Ed News, Friday, November 18, 2016 Edition


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

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