Ed News, Tuesday, November 15, 2016 Edition


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



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