Ed News, Friday, December 2, 2016 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“A true education opens the mind and lets us see the world with wonder and joy.  
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.”
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             


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