of L.A. Teachers Rejects Corporate “Reform” Money
Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints a press release from UTLA reporting that a group of educators at 4 LAUSD schools voted to reject grant money from 2 billionaires representing the organization “Great Public Schools Now.”  “Educators say that this is a PR stunt, not a genuine effort to fund schools in need,” the announcement states, “and are calling on the District to uphold the vote by not accepting the grant money from GPSN, in any way.  The vote was 98% in favor of rejecting the money; ballot counts at Drew Middle School, Pacoima Middle School, San Fernando High School, and Gompers Middle School were, respectively, 35 to 1, 58 to 0, 72 to 0, and 22 to 3.”
 
Next U.S. Sec. of Education?
Valerie Strauss joins the speculation on who might be the next U.S. Sec. of Education on her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post.  She offers a number of names for both a possible Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency.  One name being bandied around to head the U.S. Dept. of Education under the former is Ben Carson.  In a Pres. Clinton administration the two top names include Linda Darling-Hammond and Randi Weingarten.  “With the election just days away,” Strauss maintains, “many in the education world are wondering who might take over the Education Department in the new administration. Education was a subject pretty much overlooked during the campaign, but the positions the candidates took on some education issues suggest vastly different education secretary picks. ”  Check out her blog for some other names being mentioned.             The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) issued a press release offering a number of possible candidates to be the next U.S. Sec. of Education.  It’s a generic list that is not broken down by candidate.  It contains some familiar names to readers of the “Ed News” like Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Carol Burris and Julian Vasquez-Heilig.  “The Badass Teachers Association, a network of over 80,000 teachers and education activists throughout the United States, demand the next Secretary of Education be someone who has a clear vision of support for public education,” it begins, “understands clearly the importance of equity, and will set the education of our children back on the right track.”  See who else they recommend.
State Board Approves New Science Framework
California is one of a number of states that has adopted the Next General Science Standards, a series of goals that promise to present science instruction in the Golden State in a more hands-on way for students according to an article in today’s L.A. Times.  “State education staffers gathered groups of science teachers and over 3,000 public comments about how to translate those goals into lessons,” it mentions.  “[Yesterday] the state education board approved a science ‘curriculum framework’  that came out of that field research.  While the standards state key principles and what students should know by the end of each grade, the framework, officials say, is the ‘how.’  The document is supposed to guide publishers to develop new textbooks for use in the state’s public schools.”
 
Election 2016
As of the date of this issue of the “Ed News” (Friday) the election is only 4 days away.  Many previous editions have highlighted different aspects of the presidential contest, other federal, state and local races, as well as state and local ballot measures related to education issues.  I hope you have found my coverage both informative and interesting.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes one last chance to lay out the stakes in this campaign at all levels.  His commentary is titled “This Election is About School Funding, Democratic Control of Education.”  Bryant reviews a number of races with key education issues playing a role and discusses some of the critical ballot questions facing voters in certain states.  “If you’re discouraged about the lack of substance in this year’s presidential race,” he suggests, “there are ample opportunities to support candidates and measures down ballot that will determine the course of education policy, and thus affect the well being of children and the future of our nation.  So go vote,” he concludes emphatically.
 
Oxy Professor Named Editor of Teacher Education Quarterly
And finally, some exciting news.  Mary Christianakis,  associate professor of Critical Theory and Social Justice at Occidental College has been named the new editor of the prestigious Teacher Education Quarterly.  She’ll assume that post on Jan. 1.  A press release from the Occidental website has news of the appointment.  “During her three-year term as editor,” it reports, “Christianakis plans to expand the treatment of such issues as teacher education for English Language Learners in STEM fields; exploring the links between the latest brain research and teacher knowledge; and critical social justice issues as they pertain to teacher education.”  Thanks to ALOED member Nancy Kuechle for forwarding this item.
                                                                                                     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, November 1, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[Upcoming program note: The ALOED Educational Film Series will be screening the timely and controversial new documentary “Killing Ed” about the largest charter chain in the U.S. that just so happens to be controlled by a reclusive Turkish cleric who lives in a compound in the Pocono Mountains in Western Pennsylvania.  The film will be shown in Choi Auditorium on the Occidental College campus on Thursday, Nov. 10.  Refreshments at 6:30 pm with the screening to begin at 7.  A lively discussion will follow so join us.  The program is free of charge–you can’t complain it’s too expensive.  For more information and to RSVP please click here.  To view the official trailer click here.]
 
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And now to the news.
 “A true education opens the mind and lets us see the world with wonder and joy. 
It teaches us to accept change with love, and it teaches us to be harmonious 
 with humanity and nature. If any education teaches us to close our minds, to accept dogma,
 and to violently inhibit questioning then that is not an education. That is a prison for the mind.”
New Strategy for ELLs
The San Diego Unified School District is pursuing a different strategy in dealing with its English Language Learners in middle and high school.  The program they have adopted is not without its critics according to a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “For almost a decade, such students — many of them refugees — spent their first year in special classrooms the district called New Arrival Centers.  The students stayed with the same teacher most of the day,” it relates, “learning English and core subjects.  They joined other students for less academic classes such as physical education or art.  Starting this school year though, the approach has changed.  They are learning math, science and other core subjects in regular classes.  A language ‘coach’ goes with them to class to support them as well as their teachers.”
 
Pro-Charter Billionaires Attempt to Control Oakland School Board
When the corporate “reformers” are not able to control members of a local school board they simply pour millions of outside dollars into the next election to insure candidates who support their goals are elected.  It’s happened in many cities around the country in the past and now its taking place in Oakland, California.  An article in the EAST BAY EXPRESS points out that a typical school board race in Oakland usually required the expenditure of around $20,000.  No longer is that the case.  “In 2012, [current board member Shanti] Gonzales says the nonprofit organization Great Oakland[GO] Public Schools began raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars,” the item explains, “to support candidates who will advance its goals of growing the number of charters and providing them with greater access to publicly-funded resources.  As a result, GO Public Schools changed the calculus of school-board elections and unleashed an avalanche of money, which other groups haven’t matched, and that dwarfs the sums that candidates can raise by themselves.”
 
Vergara-style Lawsuit Dismissed in Minnesota
Remember Vergara v California, the lawsuit brought by a group of students that challenged the tenure and seniority rights of teachers in the Golden State? Quick review: The original trial court upheld the suit but a later appeals court decision threw that verdict out.  When the initial ruling was handed down many corporate “reformers” heralded it as the beginning of a number of cases to be brought in other states around the country that would result in similar conclusions. So far, that scenario has not quite come to pass.  A comparable case is making its way through the New York court system but a Minnesota judge tossed out an almost identical version last week.  The “Teacher Beat” column in EDUCATION WEEK has details about the latter action.  “Complaining that teachers’ unions have too much influence in state legislatures,” it notes, “national education reform groups have hoped that the courts would overturn tenure laws that they say make it all but impossible to dismiss low-performing educators.  The Minnesota judge, however, found that legislators should decide the matter.”
 
Charters Costing LAUSD Millions of Dollars
UTLA, the LAUSD teachers union, commissioned a report from an independent research company, MGT of America, to look into thefinancial impact charters are having on the district.  The shocking bottom line: $591 million this year alone!  A very brief overview of the study appears on TheCostofCharterSchools(dot)com.  It includes a link to the full paper (46 pages) titled “Fiscal Impact of Charter Schools on LAUSD” or you can find it by clicking here.  “Taken together,”  the summary reports, “the findings in the report paint a picture of a system that prioritizes the growth opportunities for charter school operators over the educational opportunities for all students.  MGT of America made a presentation to the LAUSD board about the report back in May, which you can see in a video segment (18:40 minutes).
 
Charter Schools
In case you haven’t noticed, the “Ed News” is not a big fan of charters.  The editor believes there are many media outlets promoting charters and touting their successes with the assistance of funding from the billionaire philanthropists, their foundations and certain federal, state and local politicians.  The “Ed News” tries to offer some “balance” to the discussion over charters and would like to remind readers that it has taken zero dollars in that pursuit.  The deck has been stacked for too long in favor of charters versus traditional public schools.  Along those lines is this story: Paul Buchheit, writing on the CommonDreams website offers more “dirt”  in the form of “4 Big Sins of Charter Schools.”  He is a college professor, social justice activist, blogger and author.  “Charter schools have turned our children into the products of businesspeople.  Americans need to know how important it is to get the profit motive out of education,” he concludes, “and to provide ALL our children the same educational opportunities.”  The “Ed News” is in full agreement with those ideas and shares Buchheit’s concern over the continued expansion of charters at the expense of our traditional public schools.               Popular former Chicago principal Troy LaRaviere spoke to a group of Boston teachers in opposition to Question 2 on the Massachusetts ballot that would lift the cap on charter expansion in that state.  His talk (62:23 minutes) it titled “What Makes Charter School Policy So Toxic?” can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.  “Regardless of how you feel about ‘school choice’ the more important point,” LaRaviere explains, “is that government has no business subsidizing a model for schooling that produces poor options for parents to choose from.”  LaRaviere was fired by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel earlier this year for political reasons.  He supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries and was an outspoken critic of the mayor.  Despite his removal as principal, LaRaviere’s colleagues promptly elected  him president of the Chicago Principals’ and Administrators’ Association.                   Many charter schools like to tout studies that point out how successful they are and how well they are doing.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, isn’t buying all of them.  He’s rather skeptical of a new report on the Rocketship Academy charter chain and he painstakingly takes it apart point by point in a piece titled “More Bogus Research from Rocketship.”  “It’s more charter marketeering fluffed up with science-flavored PR filler,” Greene concludes about this latest study. “ It’s dishonest and not very useful in adding to a real conversation about meeting educational needs or evaluating the actual impact of charters in general and the Rocketship blended plunk-kids-in-front-of-computers model in particular.  I’m sure we’ll see this thing passed around in the weeks ahead.  Do not be fooled.”                UTLA, the LAUSD teachers union, challenged the California Charter School Association (CCSA) to a debate over the impact of charter schools in the district.  CCSA declined so the union put out an open letter to “Parents” with a list of “what CCSA Won’t Tell You.”  Here’s one of them: “2. Charter Schools are paid for by funds that would have gone to our neighborhood public schools, often hurting the schools most in need.”  UTLA’s letter appeared as a full-page paid advertisement in the L.A. Times last week, titled “What is CCSA Afraid of?”  You can find a copy of it on the WE ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS website.              A reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog emailed Ravitch an open letter about her terrible experiences teaching for 5 weeks at a “no excuses” charter in Rochester, New York. The author of the letter wishes to remain anonymous.  “I am a newly-certified teacher who finds myself without a job in October of my first year of teaching,” she writes, “due to my HUGE mistake in taking a job at a no-excuses charter school.  I want this letter to be publicized in order that other young teachers do not make the same mistakes that I do, and that others can realize what an empty promise the no-excuse charter schools really are!”
 
LAT Criticizes LAUSD Goals
An editorial in Sunday’s L.A. Times believes the newly adopted master plan by the LAUSD board is overly ambitious and doomed to failure.  The paper is particularly concerned with the district’s aim of a 100% graduation rate.  “L.A. Unified has followed the same pattern too many times.  Set a big goal, watch it fail, change the rules, define its way out of the problem,” it complains.  “What student needs is an ambitious goal that gives everyone something to reach for without feeling doomed from the start.”
 
The Teaching Profession
A former science teacher and department chair writes about “The Key to Good Science Teaching” in a commentary for EDUCATION WEEK.  She rightly believes that excellent science teaching is not easy and requires continuous learning on the part of educators.  “The 2015 National Academy of Sciences report concludes the most effective professional learning for science teachers,” she mentions, “focuses on content rather than just pedagogy; entails active learning; provides consistency across learning experiences and with school, district, and state policies; has sufficient duration to allow repeated practice and reflection on classroom experiences; and brings together teachers with similar experiences or needs.”
 
Election 2016
Yet another commentator complains about the lack of substantive discussion concerning K-12 education issues during the fall presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  This time it’s Rebecca Mead writing in THE NEW YORKER.  She begins by passing along some interesting research on the grade level of the speeches delivered by the candidates and certain comments by various observers of their policies and proposals.  “The campaign in its closing weeks has . . . .also been remarkably devoid of any real discussion of educational issues.  In the three Presidential debates,” she points out, “not a single question was addressed to the candidates about their views on education.  And, apart from Hillary Clinton’s fleeting mentions of affordable child care and debt-free college tuition, neither candidate sought to raise the issue.”  If nothing else, check out the always entertaining illustration that accompanies the piece.  Is that a “wall” around Mr. Trump?              The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of education-related issues on next week’s ballot in California and several times mentioned Question 2 in Massachusetts, a key pro-charter measure that would lift the cap on charter expansion in that state.  Voters in Georgia are also facing a critical issue–Amendment 1–that would create an “opportunity school district” made up of “failing” campuses in the Peach State.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post, has a podcast featuring a discussion of the proposed amendment.  The conversation is between Jennifer Berkshire, author of the popular “EduShyster” blog and Aaron French on the “Have You Heard” program.  The audio segment (15:35 minutes) includes a full transcript.  An October poll by the Atlanta Journal Constitution found voters against the measure by a 2 to 1 margin.
 
School Segregation
John Oliver, on his popular HBO show “This Week Tonight,” is at it again.  He’s done some previous segments on standardized testing and charter schools and now focuses his razor-sharp wit on the problem of school segregation. He decries how our schools are becoming more and more segregated by race and class. This program (17:58 minutes) aired Sunday night and appears on You Tube.               What have Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton said on the campaign trail about school resegregation?  Most K-12 education issues have gotten short shrift during the run-up to the Nov. 8 election and that topic is no different.  However, there have been times over the past year-and-a-half when the candidates commented on the critical issue of integration.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews what little they had to sayand suggests what the next president may be able to do about it.  “The resegregation of the nation’s schools might be one of the hottest issues in education policy these days,” it begins.  “But it’s never really penetrated the presidential race.”  The piece also attempts to offer an explanation as to why that’s the case.
 
“Jeopardy” Comes to LAUSD School
A simulated version of the popular TV game show “Jeopardy” came to Van Nuys Middle School (LAUSD) recently.  The competition pitted the individual winners from the 6th, 7th and 8th grades who faced off in the campuses auditorium on Thursday.  A story in Sunday’s L.A. Times provides some highlights from the “show” with a sampling of a few of the questions and the students’ responses.  “PBS host Mark Walberg stood in for Alex Trebek.  He read the categories, culled from the school’s curriculum,” it explains, “including It Starts With A, Add 5 Numbers, Spanish Colors, It’s in Antiques and Duh.”  Check out the article and see who won and what her winning strategy was.
 
What Can Principals Learn?
4 Lessons Principals Can Learn From Their Staffs” is the provocative title of a commentary by Peter deWitt for the “Finding Common Ground” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  He’s an author and former K-5 public school principal.  “Many times leaders believe they should be the one teaching lessons, and not necessarily the ones learning them,” he writes.  “It’s interesting working with leaders because some of them have been a coach or assistant principal for a few years and think being the head honcho is a rite of passage after spending time in those other roles. The reality is that leaders should be chosen based on experience, insight or potential…not because they did the time.”
 
Underperforming School Saves Itself
The corporate “reformers” constantly want to close “failing” traditional public schools, reconstitute them or turn them into charters.  What if those types of campuses were given the resources and opportunity to fix themselves?  “Never happen,” you respond.  How about an example of one that did?  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post has often written about a new project called Schools of Opportunity that began in 2014 as a pilot program in New York and Colorado.  I’ll let her explain what the project is all about: It “was launched a few years ago by educators who wanted to highlight public high schools that actively seek to close opportunity gaps through 11 research-proven practices and not standardized test scores (which are more a measure of socioeconomic status than anything else).  The project,” she continues, “assesses how well schools provide health and psychological support for students, judicious and fair discipline policies, high-quality teacher mentoring programs, outreach to the community, effective student and faculty support systems, and broad and enriched curriculum.  Schools submit applications explaining why they believe their school should be recognized.”  Strauss turns her blog over to the two co-founders of the project who describe one campus in Seattle, Rainier Beach High School, that was able to turn itself around with the help of the community, a committed  faculty and staff and a supportive district.  Their story is most uplifting and should serve as a clear roadmap for others in the same situation to follow.
 
Common Core and Testing
And finally, a reader of Diane Ravitch’s blog has some words to the wise about how parents can resist the Common Core State Standards and standardized testing.  He describes the power that parents inherently have.  “The greatest fear of the reform mob is parents,” he makes clear.  ” Parents own infinite passion when it comes to their children.  And if lots and lots of parents glue themselves together, well, this reform morphs into mighty.  That’s not the sort of muscle educrats, politicians, and local board members want to confront.  Remember that … they fear you.”               What is the current status of the Common Core nationally and here in California?  EDUCATION WEEK has a nifty interactive map providing answers to just those kinds of questions.  Were you aware that 4 states never adopted them?  Can you name them? 
 
 
                                                                                                     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.