Monthly Archives: January 2017

Ed News, Friday, January 27, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“If an education does not teach the person how to live right, then the fact is 
that it is also not teaching how to make the right living.”

― Anuj Somany

Betsy DeVos
DeVos is still leading off editions of the “Ed News.”  I have no idea how much longer this is going to continue.  The Senate committee vote on her confirmation is scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m.  Stay tuned.               Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK recounts her testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in which she came up with some “alternative facts” about charter schools and accountability.  He leads off with the testy back-and-forth between her and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).  “DeVos responded to a legitimate – even essential – question with a stubborn, insipid talking point,” Bryant complains, “is illustrative of not only her inability to provide an intelligent, straightforward answer to most questions about education policy, but also indicative of the empty rhetoric the well-financed charter school industry uses to respond to any appropriate questioning of the rationale for expanding these schools.”  He proceeds to chronicle a number of other sources that question how accountable and transparent the charter industry is.               Bill Boyle writes on the educarenow blog about his perceived problem with Betsy DeVos and her institutional racism.  He looks at how schools are characterized as “failing” and wonders why most of them are in low-income, African-American neighborhoods.  Is there a reason for that?  Could it possibly have anything to do with the “r” word?  Boyle digs deeply into the numbers of schools that have been or will be closed in Michigan and discovers some rather obvious things.  “Poor Black communities are having their schools taken from them.  Poor Black communities are having their schools being named as failures,” Boyle charges, “which allows us to avoid considering the racialized economic conditions that actually led to these communities having high concentrations of Black students who also tend to be struggling with poverty.  Schools are being named as failures while hiding the fact that those in power have failed those communities.”               Does is seem from reading the “Ed News” that I’m the only person opposed to Betsy DeVos’ nomination?  Absolutely not!  POLITICO has a piece describing the “thousands” of people who are flooding Senate phone lines expressing the same opinion.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to making any impression on Republican members of the Senate HELP Committee who own a 12-11 majority over the Democrats on the panel and can easily confirm her if they all vote in favor, which is expected to occur on Tuesday. “Senators’ offices have been flooded with thousands of calls and letters,’ the item notes, “opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos — with some Democratic offices saying the opposition to DeVos is stronger than for any other Cabinet nominee.”  Diane Ravitch was baffled by all this: “Despite all [the opposition], the hundreds of millions she has donated to Republicans may be enough to get her confirmed.  In an era when morality and ethics have evaporated, this makes sense.  It compromises the credibility of everyone who votes for her and shows how little they care for the education of our children.”               It’s apparent to many observers, not all, that Betsy DeVos, based on her Senate Committee testimony and her background, is NOT qualified to become the Sec. of Education.  Megan Allen, writing on “An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy” column for EDUCATION WEEK, is a National Board certified teacher and the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year.  She taught elementary school for 9 years in Tampa and is currently is the developer and director of the Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.  She did some research on the Dept. of Education website to find out what are the requirements and qualifications to head the department and, surprisingly, found very little in the way of useful information.  So Allen decided to come up with her own lists of “Job Responsibilities,” “Experience, Training and Education,” “Essential Knowledge Needed” and “Essential Skills Needed.” Her offerings are quite comprehensive–much more so than what she found on the DoE website.  “At least 100 letters of recommendation from happy former students, parents, and teachers in the schools that you served,” she concludes her job description.  “That’s the beginning of my list, as completed on one train ride.  But it continues to grow.  What would you add?”               Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), a member of the Senate HELP Committee, explained to Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show last night, that no Democrat would support Betsy DeVos to become the head of the Dept. of Education and that he and other members of his party were searching for a couple of Republicans to go along with them.  Valerie Strauss provides the latest developments on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  “Franken told Maddow that Senate Democrats held a recent retreat to talk about strategy for dealing with Trump’s Cabinet nominees,” she reports,” though he declined to say what it was.  He did say that DeVos was one of the nominations that would receive strong Democratic opposition.  He did not specifically say whether he meant on the education committee or the Senate floor, but it seemed as if he was talking about a confirmation vote in the entire Senate.”  You can view Franken’s appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show” (7:12 minutes) by clicking here.  He briefly mentions DeVos with most of his remarks describing general Democratic strategy to deal with Pres. Trump’s nominations and proposals.
 
Complaint Filed Against Gulen School in Chicago
The controversial and timely documentary film “Killing Ed” was screened on the Occidental College campus in November as part of the ALOED Educational Film Series.  It tells the story of a large network of charter schools in the U.S. (including L.A.) and around the world with close ties to reclusive Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in the Pocono Mountains of western Pennsylvania.  The Turkish government has requested the extradition of Gülen over his alleged involvement in a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July. The Obama administration never acted on the request and it is now the responsibility of the Trump administration to issue a ruling on the petition.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have described some problems the Gülen schools (including in California) have faced and now the Chicago Sun-Times reports that attorneys for the Turkish government are requesting an investigation of a Gülen charter in the Chicago area “The complaint alleges Des Plaines-based Concept Schools and its Chicago Math and Science Academy engage in ‘sweetheart deals’ that hurt local taxpayers — but benefit the global movement led by Turkish-born cleric Fethullah Gulen,” the article relates.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in a bitter struggle with the 75-year-old Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has ties to charter-management firms that run about 150 schools across the country, including CMSA and three other publicly funded Concept campuses in Chicago.”
 
Education Bloggers
If you ever get tired of reading the “Ed News,” Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, took some time out over the winter break to create a (long) list of “edubloggers” that he finds most valuable.  He lists them alphabetically and provides a brief annotation for each.  He suggests that if he left any off of his list that readers mention them in the “Comments”section.  [Ed. note: I am a little disappointed he failed to include the “Ed News.” At the same time I’m most pleased that a number of items on his list will be familiar to readers of my blog.]  Examples that Greene lists that I make extensive use of include: Answer Sheet, BATs, Daniel Katz, Deutsch29, DIANE RAVITCH’S BLOG (I had to put that one is all caps), Education Opportunity Network, EduShyster, Gadflyonthewall, Living in Dialogue, Politics K-12, Wait What? and many others.  His list is a veritable “Whose Who” of progressive, pro public education bloggers, among whom I very proudly count myself.  
 
Next School Chief in New Hampshire Has NO Experience
Why does this seem to keep happening?  New Hampshire has a new Republican governor, Chris Sununu, who promptly selected Frank Edelblut as the next State Commissioner of Education.  The choice is an affluent businessman, who happens to homeschool his own children, and has no experience running public schools in The Granite State or anywhere else.  A former state Commissioner, Wayne Gersen, pens an open letter opposing the new chief on his blog Network Schools–Wayne Gersen to the 5 Executive Council Members who will approve Edelblut.  “Most troubling to me is his lack of experience in dealing with public schools as a parent.  If Mr. Edelblut was a successful businessman who ALSO served on his local school board, or who attended his child’s PTA meetings or back to school nights, or who had any children who attended public school,” Gersen argues, ” I might be open to an assertion that he has some sense of the challenges of public schools.  The fact that he chose to homeschool his children instead of working with his local school board or local principal or his child’s teacher speaks volumes about his commitment to the cause of improving schools.”  Diane Ravitch is dismayed by the way things are going: “With appointments like Betsy DeVos and this unqualified nominee in New Hampshire, our nation is not only showing disrespect for public education, but hurtling back to the early nineteenth century, when children went to religious schools, charity schools, charter schools, were homeschooled, or were without any education.  Rushing backward two centuries will not prepare our children to live in the 21st century.”
 
Police On School Campuses
EDUCATION WEEK has produced a special report titled “Policing America’s Schools.”  You can view an introductory article about the full report that summarizes the articles it contains by clicking here.  “Debate is roiling over the role of police officers in schools,” the overview explains.  “How much do they protect?  How much do they contribute to the so-called school-to-prison pipeline?  Should they be in schools at all?  Education Week reporters and research analysts dug into the latest federal civil rights data to see who is most likely to be arrested at school and which students are most likely to go to schools with cops.  We profile two districts—St. Paul, Minn., and Atlanta—trying, and struggling, to balance safety with a positive school climate.”  The item titled “Which Students Are Arrested the Most?” gets you to some state-by-state statistics.  It indicates that California has over 6 1/4 million students (almost 50 million total in the U.S.) and that 17.8% of schools in the Golden State have police on campus (29.99% overall in the U.S.).  Check it out for more data about student arrests.
 
The Teaching Profession
Interested in turning your classroom into a Google workspace?  A trio of researchers from the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank with offices in Boston and the Silicon Valley, have assisted in writing a report , authored by Heather Staker, on why you might want to do this and how to achieve it.  The “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a short article about their white paper that outlines 7 steps for transforming your classroom.  “The paper’s three researchers . . . are all former teachers,” it points out.  “They found that the best corporate managers do three things very well—they empower their teams, they are great coaches, and they emphasize accountability.”  You can find the full report (86 pages) titled “How to Create Higher Performing, Happier Classrooms in Seven Moves–A Playbook for Teachers” by clicking here.  Not sure you want to read the whole thing?  Check out the “Executive Summary” which also includes links to the full report.                The 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year wonders why so many corporate “reformers” and privatizers feel it their duty to impugn teachers and blame them for the shortcomings of the traditional public school system.  Ashley Lamb-Sinclair teachers high school English and creative writing and was honored at half-time of the National College Football Championship game between Alabama and Clemson earlier this month at Tampa Stadium along with other state winners.  She writes a guest blog on Valerie Strauss’  column for The Washington Post.  She intertwines her experiences while being honored at the game with her belief that teachers are unfairly maligned by certain individuals and groups that don’t appreciate how hard teaching is and how hard teachers work to help their students.  “The narrative that public schools are failing, teachers are widely ineffective, and that politicians and business people are the ones to fix’ all of these problems,”  she maintains, “can sound more compelling than the truth.  And the image of what makes a great teacher can be so narrow for the average person, that many of those fans may not have even known the realities each of us faced that led us to that moment on the field.”
 
Preparing to Become a Principal
A new multi-part special report from EDUCATION WEEK deals with preparing to be a principal.  It’s titled “Who’s Ready to Be a Principal?”  An introductory story about it has a list of the various articles it contains and a brief description of each.  “Most of the nation’s 90,000 public school principals start their education careers as teachers.  Along the way,” it begins, “most who aspire to the principalship will land in a university-based preparation program.  There, they take a series of courses and obtain some in-the-field experience that leads them to the required credentials to become a school leader.  But very often, those programs don’t bestow the knowledge and skills that make would-be principals truly ready for the complex job that awaits.”
 
School “Choice” & Vouchers
Is it possible that the idea of school “choice” might mean different things to different people?  We pretty much know what the concept means to Betsy DeVos and the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  That would be things like charters and vouchers.  However, a rather prominent parent from Athens, Georgia, offers a divergent view of school “choice” as a guest blogger on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post.  First, he notes that this is National School Choice Week 2017 and lots of those “reformers” and many politicians are out promoting the things DeVos favors.  “Much of this makes me wonder why our elected leaders,” the parent emphasizes,” don’t embrace the ‘first choice’ so many parents and teachers advocate: the improvement of all public schools so that there are excellent schools in every neighborhood in America?  After all, the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren attend public schools.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers love to promote school “choice” but rarely discuss what it costs the American taxpayers to provide what they are proposing.  Carol Burris, writing on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post, is glad to oblige with a commentary titled “What Taxpayers Should Know About the Cost of School Choice.”  “We have been experimenting with taxpayer-funded choice for two decades, and the evidence is clear.  We have wasted billions in tax dollars,” Burris enlightens, “with no comprehensive evidence that charters, online schools and vouchers have resulted in increased academic performance of American students.  It is time we have an honest discussion about the true cost of school choice.  It is a policy with steep fiscal consequences for our communities and our nation.”  Burris proceeds to detail the soaring costs and impact of school “choice” policies.  Here’s one of the points she makes: “Charter schools and voucher schools have minimal transparency and limited accountability. That lack of transparency results in scandal and theft.”  Relating to this item, Valerie Strauss, in her introduction to Burris’ article, makes reference to the just announced investigation into a charter chain in Los Angeles (see L.A. Times article under “Charter Schools” heading, below).               Need a primer on vouchers?  Not sure what they are or how they work?  Have no fear.  EDUCATION WEEK reporter Arianna Prothero provides an informative look at vouchers and reviews some important aspects about them.  “The subject of high-profile lawsuits and heated political rhetoric,” she mentions in her introductory remarks, “vouchers tend to split people into two camps—those who believe they are a valuable tool for helping disadvantaged children escape failing public schools and those who charge that they strip funds from public schools without offering real opportunity to poor children.  Today nearly 30 states have vouchers or some closely related form of private school choice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.”
 
Charter Schools
The bloom may finally be off the rose regarding charter schools.  There are effective charter campuses, as “Ed News” reader Dave Brown pointed out to me and I agree with him. There are also lots of excellent traditional public schools, too.  How often does that get acknowledged?   Needless to say, the charter industry has framed the debate for too long and has been able to convince many people that charters are “good” and the traditional public system is “failing.”  Neither of those characterizations is totally true.  The “Ed News” has tried to provide some balance to the charter industry narrative about their schools versus the public schools.  I have pointed out when public schools have gotten into trouble and, on a number of occasions, when individual charters or their networks have been accused of financial improprieties.  Here’s another example of the latter.  This one hits close to home.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times has a story about a federal raid on the Celerity Educational Group which opened its first L.A. school over 10 years ago and currently operates 7 sites in southern California. Celerity is being investigated for fraud and fiscal mismanagement.  “[LAUSD] officials raised new concerns over the charter school organization’s finances and its complex governance structure.” it informs.  “In their final report, in which they advised board members to reject the group’s charter petition, they accused Celerity’s leaders of unorthodox fiscal practices, such as borrowing money from one school in order to pay another schools’ bills, spending money on expenses unrelated to the school and commingling the organization’s finances with those of separate legal entities.”               Why do some civil rights organizations like the NAACP and others opposes charter schools especially whey they are sold as the solution to African-American families who are told their children attend “failing” public schools?  The Phi Delta Kappan conducts an interview with Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor of educational leadership and policy studies and director of the doctorate in educational leadership program at CSU Sacramento, who tackles that question head on. The  Q & A is led by the editor-in-chief of the Phi Delta Kappan magazine and is titled “Charter Schools Don’t Serve Black Children Well.”  Heilig also looks at how the Trump administration might impact the education of Black students.
 
Federal Grant Awarded to Aid L.A. Students
Donald Trump winds up his first week in office today but the outgoing Obama administration is still having a positive impact on schools and students here in L.A.  “The nonprofit Youth Policy Institute,” an article in yesterday’s L.A. Times points out, “was awarded a $30-million ‘Promise Neighborhood’ grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration to provide academic, health and legal services to about 4,000 students attending eight public and charter schools in Pico-Union and Hollywood.  The money is supposed to be parceled out over five years, starting in 2017.  The organization received a similar grant in 2013 for 18 schools in Hollywood and Pacoima.”  The funds are earmarked for campuses with high numbers of Latino, immigrant and low-income students.
 
Public School Troubles
A bus supervisor was fired and two of his subordinates resigned under pressure from the LAUSD for alleged drinking on the job and possession of marijuana.  A story in today’s L.A. Times has the details.  “In recommending dismissal of the three employees,” it explains, “the district cited three incidents from September 2013 to May 2015 in which they and possibly others drank alcohol or had marijuana on them at the end of a workday.  There was no evidence that a bus driver was drunk or high while transporting students, said district general counsel David Holmquist. One of the assistant bus supervisors was working as a driver at the time.”               A superior court jury in San Diego ruled the San Diego Unified School District must pay a student $1.25 million in damages for the actions of a teacher who forced the 14-year-old high school student to urinate in a bucket after her request to use the bathroom was turned down.  An article in today’s Times describes the incident and how the court ruled.  “On Feb. 22, 2012, the student told a classmate in a 25-minute advisory class she urgently needed to use the bathroom,”  it recounts, “but was afraid the teacher wouldn’t give her a pass.  Believing it was against school rules, teacher Gonja Wolf rejected the student’s request and instead showed her to a supply room adjacent to the classroom where she could privately urinate in a bucket and dump the contents in a sink.  The school district called the verdict disappointing.”  At spokeswoman for the SDUSD reported the district is considering whether to appeal the verdict.
 
School Improvement Grants (SIGs) Criticized 
And finally, an editorial in today’s L.A. Times criticizes the U.S. Dept. of Education for wasting billions of dollars on the School Improvement Grant program which showed little results, according to a report produced by the DoE about the awards.  “The 2017 report wasn’t the first to find that School Improvement Grants weren’t bringing the expected changes, but it was the most definitive. ‘There were no significant impacts … on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment of students,’ the 419-page report concluded.  The program was begun under the George W. Bush administration,” it reviews, “to help turn around the 5,000 lowest-performing schools in the country. It received a huge boost in 2009, when Congress included $3 billion for School Improvement Grants in the $831-billion economic stimulus package.  Overall, about $7 billion has been spent on such grants.”
                                     .                                                                       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.             
                   

 

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Ed News, Tuesday, January 24, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “Education is the best weapon to fight against the adversity of life.” 
                                                                                                       
Betsy DeVos
Yep!  She’s even leading off this edition.  Are Democrats being a bit hypocritical regrading DeVos’ nomination to head the Dept. of Education (DoE)?  That’s the thesis of a piece by Valerie Strauss on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post titled “Democrats Reject Her, But They Helped Pave the Road to Education Nominee DeVos.”  “Democrats have in recent years sounded — and acted — a lot like Republicans in advancing corporate education reform,” she writes, “which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses, not civic institutions. . . .  By embracing many of the tenets of corporate reform — including the notion of ‘school choice’ and the targeting of teachers and their unions as being blind to the needs of children — they helped make DeVos’s education views, once seen as extreme, seem less so.  Historically, Democrats and Republicans have looked at public schools differently.”               Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate HELP Committee, announced a delay in the vote for Betsy DeVos from today until Jan. 31, at 10 a.m., according to POLITICO.  “The delay comes as Democrats have argued that they haven’t had enough time to examine DeVos’ complicated financial holdings,” it reports, “or ask her questions.  Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, has said she’s concerned that the committee was moving too fast with DeVos’ nomination.”       DeVos completed her required financial disclosure form and ethics letter on Thursday of last week.  In the latter she indicated she would divest herself of any education assets that could create a conflict of interest if she’s confirmed to head the DoE.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, whose father co-founded Amway, are part of a family whose fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $5.2 billion,” it mentions.  “DeVos’s financial disclosure shows her investments to be vast and diverse, including many separate investment and venture funds.  Her ethics letter identifies the assets that apparently have stakes in education-related companies or might otherwise create conflicts of interest if she were confirmed.”               The Bald Piano Guy is BAAAACK.  This time he has a tune (1:49 minutes) about his “favorite” Sec. of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos.  His latest contribution is titled “It’s DeVossy!” and is sung to the tune of Cole Porter’s “It’s DeLovely.”  YouTube has the video. Be sure to check out the Bald Piano Guy’s skill at the keyboard and this time he throws in a short soft-shoe routine.  The guy can compose, sing, play the piano AND now, it’s revealed, DANCE.  YouTube has a version of Porter’s original song (3:06 minutes) which you can listen to by clicking here.               Michael Moore, progressive Democrat and filmmaker, attended the Womens’ March in Washington D.C., on Saturday and addressed the massive crowd.  He called specifically for a pervasive opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and detailed what steps each and every person needs to follow.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, describes Moore’s presentation and reviews why a growing list of groups is opposed to her becoming the next Sec. of Education.  Strauss even references an editorial in Thursday’s L.A. Times that called for the Senate to deny her the post.  The Post piece includes a short video (1:45 minutes) of Moore’s appearance.  “After a highly contentious Senate confirmation hearing [last] Tuesday,” Strauss explains, “during which she displayed a lack of understanding of basic education issues, DeVos is facing growing opposition to her nomination as President Trump’s education secretary — including from groups that largely support the same issues she does.”                Diane Ravitch, on her Diane Ravitch’s blog, composes an open letter to Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander about why she’s against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and why Alexander’s committee should reject her.  “You are in the position of selecting a new Secretary of Education.  I watched the hearings,” she writes, “and it was evident to all but the most extreme partisans that Ms. DeVos is uninformed, unqualified, unprepared, and unfit for the responsibility of running this important agency.”  The rest of her letter lists the many reasons why Ravitch believes that DeVos should not be the next Sec. of Education.                Betsy DeVos might actually be the perfect person to hold down the job of Sec. of Education in the era of Donald Trump, “fake news” and “alternate facts.”  Former Trump campaign manager and current senior advisor Kellyanne Conway invented the term “alternate facts” during a contentious appearance on “Meet the Press” Sunday.  Jennifer Berkshire, aka the EduShyster, did some digging into DeVos’ background and record and creates a piece titled “Betsy DeVos’ Alternate Facts.”  Berkshire delves into a bizarre business franchise that DeVos has invested in called “Neurocore” that claims to be able to reprogram your brain through biofeedback.  DeVos has stated unequivocally that she will not divest herself of this investment if and when she’s confirmed to head the Dept. of Education.  As Trump might tweet “Strange, Sad!”               For more on the DeVos/Neurocore connection, the company’s radical Christian roots and the non-medical “doctor” who promotes the service, check out a story by Anita Senkowski, aka “Miss Fortune,” a Northern Michigan blogger, on her Glistening, Quivering Underbelly (that’s what it’s titled) website.                  Neurocore, the biofeedback company heavily bankrolled by DeVos, makes some rather astonishing claims about its ability to “fix” students with autism according to a “Digital Education” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  “On its website, Neurocore makes a number of claims about how its technology can help individuals, including children,” it points out, “with conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety, depression, memory loss, migraines, and sleeplessness. . . .   Neurocore also claims that users of its neurofeedback training improve their IQ by an average of 12 points.”        Want to read the U.S. Office of Government Ethics official report on Betsy DeVos?  If so, you’re in luck.  It’s appended to the end of an article about the report in The Washington Post.  It also mentions the delay in the Senate committee vote on her confirmation from today to next Tuesday.  “Though Democrats bristled at having just five minutes each to question DeVos — during which they used some of their time complaining about it and asking for another round of questioning — Alexander limited them to the single round,” it makes clear.  ” [DeVos’]  opponents say Alexander is rushing what should be a careful examination of someone they say is unqualified to lead the nation’s education department.  Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, said the senator is concerned that members will not have a chance to have their ethics concerns and questions answered before the vote.”              Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee requested more hearings on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos but were turned down by committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) according to a story on the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK.  [Yesterday] the Democrats wrote to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman,” it reports, “saying they had unresolved concerns about DeVos’ financial investments and potential conflicts of interest, and that during the first hearing last week, they were not given enough time to ask DeVos questions.”  Another update to the story stated: “An aide to Alexander said there will be no additional hearing days for DeVos.”  The plot thickens!                 Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the HELP Committee, borrows Valerie Strauss’ blog in The Washington Post to offer a vigorous defense of Betsy DeVos and why he believes she should be confirmed by his panel and the full Senate to become the next Sec. of Education.  “Democrats desperately are searching for a valid reason to oppose Betsy DeVos for U.S. education secretary,” he commences, “because they don’t want Americans to know the real reason for their opposition.”                This next one is a little surprising, or maybe not.  Hundreds of students and alumni from Calvin College, the Christian school that is Betsy DeVos’s alma mater, have signed a letter OPPOSING her nomination.  Details of this extraordinary development appear in the school’s student newspaper Chimes.  “The letter was drafted and circulated by Sara Moslener, ’96, on Saturday, Jan. 21.  As of 11 p.m. Monday night,” it indicates, “it had over 700 signatures.  Moslener said that, beginning Tuesday morning, signatures would be open for another 24 hours.  She will then make the letter available for alumni to send to their senators.”  The story reprints a full copy of the letter at the end of the piece.  
 
The Trump Inauguration/Administration 
Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, is distressed by the Trump administration’s tiff over the size of the inaugural crowd and how it compares to Obama’s in 2009. Greene is worried what kind of message it will send to students about telling the truth and treatment of the press.  “As a teacher, I am left wondering exactly how I handle this with students.  In a journalism class, how do we interpret the new role of journalists, who must now be attacked and criticized by the President of the United States for daring to print facts.  Do we have to re-write the old rules of research, which generally told students that a .gov domain name was trustworthy and fair game for a research source.  What are we to make of a President who tells pointless bald-faced lies,” he ponders, “and uses the federal government to spread them, and then to attack and further damage the conduit of free press through which we are supposed to get our information? How do we navigate a world like this, and how do we teach our students to do so?”                 Friday’s “Ed News” highlighted Pres. Trump’s brief remarks about education in his inaugural address.  Steven Singer, aka the author of the GADFLYONTHEWALL blog, zeroes in on the comment about “an education system flush with cash.”  Singer is skeptical of that phrase and provides both words and pictures to refute it including a short reference to the LAUSD.  “Donald Trump lies,” he begins curtly.  “If you haven’t learned that yet, America, you’ve got four more cringe-inducing years to do so.  Even in his inaugural address, he couldn’t help but let loose a whooper about US public schools.”                Cheryl Gibbs Binkley, a member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), couldn’t countenance the comments Pres. Trump made in his speech on Friday (see above).  She wants everyone to remember the schools they attended and teachers they had and remember if they were all “flush with cash.”              Mitchell Robinson gets a little graphic in his reaction to Trump’s comments about education.  His commentary in the eclecta blog is colorfully titled “Flush This, Mr. President” and he leads off with quite a photo.  He believes Trump’s characterization of our education system is “mean-spirited” and “belittling.”  “These comments are ignorant, hurtful, and divisive,” he concludes testily.  “The President had a chance to use his inaugural address to unite a fractured nation and appeal to our better selves, but chose to insult and disparage a profession of which he knows nothing.  It’s not our education system that is flush with cash, yet knows nothing.  It’s you, Mr. President.”         Peter Dreier, professor of Politics and Chair of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College has two commentaries about the Trump inauguration.  The first, from THE HUFFINGTON POST, complains about the singing of America the Beautiful.” Dreier analyzes the words of the song and predicts that the author, Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929), would roll over in her grave if she knew it was performed at Trump’s ceremony because of its emphasis on social justice and condemnation of overseas adventures and corporate greed.  The second, from the same publication, compares the words of Trump’s speech to what fascists might have voiced in the 1920s and 30s.  “I have watched, listened to, and read many commentaries on the inaugural address,” he points out, “but so far none of the mainstream pundits have used the one word that best describes Donald Trump: fascist.”             The BATs issue a “Teacher-Activist Calendar” of 100 things you can do in the first 100 days of the Trump administration.  “Many of these items take only a few minutes.  Some take a bit more, use the ideas either as an idea bank,” they suggest, “or move them around to suit your schedule.  Any time you schedule an activist date, such as a meeting or call, move that day’s activist suggestion.  Even if you miss a day or week, come back and pick something from the list.  Share with Friends!  Use Liberally!” EDUCATION WEEK outlines “6 Key Federal Policy Areas to Watch Under Trump.”  “President Donald Trump said less about education on the campaign trail than almost any major-party nominee in recent history,” it begins, “except for a high-profile proposal on single issue: school vouchers.  But his ascendance to the White House could upend K-12 education in ways that are felt from the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters in Washington to urban schools that serve big numbers of immigrant students.”  Here are 2 items from the list: “School Choice” and “Immigration.”                One of the first actions of the Trump administration, taken Friday evening, is to delay the implementation of Obama’s ESSA regulations regarding states’ developing new accountability systems.  The “K-12 Politics” column for ED WEEK describes the action announced.  “The delay in the accountability regulations, which would seem to last until late March,” it explains, “could throw a monkey wrench into states’ efforts to submit their accountability plans by April 3, the first of two deadlines set by the administration.  The regulations outline the process for submitting plans, and flesh out details that aren’t included in the law.”
 
Ed Issues Facing State Legislatures
Legislatures will be meeting in all 50 states this year.  What types of issues will they face regarding education?  Chief among them are school funding and how to implement the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).  EDUCATION WEEK discusses a number of topics to be dealt with in specific states.  California gets a very brief mention related to new school accountability systems as the ESSA goes into effect replacing NCLB.  “Skyrocketing K-12 education costs continue to dominate states’ budget debates,” it mentions, “and conservative lawmakers in many states have long been itching to make dramatic changes to how much money they provide to school districts and how districts spend that money.”               Two Republicans in the Arizona State House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would prohibit the teaching of “social justice.”  Yes, you read that correctly.  I hope this isn’t another trend of the Trump era.  The sorry details are briefly provided by Gene V. Glass, lecturer in the College of Education at San Jose State University and emeritus Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, on his Education in Two Worlds blog.  “It’s hard to see such bills as anything other than raw meat thrown to the base; but in the case of Arizona,” he complains, “stupider things than passing such bills have happened.”
 
A Peek Inside the Dept. of Education
With the confirmation process still playing out for Betsy DeVos to become the next Sec. of Education, the importance of what the agency does sometimes gets lost when the focus is often solely on the personalities that lead it.  THE HECHINGER REPORT has an interesting item that lifts the veil, somewhat, on how the DoE works.  It takes you behind the scenes for a peek at the department’s “rulemaking process.”  First, the article defines exactly what that is and proceeds to detail how it all works.  If you’ve ever been inquisitive about how federal agencies go about their business, this article will start to fulfill your curiosity.  “Although the rulemaking process is rarely front-and-center in the eye of the general public,” the item indicates, “it is a process that gives the executive branch substantial power.  For this reason, the process has been quite controversial, and the so-called ‘iron triangle’ of legislators, interest groups, and agency personnel stay well-versed in the process so they can exert their influence when it touches their interests.”
 
Schools of Opportunity
And finally, Kevin Welner identifies 4 more schools that have been selected as winners of the prestigious Schools of Opportunity award.  This is the eight in his series and he describes each of the 4 again on Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post.  12 campuses were awarded gold medals and these 4 are the silver medal winners.  They were picked for having a broad and enriched curriculum.  They are located in Boston, East Rockaway, N.Y., Athens, Georgia and Stillman Valley, Illinois and Welner includes a brief description of each campus and why they won.  “The four Silver Schools of Opportunity all are exemplars,” he points out, “illustrating different ways that universally engaging curriculum can be provided, closing opportunity gaps.”
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, January 20, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The best teacher teaches by inspiring students to learn 
by showing them the ultimate purpose of learning.” 
Betsy DeVos
I am going to lead off this edition of the “Ed News” with Betsy DeVos (who else?).  I probably could have renamed the blog for this edition “The Betsy DeVos News.”               Kristina Rizga, author of the book “Mission High’ [Ed. note: A future ALOED Book Club selection] is a senior reporter at Mother Jones, focusing on education issues.  She’s written an extended, heavily researched profile for that publication titled “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom.”  It’s subtitled “Trump’s Education Secretary Pick Has Spent a Lifetime Working to End Public Education as We Know It.”  Rizga details the religious underpinnings of the DeVos family and how that guides their political philosophies and philanthropy.  “Betsy and Dick DeVos have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she relates, “to organizations seeking to privatize education and blur the separation of church and state in public schools. “              The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held their confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos’ nomination to become the next Sec. of Education in the Trump administration.  It began at 2 pm (PST) on Tuesday  and lasted three and a half hours.  The previous edition of the “Ed News” had some early reports.  Reaction to the hearing since then has been substantial as the position carries a lot of weight in the field of education.  Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) quickly announced that he would be voting “no” on her nomination.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints his press release explaining his position.  “A bedrock principle of America’s public educational system is investing public money in schools meant to serve everyone, not siphoning off scarce taxpayer dollars to private or religious education.  Unfortunately,” he points out, “the president-elect’s choice for Education Secretary has indicated she supports an approach that flies in the face of America’s long-time, commonsense investment in public education opportunities that recognizes education is an essential rung to climb the economic ladder.”  Wyden listed some other reasons for his opposition.               The 1A program on Wednesday morning on WAMU 88.5 in Washington, D.C., an NPR station, has a discussion about Betsy DeVos and her background and testimony before the committee.  It features Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank based in the nation’s capital, and Diane Ravitch.  You can listen to the audio segment (22:13 minutes) on the program’s website.  Click on the red “Listen” button in the upper left hand corner to access it.                 The PBS NEWSHOUR series “Making the Grade” devotes a segment to the impact of Betsy DeVos’ support for school “choice” on  traditional public education.  It solicits comments about the DeVos nomination from Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, and Frederick Hess of the AEI (see item above).  You can view the video (9:30 minutes), listen to a podcast and/or read the transcript of the program by clicking here.  In response to a questions about what concerns her most about DeVos as a possible Sec. of Education, Weingarten answered like this: “Her record speaks volumes.  And what we’re concerned about is that record, because, in Michigan . . .  for the last 25 years, she has worked to dismantle, destabilize and defund public schools at the very same time as she’s worked to shield for-profit charters from any kind of accountability.  And those schools have done very badly,” Weingarten continues.  “And the public schools, particularly for black and brown children, have been very destabilized in places like Flint, Detroit . . . and other places.”                   Diane Ravitch also appears on the public radio station WNYC “The Takeaway” program (13 minutes) with James Goenner, president and chief executive of the National Charter Schools Institute. You can probably guess that they took diametrically opposite positions on whether DeVos is qualified and should be confirmed to head the Dept. of Education. Ravitch and Goenner are heard in separate segments.                Ravitch was very busy on the airwaves after the DeVos confirmation hearing on Tuesday.  She was one of the guests on the “To The Point” program (33:53 minutes) hosted by Warren Olney on Los Angeles’ NPR station KCRW 89.9 along with Emma Brown, education reporter for The Washington Post, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten and Matt Frendewey of Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children.  The topic of the rather “heated debate,” as Ravitch described it, is “Washington’s Role in Public Education.”                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, points out a major stumble during Betsy DeVos testimony when the nominee appeared puzzled about federal law pertaining to students with disabilities.  Strauss provides some of the back-and-forth on the topic between Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and DeVos.  The piece includes a short video (3:38 minutes) with “6 Head-Scratching Moments From Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing.”  Diane Ravitch had this response to Strauss’ article and DeVos’ committee testimony: “On subject after subject, DeVos dodged the question, evaded the question, said that it was ‘worth a discussion,”’and found other artful (and not so artful) ways to avoid answering.  Clearly, she is ill-prepared for the job of Secretary of Education.  Nothing in her testimony suggested that she had even been briefed.”             One quizzical issue that arose during the DeVos hearing had to do with guns, schools and grizzly bears.  CNN has the details about how the nominee responded to a question about whether guns have “any place in and around schools.”  You can read about DeVos’ answer and/or view a brief video (45 seconds) with her response. “Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee, said it should be up to states whether guns are allowed in schools,” the article mentions, “citing grizzly bear protection as part of her answer.  She also said she would support Trump if he moved to ban gun-free schools zones, a position he advocated on the campaign trail.”                  A story in the NEW REPUBLIC weighted in rather cheekily with this headline: “Betsy DeVos Got Schooled in Her Confirmation Hearing.”  It’s subtitled: “Democrats Repeatedly Stumped Trump’s Pick For Education Secretary.”  “With Republicans in control of the Senate,” it maintains, “DeVos’s confirmation is all but a foregone conclusion.  But her grilling Tuesday night yielded more than a few exchanges that could prove politically problematic.”              Daniel Katz, on his Daniel Katz, Ph.D. blog, reacts to DeVos’ opening statement before the HELP Committee.  He refers to it as full of “Smoke and Mirrors.”  “The remarks follow what you would typically expect from a controversial nominee trying to tip toe around her record of zealously advocating tearing down traditional public education even in the face of evidence of failure,” he mentions.  “It would be unrealistic to expect DeVos to acknowledge the wreckage that her policies have wrought upon Detroit Public Schools or to note that even philanthropists and foundations interested in charter schools and vouchers routinely pass over Detroit because the situation on the ground is too wild west for their tastes.”                 The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a detailed review of DeVos’ comments on a number of issues including federalism, the ESSA, Michigan’s record with charters and several others.  “Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education,” it begins, “sought to use her confirmation hearing to beat back the notion that she would undermine public education as head of the department, as Democrats pressed her on everything from her views on the civil rights of gay and lesbian students, to states’ responsibilities for students in special education, and guns in schools.”                Another story in the “K-12 Column” in ED WEEK, catalogs six critical education policies where DeVos appeared rather fuzzy in her knowledge and understanding.  2 examples: “ESSA Accountability Rules” and the concept of “Proficiency vs Growth.”               Of course the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) weighed in on the DeVos hearing.  Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the group, headlined her item “UnBEARable: Reflections of the DeVos Hearing.”  She offers a pretty extensive review of the questions asked and the responses DeVos provided, few of which impressed Kilfoyle.  “My takeaway is that she knows very little about education,” Kilfoyle complains, “because she doesn’t need to.  The GOP senators on that committee don’t know or don’t care about all the things she doesn’t know.  Her lack of knowledge, experience and expertise is not important to them because education is not important to them.  That’s my takeaway.”              [Ed. note: Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about Betsy DeVos from the L.A. Times that had only appeared on their website as of the deadline for that “Ed News.”  That item appears in the “Education Matters” column in yesterday’s Times.                A scathing editorial about the DeVos confirmation also came out in yesterday’s paper.  In the print edition it carries the title “A Failing Grade for DeVos,” while on the website it’s headlined “Betsy DeVos Embarrassed Herself and Should Be Rejected by the Senate.”  “Betsy DeVos’ love of private school vouchers didn’t disqualify her for the role of U.S. Education secretary, even though vouchers are a bad idea.  Nor did her lack of experience in public schools. What did render her unacceptable was her abysmal performance at her confirmation hearing Tuesday,” the editorial board harshly, but incisively points out, “during which she displayed an astonishing ignorance about basic education issues, an extraordinary lack of thoughtfulness about ongoing debates in the field and an unwillingness to respond to important questions.”  The piece gets even more biting after that introduction.  Thanks to “Ed News” reader Donald Hagen for sending this along.                Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” (formerly hosted by Jon Stewart) has a segment on DeVos’s appearance before the Senate HELP Committee.  You can view it on THE DAILY SHOW website.  Noah sums up by saying DeVos failed every subject she was asked about but will probably be confirmed anyway because she handily passed “Donations 101.” Hear, Hear!  How true!  How sadly true!               The reporter for The New York Times headlines her piece on the Senate hearing for the next Sec. of Education “Nominee Betsy DeVos’s Knowledge of Education Basics is Open to Criticism.”  That’s being rather kind!  “In questioning by senators, [DeVos] seemed either unaware or unsupportive,” the article explains, “of the longstanding policies and functions of the department she is in line to lead, from special education rules to to the policing of for-profit universities.”                Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, does his usual thorough job of summarizing the reactions to Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing this week.  He raises some questions about her commitment to racial equity and integration and concludes, dishearteningly, that the senators didn’t ever confront her on those topics so no one knows what her positions are.  You have to go back to some of her previous actions to get some inkling of what she believes.  “So what are DeVos’ views on racial equity in education?  Does she support racial integration?  What would she do to assert the federal government’s historic role in ensuring racial equity in schools?  Unfortunately,” Bryant complains, “much of what DeVos has worked for in her state of Michigan – the ‘schools of choice program,’ vouchers, and the proliferation of charters – is taking the state’s schools back to a segregationist past.”
 
The Teaching Profession
For a while there was a trend in K-12 education to do away with foreign language instruction.  Thankfully those in the know realized that was a faulty policy and those classes are making a comeback, especially in the form of dual-language or immersion programs.  The “Global Learning” column in EDUCATION WEEK offers 8 specific tips on “How to Increase the Number and Quality of Language Immersion Programs” from a pair of guest bloggers who are part of the Asia Society’s Chinese Early Language and Immersion Network (CELIN).  “Students in the United States need to be able to learn languages in addition to English, in the home and throughout their education,” they conclude, “in order to develop global competence and live productive lives.  This need is real, and the urgency of the matter has propelled us to shift from asking ‘why’ language learning might be important to ‘how’ we will move forward effectively, together.  The strategies described above are a good start.”               The “Ed News” has recently chronicled how teacher shortages have been plaguing a number of states including California.  With that the case, it would make sense that states are also having a hard time filling substitute teacher positions.  An item in ED WEEK mentions how various states and districts are using some creative and time-honored methods to attract applicants.  It uses Elk Grove Unified in Sacramento County as one example along with Michigan, Baltimore and Pennsylvania. “Elk Grove, the fifth-largest district in the state,” the item details,“has a plan to keep substitutes from roaming to other districts. The district raised salaries and offered health benefits.  A little more than a year ago, its school board voted to increase substitute pay from $125 a day to $135, making it more competitive with surrounding districts.  Elk Grove also sent an email to parents, inviting them to think about becoming a substitute or persuading a friend or family member to apply.”                 Can one be both a classroom teacher and a teacher leader?  The responsibilities of both can be quite taxing but the author of this item from the CTQ Collaboratory” column for ED WEEK believes that being a successful classroom teacher means you are already exhibiting characteristics of a leader. She offers 3 ideas for balancing the obligations and duties of both.  “There are moments when we wonder how we manage to get it all accomplished, moments where our to-do lists seem overwhelming.  Keeping passion and priorities in focus makes a critical difference,” she concludes, “by helping us reframe our thinking.  The reward of leading within the classroom and within the profession is well worth the investment.”                Starr Sackstein, a National Board Certified educator who teaches English and Journalism in New York City, answers the fundamental question “Why Do I Teach?” in a commentary for ED WEEK.  She offers 8 reasons why.  Here are 2 of them: “-I’m challenged on every level, sometimes to my breaking point.  -Did I mention I’m always learning.”
 
School Choice and Racial Segregation
The headline on The Christian Science Monitor story asks “Does Greater School Choice Lead to Less Segregation?”  The subtitle provides an answer: “Statistics Suggest That Charter Schools and Vouchers Aren’t a Solution to Segregated Schools.  In Some Cases, They Can Actually Make it Worse.”  So why do the corporate “reformers” and privatizers keep pushing those policies?  Perhaps they don’t want to see schools integrated.  “What both charter schools and vouchers have in common, say critics, is that they perpetuate the racial segregation of US schools,” the author suggests, “even as the nation’s school-age population grows ever more diverse.  While minority parents are being given more choices about where to enroll their children, these choices rarely extend to schools that are more integrated by race or ethnicity, critics say.  Instead, the choices for families in low-income, minority-dominated school districts are often between low-performing public schools and alternatives such as charters or voucher-dependent private schools with similar student bodies.”
 
LAUSD School Board Race Draws $1 Million Campaign Contribution
Those previously largely ignored, unimportant elections for school board seats are no more.  The “Ed News” has highlighted several races that drew millions of dollars in campaign donations as various groups attempt to influence the outcomes.  Another of those battles is shaping up here in L.A.  Incumbent board Pres. Steve Zimmer is facing reelection and apparently there are certain forces out there who don’t want him to be successful.  Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan just channeled $1 million (!) into an independent campaign to defeat Zimmer according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  Zimmer’s Distrcit 4 race, which stretches from the Westside to the San Fernando Valley, drew 3 opponents for the March 7th primary.  “Riordan has endorsed [challenger Nick] Melvoin,” it explains, “and also contributed directly to his campaign.  But the limit for direct contributions is $1,100 while there are no donation limits for campaigns not under the control of a candidate.  In his previous campaign, four years ago, Zimmer and his supporters framed billionaires’ large donations to defeat him as an arguing point in favor of his reelection.  The teachers union, with some assistance from other unions, spent enough on his behalf to get that message out.”
 
President Trump
Donald Trump officially became the 45th president of the United States at noon today.  There were a series of protests in Los Angeles yesterday by teachers, students, parents and union leaders worried about the course of the country under Trump.  An article in today’s L.A. Times describes the various actions around the city.  “Events at schools across L.A. were part of a broad action led by the country’s two largest teachers unions.  The president of the National Education Assn., Lily Eskelsen García,” it reports, “took part before school at Grand View Boulevard Elementary in Mar Vista, where several hundred participants gathered.”               Trump’s inaugural address touched briefly on education.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reviews what he said and includes some reactions to it.  “‘”Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves,’ Trump said in his address from the U.S. Capitol to a packed crowd of onlookers. ‘But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. … An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.'”               Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post briefly reacted to Trump’s inaugural comments regarding schools and education (see above).  She was rather aghast at his “deprived of all knowledge” remark. 
 
Big Changes on the Way at Dept. of Education
And finally, EDUCATION WEEK points out what could be a major cultural shift at the U.S. Dept. of Education (DoE) as Obama administration appointees are replaced by Pres. Trump’s nominees.  “Politicization of federal agencies tends to ramp up when Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party,” it explains, “and after a big, recent turnover in power, as is the case now, said Elizabeth Mann, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, who has studied how federal-state relations shape K-12 policy.”  The item suggests how that culture might change if Betsy DeVos is ultimately confirmed (a pretty safe bet) to head the department.  
 
Have a great weekend and stay dry!
 
                                                                                                           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, January 17, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “I teach not by feeding the mind with data but by kindling the mind.” 

― Debasish Mridha

 
Charter Schools, Choice & Vouchers
Sigh.  Another day, another charter scandal.  This one emanates from Florida.  It seems a former employee is accused of stealing $100,000 from the Seth McKeel Academy in Lakeland.  The funds were used for personal travel and other items including a prom dress and false eyelashes.  The “Eight on Your Side” investigative team from station WFLA Channel 8, an NBC affiliate in Tampa, has the sordid details.  “45-year-old Ginger Collins was a former Assistant Director of Academics for the school,” it reports, “until her resignation on September 16, 2016.  She is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the organization and creating fake companies and website to make her purchases appear legitimate. . . . So where was the oversight?  Eight on Your Side went to McKeel Academy to ask that very question, but we were turned away.”               How successful are those highly touted charter schools doing around the country?  Based on Texas’ system of grading schools on an “A” to “F” scale, the answer is an undeniable “poorly.”  Gary Rubinstein’s Blog did some digging into the results for the universally lauded KIPP schools in the state and reported some startling results.  On the “Student Progress” element 24% received a “Failing” rating and 40% earned a “D” or an “F.”  I don’t know about you, but that’s not a particularly enviable record.  “Reformers always talk about expanding ‘high quality’ charters.  And one of the most famous examples of such a high quality charter chain are the KIPP network of schools.  There are about 200 KIPP schools around the country,” Rubinstein calculates, “and surely there will be many more now that a very charter friendly president has been elected.  KIPP schools are staffed by a large number of Teach For America teachers and alumni and was founded by two TFA alumni.”               Charter schools and vouchers are often sold by the corporate “reformers” and privatizers as ways to offer parents more “choice” when it comes to selecting schools for their children.  In truth, some of those programs are quite exclusionary.  Witness the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Act which was passed by the Republican controlled state legislature in 2013.  The article comes from THE CENTURY FOUNDATION, a progressive think tank headquartered in New York, and is titled “Second-Class Students: When Vouchers Exclude.”  It describes how the Tar Heel State’s voucher program discriminates against a wide range of students.  Question: How does that promote “choice?”  “Under a Trump/DeVos plan, we should expect to see more voucher programs like North Carolina’s emerge,” the author envisions in conclusion, “dressed with the glittery names of opportunity, choice, and freedom.  Do not be fooled.  The opportunities are exclusionary, the choices are constrained, while the freedom belongs to largely unregulated private schools to discriminate on the public dime.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONETHEWALL blog takes a more provocative approach to school “choice.”  He believes the reason charters, vouchers and “choice” are being pushed so strongly has to do with racism.  His commentary is daringly headlined “The Racists Roots and Racist Indoctrination of School Choice.”  He goes back to the landmark Brown v Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, handed down in 1954, that ordered the integration of public schools to trace the racist roots of school “choice.”  “School choice does not enhance civil rights.  It is inimical to them.  It is part of a blatant policy to make America racist again.  We cannot allow the Trump administration and any neoliberal Democrats who quietly support his ends to undo all the progress we’ve made in the last 60 years.  The bottom line is this – voters don’t want school choice.  It does nothing to better childrens’ educations.  It is a product of segregation and racism and even in its modern guise it continues to foster segregation and racism.  If we care about civil rights, social equality and democratic rule,” he concludes powerfully, “school choice is something that should be relegated to the dust heap of history.  It’s time to move forward, not look back fondly on the Confederacy, Jim Crow and segregationism.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers like to make the argument that school “choice” is good for those involved.  On the contrary, Sara Stevenson, a Texas educator, makes the counter argument that it’s really the wrong solution in a commentary in the Austin (Texas) Statesman titled “Why School Choice in the Wrong Choice.”  “One must ask about the motive for the school choice movement.  Public education in this nation is an operation costing about $600 billion annually.  Do these private, charter, cyber and home schools,” she wonders, “want to open their arms to public school students in a gesture of inclusion, or are they after the money?”
 
Art in the Schools
Can adding an arts curriculum boost overall student achievement?  That’s the focus of a PBS NEWSHOUR segment that was broadcast last week titled “Struggling Schools Benefit From Adding Arts to Learning.”  You can watch the program (7:50 minutes), listen to an audio and/or read the transcript by clicking here.  Jeffrey Brown, the host, visits a couple of charter school in New Orleans that are piloting an arts curriculum created by the company Turnaround Arts.  One campus features actress Alfre Woodward, singer Graham Nash and New York Times columnist David Brooks working with groups of students.  “An independent evaluation conducted of the original eight Turnaround schools,” Brown notes, “showed early success.  Half the schools improved their attendance rates.  The average improvement in math proficiency was 22 percent and reading close to 13 percent.  And discipline problems fell.  At ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, for example, suspensions were down 51 percent.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Yeah.  I know.  Here we go again but, in my mind, Betsy DeVos deserves all the criticism she’s attracting (and more!).  Remember, she’s been nominated to be the federal Secretary of Education with responsibility and oversight over all public school students in the U.S.  Her strong advocacy and financial support of charters, choice, vouchers and privatization of our system of public schools is alarming to put it mildly.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, describes the very close relationship between DeVos and Jeb Bush in a piece titled “Jeb Bush May Have Won Something in the Election After All:  The U.S. Department of Education.” “The president-elect has selected a very close Bush ally to be his education secretary.  Betsy DeVos donated to Bush’s unsuccessful presidential campaign,” Strauss points out, “and sat on the board of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The two share an education reform policy that supports the transfer of public dollars to privately run schools, such as for-profit charter schools and voucher programs that use taxpayer funds to pay for private schools.  They say they are providing parents with choice; critics say they are destroying the public education system.”               The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos began at 5 pm (EST) today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  As it progresses, The New York Times suggests, the questioning of the billionaire heiress could be quite contentious.  The article is headlined “Trump’s Pick for Education Could Face Unusually Stiff Resistance” and outlines what areas certain Senators, mostly Democratic, are apt to explore with the nominee.                The progressive advocacy group, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY, joined the long (and getting longer every day) list of groups and individuals opposed to the DeVos nomination It reviews a number of other articles that urge the Senate to reject DeVos.  “Ultimately, what is at stake is the future of public education as a core democratic institution,” the note concludes on their website, “that has provided generations of Americans, including immigrants, with the means to become full participants in American society.”               Add the Coalition for Civil and Human Rights of The Leadership Conference to the above list.  Their offering is in the form of a letter addressed “Dear Senator” and is titled “Betsy DeVos is the Wrong Choice to Lead a Civil Rights Organization or American Public Education.”  “On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations committed to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States,”  it begins, “we are writing to express our strong opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.  All parents and students in this country – a majority of whom are of color or are low-income–want the best education, support and dignity for their own children.  We stand with them and cannot support a nominee who has demonstrated that she seeks to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself.”               If you are getting a little tired of READING why Betsy DeVos shouldn’t be approved to be the next Sec. of Education, check out this video (8:15 minutes) from Brave New Films on YouTube.  It prominently features Diane Ravitch and a number of other educators and parents from Michigan commenting on what DeVos did to the public schools in her home state.               Not sure exactly what the DeVos family agenda is about?  It may be much darker than you are aware according to an investigative piece from POLITICO.  It digs deeply into the background of the family and plumbs the recesses of its involvement in the politics of Michigan.  The article is titled “How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics.”  Subtitled “With Her Nomination as Education Secretary, A Powerful Political Clan Will Bring Its Overt Christian Agenda to Washington.”  “The DeVos family, with Dick and Betsy at the helm, has emerged as a political force without comparison in Michigan,” the author writes.  “Their politics are profoundly Christian and conservative. . . .  and their vast resources (the family’s cumulative net worth is estimated at well over $5 billion) assure that they can steamroll their way to victory on issues ranging from education reform to workers’ rights.”  Diane Ravitch had this to say
about the story: “Just when I thought I had read everything I needed to know about the DeVos family, along comes this brilliant investigative article by Zack Stanton of Politico.  Stanton shows how powerful the DeVos family is, how it works as a tightly coordinated unit, and how it uses its vast wealth to smash the union movement, force school privatization, control the Republican Party in Michigan, and extend its reach to Louisiana, Indiana, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and other states.”               Valerie Strauss’ blog for The Washington Post provides a long list of questions that teachers would like Betsy DeVos to answer.  They obviously cover a wide range of topics.  Here’s one example from a member of the Educator Voice Fellowship: “Lisa Meade (NY): What are the specific strengths of the public school system that you would want to continue to support in your work as secretary of education?”               The L.A. Times has been rather quiet regarding the DeVos nomination.  However, an item appeared on the paper’s website early yesterday morning [Ed. note: It has not appeared in print as of the date the “Ed News” was sent out] with a profile of her and a focus on her active support for vouchers and strong religious beliefs.  “Fifteen years ago, a controversial question about America’s schools dominated headlines, prompted ballot measures in California and other states and led wealthy philanthropists to dig deep into their pockets in the name of educational reform,” it relates.  “Should government money pay for students to attend private — even religious — schools?  Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary, whose confirmation hearings begin Tuesday, was one of the biggest backers of the yes camp.  But after voters in some states, including California, gave vouchers a resounding no, the issue fizzled in all but a few, mostly conservative places.  DeVos’ nomination — and the president-elect’s backing — could put vouchers back on the map in a major way.”               Kenneth Zeichner, professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington explains why he’s against Betsy DeVos becoming the next head of the Dept. of Education.  His comments appear on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “Betsy DeVos is thoroughly unqualified for the job of Secretary of Education,” he writes.  “She has never attended a public school, sent her children to public schools, taught or worked in a public school district or a state education agency, overseen public education as a governor or governor’s aide, or studied the field of education.  There has never been a more unqualified nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education in the history of the Department of Education.”  That’s pretty succinct and to-the-point!               The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK takes a different tack on the DeVos nomination. Instead of criticizing or supporting the action it offers a primer on what to watch for during the hearing in the form of a Q & A.  “It’s finally happening: Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education, is set to testify before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at her confirmation hearing [today].   In the past,” it begins, “confirmation hearings for an education secretary have typically been bipartisan love fests.  But that’s not going to be the case this time around.”  The piece includes a link to her opening statement before the committee.                Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grills Betsy DeVos about higher education issues during the Senate Education Committee’s confirmation hearing this afternoon.  You can view the confrontation (4:54 minutes) courtesy of the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog by clicking here.                Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, has 2 separate stories about today’s confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos.  The first notes that former Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CN) formally introduced the nominee to the committee with glowing words but he also took a few pot shots at the education establishment in the process. The second one reports that Democrats on the Senate Education Committee were quite upset with Chair Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) decision to limit individual committee members questioning of Betsy DeVos to just 5 minutes and did not allow a second round to take place.  Strauss reviews some of the issues raised during the confirmation hearing and describes the partisan bickering over procedures.  “Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee slammed the confirmation hearing of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education nominee, through the Senate education committee,” Strauss writes, “which he chairs — over the objections of Democrats who practically begged for more time to question her.  Democratic members of the committee repeatedly asked for more time to ask DeVos questions . . . .”             Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, blasts DeVos’ testimony before the Senate committee today titling his piece “Ignorance and Arrogance–the Defining Characteristics of the Betsy DeVos Hearing.”  He was unsparing in his criticism.  “During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) tonight, DeVos showed herself to be hopelessly out of her depth,” Singer grumbles.  “She tried to cover her ignorance by being noncommittal.  But it was obvious that she had no idea what she was talking about more than half the time.”  The rest of his essay is equally scathing.
 
Support for Public Education
The group Education Deans for Justice and Equity published a statement on the NEPC (National Education Policy Center) website reiterating their strong support for public education and American democratic ideals.  It contains “4 guiding principles” which are briefly explained on the website.  Here’s the first one: “(i) Uphold the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy.”  This item includes a copy of the full document (7 pages) titled “Public Education, Democracy and the Role of the Federal Government: A Declaration of Principles.”  As of Jan. 11, 175 former and current deans of colleges and schools of education, including a number from California, had signed the manifesto and they are listed alphabetically on pages 4-7.  
 
Detroit Public Schools Returned to Control of Elected Board
The troubled Detroit Public Schools (DPS) were returned to the control of an elected board for the first time since 2009 when they were taken over by the state and governed by an emergency manager.  The “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a brief item about the change.  “One of the board’s first major tasks,” it mentions, “will be to choose a new superintendent for the 45,000-student school district, which has struggled financially and academically for years.”
 
California School Finances Spelled Out
Ever wonder how California’s K-12 public schools and community colleges are actually financed?  If you think it’s a simple, straight forward process, think again.  The whole mechanism can be rather esoteric and convoluted.  Much of it is dependent on how Prop 98, passed by voters in the Golden State in 1988, is interpreted according to the “Political Road Map” feature in Sunday’s L.A. Times.  It serves as a primer to a very complicated issue.  “The shorthand to Proposition 98,” it explains, “is that it sets a minimum level for school funding — one that generally grows with the economy — by using a series of complex formulas for earmarking state and local tax dollars.  That usually results in a mandate that hovers around 40% of the state’s general fund, though any honest state budget-watcher will admit the final number — just like the annual prediction of tax revenues — is sometimes subject to political negotiation.”
 
John B. King Concludes His Term as Sec. of Education 
Pres. Obama officially ends his term of office at noon on Friday when President-elect Trump takes the oath of office.  Obama’s Sec. of Education, John B. King Jr., also concludes his service and offers his valedictory view of the state of education in the U.S. and what he’d like to see his successor accomplish. His commentary appears on EDUCATION WEEK.  “We must get beyond either exalting teachers as heroes who can single-handedly solve all education problems or castigating them for failing to do so.  We should instead recognize that teaching is an incredibly difficult job,” he suggests, “requiring dozens of decisions every hour.  We can invest in teachers’ preparation and development at the same time that we welcome their expertise and leadership on the challenges they face and the issues that affect their students.
 
Corporate “Reform”
DFER or Democrats for Education Reform is a political action committee that supports charters and opposes teachers unions.  John Thompson, on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog, takes a close look at the impact the group has had on education reform in an article titled “DFER Dances Around Trump’s Public School Wrecking Ball.”  He refers to a story that was highlighted in the Jan. 10th “Ed News” headlined “The War on Public Schools.”  Thompson believes the policies of groups like DFER made Donald Trump’s victory more likely because of how they split the Democratic Party regarding an important issue like education.  
 
View “Go Public” Documentary Online for FREE
And finally, the ALOED Educational Film Series sponsored a screening of the powerful documentary “Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District” that offered an inside look at how the Pasadena School District works by having a number of film crews record what parents, students, teachers, coaches, principals, custodians, board members and others did during the course of one school day.  If you haven’t seen the film (90 minutes) or would like to watch it again, it is being made available for viewing for free for one week on vimeo.  Thanks to ALOED member and my Film Series co-chair, Larry Lawrence, for passing that information along.
 
                                                                                                           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, January 17, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                  Monday is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Holiday.
 
               Inline image 1
 
 “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.
 Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
 -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 

Betsy DeVos

[Ed. note: Please remember the DeVos confirmation hearing that was originally scheduled for Jan. 10th was postponed until Jan. 17th at 5 p.m.]  OK.  I’ll admit it.  The “Ed News” IS picking on the Betsy DeVos nomination to be the next Sec. of Education.  But she deserves it and is getting the negative reception from many different sources!  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has joined the bandwagon of critics [Ed. note: I’m honored to be in such august company] of Trump’s selection to head the Dept. of Education.  Warren, who’s a member of the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee that will be taking up DeVos’ confirmation hearing on Tuesday, sent a letter to DeVos last week that’s the focus of an article in the Boston Globe.  It includes a copy of the letter Warren sent (16 pages) that includes 41 questions she’d like the billionaire philanthropist to answer.  “DeVos’ nomination has prompted angst from the left because of her record of donating millions of dollars to support conservative candidates and causes,” the story mentions.  “She married into the Amway fortune, and she and her family have donated more than $20 million on the federal level in the last three decades, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  DeVos earned the ire of campaign finance crusaders for a 1997 op-ed she penned in a Capitol Hill newspaper where she bragged about being the largest GOP donor and asserted that her family expected a ‘return on our investment.’”              Diane Ravitch has written pieces for several different publications opposing DeVos.  She has another one appearing on the pages of IN THESE TIMES.  “DeVos is a billionaire who grew up in the Christian Reformed Church,” Ravitch writes, “and would like to see religious schools supported by public funding.  She once described education reform as a way to ‘advance God’s kingdom.’”  Whatever happened to the significant concept of the “separation of church and state?”               The CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS (CAP), a progressive public policy research and  advocacy group, is also concerned about the vast amount of campaign donations DeVos, her family and associated PACs have doled out to Senators (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”) on the HELP Committee and in the full Senate all of whom will be voting on her confirmation.  The story is titled “Conflicts of DeVos–Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, And A Pay-to-Play Nomination.”  “To uphold the ethical standards of the Senate—and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest—senators who have received donations from DeVos and her family should recuse themselves from considering her nomination,” the 3 co-authors suggest.  “Unfortunately, no member of the Senate has indicated that they might step aside. Put differently, Republicans under Trump are showing that they can be bought and sold.”               This comic strip may help illustrate the above item:

             
 
Even the Massachusetts Charter Association has some serious doubts about DeVos taking over the Dept. of Education even though she’s a champion of choice, vouchers and charters.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, describes how they and a few other charter proponents are beginning to feel a little queasy about her.  “It will be interesting to see if opposition to DeVos continues to appear on her reformy flank. Our first few months in Trumpistan,” he concludes, “will undoubtedly give rise to much political shifting and re-alignment; only time will tell how that will shake out in the education biz.”               Are the “education wars” about to resume under the Trump/Pence/DeVos team?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, explains what the “wars” are about and why they may be returning based on a recent speech by AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten.  “Education, which was hardly ever mentioned in the recent presidential election,” Bryant begins, “has suddenly been thrust to the frontline in the increasingly heated conflict over President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees.  The reason for that turn of events is his choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.  Her nomination risks ‘reigniting the education wars,’ according to Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union.”   Weingarten contends that the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in late 2015, had pretty much tamped down the partisan conflict over education but that the emergence of DeVos as Sec. of Education quite probably will reignite the partisan battles from the past over education policy.               Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints Weingarten’s full speech that she delivered on Monday before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.                Diane Ravitch calls this next item “a must read” and a “brilliant” article.  Jennifer Berkshire, aka the EduShyster, has discovered the real intent of Betsy DeVos’ agenda.  Check out her provocative piece, titled “The Red Queen,” and see what you think.  Berkshire wanted to get an upfront and personal view of what impact DeVos’ policies have had on the public schools in Michigan so she spent a week travelling around the Great Lakes State, talking and listening to all types of people involved.  “The radical experiment that’s playing out [in Michigan] has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids.  The real goal of the DeVos family,” she suspects, “is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way.  And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.”  What follows is detailed and compelling.  
 
Student Behavior
Can student misbehavior be improved through detentions, suspensions and expulsions?  It’s a discussion that schools have been having for eons.  A piece from THE HECHINGER REPORT suggests that these types of punitive solutions are not productive.  The author proceeds to offer some much more positive and humanistic approaches after she reviews some interesting statistics regarding student behavior.  “The first step is understanding the nature of student behavior in schools.  Several decades of research reveal a depiction of problem behavior among a school’s student body.  In nearly every school studied,”  the author, a professor of special education at Lehigh University writes, “the majority of students (about 80 percent) rarely, if ever, exhibit behavior problems (such as code of conduct violations resulting in a disciplinary referral) at school.  The majority of students receive no, or only one, disciplinary referral during a school year.”
  
Education Policies for the New Year
NEW AMERICA, a non-partisan think tank, offers a 10-point agenda “to help reform the country’s education system.”  You can read an overview of the group’s proposals on their website by clicking here.  You can also access a list of the items (1 page) or the full guide (15 pages) titled “EDUCATION AGENDA 2017, Top Priorities for State Leaders, the Next Administration, and Congress.”  Here are 2 examples from the 10-point agenda:“1. Expand access to quality early learning.  4. Align research and development to educational practice.”               Peter DeWitt goes even farther on the “Finding Common Ground” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  He offers “17 Critical Issues Facing Education in 2017.”  “Education has been a battleground of rhetoric over the years,”  he suggests, “and 2017 will certainly bring in some changes given, not only the campaign and ultimate election decision, but because of so many issues bubbling up to the top that need our attention.  Some of the items may surprise you, while others seem like common sense.”  Here are 2 examples from his list: “15. Pre-service Teacher Programs,  17. School Climate.”
Charter Schools
Andre Agassi, former U.S. pro tennis star, went into the charter business in his home town of Las Vegas and in other cities around the country upon his retirement from the pro tennis circuit.  He was held up as a shining example of celebrity support for charter schools.  Unfortunately, he’s just been aced.  His flagship campus in Las Vegas, Agassi College Preparatory Academy,  was among the poorest performing schools in Nevada and will be taken over by another charter operator next school year according to a story in the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL.  Agassi Prep’s secondary school was placed on this year’s underperforming list,” it points out, “among the bottom 5 percent of middle schools in the state.  The elementary school escaped the underperforming list, but received two stars out of the state’s five-star rating system.  Board members also cited persistent financial problems that board members expected to worsen if action wasn’t taken.”               Louisiana this week joined Washington State where courts ruled that charter school funding formulas violated state constitutions.  Mississippi has a similar lawsuit pending that was filed in July according to a short item in the “Charters & Choice” column at EDUCATION WEEK.  “In Louisiana, local K-12 officials as well as the Louisiana Association of Educators, a state teachers’ union,” it explains, “argued it was unconstitutional to fund schools run outside local school systems with money meant to go to local parishes.  That argument was initially rejected by a Louisiana district judge in 2015, before being overturned Monday by the state appeals court.  At stake is about $80 million in funding for over 30 charter schools statewide.”  This latest decision in Louisiana is expected to be appealed to the state supreme court.  
 
Running Schools Like Businesses
Tuesday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an op-ed in Sunday’s L.A. Times that suggested 5 ways schools should be run like businesses.  It prompted 2 letters that appear in Wednesday’s paper.  The second was written by Stephen Krashen an emeritus professor of Education at USC.  
 
The Teaching Profession
Linda Yaron is a National Board Certified educator in Los Angeles and an expert on teacher coaching  She offers “The 10 Key Elements of Transformational Coaching” on the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Whether serving as a full-time coach,” she writes, “or as a teacher with a hybrid position who splits the school day between coaching and teaching, coaches are uniquely situated to be supportive partners in the classroom.  The depth in which coaches can thrive in their roles depends on some key foundations of coaching.”  Here is one example of an idea Yaron borrowed from veteran coaches over the years: 9. Connecting with resources.”               The 4 finalists for 2017 National Teacher of the Year were announced Monday by the Council of Chief State School Officers.  One of them is a special education teacher at a San Diego high school.  The other 3 hail from Massachusetts, Maryland and Wisconsin and teach varied subjects according to a brief story on the “Teaching Now” column at EDUCATION WEEK.  “The four finalists, along with the ultimate winner,” it indicates, “are chosen by a national selection committee that represents 18 education and community organizations. . . .  The National Teacher of the Year will be honored by the president at a White House ceremony this spring.”
 
Supporting Public Education
House Democrats have formed a caucus to support traditional public education.  The new group’s existence is announced in a story on THE HUFFINGTON POST and was trumpeted [Ed. note: That was not intended to be a pun] by several members of the caucus and the national presidents of the NEA and AFT.  So far, no Republicans have signed on.  “Members of Congress have formed a new caucus to support the goals of public education under Donald Trump’s presidency. Although the caucus has been in the works for over a year,” it begins, “Trump’s election and his nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary has given the group heightened urgency, according to those involved with the effort.”               Not convinced that our public schools are underfunded and poorly supported?  Check out Philadelphia where only 8 full-time, certified librarians service 220 schools and 134,000 students.  THAT’S A CRIME and one of many reasons why those schools are “failing.”  Those discouraging numbers come courtesy of a piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer.  “As Philadelphia school budgets have shrunk,”it discouragingly notes, “librarians have grown rarer, almost to the point of extinction.  In 1991, the school system employed 176 certified librarians.  Now, the librarians are only at Anderson, Elkin, Greenberg, Penn Alexander, Roosevelt, and Sullivan elementaries and Central and South Philadelphia High Schools.”               Despite a predicted decline in state revenue for the 2018 fiscal year, California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a boost of more than $1 billion in education spending.  The “State EdWatch” column in EDUCATION WEEK has the encouraging details.  “Of the state’s proposed $122.5 billion spending plan next year,” it mentions, “Brown proposes that the state increase K-12 spending from $71.9 billion to $73.5 billion.  Per-pupil spending would increase from $14,822 to $15,216.”  That’s some good news.
 
LAUSD News
The LAUSD board is contemplating changing the district’s school year calendar AGAIN.  It voted on Tuesday to continue the mid-August start, a full week off at Thanksgiving with a 3-week winter break for only 1 additional year as it considers other options beyond that time.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times outlines the reasons for that action and what choices the board is considering.  “In the past, schools across the country routinely started fall classes  after Labor Day.  In recent years, though, L.A. Unified has joined other districts in starting the school year earlier,” it reports.  “Some families prefer a traditional post-Labor Day school start because it lets them schedule vacations and keeps their kids out of classrooms during the most intense heat of late summer. Some in the Los Angeles school system have pointed out that a later start also reduces air conditioning costs. Such views prevailed in September, when the Board of Education voted to shift away gradually from the earlier start.”               Three of the seven LAUSD board seats are up for election in 2017.  The primary will take place March 7 and a run-off, if no candidate receives 50% + 1 vote, occurs on May 9.  2 of the 3 positions have incumbents running including board Pres. Steve Zimmer’s 4th district which runs from the Westside  to the San Fernando Valley.  [Ed. note: Full disclosure: I’m in Zimmer’s district.]  The 4 candidates vying for the job engaged in a spirited forum on Jan. 9, that was covered in the current edition (Jan. 13-19) of the JEWISH JOURNAL (both Zimmer and challenger Nickolas Melvoin are Jewish).  The forum/debate covered a wide range of issues including charter schools, teacher tenure, pension obligations and other district finances.               LAUSD Supt. Michelle King has been in office for a year.  A front-page article in yesterday’s L.A. Times reviews some of the things she’s done and where she’s fallen short.  It includes several charts with information about overall district enrollment (declining), charter enrollment (increasing), finances (uncertain) and graduation rates (increasing).  King put together a strategic plan for the district that the board has been slow to endorse.  “A year has passed since board members unanimously chose King to lead the Los Angeles Unified School District, citing her lifetime of experience in the district and deep familiarity with its problems.  In King,” the piece relates, “they saw a competent soldier, a respected former classroom teacher and high school principal who had served as deputy superintendent under two previous superintendents, John Deasy and Ramon C. Cortines.  That competent soldier is, in many respects, what they got.”     
 
Testing
And finally, could attending even one year of preschool predict future success on standardized math tests?  The latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) math scores offer a tantalizing possibility of that.  EDUCATION WEEK features those intriguing findings in an item titled “Preschool Linked to Success on Global Math Test.”  “The 2015 international-benchmarking test—as in previous PISA iterations—showed stronger math results,” it indicates, “for students who had participated in at least a few years of education between ages 3 and 5, before the start of formal primary school.”
              
 
                                                                                                           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, January 10, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “Education is a weapon that doesn’t create destruction, that creates peace” 

― Kip Keino

The Teaching Profession
What did the teaching profession look like in 2016?  The “Teaching Now” column in EDUCATION WEEK provides a snapshot of teacher attitudes and statistics on a number of typical issues through a series of charts.  Here’s one example (out of 10 total): Chart #9: There Are a Lot of New Teachers”  It indicates that 12% of teachers in the U.S. are in their first or second year.  California is at 9% and among the lowest while Florida (the highest) registers an astonishing 29%!  Check out the rest of the items for an interesting glimpse of the profession you are currently in, retired from or are aspiring to join.               Peter DeWitt, on the “Finding Common Ground” column in ED WEEK provides “3 ‘Simple’ Ideas Every Educator Should Work on for 2017.”  His list includes things that will improve techniques and communication both personally and in the classroom.  “Just like with any new year we have our resolutions.  Instead of all of those resolutions that may not last very long,” he suggests, “we should look at a few that can have a powerful impact in 2017, and also happen to be a few that we believe we do already.  That impact can be reciprocal because we will get what we give in 2017.  Our learning and growing should never be one-sided.”
 
Betsy DeVos
The “Ed News” is NOT picking on Betsy DeVos, despite what you might think by my coverage of her nomination to be the next U.S. Sec. of Education.  There appear to be some serious issues with her selection to be the top federal official overseeing out public school system.  Friday’s edition provided a copy of her answers to a Senate Education Committee questionnaire that included a long list of her political contributions.  Five of those Republican Senators will be voting on her confirmation in the committee and a total of 20 in the full Senate.  Does that raise some questions in your mind?  It certainly does in mine.  For more information on this issue check out a story in The Washington Post titled “Trump’s Education Nominee and Her Family Members are Major Donors to the Senators Who Will Vote on Her Confirmation.”  “Democrats have singled out DeVos as one of eight Trump Cabinet picks deserving of extra scrutiny and skepticism,” it points out, “arguing that she has no experience as an educator or elected official and has a record of undermining U.S. public schools.  They are likely to bring up her political donations during her confirmation as evidence of her efforts to influence Congress, according to staffers.”                 The Post has another article reporting that Senate Democrats are seeking to delay that hearing until the federal ethics office completes its review of her.  “In a letter to Senate Democrats on Saturday,” it mentions, “the head of the ethics office said that Trump and Republican leaders are breaking with decades of precedent by pressing for Cabinet confirmation hearings to take place before ethics reviews are completed.  Walter M. Shaub Jr., the director of the ethics office, wrote that it would be ’cause for alarm’ if the Senate were to go forward with hearings on nominees who have not been fully vetted because of the potential for ‘unknown or unresolved’ ethics issues.”                BREAKING NEWS: According to the “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK, the Senate Education Committee has postponed the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos from Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. to Jan. 17, at 5 p.m. (see item above).  “The move comes just days after [Sen. Patty] Murray [D-WA] and other Democrats had requested that the committee delay DeVos’ hearing,” it reports, “until after she is cleared by the Office of Government Ethics.  DeVos, a billionaire GOP donor and school choice advocate, is one of several Trump nominees who have not yet received a sign-off from the OGE.               “It’s been widely reported that 4 or 5 GOP members of the Senate Education Committee have collected campaign contributions from Betsy DeVos or her family (see first item in this section).  However, according to Darcie Cimarusti of New Jersey, aka the author of the Mother Crusader blog, that number may be under stated.  Her deep investigation reveals the number may be closer to EIGHT (out of 12)!  And remember, they are going to vote on whether to confirm her appointment to become the Sec. of Education.  “At the top of [my] post,” she explains, “I listed the 12 Republican members on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee, and I have been able to connect 8 of them to DeVos money, either directly or through PACs the DeVos family has contributed to.  I would be remiss if I didn’t add that this is just what I was able to find combing though FEC [Federal Election Commission] filings.  In no way are these totals exhaustive.  There well could be more money and other PACs I simply wasn’t able to uncover with my somewhat limited Nancy Drew style sleuthing abilities.”               A number of local pro-public education organizations in Ohio have signed on to a letter to be sent to the state’s 2 U.S. Senators opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the federal Dept. of Education.  The janresseger blog describes her group’s efforts to draft the letter, circulate it to as many organizations as possible and deliver it to Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (D-OH) yesterday.  Resseger, a long-time public school activist, was surprised at the extent of opposition to DeVos in the Buckeye State.  “We discovered [last] week that a mass of people from across our community, across Greater Cleveland, in surrounding counties, and across Ohio,” she indicates, “were delighted their organization had been given an opportunity to weigh in on this important matter that will affect our public schools, our communities, our state, and our society.” Resseger includes a copy of the letter on her post and a list of the various groups who signed it.             As the Senate Education Committee hearing for Betsy DeVos is set to kick off tomorrow, Russ Walsh, on his Russ on Reading blog, pens an open letter to Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr., (D-PA and one of Walsh’s home state Senators) one of the minority party members of the committee, with a list of 10 questions he’d like Casey or anyone else on the panel to address to DeVos.  Here’s one example from his list: “3.  In your home state of Michigan, you and the foundations you support have fought hard to make sure that governmental oversight of charter schools is extremely limited despite indications of widespread fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance.  Should charter schools be subject to the same financial and academic scrutiny as traditional public schools?  If not, why not?”               Diane Ravitch issued a press release via the IPA (INSTITUTE for PUBLIC ACCURACY) website officially opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Dept. of Education.  You can read her statement by clicking here “Betsy DeVos should not be approved by the Senate committee or confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Education.  She has no experience or qualifications for the job,” Ravitch writes in part.  “She is a lobbyist for alternatives to public schools.  Eighty-five percent of the students in the U.S. attend  public schools.  Her only plan is to weaken and destroy them by diverting public money to charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.”               An editorial in The New York Times is headlined “Big Worries About Betsy DeVos.”  It raises some serious questions about the rush to confirm her despite warnings from the Office of Government Ethics regarding incomplete paper work plus the Times worries about her detrimental impact on the public schools in her home state of Michigan.                Apparently the “group” “Friends of Betsy DeVos” consists solely of a paid public relations person.  Investigative reporter extraordinaire, Mercedes Schneider describes what she discovered on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29.  “I have been doing a lot of reading about Trump’s nominee for US secretary of education, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos,’ she reveals, “and I have noticed a recurring defender of DeVos, Ed Patru, ‘spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos, a group of supporters.’ . . .  I searched for any formally organized group calling itself Friends of Betsy DeVos, and I found no record.  In fact, the only hits I did find always seem to be some quote by Ed Patru, spokesman for Friends of Betsy DeVos.  There is just Ed Patru.”                Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post, characterizes the growing opposition to the DeVos nomination from individuals and organizations.  “Public education was not much of an issue during the 2016 presidential campaign — but it sure is now,” Strauss points out, “as opposition grows to the Senate confirmation of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary  nominee, who once called the U.S. traditional public school system a ‘dead end.’ . . .  DeVos, a leader in the movement to privatize the U.S. public-education system, has quickly become a lightning rod in the education world since her nomination by Trump in November.”
 
Next Friedrichs Case Already in the Pipeline
The Friedrichs v California Teachers Association U.S. Supreme case, which would have eliminated unions’ abilities to collect even agency fees, was on the verge of being decided against the unions when the unexpected death of Justice Scalia caused the case to end up in a 4-4 tie.  That left the lower appellate court ruling in effect which favored the unions. However, anti-labor forces are salivating at the chance to bring up the issue again after a Pres. Trump nominee takes Scalia’s place and a case is already wending its way through the courts.  It’s referred to as Janus v AFSCME and is described in an article from IN THESE TIMES.  “As Democrats and the labor movement prepare for a possible fight over Trump’s imminent appointment to the Supreme Court,” it suggests, “they should recognize that several major labor cases, brought by some of labor’s most persistent enemies, are waiting in the wings.”
 
Education Under Obama/Duncan
As of today (Jan. 10) the Obama presidency has 10 days left.  As it winds down many people in his administration are concerned about their legacy.  Arne Duncan (remember him?) served as Sec. of Education for the first 7 years of Obama’s tenure in office.  Peter Greene, this time writing in The Progressive, was never a big fan of Duncan’s and his piece on Duncan’s education legacy is no different.  It’s titled “Hasta La Vista Arne!  Duncan’s Failed Education Legacy.”  That’s pretty blunt!  Duncan recently wrote about his “accomplishments” while leading the Dept. of Education (Greene includes a link) and Greene takes a scalpel to what he describes as Duncan’s “self-proclaimed achievements.”  “At this point I can feel a little bad for Duncan—he didn’t really accomplish any of his major goals, and the next administration is not even going to pay lip service to his efforts,” Greene envisions.  “It must be tough to feel like you really know a lot about how something works, but the people in power won’t even listen to you.  It feels, in fact, a lot like being a teacher during Duncan’s tenure at the U.S. Department of Education.”               Pres. Obama delivered his farewell address this evening at McCormick Place in his home town of Chicago.  EDUCATION WEEK has three items about his impact on K-12 education which you can find here , titled “Obama’s Legacy on K-12 One of Bold Achievements and Fierce Blowback,” here, headlined “The Obama Administration’s Imprint on K-12 Policy: A Roundup” and here, “How Obama Wielded the Presidential Megaphone.”
Running Schools Like Businesses?
Are the hiring practices of U.S. school districts in need of an overhaul?  A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, answers “yes.”  The group’s research is featured in a story in the “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  It lists some ways those practices can be updated and made more effective so the best candidates can be selected.  “The report’s authors conclude that recruiting top talent is a crucial goal for businesses and schools alike.  If school districts want to attract and keep the best teachers, according to the authors,” the article concludes, “they must take a page out of the business-recruiting playbook and revamp their hiring practices at once.”  [Ed. note: This may be one way that schools do want to emulate business methods.]  The ED WEEK item includes a link to the full report from CAP titled “To Attract Great Teachers, School Districts Must Improve Their Human Capital Systems.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers like to promote the idea that schools would be more successful if they were run to a greater degree like businesses.  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles that make the case that students are not products that come off assembly lines and should not be run as a franchise like McDonald’s.  However, there may be a FEW business practices that schools could emulate (see above).  Samuel E. Abrams, the author of an op-ed in Sunday’s L.A. Times, makes just that argument.  He’s the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and he identifies 5 business concepts that SHOULD be adopted by schools.  “Donald Trump never tires of reminding us that he is a businessman,” Abrams begins, “and in Betsy DeVos, he has nominated a secretary of Education who endorses a business model for improving elementary and secondary schooling.  The problem is, it’s the wrong model.  DeVos’ prescriptions include for-profit school management, taxpayer-funded vouchers to cover private school tuition and parental choice as the primary vehicle for regulation.  Yet where such free-market remedies have been tried, they have yielded disappointing results.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG turns the idea of running schools like businesses into a story about baby sea turtles.  It’s titled “School Privatization Turns Business Into Predator and Students Into Prey.”  “Schools should be run like a business,” he postulates.  “Parents and students should choose between educational institutions, which would then compete for their budget allotments.  Some schools would thrive but most would fail – just like in business, athletics or other competitive pursuits.  And while these fledgling schools struggle to make ends meet, predators will be waiting in the wings to benefit from their failure and perfidy.”
 
Public Schools Under Assault on Many Fronts
Whether it be charters, vouchers, Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump or Mike Pence the traditional public school system in this country is under attack.  A feature in THE AMERICAN PROSPECT is headlined: “The War on Public Schools”  and it doesn’t mince words!  It chronicles the many fronts that are under attack including school choice, the Dept. of Education, Common Core, Teachers Unions, the Every Student Succeeds Act and Higher Education.  It concludes with some strategies that progressives can adopt to fight back and they are certainly going to need them.  ““To say education conservatives are ecstatic about their new political opportunities,” it warns, “would be an understatement.  With Republicans controlling the House and Senate, a politically savvy conservative ideologue leading the federal education department, a vice president who earned notoriety in his home state for expanding vouchers, charters, and battling teacher unions, not to mention a president-elect who initially asked creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. to head up his Department of Education, the stars have aligned for market-driven education advocates.”
 
New State Report Cards
The New “Quality Counts 2017: State Report Cards” are out from EDUCATION WEEK.  Overall, based on the criteria used, schools in the U.S. earned a “C” grade (score of 74.2 out of a possible 100).  No state garnered an “A.”  Massachusetts came out on top with a “B” (86.5) followed by New Jersey with the same grade and a score of 85.6.  California checked in with a “C-” (69.9) while Nevada was at the bottom with a “D” (65.0).  You can access an overview and summary of the report with links to all the various other stories related to it by clicking here.  For a quick view of how individual states did click on the sidebar titled “Interactive Map: State Report Cards” about a third of the way down the above item.  For a detailed report on California’s score click here.
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
The school board in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in mid-December passed unanimously a resolution calling for opposition to charters in the Bluegrass State.  Matt Wyatt, the chair of the district’s board, pens an op-ed explaining his body’s action and why the state should instead provide adequate support for the public schools of Kentucky.  His piece appears in the Louisville Courier-Journal.  “You will be hearing a lot of talk about charter schools over the course of the next two months when our General Assembly convenes.  Governor Matt Bevin and the new Republican majority in the House have indicated that they are going to do everything that they can to pass charter school legislation.  Kentucky remains one of seven states,” Wyatt points out, “which does not permit the privatization of public education (i.e., charter schools). . . .  We were the first Board of Education in Kentucky to pass such a resolution. Our opposition is based on 25 years’ worth of data which confirms that when the privatization of public education is allowed in a state, public schools suffer, taxpayers are swindled and students are often left worse off.”               The corporate “reformers” and privatizers are constantly pushing things like charters and vouchers as ways to provide parents with more “choices” in the way they select schools for their children.  What they don’t champion is any sort of accountability and transparency related to those ideas.  Traditional public schools lay all of their cards on the table for parents and the community to see and compare.  That dichotomy is explored by Lindsay Wagner, on the NC POLICY WATCH, as it pertains to the quickly expanding voucher program in North Carolina.  “There is one very big difference,” she relates,  “between choosing between a local public school and a local private school, publicly funded or not: the degree to which you can know in advance what you’re signing up for.”      Charter schools are often offered as an option (choice) for parents who are trying to select the best school for their child.  “Choice” may not be the best term, however.  How about “threat?”  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of items demonstrating how charters operate on a different playing field than traditional public schools and that fact is posing a serious challenge to the students, parents and teachers who attend, support and work on public campuses.  Carol Burris once again guest-blogs on Valerie Strauss’ column for The Washington Post.  This time she describes how charters are menacing the very existence of the public school system in Bethlehem, PA.  “What I learned in Bethlehem is both simple and clear.  Pennsylvania’s politicians, like those in so many states,” Burris complains, “have neither the stomach nor the will to curb the abuses of charter schools as they drain the public school coffers.  America must choose either a patchwork of online schools and charters with profiteers on the prowl, or a transparent community public school system run by citizens elected by their neighbors.  A dual school system with the private taking funding from the public, simply cannot survive.”
 
Eliminate the DoE?
When Republicans are in office one of the first things they propose is to eliminate the Dept. of Education.  With Pres. Trump taking office in 10 days, that issue is sure to come up rather early in his term.  An op-ed in yesterday’s L.A. Times makes the case for doing away with the department that came into existence under Pres. Carter.  The GOP under presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were never able to accomplish their goal of getting rid of the DoE.  The co-authors of the piece argue that the department has become too politicized and schools would improve if it disappeared.  “It’s time for the department to be dismantled.  It has done some good, especially in pointing out education inequity.  But more often it has served political, not educational, interests. . . .  After 40 years of top-down, politically tinged intrusion,” they maintain, “it’s possible to imagine a more collaborative, less rigid relationship between our schools and the national government.  Abolishing the Education Department is a good place to start.”
 
Whither School Reform
And finally, Stephen Mucher, Director of the Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching program here in Los Angeles and friend of Occidental College, has a thoughtful commentary on the M (Medium) website offering some suggestions regarding how positive and effective school reform should proceed in the age of Trump/DeVos/Pence.  He begins by dividing those who wish to improve education into 2 groups: the “reformers” and the “inclusionists.”  He details what each one hopes to achieve and how they plan to do it and notes that the former is certainly in the ascendancy in Washington, D.C., as the Trump administration takes over.  [Ed. note: Which of Mucher’s 2 groups would you identify with?]
 
                                                                                                           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, January 6, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

      Happy New Year Everyone!
                 Inline image 1

[ALOED Book Club Reminder:] How about one more New Years’ resolution?  Resolve to attend the next ALOED Book discussion featuring Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education.”  The event 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.]  This resolution is easy to keep and you’ll enjoy yourself at the same time.

 
And now to the news.

“Education, from Addams’ perspective, must not merely make us more adept at defending ourselves 
 against those with different agendas. Education should increase our powers of empathy 
 and our ability to act in concert with others.” 
[Ed. note: Please notice the deliberate tie-in of the above quote to the reading selection for the next ALOED Book Club (see the reminder at the top of this edition)].  😉
LAUSD Partners With 2 Local Universities
UCLA and LMU have partnered with the LAUSD to provide faculty, curriculum guidance and other services to several low performing district schools according to a story in the Dec. 26th L.A. Times.  It focuses on how the association is working at Horace Mann Middle School in South L.A.  “UCLA’s partnership with Mann in South L.A. is the university’s second foray into the school district.  The first UCLA Community School opened in 2009,” it notes, “on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel in Koreatown, on the campus of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.”  [Ed. note: Several years ago a group of ALOED members had the opportunity to tour the RFK Community Schools campus.]
 
School for LGBTQ Students Only Opens in Atlanta
The Pride School Atlanta is the first campus in the southern part of the U.S. to enroll LGBTQ students exclusively.  An article from telesur has the details about the non-profit private school that opened its doors in September.  “Even opponents of transgender bathroom access see benefits in the Pride School model,” it reports, “which is serving a small group of full- and part-time students in a multi-age classroom.”
 
Cyber Charters Explained
Not exactly sure what  cyber or virtual charter schools are, how they operate and the threat they pose not only to traditional public schools but also to brick and mortar charters?  A primer on the subject appears on THE CONVERSATION website.  It addresses those issues and more in a piece titled “What Cyber Charter Schools Are, and Why Their Growth Should Worry Us.”  One of the co-authors is a Ph.D. candidate and the other is a Professor of Sociology, Education and Demography.  Both are at Penn State University.  “Unlike the usual charter school, the cyber version is typically delivered to students online wherever they may live, so long as they are residents of the state in which the cyber charter school operates,” they write.  “Cyber charter schools have been growing in states that have school choice policy.  Our research, along with a body of academic work, suggests that the public should be concerned about an expansion of the cyber charter schooling model.”  Their big worry is that Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos are all proponents of school “choice” and charters.  How much that includes cyber charters is unknown at this point in time.
 
The Future of Public Education Under a Trump Administration
Want some inkling of what education policy might look like under a Trump Administration?  Here are 2 articles that focus on how Betsy DeVos impacted schools in Detroit and how Mike Pence effected education in Indiana.  The first is from truthout and is titled “The Great Unwinding of Public Education: Detroit and DeVos” which looks at how her advocacy and political donations in support of “choice” and charters pretty much devastated the traditional public schools in the Motor City.  “Michigan has its own charter school prophet, Betsy DeVos, who, like John the Baptist, has been kicked up from a local ministry to the big time.  Her role in delivering public education in Michigan to the hedge fund managers by way of vouchers is noteworthy,” it relates, “even in a state that has wandered far from its union origins.  According to The New York Times, A 2015 federal review of charter schools in Michigan found that an ‘unreasonably high’ percentage of charter schools were considered underperforming.  In 2015 Ms. DeVos and a group she backed, successfully defeated Michigan legislation that would have prevented failing charter schools from expanding or replicating.”               The second item describes how the voucher program in Indiana, which began under a previous governor, was expanded by Gov. Mike Pence.  It appears in The Washington Post and is headlined “How Indiana’s School Voucher Program Soared, and What is Says About Education in the Trump Era.”  “Indiana’s legislature first approved a limited voucher program in 2011, capping it at 7,500 students in the first year and restricting it to children who had attended public schools for at least a year. . . .  Two years later, Pence entered the governor’s office with a pledge to extend vouchers to more children. . . .  Within months,” the story explains, “Indiana lawmakers eliminated the requirement that children attend public school before receiving vouchers and lifted the cap on the number of recipients.  The income cutoff was raised, and more middle-class families became eligible.  When those changes took effect, an estimated 60 percent of all Indiana children were eligible for vouchers, and the number of recipients jumped from 9,000 to more than 19,000 in one year.  The proportion of children who had never previously attended Indiana public schools also rose quickly: By 2016, more than half of voucher recipients — 52 percent — had never been in the state’s public school system.”              UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles), the LAUSD teachers union, has come up with a novel way to protest against the upcoming takeover of federal education policy under the Trump/DeVos/and others team–a “Tweetstorm.”  You can find out what that is and read all about the event planned for Jan. 19th, the day before the Trump inauguration on the UTLA webiste.  “The morning action will take place at hundreds of schools across LAUSD.  Demonstrators will tweet @realDonaldTrump as we defend access to quality public education for ALL students.  During the action, participants will march to the street holding up symbolic shields to protect our schools, students, and communities from privatization, attacks on immigrants, union-busting, and more.”               The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK has a preview story titled “Donald Trump and K-12 Education: Five Things to Watch in 2017.” “The presidential transition means an especially busy start to the year.  President-elect Donald Trump may not have talked much about education on the campaign trail, but the first part of the year,” the reporter predicts, “will tell us a lot about the direction he wants to go and how much of a priority he places on the issue.  What’s more, we’ll get a glimpse of how well he’s able to work with Congress on K-12, not to mention early and higher education.”   The author identifies 5 things to keep your eyes on in the realm of education policy as the new year unfolds, leading off with “Betsy DeVos’s confirmation process.”
 
Know What “Planking” Is?
Have you ever heard of the disciplinary technique referred to as “planking?”   I hadn’t.  It’s a form of student punishment that requires the offending pupil to assume a push-up position and hold it for a certain period of time.  An incident occurred at Horton Elementary School (San Diego Unified School District) in mid-October and planking and other physical calisthenics were ordered for third and fourth-graders in lieu of recess for 3 days.  A complaint was filed and the district responded that the discipline was appropriate, did not constitute corporal punishment and was within district guidelines.  All this is sorted out for you in an article in the Dec. 30th L.A. Times.  
 
Houston, Texas, District Deliberately Denies Special Ed Services to Eligible Students
An extensive investigative piece in the Houston Chronicle details how the Houston Independent School District (HISD) willfully denies special ed services to disabled students.  The goal was to reduce the percentage of pupils receiving those services and the practice was fairly widespread throughout Texas.  “A Houston Chronicle investigation has found that HISD achieved its low special education rate.” it somberly points out, “by deliberately discouraging and delaying evaluations in pursuit of goals that have clearly denied critical services to thousands of children with disabilities.  Records show the largest school district in Texas enthusiastically embraced a controversial state policy that has driven special education enrollments to the lowest in the United States.”
 
The Year Ahead
Peter Greene writes the entertaining and informative CURMUDGUCATION blog but at his core he’s still a high school English teacher.  In that role, he offers “2017: 9 Wishes” with a list of things he’s really like to see take place over the next 12 months.  “I should note that this is an ideal wish list, and I recognize that it’s a really long journey to get from where we are to these goals,” he muses.  “But even if we can’t get there, these are the stars we should steer by, the harbor we should navigate toward.”  Here are 2 examples from his wish list: “2) Fair and equitable funding” and “4) Teachers installed as authorities in the education field.”  Check out his other seven
 
Rating Schools and Teachers
It’s a new year and time once again to remind the corporate “reformers” and privatizers about why using student test scores is a poor way to rate schools and evaluate teachers.  This time I’ll let Bruce D. Baker, Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, do the convincing on his School Finance 101 blog (he’s much more qualified than I am).  His scholarly piece is titled “Thoughts on Junk Indicators, School Rating Systems & Accountability.”  It’s a lengthy and thoughtful review and should be at the top of your reading list as schools return after the holidays.  “It blows my mind, however, that states and local school districts continue to use the most absurdly inappropriate measures,” Baker complains, “to determine which schools stay open, or close, and as a result which school employees are targeted for dismissal/replacement or at the very least disruption and displacement.  Policymakers continue to use measures, indicators, matrices, and other total bu!!$#!+ distortions of measures they don’t comprehend, to disproportionately disrupt the schools and lives of low income and minority children, and the disproportionately minority teachers who serve those children.  THIS HAS TO STOP!”
 
California is Looking for Bilingual Teachers
When California voters approved Prop. 58 by an overwhelming margin in November, it restored bilingual programs in the state and instantly created a demand for bilingual teachers who have always been hard to come by.  A story in EDUCATION WEEK looks at the issue and how districts in the Golden State are trying to staff their new programs. “Educators say growing interest in bilingual programs will boost already high demand for teachers trained and credentialed to teach the classes,” it relates.  “Schools that already have such programs in California — and in other states, including Utah and Oregon — have brought teachers on visas from overseas to meet the need.”
 
Betsy DeVos
A group of 7 educators from the Westminster College School of Education, a small, private, liberal arts campus in Salt Lake City with an undergraduate enrollment of 2,100 students [Ed. note: a lot like Occidental College], penned an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune, protesting the appointment of Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Dept.of Education.  They perceive her as a serious threat to the future of public education.  “President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education delivers a severe blow to the future of public education.  While her statements indicate a desire to provide all parents the opportunity to choose the best schools for their children,” they write, “a deep look into her promotion of unregulated, for-profit charters and vouchers indicates a very different agenda.”                When Betsy DeVos was nominated to be President-elect Trump’s Sec. of Education she filled out a questionnaire with information that the Senate Education Committee requested.  You can read her responses by clicking here.  What’s quite interesting is the LONGGGGGGGG list of political contributions she’s made over the past 4 or 5 years.  The full form covers 23 pages; the list of her contributions takes up 10 of those pages.  Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to begin on Jan. 11.  Is it a problem that she’s made contributions to 4 members of that committee who will voting on her confirmation?  Just asking!               The newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were officially sworn in on Tuesday.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has an item discussing the new members of the Senate Education Committee and a list of the continuing members.  One of the 3 new additions: Tim Kaine (D-VA) who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate.  This is the committee that will be holding hearings on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos (see above).               If you believe that Betsy DeVos is a dangerous choice to head the Dept. of Education, the NPE (NETWORK FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION) has assembled a “toolkit” that people can use to protest her selection.  You can access it by clicking here.  It includes 3 specific actions you can take with detailed instructions and materials to make known your unease with her pick.  “Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now,” the NPE website urges.  “We now know that some Senators have grave doubts [regarding her choice].  It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos.”               It is not just progressive Democrats who are concerned about the DeVos nomination.  Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, points out that some conservative Republicans are also expressing qualms about her, particularly in regards to her position on the Common Core.  Greene headlines his commentary “The Conservative Argument Against DeVos.”  “Bottom line: Senators should be hearing objections to DeVos from across the perspective,” he recommends, “and when you are calling your senator (there is no if– you should be doing it, and soon, and often), you can take into account what sort of Senator you are calling.  Your GOP senator needs to hear that DeVos’s nomination breaks Trump’s promise to attack Common Core and to get local control back to school districts. Your GOP senator needs to hear that you are not fooled by DeVos’s attempt to pretend she’s not a long-time Common Core supporter.”               Jeff Bryant, writing on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, notes that Democrats in the U.S. Senate have decided to fight at least 8 of President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees including Betsy DeVos.  He reviews a number of articles and commentaries that oppose her selection and suggests the Democrats have nothing to lose by attempting to derail her choice.  “There are Democratic party insiders who believe they’ve been backing the cause of education reform for idealistic reasons. They may choose to go along to get along,” Bryant concludes, “with the new Republican regime to see where that gets them despite having zero leverage in the policy debate.  But for those Democrats who’ve remained largely silent or on the fence on charter schools, vouchers, and other features of the reform movement, now is indeed a good time to express opposition. They have nothing to lose.”
 
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Regarding IEPs
The SCOTUSblog reports on a U.S. Supreme Court case involving what types of services must be provided to a student based on his/her IEP.  Oral arguments are scheduled for next week.  The case is Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District and the article provides background and a preview of anticipated arguments in the case.
 
Running Schools Like Businesses
The corporate “reformers” and privatizers would love for our traditional public schools to be run like businesses [Ed. note: That seems to be all they know].  The “Ed News” has highlighted a number of critics of that approach.  You can add Steven Singer to that long list.  He matter-of-factly titles the piece,on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, “Why Schools Should NOT Be Run Like Businesses.”  “Public schools are run by democratically elected school boards.  Privately run charter and voucher schools often are run by appointees.  They aren’t beholden to the public who provide the tax dollars they need to operate.  They are beholden to the limited group of people who would profit from them economically.  This is a terrible model for public schools,” he concludes.  “It gives very little back to the taxpayer.  It gives less value to the student.   Should we run our schools like businesses?  Not if we value students and taxpayers more than the handful of investors looking to profit off our dime.”
 
Testing
This is one you really need to read to be believed.  The big standardized test in Texas (the STAAR) includes two poems that appear on the Grade 7 and Grade 8 assessments.  The poems are both written by Sara Holbrook who decided to tackle the questions that accompanied her two works.  As she startlingly writes in the HUFFPOST “I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems.”  Holbrook includes one of her poems and the questions that go with it.  She explains how she would possibly answer them and notes how difficult that is.  “When I realized I couldn’t answer the questions posed about two of my own poems on the Texas state assessment tests (STAAR Test),” she begins her composition, “I had a flash of panic – oh, no!  Not smart enough.  Such a dunce.  My eyes glazed over.  I checked to see if anyone was looking.  The questions began to swim on the page.  Waves of insecurity.  My brain in full spin.”              Diane Ravitch’s blog has been featuring a resident poet who, upon reading the above article, composed a short rhyme of his/her own to explain the situation.  Here’s the first of 3 stanzas titled “Understanding Poetry:”
                                                                                     
To understand a poem
You shouldn’t ask the poet
Cuz poets all are dumb
And, worst of all, don’t know it.
 
Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Monty Neill, executive director of the Center for Fair and Open Testing, aka FairTest, who argues “How Testing Practices Have to Change in U.S. Public Schools.”  He proposes some concrete reforms to make testing more fair and effective.  “Last year was a good one for testing reformers,” he states by way of introduction.  “More states dropped graduation exams.  Many districts cut back testing time.  The grassroots assessment reform movement grew stronger and more diverse. This new year can be even better if assessment reformers take advantage of opportunities under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”
Principals and the 4 C’s
And finally, Peter DeWitt, on the “Finding Common Ground” commentary for EDUCATION WEEK, asked teachers to evaluate their principals based on the 4 C’s (he explains what they are and includes a fifth at the end of his column) and add any comments about their administrator and his/her leadership style.  “So often leaders believe teachers have blind spots that they can’t see in the classroom.  However, if this is true for teachers it must be true for leaders.  What are your blind spots?” he asks principals.  “Does the feedback from below resonate with you?  Do teachers feel comfortable giving you the feedback face-to-face, and not to a blog that you may never read?”
              
 
                                                                                                           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.