Ed News, Tuesday, November 8, 2016 Edition


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


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