Monthly Archives: December 2016

Ed News, Friday, December 23, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

   The 8-day Jewish holiday of Chanukah 
    begins at sundown tomorrow (Saturday) 
   and, of course, Christmas arrives on Sunday.
 
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[The “Ed News” will be taking a short break for the holidays.  Look for the next edition on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.]
 
And now to the news.
  “For in this Case, we are not to give Credit to the Many, who say, 
  that none ought to be educated but the Free; but rather to the Philosophers, 
  who say, that the Well-educated alone are free.”

The Teacher Shortage

The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items about the teacher shortage plaguing a number of states since the phenomenon came to light.  A comprehensive article from truthout reviews the causes of the problem, why it could persist and some policies that could end it.  ” The reasons why teachers are leaving — or not going into teaching in the first place — are not difficult to discern,” it notes.  “Teachers unions, as well as activist groups like the Badass Teachers Association and research entities like the Learning Policy Institute agree: Micromanagement of teachers; disorganized school administration; a lack of voice in matters affecting school functioning; too few chances to teach collaboratively; excessive attention to test prep; chronic underfunding; and a perceived lack of respect from parents and the overall community lead to demoralization and push educators into less emotionally exhausting, and often better paying, occupations.”
 
The Value of School Secretaries
Who really runs a school?  The principal? Teachers? What about the school secretary?  The “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK titles a commentary “8 Reasons Why School Secretaries Deserve More Credit.”  The author, Peter DeWitt, is a former K-5 public school principal.  Check out his list.  “I hope you don’t mind a blog post that is a bit different than the others.  It’s just that I don’t believe that secretaries get the credit they deserve as often as they deserve it.  In the end,” he concludes, “a good school secretary helps build relationships, and is an integral part of the school climate.”  The next time you visit the main office of a school show some appreciation for those undervalued (and woefully underpaid) school secretaries.
 
The Obama Education Legacy and What’s Ahead

Dana Goldstein, a previous ALOED Book Club author, looks back at the last 8 years of education policy under the Obama administration.  Her analysis appears in THE Nation and is aptly titled “The Education of Barack Obama.  Only Recently has the President Focused on Progressive Issues Like School Funding and Desegregation.  Don’t Expect Trump to do the Same.”  “Only since 2014 has there been a détente in what many, myself included, termed the ‘teacher wars.’ [Ed. note: That’s the title of her book that we discussed.]   Grassroots activism from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as from tens of thousands of parents who opted their children out of standardized testing,” she suggests, “helped shift the terms of the debate.  We now talk almost as much about school discipline, unequal school funding, and school segregation as we do about low test scores and teacher tenure.  It’s a profound change in rhetoric.”  Goldstein is not optimistic that those progressive topics will be of much concern as the Trump/DeVos team takes over education policy.               Jeff Bryant, on The Education Opportunity NETWORK, also dives into the speculation game of what’s to come in regards to education issues under a Trump administration.  Bryant cites a number of sources (and includes links) that attempt to make guesses as to what to expect in the future.  He references Dana Goldstein’s article (see above) at the very end of his piece.  “Education marketers have rebranded ‘public schools’ to mean any institution that gets tax dollars.  And the phrase ‘doing what’s best for kids’ has been turned into an empty PR slogan.  The operative political term of the day,” he worries, “is ‘what parents choose for their children,’ which has become a de facto argument to justify any kind of education option – even if parents are being suckered into bad choices or are being forced into situations where high quality education options are practically unobtainable.”               Online or virtual charter schools, which have not received good marks of late, are chomping at the bit at the prospects of a Trump administration that appears to be a big booster of charter schools of any type.  Even some segments of the charter industry are raising alarms about their online brethren. BuzzFeedNEWS describes how Wall Street is reacting to the investment possibilities.  “Online charter schools are widely regarded as among the country’s worst-performing, plagued by abysmal test scores and sky-high student turnover rates,” it relates.  “They’re also gearing up for a boom during the Trump administration, judging by where investors are placing their bets.  K12 Inc., the online charter school industry’s largest and most controversial player, has risen in value by more than 50% since November 8. The shares hit a 2-year high last week.”               In the face of a future Trump/DeVos threat to dismantle the traditional public school system, what types of strategies can supporters adopt to resist such an onslaught?  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers some moral support and, more importantly, some ideas of how to fight back against Trump’s cabinet selections and other office picks.  “Buck up, Education Activists.  I see that hopeless look on your faces. I see it because it’s the same look reflected back at me in the mirror every morning,” he confesses.”  Singer concludes his piece with a powerful and appropriate quote from an unknown source: 

 
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[Ed. ironic note: As I peek outside my window at this very moment, it’s dark and rainy.]
 
Common Core & Testing
Diane Ravitch’s blog reviews why she is, and has been, against the Common Core State Standards since their inception.  Ravitch lists the specific reasons she opposes the Common Core and provides links to a number of previous columns and stories in that regard.  “I oppose the mandated use of the Common Core standards.  If teachers like them and want to use them, they should.  I have no problem with that,” she writes.  “It should be up to the teachers, not to a committee that was funded by Bill Gates, promoted by Arne Duncan, and marketed as a ‘state-led initiative,’ which it was not.”               Results recently came out from two major international standardized tests, the TIMSS and PISA (both were highlighted individually by the “Ed News”).  If you missed them, EDUCATION WEEK has a recap and some additional analysis of the what the scores signify.  It includes several graphs and charts comparing the results and what it all means to the big picture.               The Dec. 16th edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article in the L.A. Times about a conflict between the U.S. Dept. of Education and California over new science tests.  The state wants to introduce assessments that are tied to the new Next Generation Science Standards and eliminate old exams and not hold schools and districts accountable until everything has been implemented and checked-out thoroughly.  The DoE, on the other hand, wants California to administer both tests and issue results so that district and school scores can be compared.  An editorial in yesterday’s Times sides with the state and mentions a couple of other times officials in the Golden State defied federal directives.  “The state wants to give the new science tests, dump the old ones and not hold schools responsible for the results until everyone gets used to the new curriculum and exams.  The U.S. Department of Education rejected the proposal, saying if California won’t report scores for the new tests, it has to give the old tests as well.  Once again,” the piece argues, “the state is right: It shouldn’t test something it isn’t teaching anymore.  And it shouldn’t be pushed to double-test; schools are supposed to be eliminating duplicative tests.”
 
Sleuthing Out Deceptive Websites
“Fake news” reports became a critical issue this year as witnessed by the just concluded election.  The Tuesday edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a couple of items on the topic.  In the same vein, the “Tech Smart” column in THE HECHINGER REPORT has a story titled “What These Teens Learned About the Internet May Shock You!  Can Digital Media Literacy Contend With Bogus News?”  It leads off with a group of AP U.S. History students in California studying a seemingly authoritative website about the minimum wage only to quickly discover, under the guidance of their teacher, that it was really a front for an industry organization.  How the students proceeded from that revelation is the focus of the piece. “The exercise was part of ‘Civic Online Reasoning,’ a series of news-literacy lessons being developed by Stanford researchers,” it details, “and piloted by teachers at a few dozen schools.  The Stanford initiative launched in 2015, joining a handful of recent efforts to help students contend with misinformation and fake news online—a problem as old as dial-up modems, but now supercharged by social media and partisan news bubbles.  The backers of these efforts warn that despite young people’s reputation as ‘digital natives,’ they are woefully unprepared to sort online fact from fiction, and the danger isn’t just to scholarship but to citizenship.”
 
Dirty Pool in North Carolina Challenged
Several key REPUBLICANS, including the chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, are threatening possible legal action against what the outgoing GOP governor and Republican legislators did in stripping certain powers from the Board of Education and handing them to the newly elected GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction.  All of this was accomplished in a hastily called special session after the governor was defeated by a razor thin margin in the Nov. 8th election.  The previous two editions of the “Ed News” tried to sort all this out for you.  “The Progressive Pulse” feature of the NC POLICY WATCH discusses the latest developments in this ongoing saga which some observers have referred to as a “coup.”  “Minutes after Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday,” it begins, “signed a controversial bill mandating stiff new limits on the powers of Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education—a panel composed of gubernatorial appointees—state board Chairman Bill Cobey vowed his board would meet with their attorneys to consider their response.”  The article points out, interestingly, that most of the members of the North Carolina Board of Education are members of the GOP.  So why are Republicans doing such nasty things to fellow Republicans?  Good question.                Things have become so dysfunctional in North Carolina governance that one expert believes his Tar Heel State no longer qualifies as a democracy.  Andrew Reynolds is a professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an author, and a consultant on democratic institutions for over 20 countries around the world.   His op-ed for the Charlotte News & Observer is bluntly titled “North Carolina is No Longer Classified as a Democracy.”  He and a colleague designed their Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) that measures the quality of elections around the world.  By their own measure, North Carolina doesn’t meet the criteria to be called “a fully functioning democracy.”  That’s really sad, sad indeed.  “In the just released EIP report,” Reynolds makes known,  “North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.  If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.”
 
2016, The Year in Review
It’s that time of year again for those ubiquitous “best and worst of 2016” lists.  The “Ed News” has already highlighted a couple of them that got the jump on what are surely more to come.  The “Digital Education” column for EDUCATION WEEK checks in with a piece headlined “Ed-Tech Research That Mattered in 2016″ that rehashes “the 10 most popular and impactful stories” from the column from the past year.  Here’s one example: “5. Students in Online Credit Recovery Fare Worse Than Peers, Research Finds     A major study from the American Institutes for Research found that Chicago 9th graders who took a face-to-face version of an Algebra I credit-recovery course had better short-term outcomes than those who took the course online, raising questions about the rapidly growing online credit recovery market. (April)”               ED WEEK is out with its Top 10 Most-Viewed Education Stories of 2016 with links to each.  [Ed. note: We’re pleased to note that many of them were highlighted in the “Ed News” over the past year.]  Here’s just one example that was covered in the “Ed News:”  “#7  1 in 4 Teachers Miss 10 or More School Days, Analysis Finds”
 
DeVos Pick to Head DoE
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post, reprints a speech Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, delivered in 2015 about her vision for education.  You can read the full text of it by clicking here.  It contains “6 Inconvenient Truths” about the state of education in the U.S. today as identified by DeVos.  Strauss then proceeds to analyze the talk in great detail in two additional columns because she believes it is quite indicative of what’s in store for education under a Trump/DeVos team.  Strauss’ first column of analysis is titled “To Trump’s Education Pick, the U.S. Public School System is a ‘Dead End'”  and her follow-up column is headlined “‘Government Really Sucks and Five Other Principles Promoted by Trump’s Education Nominee.”  “The thrust of her speech is that traditional public schools are simply not as good as charters or privates,” Strauss suggests in the former.  “And that’s why many public school advocates are concerned about the nomination of the woman who called the traditional public education system in the United States a ‘dead end.’”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, credits Valerie Strauss for uncovering the speech Betsy DeVos delivered in  2015 in which she discusses her “6 inconvenient truths” about education (see above).  He couldn’t resist adding his point-by-point critique of her talk.  “I don’t know if DeVos is a hypocrite or not,” he concludes dismissively.  “This is one more aspect in which she resembles her predecessors Arne Duncan and John “Duncan Lite” King– it’s not always clear whether she is using devious political spin or she just doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.  If we don’t have the good fortune to see her appointment thwarted, I guess I’ll just wait and see which inconvenient truth we are dealing with.”              Will Betsy DeVos have an advantage (read conflict-of-interest) when she faces her upcoming confirmation hearing and Senate vote?  That’s an issue raised by an article from POLITICO that points out rather brazenly that she and her husband have donated large sums of money to a number of senators including some who will be voting on her nomination in committee.  “Education committee members Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have all accepted money — collectively, $50,000 — from DeVos and her husband since 2010. In that same time period,” it points out, “the couple contributed a total of more than $160,000 to senators who will consider Betsy DeVos’ nomination, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).” Hmm.  As Marcellus says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:” “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”                Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, weighs in on the appointment of Betsy DeVos on THE INDYPENDENT website [Ed. note: That IS how it’s spelled.]  She titles her essay “Meet Trump’s Public Ed Wrecking Ball.”  With both houses in Congress in Republican hands,” she warns, “we will have a fierce battle on our hands to withstand the destructive impulses of Trump and DeVos.  Aiding them will be a flood of money poured into lobbying campaigns by billionaires, Wall Street financiers, edu-entrepreneurs, and religious institutions, all eager to divert taxpayer funds into private hands and dismantle our public schools.  Public school parents, teachers, and advocates must be smart and work together to withstand this assault.”  Be sure to check out the caricature of DeVos at the start of the piece.
Finalists for Superintendent of the Year
The AASA, the School Superintendents Association, announced the 4 finalists for its Superintendent of the Year Award for 2017.  One was from Orange County, but it’s not THAT Orange County.  This one was in Florida.  The other 3 candidates are from Alaska, North Carolina and Oregon.  The “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a very brief thumbnail description and picture of each of the finalists.  [They] were selected as winners in their individual states’ contests for superintendent of the year,” it points out.  “The national winner will be announced at AASA’s annual conference in March in New Orleans.”
 
Cartoon of the Day
It has nothing to do with education but since reading this comic in yesterday’s L.A. Times, I can’t stop laughing, chuckling or smiling every time I think of it.  Any way.  Please enjoy it and I hope it brightens your day, even a little.
 
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The Teaching Profession
Why do certain segments of the education community continue to pursue “standardized” tests and “standardized” learning when we know, or should know full well, that every student is different and unique.  That’s the issue addressed by Lily Howard Scott on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post.  Scott has taught elementary school in California and currently teaches third grade in Brooklyn.  Her composition is headlined “A One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Instruction is Stifling Our Classrooms.”  As Scott writes: “The current trend toward standardized learning — scripted curricula and prescribed classroom-management routines — is shackling educators around the country and discouraging talented individuals from joining the field.”
 

L.A. County Board of Ed Saves 3 Charters

“If at first you don’t succeed . . .” may be the watchword for the Magnolia Public Schools charter network in Los Angeles.  After the LAUSD board voted unanimously  in October to close 3 charters in the district the network appealed to the L.A. County Board of Education.   It won a reprieve there this week from the LAUSD’s action according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  The County Board’s decision actually went against what its staff had recommended.  “The county staff report echoed the school district’s concerns, concluding, among other things, that Magnolia failed to provide investigators, auditors and financial overseers with requested documents in a timely fashion after years of poor fiscal management.  The county review team,” the article mentions, “also contended that the charter was top heavy in management, had a high student attrition rate and scheduled board meetings that were difficult for the public to participate in or see.”
 
Charter Schools & Choice
How easy is it to start a charter school?  Check out this ad on Craig’s List for opening a charter in the Washington, D.C., area and possibly nationwide.  Sounds like a breeze.  Just about anybody might qualify.  What does this say to you about the quality of a school/business that makes it this easy to get started?   Diane Ravitch reacted to this ad in this manner:  “Just anybody at all can put their heads together, write (or copy) a proposal, and get public funds to start a charter school.  No experience necessary.”               Charters are the leading edge of the corporate “reform” and privatization movement according to Carol Burris, the award winning New York high school principal (now retired) and current executive director of the NPE (Network for Public Education).  She once again guest blogs on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post.  “Opening a charter is akin to opening your own business — but the cost and risk are fully funded by the taxpayers,” Burris explains.  “In most states, taxpayer dollars provide the initial ‘investment.’  This is an odd business model in which the corporation gets income for every customer who walks through the door, regardless of the individual ability to pay.  And if the business fails, ‘owners’ are not out a dime, but the customers, who are in this case children, are stranded.  It is remarkable that the American public has allowed such risk-free, taxpayer-funded entrepreneurship to occur,” she continues.  “If you think that publicly funded, largely unregulated businesses [Ed. note: See above]would be ripe for shady deals, oversized compensation and outright fraud, you would be right.”  Check out Burris’ fairly long section on Gülen-linked charters.               What does the phrase “school choice” mean precisely? Ariana Prothero, author of the “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK has created a short video (3:11 minutes) explaining the different types of public and private school choice that are out there.  
Public Schools in California Urged to Continue to be “Safe Havens”
And finally, Tom Torlakson, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued a letter to district superintendents in the state Wednesday urging them to declare their status as “safe havens” and to clarify and publicize their policies regarding the protection of immigrant students.  An item in today’s L.A. Times describes the school chief’s action.  “The letter comes in light of concerns about President-elect Donald Trump’s promises during and after the campaign,” it reports, “to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.  In his letter, Torlakson included a link to a ‘safe haven’ resolution passed by the Sacramento City Unified School District as an example that other districts might follow.  The Los Angeles Unified School District has already passed a similar measure and set up a hotline and support sites to counsel parents and students who are worried.”

           
 
 As we wrap up this most eventful year, 2016, 
the editor of the “Ed News” would like to wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year and a BIG thanks for reading.
 
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                                                                                                           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, December 20, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 Winter officially arrives at
2:44 am Wednesday morning.
 
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And now to the news.

 
“Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls.
Books, not weapons.  Morality, not corruption.
Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance.” 

― Suzy KassemRise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

LAUSD Shutdown Last Year Based on False Threat
The email threat that led to the shutdown of the entire LAUSD on Dec. 15, last year was based on a fake terrorist threat according to an internal district report obtained by the L.A. Times. A front page story in Saturday’s paper details the events that led up to and followed the reception of the email sent to board Pres. Steve Zimmer at 10 pm the night before.  The same correspondence was sent to the New York City schools and officials there reacted much differently than ones in L.A. “The report, released in response to a Los Angeles Times public records request, affirms that law enforcement and district officials acted quickly to confront the threat,” the article reveals, “bringing impressive resources to bear.  But outside law enforcement agencies also stepped aside over the question of whether schools should be closed, leaving the decision to school officials who lacked any training to evaluate the danger.”
 
Dirty Pool in North Carolina Confirmed
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item about some serious political shenanigans in North Carolina that some pundits likened to a coup.  At the Nov. election, voters turned out a controversial Republican governor in an extremely tight race and replaced him with the Democratic state attorney general.  In addition, they replaced the long serving (40 year) Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction with a young former Teach for America educator who served less than one term as a local school board member.  After those results things got nasty.  The GOP controlled legislature met in a quickly called emergency session and promptly passed a law that strips much of the authority over education matters from the state Board of Education and hands it to the new superintendent.  The outgoing governor couldn’t sign the legislation fast enough.  Friday’s item in the “Ed News” referred to all this as “dirty pool.”  A veteran public school teacher and parent in North Carolina, Stuart Egan, pens an open letter to the new superintendent-elect, Mark Johnson, questioning what he plans to do with his newly authorized powers over educational policy.  Egan’s missive appears on his CAFFEINATED RAGE blog.  “And now with the impending effects of House Bill 17 from the surreptitious special session of this past week, you will be the most enabled incoming state superintendent in state history,” it warns.  “You will have powers that even your predecessor did not possess one-tenth the magnitude of.”               WRAL-TV5, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh, has a feature on both the ousted 40-year veteran state superintendent in North Carolina, June Atkinson, and her 33-year old replacement, Mark Johnson (see item above).  “Atkinson is the longest-serving state superintendent in the nation and the first woman in North Carolina to hold the job,” it mentions.  “She lost to Republican Mark Johnson, the second-youngest statewide elected official in the country.  Johnson is a lawyer and school board member in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.  He received 50.6 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election. . . .  The two have not spoken about the election outcome, Atkinson said, and she doesn’t know what she’ll say when the time comes.  She promises a smooth transition when Johnson takes over in January, but it’s clear the transition will be tough.”               If you find all the twists and turns in North Carolina since the Nov. election rather bewildering, Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post does an admirable job of clearing up the fog.  Her piece is titled “North Carolina’s Assault on Public Education Just Got Worse.”  “One of the bills transfers a great deal of power from the State Board of Education — whose members are mostly selected by the governor — to the state superintendent of public instruction, an elected official,” she points out.  “The new state superintendent will be Republican Mark Johnson, who defeated the Democratic incumbent, June Atkinson, in November.  The legislation has been sent to outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory — who narrowly lost reelection to Democrat Roy Cooper — and he has already signed one of the newly passed bills that would effectively give Republicans control of the state Board of Elections during election years.”
 
Helping Students Recognize Fake News
The just concluded election helped to bring the concept of “fake news” to the fore.  How many adults read these kinds of items and believed them and, maybe even worse, made decisions on who or what to vote for based on them?  It’s hard enough to get adults to evaluate what they read.  What about students?  Patrick Larkin, author of a story in EDUCATION WEEK, is an assistant superintendent for learning in a district in Massachusetts and a former high school administrator.  His timely commentary is titled “Three Great Resources to Help Students Fight Off Fake News.”  Briefly he discusses how to recognize fake news stories and offers some specific resources that can aid educators in how to accomplish that task.  In his introduction, Larkin references a previous article he wrote about fake news which you can access by clicking here.
 
DeVos Tapped for Sec. of Education
Carol Burris, the award  winning Long Island high school principal (now retired) and co-founder of the NPE (Network for Pubic Education) sent an email to her members about things they can do to help defeat the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education.  Diane Ravitch’s blot reprints the note along with very brief introductory comments.  “We will probably not be able to stop her confirmation, but we can make it a big deal.   We can work to ensure that no Democrat votes for her,” Burris urges in her email.  “We can raise public awareness.  We can send a warning shot across the bow.   And who knows, maybe, just maybe, a few Republicans will vote against her as well.”     What has the corporate “reform” and privatization movement done to the Detroit schools and what role did Betsy DeVos play in aiding and abetting those actions?  The author of a detailed analysis for VICE News looks at the historical record and offers some speculation about the future.  The piece is titled “Out of Options: School Choice Gutted Detroit’s Public Schools.  The Rest of the County is Next.”  “The gutting of Detroit’s public schools is the result of an experiment started 23 years ago,” the reporter notes, “when education reformers including Betsy DeVos, now Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, got Michigan to bet big on charters and school choice.  The Obama administration has promoted competition, but DeVos looks set to take free-market education policy to new heights.  She has made clear her goal is to use charters to eventually get public dollars to private and religious schools, but the consequences of her school choice policy in Detroit leave gaping questions about how she will also care for America’s public schools.”               Opposition to Betsy DeVos’ nomination to head the Dept. of Education is taking various paths.  A school board in New York passed a resolution opposing Trump’s selection.  The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) reprints the declaration from the Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island.  It states in conclusion: “Resolved, that the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education hereby, based on this record, opposes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and until such time as the incoming Trump administration presents a formal vision for the future of public education in the United States of America and will continue to oppose such a nomination, and calls upon the incoming United States Senate to stand firm by opposing this nominee and affirming this serious need.”
 
Charter Schools
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers have pretty much owned the messaging when it comes to promoting charter schools.  More and more education experts are fighting back and beginning to turn the tide.  Wendy Lecker, columnist for the Stamford (Connecticut) Advocate and senior attorney for the Education Law Center, interviews Robert Cotto, Jr. Cotto is a member of the Hartford, Conn., board of education, a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut’s NEAG School of Education and a researcher of charter schools in his state.  He offers some myths and untruths about charter schools in Connecticut and, by extension, other states as well.  His purpose is to set the record straight and counter those distortions promoted by the pro-charter crowd.  In response to a question about why charters are rarely closed, Cotto answered: “The state almost never closes charter schools because of poor academic performance or financial mismanagement.  According to State Department of Education reports, only five charter schools closed their doors since 1999.  Three closed because of insufficient funds, one charter school was closed for health/safety violations, and one charter school closed because of lack of academic progress.  Between 2010-2013, all 17 charter schools in the state were renewed by the state,” he continues, “despite very low overall test results for some. . . .  On the other hand, many public schools in Connecticut have closed and been reconstituted for not meeting test score targets.  At least a dozen schools in Hartford have been closed and reconstituted in the last decade.”               Diane Ravitch’s blog features some new research from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) “that supports investment in public schools as a better alternative than the privatization of education” according to a press release from SCOPE that Ravitch reprints on her blog.  She includes a number of links to various pieces of the research.  “This is a project that should interest all readers of the blog as well as state and local school boards and elected officials at every level,” Ravitch writes by way of introduction to the materials.  “It includes a book that reviews education issues around the globe and resources that you may access by clicking the link.  The bottom line of a vast amount of research is that privatization is a failed policy, not an innovation.  The most effective way to invest public dollars is in improving public schools.”               Add Indiana to the list of states whose online charter schools are performing poorly.   Chalkbeat Indiana has the disconcerting details in a story titled “The Broken Promise of Indiana’s Online Schools.”  “When Indiana education officials released school A-F grades this week, only three schools had received F grades for six years in a row.  Two were traditional public schools in Gary and Marion County,” the item points out, “and the other was Hoosier Academy Virtual Charter school, which does all its teaching and learning online.  For the traditional public schools, the sixth straight F marks the first time the state can potentially close the school.  But for charter schools, the limit is set at four, a milestone Hoosier Virtual surpassed almost two years ago.  Despite its poor performance, the state has not taken steps to close the school or restrict state funding to its charter authorizer, Ball State University.”  In addition, Hoosier Academy was advised by state education officials in March, 2015, to provide a plan to show improvement.  Not only did it ignore that instruction but it notified the officials it was OPENING ANOTHER virtual campus and transferring a number of students to it from the original school.  Now that’s chutzpah!  (You may want to read the story that follows the Chalkbeat one which describes how Hoosier Academy moved students to its new campus.  It’s titled “In Danger of Closure, Virtual Charter Surprises State Board By Transferring Students to Sister School.)  To make matters even worse, all online charters in Indiana received an “F” grade from the state this year.                Maryland, which has been slow to embrace charters and vouchers may be headed in that direction under Republican Gov. Larry Hogan who was elected 2 years ago.  Valerie Strauss, in her blog for The Washington Post describes how the Old Line State is sadly taking up the corporate “reform” and privatization agenda.  “Anybody paying attention to public education in Maryland could see this coming: The state’s Board of Education,” she writes, “is beginning conversations about how to help chronically low-performing schools — and some of the solutions include expanding charter schools and vouchers.”               No wonder charter schools fight so hard against accountability and transparency–they have a LOT to hide.  Eva Moscowitz and her Success Academy Charter network in New York City is held up by the corporate “reformers” and privatizers as the poster child for successful charters.  Apparently, that’s because only one side of the story ever sees the light of day.  The negative stuff is kept carefully hidden away.  The New York City Controller, Scott Stringer, released an audit of one of Moscowitz’s schools and the findings were not very complimentary.  A story in the New York Daily News is headlined “Success Academy Charter Network Should Pay the City $50G For Sloppy Financial Practices, Scott Stringer Charges.”  “Stringer’s long-awaited financial probe of the city’s largest charter school network shows the network billed the city for special education services it can’t prove it provided at Harlem Success 3, the school that is the focus of the audit. . . .  Stringer’s audit,” it reveals, “also shows that Success Academy falsely identified some funds as being used in the classroom, when in fact the money went to pay management fees.  Stringer also found that Success Academy double-billed some of its schools for some management services.”  Well, the bloom seems to be off the rose.  You have to wonder what else might come to light if charters allowed more accountability and transparency.  It also should be noted that Success Academy sued to stop an audit by the state Comptroller back in 2013.  I wonder why they would do that?  To be fair, the article notes that the recently concluded audit by the Controller’s Office found no criminal activity at any of the network’s campuses.  Hooray for that!
 
Trump’s Cabinet Picks Blasted  
This item does not relate totally to education (it does make brief mention of Betsy DeVos) but it does have an Occidental College connection.  Peter Dreier, professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Oxy has a highly critical view of the people Donald Trump has selected for his cabinet and some other key positions mostly based on the numerous conflicts-of-interest they potentially have when taking over policy making jobs in the government.  Dreier’s commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “Donald Trump, America’s Pathological Liar-in-Chief and First Bully, has nominated a cabinet of billionaires, corporate raiders, right-wing conspiracy theorists, and war hawks.  In many cases,” Dreier colorfully begins, “they oppose the mission of the agencies they’ve been picked to run.  As a group, their web of affiliations and disdain for the common good should disqualify them from any policy-making position.  As a group, they should be called the Conflict of Interest Network (COIN).”  Dreier proceeds to list 16 people Trump has nominated so far ( DeVos is #2) and what he sees as potential problems.
 
Education Predictions for 2017
As 2016 rapidly draws to a conclusion, you will see more and more “best and worst of 2016” lists from various pundits, journalists, bloggers, columnists, etc.  Larry Ferlazzo, who teaches English and Social Studies at a high school in Sacramento, has written 8 books and pens an advice column for educators at EDUCATION WEEK.  He provides his annual look ahead in the field of education with 8 predictions, both positive and negative, for 2017.  His list appears on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post who includes links to his previous lineups for 2011, 12, 14, 15 and 16 at the end of her column.  Here’s his first offering for next year: “Donald Trump and his new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will attempt to replicate her disastrous efforts in Detroit throughout the United States.  They will ram a $20 billion voucher program through Congress that will allow states to apply for funds to let parents use them for private or religious schools, and promote charter schools with no attention to their quality, as DeVos did in Michigan.”  The rest are not all bad.
 
More $$ for School Counselors & Teachers
As the U.S. continues to move away from the Great Recession that struck in 2008, more and more states are seeing the need to invest some of their education funding in increasing the ranks of school counselors.  An article in EDUCATION WEEK specifically chronicles what Minnesota, Tennessee and Colorado are doing in this regard.  “Several states are making investments to build their corps of school counselors,” it relates, “in the wake of mounting, quantifiable evidence that counseling support can be a powerful weapon in the battle to get more students through high school and into college. . . .  The counseling initiatives are far from the biggest-ticket items in states’ budgets.  But they’re a significant sign of a renewed commitment to school counseling, which took particularly heavy hits in layoffs driven by the Great Recession eight years ago.”               Here’s a novel idea–raise taxes in order to increase teacher pay!  That’s exactly what the governor of Washington State is proposing according to a story for the “Teacher Beat” column in ED WEEK.  “Much of the funds would come from new taxes on carbon emissions and on capital gains from the sale of property or investments, with the exception of homes and retirement accounts, reports the Seattle Times.  . . .  The governor’s plan,”  it explains, “also includes a $250 million a year property tax cut that would benefit more than 100 school districts.  What’s more, a starting teacher’s salary would increase from $35,700 to $54,587 by the plan’s second year.  Republicans, many of whom fought and won against similar tax proposals by [Gov. Jay] Inslee in 2015, are not happy with the governor’s proposal.” 
 
Testing
Just when you may have thought the trend was beginning to move away from more and more standardized testing comes a new twist on the phenomenon.  Valerie Strauss turns her blog for The Washington Post over to Lisa Guisbond, a testing reform analyst at FairTest, aka The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, who describes what one 5th grade parent in New York discovered was taking place in her son’s classroom around a new product called “i-Ready.”  “FairTest has investigated how these computer-based curriculum-plus-testing packages threaten teaching and learning in new ways,” Guisbond notes.  “Though couched in humanistic language about ‘personalized learning,’ this trend is resulting in even more standardized testing.”
 
Trump’s Education Policies
Besides his campaign trail proposal to divert $20 billion of federal education funds into grants that states could use for vouchers, what other ways might the Trump administration promote private school “choice?”  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK tackles that question by outlining several other avenues that could be explored.  Tax-credit scholarships are one example.  “Tax-credit scholarships,” the piece explains, “allow individuals and corporations to claim a tax credit of some kind, in exchange for a donation to an organization that provides scholarships to children.  So, unlike vouchers, they don’t involve the government directly providing financial support to parents for school choice.”
 
L.A. Students Score Poorly on Physical Fitness Tests
Students in the LAUSD in grades 5, 7 and 9 did poorly on physical fitness tests according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  Two of those grades scored lower on the series of assessments than they did last year.  “Students in fifth, seventh and ninth grades are required by state law to have their fitness assessed.  The fitness test includes a variety of measures of physical health.  To look at  flexibility, for example, it has students sit and extend one leg out in front of them and then bend their trunks,” the item spells out, “arms extended, as far as they can toward it.  Students also do push-ups, trunk lifts, runs and walks, and their body mass is measured.”
 
Whither After-School Programs in a Trump Administration?
And finally, what might be the fate of after-school programs in a Trump administration?  We know about his plan to divert up to $20 billion dollars of federal funds to grants to states for vouchers.  If that comes into being will there be dollars for other programs and what will they look like?  THE HECHINGER REPORT offers some guidance on that important topic.  “According to an Afterschool Alliance study, 10.2 million children (18 percent) participated in an after-school program in 2014.  But if the after-school sector can’t get a seat at the table in this next administration, they may be on the menu,” the author rather graphically explains.
       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, December 16, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Our education system often teaches us how to conform
  more than how to wonder and venture.”

― Debasish Mridha

 
New Science Tests Delayed for California
The U.S. Dept. of Education has once again thrown a wrench into California’s plan to roll-out new standardized Science exams aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.  The recently introduced assessments would replace ones used in the Golden State since 1998.  The “Education Matters” column in Wednesday’s L.A. Times sorts out the details of this latest setback.  “California education officials had planned to administer a pilot test this year to students in grades 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12, and then do a field test the following year before fully switching to the new test the year after that.  Field tests and pilot tests are different methods for trying out new tests and fixing their flaws before they count.  The officials requested a waiver from federal testing requirements, in part,” it explains, “so students wouldn’t have to take both the pilot tests and the old standardized tests in the same year.   But on Tuesday, Ann Whalen, senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., wrote that the waiver had been denied.”  The story proceeds to describe what Whalen and the DoE objected to.
 
DeVos Tapped for Sec. of Education
A number of varied education groups and organizations have chimed in on the selection of Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Dept. of Education.  A coalition of civil rights groups has joined the bandwagon criticizing her choice.  In a piece titled “Civil Rights Groups Blast Betsy DeVos’ ‘Lack of Respect’ for Student Diversity” the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK lays out their concerns over her nomination.  “In a Dec. 12 statement, the 33 groups argue that DeVos’ record of support for groups opposed to LGBTQ rights,” it points out, “and her criticism of affirmative action policies, ‘demonstrate a lack of respect and appreciation for the diversity of our nation’s classrooms and fail to recognize a long and pernicious history of discrimination against groups of students.’  And more broadly, they say her support for vouchers and opposition to ‘appropriate oversight’ for charter schools, among other things, indicate a disregard for concerns about school segregation and raise questions about her commitment to fairness in education.”                Talk about flip-flopping.  Betsy DeVos was first in favor of the Common Core and then she was against it when President-elect Trump nominated her to head the DoE.  However, Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG maintains she’s still (secretly) in favor of the standards.  He points out, unsparingly, all the groups and organizations she belongs to/supports that favor the Common Core.  Singer headlines his essay “Don’t Be Fooled: Betsy DeVos Still Loves Common Core.”               THE NEW YORKER has a profile of Betsy DeVos that takes the form of trying to predict how she might proceed if, and when, she’s confirmed to become the next Sec. of Education.  It’s titled “Betsy DeVos and the Plan to Break Public Schools.”  “Through her past actions, and her previously published statements,”  it maintains, “it is clear that DeVos, like the President-elect who has chosen her, is comfortable applying the logic of the marketplace to schoolyard precincts.”
 
Is It Time to Do Away With Class Ranks?
Alfie Kohn, on his eponymous Alfie Kohn blog makes a compelling case for eliminating those ubiquitous class rankingsbased on student GPAs.  He is the offer of 14 books on parenting, education and human behavior,  and a lecturer on those topics at college and university conferences.  Kohn offers “6 responses” to anyone who attempts to defend the practice.  “Judged by meaningful criteria, getting rid of class rank is an obvious first step – but only a first step – toward restoring sanity, supporting a culture of learning, and promoting intellectual excellence (as opposed to an emphasis on academic rewards).  Ideally,” he proposes, “it should be followed by moving away from grades altogether, which some schools have already proved is not only possible but enormously beneficial.”
 
Schools of Opportunity
Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, continues her series on the campuses that have been selected as winners of the 2015-16 Schools of Opportunity project.  This one is number seven and she includes links to the previous six at both the top and bottom of her column.  The current school being featured is the Crater Renaissance Academy of Arts and Sciences in Central Point, Oregon.  It’s being singled out because of its emphasis on both the social and emotional development of its students–not just their academics.  The article is written by Kevin Welner, one of the co-founders of the Schools of Opportunity program.  “Keeping student health needs front and center, providing a healthy culture based on acceptance, respect, care, kindness, and creating a challenging and supporting learning environment,”he sums up, “are three of the reasons that Crater Renaissance Academy is a Gold School of Opportunity.”
 
Mystery Solved
The Friday edition of the “Ed News” had a curious piece by Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, in which he discovered that Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy high school students in New York City had no required Regents’ exam results.  He attempted to find out why and ran into a series of roadblocks which led to all kinds of wild speculation. Well, mystery solved!  In his latest post Rubinstein reports that upon further digging he found that the students don’t take the exams.  That led him to the next logical question which is WHY?  since Success Academy Students are always paraded front and center as earning exemplary results on other standardized assessments.  Rubinstein proposes 3 interesting “theories” in answer to his query.  “For Success Academy, the champions of the standardized tests, to evade ‘accountability’ by not having their own students take the Regents exams is one of the more ironic things I have ever seen in my years following the modern education ‘reform’ movement.  Who would have ever guessed that the highest profile ed reformer of them all, Eva Moskowitz,” he playfully concludes, “would be such a fierce proponent of the opt-out movement?”
 
Foreign Students Comment on American Schools
The “Ed News” has often highlighted stories about how U.S. students fare compared to their foreign counterparts.  When international teenagers attend school in America what are their impressions of that experience?  The “Making the Grade” series for the “News Hour” on PBS has an interesting segment on that topic.  You can watch the segment (8:20 minutes), listen to the audio and/or read the transcript by clicking here.
 
Teacher Training
How important is student teaching and other classroom time to the training of future educators?  When some alternative training programs don’t include things like student teaching the question becomes even more pivotal especially when they substitute classroom simulations as a tool rather than time in front of real students.  THE HECHINGER REPORTidentifies “four reasons” why simulations are not an ideal means for training teachers.  “Many teacher preparation programs have lengthened required student teaching from a few months to a full school year, recognizing the value to teacher candidates of extended immersion in a classroom under the supervision of a skillful mentor teacher.  As teacher preparation programs turn their focus to measuring demonstrated competency rather than time on task,” it notes, “simulations have begun to supplement, even surpass clinical hours as opportunities for structured, supervised practice. In many cases, these simulations — which can replicate a range of familiar situations as well as interactions with students, colleagues, and parents — are remarkably realistic.”
 
Charter Schools
Proponents of traditional public schools have obviously been some of the biggest critics of the charter school movement but even a few supporters of charters are beginning to realize the need for more accountability and transparency.  Now, even stockholders are joining the parade.  K12 Inc., which operates the largest network of for-profit virtual charters around the country, is facing a shareholder revolt on just those issues according to Valerie Strauss on her column in The Washington Post.  “The company, based in Herndon, [Virginia], has long been a target of critics who have questioned the quality of its schools,” she writes, “as well as its spending and lobbying practices — and now, the company will face new questions, this time from stockholders.  At a meeting scheduled for Thursday, shareholders are going to ask for a vote on whether the company should be required to publicly disclose details about its lobbying efforts in various states.”  The item mentions the problems K12, Inc., online charters are experiencing in California.               Steven Ingersoll,the founder of a small charter campus in Traverse City, Michigan, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for tax evasion involving his school, the Grand Traverse Academy (GTA).  A brief item from the Grand Traverse Record-Eaglenewspaper has the details.  “Authorities contended Ingersoll broke tax law and detailed a series of financial transactions,”  it points out, “in which he shifted money between GTA, Bay City Academy, his companies and a construction project in Bay City.”                The number of charter campuses in Rhode Island, will be expanding after a decision by state Education Commissioner Ken Wagner to allow the Achievement First network to triple its enrollment over the next 10 years.  Strong opposition to the ruling was registered by the city council, the American Federation of Teachers and the mayor of Providence according to a story in the Providence Journal.  “Critics say if the charter school grows to 3,112 children, it will have a devastating impact on the traditional public schools and effectively create a parallel school system.  By state law,”  it mentions, “Wagner must consider the financial impact of a charter school expansion on the sending school districts, in this case, Providence, Cranston, North Providence and Warwick.  But 86 percent of the charter’s students come from Providence, so the impact will be greatest there.”
 
LAUSD Board Pulls Switcheroo on School Calendar
It’s on.  It’s off.  It’s on. . . .  It’s hard to tell what’s going on with the LAUSD board ‘s decisions on adopting a school calendar for next year.  This year the schools had an early start (Aug. 16, rather than a more traditional post-Labor Day kick-off) but the board decided to phase in later starts over the next couple of years due to complaints from parents and others.  So what does the board do at its meeting on Tuesday? It votes to stay with the early start.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times attempts to sort all this out for you.  “The lengthy debate over the schedule has hardly been scintillating — but it matters to students and parents, who say it affects not only vacation plans and child-care arrangements but summer camps, summer jobs, enrichment programs and even college applications. . . .  Many families prefer a traditional post-Labor Day school start,” it mentions, “because it lets them schedule escapes and keep their kids out of classrooms and physical-education classes during the most intense heat of late summer.  Some in the school system have pointed out that it also reduces air-conditioning costs.  Such views prevailed in September, when the Board of Education voted to shift away gradually from the earlier, August start.”
 
Dirty Pool in North Carolina
When an election doesn’t go your way, what do some groups do?  Change the rules.  That’s what’s happening in North Carolina where voters recently turned out the incumbent Republican governor and replaced him with a Democrat.  They also voted in a new Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction while ousting the Democratic incumbent from that post. So, the GOP-controlled legislature decided to change the rules.  In order to water down the new governor’s decision-making power over education policy they quickly put together a bill, HR17, that would shift a number of areas of control over education from the State Board of Education to the new Republican State Superintendent.  Dirty Pool?  You decide.  WRAL-TV5, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh, has a story on their website about all these eleventh hour anticsincluding a list of changes in the proposed legislation.  Here’s just one example: “The state superintendent will be the head of the Department of Public Instruction.  In the current law, the State Board of Education is the head of the department.”
 
Feds End Inquiry Into Burbank USD
The parent of a student with disabilities in the Burbank Unified School District complained to the U.S. Dept. of Education that her child was being excluded from certain science labs and not receiving services he was entitled to among other things.  Officials investigated the allegations, ordered some corrective measures which the district mostly complied with and ended the inquiry to the satisfaction of all parties involved.  An item in yesterday’s “School Matters” feature in the L.A. Times reviews the situation.
 
The Teaching Profession
And finally, a sizable number of teachers need to take second jobs in order to make ends meet.  Ever wonder why that’s the case?  Valerie Strauss turns her column in The Washington Post over to guest blogger Nínive Calegari, a former classroom instructor and founder of The Teacher Salary Project, which attempts to inform the public about how woefully underpaid and under appreciated teachers are.  “Nationally the situation is bleak.  While other professions have seen compensation growth,” Calegari writes on Strauss’ blog, “teachers’ salaries have stagnated for four decades.  In fact, over the last decade in 30 of 50 states, teacher pay has actually not kept pace with the cost of living.  Forty-seven states face teacher shortages, and there has been a 30 percent decrease in enrollment in teacher credentialing programs in recent years.  Why the decline in such a crucial profession?  In most cities, the average teacher’s salary cannot compete with the cost of living, and teachers are priced out of homes in all urban areas.”  The Teacher Salary Project website indicates that the average teacher salary in California has declined by 1.2% over the past 10 years.  Check out their interactive salary map to see how the Golden State and others are faring.
 
 
                                                                                                           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, December 13, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

[Upcoming ALOED Winter Book Club Event.]  The next book discussion will feature Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education.”  The bad news is you only have a little over 5 weeks to read it; the good news is the hardcover edition is only 169 pages of relatively large text so you have NO EXCUSES.  The gathering takes place on Thursday, Jan. 19, 6-8 pm, at the South Pasadena home of Jill Asbjornsen and includes dinner (provided by ALOED).  For good food and stimulating conversation (you don’t even have to read the book to join us) click here for all the details and to RSVP.]

 
Inline image 1          Inline image 3
                                                                Fareed Zakaria

And now to the news.

 “Education helps you to create a new world which is uniquely yours to live and enjoy.”

― Debasish Mridha

LAUSD Billboard Plan Hits a Roadblock
The LAUSD plan to place a commercial, digital billboard on the campus of Hollywood High School (see Dec. 2 and Dec. 6 editions of the “Ed News”) may have hit a serious roadblock.  City Attorney Mike Feuer issued a statement saying the idea would contravene city law.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times explains what might put the kibosh on the whole idea.  “The principal of Hollywood High, meanwhile, has withdrawn the proposal and it’s off the table, school district officials said.  Los Angeles currently bans new signs, such as billboards” the article notes, “that don’t advertise a service or product available on the immediate property, according to a letter from the city.”
 
Big Data vs Small Data
Many of the corporate ‘reformers” and privatizers want schools to collect and use more data like businesses do.  Their argument rests on the idea that you can’t improve your “product” if you don’t have detailed information about it.  Of course they also assume that “students” = “products” and most education experts don’t buy that premise.  Finnish education expert and author Pasi Sahlberg discusses the differences between “big” data and “small” data in a conversation with C.M. Rubin on her “Global Search for Education” series on her CMRubinWorld website. 
The Obama Education Legacy
Alan Singer, a social studies teacher for 14 years who is now a teacher educator at Hofstra University, has a lot of nice things to say about many of the policies of the Obama administration over the past 8 years.  However, he can’t find much to commend the outgoing president when it comes to education.  His critique appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “In a recent interview for Education News, Michael Shaughnessy asked me what I thought were the top educational reforms during the last eight years.  I was hard-pressed to come up with any,” Singer relates.  “Instead I answered with the worst educational ‘deforms.’  I don’t hold President Obama directly responsible for these ‘reforms’, but they either started or accelerated during his time in office.”  Singer proceeds to chronicle 4 education “deforms” under Pres. Obama.
 
Testing, Vouchers & Choice
The Obama administration last week made public its final regulations regarding testing under the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the details and an analysis.  “President Barack Obama’s thinking on testing has gone through twists and turns through his eight years in office,” it mentions.  “The administration initially enticed states to tie teacher evaluations to test scores through the $4 billion Race to the Top program and later through waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act.  But, last year, the president acknowledged that there was too much testing in schools, and put together a ‘testing action plan’ to address the problem.  The White House says these new testing regulations build on that plan, but there isn’t much in them to cut back on assessments that isn’t in the underlying law.  What’s more, it’s unclear if the incoming Trump administration will keep these regulations on the books, decide to hit the pause button on them, or not go out of their way to enforce them.”             A group of pastors in Texas has come out strongly against a proposal in that state to create education vouchers that could be used to pay for private school tuition.  In addition, the organization, Pastors for Texas Children, is a strong proponent of the public school system in the Lone Star State according to an article on the Reporting Texas website.  “The organization’s mission is twofold: To advocate for public education with state lawmakers and to mobilize individual churches to support public schools by providing services such as student mentoring and teacher appreciation events.  Members have linked dozens of churches with public schools,” it explains, “met with more than 100 lawmakers since the organization’s inception in 2013, and published dozens of anti-school voucher editorials in newspapers across Texas.  The group is getting national attention: In recent months, it has been mentioned in Politico, the Washington Post and the widely read blog of Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under President George W. Bush and a leader of the grassroots movement against school privatization.”                Want some up-to-date figures on school choice enrollment, costs and some definitions of key terms?  EDUCATION WEEK has a couple of statistical graphics and some definitions for your edification.               The following graphic, pertaining to school choice, appears on the website of the Badass Teachers Association (BATs):
 
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One of the few education initiatives Donald Trump mentioned on the campaign trail had to do with diverting $20 billion from federal programs and offer them to states in the form of block grants to be used for vouchers.  How would all that play out, particularly in rural areas where there are less brick-and-mortar options for students and their families to choose from?  Keep in mind that it was a high percentage of rural voters who contributed to Trump’s upset victory.  An item on the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK explores some of the dilemmas Trump’s plan could face.  “Most people have taken President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap billionaire GOP donor and school choice champion Betsy DeVos as his education secretary,” it begins, “as a sign that he wants to make good on his campaign promise to create a massive new school choice program.  One problem? School choice, at least in the form of vouchers or brick-and-mortar charter schools, isn’t easy to do in the rural states and communities that played such a large part in Trump’s victory in the electoral College.”                The L.A. Times is running a little behind on the news.  Last week the “Ed News” highlighted several items about the disappointing results, particularly in math,  from the PISA tests that were recently released.  It wasn’t until today that the Times has a story about those poor math results earned by U.S. students.  “PISA tests 15-year-old students in 72 countries and school systems.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD,” the article explains, “gives the two-hour test to try to measure whether students can apply what they’ve learned in school to real-world problems.  About 540,000 students were tested worldwide, 5,700 in the U.S. Students mostly took the tests on computers.”

 
More Fallout Over DeVos Choice to Head DoE
Were you aware that Betsy DeVos, selected to be the next Sec. of Education, and her family donated $1.8 million to the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign?  An investigative piece in The Washington Post reveals that President-elect Donald Trump has rewarded at least 6 of his biggest donors with positions in his new administration. DeVos’ largesse wasn’t even the biggest among those nominees.  That honor, so far, goes to Linda McMahon, co-founder of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.) who gave $7.5 million to pro-Trump super PACs, the RNC and the Trump campaign.  She was rewarded by being selected to head the Small Business Administration.  I’m not kidding.  You can’t make this stuff up!  “The president-elect’s decision to put his major political backers in senior Cabinet positions is a jarring contrast with Trump’s rhetoric through this year’s campaign,” the item reports.  “He repeatedly declared himself independent of wealthy donors and predicted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s benefactors would ‘have total control over everything she does.’”               DeVos was a little unclear about her position on the Common Core until she tweeted that she was emphatically against the standards shortly after she was nominated to head the DoE.  She reiterated that position when she made a joint appearance with Trump at a “Thank You” rally in Grand Rapids, MI, on Friday.  Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post, writes about what DeVos said regarding the Common Core and her apparent misconception, along with Donald Trump’s, that the federal government has the power to eliminate the standards.  “Ultimately, only state legislatures can eliminate the Core.  Could the soon-to-be Trump administration decide to use federal funds to coerce states to drop the Core,” Strauss asks, “just as Obama’s Education Department did to get states to adopt it? Theoretically it could.  But someone should explain to the future president and his education secretary what is real and not real about the Common Core.”               An Iowa educator composes an open letter to Betsy DeVos on behalf of “America’s Teachers.”  It’s written by Patrick J. Kearney, Facilitator for Teacher Leadership in the Johnston Community School District and appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “I suppose we also need to address the elephant in the room.  We are a little freaked out by your nomination to be Secretary of Education.  You aren’t an educator.  You haven’t ever attended or sent your children to a public school,” he points out, “yet you seem to have some pretty strong opinions about them.  You don’t seem to have been involved in the study of curriculum or school standards.  What you have done is lobby (and spend millions of dollars of your own money in advocacy) for taxpayer dollars to go to unregulated for-profit charter schools.  As teachers we like to look at data.  Interestingly, the data from Michigan (where you have been able to use your wealth to influence a lot of education policy) would suggest that the charter schools you lobby for aren’t really achieving any better than their public counterparts.”                Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, literally makes up a “speech” that Betsy DeVos might deliver to her hometown constituents in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He describes all the things she’s planning to do to their traditional public schools in the name of charters and choice–her two favorite education policies.  Here’s an excerpt from her “talk:”  “We will also do our best to crush both teacher unions and all those other unions, too.  Unions are unnatural, a terrible attempt to interfere with the natural order of things.  People who want to control working conditions and wages should not choose to be the kind of people who work at those jobs.  It is their place to simply do their jobs and let those of us who Know Better make the important decisions.”  Scary stuff.  It might even be humorous if it wasn’t so close to reality.                The New York Times has a damning story describing how Betsy DeVos contributed to the current chaotic situation in the Detroit Pubic Schools because of her strong support for charters in the troubled district.  It’s titled “How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools.”  “Even charter school supporters now criticize Detroit as one of the most unregulated markets in the country,” the author points out and adds, “About 80 percent of the state’s charters are operated for profit, far higher than anywhere else.”     Diane Ravitch’s blogcommented caustically on the above article.  [DeVos] “is the Darth Vader of school reform. She is Public Enemy #1 of public education.”                 Katherine Stewart, author of the book “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children,” writes a blunt assessment of DeVos’ religious views and how they impact her education policies.  Stewart’s essay appears in an op-ed in The New York Times and is titled “Betsy DeVos and God’s Plan for Schools.”  “At a 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists,” Steward details, [DeVos] “singled out education reform as a way to ‘advance God’s kingdom.’  In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to ‘greater kingdom gain.’”
 
Charter Schools
Two Anaheim school districts are suing the Orange County Board of Education over its decision to approve a K-12 virtual charter school run by EPIC while the network is being investigated for fraud in Oklahoma.  In addition, the complaint points out that the OCBE’s own staff recommended against granting the charter.  The details of the case are provided by a story on the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) website.  “Based in Oklahoma—where it operates as a for-profit business—EPIC is under criminal investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation,” it explains, “for allegedly falsifying records to receive payments from the Oklahoma Department of Education. The fraud investigation was under way when OCBE conditionally approved the EPIC application in November 2015.”                Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter Network in New York City is often lauded by the corporate “reformers” and privatizers for its results on standardized tests.  That’s what makes the case of the missing Regents’ Exam scores so confounding. That mystery also perplexes Gary Rubinstein who made a persistent attempt to discover what the results were and why they were missing.  His report, on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog, reads like a popular thriller.  Can you solve the enigma of the missing test scores?  “I’m inclined to believe that the state is not part of a conspiracy to cover up embarrassing test scores for Success Academy.  But the state does not seem overly concerned with the fact that they are not getting the Regents scores from them.  Another possibility,” he considers, “and this would be a pretty big scandal, I think, if this is the case, perhaps students at Success Academy don’t even take Regents exams.  Maybe part of their flexibility in their charter does not require it.”

Rigging Test Scores in DC
Remember when Michelle Rhee was the darling of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers when she was the chancellor of the Washington, D.C., Public Schools?  They couldn’t congratulate her enough (and themselves) for the way she, and her successor Kaya Henderson, boosted test scores and got rid of “lazy, do-nothing” teachers.  Well, apparently the bloom is off the rose according the Mercedes Schneider and her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  Schneider, with the help of some key information unearthed by an retired D.C., public school teacher, has uncovered some “inconsistencies” in the way the DCPS reported their NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test scores.  Rhee, who has been dogged by charges of test cheating, served as chancellor from June, 2007 to 2010.  Henderson, whose claim to fame is that she made the DCPS “the fastest improving urban school district in the country” succeeded Rhee until she stepped down effective Oct. 1, this year.  “One major issue with the sale of DC as ‘the fastest improving school district in the country’ is that the 2015 NAEP results reported on DC Public Schools (DCPS) website,” Schneider suggests, “have been misreported in a manner that makes two of the four 2007 scores appear lower than they actually were.  Thus, the 2015 scores falsely show ‘improvements’ that are not real.  The genius in this inaccurate reporting is that it alters the older, 2007 scores, which readers are less likely to take the effort to verify.  Instead, most reader attention is on the recently-released, 2015 scores.”
 
More Praise for Diane Ravitch
On Sunday the NPE (Network for Public Education) honored Diane Ravitch at a dinner on Long Island for all that she has done and continues to do in support of teachers, unions and traditional public schools.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item from Steven Singer and his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG in praise of Ravitch and what she’s meant to him and his career.  In that same vein, Peter Greene, author of the CURMUDGUCATION blog, wrote a similar piece that he titles “Why Honor Diane Ravitch?”  He answers the question and suggests a concrete way that people can support her and what she does.  “Ravitch has been a fighter, a scholar, a connector, a sharp writer, and a vocal advocate for public education.  I have never seen her be anything but kind and generous, and she feeds my belief that I still have at least a few good decades left in me.  She is an invaluable leader in a hugely important movement,” he declares, “who has stepped up when it would have been easy to sit back.  Those, to me, are all qualities well worth honoring, particularly when that helps support a group that does work I believe in.”
 
The Teaching Profession
What types of challenges will teachers likely face during the Donald Trump presidency?  Valerie Strauss turns her blog in The Washington Post over to Mica Pollock, professor of education at UCSD, who identifies 3 specific steps classroom educators need to adopt.  Here’s her first example: “Step one is to firmly denounce each incident of hate and intimidation on campuses.  As, educators, we can’t let hate speech run wild.  While freedom of speech laws crucially protect students’ right to speak opinions in schools, our civil rights laws also require educators to protect students from harassment and intimidation when in schools.”  See what you think of her other 2 proposals.
 
THE “ED NEWS” SCOOPS DIANE RAVITCH!
The Dec. 6th issue of the “Ed News” highlighted an lengthy investigative cover story that appeared in the LA WEEKLY regarding possible connections between Fethullah Gülen, his extensive charter network and the failed coup in Turkey in July.  Diane Ravitch’s blog featured the story on Sunday.  Score one for the “Ed News.”  “The article describes the multiple investigations of the Magnolia charter schools and recent decisions to deny their requests to open more charter schools,” Ravitch reviews.  “There is so much mystery surrounding the Gulen schools that some investigative agency–the FBI?–should look into their origins, their ties (if any) to Fethullah Gulen, and their finances.  Why in the world should we outsource public schools?”
 
Congress Faces Some Key Education Issues
The next Congress will be sworn in and commence its new session on Jan. 3.  With the House and Senate and the White House in Republican hands the prospects for education legislation should be quite fascinating.  In anticipation of that situation, EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at what might be in store in 2017 in a piece titled “Congress Faces Range of Issues in Next Session.”  “The Republican majority in Congress will have the opportunity to tackle a host of education issues when its next session begins in 2017,” it relates, “from funding for disadvantaged and special education students and college access and affordability issues, to student-data privacy and career and technical education. . . .  But what’s probably at the top of the list for leading GOP lawmakers is deciding which regulations from President Barack Obama’s administration pertaining to the Every Student Succeeds Act they may wish to overturn through the Congressional Review Act.”
LAUSD Superintendent’s Strategic Plan
LAUSD Supt. Michelle King’s strategic plan for the district received a cool reception from the school board.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted items about it including one in Friday’s edition that described how the board decided not to even take a vote on it, thus withholding their approval.  And editorial in today’s L.A. Times is dismissive of the plan, complaining that it’s full of educational jargon and “short on specifics.”   “It’s hard to imagine how a strategic plan for the nation’s second-largest school district could be much more uninspiring than the one presented by Supt. Michelle King.  In fact,” it begins, “the blueprint for Los Angeles Unified she has offered left the school board so unimpressed that it is unclear whether the members will even bother to reject it at their meeting [today].  They may just ignore it entirely.”
 
Gun Controls and School Shootings
And finally, an article in the “Science File” feature in today’s L.A. Times posits an intriguing correlation between states with background checks for the purchase of guns and ammunition and a decrease in school shootings according to a new study conducted by a team of researchers from 3 U.S. universities.  Their findings were published in the journal “Injury Prevention.”  “States that required background checks for gun buyers were about half as likely to experience a school shooting compared with states with no such requirement, a new study reports. In addition,” the piece suggests, “the handful of states that forced people to submit to background checks before purchasing ammunition had dramatically lower odds of a school shooting.”
                                                                                                           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, December 9, 2016 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “True education is more powerful than money or weapons. 
 It is the key to a magical land where nothing is impossible.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Teacher Shortages
Last Friday’s “Ed News” highlighted an article on the California teacher shortage that appeared on the L.A. Times’swebsite on Wednesday (it appeared in the print edition on Monday). The item prompted 2-letters that materialize in Wednesday’s paper.             The teacher shortage has become so acute in Arkansas that some districts are resorting to hiring untrained people to fill classroom positions according to Arkansas Public Media the local affiliate of NPR.  You can listen to the audio segment (4:10 minutes, Part 1; 3:07, Part 2) on the topic and/or read a transcript by clicking here.  “Starting this year in Arkansas,” Part 1 relates, “anyone with a bachelor’s degree can become a teacher in districts that have requested a waiver of teacher certification.  Licensure, or certification, requires passing coursework and a series of state level subject area exams.  It is just one of a slate of waivers approved by lawmakers, including class size, teacher preparation time, hiring and firing rules, and others, allowing traditional public schools to operate with the same educational requirements as their area charter schools.  The licensure waivers are in part a response to a dramatic drop in the number of Arkansans interested in becoming teachers through existing pathways.  In the last three years,” it continues, “the total number of aspiring teachers enrolled in any kind of preparatory program in the state has dropped by half.  In 2013, 7,758 were enrolled, and in 2016 that number fell to 3,944.”             When teacher shortages occur it’s often schools in poor, minority and disadvantaged communities that suffer the most.  They are often the hardest to staff so students face high teacher turnover and often classrooms taught by a rotating stream of unqualified substitutes.  An article in The Washington Post chronicles those problems as it focuses on the difficult situations in several districts around the country.  “Every U.S. classroom needs a sub from time to time,” it reminds readers.  “But in the troubled schools that serve some of the nation’s neediest children, it is not uncommon for classrooms to churn with substitutes as teachers leave in large numbers each June, or quit midyear, and principals struggle to fill the positions.  The disruption of teachers coming and going and the frequent use of substitutes with varying levels of skill and commitment effectively steal learning time from students who can least afford it, experts say.”
 
New Chair of House Education Committee
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a brief item about the selection of the next chair of the House Education and the Workforce committee.  She’s Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and POLITICO provides a much more comprehensive profile of her in a piece titled “Meet the Congresswoman Poised to Tear Up Obama’s Education Legacy.”  “Foxx’s small-government views are rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” it reveals, “in a slice of Appalachia where she grew up without power and running water and began working as a weaver at age 12 to help support her family — experiences that convinced her it’s an individual’s hard work, and not federal programs, that lead to success.”
 
Charter Schools
The EPI (Economic Policy Institute) is promoting a new paper by Bruce D. Baker, professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University , that takes a detailed look at the impact of charter school expansion on their host districts.  The study is titled “Exploring the Consequences of Charter School Expansion in U.S. Cities” and you can read the full report (73 pages) by clicking here.  Baker analyzes how charters influence things like enrollment and district revenue among other factors.  [This paper] shows that charter expansion may increase inequity, introduce inefficiencies and redundancies, compromise financial stability, and introduce other objectionable distortions to the system that impede delivery of an equitable distribution of excellent or at least adequate education to all children.  By shedding light on the risks of charter expansion,” Baker writes by way of introduction, “it provides elements for a decisionmaking process that weighs the costs against expected benefits.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Larry Ferlazzo opens his column in EDUCATION WEEK to a group of 6 educators who answer his question: “What is your favorite web tool or app for helping students learn?” “There are so many online tools and apps that have learning potential,” he offers, “but how are teachers supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff?  This series will offer some suggestions on how we educators can navigate through the ed tech jungle.”  What follows is an annotated list of items (with links) you could use in your classroom tomorrow (if it isn’t Saturday or Sunday).  Ferlazzo mentions this is the first of a 3-part series on the topic, so stay tuned for future columns.  One contributor works at a pre-K-6th grade school in Culver City and he suggests primary grade teachers use a tool called “Scratch.”  Check it out (I provided the link for you) and the others that are mentioned, if they are appropriate.
 
Betsy DeVos Nominated to be Next Sec. of Education
President-elect Trump’s selection of Michigan native Betsy DeVos to head the federal Dept. of Education continues to elicit numerous responses.  A scathing editorial appears in the Detroit Free Press authored by the paper’s Editorial Page Editor.  He’s unsparing in his criticism of her to become the next Sec. of Education.  “President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already.  But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason,” the author states unequivocally, “than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.  DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader.  She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance.  In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.  She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.”               DeVos had a major hand in the creation of the charter sector in her home state of Michigan and her state was one of the first to jump on the charter bandwagon.  So how are those schools doing?  The “Charters & Choice” column in EDUCATION WEEK provides some answers to that question in the form of a Q & A.  “Michigan allows both for-profit and non-profit groups to run charter schools.  A significant majority of Michigan’s charter schools are run by local for-profit operators,”  it notes, “and it has more schools run by for-profit operators than any other state, according to a 2013 report by the National Education Policy Center.”               POLITICO also takes a close look at what Betsy DeVos did to the traditional public schools in Michigan with her promotion of charters and choice.  The result, so far, is not a pretty one.  The item is titled “DeVos’ Michigan Schools Experiment Gets Poor Grades–Despite Two Decades of Charter-School Growth, the State’s Overall Academic Progress Has Failed to Keep Pace With Other States.”  ” The state’s charter schools scored worse on [the NAEP] test than their traditional public-school counterparts,” the authors point out, “according to an analysis of federal data.  Critics say Michigan’s laissez-faire attitude about charter-school regulation has led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities as part of a system dominated by for-profit operators. . . .  The results in Michigan are so disappointing that even some supporters of school choice are critical of the state’s policies. . . .  All of which raises the question: As Trump’s education secretary, would DeVos learn from the Michigan experience, or simply push for the same policies on a national scale?”               The author of this commentary for THE HECHINGER REPORT, William Doyle, is a scholar-in-residence at the University of Eastern Finland whose son has attended Finnish schools.  He has a novel suggestion for Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos.  The former should arrange to have the latter fly to Finland to see how that country’s highly rated public school system works.  “Just ranked by the World Economic Forum as the No. 1 primary school system globally Finland shows us, that true educational choice means holding politicians accountable,” Doyle contends, “to provide families the choice between safe, well-resourced, high-quality local schools, especially in high-poverty areas, schools run by teachers trained at the highest levels of professionalism and supported by a national culture of teacher and school collaboration and respect for families and teachers. . . .  The classroom scene in Finland is strikingly different from prevailing atmosphere reported in many classrooms in America, the U.K. and elsewhere,” he continues, “where teachers are routinely under-trained, micro-managed, surveilled, data-shamed, punished, overworked, disrespected and stressed to the breaking point by politicians, bureaucrats and non-educators.”               If a trip to Finland for Betsy DeVos is too expensive (see previous item) maybe she should  visit Massachusetts, instead.  This essay in the “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEKis titled “Maybe Instead of Finland, We Should Be More Like Massachusetts?”   “Instead of making the trek over to Finland there is somewhere much closer and within the U.S. we can visit.  Educators, researchers and leaders could make a pilgrimage to the great state of Massachusetts” the author suggests, “because they ranked as highly as Finland in the current PISA results.  More than 70 countries take part in PISA, and Massachusetts ranks among the top.”  The article goes on to explain how students in the Bay State are doing and why they are doing so well.
 
Mike Pence and Education
If Betsy DeVos appears to be a disaster for the traditional public school system, what about the policies and philosophies in regards to education of incoming Vice Pres. Mike Pence?  Not a whole lot better according to an analysis  in Mother Jones of Pence’s voucher program which he championed and shepherd into existence as governor of Indiana.  “One of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s pet projects as governor of Indiana was expanding school choice vouchers, which allow public money to pay for private school tuition. President-elect Donald Trump has said he’d like to expand such vouchers in the rest of the country, but what happened in Indiana should serve as a cautionary tale for Trump and his administration,” the piece warns.  “Pence’s voucher program ballooned into a $135 million annual bonanza almost exclusively benefiting private religious schools—ranging from those teaching the Koran to Christian schools teaching creationism and the Bible as literal truth—at the expense of regular and usually better-performing public schools.  Indeed, one of the schools was a madrasa, an Islamic religious school, briefly attended by a young man arrested this summer for trying to join ISIS—just the kind of place Trump’s coalition would find abhorrent.”  Halloween is now long past, but what Pence did in the Hoosier State with his voucher program is VERY scary and should serve as a cautionary tale for future such policies nationwide.  Diane Ravitch, in commenting on this article, concluded: “This is what is in store for the nation in the Trump-Pence era.” Chilling stuff, indeed!
 
Diane Ravitch Leads Fight Against Corporate “Reform”
The editor of the “Ed News” and many other proponents of our traditional public school system are “YUGE” fans of Diane Ravitch.  We rely on her Diane Ravitch’s blog for timely and informative material about the latest in ed policy and even more her voice speaking out against the depredations of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  Several ALOED members have had the pleasure of hearing her speak in person twice in L.A. in the last couple of years, including one on the Occidental College campus, and the ALOED Book Club featured her “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” as part of our discussion group.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, puts into words our appreciation for all that Ravitch does in support of public schools, teachers, unions and the many pundits, columnists and bloggers who rely on her work and her constant and determined efforts.  He titles his tribute “What Diane Ravitch Means to Me” and I would add what she means to all of us.  “I can’t say enough good things about her.  I can’t put into words,”Singer confesses, “how important Diane Ravitch is to my life.  Her ideas changed me.  Her ethics invigorated me.  Her friendship humbles me.”  This weekend the NPE (Network for Public Education) is honoring Ravitch at a  dinner on Long Island for all that she does.  May she continue for many years to come!               How influential is Diane Ravitch’s voice?  Her Diane Ravitch’s blog hit 29 million page views on Wednesday.  She comments on the milestone and reiterates her mission for the future.  “The next four years will be challenging, to say the least,” she warns, “for those of us who believe in the ideal of universal public education, open to all, and to our hopes for making all schools far better than they are today.  In a better world, billionaires would be helping to strengthen our public schools, not trying to make them compete in a marketplace, not contributing to the growth of a dual system of schools.  In a better world, the government would prohibit for-profit organizations from operating schools; the only profit in schooling should be the satisfaction of learning and mastering new ideas, new skills, new appreciations for what is good, beautiful, and just.”  
LAUSD Attempts to Allay Student Fears Following the Election
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, students of various racial, ethnic and religious groups have been particularly feeling the brunt of bullying and other actions directed at them over the president-elect’s immigration and other policies.  Teachers, in particular, have been reporting expressions of fear and unease from their students.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have chronicled these reactions.  The nation’s second largest school district, the LAUSD, is attempting to proactively deal with these emotions.  It made robocalls, in English and Spanish, to parents and teachers on Monday announcing the creation of a hotline with referrals to various support services that can deal with these issues.  The recorded calls featured the voice of district Supt. Michelle King according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  “L.A. Unified officials took a stand right after the election,” it explains, “to say they would protect students from deportation and hate incidents. . . .  Trump campaigned on the promise that he would build a wall to keep out immigrants from Mexico and deport those who had come to the U.S. illegally.  Los Angeles Unified is 74% Latino, and the threats hit home for many students.  Teachers districtwide spent class time reassuring young people that they would be safe at school.”               The above story was the topic of a column by Valerie Strauss on her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post.  It’s titled “For Students Worried About Trump, Los Angeles School District Opens Hotline, Support Sites.”  “The Los Angeles Unified School District — the nation’s second largest public school system — is about 75 percent Latino.  That helps explain why a month after Donald Trump won the presidential election,” she begins, “many students are still frightened by the incendiary statements he made about illegal immigration and Hispanics during the campaign — and why district officials are taking steps to help them.”
 
Trump and Education 
The U.S. Dept. of Education’s (DoE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR)could be eliminated under an Trump administration according to an analysis in the “Morning Education” column for POLITICO.  “The office has cracked down on colleges that mishandle sexual assault allegations and used Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex, to protect the right of transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice — an issue now headed to the Supreme Court.”  The OCR also has responsibilities over a number of other issues regarding education and civil rights.  [Ed. note: There are several other education-related items in this POLITICO piece which you are welcome to peruse.  The first one is about the OCR.]               Why is the DoE’s OCR (see item above) so important?  The number of complaints to the OCR has more than doubled since Pres. Obama was elected in 2008 according to a new report from the Office.  It details a number of problems on a variety of issues that it has handled.  An article in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reviews the new paper and demonstrates the iimportant work the OCR does and will probably need to keep doing in the future.  “Not everyone will be sorry to see the department’s office for civil rights get new management,” the piece predicts, “once President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month.  Republican members of Congress and others have been highly critical of the department’s guidance to school districts regarding the rights of transgender students.  And some have also criticized the office’s approach to racial disparities in school discipline, saying it it intrudes too much on classroom and school operations.”   You can find the full OCR annual report (44 pages) titled “Securing Equal Educational Opportunity: Report to the President and Sec. of Education” by clicking here.          One of Donald Trumps few education policy statements during the fall campaign had to do with diverting $20 billion dollars in federal funds into block grants to the states for school vouchers.  How successful have those types of programs been around the country?  For one example, see the section above headlined “Mike Pence and Education.”  For another take a look at how vouchers fared in Louisiana under Gov. Bobby Jindal.  The News Orleans Time-Picayune provides a story that does just that titled “Thanks to Bobby Jindal, We Know How Disastrous Trump’s Education Policies Could Be.”  “Thanks to Jindal’s poorly conceived and badly executed program,” the author submits, “we now know that Trump’s voucher plan is not a cure for what ails our schools but, rather, little more than educational snake oil.”               Amy Moore, a doctoral student and elementary school teacher in Iowa, has some words of “encouragement” and “advice” for Donald Trump as he looks forward to taking his new “public service” job as president of the United States.  She compares Trump’s new position to that of a school teacher in her commentary for The Des Moines Register.  “How can you tell if you’re doing a good job?  Well, unfortunately for schoolteachers, the trend has been to find something measurable, such as student test scores, and attribute those to the skill, or lack thereof, of the teacher.  These scores may not really be representative of the quality of the teacher, but it’s pretty easy to label teachers either good or bad that way.  So let’s try to use that same approach with your job,” she suggests.  “What can we measure?  How about family income?  I’d say that you’re doing your job if you can raise the income of families each year to show growth.  Yes, everyone must get a raise each year.  There must be no family left behind.”
 
LAUSD Board Opts Out of Vote on Superintendent’s Strategic Plan
It’s a little complicated and a bit convoluted, but the LAUSD board on Tuesday decided not to vote on Supt. Michelle King’s strategic plan for the district.  A key hangup for board members is her goal to achieve a 100% graduation rate by an unspecified future date.  By not taking a vote, the board avoids providing its imprimatur to her plan.  The how and the why of this are explained in a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “The board’s action — or lack of action — deflated what was supposed to be a dramatic, pivotal and unifying process: creating a blueprint for school success in perilous times.  The district,” it mentions, ” faces many challenges: financial uncertainty, declining enrollment and trepidation about what a Trump administration might mean for its large immigrant student population.” 
 
2017 L.A. Municipal Election
And finally, yeah, I know, the last election was just over a month ago and the next one is only 3 months away.  It’s a local L.A. municipal primary election scheduled for March 7 (the general election will take place May 16) and voters in L.A. will be voting for mayor, city council, city attorney, the LAUSD school board, and a few additional offices and local measures.  Some other county communities may also be casting ballots.  An article in today’s L.A. Times discusses the candidates running for 3 seats on the LAUSD school board. Two have incumbents running, Monica Garcia in District 2 and current board President Steve Zimmer in District 4, and one is an open seat being vacated by Monica Ratliff in District 6 as she makes a run for the L.A. City Council. “The election could prove pivotal because the seven-member board is divided on key issues, including the growth and monitoring of independently operated charter schools,” the piece points out.  “L.A. has become a widely watched battleground for competing special interests and conflicting visions of reform, so campaign spending is expected to be in the millions of dollars.  Wednesday was the deadline for turning in petitions that are part of the process for getting on the ballot, and 15 of the 19 who had signed up to run followed through.  Signatures on some petitions still need to be verified, so it’s possible that the final list of candidates will shrink. . . .  Candidates needed at least 1,000 signatures from registered voters in their districts, unless they paid a $300 filing fee, which cut the required number of signatures in half.”

                                                                                                           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, December 6, 2016 Edition

 The ED NEWS

  A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

     “School will bring you more success than marriage.” 

― Nnedi OkoraforLagoon

 
Big Money Now Being Directed Into School Board Races!
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision was handed down in 2010 there has been major complaints about the influence of money on political races at the federal and state level.  More recently, concerns have been raised about theinflux of major dollars into even local school board races.  An article on THE CONVERSATION website asks “Are Wealthy Donors Influencing the Public School Agenda?”  It looks at how massive amounts of money are flowing from both in-state and out-of-state donors to individual candidates for school board races and how this phenomenon is impacting local education policy.  “It is no surprise then that school board elections have mostly been known as being sleepy affairs.  Most candidates in the past,” it points out, “have been known to spend less than US$1,000 toward campaign expenses such as campaign literature and name recognition efforts.  In 2010, for example, less than 3 percent of candidates reported spending more than $25,000. . . .  Recent school board elections in places such as Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New Orleans have seen candidates routinely raising at least 50 times as much money as the 2010 national average.”
 
Are Schools a “Government-Run Monopoly?”
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an item about how conservative Republicans like to rail at how the public school system is really a “government-run monopoly.” Their small (anti-) government rhetoric leads them to proclaim the need to introduce choice and privatize the schools in order to “save” our “failing” public schools.  As the author of a commentary from the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) website likes to point out, all this talk is mostly hogwash.  She likes to note that our education system is one of the last surviving examples of a venture that is “locally owned and operated.”  “Schools are not a monopoly!  In fact, they are the last vestige of the old Mom-and-Pop local democracy holding out against Corporate driven Federal takeover!  They are not managed by a single entity,” she explains.  “There are well over 14,000 different local school districts across the country, and 80% of them are managed by locally elected school boards, providing every parent in the district with a direct conduit of someone to meet with, complain to, and fire through the next election if they don’t like the service they are getting.  Each school system is directly responsible to the people who own it– the people in that district.”
 
Trump Picks Betsy DeVos to Head U.S. Dept. of Education
President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos to the post of Sec. of Education has certainly sparked widespread reaction, at least from the education cognoscenti.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” had a huge section on the topic.  Continuing in that vein, ALOED member Ron Oswald forwards an item that references an op-ed in the New York Daily News by AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten titled “Donald Trump vs. Public Schools: Betsy DeVos is a Radical Choice.”   “It’s not surprising that Trump and DeVos, both billionaires who never attended or sent their children to public schools,” she writes, “fail to understand the importance of public education in fostering pluralism and opportunity.  But it is deeply troubling.  Eight-five percent of American children attend public schools.  They deserve leaders who will strengthen them, not destabilize or defund them.”               How much do DeVos’ religious beliefs drive her education philosophies?  Possibly more than is healthy according to a piece from POLITICO.  The author unearthed some remarks she delivered to a Christian group 15 years ago.  “Her comments came during a 2001 meeting of ‘The Gathering,’ an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians,” the item reveals.  “DeVos and her husband, Dick, were interviewed a year after voters rejected a Michigan ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to allow public money to be spent on private and religious schools, which the DeVoses had backed.  In the interview, an audio recording, which was obtained by POLITICO, the couple is candid about how their Christian faith drives their efforts to reform American education.”              The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) post a piece on their website titled “A Cry of Disgust Over the Appointment of Betsy DeVos” that includes a large dollop of satire along with the commentary.  “I could no more oversee public health care than the likes of DeVos can oversee public education.  This is the ever loving truth that no one sees,” the author frets.  “Self-serving career politicians with their hidden agendas is what has ruined the public school system.  Tell me, would you go to a school teacher for treatment for heart disease?  I think not.  The question that begs an answer is why would you rejoice to see a career politician run your local public school systems?”               The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items about Betsy DeVos and her appointment to be Donald Trump’s Sec. of Education.  The Center for Media and Democracy’s “PR Watch” blog checks in with a piece titled “5 Things to Know About Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump Education Choice” that may go beyond some of the typical things you’ve heard and read about her.  Here’s one example from the list: 4. Theocracy: She Has Pushed for Vouchers and More to Get Tax Money to Support Christian Schools.”  The author proceeds to explain, in detail, each of the items on the enumeration.             The DeVos family got their start privatizing schools in their home state of Michigan.  Now that Betsy has been nominated to become the U.S. Sec. of Education she can set her sights on possibly doing the same nationally.  Want a review of what she and husband Dick have done to the public schools of Michigan which could give you a preview of what’s in store for the country?  Mitchell Robinson, writing on the eclectablog, titles his essay “Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize: How the DeVos Family Devoured Michigan’s Schools.”  It offers an extensive narrative in the form of a timeline of what the DeVoses have fashioned in their home state.  Parental warning: It’s pretty scary and worrisome and even more so when you contemplate what she, as head of the DoE, could accomplish on a much wider platform.  “There is a term for a person brought in to an organization to perform underhanded, controversial, or unscrupulous tasks, like mass firings and company closings: this person is known as a ‘hatchet man’.  Betsy DeVos is nothing more than Donald Trump’s ‘hatchet man,’ tapped for no other purpose than to destroy our public schools, de-professionalize the teaching profession, and privatize what’s left. . . .  But tapping a person whose long public record of words and actions betrays an obvious anti-public education mindset to lead the nation’s public education system is an act of clear hostility and aggression that must be forcefully resisted.  Betsy DeVos has been wrong for Michigan’s schools,” Robinson emphatically concludes,” “and is wrong for Secretary of Education.”               Jennifer Berkshire, aka the EduShyster, offers a similar analysis as Mitchell Robinson (see above).  She suggests that if you want some idea of what direction a Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos is headed, take a look at what she’s done in the past “There is a queasy, racialized undertone to much of the education reform debate, with its constant implication that students of color fare best in schools over which their communities have little say.  In Michigan, though, that argument has been taken by reform advocates, Betsy DeVos chief among them, to its extreme conclusion.  The official message of DeVos’ organization,” Berkshire maintains, “the Great Lakes Education Project, during last summer’s legislative battle was that dissolving the Detroit Public Schools would ‘protect kids and empower parents,’ a cause that came with its own hashtag: #EndDPS.  But what GLEP really meant was hard to miss.  Detroit is a tax-hoovering abyss whose residents are too corrupt and incompetent to oversee their own schools.”              It looks like it will be up to the badly shaken Democratic Party to offer any resistance to the Trump/DeVos policies regarding education.  That’s the gist of a story from the NEW REPUBLIC  titled “Can Democrats Save Public Schools from Trump and DeVos?”  “Hobbled as they are in the minority, Democrats must gear up to fight the coming assault on schooling as a public good.  In the process,”  it recommends, “they will have to do something arguably more difficult: Acknowledge that the Democratic Party has lost its way in recent years on education policy, with many buying into the bad ideas and faulty assumptions that led Obama to double-down on Bush’s failings.”
 
Cartoon of the Day
Diane Ravitch’s blog is promoting a new webcomic strip about education called “Teaching Ted.”  It’s created by Michael Desing who writes this about himself on his website“I’m a husband, father, Christian, teacher, cartoonist, game designer and random stuff creator who lives in Western New York.  I’ve been teaching for fifteen years, and have been creating comics and writing games for about twice that long.  Teaching Ted is where it all comes together: my love of all things geek, my passion for public education, and the lessons I’ve learned about writing and storytelling.”   Be sure to click on the arrows underneath each cartoon on his website to view his offer offerings.
 
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New Chair of House Education Committee Selected
Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the current chair of the House Education Committee will be retiring at the end of the current Congressional term and will be replaced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC).  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has some brief details about the announcement.
 
Kindergartners Trying to Catch Up After Skipping Preschool
A story in the Nov. 27th L.A. Times about kindergartners who skipped preschool and found themselves behind their peers in reading and other skills (highlighted in Friday’s “Ed News”) prompted 2 letters-to-the-editor that appear in Saturday’s paper.  The first is from Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of education at USC.  “Forcing young children to study flashcards in the car in order to ‘master’ 100 words is turning kindergarten into kindergrind,” he suggests.  “Children who develop a love of reading will master thousands of words, without suffering.”
 
Book Banning is Still With Us
Many people probably believe that the banning of books in this country ended in the 50s or the 60s or the 70s or the 80s . . . .  They would probably be surprised to learn that the practice is still going strong in 2016.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post talks about the tradition in history and provides a list of “the top 10 most challenged books in 2015.”  She includes an interesting graph showing the reasons why people object to certain titles and heavily references a column by Peter Greene on his CURMUDGUCATION blog (click here for his full essay) about how often “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is included on banned book lists. “A book challenge is nothing new at libraries and schools,” Strauss points out, “according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which for more than 20 years has collected reports on formal, written book challenges — at least the ones it is made aware of; the ALA said it believes that most such challenges go unreported.”
 
Commercial Billboards on Campus
Thursday’s L.A. Times contained an editorial and Friday’s paper a story about the LAUSD board possibly approving the placement of a commercial billboard on the campus of Hollywood High School (both were highlighted in the previous edition of the “Ed News:).  The former drew 3 letters that appear in Sunday’s Times, all of which were opposed to having the billboards on campus.  “These [billboard] companies have a voracious and insidious appetite,” the author of the first one insists, “for profit and could not care less about blight or any the of the other issues raised by The Times. They will shamelessly promote themselves as benefactors so long as they get any opportunity to expand the distribution of billboards. I can guarantee that if one company gets a toehold on one school campus, the other companies will expect the same treatment on other campuses.”
 
California Teacher Shortage (redux)
[Ed. note: Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an article that was posted on the L.A. Times’ website Wednesday evening that featured a new report about the growing teacher shortage in California.  That story showed up in the print edition of yesterday’s paper.  If you missed it the first time around, you can find it by clicking here.]
 
Schools of Opportunity
Valerie Strauss, on her blog in The Washington Post, has been featuring schools that have been named 2015-16 winners of the Schools of Opportunity project.  This is the sixth in her series (links to articles about the previous five are included in her piece) and it profiles South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York.  The authors who describe the success of the school are the co-founders of the Schools of Opportunity program, Kevin Welner and Carol Burris.  “Teacher-led professional development is an important contributor to the success at South Side. Teachers create their own portfolio of professional development workshops,” the authors indicate, “and they assume leadership positions for building-wide initiatives.”
 
LA Charter School Ties to Turkish Coup?
Last month the ALOED Educational Film Series screened, on the campus of Occidental College, the timely and controversial documentary “Killing Ed” about unsavory ties between a reclusive Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen, who lives in seclusion in the Pocono Mountains in western Pennsylvania, and a worldwide network of charter schools including some 160 campuses in the U.S. and eight in the L.A. area.  After an unsuccessful coup in Turkey in July, the surviving government requested that the U.S. extradite the cleric for his alleged role in the attempted takeover.  The latest edition (Dec. 2-8) of the LA WEEKLY has an exhaustive investigative cover story titled “The Turkish Connection–Is a Southern California Charter School Group Funneling Money to an Effort to Overthrow a Government Half a World Away?”  It goes into extensive detail about the ties between Gülen and the charter chain and links to the attempted coup.  “The unrest in Turkey has drawn attention to the worldwide network of more than 1,000 schools that Gülen has established in more than 100 countries, the largest number of which, outside Turkey, is in the United States.  These schools are believed to fund Gülen’s operation — and they are alleged to have helped fund the coup attempt,” the article reports.  “Within days of the foiled coup, the government of Turkey asked education officials in Texas, California and Ohio to investigate publicly funded charter schools in those states, alleging that they misused public funds and funneled money to Gülen’s movement.”   The piece reviews, in detail, supposed ties between the Magnolia Charter School chain here in L.A. with Gülen and his movement in Turkey.
 
Latest PISA Results Disappointing for U.S. Students
And finally, the latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test results were released today and America’s 15-year-olds were unable to improve since 2009 in science and reading and their scores in math actually declined during that time frame.  The “Inside School Research” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the latest disappointing results. “PISA,” it explains, “focuses on measuring the math, science, and reading critical-thinking and problem-solving skills of 15-year-olds in 77 countries and education systems.”       Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints an article from politico that reports on the latest PISA results (see above) and Ravitch adds her own comments about the scores and what they mean for programs like Race to the Top.  “Now the latest international test scores are out, and the U.S. has made no gains.  We are not racing to the top.  We are standing still.  Why? Because Race to the Top did not address the root causes of academic failure: poverty and racial segregation,” Ravitch complains.  “Charter schools have produced marginal gains at best, with some far worse than public schools.  Evaluating teachers by test scores has been an abject failure, criticized by the nation’s leading scholarly organizations, including the American Statistical Association, which is not an arm of reformer-dreaded teachers’ unions or the ‘status quo.’”               THE HECHINGER REPORT suggests there’s much for U.S. educators to learn from the latest PISA results.  “The idea is not to import other countries’ practices wholesale and drop them into the system here — school systems couldn’t do that even if they wanted to.  But seeing how those practices work,” it submits, “and seeing how they can be adapted to local contexts is a valuable exercise. Educators could see, for example, how Finland has put in place a powerful program to prepare educators; how Singapore has created a career ladder to enable teachers to develop their skills continually; how Estonia has committed to equitable access to high-quality education. And more. Demography is not necessarily destiny. ”              Valerie Strauss takes a much different tack then the item above in her column for The Washington Post.  She advises American educators not to react too negatively to these latest test results.  She explains how testing experts have determined that many of these assessment are flawed and shouldn’t be relied on as any type of predictive indicators.  Strauss turns her space over to Yong Zhao, a former ALOED Book Club author and current professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Kansas, who points out a number of weaknesses in the international exams.  Strauss headlines her column “Why Americans Should Not Panic About International Test Results.”  “U.S. students have never done well — not in the history of international tests,” she points out, “including when the American public education system wasn’t under attack by reformers as it is now. That won’t stop people from saying the sky is falling over the results of a standardized test, especially one that many critics say is flawed.”
                                                                                                           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, December 2, 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.  
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

LAUSD Students Protest Trump’s Election
An article in the Nov. 15th L.A. Times about thousands of students in the LAUSD who walked out of their classes to protest the election of Donald Trump (highlighted in the “Ed News,) drew 3 letters that appeared in the Nov. 17th edition of the paper.  Sentiment was split over the efficacy of the students’ actions.  
 
Charter Schools
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers are constantly reporting how “great” charter schools are but rarely provide any facts or numbers.  Do you ever wonder why that’s the case?  Possibly because those figures are not particularly supportive of their claim.  Angie Sullivan, a second grade teacher in Las Vegas did some digging to see how well the 22 charter high schools in Nevada are doing on the all-important metric of graduation rates.  She wrote up a report which she she made available to state legislators and journalists.  It’s reprinted for readers of Diane Ravtich’s blog.  Take a look.  “Overall Nevada Charters provided services for 9015 Seniors and 4928 failed to graduate.  Perhaps more – since 5 charters did not provide data,” Sullivan reports.  “Tell me now why we are in a rush to turn our public schools into charters?   Aren’t charters supposed to be the experiment and competition for public schools?  You would expect the graduation rate to be at least as high as a neighborhood public schools correct.  What is being done about these failing charters? . . . .  Charters are worse than the regular neighborhood public schools.  Legislation needs to get this mess under control.  Failing charters have to be closed.  This is ridiculous.”             The “Ed News” has highlighted several previous items about Ohio’s largest online charter network ECOT, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. It’s been embroiled in a court case over student attendance and payments from the state over that issue.  A lower court ruled ECOT had to return $65 million to the state for counting students who logged on for only short periods of time or not at all.  The charter network appealed that decision and last week the appellate court upheld the previous ruling.  So now the online Ohio charters are hoping the state legislature will change the rules on attendance reporting.  All this is detailed in a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “The Ohio Department of Education started demanding data showing how much time students spend online,” it notes.  “That meant that students could no longer just be offered classes, but had to take them. . . . .  For ECOT, the state found that it had documentation of online time for just 6,300 of its 15,300 students.  That left 9,000 students without proper documentation and put more than $60 million of ECOT’s state funding for 2015-16 at risk.”             Long time education writer for The Washington Post, Jay Matthews, interviews Diane Ravitch, via an exchange of emails, about her views on charter schools.  The article is titled “Seeking Common Ground With Charter Critic Diane Ravitch.” “Ravitch is among the nation’s toughest charter critics.  But she is willing to let charter educators be creative,” he concludes about their conversation.  “This is encouraging as we seek middle ground for a reform that, despite its problems, has had many successes and strong support from parents.”              Wow!  When it comes to charter schools, apparently crime does pay.  David Fehte, the principal of El Camino Real Charter High School (LAUSD), was forced to resign from his post in October as part of a deal for the school to retain its charter (highlighted in the “Ed News”).  Why did he leave?  He was found to have run up some pretty substantial personal charges on the school’s credit card–he reimbursed the school for $6,000 although denying  any wrongdoing- but will conveniently be leaving with a $215,000 settlement of his contract.  All of these details are in a story in the Los Angeles Daily News.  “Parent Marlene Widawer, a vocal Fehte critic, said she was ‘a little appalled at the amount’ Fehte will receive,” it reports,” and said she would have liked to hear some sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing in his departure arrangement.”
 
School Librarians Face New Roles
As information delivery systems move from printed books, magazines and newspapers to various digital platforms, the role of the school librarian is changing with the times.  One part of an EDUCATION WEEK Special Report titled “The Changing Face of Literacy” looks at school librarians’ new and different responsibilities.  “Welcome to the 21st century school library,” it proclaims.  “Gone are the days when librarians spent most of their time monitoring the stacks and checking out books to students.  Now, [they] see their role as school librarians as teaching students how to navigate and consume information online—and helping teachers embed those skills into their curriculum.  To do that, they take on any number of job descriptions: They’re instructional partners, innovation leaders, and digital-literacy scholars.”
 
Election 2016 Aftermath
Since the election on Nov. 8th, a number of teachers have reported their Hispanic students expressing fears that they or their families would be deported and separated.  Incidents of bullying and racial and religious hate crimes have shown a sharp increase as well.  How are teachers dealing with this surge of anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S.?  A front-page story in the Nov. 19th L.A. Times focuses on one LAUSD elementary school and how a fifth grade teacher there is handling the situation. It also describes how educators at middle and high schools in the district are responding.  “For students and teachers in the nation’s second-largest school system,” the article relates, “the repercussions of America’s choice for president are likely to be both profound and lasting.  In L.A. Unified, 74% of the roughly 600,000 students are Latino, and many have relatives and acquaintances who are living in the U.S. without legal permission.  Children are coming to school shrouded in anxiety, asking teachers to interpret the day’s headlines for them, examining each bit of news for its potential threat.”               4 letters appear in the Nov. 23rd edition of the Times in reaction to the story above about how teachers in the LAUSD are handling their students’ fears about Trump’s anti-immigrant pronouncements (see above).  One is from a current teacher at Citrus College and another from a retired educator with the district.       In November California voters passed Prop. 58 with 73% in favor.  It reversed a previous measure, Prop. 227 passed in 1998, that limited bilingual education in the Golden State.  The “Education Matters” column in Sunday’s Times describes the impact of the new law.  “To many educators, the move is a symbolic reversal of what they say was a discriminatory policy that required Latino immigrant children to speak and learn only in English and failed to prepare all students for a global economy.  But the measure does not require schools to create new courses or curricula.  It simply gives them permission to do so,” it explains, “if they so choose.  Because of this, the onus will fall on local communities to push for new programs, teachers and education leaders said, and some could face challenges, as schools across the state continue to grapple with teacher and funding shortages.”            How are the election results effecting students around the country?  A story in the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK cites a new survey with 10,000 responses from Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, showing negative impacts on classrooms amid a rising tide of racism, bigotry, discrimination and bullying.  “It’s important to note that this survey is not representative—Teaching Tolerance and other like-minded organizations distributed the survey online via email and social media. Those who chose to respond may have a higher level of interest in racial and cultural sensitivity,” the piece points out, “and educators who have seen problems in their classroom may have been more likely to participate in a survey on the issue.”  The article provides some brief suggestions about how teachers can cope with the situation.  You can find the full report (22 pages) titled “After Election Day, The Trump Effect, The Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election on our Nation’s Schools” by clicking here.
 
Trump and Education
What kinds of education policies might a Trump administration propose and how would they impact schools in California and around the country?  Those questions are addressed by an “Education Matters” column in the Nov. 19th edition of the  L.A. Times.  The author takes on 3 main topics: (1) cuts to federal school funding, (2) protections for disabled, minority, transgender and students in the country without legal authority and (3) reduced enforcement of schools district wrongdoing or sexual assault on college campuses.  “In the U.S., states and school districts control most education dollars and school-level decisions,” the piece explains.  “Still, Trump has some power to act alone and with the help of Congress in ways that might affect California schools. For example, some expect Trump to give the state more breathing room in an ongoing fight over how schools should be rated.”               An editorial in the Nov. 23rd Times looked at President-elect Trump’s proposals regarding Common Core and vouchers.  “School vouchers are distasteful on many fronts,” it opines about the latter, “not just because they might fund religious institutions with taxpayer dollars.  This country has long cherished the ideal of a robust public school system for all.  Unlike charter schools, private schools get to admit only those applicants they wish and expel them for whatever reason they want.  That’s almost certain to give the advantage to more affluent families and to the students who least need extra academic help.”               
 
Pro-Charter Group Awards Grants to 2 LAUSD Schools
Is this another attempt by pro-charter organizations to further increase their influence over the LAUSD?  Judge for yourself.  The nonprofit, Broad Foundation front group Great Schools Now recently awarded small $20,000 grants to 2 LAUSD campuses to re-create themselves in alternate locations.  Sound fishy?  An item in Monday’s L.A. Times provides the details of the grants and reviews some of the opposition to them.  “Critics, such as local teachers union President Alex Caputo-Pearl, look skeptically at the dollar amounts and the pro-charter history of the group’s board of directors,” it points out, “which includes Gregory McGinity, executive director for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and Marc Sternberg, K-12 education program director at the Walton Family Foundation.  Caputo-Pearl called the $20,000 grants a ‘cheap-as-you-can-get publicity stunt’  compared with the many millions poured into local charter-school expansion.”
 
Trump Taps Betsy DeVos as Sec. of Education  😓 🙁 😢 
President-elect Trump on Nov. 23rd selected billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE).  The Washington Post has a good profile of the appointee who is a strong advocate for charter schools and vouchers.  “Trump’s pick has intensified what already was a polarized debate about school choice.”  it notes.  “Advocates for such choice see in the Trump administration an extraordinary opportunity to advance their cause on a national scale, whereas teachers unions and many Democrats fear an unprecedented and catastrophic attack on public schools, which they see as one of the nation’s bedrock civic institutions.”               What does the DeVos pick for Sec. of Education (see above) reveal about a Trump administration’s plans for education?  Chalkbeat answers that question and provides a brief outline of DeVos’ background.  “DeVos, an advocate for school vouchers, has chaired the Michigan Republican party and played a key role in some major education policy decisions there in recent years.  But unlike former D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee and charter-school leader Eva Moskowitz, two others Trump considered for the education secretary position,”  it reports, “DeVos has kept a relatively low national profile.  She has neither worked in public education nor chosen public schools for her own children, who attended private Christian schools.”               Reaction to the selection from proponents of traditional public schools was swift and not at all complimentary.  The ACLU of Michigan, DeVos’ home state, issues a brief official statement on her nomination as the next Sec. of Education that raises “serious concerns.”  “We believe that all children have a right to a quality public education,” it concludes, “and we fear that Betsy DeVos’ relentless advocacy of charter schools and vouchers betrays these principles.”               A profile of DeVos in The New York Times describes how she’s spent most of her career devising ways to steer “money from public schools” through her zealotry for charters and vouchers “But Ms. DeVos’s efforts to expand educational opportunity in her home state of Michigan and across the country,” it relates, “have focused little on existing public schools, and almost entirely on establishing newer, more entrepreneurial models to compete with traditional schools for students and money.  Her donations and advocacy go almost entirely toward groups seeking to move students and money away from what Mr. Trump calls ‘failing government schools.’”              Dave Powell, a former high school teacher and current associate professor of education at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, has some serious misgivings about the DeVos appointment and what it portends for education under a Trump administration.  His commentary appears on “The K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK and is titled “Public Education is in Deep Trouble in the Age of Trump.”  “People who dismiss the appointment of Betsy DeVos as just another political appointment of someone to a position without the ability to influence schools had better think again,” he writes.  “Those who say we should wait and see and give her a chance to do her job might want to reconsider. The threat here is very real. We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to fight it.”               ALTERNET weighs in on the DeVos selection with a piece titled “Trump’s Disastrous Education Pick: A Billionaire Heir of Right-Wing Dynasty and Champion of School Privatization Efforts–Couldn’t be a Worse Pick.”  That’s pretty succinct and to the point.  “The former chair of the Michigan Republican Party,”  it mentions, “DeVos backed a failed ballot initiative in 2000 to amend the state constitution to allow students to use taxpayer dollars to attend nonpublic schools.” The article reviews a number of the negative reactions to the nomination from other sources and includes specific links to them.            The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) issues a press release condemning the choice of DeVos.  “BATs around the country will continue to advocate and fight at the federal, state, and local level to sustain our public school system and to make sure that every child in this country has a strong, sustainable community public school in their neighborhood.  Betsy DeVos is unqualified and unfit to be Secretary of Education,” it concludes.  “The children, families, and teachers of this nation deserve better.”              Mitchell Robinson, associate professor and chair of music education at Michigan State University, in DeVos’s home state, calls her pick “Game, Set, Match for Public Education.”  His scathing commentary appears on the eclectablog.  “Betsy DeVos was the absolute worst possible choice for Secretary of Education, so it’s no surprise that Trump chose her for this cabinet post.  Her appointment is much closer to Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist than it is to his choice of Reince Preibus as Chief of Staff.  One is a party insider who will make the ‘trains run on time’: the other is an arsonist,” Robinson colorfully explains, “who would happily burn the train station to the ground.”               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATIONblog, can’t believe how bad DeVos nomination is for traditional public education as he offers his take on her.  “She would rather privatize public education than help it, she would like to make teachers unions a thing of the past, and she has a deep sense of her own rightness. . . .  Well, we knew it wouldn’t be pretty,” Greene fears.  “Now we can start to get a sense of just what kind of ugly it’s going to be.”               Retired math teacher G. F. Brandenburg on his GRBRANDENBURG’S BLOG writes that “The Only Worse Possible Candidate for U.S. EdSec Than Michelle Rhee was Betsy DeVos.  So, DeVos it is.”  “Teachers and public school students,” he predicts, “can look forward to very grim times.”  Brandenburg references the piece about DeVos by Peter Greene (see above).             Valerie Strauss titles her piece for her “Answer Sheet” blog in The Washington Post Trump Terrifies Public School Advocates With Education Secretary Pick.”  “Advocates of public education in the United States have worried that President-elect Donald Trump would tap an education secretary who would speed up the privatization of public schools, a move that many fear could destroy America’s public education system, the country’s most important civic institution.  Well,” she begins gloomily, “ they were right about the appointment — and then some.”             Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to the post of Sec. of Education (see all of the above) elicited 3 letters-to-the-editor that appear in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  “Billionaire Betsy DeVos, appointed to head the Department of Education, is uniquely unqualified.  She has been a longtime enemy of public education.  She has no education degree, no teaching experience, has never worked in a school environment, and has never attended a public school or university,” the author of the first one complains.  “She advocates funneling money out of public schools and into for-profit and Christian education.  This appointment is an all-out attack on public education in our country.”               Teach for America released a statement commenting on the appointment of Betsy DeVos which you can read by clicking here.  It includes a general comment on the choice and 11 policy  suggestions they’d like the Dept. of Education to follow.               Gary Rubinstein is an alumnus of TFA who made teaching a career and has become a critic of much of what the organization is currently doing.  He deconstructs TFA’s statement (see above) regarding Betsy DeVos on his Gary Rubinstein’s Blog.  “More telling than the policies TFA chose to include on this list is the ones they chose to exclude.  Knowing that DeVos is planning to use her power to divert funds from the public schools (and charter schools too) for vouchers for private schools, perhaps TFA could have asked that she not cut funding to schools,” he proposes.  “Knowing how much contempt DeVos has shown toward public school teachers, TFA could ask her not to bash teachers so much.  Knowing that DeVos has funded reform propaganda sites like Campbell Brown’s The Seventy Four, TFA could have suggested that she spend time in public schools and see what great work is being done.”                If you think Betsy DeVos is a poor choice to head the DoE wait until you see what the AP (Associated Press) is reporting.  It claims evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the Christian Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, was offered the post before DeVos but turned it down for personal reasons!               Joshua Leibner, a National Board Certified teacher here in Los Angeles, writes a scathing rebuke of the California Charter School Association’s (CCSA) laudatory statement on the nomination of Betsy DeVos.  His bold diatribe appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Hang on to your hats as you read this one.  “If you have one ounce of Progressivism in your blood, that mealy-mouthed congratulations would create a lethal dose of moral leukemia,” he colorfully exclaims.  “This disgusting endorsement of DeVos, a person who is one of the most hateful, gay demolishing, anti-child, free market embracing, Big Business darling, reveals clearly to Californians who CCSA is and who they put their faith in.”               Want two (equally bad) scenarios of how a future Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos effects education?  Aaron Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, provides them in a post on THE HECHINGER REPORT.  Halloween is long past but both are rather scary!              A public school teacher, writing on the Badass Teachers Association (BATs) website, denounces the selection of Betsy DeVos (he refers to her as the “Devostater,” which unambiguously  describes where he’s coming from).  “The DeVos nomination has clearly demonstrated what public school students and teachers will face under the Trump administration,” he submits.  “That has caused an immediate avalanche of push back against her nomination. DeVos is a textbook villain to public education. Her focus is clearly on privatization.”             Betsy DeVos got her start promoting charters and school “choice” in her home state of Michigan.  If she is confirmed by the Senate to become Pres. Trump’s Sec. of Education she’ll most likely be taking that philosophy nationwide.  How has “choice” played out in one school district in the Great Lakes state?  If you are a proponent of the resegregation of schools, you’ll be pleased.  An investigative piece on the Bridge Magazine website focuses on the impact of school “choice” on the Holland Public Schools in southwestern Michigan, west of Grand Rapids.  “From Holland to metro Detroit, Flint to Jackson, tens of thousands of parents across Michigan,” it reveals, “are using the state’s schools of choice program to move students out of their resident districts and into ones that are more segregated, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment data shows.”             Nancy Flanagan, a retired Michigan teacher sent a note, which is reprinted on Diane Ravitch’s blog, about the above article on the growing segregation of Michigan schools.  “This is the best, most accurate and representative piece on what the DeVos family–over 25 years–has done to public education in Michigan.  Slowly, subtly, they have damaged the Holland public school system,” Flanagan writes, “trading on racism and fear to chip away at a once-highly respected and functional system.”               The DEMOCRACY NOW! television program has a segment, broadcast yesterday, about the DeVos nomination.  Co-hosts Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh interview 3 guests including Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, Tawanna Simpson, an elected member of the Detroit Board of Education and Diane Ravitch.  The program (15+ minutes) is titled “Public (School) Enemy  No. 1: Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Pick for Education Secretary.”  You can view the show and/or read a full transcript of it by clicking here.               The author of this op-ed for theguardian is a journalist, an author and graduate student at the University of Cambridge.  He has a very pessimistic view of the team of Trump and DeVos and believes they could conceivably end public education as we know it.  “Donald Trump, a self-described billionaire, wants billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to take over the Department of Education.  These two ultra-rich people have never attended public schools.  Nor have they sent their kids to them.  Yet they will likely accelerate the bipartisan dismantling of public education as we know it. . . .  If DeVos’s nomination is approved,”he gloomily predicts, “she will speed along the erosion of public education, which has been going on for some time.”  On a more positive note, he does offer some suggestions for how traditional public school advocates can and should fight back against this effort.    Jeff Bryant, writing on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, reviews a number of the reactions to the appointment of Betsy DeVos.  He fears her choice as possibly completing “The Big Money Takeover of our Nation’s Schools” as he titles his piece.  “What DeVos represents in a very great sense,” he mentions, “is how rich people’s grip on the nation’s public education system has reached a choking point.”
 
Trying to Catch Up Without Attending Preschool
What happens when a kindergartner begins attending school without having the experience of preschool?  Catching up can present a major challenge according to a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  It tells the story of a 5-year-old Latina who attends the Telesis Academy of Science and Math in West Covina (Rowland Unified School District) and her struggle, along with her parents, to get up to speed with most of her peers.  The piece points out the importance of being read to at home and other early literacy development techniques.  “A new Stanford University study found that the stubborn academic gap between white and Latino kindergartners had narrowed between 1998 and 2010,” the article reports.  “A companion study suggested why: Low-income parents in that time had started reading more to their children, taking them on more enriching outings and getting them books and home computers.”
 
“Government-run Education Monopoly,” Really?
Conservative Republicans like to label the traditional public school system as a “government-run education monopoly.”  Being anti-government proponents, this fits their philosophy to a tee.  Only problem is, it’s a total misnomer.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG deconstructs the phrase.  “Do we really have such a thing here in the U.S. or is it just propaganda,” he suggests, to boost an unpopular education scheme?  The devil, it seems, is in the details.  The answer is both yes and no: Yes, public schools are government-run.  No, t”hey’re not a monopoly.”
 
Lack of Women in School District Leadership Positions
EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at why there’s such a wide gender gap among school superintendents despite the fact women now head districts in New York City and Los Angeles.  California, in fact, has a higher percentage of female superintendents than most other states.  “Even though K-12 education is largely a female enterprise, men dominate the chief executive’s office in the nation’s nearly 14,000 districts,”  it relates, “numbers that look especially bleak given that the pool of talent is deep with women. Women make up 76 percent of teachers, 52 percent of principals, and 78 percent of central-office administrators, according to federal data and the results of a recent national survey.  Yet they account for less than a quarter of all superintendents, according to a survey conducted this summer by AASA, the School Superintendents Association.  But that number represents improvement since 2000, when 13 percent were women.”  Be sure to click on the interactive chart titled “K-12’s Class Ceiling” to visually seen the above percentages.
 
Disruptive Parents Banned from LAUSD Campuses
Were you aware (I wasn’t) that disruptive parents can be banned from LAUSD campuses for up to a year upon the issuance of a “disruptive person letter” by the school principal?  Adults who received such a letter in the past had no ability to appeal.  Based on complaints the district has received regarding the process there is now a procedure in place for appeal.  A story in Monday’s L.A. Times describes the situation at hand.  “This month Los Angeles Unified School District staff updated its policy to include an appeals process for the decisions,” it brings out, “and to require principals to file the letters in a central district database.  The update also reminds principals that they may give parents a warning before resorting to a disruptive person letter.”
 
School Choice
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers like to promote the concept of school “choice” as a panacea for what ails “failing” schools.  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, dismantles that notion using a pumpkin pie as his example (read the piece and you’ll clearly see his point).  It’s titled “The Essential Selfishness of School Choice.”   “Make no mistake – school choice is essentially about selfishness.  At every level it’s about securing something for yourself at the expense of others.  Advocates call that competition,” Singer concludes, “but it’s really just grift.  Public education is essentially the opposite.  It’s about ensuring that every child gets the best education possible.  Yes, it’s not perfect, and there are things we could be doing to improve it.  But it is inherently an altruistic endeavor coming from the best of what it means to be an American.  We’ve all got choices in life.  The question is what kind of person do you want to be?  A person who takes only for his or herself?  Or someone who tries to find an option that helps everyone?”  How did you like that piece of pie?
 
Do School Closures Solve the Problem?
Closing “failing” schools is often a solution put forward by corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  Is there any proof that strategy actually works?  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE  blog, tackles that critical question in a piece he titles “Where is Evidence That School Closures Actually Help?”  Shuttering campuses usually falls disproportionately on low income and minority communities and the subsequent impact on those neighborhoods can be devastating.  Thompson focuses on a new report about school closings in New Orleans to illustrate his point that there is very little research that supports that policy as a solution.
 
2016, The Year In Review
Now that we are into December, it’s going to be time for those year-end reviews and “best” and “worst” lists.  Larry Ferlazzo, a veteran high school English and Social Studies teacher in Sacramento and an EDUCATION WEEK blogger, gets the ball rolling with his annual list of the best and worst education stories for 2016.  He mentions his items are certainly not all inclusive and are in no particular order.  They appear on Valerie Strauss’  column in The Washington Post.  Enjoy and stay tuned for some additional submissions over the next couple of months.  California happens to be mentioned several times in his “best of” list.  Here’s one of his examples: “A California appeals court overturned the infamous Vergara decision attacking teacher tenure in the state and dealing a setback to anti-union reformers.”
 
California Teacher Shortage
The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of stories recently about recent teacher shortages in California and around the country.  An item posted on the L.A. Times website on Wednesday evening (I don’t think it has appeared in print yet) details the problem in the Golden State that “is bad and getting worse.”  It features a new paper from LPI (the Learning Policy Institute) that lays out the issue in detail in the state.  “The staffing problem is both wide and deep,” the Times piece reports, “with 75% of more than 200 districts surveyed reporting difficulties with filling positions and low-income urban and rural areas hit hardest.”  You can access the full report from the LPI website titled “California Teacher Shortages: A Persistent Problem” by clicking here.  Below are two key graphs from the LPI survey:
 
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Walt Gardner’s “Reality Check” column for EDUCATION WEEK references both the Times article and the LPI report (see above) and offers some  reasons why teacher shortages exist and persist.  His brief commentary is titled “The Misunderstood Teacher Shortage.”  “The reality is that teaching in public schools today is far more difficult than ever before in the history of this country,” he declares.  “Teachers are required to perform on an unprecedented scale, and are made the scapegoats for all the ills afflicting society.”
 
Latest TIMSS Scores Released
The latest TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) scores have been released.  The international exams in math and science are administered every 4 years in grades 4 and 8.  American pupils are making improvements but the gap between them and students from East Asian countries remains large and is still generally the same as it was 20 years ago.  Yong Zhou, an ALOED Book Club author, reviews the results and suggests some lessons that the U.S. can learn from them.  His comments appear on his Yong Zhou website.  Here is one of his lessons: “TIMSS and other international tests have resulted in waves of teacher bashing in America, suggesting that they are less qualified and less mathematically knowledgeable than their counterparts in East Asian education systems.  Bashed have also been teacher education programs in the U.S..  But the data does not really support the blames,” he suggests.  “Perhaps American teachers are great at doing something more important than simply raising test scores.”
 
Are You Ready for Commercial Billboards on LAUSD Campuses?
And finally, yes, you read that correctly.  The LAUSD board has a proposal before it to allow a commercial, digital billboard on the campus of Hollywood High School.  The L.A. Times editorial board may have gotten a little ahead of the news department on this situation as a story about this is published in today’s paper which you can read by clicking here “The world of commerce would pry open the schoolhouse door a little wider,” it mentions, “under a proposal to put a commercial digital billboard on the campus of Hollywood High School.  The location is no coincidence.  The campus sits at one of the city’s busier and often gridlocked intersections.  One mock-up of a proposed billboard shows two faces, one aligned with Sunset Boulevard and the other with Highland Avenue.  There’s space for a third side, toward the school, but that would not be filled, a concession to the idea that commercial messages would not be pointed at, or targeted to, students.”  An editorial about the issue appears in yesterday’s paper and takes a rather jaundiced view of the whole idea.  It raises a number of sticky questions about how it would be implemented and regulated.  The paper is strongly in favor of increased revenue for the district (Yeah, I was shocked, too, especially given the Times’ stance on charters) but believes there are other avenues to approach that matter.  “There are special concerns about the billboard proposal, including questions about what would be banned other than ads for tobacco and alcohol.  Would R-rated movies,” it wonders, “be appropriate content?  (Remember that students coming in and out of the school would be major viewers of the ads regardless of which way the signs face.)  How about strip clubs?  Surely the district, which has put tremendous effort into serving more nutritious meals, shouldn’t allow ads for junk food or fast food.  Gambling would presumably be out.  A district panel would have approval rights over the billboards, but if it says no to everything, the signs won’t make money.”
 
 
                                                                                                           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.