Ed News, Friday, January 27, 2017 Edition


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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