Monthly Archives: February 2017

Ed News, Tuesday, February 28, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

EVENT REMINDER: The next ALOED Book Club discussion will take place on Saturday, March 25, at the Samuelson Alumni Center at Occidental College.  The volume this time is Vicki Abeles’ “Beyond Measure.”  Brunch, provided by ALOED, will be served at 11 am with dialogue about the book to follow at noon.  For more details and to RSVP click here.  Please join us for good food and an always stimulating discussion.  You don’t even have to read the book to participate but you do have 3 1/2 weeks to finish it.  Stop making excuses.  Sign up for the event, get the book, READ IT and join us.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

And now to the news.

 “The best teacher teaches by inspiring students to learn 
 by showing them the ultimate purpose of learning.” 

― Debasish Mridha

Charter Schools & Vouchers
Carol Burris, once again writing on Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, offers a “cautionary tale” of how a fight over the takeover of a neighborhood school effected an entire community.  This time she travels to John Wister Elementary School in a neighborhood of Philadelphia to describe how the parents were split into two warring factions in a battle with the Mastery Charter School chain.  “The popular rationale for charter schools is that they provide families with ‘choice.’  Competition is good, proponents claim, and neighborhood schools will get better as they compete for students and resources.  Increasing numbers of parents, however, argue that the opposite is happening.  They complain,” Burris contends, “that charters take away the choice they want — a public school in their neighborhood in easy walking distance from their home.  The playing field is not even, they argue.  Charters have more money to spend, and are favored by political forces.  And when a charter chain aggressively lobbies to take over a public school, parents are pitted against each other.  Surely that is no one’s choice.”              Are charter schools losing some of their cachet?  New figures reported in EDWEEK Market Brief note that school spending between 2012 and 2014 for non-charters rose while lagging “significantly” for charter schools.  Surprisingly (or not), the biggest gap in comparative spending between charters and non-charters was in the realm of instruction.  “Only half of states reported high-quality financial data for both charter and noncharter school districts. Of the 25 states that did report,” the piece notes, “the data showed charter schools spent 10 percent less per student on average than traditional district schools.  Interestingly, the gap showed most in instruction.”  Apparently, a lot of that taxpayer money for charters goes to non-classroom sources like public relations, advertising, salaries for charter board members, rent, profit (in some cases), etc., etc.  Be sure to check out the bar graph for a rather revealing snapshot of charter vs non-charter spending.               Several new reports are out putting the kibosh on vouchers, one of the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate’s signature policy initiatives.  A story in The New York Times reviews the latest studies and some of the reaction to them.  It’s headlined: “Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins.”  “The new evidence on vouchers does not seem to have deterred the Trump administration, which has proposed a new $20 billion voucher program.  Secretary DeVos’s enthusiasm for vouchers,” the article concludes, “which have been the primary focus of her philanthropic spending and advocacy, appears to be undiminished.”  This is just another example, apparently, of how the Trump administration is going to ignore the research in their headlong crusade to achieve their personal agendas–facts be damned.  As Trump himself might tweet: “SAD!”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, previews the Trump/Pence/DeVos initiative to introduce vouchers in the president’s budget plan scheduled to be released in mid-March.  Schneider predicts that details and the cost of the voucher proposal will be sketchy and references the article above about poor results from voucher plans in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana.  “What this means in the world of Trump-DeVos education is that the voucher is being pushed regardless of the evidence that state-level voucher programs are faring embarrassingly poorly.  School voucher superiority is an ideology that Trump says he will finance and DeVos is devoted to proliferating.  By mid-March,” she suggests, “America might know just how much the Trump-DeVos voucher non-solution will cost, at least in the short term.  The long-term costs for the thousands of students subjected to dismal ‘choice’ remains to be seen.”                Is the ultimate goal of education to make a profit or educate students?  That shouldn’t be a difficult choice yet we allow for-profit charters to make millions of dollars.  ARIZONANS FOR CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY have a new report about an unregulated online charter that made $10 million in 2016.  You can read a 1 page News Release about the study by clicking here.  It includes 2 separate links to the full report (14 pages) titled “The Consequences of Unregulated Charter Schools: For-Profit American Virtual Academy Nets $10 Million in 2016 After Siphoning $84 Million From Non-Profit Primavera Online.”               Yet another disgruntled teacher has quit Eva Moscowitz’s Success Academy Charter chain in New York City and sent a letter, posted on Diane Ravitch’s blog, about why she chose to leave.  “Most of the students I taught at Success dreaded coming to school, as did most of the teachers.  It is a grueling, relentless atmosphere where every second is cherished as potential learning time, and every slip-up garners an immediate consequence.  There is a small fraction of people – students and adults alike – who thrive in this extreme environment. . . .  Like so many others,” the young educator reveals, “I quit Success because the brand of teaching the network demands prevented me from providing the quality of education my students deserve.”               Another study, released last week, finds that private school vouchers are NOT the answer as they provide only limited or no improvement in student test scores (see item above from the New York Times for some additional research on vouchers).  The report is written by Martin Carnoy, a professor at Stanford University and research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and is featured by Valerie Strauss in her blog for The Washington Post.  “The Carnoy report concludes by saying that any Trump administration ‘push for vouchers and charters could be seen as distracting from implementing programs that can, in fact, improve student learning.’  They include investing more in excellent teacher pre-service training,” Strauss emphasizes, “in early-childhood education, in after-school and summer programs, in improved student health and nutrition programs in and out of schools, and in implementing high standards in math, reading and science curriculums.”
 
The Trump Administration 
What might we expect from Trump’s initial budget proposal in regards to education policy?  The President addresses Congress this evening and is expected to submit details of his budget by the middle of March.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK speculates about Trump’s spending plans for K-12 and post-secondary education.  One thing he has more than hinted at is a possible 10% cut in domestic agencies to help fund a substantial increase in military and security spending.                 Jennifer Berkshire has changed the name of her influential blog from “EduShyster” to HAVE YOU HEARD.  She has a Q & A with Derek Black, professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, about what he sees the Trump administration doing regarding civil rights enforcement and education.  He’s not at all encouraged by their very first action in this area–the rescinding of guidelines promulgated by the Obama administration pertaining to transgender student’s rights to use the  bathroom of their choice.  Black also ventures some predictions for the future and comments on “zero-tolerance” discipline policies.
2 Key Elections for UTLA
United Teachers Los Angeles is in the midst of 2 important elections.  Union elections have taken place over the past couple of weeks with the ballots counted yesterday (see following item).  On March 7, a week from today, the L.A. municipal elections include races for 3 critical LAUSD board of education seats which the “Ed News” has reported on in previous editions.  A story in Saturday’s L.A. Times mentions the current situation the union is in and what the 2 elections augur for the future.  The school board races once again pit pro-charter candidates against union-backed challengers and one incumbent.  “In the school board races, UTLA-backed candidates are facing off against those supported by charter-school advocates. Although the union can’t match charter backers dollar for dollar,” it suggests, “it’s ultimately likely to spend well over $1 million to plug its candidates and to try to convince voters that charter-backed candidates are the tools of billionaire donors who would work on behalf of a Trump agenda — because Trump views increasing the number of charters as key to giving families more choices in schooling options.”               Preliminary UTLA election results (see above) can be found on the union’s website by clicking here.
 
Betsy DeVos
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the NEA (National Education Association), the nation’s largest teachers union, got a phone call from Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos who wanted to talk about future education policies.  Before conducting a conversation Eskelsen Garcia wants some clarification on where DeVos stands on certain issues and wrote a letter to the head of the Dept. of Education which she shares on her Lily’s Blackboard website.  The letter includes 4 critical questions the leader of the NEA would like answers to.  “For us, there is a wrong answer to these questions.  Privatizing and profiting from public education,” Eskelsen Garcia writes, “has not moved us toward equity, equal access, non-discrimination, and opportunity for all students.  Educators will never waver in our determination to create a system that works for ALL children.  Educators, students, and parents deserve to know that the U.S. Secretary of Education will do the same.”  So far, she’s not received a response from DeVos.               SomeDam Poet has a one stanza rhyme about DeVos and how she handled the Trump administration’s u-turn on transgender student bathroom rights (see Friday’s “Ed News).  It appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog and is titled “DeV[i]o[u]s.”  It will take you all of 15 seconds to read.               DeVos delivered some brief remarks to the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) on Thursday (see Friday’s “Ed News).  Peter Greene, writing for The Progressive, deconstructs one of her main points and finds it rather disingenuous.  She blames Pres. Obama and his Sec. of Education, Arne Duncan, for wasting billions of dollars on their School Improvement Grants (SIGs) program.  Greene believes she’s focusing on the wrong issue.  “DeVos and other conservative reformers are taking the real lesson of the grant program’s failure: ‘spending money on the wrong thing for schools doesn’t help,’ and shortening it to a far more damaging assessment: “spending money on schools doesn’t help.’”  Greene points out she want to spend $20 billion (Trump’s estimate) on vouchers–another failed idea–to “help” the public schools.  She’s missing the point, as Greene tries to explain.               Mitchell Robinson, writing on the eclecta blog, has some advice for Betsy DeVos after her rough start as Sec. of Education and her speech to the CPAC (see item above).  “So, here’s my last bit of advice for you: slow down, talk to some real teachers (not those Teach for America interns the Department of Education seems to be so fond of these days), and make a real, pre-approved, planned, coordinated visit to an actual public school (not another one of those ninja-style assaults you tried to pull off last week).  When you get to that school,” he offers, “try this: listen more than talk; pay attention to what the students and teachers are really saying, not your own interpretation of what you think they are saying; and–most importantly–ask them how you can help.”  Robinson includes a list of some of the “stuff” DeVos did during his first week or so as head of the DoE.             Maria Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), was angered by Betsy DeVos’ first attempt at social media upon assuming her post as head of the DoE.  It had to do with a “joke” about finding pencils
 
Inline image 1
Kilfoyle invites teachers to talk about how they’ve spent their own money to provide supplies and materials for their students and prints a long list of their responses.
 
NEPC Presents its “Bunkum Award”
In this season of awards, the Oscars were handed out Sunday and several others preceded it, the NEPC (NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY CENTER) out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, School of Education, presents its annual “Bunkum Award” for the worst research from a think tank.  Envelope please.  And the winner is . . . . The Center for American Progress (CAP) and its questionable study correlating high standards (Common Core) to improvements in test scores for high-poverty students.  “The fundamental flaw in this report is simply that it uses inadequate data and analyses to make a broad policy recommendation in support of the common core state standards.  A reader may or may not agree with the authors’ conclusion,” the piece notes, “that ‘states should continue their commitment to the Common Core’s full implementation and aligned assessments.’  But that conclusion cannot and should not be based on the flimsy analyses and anecdotes presented in the report.”
 
Pearson Records Record Loss
The education publishing giant, Pearson, reports its biggest loss in history amid slumping textbook sales in the U.S.  The London-based company announced a loss of 2.6 billion British pounds ($3.23 billion) on Friday according to a story in theguardian.  “Pearson was founded in 1844 as a construction company which switched to the publishing sector in the 1920s,” it points out.  “A spokesman for the company, which listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1969, said he could not be definitive but believed it was the largest loss Pearson has ever reported.”
 
No Homework Policy
One of the recommendations Vicki Abeles makes in her book “Beyond Measure” (see note about the next book club discussion at the top of this edition) has to do with an over abundance of homework making students’ lives miserable (along with some other things) and what can be done about it.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, tells about one public elementary school in Vermont that decided to ban homework and suggest that students read and play instead.   The principal ran the idea by his 40 educators, how refreshing, and they all agreed.  [He] conducted a family survey asking about the policy, and most parents at the nearly 400-student school responded.  The vast majority supported it,” Strauss points out, “saying their kids now have time to pursue things other than math work sheets, and many report that students are reading more on their own than they used to.  He said a small minority of parents are concerned that students are missing learning opportunities from doing homework and won’t be prepared for middle school.”  Find out how the idea was implemented and how it fairing since its introduction at the start of this school year.
LAUSD Shines
For a supposedly “failing” large, urban, public school district, the LAUSD keeps winning prestigious academic competitions.  The nation’s second largest school system has won 17 National Academic Decathlon titles since 1987, by far outdistancing the second place district.  A team from North Hollywood High just won the LADWP’s Science Bowl and, surprisingly, the school’s B team placed second.  North Hollywood has a long history of success at regional science competitions.  This was their 18th overall victory.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the gratifying details.  “Team members each receive the $1,000 Hitachi Scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington,” the article relates, “where they will represent L.A. in the U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl from April 27 to May 1.  The team will compete in a field of 70 high school champions from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  A total of nine teams from California will participate.”
 
Technology and Staff Development
THE HECHINGER REPORT has a piece on “3 Ways Technology Can Supercharge Teacher Training.”  It presents some of the latest video learning techniques to help educators improve their delivery of instruction.  “In the past four decades, many new methods have been adopted by schools to make professional development less sit-and-get and more personalized to teachers’ individual needs.  Now it’s time to adopt the technology,” the author of the piece suggests, “that can act as a force multiplier for personalizing professional learning.”
 
Public Education
And finally, despite what you might hear from the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, “choice,” in the form of vouchers and charters, IS NOT the only way to improve underfunded and poorly supported public schools.  As the authors of this commentary in THE HECHINGER REPORT argue, there are other avenues to achieve improvement.  They provide 4 concrete suggestions for helping traditional public schools and use two examples from districts in Lowell, Massachusetts and Denver, Colorado, that demonstrate what can be achieved if the right strategies are adopted.  The piece is titled “When It Comes to Struggling Schools, School Choice is no Substitute for Systemic Change.”  The two authors are president and managing director of Education Resource Strategies, a national non-profit group assisting urban school districts to better utilize and manage resources.  “Successful turnarounds must be accompanied by real and meaningful changes,” they conclude, “in the way we train and support teachers, the way we instruct students and the way we structure our time and use our resources.  It’s not sexy but it works.”
                                      .                                                                       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, Friday, February 24, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Knowledge is a unique kind of property, indeed: 
you can share it with others, while still possessing it.” 

― Eraldo Banovac*

Betsy DeVos
The “Numbers and letters” feature in the Sat., February 11, L.A. Times indicates that during the week of Feb. 4-10, the paper received “924 printable letters to the editor. . . . 43 letters mentioned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the third most discussed topic.  121 letters were written about President Trump’s travel ban, including his comments on judges. 52 readers discussed the riot at UC Berkeley over Milos Yannopoulos’ speech.”  [See, the “Ed News” wasn’t the only publication preoccupied with DeVos.]               Barbara Miner, in an op-ed in the Feb. 12, L.A. Times issues a dire warning about Betsy DeVos and her voucher plans.  Miner is a reporter based in Milwaukee and the author of a book that takes a look back at some of the key education policies that impacted that city.  Her volume is titled “Lessons From the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.”  Miner reviews the history of  vouchers in Milwaukee and how they expanded throughout her state of Wisconsin.  “DeVos, now confirmed as secretary of Education, is not just another inexperienced member of the president’s Cabinet.  She is an ideologue,” Miner warns, “with a singular educational passion — replacing our system of democratically controlled public schools with a universal voucher program that privileges private and religious ones.  If you care about our public schools and our democracy, you should be worried.”  The picture Miner paints is particularly bleak.               Barbara Miner’s op-ed cautioning about the dangers of vouchers and the possible Trump/Pence/DeVos plan to divert up to $20 billion of taxpayer funds into them  (see item above) prompted 3 letters that appear in the Feb. 18 edition of the L.A. Times.  The first one favored the idea while the last 2 were opposed.                What has DeVos been up to in her first few weeks in office?  Valerie Strauss titles her “Answer Sheet” column for The Washington Post “So Far, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is Just What Her Critics Feared.”   Strauss offers a list of some of the things DeVos has done that has her detractors up in arms.               Want a dystopian view of what education and schools might look like under the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate?  Look no farther than North Carolina, suggests Lindsay Wagner, a veteran education journalist, on the AJF (AJFLETCHER FOUNDATION) website.  The state is rife with charters, vouchers and online, for-profit “academies” to the detriment of the traditional public school system.  Wagner’s essay is titled “North Carolina: Already a DeVos World.”  “As a result of DeVos efforts—along with those of other school privatization advocates—hundreds of millions of public dollars now flow to school vouchers, charter schools and virtual charter schools,” Wagner concludes plaintively.  “So when she does come to visit, it will be more like a welcome home party for DeVos.  North Carolina has been her playground for years.”                If you are not concerned about the future of public education after viewing what’s taking place in North Carolina (see above), why not check out the situation on charter growth in Florida and how it’s being accomplished courtesy of Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog.  Klonsky headlines his piece “Why DeVos is Making Florida’s Charter System Her ‘Model.’  She Practically Owns It.”  “Florida’s charter schools are among the worst in the nation.  The state’s so-called ‘choice’ system of charters and vouchers is highly segregated,” he maintains, “riddled with corruption and mismanagement (like FL state government in general) and has been rocked by scandal after scandal. . . .  Therefore, I was not surprised to hear Trump’s ed secretary, Betsy DeVos point to Florida’s ‘choice’ system as her model and ‘blueprint’ for K-12 education.”  Are you at all worried (terrified?) yet about what’s in store for public schools under the current administration?                DeVos delivered some brief remarks yesterday to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).  In one column for The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss reprints the speech in full.  In a follow-up column she offers some analysis of what DeVos said including some disparaging remarks about how college and university faculty tell students what to say, how to say it and even how to think.  Pretty inflammatory stuff.  Diane Ravitch’s blog has an analysis of DeVos’ speech to CPAC (see above).  Ravitch, as you can probably guess, was not impressed with what the new Sec. of Education had to say before the group.  “Betsy DeVos gave a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), explaining that the programs created by George W. Bush and Barack Obama had failed, and she would replace them with her own ideas.  She did not point out,” Ravitch begins, “that her own ideas have failed too.  Just look at the mess she has made of Michigan, where the state’s rankings on the federal test (NAEP) have plummeted, and where Detroit is a mess thanks to the miasma of school choice.”               According to Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, Trump and DeVos are readying a voucher plan to present to Congress.  Because that might be a difficult sell, they are not calling it a “voucher” plan but, instead on referring to it as a “federal tax credit scholarship program.”  That’s right.  The word “voucher” doesn’t appear in the idea.  Bryant explains how this is a clever ruse (he uses the term “deceptive scheme”) and why opponents of vouchers need to be careful how they play their cards in an attempt to defeat it.  “So whether the plan is for tax credits or vouchers, in either case, public funding is redirected from public schools to private institutions,” he clarifies, “and the impact on funding available for public education is the same.  There are reasons for the Trump administration’s deception.”  You might want to read up on this topic as the battle lines are being drawn in anticipation of a bitter struggle to come.
 
Testing 
What, exactly, is the purpose of standardized testing?  Good question.  Anyone want to weigh in with an answer?  Audrey Hill, the author of this piece on The Dog With a Bone blog [Ed. note: I didn’t make that up, despite what you might think] is a middle school English teacher in New York.  She mentions that the assessments were meant to be a way to provide accountability for individual students and schools but that’s not what they were designed for.  “. . . high stakes testing, known ironically as accountability,  is currently among the most unaccountable of unaccountable things in American education today.  It is unaccountable in the very thing that it purports to account for: the measurement and evaluation of learning,  teachers and schools.  It does none of these things well.”  Hill goes on to describe what the tests are truly meant to measure and why the results should NOT be used to evaluate teachers or rank schools or districts.               Long Beach Unified School District requested a waiver from the state so that it could substitute the SAT  instead of the SBAC standardized test in its high schools.  LBUSD’s inquiry was based on a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act which gives school districts some leeway in which exams they choose to utilize.  The state turned the district down.  An article from EdSource provides the specifics of the situation.  “State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and state board President Michael Kirst detailed the SAT’s shortcomings as a Smarter Balanced substitute,” it relates, “and said state law wouldn’t permit the waiver. They concluded that the ‘SAT would require significant adaptation before it could be used for accountability purposes in California.’”                Hey everybody, testing season is fast approaching.  EDUCATION WEEK has some interactive maps and a chart illustrating what tests individual states are requiring this school year.  Click a button next to a series of inquiries, then scroll down to the map or chart at the bottom to see the answers.  Here’s one of the questions: “Which states are using PARCC or Smarter Balanced?”
  
 
Granada Hills Wins LAUSD Academic Decathlon
Marshall High may have won the Super Quiz portion of the LAUSD Academic Decathlon (see the previous edition of the “Ed News) but they couldn’t keep Granada Hills Charter High from repeating as overall district winner.  Granada Hills is also the defending national champion.  A story in the Feb. 12, L.A. Times describes the victory and how the Decathlon competition works.  South Pasadena High was victorious in the separate L.A. County contest.  The LAUSD winners were announced at a gathering at Hollywood High on Friday, Feb. 10.  “The competition has 10 portions that contribute to the scoring,” the article explains, “and all had to relate to [this year’s topic] World War II.  The first day of L.A. Unified’s competition took place Jan. 28 at the Roybal Learning Center, west of downtown, with students demonstrating their skills at delivering a speech, participating in interviews and composing essays.  The Feb. 4 wrap-up competition also was held at Roybal.  In the morning, students tested in eight subjects: art, economics, language and literature, math, music, science and social science.  The Super Quiz, where teams submit answers to questions before a cheering throng, began in the afternoon. The Super Quiz is the only public event.”  The top 10 scoring LAUD teams will advance to the next round which is the state competition in Sacramento in March.  The national championship will take place in April in Madison, Wisconsin.  Teams from the LAUSD have been victorious at the national level 17 times since 1987.
 
For-Profit Schools Are Getting a Reprieve Under Pres. Trump
The Obama administration made a concerted effort to investigate and close down some notorious for-profit colleges that were taking advantage of students in various ways.  The Trump administration is revisiting that effort and the for-profits couldn’t be happier as some of their stock prices have soared recently.  A story in The New York Times reviews the abrupt change in policy and what is all means for students, investors and the colleges themselves.  “While some career training schools delivered as promised,” it points out, “critics argued that too many burdened veterans, minorities and low-income strivers with unmanageable tuition debt without equipping them with jobs and skills that would enable them to pay it off.  After years of growing complaints and lawsuits, the [U.S. Dept. of Education] moved aggressively to end abusive practices that ranged from deceptive advertising to fraud and cost students and taxpayers billions of dollars.”  That may all be coming to an end under Pres. Trump and Sec. DeVos.  SAD!
 
Charter Schools
ProPublica has an extensive investigative piece on how for-profit alternative charter schools in Florida are being used to hide dropouts and scam the accountability system in other ways in the Sunshine state.  “Alternative schools at times become warehouses where regular schools stow poor performers,” it reveals, “to avoid being held accountable.  Traditional high schools in many states are free to use alternative programs to rid themselves of weak students whose test scores, truancy and risk of dropping out threaten their standing, a ProPublica survey of state policies found.”  The report focuses on how one school in Orlando is used to fudge the numbers.
 
The Public Schools
Steve Lopez, in his Sunday, Feb 12, column in the L.A. Times, features an Ontario Rotary Club luncheon that highlights some successful public school students in the pre-K-8 Ontario-Montclair School District who overcame some pretty difficult obstacles and have some ambitious education goals ahead of them.  Lopez headlines his piece “If You Think Public Schools Are Failing, You Haven’t Met These Kids.”  “President Trump’s new education secretary thinks charter schools and vouchers are the way to go.  But at the luncheon,” Lopez writes, “Ontario-Montclair School District Superintendent James Hammond and board President Elvia Rivas said there may be no better strategy than investing sufficiently in traditional schools and giving them enough autonomy.  And letting them put children before ‘adult-centered politics,’ as Hammond put it.”               In light of the DeVos confirmation to head the Dept. of Education, The New York Times Magazine has an extensive and important article reviewing the history of public education and the whole concept and meaning of “public” institutions in this country. It asks the critical question “Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?”  Is DeVos the threat to our public school system as her critics worry, or is her elevation to become the next Sec. of Education just the catalyst pro-public school supporters need to rally around? “If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools.  Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix.  The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off,” it concludes on an upbeat note, “may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.”               The ELC (EDUCATION LAW CENTER) out of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University has a list of the most “fiscally disadvantaged school districts” in the U.S.  It comprises 54 different districts in 20 states.  California is number 1 with 16 districts making the list including Bakersfield City, San Francisco Unified and Santa Barbara Unified.  “This list of the most fiscally disadvantaged districts highlights the urgent need for school finance reform in many states,” the report specifies in the “Conclusion” section.  “This reform must start with a determination of essential education resources and end with a funding formula that accounts for district poverty concentration and local fiscal capacity.  It will require replacing outmoded, arbitrary funding formulas and the historic method of distributing funding based on prior year spending and political, not educational, considerations.”  The full report (6 pages) is titled “Is School Funding Fair?  America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts.”  You can find the chart with the list of districts on page 3 of the report.
 
Bullying in the LAUSD
An internal Inspector General’s audit is critical of practices and procedures regarding student bullying in the LAUSD.  The information was released after a public records request from the L.A. Times which features the study in the Feb. 14, paper.  The report found that statistics on bullying were outdated and incomplete and teacher training was inadequate. “Although the extent of bullying found by the L.A. Unified’s Office of Inspector General,” the story notes, “is not necessarily out of line with national figures, the audit suggests that students are getting less help than they should.”
 
Julian Vasquez Heilig Speaks
Fellow ALOED member Larry Lawrence and I attended a “Friends of Education” event presented by Antioch University at their Culver City campus on Thursday evening July 16.  Julian Vasquez Heilig spoke about equity and education policy in the age of Trump.  He is a researcher, blogger and Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at CSU Sacramento.  He addressed charters, vouchers and what education activists and people opposed to the Trump/Pence/DeVos agenda for dismantling the public school system can do to fight back.  The audience consisted primarily of students in the credential program at Antioch and interested community members.  Heilig spoke for approximately 45 minutes and answered questions for 15.  A reception with refreshments was held prior to the event.
Death of LAUSD Teacher Sparks Meningitis Concerns
A third grade teacher at Montara Avenue Elementary School (LAUSD) died last week of meningitis spawning health concerns among parents at the South Gate campus.  The educator was from Huntington Park, had taught at the school for 16 years and was 39 years old, according to a story in the Feb. 14, L.A. Times.  “The L.A. Unified news release directed parents to a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health information page on meningococcal disease,” it mentions.  “The disease can spread through coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as sharing food and drinks.”
 
Transgender Student Rules Overturned
This didn’t take long.  You could pretty much have predicted it.  It took only 33 days for the Trump administration to dismantle rules put in place by its predecessor regarding transgender students’ rights to use bathrooms of their choice.  The “Rules for Engagement” column for EDUCATION WEEK describes the action and its ramifications.  “The Trump administration had long signaled the shift,” it relates.  “White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that the president believes the treatment of transgender students is a ‘states’ rights issue.'”               What was Betsy DeVos’ role in setting aside bathroom rights for transgender students (see above)?  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, explains whether there was some disagreement between the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions,and the head of the Dept. of Education over the matter. Critics of the action were outraged by her position.  Strauss includes some of their Tweets as well as reprinting the official statement DeVos released on the issue.               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, is incensed by the Trump administration’s action against transgender students.  He headlines his piece “I’m a Public School Teacher.  Hands Off My Trans Students.”  Singer describes an interaction he had with a student at his middle school to illustrate his point.  “This has nothing to do with children.  It has to do with old men and women who refuse to broaden their views about the world.  It’s about the ancient making the young do as they say regardless of how doing so may trample on their right to be themselves.  Well, I won’t be a part of it,” he bluntly concludes.  “You want to attack my trans students?  You’ll have to do it through me.  I’m a guardian of kid’s rights.  I’m a defender of children from whoever wants to do them harm.  I’m a public school teacher. That’s just what we do.”
 
Proposal to Start School Day Later for California Teens
The “Education Matters” column in the Feb. 18, L.A. Times discusses a bill (SB 328) introduced in the California legislature by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) that would require middle and high schools in the state to begin classes no earlier than 8:30 am.  The proposed legislation is based on a 2014 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that found teenagers were better equipped to tackle academics if classes started after 8:30 in the morning.  “Districts that have adopted the policy,” the article suggests, “have reported improved attendance rates, state exam and college admission scores, and grade-point averages, according to the academy.  Research has also shown that students who start classes later are involved in fewer disciplinary measures and car accidents.”               An editorial in today’s Times was dismissive of the idea of starting the school day later for middle and high school students in California (see above).  The main argument put forward by the piece is that it should be a local district decision and not mandated by the state.  “By requiring all public middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.,”  the editorial contends, ‘SB 328 would represent an overreach by Sacramento, dictating a decision better left to local school districts.  For all of the advantages of later start times, they might not work for all communities and all schools.”
 
A Scholarly Look Back at NCLB
I hate to keep beating a dead horse, as the saying goes, but No Child Left Behind has been pretty universally condemned as a failure when it came to education policy.  Helen F. Ladd is a professor of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University and takes an authoritative look back at NCLB in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.  Her article is reprinted in the Wiley Online Library website.  “Although NCLB included some components that generated positive, if qualified, effects,” she points out, “my overall conclusion is that NCLB was deeply flawed.”  Ladd discusses the few positive components of the law and then details 3 major weaknesses in her analysis.
 
LAUSD School Board Races
The L.A. Municipal election next month includes races for mayor, controller, city attorney, 8 city council seats and 3 LAUSD school board positions.  Guess which one’s are drawing the most campaign contributions so far?  If you said “mayor,” you’d be wrong.  If you thought it was the city council races you’d still be incorrect.  The 3 school board slots vastly outdrew ALL the other city races in outside spending.  As of Feb. 17th it was all other city elections $465,803 versus $3,357,847 for the school board spots!  A story in Tuesday’s L.A. Times has the rather astonishing details.  “Independent spending is when a group or political action committee chooses to support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure,” it explains.  “As long as the candidate or the candidate’s campaign plays no role in managing this spending, there are no limits.  In the school board races, the largest spending was in District 4, covering the Westside and west San Fernando Valley, to defeat school board President Steve Zimmer ($1,256,121).  Zimmer also was the single candidate with the most money spent on his behalf ($705,157).”               Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column for the L.A. Times, is perplexed by a group called L.A. Students for Change and their involvement in the fractious LAUSD District 4 school board race (see above).  He did some digging and arranged to visit one of their gatherings only to have the invite rescinded after he wrote an earlier column about how the campaign was using the students as a front for a heavily financed professional campaign.  “To be clear, I’ve got no issue with the students.  Good for them for raising their hands out of a desire for an improved L.A. Unified,” he writes.  “But I had trouble believing that 18 students, without adult guidance, decided all they wanted to do was attack a single candidate rather than extol the virtues of other candidates.  And that one candidate, incumbent Steve Zimmer, is a target of charter school proponents, which is where the million dollars came from, with former Mayor Dick Riordan as sugar daddy.”
 
The Teaching Profession
Many states, including California, are experiencing teaching shortages.  Previous editions of the “Ed News” have chronicled this alarming phenomenon and suggested reasons for its existence.  One of them is high teacher turnover.  An article in Tuesday’s L.A. Times describes how the Great Public Schools Now organization, a strongly pro-charter group, has provided grants totaling almost $900,000 to 3 charter school networks and one traditional LAUSD public school to work on improving teacher retention.  “Recent, comprehensive data are hard to come by, but an early study of Los Angeles area charters, published in 2011,” the piece points out, “found that they were having to replace on average 50% of their instructors every year.  To qualify for a grant from Great Public Schools Now, a charter operator had to meet certain academic performance parameters.  It also had to have lost no more than 30% of its faculty since the last school year.  That’s still well above the state average of 10.6%.”               Corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies like to promote the idea that ending tenure will improve the teaching profession (i.e., the Vergara case in California and others in New York and Minnesota).  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, takes a look at the premise and finds, at least in Louisiana, the ending of tenure led to an exodus of teachers from the profession.  Tenure was ended in the Pelican state beginning in 2012 after Act 1 was passed by the legislature.  What has been the impact?  Schneider features a new study released Wednesday from the Education Research Alliance (ERA) in New Orleans that looks at the data on teacher turnover.  “Act 1 began in 2012 as House Bill 974.  The reason it is called Act 1,” she explains, “is that the 2012 Louisiana legislature rammed it though as the first act, with calculated speed, amid an atmosphere dripping with then-Governor Bobby Jindal’s business-and-industry-backed intention to bring “accountability” in the evaluating of the state’s teachers.  Once 2012 hit, Louisiana teachers began considering how and when to leave the profession. And each year beginning with 2012, Louisiana’s teacher workforce has experienced a noticeable exit of many experienced, seasoned teachers who otherwise would not have likely chosen to leave the profession so soon.”               Do you know the difference between a summative and formative assessment?  If you’re not sure or want some clarification, the “High School & Beyond” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a short video (2:00 minutes) explaining what a formative assessment is.               Ever heard of the “Hamburger Method” for writing as essay?  It’s a graphic organizer geared to elementary students.  The “Curriculum Matters” column for ED WEEK features a short video (54 seconds) narrated by Briana Sotomayor, a cute and self-assured 4th grader in rural West Virginia, who explains how to write an essay.  It’s worth your time just to listen to her describe how it works.  
 
No Charges in FBI Probe of LAUSD iPad Program
And finally, after a lengthy inquiry by the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office decides not to file any charges related to the LAUSD’s controversial, and ultimately unsuccessful $1.3 billion “iPads-for-all” program.  The plan was the brainchild of former district Supt. John Deasy who quit under pressure related to the proposal in October, 2014.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times provides the latest developments in this long, drawn out case.  “Especially under scrutiny by investigators were personal ties and communications that Deasy and other district administrators had with executives from Apple and Pearson, the company that provided the curriculum installed on the devices. . . .  Deasy had worked closely with Apple and Pearson,” it reviews, “and had little or no contact with competing vendors, according to records released by the district.  He’d also filmed a promotional video for the iPad in December 2011, before he announced the iPad-in-schools plan.  A pilot project in the year leading up to the board vote tested only iPads — while another did a trial run of Pearson’s online content.”
 
 
*Eraldo Banovac is an energy expert and a university professor.  He was born in 1955, in Pula, Republic of Croatia.

                                     .                                                                       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, February 10, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The “Ed News” is going to take a short break to enjoy Valentine’s Day
and Presidents’ Day.  Look for the next edition on Friday, February 24.
                  Inline image 1
                  Inline image 2
  “Learning is easy; misunderstanding makes it complex!” 

― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Betsy DeVos Confirmation
As the “Ed News” predicted, the main news story about the final Senate confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos appears on the front page of Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  If you missed the item that was highlighted in Tuesday’s edition of my blog you can read it by clicking here.              The Times story about the DeVos vote in the Senate (see above) drew 5 letters that appeared on the paper’s website Tuesday morning shortly after the final tally.  None of them were pleased by the result.  Interestingly, Thursday’s print edition only had 3 letters and they were slightly different.                An editorial in Wednesday’s Times excoriates Senate Republicans for not taking a principled stand against Betsy DeVos, who the paper describes as “neither qualified nor competent” for the job of Sec. of Education.  If 50 out of 52 GOPers couldn’t see clear to register a “no” vote on this nominee, what other people and policies will they not be willing to take a stand against?  “The vote Tuesday was, of course, a harbinger of bad things to come in the world of education.  But even worse,  it was a clear message from the more rational, thoughtful members of the Republican Party,” it deplores, “that we should not count on them  to stand up to Trump when his statements and actions are reckless, ill-considered or just plain dumb.  That’s very troubling; this is a particularly poor moment in history for them to surrender their independence.”             Kristina Rizga, author of the book “Mission High” (the upcoming summer selection for the ALOED Book Club), speculates about the future of federal public education policy  for MOTHER JONES under the now in place Trump/Pence/DeVos team.  She breaks her commentary into 3 broad categories. “Trump’s signature education proposal calls for dedicating $20 billion in federal money to help families move away from what he has called our ‘failing government schools’ and instead choose charter, private, or religious schools.  To do that,” it reports, “Trump could create an incentive program to encourage states to allow vouchers, lift caps on charter schools, and decrease state oversight over what kind of charter schools can be open and how they operate. In DeVos, he found a partner who has spent the past two decades doing just that in Michigan.”  You at least have to check out the photo that leads off this item.               Donna Roof is a retired high school teacher in Indiana who is “heartsick and outraged” at the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and what it will mean for public schools in the future.  She lists a number of reasons why she feels that way but adds an almost equal number of things she plans to to in response.  Her essay appears on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  “Today,”  Roof begins, “I am heartsick and outraged…I saw 50 Senators and our Vice-President vote for a person who is highly unqualified to be our country’s Secretary of Public Education.”  She concludes: “Today, tomorrow, and every day…I will fight against the injustice being brought against public education as I heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”               The Educators of Color organization on their EDUCOLOR website issue a Press Release decrying the approval of Betsy DeVos and vowing to continue the fight for educational equity and justice.  “As an organization committed to full educational justice for students and communities who are systematically denied access to a quality public education,” it reads, “we are fully prepared to resist policies and positions put forth by this Secretary of Education and this White House, and will be vigilant in protecting the important work of USED’s Office for Civil Rights.”         Leonie Haimson, on the NYC Public School Parents website, reviews the events of the past couple of weeks regarding the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to head the Dept. of Education (DoE) and gazes into her crystal ball to see what the future holds.  She headlines her piece “So It Happened; DeVos Was Confirmed.  What Next?”  “Surely, we will need all your activism,” she addresses readers, “in the battles to come – whether it be against the expansion of charters, the use of tuition tax credits or vouchers, or wasteful ed tech scams — all of which would divert precious resources from our public schools. Now that we’ve woken up our elected officials to the fact that parents and teachers and citizens fiercely love their public schools, and will do nearly anything to preserve, protect and support them, we must continue to speak out.”               The Chicago TEACHERS UNION (CTU) issues a Press Release stating their position that confirming Betsy DeVos to head the DoE is a “nightmare.”               Not be be outdone, UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) also quickly issued a Press Release reacting to the DeVos vote.  It reiterates many of the same sentiments as other groups and organizations cited in this section.  “We stand with our union affiliates — NEA, AFT, CTA and CFT — and with civil rights and community organizations around the country” the statement proclaims, “in strong opposition to DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education.  In mass numbers, we called Washington, DC in attempts to influence the Senate regarding DeVos – now, we will re-double our efforts in building the movement for educational justice.”                Humorist Andy Borowitz, who the “Ed News” has happily highlighted in the past, couldn’t refrain from poking fun at the idea of Betsy DeVos becoming the next Sec. of Education. His piece appears, as always, in THE NEW YORKER.  “The Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary,” Borowitz begins, “means that immigrants will be the nation’s only reliable source of educated people going forward, education experts said on Tuesday.”  Enjoy the rest of it and try not to laugh too loud.  You’ll disturb the people around you.  And please remember, it is SATIRE!               The “On California” column for EDUCATION WEEK paints a pretty bleak picture of what federal education policy will look like under Sec. DeVos.  The author extends his scenario to the impact it will have on California.  You may want to sit down before reading this one.  The cartoon that leads it off is definitely worth a gander.   “Betsy DeVos, I would hazard, doesn’t give a fig about running the traditional functions of the U.S. Department of Education,” the author suggest.  “She wants to get federal money in the hands of private school operators as fast as she can.  This includes relaxing the ban on funding scandal-ridden for profit higher education institutions.  She will say that she is for states’ rights, but what she will mean is that she favors the rights of states to use vouchers, and she will offer them every encouragement to do so.”                 Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, has an extended headline to her article: “She’s A Billionaire Who Said Schools Need Guns to Fight Bears.  Here’s What You May Not Know About Betsy DeVos.”  She’s been under a microscope since she was introduced as Trump’s choice to head the DoE on November 23.  There are lots of things you’ve probably learned about DeVos and Strauss attempts to educate you about some things you may not know about her.  Here’s just one example: “She did not support Donald Trump for most of the 2016 presidential campaign cycle.  DeVos has long been a close ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and she donated to his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.”           Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacts to the vote to confirm DeVos.  He aims his ire at both the new Sec. of Education and those Republicans who supported her.  Regarding the latter, he grumbles: “Yet only Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined all Democrats to vote against her. . . .  This is a classic example of money speaking louder than people.  DeVos is a Republican mega-donor.  She’s given $200 million to GOP candidates over the years – including many of the Senators who voted to confirm her.”                Sec. DeVos addressed DoE staff for the first time on Wednesday.  A member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) reports on what she said and what her words to the department actually mean “. . . . there were a couple of places where she let slip what her actual perspective was.  She said all children are born with innate curiosity,” the author relates, “and wanted to learn, but there were problems.  The problems were the adult humans around them who got in the way.  It doesn’t take much to figure out that the adult humans she considers in the way are teachers.  A word she could not bring herself to use.  She spoke of educators,but not in proximity to words about students.”               The satirical newspaper the ONION has a droll piece on some new policies DeVos plans to implement as head of the Dept. of Education.  Here are 2 examples from their list: “Identify at-risk students and do nothing whatsoever” and “Let low-income parents choose which one of their children gets to go to school.”  Please remember these are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.               Progressive Democrats may have lost the battle over Betsy DeVos.  However Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, sees a possible silver lining in the defeat.  He believes the long running bipartisan consensus on corporate “reform” between the GOP and moderate Democrats may have finally also died.  He cites a number of examples of how the dynamic is changing regarding charters and privatization between the two parties.  “For years, big money donors have been successful at keeping many Democratic party candidates in the charter school camp.  Opposition to DeVos may disrupt that loyalty,” he suggests is one.              CNN politics reports that a group of protesters blocked Betsy DeVos from entering the Jefferson Middle School Academy, a public campus in the District of Columbia, this morning.  [Ed. note: I have to agree with Arne Duncan and Randi Weingarten’s tweets about the incident that are included in the article.]  In addition, Diane Ravitch’s blog also condemned the action and reiterated how important it is that DeVos visit successful public schools to see how well they are doing.               OK, here’s another humorous take on Betsy DeVos.  This time it’s a short sketch (3:19 minutes) from “The Late Show” with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, presents the video with a few brief comments about it.  “On the show’s Thursday episode, Fallon ‘interviewed’ the secretary, played by comedian Jo Firestone, for a skit that attempted to show DeVos as clueless about nearly everything, including how to stand in front of a camera.  By midday Friday, more than 12 million people had viewed the bit on YouTube.”
 
House Republicans Want to Discard DoE Rules on ESSA and Teacher Prep
GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives are moving quickly to attempt to abolish certain rules promulgated under the Obama administration regarding school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and teacher preparation.  The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews the Republican strategy and what it would mean.  “If both sets of regulations are overturned, it could have far-reaching consequences,” it maintains.  “States have been crafting their ESSA accountability plans for several months, and were doing so even before Trump won the election, with the Obama ESSA accountability rules in mind.  The Trump administration has already paused the final implementation of the accountability rules from Obama’s Education Department, but without any regulations at all, states will be in limbo and uncertain how exactly to craft state plans that pass muster with a Trump Education Department.”
 
Move to Abolish DoE Begins
Here they go again!  Republicans have long advocated the elimination of the Dept. of Education.  On the same day they voted overwhelmingly for Betsy DeVos to lead the department, a member of the House, Thomas Massie (R-KY), introduced legislation to end it.  The DoE came into existence in 1980 under Pres. Carter.  THE HILL briefly explains the bill.  [The] bill is only a page long,” it notes, “after merely stating the Department of Education would terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.  Massie believes that policymakers at the state and local levels should be responsible for education policy, instead of a federal agency that’s been in place since 1980.”
 
LAUSD School Board Races
The mostly pro-charter L.A. Times editorial board issues it’s endorsements for the 3 LAUSD board seats up for election on March 7.  Surprise, surprise, when given a choice between traditional public school advocates and pro-charter proponents, guess who they recommend?  Two of the 3 positions are held by incumbents, board Pres. Steve Zimmer (Disrict 4), who is considered pro-public schools and Monica Garcia (District 2).  The editorial, in Wednesday’s paper, favors 2 challengers who lean more towards the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  For the one open seat being vacated by Monica Ratliff they urge a vote for a current charter school math and science teacher.  Their overall theme appears to be the need for “new faces” on the LAUSD board.                 Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column for the L.A. Times, draws a connection between the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and the large amounts of money being poured into the campaigns of pro-charter advocates for the LAUSD school board (see above).  How are the two related?  He believes in both instances it’s the students who are being thrown under the bus ( and he begs your pardon for the pun).  Lopez is angry at the name of the group “LA Students for Change, Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board, 2017” that is connected to, wait for it . . . . the ubiquitous California Charter Schools Association.  He explains how the student organization was formed and refers to a nasty mailer that went out under their name attacking Zimmer (see Tuesday’s “Ed News”).  [That one and other mailers] would have you believe Zimmer fired good teachers while protecting bad ones, drove the district into the ground financially, and failed to root out child molesters.   Zimmer’s actual record is mixed; he has supporters, he has critics,” Lopez fairly points out.  “But distorting that record is dastardly.  And using students as a front is immoral.”
 
California Teacher Shortages
The “Ed News” has documented teacher shortages that are plaguing states nationwide.  California is not immune to that troubling trend.  A new report from the Learning Policy Institute, featured in the “Teaching Now” column for EDUCATION WEEK chronicles the shortage of qualified educators in particular fields and the major impact that is having on classrooms up and down the Golden State.  Fields most impacted include special education, math, science and bilingual education.  “The state has wrestled with teacher shortages for some time now, and the California-based think tank says that districts have responded to the shortages by hiring underprepared teachers, relying on substitute teachers, and assigning teachers out of their fields of preparation.  This is disproportionately happening,”the piece points out, “in schools that serve the most vulnerable students, the report found through analyzing data from California government sources. . . .  The study points to research that shows that underprepared teachers depress student achievement and have higher attrition rates.”  You can find the full report (31 pages),titled “Addressing California’s Growing Teacher Shortage: 2017 Update,” which is, by the way, co-authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, by clicking here.
 
Friedrichs vs CTA Case–The Sequel
When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly last year, the high court ended up split 4-4 on the pivotal Friedrichs vs CTA case which challenged a public union’s ability to charge members an agency fee if they wished to opt out of paying full union dues.  Because of the tie vote the decision reverted back to the appellate court ruling which favored the unions.  Experts at the time predicted a new suit would be quickly filed with the same issues.  IT’S HERE!  Yohn vs California Teachers Association,the latest attack on agency fees was filed in a Santa Ana federal court on Monday.  An article in Wednesday’s L.A. Times has the details of this newest assault on public employee unions’ ability to raise funds and remain as viable entities.  “The main difference between last year’s case and this one . . . . is simply a new set of plaintiffs,” it points out.  “The litigants also want to change the law so that the union would have to persuade teachers to opt in to membership rather than being automatically enlisted.”              Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog, reacts to the latest iteration of the Friedrichs case (see above).  He points out that the latest suit, Yohn vs CTA, was filed by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) the same folks that brought you the original case.  “Plaintiff Yohn contends that he doesn’t need the union to negotiate for him because he can totally do better on his own.  He is 38 years old, far too old to believe in fairy tales, but personally,” Greene contends, “I would be happy to let him try.  And then I would like to sell him a bridge.   CIR expects to work their way up to the Supremes by the summer of 2018.  So dig out your old files– we’re going to literally re-litigate Friedrichs all over again, and that light at the end of the tunnel is probably the headlight of an oncoming train.”
 
The Teaching Profession
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to promote “choice” as a way to improve public schools.  What if they could be convinced to direct a few of their billions of dollars into teacher-powered schools?  If you are not familiar with them they are analogous to worker co-opts in which teachers are solely responsible for creating, planning and running schools.  Wendi Pillars is a National Board-Certified teacher who has taught ELLs in grades K-12 for 20 years both in the U.S. and overseas.  Her piece for the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK is titled “So You Want to Create a Teacher-Powered School? Five Things to Know.”  She attended the Teacher-Powered National Conference in Los Angeles last month and relates 5 things she learned from it.  Here’s one example from her list: “3. Teachers must design and propose their own solutions.”
Many students are feeling fearful and unsettled in light of particular Trump administration moves regarding immigrants.  Julie Jee, in the “First Person” commentary for ED WEEK, offers some practical suggestions for “Making Sure Students Feel Safe in Uncertain Times.”  She’s a high school English and literature teacher in New York and is National Board-certified.  “Even in the best of times,” she begins, “educators put in a tremendous amount of effort to make students feel safe in their classrooms—greeting students at the door, joking around about a potential snow day, asking about a recent swim meet, offering a shoulder to cry on after a family tragedy.”               This may seem intuitive but a recent study found a direct correlation between positive teacher evaluations and job satisfaction.  This may only apply to educators in Tennessee among whom the investigation was conducted.  The research was done by analysts at the Vanderbilt University and the University of Missouri and is featured in the “Teacher Beat” column for ED WEEK.  “Job satisfaction,” it maintains, “is directly related to a teacher’s choice to stay in the profession.  Past research shows that 25 percent of teachers who leave the profession say that job dissatisfaction is the reason.”               How do the individual states rate when it comes to average pay for teachers and where does California fall on the list?  Another “Teacher Beat” essay for ED WEEK provides answers to those always intriguing questions based on a new study from GoBankRates.  Alaska and New York are number 1 and 2 for paying the highest salaries; Mississippi and Oklahoma pay the lowest.  “A salary on the high end doesn’t necessarily mean easy living,” it notes.  “The authors show, for instance, that the average salary in California of $72,050 ‘is just a tad under the amount of money needed to live comfortably in [the state].’  What’s more, a starting teacher’s salary would be much less, closer to $40,000 per year, according to the California Department of Education.”  Read the article and check out the interactive map of average salaries and the link to a tool for comparing cost of living in various cities and states (from CNN Money).  You can find the full report, with the interactive map and individual state numbers listed alphabetically in little boxes under the map, titled “Here’s How Much Teachers Make in Every State” by clicking here.               The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) recently posted this question to the group’s Facebook page:  “Why did you become educators?”  Two of the members combed through the responses and posted them on the organization’s website.  Here’s one of the replies they received:“I became a teacher to make the world a better place.  I want to inspire people to really see the world around them and care enough to understand the importance of protecting this planet. Over the years that has evolved in practice, but it seems to matter more than ever right now.” – Amy Bebell
 
Trump on Education
More “alternate facts” emanating out of the Trump White House?  Senior Presidential counselor, Kellyanne Conway, stated in an interview with CNN, that Pres. Trump is going to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal Common Core.  One small problem: he can’t, according to the “K-12 Politics” column for EDUCATION WEEK which explains in detail (again) why the president doesn’t have the power to repeal the Standards despite what he and the administration believes.  “As we’ve reported previously, states adopt content standards like the common core—the federal government doesn’t get to choose for them,” it reiterates.  “Washington also didn’t write the common core. There was intense debate during President Barack Obama’s administration about whether Washington improperly coerced states into adopting the common core through programs like Race to the Top grants. But regardless of that debate, the president by himself doesn’t have the authority to scrap the standards with the stroke of a pen.”
 
Korean War Vet Earns High School Diploma at Age 83
Enough of this depressing, negative, nasty news.  Time for a real heartwarming education story.  I know they seem few and far between these days which makes them so welcome when they materialize.  Norm Johnson was a lad of 17 when he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and was sent to fight in the Korean War.  The “Education Watch” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times catches you up on all the inspiring details of his life and the ultimate awarding of his high school diploma 67 years after he joined the military.  “After amassing personal experiences that could rival Tom Hanks’ character Forrest Gump in the 1994 film,” it relates, “Johnson will receive what he describes as an important accolade Wednesday when he gets an honorary diploma from the San Diego County Office of Education and Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Project.”
 
Charter Schools
And finally, a member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) from Michigan describes how the charter system works in that state and suggests “You Don’t Want DeVos Style Charters in Your State.”  “Charters [in Michigan] do not have to hire certified teachers.  They do not have to accept any student they don’t want.  There are no lottery procedures. They get parents to enroll by promising them free laptops.  Then they feed the children computer instruction with little adult interaction.  Or their management companies create textbooks and software and make a profit by selling it to themselves at an inflated price.  Charters also get tax write offs for their real estate deals.  Which by the way, they pay for out of their school state aid.”
 
                                     .                                                                       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, February 7, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “The main element of true reconciliation is the public education system.” 

― Nilantha Ilangamuwa*

Breaking News: Senate Confirms DeVos
The U.S. Senate voted this morning to confirm the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos to become the next head of the Dept. of Education.  Members voted 50-50 with 2 Republicans, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), joining all 48 Democrats in voting “no.”  Per Senate rules the tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence acting in his role as President of the Senate.  A story appears on the L.A. Times website this morning reporting on the action.  [Ed. note: It will most likely materialize on the front page in the print edition of the paper tomorrow.]  “DeVos squeaked through the confirmation process on Tuesday,” the story reports, “with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence and the participation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose own confirmation vote for attorney general was scheduled after DeVos’ to ensure his vote would be available.  It was the first time a vice president’s tie-breaking vote was needed to confirm a presidential Cabinet appointment.”  If you’d like to watch the final vote (24:22 minutes) you can view it via a PBS Newshour livestream on YouTube by clicking here.               Diane Ravitch’s blog quickly reacted to the Senate vote on DeVos.  Ravitch was appalled by the action but viewed it as a call to arms for activists who made a major push to derail the nomination.  “The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education,” she rails, “is an outrageous insult to the millions of people who send their children to public schools, to the millions of students who attend public schools, to the millions of educators who work in public schools, and to the millions of people–like me–who graduated from public school.”                The NPE (Network for Public Education) issued a Press Release decrying the approval of Betsy DeVos.  It announced that their campaign to fight school privatization was beginning immediately.  “The Network for Public Education will expand its Grassroots Network, and will roll out reports, advisories and toolkits,”  it promises, “to help policymakers and parents better understand the dangers of school privatization. In the months ahead, NPE will lead both state and national campaigns.”  If you’re not already actively involved, are you ready to join?  The NPE is holding their annual conference in Oakland this year.  Save the date and start making your plans now:
 
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The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reports on the DeVos confirmation.  It reviews the massive campaign against her nomination and lists some of her supporters “It’s an open question whether DeVos can make the transition from highly divisive nominee to effective leader of the U.S. Department of Education,” it speculates. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, said during a 24-hour debate preceding the vote that DeVos would enter the department a hobbled education secretary.”              The same column in ED WEEK (see above) has a handy scorecard listing certain groups and individuals who are “Thrilled,” “Upset” or “Neutral” about DeVos’ victory.  It includes a short quote from the organization or person reacting to the vote.  “Check out [the] statements from organizations across the political spectrum,” it invites, “some of which were released just seconds after her confirmation Tuesday.  They range from the press release equivalent of ‘woo-hooo!’ to the despondent.”
THE HECHINGER REPORT predicts a “New Era of Education Passion, Protest and Politics Will Follow DeVos Confirmation.”  It looks ahead to what might be a new activist period and a renewed focus on education issues.  ” If nothing else, the historic confirmation of billionaire Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s education secretary,” it suggests, “ushers in a new champion for public education: The public.  Education, as it often does, took a back seat during the heated and closely contested election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Not anymore.”              Valerie Strauss, in her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, believes DeVos’ win is a big victory for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  The ED WEEK item above included Bush in its “Thrilled” column in regards to DeVos’ confirmation.  “Bush was the early leader of the corporate school reform movement — treating public schools as if they were for-profit businesses — turning Florida into a testing ground when he became governor of the state in 1999. He created a ‘Florida Formula’ of school reforms,” Strauss writes, “that became a model for other states, including state ‘report cards’ that assign letter grades to schools based largely on test scores and widespread school choice right after he became governor in 1999.”
 
Betsy DeVos
[Ed. note: All of the items in this section were written prior to the final Senate vote confirming Betsy DeVos.]
Another billionaire backer of charter schools came out in opposition to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation to head the Dept. of Education (DoE).  He is Silicon Valley venture capitalist Arthur Rock and his announcement followed by one day that of Eli Broad who is also resisting her selection.  The reasons for Rock’s position are explored in an article in FORBES. Rock is a well-known supporter of school “choice.”  [He] is an active philanthropist in education reform.  From 2006 to 2008,” the account mentions, “Rock contributed $16.5 million to Teach for America.  He also donated $1.5 million to Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), the country’s largest network of charter schools.”               Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, carefully reads the responses Betsy DeVos provides to a number of written questions regarding education submitted by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA).  Schneider reports on DeVos’s answers related to special education and how private schools should provide services to pupils with disabilities.  They offer some rather eye-opening insights into DeVos’ knowledge and awareness (or lack thereof) of federal law in this area.  [DeVos] does not respond,” Schneider complains, “to the idea of supporting efforts to require that private schools that receive public funding provide the same rights and protections that traditional public schools must offer to the parents of children with disabilities.”               Time to lighten things up a bit.  Humorist Andy Borowitz has a hilarious piece about Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, Frederick Douglass and Black History Month in his comedy column in THE NEW YORKER, “THE BOROWITZ REPORT.”  You’ll just have to read it to get the connection. It’s short and if it doesn’t bring at least a smile to your face, you are beyond hope.                Rachel Maddow, on her eponymous “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC Friday evening, delves deeply into a number of issues surrounding Betsy DeVos and her confirmation vote.  Maddow reviews the controversial investment DeVos insists on keeping for the biofeedback company Neurocore that makes some unsubstantiated claims about curing autism, ADHD and other conditions in children; why the vote on DeVos was been delayed; the massive number of constituent calls jamming Senate phone lines and fax machines; a ham and pineapple pizza sent to one senator’s office when the voter couldn’t get through on the phone and campaign donations from DeVos to a number of Republican senators who are voting on her nomination.  Maddow has 2 segments on DeVos (15:02 minutes and 8:15 minutes).  Stick with the first one even though it appears to begin as a Food Channel piece.                The volume of opposition to DeVos has turned into an “avalanche” according to a story from POLITICO.  It’s not just the teachers unions who are so vehemently against her nomination.  Parents, teachers, celebrities and community members have jammed senate phone and fax lines and sent thousands of tweets and emails urging a “no” vote on her confirmation.  “The campaign kicked into high gear [last] week,” the article points out, “after two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their opposition, leaving the charter schools advocate hanging by a 50-50 thread.  Just one more ‘no’ vote and DeVos is done — a prospect that seems tantalizingly close for Democrats but that GOP leaders say they’re confident won’t happen.”               CAPITAL & MAIN reports on a little known characteristic exhibited on occasion by Betsy DeVos.  It seems she can be rather vindictive, especially towards Republicans who cross her, when it comes to pushing her right wing education agenda.  The author of the piece uses a bill in the Michigan legislature dealing with schools in Detroit as his case study of how DeVos can act when opposed by fellow Republicans.  “The bottom line for Michigan Republicans — and perhaps for GOP representatives anywhere — is that you cross or ignore DeVos and her educational crusade,” he concludes, “at your own peril.”               All the controversy and opposition surrounding the DeVos nomination boils down to a simple question.  If confirmed, can she be an effective Sec. of Education?  Peter Cunningham, the author of a commentary for THE HECHINGER REPORT, should be familiar with the inner workings of the job as he served as press secretary to former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan from 2009-12.  He offers some advice to DeVos should she inherit the position.  “Many progressive reformers oppose DeVos, but they also know that the real work of improving schools and helping kids has to move forward, regardless of who is running the U.S. Department of Education.  But the first move is hers.  If DeVos doubles down on vouchers,” he warns, “as Trump has promised, she will spend the next four years on defense.  If, on the other hand, she signals a more open mind on equity and accountability, she will find partners willing to look past the rhetoric and actually get something done for kids.”               Supporters of DeVos are fighting back with hundreds of thousands of dollars of paid ads now appearing on the airwaves attacking “extreme liberals” for their opposition and claiming it’s part of a sexist campaign against the poor billionaire philanthropist.  Valerie Strauss, in her blog for The Washington Post, profiles the 11th hour defense being organized to save Pres. Trump’s nominee.  You can view one of the 30 second ads being run in support of DeVos in the article.  “Although supporters of DeVos blame the opposition on Democrats and the two teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, critics come from the political spectrum.  Some conservative Republicans oppose her in part because they say she supports the Common Core State Standards,” Strauss chronicles, “though she says she doesn’t; she is a strong ally of former Florida governor Jeb Bush who was a big Core supporter for years.  Parents with children with disabilities have come out against her, saying they don’t believe she will protect their interests, and many school choice supporters, such as billionaire Eli Broad, who would have been expected to support her are in fact opposing her, saying they don’t think she believes in public education.  She says she does.  Hundreds of students and graduates from the Christian college she attended, Calvin College, wrote against her nomination too, saying she isn’t qualified and didn’t care enough about public schools.”  Strauss even mentions the ham and pineapple pizza ploy used by a voter in Utah to get through to her senator that Rachel Maddow references in her segment on MSNBC (see above).               Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, very carefully parses the wording of one of the commercials being run on behalf of DeVos (see above).  She finds one sentence particularly revealing in her analysis.  “The ads, put out by a group run by former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal” Strauss suggests, “are what you’d expect from a pro-DeVos ad: Democrats angry that Trump won can’t stand her, and her opponents don’t want equal opportunity education for all students like she does. But there’s wording at the end that is interesting.”            Is Betsy DeVos providing “alternate facts” when it comes to graduation rates at some virtual, online charters?  In answer to a written question submitted by Senate HELP Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA), DeVos furnished a number of such schools with graduation rates over 90%.  Only problem was those figures were not true!  NPR called it “Betsy DeVos’ Graduation Rate Mistake.”  I’d call it something that’s not as civil.  “DeVos built an argument for virtual charter schools on language apparently taken — without citation — from a report written by a for-profit company with a huge stake in the industry.  In the process, DeVos either knowingly or unwittingly mischaracterized the official graduation rates of virtual schools,” it concludes, “making them look more successful than they are and making online learning, in general, look like a reliable pathway to student success when research suggests it is anything but.”  Anyone have any idea why she might do that?  Just asking.               Andy Borowitz has a humorous take on the Betsy DeVos nomination (see THE NEW YORKER item above).  Actress and comedian Melissa McCarthy takes on the role of Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer for a hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live (8:06 minutes).  I only mention it because it includes a very brief appearance by SNL regular Kate McKinnon poking fun at DeVos (it runs for less then a minute starting at around the 5:50 mark).  You can view the very funny segment on YouTube by clicking here.                Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, has some background information about DeVos’ testimony as it relates to the SNL bit (see above).  Diane Ravitch’s blog also featured the Sean Spicer spoof.                Betsy DeVos has had her greatest impact on education in her home state of Michigan.  That’s why the Detroit Free Press’ editorial against her nomination is so compelling.  It’s titled “U.S. Senate Must Reject DeVos Appointment.”  “Make no mistake: A vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education is a vote to end public education in this country as we know it. . . .  DeVos is unqualified in every respect,” it says bluntly, “to serve as head of this critical department, and the U.S. Senate must vote Tuesday to reject her nomination.”               The author of an opinion piece for THE HECHINGER REPORT is an associate professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.  She fears that if Betsy DeVos becomes the next Sec. of Education that due to her promotion of charters, choice and vouchers, one of the first casualties will be educational equity.  “School choice as the sole vehicle for promoting equity,”  the author claims, “will instead contribute to racial segregation and further divide us.  This is the wrong choice for our nation’s education system. Betsy DeVos promotes a vision for society that outwardly extols the idea of equity but in reality does little to ensure it.”               Despite all the complications pertaining to Betsy DeVos’ testimony, financial disclosures and responses to written queries, 2 experts believe a strong ethical case can be made against her.  Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, co-authors of the piece for THE HILL, served as chief ethics lawyers for Pres. Obama and Pres. George W. Bush, respectively.  Both now work for the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).  “As former ethics counsels to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, we’ve reviewed more than our share of ethics filings for cabinet nominees,” they relate.  “Seldom have we seen a worse cabinet-level ethics mess than that presented by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary.”  They proceed to provide chapter and verse to bolster their unfavorable assessment.                Dr. Michael Flanagan, member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association), believes the campaign to oppose Betsy DeVos, win or lose,  can be used as a template for other activists around the country.  He’s created an “Activist’s Rosetta Stone” that lays out a detailed plan of how to protest various actions and policies “The groundswell of organized opposition against DeVos is a positive for all other resistance movements.  It is something to build on,” Flanagan recommends.  “It is a way in which we can begin to coalesce, to open up the lines of communication between disparate social and political constituencies.”               Senate Democrats engaged in a round-the-clock stalling tactic by talking all last night and into the early hours this morning in a last-ditch attempt to find one more Republican to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos.  Kamala Harris, the junior Senator from California, was one of the prominent participants.  A story in today’s L.A. Times describes the Democratic action.
 
Gender Roles and Perceptions 
The “Science File” feature in yesterday’s L.A. Times reports on the findings from a new study in the journal Science into how young children view gender roles and their perceptions of when and if boys and girls are characterized as “brilliant.”  The research holds some interesting implications for teaching and learning in the early elementary school years. “[The] new study finds that 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to think members of their own gender can be brilliant — and they’re more likely than boys to shy away from activities requiring that exceptional intelligence,” the article points out.  “That’s a serious change from their attitudes at age 5, when they’re just as likely as boys to think their own gender can be brilliant, and just as willing to take on those activities for brilliant children.”
 
LAUSD School Board Race Already Getting Nasty
The L.A. municipal primary election isn’t until March 7, but that hasn’t prevented opponents of LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer from sending out a scurrilous mailer accusing the incumbent of all sorts of terrible things–all untrue.  [Ed. note: I reside in Zimmer’s 4th District, which runs from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley, and received a copy of the mailer in question.]   The piece of campaign literature is described in a story in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  Is that half color/half black and white picture of Zimmer’s face a takeoff of the Netflix documentary “Making a Murderer?”  Did Zimmer really propose the disastrous “i-Pad for all” program?  Those are all ideas baldly implied in the brochure.  “Zimmer is running for reelection in the March 7 municipal primary against Nick Melvoin, Allison Holdorff Polhill and Gregory Martayan.  The mailer is the product of political consultant John Shallman, on behalf of a political action committee that took the name ‘LA Students for Change.’  Three of seven board seats are on the ballot,” the article explains, “in an election that could tip the balance between allies of the teachers union and allies of charter schools.”                The Argonaut is a local Westside weekly paper with “Local News & Culture” articles.  [Ed. note: I live within its circulation area and read it regularly.]  The current, Feb. 2nd edition, has a feature on the crucial District 4 LAUSD school board race featuring incumbent Steve Zimmer and 3 challengers.  It discusses the huge sums of money being contributed in an attempt to unseat Zimmer (see above).  A second debate among the 4 candidates was held at Loyola Marymount University last night.  A previous forum took place in Venice.  The article briefly profiles the contenders for the seat.  It’s titled “School Choice Drives Big Money Race.”  “The last time Westside voters were choosing who would represent them on the LAUSD board,” it begins, “former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg catapulted a local election onto the national stage by pumping more than $1 million into campaigns supporting school choice reformers — and opposing incumbent Steve Zimmer.  Four years later, it’s former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s turn to give Zimmer a run for his money.  Earlier this month, Riordan contributed $1 million to the independent expenditure committee ‘L.A. Students for Change Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board 2017,’ setting the stage for what could become the most expensive school board race in the country.”
 
U.S. Sec. of Education No Longer as Powerful as Before
When Betsy DeVos takes over the helm of the Dept. of Education, she will discover that her powers have been diminished in comparison to previous holders of that job.  The reason: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which became law in December, 2015, according to a story in EDUCATION WEEK.  “As education secretary, DeVos would have a hard time pushing states and districts in significant new directions that local leaders wouldn’t want to take,” it spells out, “in part because of the restrictions in ESSA, the latest edition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
Are some unscrupulous charter school operators simply using students and schools as a way to scam taxpayers into funding their real estate deals that yield said operators millions of personal profits?  A group called Arizonans for Charter School Accountability, founded by retired educator Jim Hall, has a Press Release out on just this topic as it relates to the Grand Canyon State.  He delves into the business dealings of the Leona Group LLC and its serious lack of transparency and accountability (a constant refrain with these types of schools) when it comes to its charter school activities.  The Press Release includes links to several reports Hall’s group has created on the subject.  “There is an appalling lack of transparency for charter school operations in Arizona,” Hall states.  “Legislation is essential requiring the Auditor General to monitor charter school spending.  Tax funds should be going to children in the classroom not to management fees, profits, and real estate purchases.”                 Gary Rubinstein’s blog takes a look at some “alternate facts” regarding how well charter schools are performing in Betsy DeVos’ home state of Michigan.  With the Super Bowl being played on Sunday, he rather appropriately headlines his essay “The Detroit Lyin’s.”  “While it is common knowledge that Michigan’s NAEP rankings have gone from the middle of the pack down to the bottom 10 in the time that DeVos has supported her style of education reform there,” he maintains, “there are still people out there writing about a Detroit miracle.”               Pres. Obama tried to improve public schools with a $7 billion program called School Improvement Grants (SIGs).  A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a study by the U.S. Dept. of Education that reported the SIG program made very little improvement in reading and math scores.  The Trump/Pence/DeVos team would like to divert $20 billion of federal funds into a voucher plan for interested states. What are the chances that might succeed in improving public schools?  Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank in New York City, believes vouchers are not the answer.  He makes a strong argument that spending federal dollars to develop special magnet and other programs can lure middle-class families back to struggling campuses.  This will aid in the integration of those schools and increase academic performance.   Kahlenberg offers some ways to achieve this and cites several cities where it’s been done.  His comments appear in The Atlantic. [Former Sec. of Education under Obama, Arne] Duncan has since acknowledged that failing to tackle segregation is one of his greatest regrets.  Educators have long known that reducing poverty concentrations of children,” Kahlenberg argues, “improves their chances of success; today, as my colleague Halley Potter highlighted late last year, 100 school districts and charter schools are acting on that knowledge.  High-poverty schools are 22 times less likely to be consistently high-performing as low-poverty schools, according to a study by the economist Douglas Harris of Tulane University.”
 
School Trip to Yosemite Brings Back More Than Students Bargained For
A field trip for a group of 190 7th graders at John Adams Middle School (Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District) took a turn for the worse when the pupils returned to their campus from their 5-day trip on Jan. 27 and an outbreak of a highly contagious norovirus ensued.  The school was closed on Friday as crews attempted to thoroughly clean classrooms and other facilities.  An item in Saturday’s L.A. Times details the students’ trip and the onset of the illness among pupils and staff at the school.  “Norovirus is a contagious organism that can be spread through contaminated food or water and human interaction,” it notes, “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . .  Those infected typically experience inflammation of the stomach and intestines as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.”
 
Marshall High Wins LAUSD Super Quiz
Sunday was the Super Bowl but it’s also Academic Decathlon season and  Marshall High, located in Los Feliz, won the Super Quiz portion of the LAUSD competition on Saturday at the Roybal Learning Center downtown.  In a separate L.A. County event, the winner was South Pasadena High.  The topic for this year’s competition was World War II.  The state competition will take place in Sacramento next month with the the national championship occurring in April in Madison , Wisconsin.  A story in yesterday’s L.A. Times provides the details.  “Each school team comprises nine students: three with grade-point averages of 2.99 or lower; three with GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74 and three with 3.75 or higher,” it explains.  “The county competition involved 43 official teams and 17 junior teams from 26 school districts.  In L.A. Unified, 62 teams participated.  The state competition will take place in March in Sacramento.  Teams from L.A. Unified schools have claimed 17 national titles since 1987.”
 
Election 2016
And finally, a bill was introduced in the California Assembly to require that history textbooks discuss Russian hacking of the presidential election of Nov., 2016.  An editorial in today’s L.A. Times takes a dim view of the idea.  “One state lawmaker,” it grumbles, “has offered a solution to the problem that is not actually a solution: mandating that this incident be included California’s public school history textbooks so that schoolchildren forevermore will learn about it.  Given how much we don’t know about the hacking — including whether it turned the election and made Donald Trump president — what would be the point?””
 
*Nilantha Ilanguamuwa is the editor and the founder of the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he’s also an editor of Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, a bi-monthly print magazine published by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission) based in Hong Kong and DIGNITY (The Danish Institute Against Torture) based in Denmark.
                                     .                                                                       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, February 3, 2017

The ED NEWS

A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

                    
 “The walls of the school can’t stop the education.”

― Tanmaya Guru

Betsy DeVos
The “Politics K-12” column in EDUCATION WEEK reviews  the Senate vote on Tuesday that sent DeVos’ nomination to the Senate floor and offers a preview of what’s to come. “Compared to past nominees, DeVos has proven to be a controversial one.  Democrats, the two national teachers’ unions, and other left-leaning interest groups had kept up a steady drumbeat against DeVos before her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing.  But opposition to DeVos intensified after that hearing,” it mentions, “in which DeVos said she may have been confused about whether there was a federal law governing students in special education. Her remarks about guns in school and her exchange with Franken about measuring proficiency versus growth also drew criticism. And she denied any role in a family foundation that donated to several organizations senators found suspect, despite a paper trail indicating the contrary.”               The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Committee dropped the niceties and went “to war” over the vote on DeVos.  So reports Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) removed the gloves as the panel’s session commenced.  “Ahead of the vote on DeVos, the most controversial education secretary nominee since the Education Department was created in 1979, Alexander and Murray each gave opening remarks,” Strauss writes, “that made clear the era of bipartisanship on the panel is over — at least for now and possibly for some time.”               DeVos was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a strict 12-11 party-line vote.  Her nomination now goes to the full Senate for an “ay” or “nay” decision.  The Senate has 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Dems.  If all Democrats vote against her selection, as is expected, at least 3 Republicans will have to join them in order to send her down to defeat.  In case of a 50-50 tie, Vice Pres. Mike Pence, acting in his roll as President of the Senate, gets to break the tie.  2 GOP Senators announced on Wednesday that they plan to vote against DeVos.  A fascinating article in POLITICO details the ins and outs of the confirmation process and DeVos’ in particular.  If you have any interest in the possibility of DeVos becoming the next Sec. of Education you have to read this and stay tuned for any future developments.  “Both Republican and Democratic senators,” the story concludes, “say they’ve been flooded with thousands of phone calls, emails and letters related to DeVos’ nomination — mostly in opposition.”  The piece includes a very brief video (37 seconds) with comments from the 2 GOP Senators who are opposing her.               Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post explores why Betsy DeVos is such a divisive figure as she attempts to become the next leader of the Dept. of Education (DoE).  Strauss provides an interesting list of the full Senate votes for all the previous Sec. of Education nominees.  All but one were nearly unanimous.  So what is different in DeVos’ case? “Certainly DeVos’s nomination has come at a time of deep divisions in the country,” Strauss suggests, “underscored by Trump’s election and the protests that have erupted over his policies in the short time he has been commander in chief.  But the opposition to DeVos is less about politics and more about her vision for the future of American education.”              As Betsy DeVos’ final confirmation vote approaches in the Senate [Ed. note: I’m privy to some inside Senate information as my brother is on the staff of one of the Democratic U.S. Senators.  He reports the final vote on the DeVos confirmation will take place on Monday or Tuesday–remember you read that here first] there is the possibility that she might win the battle after all.  If that’s the case (dread the thought) what damage might she do as part of the Trump/Pence team?  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK attempts to answer that question in a story titled “What Could Betsy DeVos Really Get Done as Education Secretary?”  The author uses a Q & A format to answer that important query.  Here are two of the questions she addresses: Could DeVos privatize public education?” and   Could DeVos get rid of the Common Core State Standards or tell states which tests to use?  Read the article to get answers to those and several other questions.                You may want to sit down before reading this next item.  Billionaire LA. philanthropist and ardent charter proponent Eli Broad, who has talked about trying to include up to 50% of LAUSD students in charters, came out with a blistering rebuke of Betsy DeVos’ qualifications to become the next Sec. of Education.  Yesterday’s L.A. Times details this unexpected turn of events and the reasons why Broad finds her “unprepared and unqualified.”  “Broad sent a letter to U.S. senators Wednesday, asking them to vote against President Trump’s nominee. . . .  Broad has contributed heavily through a political action committee to local school board candidates,” it explains, “who support charter schools, and his philanthropic group is backing an effort to increase their growth in Los Angeles, which already has more such schools than any other city in the U.S.   But despite their agreement on charter schools, Broad thinks DeVos’ views are too extreme.”               L.A. based billionaire Eli Broad may be a local figure but his influence is felt nationwide argues Valerie Strauss in her blog for The Washington Post.  “This is more than just one billionaire school activist who believes in school choice going against another billionaire school activist who believes in school choice.  It reveals a deep split in the movement to improve public education with corporate-style changes that seek to run schools like businesses and want to greatly expand alternatives to traditional public schools. . . .  His opposition underscores what has been obvious for some time: that the opposition to DeVos goes far beyond the teachers unions,” she maintains, “which have funded some of the campaign against her. Teachers, parents, students and other DeVos critics have staged protests, signed petitions and besieged the offices of U.S. senators with visits, phone calls and messages urging them to oppose her.”            Diane Ravitch appears on the REAL news network to talk about the latest developments regarding the Betsy DeVos confirmation.  You can view the video (13:54 minutes) by clicking here.               Both Republican senators from North Carolina, Richard Burris and Thom Tillis, have been inundated with phone calls demanding they vote both for and against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation.  Despite the response from constituents, both are expected to support her when the full Senate takes its final vote.  The Charlotte News & Observer describes the extensive pro- and anti-DeVos campaigns in the Tar Heel State.  “Other Republican lawmakers experienced heavy call volumes,”  it spells out.  “Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, in a tweet, advised his constituents to email him instead of calling his office.  The public feedback has been so intense some North Carolinians say they ran into full voicemail boxes or their messages went unreturned.”               Do phone calls, emails, tweets, letters and personal contacts have any effect on government representatives?  Good question.  A story in THE Nation tells the tale of how large numbers of public activists in Alaska got Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to buck her party, big time, and come out against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos.  “Murkowski, who had voted as a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee member to advance the DeVos nomination, then stunned the Senate by announcing that she would vote ‘no’ when the full Senate considers Trump’s choice.  The Murkowski switch,” it discloses, “is a testament to the power of the grassroots resistance to Trump and to his cabinet picks.”  So, yes, those calls, emails, tweets, etc., do make a difference.  Keep that in mind the next time you’re bothered by something one of your representatives did or said.  They do listen.               Could Betsy DeVos’ religious beliefs and views about science influence her ideas on teaching and curriculum if she become the head of the DoE?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, explores those thoughts.  “Recent revelations in major news outlets should raise alarms about DeVos’s views on science and how they may influence her decision-making on national education policy.  In her charitable giving, her financial investments, and the rhetoric she uses to express her intentions as secretary,” he worries, “DeVos has exhibited a propensity to favor beliefs ground in quack science over the real thing.”               THE HUFFINGTON POST has a list of the 23 Republican senators (out of 52) who received direct campaign contributions and how much they got from Betsy DeVos and her family.  Those very same senators will be voting on the DeVos confirmation very soon.  Does that raise eyebrows with you?  “The nomination of billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education is one vote shy of failing in the Republican-controlled Senate. One thing that could come to her aid,” the story begins, “is that she and the entire DeVos family are massive Republican Party donors who helped fund the election of the remaining senators who will decide her fate.”               Steven Singer is pretty disgusted by the prospect of Betsy DeVos becoming Sec. of Education.  Writing on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, he believes Republicans have not only put up someone who is “unprepared and unqualified” (as Eli Broad characterized her) but they have put forward a person who is simply the “highest bidder” for the job (see item above).  “It is next to impossible to claim that her nomination is moving forward based on merit,” he declares unhappily.  “Our children will be left vulnerable to the whims of a woman who has no idea what she’s doing and has demonstrated a desire to destroy their schools.  If Republicans (and Democrats) have any spine at all, the time has come to show it.  Or else just take your dirty money and shut up.”               If Betsy DeVos is confirmed to become the new Sec. of Education, how might her policies protect LGBTQ students?  Sarah Kate Ellis, the author of a commentary for EDUCATION WEEK, is the president and CEO of GLAAD, a private media monitoring organization funded by LGBTQ people in the media. She has her concerns about DeVos based on the billionaire philanthropist’s religious beliefs and charitable donations.  “In the past, DeVos has stood with those who hurt LGBTQ students and families.  Millions of fair-minded Americans and education advocates are watching now to see if she’ll truly support equality for every student.  I have my doubts,” Ellis concludes, “but I hope she surprises us all.”               What fundamental tenets should presidents seek in selecting candidates to become secretaries of education?  Kevin Kumashiro recently stepped down as dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco and is the founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity.  He was not real happy with Pres. Obama’s selection of Arne Duncan to head the DoE and we all know how that turned out.  Kumashiro, is equally disturbed by Pres. Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos to head the same department.  In an essay for ED WEEK titled “How to Pick a Better Ed. Secretary Than Betsy DeVos,” he gladly offers 4 guiding principles for choosing better candidates to fill the position.  Here’ one example: “Third, develop and implement policies, laws, and reform initiatives by building on a democratic vision for public education and sound educational research.”               Despite what DeVos supporters would have you believe, opposition to her nomination is not exclusively the work of the big national teachers unions.  Challengers who want to see her confirmation derailed are both broad and deep as reported by Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post who notes that even the magazine “Teen Vogue” has run articles against DeVos.  “Whatever you think of the NEA and the AFT,” she writes, “the ‘it’s the unions’ mantra of DeVos supporters suggests that they can’t fathom that any American not carrying the teachers unions’ water could have personal, legitimate reasons to oppose her.”               
 
LAUSD News
Tuesday’s “Ed News” highlighted an article on the L.A. Times website about a group of former educators from the Celerity Educational Group (LAUSD) complaining about a lack of resources for their classrooms.  It appears on the front page of Wednesday’s Times.  If you missed it the first time, you can read it by clicking here.               The story about Celerity Educational Group shortchanging students on essential materials and supplies (see item above) prompted a single letter that appears in today’s paper.  The author concludes her reply with this: “The more charter schools open, the less money your local public school has.  And the public schools have to take every kid.  I trust a public school to adhere to the law.  Who knows what some charter school will do?               Steve Lopez, in his Wednesday column in the Times has two bones to pick about recent education issues.  The first one has to do with the raid on the local headquarters of the Celerity Educational Group charter network (see first item in this section) and the large sums of money paid to the Celerity CEO and spent on lavish parties and other non-classroom expenses while students went without paper, pencils, books and other essential items.  His second bête noire has to do with some outrageous mailers aimed at defeating LAUSD board Pres. Steve Zimmer.  [Ed. note: I live in Zimmer’s 4th District, which extends from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley, and I, too, received a number of brochures in the mail this week with some serious and totally unsubstantiated charges leveled against the incumbent.]  Lopez refers to this behavior as “gutter politics.”   “My advice is the same as it has always been.  This election season, when mailers arrive in your mailbox,” he suggests, “shred them, burn them, throw the ashes in the street and run over them with your car.  Twice.  You’ll be much better informed come election day.”               The Chief Financial Officer of the LAUSD, Megan Reilly, is leaving her post to take a similar position, at a higher salary, with the Santa Clara County Office of Education.  Reilly, who began working for the LAUSD in 2007 will assume her new post in April according to a story in Wednesday’s Times.  “In going to Santa Clara,” it points out, “she will oversee a sizable organization with an annual budget of $348 million, but it pales next to L.A. Unified, whose general fund is $7.6 billion.”           The 2015-16 school year was the first in which all LAUSD students needed to successfully complete a full complement of college-prep classes in order to graduate.  Midway through the year the district realized that a good number of high school seniors would not reach that goal and quickly offered a series of watered-down make-up and online classes in order to boost the number of students who would graduate.  All of this was highlighted, at the time, by the “Ed News.”  An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times takes the district to task for providing poorly designed  credit-recovery courses that left students with little knowledge of the subject matter.  In addition, the piece suggests the district needs to, once again, makes graduation truly “meaningful.”  “L.A. Unified officials say a new graduation-tracking system will help avoid the emergency situation that confronted schools last year.  They also are trying to make the online courses more rigorous,” the editorial explains, “by having teachers take a more active role in the process, integrating their instruction with the computer lessons.  The district wants to leave it to teachers to determine how well students have learned the online coursework, rather than having the digital tests decide.”   The LAUSD is critical of the mounting costs it’s paying to an independent monitor it hired to watch over the district’s programs for disabled students.  If this sounds a bit complicated, join the club.  A story in yesterday Times tries to sort it all out for you.  “Programs for the disabled in the nation’s second-largest school system fell under federally authorized supervision, called a consent decree, in the wake of a 1993 lawsuit that contended the district ignored the educational needs of Chanda Smith and many other disabled students.  In the more than 20 years since, the district has tried to satisfy a federal judge and advocates for the disabled,” it points out.  “An independent monitor joined the mix in 2003, when the two sides agreed on specific goals that, if met, would free the district of supervision some officials consider costly and obtrusive.”
 
Trump Names His Supreme Court Choice
As highlighted in Tuesday’s “Ed News,” Pres. Trump selected Neil Gorsuch, of the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, as his nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.  The “School Law” column in EDUCATION WEEK profiles the selection and discusses some of the education cases he’s been part of.  “When it comes to education,” it relates, “Gorsuch has written or joined opinions in cases involving school discipline, education finance, special education, and religion in the public square, among others.”  The author of the column proceeds to scrutinize some of Gorsuch’s key education rulings.
 
Charter Schools & Vouchers
A research analyst at Stanford University makes the argument that if proponents want to protect public education they must make a stand against vouchers.  Dr. Frank Adamson’s commentary appears on the UNITE FOR QUALITY EDUCATION website.  “The assumed election of Donald Trump and his nomination of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education have placed the American system of public education under threat,” he worries.  “Trump and DeVos will likely propose a national voucher scheme that would privatize education and likely lead to lower quality, inequitable, and re-segregated education.  Evidence from both the U.S. and other countries in a new book, ‘Global Education Reform,’ demonstrates that voucher policies increase educational inequality and diminish democratic participation in education. Americans must preserve public education, a fundamental pillar of our society.”  Adamson offers 4 reasons why the promotion of vouchers is so dangerous to the traditional public school system.              Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and large areas of the Gulf Coast in Aug., 2005.  In its aftermath the public school system in the Queen City was remake into an almost all charter district.  How has that experiment gone?  Over the past couple of years, the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of articles attempting to answer that critical question.  An intriguing article on THE LENS website features a new study that finds that more money is now spent on administration and less on teaching and learning since the charter transformation.  The report was produced by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans and was released in mid-January.  “The research undercuts one argument for charters — that they’re a solution to bloated bureaucracies at parishwide school systems. . . .  Overall, New Orleans schools — the vast majority of which are charters — spent $1,358 more per pupil on operating expenses, or 13 percent, than a control group in the 2013-14 school year.  Put another way,” it reveals, “schools spent that much more than they would have if New Orleans had remained a traditional school district after the storm.  Administrative spending increased $699 per student, or 66 percent, compared to the control group.  Meanwhile, instructional spending dropped by $706 per student, or about 10 percent.”               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to promote vouchers as a means to allow more families access to school “choice.”  So what are the hidden economic costs of vouchers?  Phyllis Bush is a retired educator and member of the board of the NPE (Network for Public Education)  and has an op-ed in the Fort Wayne (Indiana) News-Sentinel on that important topic.  That old economic adage: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies to the idea of providing “free” taxpayer funded vouchers as the author so clearly points out.  “Vouchers drain state tax dollars from the entire education funding pot,” Bush points out.  “This often causes district budgeting deficits and/or the need for tax increases, referendums and the like.  That loss of revenue to public schools increases class sizes and diminishes student resources such as counselors, support personnel, supplemental materials and buses.”               An article in THE TEXAS TRIBUNE posits the idea that vouchers are not really about education but about spending taxpayer dollars to support private and religious schools.  Texas is one of the states on the front lines of future voucher battles as its legislature attempts to pass a voucher bill.  “This voucher argument is not as much about choosing schools as it is about paying for the schools where you’d like to see your kid get educated.  Some state officials want to give you the money that would otherwise be used for your public education, and some of them don’t.  Parents are already free to move their kids to whatever school they want,” this analysis points out, “but if they can’t afford private schooling, the argument goes, they might as well have no choice at all.  If public money, raised from local and state taxpayers, goes to pay for those private schools, the questions and the political difficulties blossom.”
 
New Head of House Education Committee
Almost all of the education focus in Congress recently has been on the Senate and its confirmation of Betsy DeVos.  When all that dust settles things will get back to the normal work of passing legislation and that requires action by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House Education and Workplace Committee has a new chair, Virginia Foxx (R-NC).  The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) have a profile of Foxx on their website and it’s not very encouraging if you support public education and unions.  The piece is titled “BATs Beware!  A Foxx is Loose!!”  By the way, there are 4 Californians on the committee (1 Republican, 3 Democrats) that is controlled by the GOP. 
 
School Improvement Grants (SIGs) Criticized
And finally, last Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted an editorial in that day’s L.A. Times that featured a report from the U.S. Dept. of Education that was critical at how the department’s School Improvement Grant money was being spent.  That item prompted 2 letters-to-the-editor that appear in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  The first is from a professor of psychology at CSULA.  
 
This Sunday is Super Bowl LI, Atlanta vs
New England from Houston, Texas.  
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                                     .                                                                       http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

Ed News, Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

  “Learning is easy; misunderstanding makes it complex!” 

― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

 
BREAKING NEWS:  DeVos Approved by Senate Committee
It took two 12-11 straight party line votes this morning but the Senate HELP Committee approved Betsy DeVos’s nomination to head the Dept. of Education.  Her selection now goes before the full Senate for a final up or down vote.  CNN has the latest details along with a new controversy over possibly plagiarized answers she provided to a series of questions by ranking member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).  “Despite clearing a key procedural hurdle,” it explains, “DeVos’ eventual confirmation by the full Senate remained an open question as members of her own party told CNN they wouldn’t commit to voting for her.  Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she had been inundated with calls from Alaskans raising concerns about DeVos, but said she would support her in the committee vote out of deference to the president.”  The article includes a short video (1:46 minutes) about this latest controversy.               The NPE (Network for Public Education) quickly announced it would continue the fight to defeat DeVos on the Senate floor.  You can read their Press Release, issued today, about their future plans by clicking here.  “Although disappointed by the decision of the HELP committee to send the vote on Betsy DeVos to the Senate floor,” it begins, “The Network for Public Education (NPE) was pleased by the strong opposition to DeVos.  All Democrats voted against DeVos.  Senators Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska while voting to move her nomination forward, would not commit to voting for her when the vote comes to the full Senate.”
 
Betsy DeVos
Diane Ravitch’s blog hosts another offering from SomeDam Poet.  This time he/she comments on the prediction by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) that no Democrats would vote to confirm DeVos to head the Dept. of Education (see Friday’s edition of the “Ed News”).  The verse is titled “No Democrat Will Vote” and includes these lines:
 

No Democrat would vote
For closing public schools
No Democrat would vote
For Arne Duncan rules

New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins has a piece urging the rejection of DeVos to become the next Sec. of Education.  It’s titled “The Trump War on Public Education.” “DeVos is stupendously rich, and a longtime crusader for charters, vouchers and using federal funds for religious education,” Collins writes.  “She was once the Michigan Republican state chairwoman, a fact completely unconnected to the $200 million or so her family has donated to the party.  She’s used all that clout to make Michigan a model of how not to improve public education.”               Mercedes Schneider, author, teacher and creator of her “EduBlog” at deutsch29, was born and raised in Louisiana.  She’s been receiving a number of flyers in the mail promoting charters, vouchers and school “choice” from an organization called the Alliance for School Choice (AFSC).  Guess who is chair of the AFSC?  If you guessed “Betsy DeVos,” YOU ARE RIGHT!  “If DeVos becomes US secretary of education, based on her established affinity for sending public money to private schools via vouchers coupled with Trump’s newfound love of vouchers,” she predicts, “states will surely be lured into creating and expanding voucher programs– which could well mean state leaders’, uh, fixing those broken state constitutions to guarantee a ready public education fund stream into private school coffers.”  In conclusion, Schneider suggests that if DeVos does become the head the of the Dept. of Education her title should be changed to “US Secretary of Private School Funding.”               Betsy DeVos is a strong proponent of school “choice.”  How effective has that program been over the many years it has existed?  Good question.  Answer: ” Betsy DeVos’ Big Education Idea Doesn’t Work” is the title of a piece from SLATE.  “Although DeVos’ exhortations on behalf of parental school choice are familiar to anyone who follows education reform,” the reporter notes, “today she is wildly out of touch with a large part of the movement she purports to represent. The nearly 30-year history of school vouchers and charters in America has shown that parental choice—in the absence of government intervention—will not improve the quality of education in America and could inflict significant damage on the poorest communities.  Indeed, even many of the staunchest early supporters of unchecked parental choice have moderated that stance over the past 15 years. By all appearances, DeVos hasn’t faced a similar moment of reckoning.”               One of the more problematic issues DeVos faced during her Jan. 17th confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was a troubling lack of knowledge and understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In an attempt to clarify her testimony on that topic, DeVos sent a letter to committee member Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, reviews DeVos’ distressing responses regarding IDEA and discusses the contents of the letter she sent.  “DeVos wrote a letter to Isakson trying to explain her position on IDEA,” it explains.  “The letter raises new questions about her priorities. . . .  She said she wants to provide students with disabilities more educational opportunities — and praised a voucher program that helps students with disabilities attend private school funded with taxpayer dollars.”  Apparently, DeVos’ answer to every education issue  and question is CHOICE and VOUCHERS!  [Ed. note: Someone needs to send her the item above from SLATE.]  Strauss includes a copy of the letter DeVos sent to Sen. Isakson at the end of her column.                Hundreds of California teachers protested the nomination of Betsy DeVos on Saturday in downtown L.A.  The action was organized by the California Teachers Association according to a short item in Saturday’s L.A. Times.  “DeVos, a Republican fundraiser from Michigan, has supported the growth of for-profit charter schools and the use of public money to subsidize tuition at private schools.  Although Trump said little about education on the campaign trail,” it reminds readers, “he did at one point suggest that legislation to create a major school voucher program would be one of his priorities for his first 100 days.”  The Times piece includes a short video (2:58 minutes) with highlights of CTA Pres. Eric Heins’ remarks at the rally.               Do Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee or in the full Senate have any chance of blocking DeVos’ nomination? With the Republicans holding a slim majority (12-11 on the committee and 52-46 plus 2 Independents who vote with the Democrats in the full Senate) the answer is basically “no.” They will have to get at least one Republican on the committee or 3 GOP members in the full body to oppose her or the selection will be approved.  So far, there have been NO signs that any Republican Senators plan to break ranks with their party on her choice to become the Sec. of Education.  Valerie Strauss, on her blog for The Washington Post, reviews the Democrats’ slim prospects of defeating DeVos.  Not that there hasn’t been a strong backlash to her nomination.  “Senate offices have been swamped with calls, emails and letters; the National Education Association said more than a million emails opposing DeVos went to senators through a recent campaign, Strauss indicates.  “There are petitions and there have been protests, including Sunday on Capitol Hill.  Hundreds of alumni and students from her alma mater, Calvin College, wrote a letter to legislators saying she is unqualified to be education secretary. . . . But Democratic and Republican sources in the Senate, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of negotiations about the vote, say that DeVos is expected to win approval by the education committee when it votes [today], and that she will prevail on the floor of the Senate whenever that vote happens.”               Here’s the “Ed News” picture of the day:
 
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Sen Tim Kaine (D-VA) is a member of the Senate HELP Committee that voted on Betsy DeVos’ confirmation this morning.  Prior to that action he wrote a letter to people who contacted him about the DeVos nomination.  Diane Ravitch’s blog reprints that letter with the reasons why Sen. Kaine is opposing her selection.  “As a member of the HELP Committee, I asked Mrs. DeVos questions regarding her education, experience, and policy positions.  While I appreciate Mrs. DeVos’s willingness to serve,” he reveals, “I have decided to oppose her nomination.  Mrs. DeVos failed to show that she was a strong advocate for public schools, accountability, and civil rights. Commitment to these principles is essential to serving as Secretary of Education and carrying out the duties of this position in a manner that will benefit all of our nation’s students.”               The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK discusses the probability of DeVos being confirmed by the Senate HELP Committee and the full chamber.  For a hint of what they are predicting just look at the title: “Here’s Why Betsy DeVos Will Likely Be Confirmed, Despite Pushback.”  The silver lining for Democrats: DeVos as education secretary may not be all bad for her opponents.  She has become so controversial,” the item concludes, “that Democrats are now fundraising off of her nomination.  In an email circulated this weekend, the re-election campaign of Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin—a state Trump unexpectedly won—asked for contributions of $5 or $10 to ‘strengthen opposition to [DeVos’] confirmation.’  Baldwin is expected to face a tough re-election bid in 2018.”               How broad and deep is the opposition to DeVos?  Another article from the same column in ED WEEK claims that “Nearly 250 Education-Related Groups Urge Senators to Reject Betsy DeVos.”  The story includes a letter sent to senators urging them to deny her confirmation.  It lists all the groups, national, state and local, that support that position and signed the letter.  “On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 247 organizations listed below,” the letter begins, “we urge you to oppose 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.”               Sen Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, submitted a list of 139 follow-up questions to Betsy DeVos that Murray believes were not addressed by the nominee during the formal hearing held by the committee on Jan. 17.  For her column in The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss has 2 separate articles relating to DeVos’ responses to the queries.  The first item is an overview of some of the answers that DeVos provides and is titled “Democrats: DeVos Didn’t Provide ‘Anywhere Close to Satisfaction’ on Our Questions.”  “Murray’s questions covered a wide range of education issues,” Strauss writes in that one, “from civil rights to for-profit colleges to virtual schools and enforcement of the Every Student Success Act — the successor law to No Child Left Behind.  She was also asked questions about her finances.  DeVos and her family are large donors to the Republican Party, including to five members of the committee that is voting on her nomination.”  The second item reprints the questions submitted by Murray and includes DeVos’ answers.  


The Teaching Profession
Teachers face their students every day and bad news can intrude on that relationship all too often.  How should teaches handle those stories and events that are on pupils’ minds and interfere with lesson plans?  A commentary on the “Teacher Leader Voices” column for EDUCATION WEEK is aptly titled “6 Things Teachers Can Do When Bad News Strikes.” The author is Angie Miller, the 2011 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, a writer and librarian.  “Teachers are understandably uncomfortable,” she relates, “bringing the outside world into their classrooms for many reasons: What if something controversial comes up and parents complain?  How will I ever get through my content?  How do I facilitate an honest conversation without my own bias coming through?  Can I allow students the space to process events without it consuming our day?  Though there is risk involved when talking about news or controversy, there are ways to integrate important current events in the classroom responsibly.”  Here are 2 of her 6 suggestions: “Connect current events to the curriculum” and “-Offer students outlets for expressing worries or concerns.”  Miller explains each and offers specific ways to implement them.             For a concrete example of the above item check out “How to Talk About Sexism in the Classroom” in the “Teaching for the Whole Story” commentary also in ED WEEK.  It’s written by a middle school language arts teacher and instructional-support coach who explains several situations that arose in her class (keep in mind she works with middle school students) related to that loaded topic and how she dealt with them.  In addition, she provides a number of suggestions and ideas offered by other teachers for handling the subject.  “Recently, I found myself in unfamiliar territory as a teacher,” she starts off.  “This was sparked when I found myself in an argument with some students during an unplanned whole class discussion.  Though I was out of my comfort zone, the conversation seemed deeply important—to me and the students.  Eager to make the most of the learning opportunity, that evening I turned to my community on Facebook of all places.  What followed was more learning and still more questions!  As I plan my next steps, I want to share the conversation here.”
 
BATs Meets With Representatives of Two Democratic Senators
Several members of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) met with education staff for Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Maggie Hassan (NH) to discuss pressing issues related to education including special ed, ESSA and Betsy DeVos among others .  Both Sanders and Hassan are members of the Senate HELP Committee which voted on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos earlier today.  You can read  a summary of the meetings with both senators’ representatives by clicking here.
 
More Breaking News: Trump Names His Supreme Court Choice
Late this afternoon, Pres. Trump announced his choice for the Supreme Court.  He picked Neil Gorsuch who is currently serving on the federal 10th  Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver.  An article posted on the L.A. Times website this evening has the details of the selection (look for it in the print edition tomorrow).  “Gorsuch is not likely to change the previous balance of the court.  But his nomination does set the stage for a bruising partisan fight,” it reports, “over a man who could help determine U.S. law on gun rights, immigration, police use of force and transgender rights.”  This item includes a video (12:42 minutes) of Trump’s announcement and Judge Gorsuch’s comments.  [Ed. note: For a preview of Gorsuch’s views regarding education issues, please see the article from ED WEEK in the section directly below.]
 
Trump and Education
Are rural people who voted for Trump going to eventually regret their decision?  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, believes so, especially when it comes to education policies.  He provides some statistics regarding rural schools and the students who attend them and some of the problems and issues they face.  “What’s sadly ironic,” Bryant points out, “is that these rural communities that will perhaps be most devastated by the school choice plan DeVos and Trump are about to foist on the nation are the very communities that voted overwhelmingly Trump into office.”               Jake Miller, a 7th grade U.S. History teacher in Pennsylvania, analyzes the key phrases regarding education from Pres. Trump’s inaugural address.  Miller concedes there are things that can be done to improve our traditional public school system but Trump, on the campaign trail or in his inaugural speech, hasn’t mentioned any of them.  In fact, Trump’s view of our schools, as is his vision of the rest of the country, is rather dim and foreboding.  Miller’s commentary appears on THE EDUCATOR’S ROOM website.               Pres. Trump is expected to announce his pick today to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia in Feb of 2016.  The author of the “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK previews some of the names on Trump’s short list and how they’ve ruled on previous education cases.  He identifies 3 front runners for the seat and adds 2 more names to the list.  Profiles of earlier decisions by the top 3 contenders are provided.  
 
“Failing” Schools, Really?
Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, tackles head-on that favorite shibboleth of the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies–the idea that our traditional public schools are “failing.”   “So why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?  Because far right policymakers have convinced us all that it’s true.  It’s not.  Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing.  They are among the best in the world.  Really!”  Before you think Singer needs to be medicated or committed to a mental institution, hear him out.  He sets out a very detailed and convincing case as to why labeling our schools as “failing” is doing a serious disservice to that system.  Just because certain groups and organization repeat over and over and over that schools are “failing” doesn’t make it true.  This is a very significant piece and should be required reading by everyone on BOTH sides of the education debate.  If you don’t read anything else related to education issues in the next week or so, read this one.  
 
Charter Schools, Choice & Vouchers
A KIPP charter school in Dallas earned an “F” on the state’s questionable A-F report card for schools.  Gary Rubinstein, on his Gary Rubinstein’s blog, points out how the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies love to tout charter schools and promote A-F rating systems for schools.  So what does it all mean when one of those charters earns an “F?”  Rubinstein tries to sort it out for you.  “I’ve argued in other blog posts that these types of A-F report cards are not really statistically valid and have been used to unfairly label a school as ‘failing.’  I still feel this way.  But I report things like this because,” he concludes,  “I’m so curious how ‘reformers’ respond when they learn that they have to choose between their prized charter chain or their prized weapon for shutting down schools.  Generally, though, they avoid any discussion about dilemmas like this.”               Want a peak behind the curtain of some of those questionably run and managed charter schools?  Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a story about a federal raid on the Celerity Educational Group’s headquarters in Los Angeles last week.  An item appears on the L.A. Times website early this morning (it hasn’t shown up in the print edition of the Times as of the deadline for this “Ed News”) that reveals that many of the Celerity schools lack proper supplies, books and other basic materials but seem to have plenty of funds for lavish parties and other non-classroom expenses.  That information was provided by several former employees of the charter network.  “Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, are free from many of the regulations that dictate day-to-day life in traditional public schools.  Because of this,” the Times piece mentions, “their supporters often say that they are able to put more money into classrooms and have greater control over how it is spent.  But The Times spoke with nine former teachers and administrators in the charter network who said they had long harbored concerns about Celerity’s use of taxpayer dollars and felt that students were being shortchanged.”  Thanks to “Ed News” reader Don Hagen for sending this along.               A new study out of Indiana University supports the long argued idea that voucher programs that use taxpayer money for private schools have a serious tendency to discriminate based on several different factors.  The report is featured on the School Matters blog.  “The finding is especially timely,” it mentions, “as President Donald Trump and his designee to serve as secretary of education, Michigan school-choice activist Betsy DeVos, have indicated they will use federal clout and money to push states to expand voucher programs.”  You can read the short Abstract about the report by clicking here.  The full paper, titled “Dollars to Discriminate: The (Un)Intended Consequences of School Vouchers,” requires a paid subscription.               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies, like Betsy DeVos, love to promote school choice as the panacea for everything that ails the traditional public school system.  How has this idea fared in other countries around the world that have tried it?   Has anyone ever suggested we look at what “choice” has accomplished in those nations?  What one finds is not very encouraging and therein lies a lesson for the U.S.  A thought-provoking article from US News & World Report, authored by Henry Levin, Professor of Economics and Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, reports on the impact of school choice in Chile, Sweden, England and the Netherlands.  It does not paint a very reassuring picture.  “Some have argued that competitive incentives induced by school choice,” Levin suggests, “will lead to better educational outcomes.  However, there is little evidence to support this claim. . . .  Where school choice has shown powerful effects around the world is the systematic separation of students by ethnicity, social class and religion.”  
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Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.