Monthly Archives: March 2017

Ed News, Tuesday, March 28, 2017 Edition


 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“The educational process must again provide the opportunity 
for students to make choices and live with the consequences of these choices.
Teaching is not simply telling people what to believe and do.” 

― Donovan L. Graham

The Teaching Profession
You might want to put this one in the “Odd but True File.”  Do students have the right to be taught by a human teacher or would a computer suffice?  That’s the issue possibly requiring court adjudication in Tennessee.  THE (Nashville) TENNESSEAN has the intriguing details of this story.  “Do the rights of Tennessee students to a public education extend into the right to have a teacher,” it begins, “and if so, does a computer program count?  Those questions were posed to a state appeals court [last] Tuesday during oral arguments in a case involving a Nashville student, Toni Jones, that could set a statewide framework defining school districts’ obligations to their students.”  [Ed. note:  I wonder if a computer should be asked to decide this case?]               “How Many U.S. Students are Taught by Qualified Teachers?” is the question headlined in a “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK. It contains some interesting numbers and figures compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics.  “At least 90 percent of K-12 public school students in the United States were taught by teachers with state certification in the years studied: 2011-2012, 2013, and 2015.  In the 2011-2012 school year,” the story reveals, “state-certified teachers taught about 95 percent of students across all types of districts ranging from urban to rural.  That percentage didn’t vary based on student disabilities, language status, or grade level. However, more high school students than middle school students were taught by teachers certified in the subject area for which they were hired, such as English or math.” You can read the full report which runs about 61 pages plus 161 pages of appendices titled “Certification Status and Experience of U.S. Public School Teachers” by clicking here.
Rights for Special Ed Students
Friday’s edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a key U.S. Supreme Court ruling extending education rights for special education students.  EDUCATION WEEK reviews the decision and analyzes what its impact could be in the future.  The case Endrew F. v. Doublas County School District was handed down on Wednesday.  The response from various education groups and organizations to the finding has been mixed as the article notes: “Advocates for children with disabilities are cheering a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as a clear win that establishes more-ambitious academic standards for special education students.  Representatives for some educational groups and districts, on the other hand, have a more measured response.”
Betsy DeVos
Guess which Trump administration adviser/cabinet member or GOP leader earned the lowest approval ratings on a survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute?  No peaking!  You’ll just have to read the article in Newsweek to find out.   It’s titled “It’s Not Just Trump: Poll Says His Cabinet and Other Republican Leaders Are Unpopular Too.” “According to the poll, which surveyed 1,073 adults between March 3 and March 11 with a margin of error of three percent,” it reports, “virtually all of Trump’s staff and cabinet appointments had a higher percentage that disapproved than approved of their early job performance.”  OK, here’s a hint:  the lowest approval ratings did not go to Steve Bannon, chief strategist and senior counsel.  He had the second lowest combined approval rating at 36%.  The article includes a link to the full poll or you can access it by clicking here.               DeVos’s visit to a second public school, this one in Bethesda, Maryland, since she began her tenure as Sec. of Education went about the same as her first.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the details.  “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ second visit to a public school,” it mentions, “was met the same way as her first visit, with protests, as dozens of parents and community members sang, chanted, and held up signs criticizing the Trump administration’s push for vouchers and pitch to cut funding for K-12 programs.  The protesters lined the streets outside Carderock Elementary School in Bethesda, Md., a wealthy woodsy suburb.”                As of last week, DeVos has visited 4 schools since taking over as head of the Dept. of Education.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, notices a rather “curious pattern” to those four stops.
Conversation With Diane Ravitch
The Hitting Left With the Klonsky Brothers website, episode #8, includes a discussion with Diane Ravitch about some critical current education issues including Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration’s education agenda, charters, vouchers, corporate “reform” and others.  You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.  Ravitch appears in the first part of the program (up to the 22:58 minute mark) and a local Chicago poet completes the segment (total 57:54 minutes).
Trump and Education
Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is outraged at the message send about education priorities in the recently unveiled Trump administration budget.  “The message being spun out of Trump’s education budget,” Bryant writes, “is that it takes money away from those awful ‘adult interests’ – like, you know, teachers to actually teach the students and buildings so students have somewhere to go after school to play sports, get tutored, or engage in music and art projects – in order to steer money to ‘the kids’ who will get a meager sum of money to search for learning opportunities in an education system that is increasingly bereft of teachers and buildings.”  He goes on to detail where the cuts are in the education blueprint and where greatly expanded funds are earmarked, i.e., vouchers and school “choice.”                Another education reporter makes the argument that vouchers are nothing more than thinly veiled programs to promote school segregation under the pretense of school “choice.”  This time the case is made by THE HUFFINGTON POST and the author features a new report from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, that takes a look at what a federal voucher program would do to student diversity in the nation’s schools.  “The history of school voucher programs is tied up with ideas of white supremacy.  To avoid school desegregation as a result of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling,” she writes, “some Southern states created tuition grants to allow white students to attend all-white private schools in the 1960s.  Some of these private schools still exist, though they are no longer specifically for white students.   White students continue to dominate private school demographics, in part because of this racist history, says Halley Potter, the Century Foundation fellow who wrote the brief.  It’s a history that must be considered when looking at the future of these programs.”   It was bad enough that Pres. Trump selected Betsy DeVos to head his Dept. of Education.  In addition, he’s packed most of the appointive positions at the DoE with his cronies or those of  DeVos and there’s nary an experienced educator among them.  Laura Chapman, writing on Diane Ravitch’s blog, discovered a list of who’s been appointed so far and she reviews it person-by-person.  Chapman also includes a long list of positions that have yet to be filled.  “It is Amateur Hour and ‘Ask a Trump Crony’ time in this and other administrative offices,” Chapman concludes dejectedly.  “These are the components of the ‘administrative state’ that Steve Bannon and Trump intend to ‘deconstruct.’  That destruction appears to be the job of the cronies, not people competent to make reasoned judgments.”               Pres. Trump’s proposed budget contains huge cuts to programs in the Dept. of Education that would certainly impact the traditional public schools.  However, as an analysis in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK points out, both charter and private schools will also feel the effectof the reduction in federal funding.  “The Trump administration’s budget blueprint would include $1.4 billion in new money for school choice, but it would get rid of Title II,” it describes, “the $2.3 billion main federal program for improving teacher quality, and the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, a $1.1 billion program which helps finance afterschool and extended-day programs.  Private and charter schools receive funding, or at least services, from both programs.”
Public Schools 
Jeff Bryant delivered a speech to grantees of the Schott Foundation for Public Education titled “Words That Hurt Our Public Schools, and Ones That Help.”  He prints a transcript of that talk on the Education Opportunity NETWORK.  He reviews some words and phrases that are used to denigrate the traditional public school system and some that commend it.  You will certainly recognize both types.  Bryant views the attacks on public schools as part of the wider attempt to dismantle government and the public sector in general.  “The war on the public sector uses the power of language on every front.  For instance,” he suggests, “slashing financial resources for the public good is called tax relief. Laws preventing industrial pollution from fouling our shared environment are called stifling regulation.  Public financial assistance for the poor is called a government give-away program.  Funds we collectively pool to ensure our financial security in old age are branded entitlements.”  He also includes 4 ideas on how to best craft your own messages about education and promotes a new “toolkit” from the NPE (Network for Public Education) that will help public school proponents confront the corporate “reform” and privatization agenda.                An article in VICE reports on how schools are on the front lines inprotecting undocumented students and their families from threats of immigration raids and deportation.  It describes how big cities around the country are aiding the effort and refers to a recent incident in Los Angeles last month where a father was arrested right after dropping his daughter off at school.  “Schools have been proactive in hopes of alleviating the anxiety of immigrant children,” the story mentions, “emphasizing that they remain open to everyone.”                In this day and age, what do you think is more important to society: allocating taxpayer funds to build a state-of-the-art stadium in order to steal (oops, attract) a team from another city or earmark those limited resources for public schools?  If you are the State of Nevada and the City of Las Vegas, the answer is a resounding “BUILD THE STADIUM!”  A mind-blowing piece in The New York Times tells the sad tale (if you’re a public school advocate) of how the Oakland Raiders were enticed to move to “Sin City.”  “Even as politicians increased taxes for stadiums, Clark County school officials voted last spring to increase public class sizes and to close a school for at-risk students.  There was simply no money,” it laments.  ‘This is the last thing we ever want to do,’ Linda Young, president of the school board, said at that time.  It’s a shame the school board did not build a football stadium, perhaps with a public school annex.”  Pres. Trump’s proposed budget would seem to be following in Nevada’s footsteps.  Slash federal funds for public school programs in order to possibly pay for the wall with Mexico, increase military spending and offer big tax cuts for the 1%.  What is this country coming to? Sounds more and more like we are doomed to the same fate as the Roman Empire and its “bread and circuses.”  
Testing and the Opt-Out Movement
The standardized testing window in New York State opened yesterday and the opt-out movement in the state with the highest number of students choosing to skip the exams is kicking into high gear in anticipation.  Long Island is the epicenter of the action according to a story in Newsday.  Last year over 200,000 students statewide or 21% opted-out. “Officials in some Long Island districts,” the article relates, “put estimates of opt-outs at 40 percent to 70 percent of their eligible students.  Brian Conboy, superintendent of Seaford schools, said he expects the boycott of English exams in his district to run close to last year’s 67.8 percent.”               The New York State Education Dept. (SED) is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to stem the opt-movement that’s taken a firm hold on the state (see above).  Some of their tactics are not exactly above board according to Fred Smith, a former testing expert for the New York City Board of Education.  His analysis, on Diane Ravitch’s blog, offers a litany  of ways the SED is not being completely truthful with the public.  “Clearly, not leveling with parents shows contempt.  It is part of SED’s conspiracy of silence designed to keep mass testing in place.  Parents and their children, the lifeblood of the public schools,” he urges, “should strongly consider opting out of the 2017 exams.”
Granada Hills Wins State Decathlon
Despite an issue with some possibly compromised Super Quiz questions, Granada Hills Charter High School (LAUSD) won theCalifornia state Academic Decathlon competition in Sacramento over the weekend.  The top 4 teams were all from the LAUSD with El Camino Real Charter placing second and Franklin coming in third.  The top non-LAUSD team was South Pasadena High which finished 5th according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “Granada Hills, the reigning national champion, will represent California and pursue the state’s fifteenth consecutive U.S. title at the nationals,” it concludes, “which will take place April 17 through 23 in Madison, Wis.  All told, 581 students from 67 high school teams took part.”
Charter Schools
Here’s a good question: What have charter schools provided to improve teaching and learning in this country?  Having trouble coming up with an answer?  Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy has some things for you to contemplate, in the form of a quiz, as you ponder my initial question.  His commentary, which focuses on charters in Ohio but is pretty universal, comes courtesy ofDiane Ravitch’s blog.  “Ohio taxpayers have been forced to invest in this $9 billion charter experiment,” he writes.  “Truthful answers to [my] questions reveal that they have, in large part, been bilked; but state officials in charge of the Statehouse continue to throw more money at this failed venture.”   When a charter operator opens a school in a city and signs a contract to operate it for a certain length of time, can they walk away from that commitment and leave everyone involved high and dry?  Before answering you may want to consider what took place in Memphis.  The details are provided by Chalkbeat Tennessee and the title of the item will give away the answer: “Why Charter Operators Exiting Tennessee’s Turnaround District Can Walk Away.”  “When two charter school operators announced plans to leave Tennessee’s turnaround district this spring, many people were surprised that they could break their 10-year agreements. . . .  But in Memphis and across the nation,” it points out rather surprisingly, “there’s nothing to stop charter operators from leaving, even when they promise to be there for a long time.”  How many of you were aware of that fact?              Want a detailed look at what charter expansion can do to the public school system in a major American city?  Diane Ravitch’s blog features a new report from the Project for Middle Class Renewal that chronicles what’s happened to the  Chicago Public Schools , the third largest school district in the country, over the past 20 years.  Ravitch has a very brief overview of the account which you can find here “The bottom line is that the overwhelming majority of children, who are children of color, have been systematically neglected for the sake of creating a dual school system.  This is not education reform,” Ravitch charges.  “This is privatization at the expense of the overwhelming majority of children.  This is Rahm Emanuel’s agenda, this is Arne Duncan’s agenda, this is Betsy DeVos’ agenda.”  You can read the full report (17 pages) titled “Closed by Choice: The Spatial Relationship Between Charter School Expansion, School Closures, and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools” by clicking here.
Another Milestone for Diane Ravitch
And finally, yesterday Diane Ravitch’s blog passed the 30 million mark in page views since it debuted in April, 2012, and she has a special announcement to go along with that occasion.  “I don’t blog for myself,” she relates.  “I blog because I am trying to give voice to the educators who have no public platform.  I have opened the blog to teacher-writers to tell their stories.  I have wanted to create a space for teacher-leaders to speak up.  I wanted many people to feel emboldened to speak out.”
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             


Ed News, Friday, March 24, 2017 Edition


 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

 “I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war.” 

― John MiltonOf Education

More accusations aimed at the nations second-largest school district.  Two recently released reports and a lawsuit are critical of how the LAUSD allocates newly created funding for its most needy students.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times details these latest complaints.  “This particular dispute centers on one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s core reforms: providing extra money to serve students who are in the foster system, from low-income backgrounds and learning English,”  it points out.  Because 82% of L.A. Unified students fall into at least one of these categories, the dollars add up to about $1.1 billion of the district’s $8.4 billion annual operating budget.”  The article focuses on one school, La Salle Ave. Elementary in South L.A.  The district disputes many of the charges.  
Betsy DeVos
Many different sources have weighed in on Betsy DeVos’ nomination, confirmation and first few weeks in office.  So, you may be a bit surprised (or not) that this lengthy analysis comes from Rolling Stone.  It is, like many others, highly critical of her in a piece titled “Betsy DeVos’ Holy War” that reviews her background and family history, religious beliefs, political and educational philosophy, philanthropy and ongoing war on traditional public education.  “Central to understanding the DeVos family, and particularly Dick and Betsy’s zeal for education, is the Calvinist doctrine of predestination,” the reporter writes, “a belief that one’s salvation (or damnation) has been preordained by God.  According to this view, God’s ‘elect’ must work hard in dedication to the glorification of Jesus Christ.  Another of Calvinism’s central teachings is that God is the ‘absolute sovereign’ over everything in the world, and followers must in turn claim ‘every square inch’ of the Earth for Jesus Christ.”               Bloomberg has a disturbing report about Betsy DeVos ending an Obama administration rule that limits the fees student debt collectors can charge.  The decision is a windfall for companies that collect student debt and a former for-profit college lobbyist who until a couple of days ago was an adviser to DeVos at the Dept. of Education.  “DeVos’s decision, announced [March 19th] in a memorandum to the student loan industry, allows companies known as guaranty agencies to charge distressed student debtors fees equivalent to 16 percent of their total balance,” the article explains, “even when borrowers agree within 60 days to make good on their bad debt.  The reversal is almost certain to hand United Student Aid Funds Inc., the nation’s largest guaranty agency, a victory in its two-year legal battle against her department.  The fees could translate into an additional $15 million in annual revenue for the company, filings in a related lawsuit suggest.”             The Trump administration has only been in office a little over 2 months but THE MERROW REPORT describes a state of confusion and chaos at the Dept. of Education.  John Merrow sees a silver lining in the current situation and believes it’s an opportunity for the states to exert more control over education policy.  His commentary is titled “What the Dickens is Going On?” and he details what’s going down at the DoE.  “So, it’s bad, but it would be worse if Trump’s anti-public school people had their act together, which they do not.  And there’s a brighter side to all this.  Congress,” he suggests, “which finally got out from under the widely-discredited No Child Left Behind Act when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, has now revoked regulations issued in the dying days of the Obama Administration. That gives even more power back to states and districts, who must still file their ESSA accountability plans with the Department….even though it’s not clear that anyone at the Department will read them, let alone approve them.”
Charters & Vouchers
Interested in another debate about charters and vouchers?  This one takes place at CSU Sacramento.  The motion: “Charters and Vouchers Are the Answer.”  Arguing in favor is Chris Stewart, Director of Outreach and External Affairs, Education Post and he’s opposed by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies, Sacramento State.  You can view the debate (89:46 minutes) on YouTube.  You can read Dr. Heilig’s opening and closing statements of the debate on his website CLOAKING INEQUITY by clicking here.  It includes a link to the debate, some brief comments and updates on it and the results of audience and viewer voting on the motion before and after the debate.                Apparently, voucher advocates in Texas will resort to some rather questionable tactics in support of their position.  “The Blast” the political newsletter of THE TEXAS TRIBUNE reveals that hundreds of pro-voucher letters received by several Texas legislators were fraudulently sent.  “State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, was suspicious when his office fielded 520 letters between mid-February and mid-March,” the brief story relates, “from constituents of his rural district, who are more likely to oppose private school choice than support it.  All the letters were addressed from Austin and had the full names and addresses of each constituent at the bottom.  Springer started making calls.  ‘We talked to a couple of dozen constituents.  No one knows where they’re coming from.  None of them agree with the positions that they’re even taking,’ he said.  He knows of about 10 other representatives who got similar letters.”               Earlier this month a front-page investigative story in the L.A. Times looked into some questionable spending patterns and conflicts of interest at the Celerity Educational Group, a network with 7 charter schools in Los Angeles and additional campuses in Louisiana (see the March 7, edition of the “Ed News).  This week Celerity responded to the Times report, defending the practices and the salary in paid to its founder and former CEO Vielka McFarlane.  An article in yesterday’s Times reports on Celerity’s answers to the issues raised.  “Celerity Educational Group’s credit card statements, which The Times obtained through a public records request,” it mentions, “show that when McFarlane was the network’s CEO she paid for expensive meals and hotel stays with a credit card belonging to her nonprofit organization, which receives the bulk of its funding from the state.  Asked if she ever repaid Celerity, McFarlane and Celerity’s lawyer did not comment.”               The Trump administration is getting a head start on expanding vouchers by increasing taxpayer money available for the program in Washington, D.C., which the U.S. Congress has jurisdiction over.  Diane Ravitch’s blog points out that this is in spite of the fact there is no research that demonstrates vouchers achieve better test scores.  “Republicans have already started moving HR 1387, the SOAR Reauthorization Act,” Ravitch writes.  “This bill would reauthorize the DC voucher program (the only federally funded voucher program in the country), and the group that administers the program has said they expect to provide ‘hundreds’ of new vouchers to DC students with Republicans in charge.”
School Reform
Diane Ravitch’s blog reports on 8 local teachers unions in California who have banded together to promote “real school reform,” not the market-based version being pushed by the corporate “reformers” and their allies.  The organizations range, geographically, from San Diego to San Francisco and include the largest cities in the state representing over 50,000 educators.  The new alliance is called The California Alliance for Community Schools and instead of promoting charters, vouchers, privatization and “choice,” their platform includes “Lower class sizes, Resources for high-needs schools and students, Shared decision-making at local school sites, critical to student success, Charter school accountability and Safe and supportive school environments.”   The article includes a list of all 8 local unions and contact information for each.             In the ongoing rancorous debate between charter schools vs. traditional public schools, magnet schools are often left out of the equation.  An interesting article on the BROOKINGS website, an independent, non-partisan social science think tank, makes the case for magnets titled “Don’t Forget Magnet Schools When Thinking About School Choice.”  “Magnet schools are schools of choice that have themes (e.g., STEM, arts, gifted/talented).  Initially a tool for desegregation efforts in the 1970s (i.e., by encouraging white parents to stay in urban districts),” it informs, “magnets have evolved to serve a wide variety of purposes and settings.  While magnet schools are widely prevalent—there are over 3,000 magnets across more than 600 school districts within 34 states—they have received less attention in the research literature than charters.”  Michigan, Florida and South Carolina have the highest proportion of magnet schools and the LAUSD, Miami-Dade and Houston are the districts with the largest number of magnets according to data included in the story.  
The Teaching Profession  
Have you ever had a student or students in your classroom who know more about technology than you do?  If so, it’s a pretty common occurrence these days, so don’t feel bad.  Tricia Ebner is a National Board-certified teacher of English/Language Arts at a middle school in Ohio.  On the “CTQ Collaboratory” column for EDUCATION WEEK she offers some practical ideas onhow to overcome your own fears of technology.  Her commentary is headlined “When Students Know More About Technology Than Their Teacher.”  “Learning to let go of my need to be the ‘technology guru’ for my students is an ongoing process.  I’ll admit that sometimes I still hesitate to try a new tool because I haven’t yet explored all the details.  But in those moments,” Ebner concludes, “I try to remember that our students today are growing up in a world filled with websites, programs, apps, and tools that are readily available to them, and they are willing to learn by doing.  It’s a true example of hands-on learning, and it’s working for them.  Who am I to stand in their way? ”                A teacher at Palm Beach Central High School was angered by a commercial for she believes casts teachers in a very negative light.  The Palm Beach Post comments on the ad and prints the email the teacher sent to the company in protest.  “By now, millions of people probably have seen’s ‘kindergarten’ commercial,” it explains, “which features a frazzled teacher surrounded by a classroom of screaming kindergartners throwing balls, banging bats and playing in the classroom fish tank. . . .  Alana Milich, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, caught the online travel website’s commercial at home Tuesday, her second day of spring break. . . .  What she saw, over and over again, was a portrayal of a teacher as inattentive to the classroom and obsessed with her upcoming vacation.”  The newspaper has the offending commercial (29 seconds) for you to view and a response from the company and reactions from other teachers.               Peter Greene, on his CURMUDGUCATION blog has a blunt rejoinder to the whole episode of the ad (see above) which can be summed up in his title: “ and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ad.”  [Ed. note: I’ll leave it at that!]                 Steven Singer is kind of torn by testing season.  As a teacher he doesn’t look forward to proctoring the standardized exams in his classroom but he finds the fact that he opts his 2nd grade daughter our of the tests to be a joyous occasion.  I’ll let him explain this dichotomy in his singular style on his always entertaining GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG.  “Testing season is a gray period in my classroom.  But it’s a joy in my house.  As a classroom teacher with a daughter in the public school system, I’m always struck by the difference,”  he recounts.  “In school I have to proctor the federally mandated standardized tests.  But I’ve opted my own daughter out.  She doesn’t take them.  So at home, I get to see all the imaginative projects she’s created in her class while the other kids had to trudge away at the exam.”
Creator of Value-Added Model Dies at 74
William L. Sanders, an adjunct professor of business and agricultural statistician at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was the creator of the Education Value-Added Assessment System which came to be known as a value-added model (VAM).  It is a highly controversial tool used to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers.  Sanders passed away last week at age 74.  Audrey Amrein-Beardsley wrote extensively about VAMs on her VAMboozled blog.  She notes Sander’s passing and comments about her research regarding his creation.  “Sanders thought that educators struggling with student achievement in the state should ‘simply’ use more advanced statistics, similar to those used when modeling genetic and reproductive trends among cattle,” she comments, “to measure growth, hold teachers accountable for that growth, and solve the educational measurement woes facing the state of Tennessee at the time. It was to be as simple as that.” She includes a link to the Sanders obituary that appears in the Shelbyville (Tennessee) Times-Gazette.  
New California School Accountability System
The State Board of Education debuted the new, expanded “dashboard” school accountability system last week.  Instead of a single number (the old API) it combines ratings on a number of criteria with a color-coded system for comparison purposes.  The L.A. Timeshad two article about the new program last week that were both highlighted in the “Ed News.”  The second story prompted 2 letters that appear in Wednesday’s edition of the paper.  Both were rather critical of the new “dashboard” structure.  
U.S. Supreme Court Expands Rights for Special Ed Students
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous 8-0 vote, issued a major ruling on Wednesday that expands the services school districts must provide to special education students. Interestingly, the decision has ties to an earlier case involving Appellate Court Judge Neil Gorsuch who underwent several days of confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee to assume the seat on the nation’s high court left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia over a year ago.  The “School Law” column for EDUCATION WEEK has details about the current case and the connection to a possible future Supreme Court justice.  “The decision comes in the case of a Colorado student named Endrew F. whose autism led to behavioral issues in school.  After four years in the Douglas County schools, near Denver,” it reports, “the boy’s parents believed his academic and functional progress was stalled.  Endrew F.’s individualized education programs largely  carried over the same educational goals and objectives from one year to the next. . . . The parents pulled the boy from public school amid a dispute over his 5th grade IEP and enrolled him a private school specializing in autism, the Firefly Autism House. . . .  Under established precedents, the family sought reimbursement from the Douglas County district for the private school tuition.  They lost before a state administrative law judge, a federal district court, and the 10th Circuit.”
CSU Raises Tuition
The California State University Board of Trustee voted on Wednesday to boost tuition by 5%.  The vote was 11-8 and came amid protests from students.  Earlier this year the UC system increased tuition by 2.5% according to a story in yesterday’s L.A. Times.  “At Cal State, the increase will amount to about 5%, or about $270 for in-state students.  Tuition for out-of-state students,” it explains, “as well as graduate and teacher credential programs also will go up.  These increases will generate $77.5 million in crucial net revenue, officials said. The more than 60% of Cal State students whose tuition is fully covered by grants and waivers will not be affected.”
Senate GOP Rejects Hannah Skandera for Ass’t Sec. of Ed Post
And finally, Senate Republicans opposed the nomination of Hannah Skandera, the current New Mexico Commissioner of Education, to become an assistant to Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos.  The reason?  Skandera is a close ally of Jeb Bush and a strong supporter of the Common Core so the Trump administration decided to withdraw the offer.  Mercedes Schneider, on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29,details the machinations surrounding the selection.  
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             

Ed News, Tuesday, March 21 Edition


 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

        Final ALOED Event Reminder: You only have a couple of days left to sign up for ALOED’s spring Book Club to be held this Saturday in the Samuelson Alumni Center on the Occidental College Campus. The book to be discussed is Vicki Abeles’ “Beyond Measure” which is a follow-up to her documentary film “Race to Nowhere.” Brunch will be provided by ALOED so please be sure to RSVP so they know how much food to order.  It will be served at 11 am followed by a stimulating conversation about the book at noon.  You don’t have to read the book to participate.  If nothing else, come for the food.  For all the details and to RSVP click here.  Hope to see you on Saturday.
And now to the news.
“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know.
It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.”

― Anatole France

Trump and Education
Want a preview of what the Trump/Pence/DeVos national voucher plan might look like?  Gander no farther than the program in Florida.  The “Back Story” feature in the March 12 L.A. Times offers a “primer, ” in the form of a Q & A, on what the private school choice program looks like in the Sunshine state.  Here’s one question and the response from the article: “How does the Florida tax credit scholarship work?  Companies get dollar-for-dollar tax credits for their contributions to nonprofit scholarship organizations. Depending on the type of tax, they can get credit for between 50% and 100% of their tax liabilities through the program.  Parents apply for scholarships by submitting pay stubs, tax returns and other financial documents.  If eligible, they can get up to $5,886 per student and apply that money toward tuition at a set list of private K-12 schools.  The average cost of private school in Florida this year is $7,864.”                A story in the Times early this month about the Trump administration’s plan to provide taxpayer funded vouchers for students to attend private or religious schools sparked a single letter-to-the-editor in Friday’s paper.  The author was “beyond outraged” at the idea.                Pres. Trump unveiled his proposed 2018 fiscal year budget Thursday and it contains some massive cuts for the Department of Education  among a number of other agencies.  The DoE has been slated for a whopping 13% cut including some very popular and critical programs.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK has the depressing details.  “The federal spending plans still need to go through Congress for approval, and cuts of this magnitude will almost certainly be a tough political lift.  And it could be months before lawmakers decide which of these cuts to accept or reject.  The proposal would set spending levels for federal fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1 and generally impacts the 2018-19 school year.”               Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, reacts (as you can guess) rather antagonistically towards Pres. Trump’s proposed budget as it relates to education (see above).  His essay is titled “Trump Budgets More Money to Kill Kids in Yemen Than Educate Kids in the USA” and it excoriates Trump for his spending priorities.  [Parental warning: In his anger, Singer drops a number of F-bombs in his piece.]  “While boosting the military by $54 billion in his 2018 budget, he slashes spending at the U.S. Department of Education by $9.2 billion – the largest cut in the department’s history,” he complains.  “This sad excuse for a man actually proposes that guns and tanks are more important than school children.  Perhaps his motto should be ‘Save the guns!  F— the children!’”               What specific U.S. DoE programs could face the budget knife under Pres. Trump’s proposed budget?  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK, in a follow-up to its article above, attempts to read the tea leaves as to which face reductions.  “President Donald Trump’s budget plan for education has singled out several programs to be slimmed down or eliminated.  But all we know right know is based on a mere two pages in a 62-page ‘skinny’ federal budget the administration released last week.  It doesn’t necessarily detail,” it suggests, “all or even most of the cuts and additions Trump’s team wants to make.  Once the administration releases a more-detailed budget proposal for Congress to consider—and it might be several weeks before this is released—we’ll know a lot more about what Trump wants to do for public school spending.”               Andre Perry, columnist for THE HECHINGER REPORT, is critical of the Trump administration’s proposed budget and its steep cuts to education programs.  It’s titled “In the America-First Budget, Schools Come Last.”  The author finds a couple of contradictions in the spending blueprint and lists some specific items targeted for steep reductions.  “The only logic Trump’s budget follows is across-the-board cuts, which lack internal consistency.  It’s as if Trump said increase defense spending and make up for it by reducing everything else.  This isn’t sensible or effective budgeting.  A budget that puts America first,”  he concludes, “would first and foremost invest in the next generation of Americans.”              THE HECHINGER REPORT hosts its first ever “chat” on the impact of Trump’s proposed budget on students and Trump voters and what the figures reveal about the administration’s priorities regarding education.  Participants in the conversation include members of The Hechinger news team.                  Pres. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the unexpected death of Antonin Scalia last February.  If the jurist is confirmed by the Senate, what might that mean for education policy?  The “School Law” blog for EDUCATION WEEK has a commentary titled “5 Things for Educators to Consider About Neil Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearing.”  Gorsuch appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning yesterday.  Here’s one of the points the author raises: “4. Progressive groups have focused some of their criticism of Gorsuch on his rulings in the areas of special education and disability discrimination.”               What kind of fight might be in store as the Trump administration attempts topromote federal legislation to push charters, choice and voucher programs?  A battle taking place in Iowa might offer a precursor, according to a story in The New York Times.  “Despite Republican control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the State Legislature,” it points out, “proposals to significantly expand school choice programs in Iowa are stalled, at least for now.  The pushback has come from groups traditionally opposed to the idea — Democrats, school districts, teachers’ unions and parents committed to public schools — but also from some conservatives concerned about the cost to the state.  Iowa is one of 31 states where legislators have proposed creating or expanding school choice programs this year, without Washington even lifting a finger.  Even if just a few of the bills pass, the number of children attending private schools with public money could greatly increase, one reason the proposals are meeting resistance.”
For-Profit Schools 
Here’s a real eye-opener about how some for-profit networks operate.  Pro Publica’s lengthy investigative piece probes charges the some of the schools run by Camelot Education are more “like a prison.”  True, it deals with students in 6th through 12th grade with behavior or academic problems but its techniques for dealing with those pupils raise some serious issues.  The article focuses on one Camelot campus, Paramount Academy in Reading, Pennsylvania and some harmful actions aimed at students “Over six months in 2013 and 2014,” the story reports, “about a half-dozen parents, students and community members at Paramount Academy — billed as a ‘therapeutic’ day program — complained of abusive behavior by the school’s staff.”
The PBS NEWSHOUR program has a continuing series called “Making the Grade.”  This installment takes a look at how the voucher program in Indiana, one of the most extensive in the country is playing out.  It could offer some insights into what a national program might look like as proposed by the Trump administration.  The program in Indiana was greatly expanded under then-Governor, now Vice-President, Mike Pence.  You can watch the segment (6:38 minutes), listen to a podcast and/or read the transcript by clicking here.               Most parochial schools stand to profit from any federal plan to provide taxpayer dollars for families to send their children to private or religious schools.  However, Cheryl Binkley, on her Third Millennium Teacher blog, makes the case for why congregations should be against the Trump voucher proposal.  She’s a former teacher who now lives in Virginia and  offers 4 main reasons for her position.  “Many of the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations of the U.S. behind the scenes are welcoming,” she begins, “even promoting the idea of government vouchers and financial supports for religious based PreK-12 schools, and the reasons are fairly evident.   More money, more students, the opportunity to open their own school.”               Despite the push for vouchers from the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate, they are not a sure bet at the state level, even in Republican controlled conservative states like Arkansas.  The lower house of the state legislature recently rejected a bill, by a vote of 37 in favor to 47 opposed, that would have created educational savings accounts (aka vouchers).  The ARKANSAS NEWS provides the latest developments.  “Legislators who spoke against the bill,” it mentions, “raised concerns about accountability, fairness, the impact on public schools and implications for the future.”
Charter Schools 
The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies love to label the traditional public schools as “failing.”  Maybe it’s time to apply that label to charter schools.  An investigative item in USA TODAY finds that some charters have admirable graduation rates which they often achieve by having selective admissions policies, high expulsion rates, low numbers of ELLs and students with disabilities, strategies that counsel poor performing academic students to leave and others.  That, however, is not the focus of the article.  It looks at how charter students do at earning a degree from a college or university.  It even gives them 6 years to earn that degree.  The numbers are not easy to come by, but the author of the story believes it’s around 23%.  Interestingly, he uses the Alliance College-Ready Public (charter) Schools network as his case study.  The item is titled “Charter Schools ‘Thorny’ Problem: Few Students Go On to Earn College Degrees.”  “Like many charter school networks, the Los Angeles-based Alliance College-Ready Public Schools boast eye-popping statistics: 95% of their low-income students graduate from high school and go on to college,” it begins.  “Virtually all qualify to attend California state universities.  Its name notwithstanding, the network’s own statistics suggest that few Alliance alumni are actually ready for the realities — academic, social and financial — of college.  The vast majority drop out.  In all, more than three-fourths of Alliance alumni don’t earn a four-year college degree in the six years after they finish high school.”               Remember the collapse of the Texas-based energy titan Enron when it declared bankruptcy back in 2001?  Might there be some parallels to the charter industry?  That’s the gist of a very intriguing study by 3 education researchers featured in BUSINESS INSIDER.  “The charter-school industry — consisting of schools that are funded partly by tax dollars but run independently — is rife with the same types of fraud and mismanagement,” the report reveals, “that led to the Enron collapse.”  The article includes a link to the full report (52 pages) titled “Are Charter Schools the Second Coming of Enron?”  At the end of the article is another link to a similarly fascinating study (26 pages) titled “Are We Heading Toward a Charter School Bubble?: Lessons From the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.”               
New California School Accountability System
The old API (Academic Performance Index) with its single, standardized test based number is a relic of the past.  The California State Board of Education is rolling out its new “dashboard” accountability plan for comparing schools and districts using a number of criteria and some color coding.  A story in the March 13 L.A. Times describes how the new system came into being and how it works.  When the pilot version of the State Board’s dashboard website went live last week, “visitors [are] able to search for a school and find something called an ‘equity report’ on its page.  The report includes how a school performed on standardized tests in English and math; the progress English-language learners are making toward proficiency; suspension rates; and graduation rates, ” the article explains.  “Links let people find out more about each area, including how particular groups of students are doing.  Down the road, more information will be added, including measures of school climate and how prepared students are for college, and potentially scores on science tests.”                The California State Board of Education rolled out the new school accountability “dashboard” system (see above) on Wednesday.  An article in Thursday’s Times reports that schools seem to be fairing better under this concept than under the previous API.  “The dashboard reflects a new, more holistic approach to evaluating schools,” it points out, “one that does not see test scores as the be all and end all.  It also emphasizes progress and so heaps praise on schools that do poorly but see significant score increases from one year to the next.”  The piece explains how the new system works and has some preliminary results.  It also includes two graphs with comparisons of how students in grades 3-8 performed under the old API single-number rating and the new “dashboard” system.  The Times story includes a link to the California School DASHBOARD or you can find it by clicking here.  Select a school or 2 or an entire district and see what pops up.  [Ed. note: I checked up on the high school where I taught for 26 years and from which I retired in June, 2009 and also the LAUSD.  Hang in there.  I ran into a few glitches.]
Betsy DeVos
If you think the DeVos selection to be the U.S. Sec. of Education is a fiasco, wait until you see who she picked to be a special assistant.  It’s Robert S. Eitel, who previously worked as the chief compliance officer for a company that runs several for-profit colleges that are facing a number of federal investigations for deceptive marketing, loose accounting practices, burdening students with enormous debt and inflated job placement rates among others.  A story in The New York Times profiles Mr. Eitel whose current post does not require Senate confirmation.  [Eitel’s] new role,” it points out, “which has not been announced publicly, could bump up against federal rules involving conflicts of interest and impartiality, ethics experts said, particularly given his position as a vice president for regulatory legal services at Bridgepoint Education Inc., an operator of for-profit colleges, during federal investigations into the company.”               Prior to becoming Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos was a strong proponent of charters and vouchers.  Now that she heads the Dept. of Education she still supports those programs but also claims she’s in favor of “great public schools.”  The only problem is how she defines “public schools.”  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, takes a careful look at what she really means by that phrase.  “School choice proponents like DeVos often argue that all that matters is whether students who attend charters, online schools, and private academies do well on standardized tests and that parents are generally satisfied with these choices.  But this argument ignores the tax-paying public that deserves to know whether those outcomes are being achieved without wasting our public dollars,” he complains,  “which more often than not, they probably are.”               It’s becoming more and more necessary to fact-check some of the things Betsy DeVos says.  She recently accentuated the story of a student from India who was attending a “failing” public school when his family moved and enrolled him in a virtual charter.  He graduated which is great news although we have little idea of the quality of the education he received there.  In addition, DeVos failed to mention that less than 20% of his class graduated in 4 years.  If you add a fifth year the number only rises to 23.6%.  That would easily be considered a “failing” school by the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies like Betsy DeVos.  Mercedes Schneider on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 provides the “missing” details left out of the Sec. of Education’s cherrypicked “success” story.
The Teaching Profession
If you’ve taught for any length of time you have certainly had what would be considered to be “difficult” students.  How you handled them makes all the difference in the world as to how they remember you.  Mercedes Schneider, on her blog at deutsch29 titles her piece “Many of My Most Difficult Students End Up Loving Me.”  She’s been teaching on and off at different levels since 1991-92 .  Whether you are retired from the classroom, teaching currently or planning on entering the profession she has some sound advice to offer. When you care about these students a bond develops between you and them.  “What happens is that a trust is established and a relationship is forged.  That doesn’t mean there is no longer a need for discipline,” Schneider relates.  “What it means is that the student trusts me and understands (and even comes to value) the discipline when it must come.  These moments I consider the gems of teaching and learning.  These moments defy capture on any standardized test or school grading rubric.”
Bill Proposes Money for Teacher Housing in California
And finally, the lack of affordable housing in urban areas in California and a paucity of available housing units in rural ones are contributing factors to the teacher shortage in the state.  AB 45, introduced by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), would address those issues by allocating $100 million to school districts to help construct units for their teachers.  A brief story in Sunday’sL.A. Times describes the legislation.  
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             


Ed News, Friday, March 10, 2017 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

The “Ed News” will be taking a brief break.  Look for the next edition on Tuesday, March 21
Reminder: Daylight Saving Time officially begins at 2 am Sunday.  Turn your clocks ahead one hour.
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 Next Friday is St. Patrick’s Day.
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And Spring begins at 6:29 am on Monday, March 20.
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And now to the news.
“We must master many subjects in order to implement our dreams.
Our personal journey begins by gathering appropriate learning experiences 
and awakening our minds to observe, evaluate, and recall what we experience.” 

― Kilroy J. OldsterDead Toad Scrolls*

LAUSD School Board Election Results
Two of the 3 critical LAUSD school board races will head to run-offs after first round voting took place on Tuesday.  Board Pres. Steve Zimmer will square off with charter proponent Nick Melvoin in District 4.  Pro-charter incumbent Monica Garcia won outright in District 2 and a run-off will be required to determine the winner for the open seat in District 6.  Charter-backed Kelly Gonez drew the most votes but was well short of the 50% + 1 vote needed to take the seat.  The L.A. City general election will take place on Tuesday, May 9.  An item posted on the L.A. TimesWednesday morning has the unofficial results.  “Tuesday’s races,” it notes, “marked the latest battle between supporters of charter schools and those allied with the teachers union.  Those two factions spent millions of dollars on outside campaigns that dominated the election.” You can find all the Semi-Final Official election results on the County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk website by clicking here.               If charter proponents in the two remaining races (see above) prevail over teachers union backed candidates in the May 9 general election they will have a 4-3 advantage and a majority on the LAUSD board for the first time.  What does that bode for the future of charters in the district? Continued expansion?  Less oversight/accountability?  A front-page story in yesterday’s L.A. Times assesses what’s possibly in store in the next couple of years for the LAUSD which already has the most charter campuses and students in charters than any other district in the nation.  “But the charter vs. union controversy has become a kind of shorthand for each side’s hopes for L.A. Unified’s future, often obscuring other issues.  Both sides say they also see the local contests,” it suggests, “as a leading indicator of how California’s education landscape could shift. . . .  Both sides are likely to pour more than a million more dollars into the most expensive school board elections in the country.”  The March races were pretty nasty battles.  For the 2 remaining contents in May, both sides will undoubtedly take the gloves off.
Vouchers and School Choice 
A federal government voucher program will divert taxpayer dollars to provide tuition for students to attend private and religious schools.  Because it is a federal program it adds to the deficit.  The Trump administration is likely to stay away from the term “voucher” for just that reason and instead propose a “tax credit scholarship program.”  What does that mean and how does is work?  An article inThe New York Times provides some answers and focuses on a plan in Arizona where one private investor is making lots of money on the deal.  “State tax credit voucher programs have grown rapidly in recent years.  The number of students receiving them increased to 256,000 this year, from about 50,000 in 2005.  Arizona has one of the oldest and largest programs.  It allows taxpayers who donate money to nonprofit voucher-granting organizations,” it explains, “to claim a 100%, dollar-for-dollar credit against their state taxes (up to a certain limit).  In other words, if a married couple donates $1,000 to a voucher-granting nonprofit, their tax bill is reduced by $1,000.  The nonprofit then gives the money to families who use it to pay tuition at private schools.”  The money that is donated is no longer taxed and that adds to the deficit because it is no longer collected as revenue.  Pretty neat, huh?                John Kuhn is superintendent of a district in Texas and a long-time advocate for traditional public schools.  He recently delivered a speech to the Association of Texas Professional Educators during their Legislative Action Weekend.  His topics: “Vouchers Serve Adults at Childen’s Expense.”  His remarks appear on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog.  “The voucher movement is about money and adult interests.  It isn’t about children.  It’s not even mostly about parents who want a discount on their private school tuition; it’s mostly about the interests of other adults, very wealthy adults.  It’s about the interests of tycoons and political players,”  he complains in his talk, “who are funding school voucher campaigns across our state and nation not because they want to improve schools, but because they want to engineer a cheaper education so their property taxes will go down.  They want to hobble teachers’ unions and reduce wages and benefits.  And on top of cheapening a system that already has one of the lowest levels of per pupil spending in the nation, Texas privatizers also want to make money on the back end, they want a piece of the education pie, which billionaire school choice advocate Rupert Murdoch said was a $500 billion dollar industry just waiting to be ‘transformed.’  He meant to say hijacked.”               We all pretty much know what school “choice” means to the corporate “reformers” and their political allies: charters, vouchers, private and religious schools, no teachers unions, more emphasis on student test scores for evaluating teachers, etc., etc.  What does school “choice” look like from the point-of-view of a public school classroom teacher?  Good question.  Glad you asked.  Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, invites Sarah Yost, a veteran National Board-certified teacher of English Language Arts who is currently working at a middle school in Kentucky, to share her experiences about how school “choice” is impacting her state.               Is the idea of “school choice” just another term for the “segregation academies” that sprouted up around the South in the wake of theBrown v Board of Education decision in 1954?  If certain types of people don’t want their kids attending school with children of a different  group, they’ll just start their own elite, exclusive campuses.  Is that racist solution from the past simply repeating itself today?  That explosive charge is examined by Jennifer Berkshire on her HAVE YOU HEARD blog.  She travels to Arkansas as the first stop on her “school choice tour” to check out what’s going on.  She quickly discovers that the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart fame) is pushing a bill in the state legislature that would achieve two main goals from the corporate “reform” agenda.  “The Waltons are backing a controversial bill,” she asserts, “that combines two new school choice faves—1) ‘tax credit scholarships’ that would let well-heeled Arkansans and corporations claim hefty state and federal tax deductions for donating to a nonprofit, which then disperses funds to choice-seeking parents in the form of 2) an education savings account, which lets parents pay for private school tuition using a ‘backpack full of cash.’   So what’s changed?  Not the number of private schools.  Arkansas has just 230 of them, and that’s before you cross off the schools that charge well in excess of the $6K voucher amount.  And not the legacy of racism that gave rise to many of these schools in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The LA WEEKLY chronicles the continuing enrollment declines in the LAUSD.  Those numbers cannot be blamed totally on the expansion of charter schools in the district.  The LAUSD has the largest number of charter schools serving the largest number of students of any district in the U.S.  “The district’s enrollment, which peaked in 2004 at just under 750,000, began to drop.  Some of the loss was to independent charters,” the piece suggests, “a growing trend that would soon amount to a veritable exodus of students.  But the total number of kids being served by both the district and charters also was dropping.  The reason was simple:  People are having fewer children. They’re also having them later in life — and they’re often leaving L.A. once they do.”
Transgender Rights
An editorial in Wednesday’s L.A. Times was disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a case dealing with a transgender teen’s desire to use the bathroom of his choice.  The  justices had scheduled oral arguments on the issue this month after which the Trump administration withdrew the previous guidelines promulgated by the Obama administration.  The Times labeled the court’s decision “a mistake.”  “The justices should have heard the case anyway,” the editorial suggests, “as both sides of the case had urged.  Then it should have ruled that, under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits schools and colleges from engaging in discrimination ‘on the basis of sex,’ the school must allow him to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity — even if that identity is different than the one on his birth certificate.”
It’s Testing Season
As the testing season commences, one way schools and districts are trying to counteract the opt-out movement is by providing incentives (bribes?) to students who take the standardized exams.  Valerie Strauss, in her column for The Washington Post, describes some of the latest attempts to boost student participation in the annual assessments.  She zeroes in on one elementary school in Colorado and how they are enticing students to engage in the testing program.  “Other schools are also offering incentives in Colorado,” Strauss relates, “one of the states with the largest opt-out movements.  New York has had the most opt-outs, with at least 20 percent of students statewide refusing to take accountability tests for the past few years, and officials expecting big numbers again this year.”
Corporate “Reform”
Are the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies helping to re-segregate the nation’s schools by creating a two-tier system of education?  That’s the issue raised by Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog.  He visits Chicago to illustrate his point.  As an aside, he singles out Walter Payton College Prep High School, one of the city’s most desired selective enrollment campuses, which Vicki Abeles features in her book “Beyond Measure” (the next title to be discussed by the ALOED Book Club on March 25).  “The news out of Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel has autocratic power over the public schools,” Klonsky writes, “is that the city’s selective-enrollment high schools have become even more exclusive. In 2009 the Chicago deseg consent decree was liquidated by a federal judge with support from Arne Duncan and selective-enrollment and charters have dropped all pretense of being about racial equality.”               The corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their political allies would love the public to drink the Kool-Aid that says the “failing” public schools can’t be fixed and the only answer is “school choice”, i.e., charters, private and religious schools and vouchers.  Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, thinks he’s found a traditional public school system that works and could be used as a model for others to emulate.  The surprising (gratifying?) thing is, it’s right in our backyard.  The district he holds up as the exemplar?  Surprise, surprise . . . . Long Beach Unified.  “Educators I met up and down the ranks of LBUSD refer to ‘The Long Beach Way’ as a culture of continuous improvement that begins with a respect for teachers and a belief that internal accountability – rather than top-down mandates – is what drives meaningful change,” Bryant reveals.  “The Long Beach Way, I learned, is a relentless devotion to the process of ‘doing school’ that puts the essentials of good education – curriculum and instruction and an intense devotion to the well-being of students – at the heart of the work rather than technocratic changes meant to solve problems quickly or disrupt the system.  And while the district has certain ‘non-negotiables,’ real progress is expected to come from the bottom up through collaboration and team work rather than demands and compliance.”  He goes into detail about what he found to be laudable with what Long Beach is doing.  In the article former California Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig tells Bryant why he thinks any school district can replicate what LBUSD has accomplished.  In closing, Bryant promises to continue reporting on other districts that are having similar successes as Long Beach and what, exactly, they are doing right.  Stay tuned!
“A Day Without a Woman” Impacts Schools
Wednesday’s “A Day Without a Woman” protests worldwide could have a serious impact on schools around the world.  Women were urged to stay home from work, avoid shopping and wear red in honor of International Women’s Day.  A story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times looked ahead to the action and the effect it could have on schools.  “Schools may feel some of the biggest effects.  Roughly three-quarters of U.S. teachers are women,” it points out, “according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  Two school districts in North Carolina and Virginia have canceled classes, telling about 27,000 students to stay home because not enough teachers and staff plan to show up for work.  In Alexandria, Va., 16 public schools will be closed after 300 members — or more than 20% — of the teaching staff requested the day off.”
Federal Education Dollars Could Be Slashed
When Pres. Trump addressed a joint session of Congress last week, he proposed major increases in military spending and significant tax cuts without corresponding revenue increases.  That’s a guaranteed formula for a huge increase in the federal deficit, something Republicans used to be loathe to do.  In order to pay for his 2 major initiatives, Trump will have to reduce spending for discretionary programs like EDUCATION.  Therefore, K-12 budget planners are looking at serious reductions in federal dollars.  EDUCATION WEEK takes a look at this critical issue at a time when districts are formulating their budgets for the next school year.  “A spokesman for the Education Department, Matt Frendewey, said last week that his department was still waiting on more details about how Trump’s plan would affect K-12.  But advocates for relatively limited federal spending on education,” it mentions, “are encouraged by the early signal from the Trump administration.”
The Public School System in Jeopardy
Renowned education psychologist, prolific author and former dean of the School of Education at Arizona State David C. Berliner takes a nuanced look at some valuable education numbers and statistics to get a clearer picture of the state of our traditional public schools today.  He does so in the hope of clearing up some misconceptions being peddled by the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and certain news outlets.  He addresses the fallacy of our “failing” public schools and what needs to be done to “fix” them on the Equity Alliance Blog.  “In the US, wealthy children attending public schools that serve the wealthy are competitive with any nation in the world.  Since that is the case why would anyone think our public schools are failing?   When compared to other nations some of our students and some of our public schools are not doing well,” Berliner asserts.  “But having ‘some’ failures is quite a different claim than one indicting our entire public school system.”  Berliner offers some concrete suggestions for correcting some of the problems plaguing our public schools.               Linda Darling-Hammond, writing for THE Nation, wonders if the traditional public school system, as we know it, can survive the assault on it from the Trump/Pence/DeVos triumvirate along with the corporate “reformers” and privatizers.  Her piece is titled “Education for Sale?  School Choice and the Future of American Education.” “Clearly, the issues surrounding school choice are more complex than the typical pro-charter/anti-charter battle lines might suggest,” Darling-Hammond explains. The central question for a public-education system in a democratic society is not whether school options should exist, but whether high-quality schools are available to all children.  The fact that choice doesn’t guarantee quality should be clear each time we flick through 500 cable-TV channels without finding a single good viewing option.  In public education, this kind of choice is not an acceptable outcome.”  “The article is well worth reading,” Diane Ravitch acknowledges. “It contains useful data.”               Along the same lines, Alex Molnar, Research Professor and Publications Director, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado Boulder, looks at how the conservative movement may achieve 2 important goals as part of their overall ideology–make lots of money and eliminate the traditional public school system.  “After the U.S. Constitution had been drafted, Benjamin Franklin commented that the framers had given Americans a republic, ‘if you can keep it.’   The founders also provided the nation with a deeply democratic ideal of public education,” he recounts.  “We’re not likely to keep it.  In the next decade the distinction between public and private will likely continue to blur, and ever more public tax dollars will be syphoned into private coffers.  Public schools will limp along, underfunded and struggling to educate ever larger numbers of students with needs too great to be profitable.  Vast amounts of student data will be collected, sliced, diced, and sold for private gain again and again.  Technology, marketing, and finance will fill the pockets of a tiny minority, and their well-paid retainers and experts will continue to obscure this reality.”               The nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of updating or replacing.  That goes for school buildings and their facilities as well.  The American Society of Civil Engineers, in assessing the state of the nation’s overall infrastructure, gave a D+ grade to the schools according to a story in the “District Dossier” column for EDUCATION WEEK which includes a link to the Engineers’ report (3 pages).  It closely mirrors similar findings about the schools issued last year by the 21st Century School Fund.  “A D grade means that buildings are in fair to poor condition,” the article reports, “with many elements nearing the end of their useful life and showing significant deterioration, according to the report.”
How Are States Dealing With the ESSA?
The Every Student Succeeds Act was passed and signed into law in Dec., 2015.  Based on that law, the states are facing two early deadlines this year on April 3, and Sept. 18, regarding accountability, assessment, monitoring and support.  How are the individual states dealing with the new legislation in general and the approaching deadlines in particular?  EDUCATION WEEK investigates and finds some states in better shape than others to implement ESSA.  “Uncertainty surrounds what lies ahead for education under the Trump administration, but one thing is for sure: The Every Student Succeeds Act will be fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year,” it begins, “devolving more decisionmaking authority to the states.”
Interview With Michelle Rhee
Jennifer Berkshire, on her HAVE YOU HEARD blog, and Jack Schneider, author and assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross, host a Q & A with Michelle Rhee on the topics of value-added models, rating teachers, her tenure as Chancellor of the Washington, D.C., schools, founder of the advocacy group StudentsFirst, the future of education in the Trump era and others.    You can listen to the podcast (35:45 minutes) and/or read the transcript by clicking here.

Teacher Preparation Rules Blocked
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to block Obama administration rules that would have required teacher preparation programs be rated by student test scores, according to an item in the “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “The Education Department finalized the rules after a lengthy process [late last year], and changed how colleges and universities must judge the effectiveness of their programs that prepare teachers for classrooms.  Among other things,” it notes, “these rules would require programs to include data on how many of their graduates get jobs in high-needs schools, how long their graduates stay in the teaching profession, and their impact on student-learning outcomes.”
Congress not only derailed Obama’s rules on teacher preparation programs (see above) but also dialed back on a number of other guidelines related to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The New York Times describes some of the actions taken and how they will impact future education policies.  “It is customary for federal agencies to issue detailed regulations on how new laws should be put into effect, and Mr. Obama’s Department of Education did so in November.  But some lawmakers from both parties saw the regulations as unusually aggressive and far-reaching,” it spells out, “and said they could subvert ESSA’s intent of re-establishing local control over education and decreasing the emphasis on testing.  Last month, the House of Representatives overturned a broad swath of the rules using the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to spike federal regulations.  The Senate passed a similar resolution on Thursday, and President Trump has indicated that he will sign it.  That would leave ESSA on the books, but Ms. DeVos would have more flexibility in how to apply it.”
The Teaching Profession
What to do when those unexpected intrusions cause you to lose valuable instruction time?  Starr Sackstein is National Board-certified and an English and journalism teacher in New York City.  Her “Tips for Capitalizing on Lost Instructional Time” appears on the “Work in Progress” column for EDUCATION WEEK.  “Every student wants to learn, but sometimes the temptation to mess around becomes too great,” she writes, “especially when an unfamiliar substitute is in front of the room.  If we can create an atmosphere that demand and challenges students to engage, they will rise to the occasion, at least most of them will.  So much of what we do depends on the groundwork we lay on a regular basis.  What we value becomes evident, perhaps more so in our absence.”  Sackstein offers 7 suggestions for dealing with those times when you are not able to meet your students personally.              Starr Sackstein is at it again forED WEEK (see above).  This time she addresses the idea that the traditional report card is outdated.  The infrequent A-F or numerical rating with the possible inclusion of a few canned comments is not an effective way to communicate information in our highly technological age.  She provides 9 ideas on how to improve student evaluation for all involved, i.e., students, parents and teachers.  “The idea of what report cards are and what they actually do is fatally flawed from the beginning,” she complains.  “Communication about learning needs to be ongoing in a meaningful way and paper report cards being mailed home or sent home with students or uploaded onto an online portal as a PDF a few times a year just doesn’t cut it.  Aside from the infrequency of sharing, the content shared is often out of date and/or not a good representation of what students know and can do.”               Are you currently a retired educator?  [Ed. note: My answer is “yes.”  I retired in 2009 after 37 years as a Social Studies teacher with the LAUSD.]  Are you planning to retire soon?  Will you eventually retire from teaching?  If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, a article from The New York Times takes a look at the state of various state teacher pension plans and the picture is NOT encouraging.  It features a report from the Urban Institute that graded each state’s plan on an A-F scale using several criteria.  “No states got an A,” the story lists, “and only six states received a B: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, New York, Oregon and Wyoming. Most states — 33 — received a C, while six got a D. The last six — Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio and Rhode Island — each received an F.”  California got a . . . .  It’s too depressing to print.  Check out the map that accompanies the piece for the answer.  There are several other graphs and charts laying out the teacher pension situation nationally and state-by-state.  You can peruse the full study from the Urban Institute titled “The State of Retirement: Grading America’s Public Pension Plans” by clicking here.  Under the section headed “Filter Plans by Occupation,” click on the box marked “Teachers.”  Either click on the state from the map or select from the boxes with the state names for detailed information about individual state pension plans.              As the Trump administration continues to crack down on immigrants to this country, LGBTQ people and other groups, guess who is on the front lines in trying to protect students and their families?  You guessed it!  Teachers!!!  THE Nation has a story detailing how teachers will be one of the first lines of defense in protecting illegal immigrants, trans students and other who have been threatened with unfair treatment.  The article is titled “Teachers Will Be a Formidable Force Against Trump.”  It looks at some recent protest marches in New York spearheaded by teachers.  “New York schools have historically been seedbeds of political dissent, but under the Trump administration, the classroom atmosphere has been more charged than ever,”the piece relates.  “Kids wonder if Homeland Security will snatch up their parents at home while they’re in school.  And teachers might take a little more care to make sure their trans student can use the right bathroom without getting bullied.”               Here’s an intriguing idea for dealing with the teacher shortage in California.  2 state senators have introduced SB 807 which would give veteran teachers an exemption from paying state income taxes for 10 years, in essence giving them a 4-6% pay increase and hopefully attracting more people into the field.  The nonprofit group EdVoice is behind the drive to get the legislation passed and into law.  It also includes tax credits to assist new teachers entering the profession to defray some of the costs of earning a credential.  The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a Q & A about the bill with Bill Lucia, President and CEO of EdVoice.  In response to a question about whether anything like this has or is being done in other states, Lucia replies: “This would be novel.  While some states don’t have any income tax, we would be the only state in the nation to have exemptions for teachers.  Some states have explored tax credits to help teachers pay for supplies in their classrooms,” he continues.  “In California, the training costs that teachers can incur, depending on the district, can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.  We don’t know of any proposal like this that has gotten as far as people in the governor’s office weighing whether to suggest a veto.”
*Kilroy J. Oldster is an accomplished trial attorney, arbitrator, and mediator. His litigation practice encompasses both criminal and civil cases including personal injury, professional negligence, business disputes, and domestic relations.

Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             

Ed News, Tuesday, March 7, 2017 Edition


 A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

“Museum education has the power and the responsibility to do the challenging inner work 
of tackling tough topics and turning them into teachable moments.”
Some Childrens’ Books About Protest and Activism
With so many anti-Trump protests and a few pro-Trump ones taking place in this country and even around the world, I couldn’t pass up this item.  The geek MOM website has an annotated list of “13 Books to Teach Children About Protesting and Activism.”  You might want to use these in your classroom or for your own kids or grand children or share it with a friend or colleague or at the next faculty meeting.  The “Ed News” is a blog of timely educational news so the article certainly fits the bill.  Here’s the first one from the list:  “The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. The crayons are fed up, and they’re going to let Duncan know exactly why.  Show kids the power of letter writing, how a strike can help you fight for your rights, and the power of listening when you’re in charge.”

Cartoon of the Day
Tom Toles | Just what are they teaching our kids in school these days??
Just what are they teaching our kids in school these days??
The Teaching Profession
A recent edition of the “Ed News” highlighted, once again, the suggestion that the school day start after 8:30 in the morning for middle and high school students.  What about restructuring the traditional school day for teachers?  Interesting concept.  What changes would be made?  A story on the “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK features a new report that offers some ideas.  It suggests that teaches be given more time to collaborate with colleagues, plan lessons and just reflect on best practices “The authors of ‘Reimagining the School Day’ point out that U.S. educators spend far more time teaching lessons and less time planning them than educators in other top-performing countries.  In a typical work week,” the article mentions, “U.S. teachers spend about 27 hours delivering lessons, compared with their counterparts in Singapore, who teach 17 hours each week, or to teachers in Finland, who log 21 hours a week.”  The ED WEEK item includes a link to the full report from the Center for American Progress or you can download it as a PDF file (15 pages).               How do mothers, fathers, husbands and wives of teachers feel about what their loved ones do and the criticisms aimed at them about being “lazy,” uncaring about students and overpaid (“you only work 6 hours a day and 9 months out of the year”).  The BATs (Badass Teachers Association) have an essay on their website from a family member of a hardworking teacher.  The sentiments she expresses could apply to most dedicated educators.  “When you are the mother of a teacher you will get to listen to people criticize public school teachers without a second thought.  They will demonize them as lazy leeches,” this mom writes, “who teach for the money and not because they care about the future of their students. (Because we all know they make soooomuch)”
John Deasy is BAAAACK, Unfortunately!
Former LAUSD Supt. John Deasy is back and critics of his poor performance as head of the district are pained at how often he resurfaces.  He left under a cloud of suspicion in Oct., 2014,based on his involvement in the “iPad-for-all” program and the disastrous roll out of a new student information system among other things.    Billionaire philanthropist and charter proponent Eli Broad quickly hired the discredited former chief of the nation’s second largest school district.  And now, like a cat with 9 lives, Deasy is collecting a hefty check from a group called Frontline Education to be the editor-in-chief of their brand new website called “The Line.”  Peter Greene takes his usual irreverent look at the new publication on his CURMUDGUCATION blog.  He reviews some of the first articles on the website and adds his often acerbic comments.  “We’ve wondered for a few years what would happen to reformsters when they approached the autumn of their careers,” Greene wraps up.   “Apparently at least part of the answer is that they get together on websites where they play their greatest hits, like over-aged rock bands traveling the county fair circuit.
Guns in Schools
During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to end gun-free school zones.  If and when he gets to that pledge, he will be in for a fight, especially from educators who will bear the burden of dealing with guns in their schools if he is successful.  Friday’s “Ed News” had a commentary about why allowing guns in schools is a bad idea.  EDUCATION WEEK has a topical piece titled “Educators Join New Fight to Block Guns in Schools.”  It focuses on one teacher who survived the nation’s deadliest school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, a little over 4 years ago and an administrator who was wounded by a student gunman over 30 years ago at a high school in Montana.  “The federal law prohibits carrying or discharging guns within 1,000 feet of public or private school grounds,” the article points out, “unless a person is specifically authorized to do so by a state.”
The Trump Administration and Education
Mike Pence is the vice president of the U.S.  He joins the Trump/DeVos team and this triumvirate can do some serious damage to the traditional public school system in this country. 
Previous editions of the “Ed News’ have detailed what Pence did to schools in Indiana when he was governor of that state and whatDeVos did to education in her home state of Michigan.  Now that the 3 are firmly ensconced in their respective offices, what can we expect in the way of future education policies?  One good way to predict is to look back at what they’ve fashioned in their home states.  Diane Ravitch’s blog prints a comment from a retired educator in Indiana describing what Pence did to education in the Hoosier State.  Warning: it’s not a pretty picture if you’re a fan of traditional public schools.               Pres. Trump’s proposal to divert $20 billion of federal funds into a voucher program, he is calling it a tax credit scholarship plan, will need Congressional approval.  It is likely to face resistance from some members of the House and Senate education committees.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEKexplores 2 other scenarios for how the Trump administration might get the plan through Congress and to his desk for a signature.               Why are Pres. Trump and Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos so enamored of how school “choice” is being implemented in Florida?  Kristina Rizga, writing in Mother Jones, explains why the Sunshine state has become “the new darling” of the corporate “reformers,”privatizers and their political allies in the Trump administration.  So what is it about Florida?  For starters,” she relates, “the state offers many different types of school choice, including charter schools, vouchers for lowincome students and those with disabilities, and tax credit scholarships.”  Rizga also chronicles how Florida has been able to get around those pesky state constitutionalamendments that prohibit the spending of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools (see Mercedes Schneider’s piece about Blaine Amendments in the “Charters and Vouchers” section below.)
LAUSD School Board Races
Ahead of 3 critical LAUSD school board races that voters were deciding on today, a story in Sunday’s L.A. Times lays out the implications for the ongoing battle for control of the board between pro-charter and pro-traditional school candidates.  If the 3 contested seats are won or retained by charter proponents that would leave them with a majority of the 7-member board.  “On Tuesday, charter school supporters have their best chance yet,” the item begins, “to tip the scales and win a controlling majority on the Los Angeles Board of Education.  Three of the seven seats are up for grabs, and charter backers have strong candidates, seemingly unlimited financial resources — with major help from former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan — and the enthusiastic support of a growing number of charter-school families.”               Jennifer Berkshire, who used to write the blog “EduShyster” and is now working under the Have YOU HEARD moniker, profiles Lisa Alva, one of the dark horses in the LAUSD school board election to unseat the charter advocate and pro-reform incumbent Monica Garcia in District 2, which covers downtown, East L.A. and surrounding neighborhoods.  Alva once considered herself a member of the corporate “reformers” and privatizers but underwent a change of heart and now supports the traditional public schools where she currently teaches.  “Alva is feeling cautiously optimistic.  She’s buoyed by the support of neighborhood associations that,” Berkshire writes, “understand the vital connection between public schools and, well, neighborhoods.  And she’s encouraged by endorsements from progressive democratic groups and the Network for Public Education.  ‘I’m the only teacher in the race,’ Alva points out. She’s also the only candidate who is pledging to be the ‘voice of the voiceless.’  In a season of election surprises, here’s hoping for one of the good kind.”
Charters and Vouchers
An extensive, front-page investigative article in yesterday’s L.A. Times looks into the financial dealings of the Celerity Education Group, a network of 7 charter campuses in Los Angeles and 3 other states, and its founder and CEO Vielka McFarlane.  It found a disturbing pattern of questionable spending and conflicts of interest.  “At a time when charter school advocates are determined to increase the number of such schools in L.A., the story of McFarlane and the Celerity schools offers a case study of the growing difficulty of regulating them.  The task of spotting and stamping out risky financial practices in charters,” it reveals, “largely falls to the school district’s charter schools division, which employs about a dozen people dedicated to monitoring the schools’ fiscal health.”               Mercedes Schneider provides a valuable history lesson on her “EduBlog” at deutsch29 related to the “Blaine Amendments” in most state constitutions and how they impact voucher proposals.  What are they?  They are named after Sen James G. Blaine of Maine and refer to laws that prohibit the spending of public tax dollars in support of private and/or religious schools?  They came about during the last quarter of the 19th century and could be crucial as the Trump/Pence?DeVos triumvirate attempt to push their voucher program at the federal level.  I’ll leave it to Schneider to sort all this out for you.  She’s does an excellent job, as always.  “To date, it seems that 37 or 38 states have some sort of Blaine amendment.  These two figures are cited repeatedly in various sources that I have read,” she indicates, “including those in this post.  However, I could not locate a comprehensive listing in any document that did not require purchase.”  [Ed. note: California has it’s version of the Blaine Amendment–I checked.  See Art. IX, Section 8, and Art. XVI, Sec. 5 of the state constitution.]               How is the voucher program doing in Louisiana?  The Louisiana Dept. of Education publicized the most recent scores of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (aka vouchers) at the end of February.  The verdict?  A “D” grade based on the comparable public school report card scores.  Not very encouraging.  A story in The New Orleans Times-Picayune, bluntly titled “Louisiana School Voucher Program Earns a D for 2016,” has the depressing details (especially if you’re a voucher advocate.  I wonder if the Trump/Pence/DeVos team are watching?)  Interestingly, the scores were delayed by about 3 months and were not made public until the deadline for parents to sign up for a voucher.  I wonder why parents weren’t provided with that vital piece of information while they were deciding to apply for a voucher?  You’re guess is as good as mine!  [Tulane University researcher Doug] Harris’ team at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans published a study last year,” the article points out, “showing students actually backslid when they took vouchers, ‘moving to worse schools’ than the public schools they left.  He is currently working on an update.”  Can anyone explain to me why vouchers are a good idea?               Is there a middle ground in the battle between charters and. traditional public schools?  That’s the premise of a sure to spark debate commentary in EDUCATION WEEK titled “How to End the Charter Schools War.”  It’s written by Ron Wolk, founding editor of ED WEEK and a board member of Big Picture Learning, a network of over 100 charter campuses in the U.S. and worldwide, including 11 in California, that promote student-centered learning that downplays standardized test scores.  “Our country needs a centrist solution—a strategy that addresses the concerns of both camps and recognizes that there is truth on both sides of the debate,” he contends.  “That strategy should reinforce the original purpose of charter schools as expressed by dozens of state charter laws: To create schools that become vanguards, laboratories, and an expression of the ongoing and vital state interest in the improvement of public education.  With the charter expansion of the 2000s, however, that worthy goal was often ignored.”   Wolk presents some interesting ideas.  I don’t agree with everything he says but it may be worth a look. Both sides seem to be getting further entrenched with their respective arguments and despite what many of you may think, I’m not totally against charters.  However, I go back to their original intent as laid out by Albert Shanker in the late 1980s, and repeated by Wolk in his quote above, which would allow public schools to innovate new ideas for delivering quality educations to all students and become laboratories for teaching others how to do this.  That vision has been severely eroded by the corporate “reformers,’ privatizers and their allies, again see Wolk’s quote above, who I do rail against and will continue to do so.  Their goal is to destroy public education as we know it in the name of profit and greed!               Why is there a seemingly fight to the death between charters and the traditional public schools?  It could be because they are involved in a zero sum game.  There are only so many students and taxpayer dollars available.  When one sides wins, the other loses.  That’s the premise of a piece from Sara Roos, aka the redqueeninla titled “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”  “While it’s possible for both entities to tolerate one another, it’s not possible for their existence not to impact the other,” she argues.  “That’s where the fallacy lies.  Folks who wonder ingenuously why we can’t all ‘just get along’, seem not to understand the pernicious consequences of charter schools on the totality of a public education system. The underlying game-plan of charters is to rarefy its pupil-population, by hook or by crook.  Sometimes in the past, this has been done illegally through fixing lotteries or selections processes.”                  What might the effect be on school districts around the country if the Trump/Pence/DeVos team successfully get afederal voucher program passed into law?  A new study from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, featured in the “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK, paints a rather bleak picture for up to 85% of school districts in the U.S.  Smaller districts in predominantly rural states would be especially hard hit.  In the report they are referred to as “sparse” districts or ones with 4 or fewer schools.  They would be the least able to adjust to even a small number of their students leaving in order to utilize federal vouchers that allowed them to attend private or parochial campuses.  The article includes a link to the full report titled “Vouchers Are Not a Viable Solution for Vast Swaths of America.”  The ED WEEK article illustrates as a case study from the report a rural district in Wyoming with 650 students enrolled in its one elementary school, one middle school and one high school and the impact vouchers would have on the viability of the original district.                You know what the 3 Rs are.  What about the 3 Rs as they relate to vouchers?  Russ Walsh, on his Russ on Reading blog, titles his essay unsparingly: “School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist and the Religious Right.”  He includes a brief history of vouchers and a list of statements about them with links to the research and writings that support the statements.  “Our new Secretary of Education, BetsyDeVos, is rich, white, and a proselytizing supporter of the Christian religious right.  DeVos is also an outspoken champion of school vouchers.  These two things are not coincidences,” he suggests.  “While voucher proponents will tell you, and some may even believe, that their push for vouchers is a push to make sure all children have the opportunity to get a great education, the real benefactors of school vouchers are the rich, the white and the religious right.”               
Supreme Court Will Not Hear Transgender School Bathroom Case
In a brief order yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a case concerning a transgender student’s wish to use the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school.  The high court had scheduled arguments in the case for this month but changed its mind given the Trump administration’s reversal of Pres. Obama’s guidelines on the subject.  A story in The New York Times has the details about the court’s recent action.  “The Department of Education said in 2015 that schools ‘generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.’  Last year,” it reports, “the department went further, saying that schools could lose federal money if they discriminated against transgender students.  The Trump administration withdrew that guidance last month.”
LAUSD Expands Dual-Language Program for Preschoolers
The very successful and highly popular LAUSD dual-language program is being expanded for its youngest pupils.  The “Education Matters” column in yesterday’s L.A. Times describes how the classes work in one classroom at Grand View Elementary School in Mar Vista.  “Research has shown that bilingualism has a wide range of benefits in children,” it mentions, “helping their communication skills and giving them an edge over monolingual peers in their ability to focus and process information.  These benefits can start as early as a baby’s first year, and children are likely to have a better mastery of a language the younger they start learning it.”
SomeDam Poet Rhymes Again
Diane Ravitch’s blog once again features some verse from SomeDam Poet.  This time the title is “The Good Old Days.”  Here are the first 4 lines:
Don’t you miss the good old days?
The days of school deforming ways?
When Arne ruled with iron hand
With Common Core and test and VAM?

Check out the rest. It’s very short.

School Accountability System
California scrapped its old single number API (Academic Performance Index) as a way of holding schools accountable and rolled out a much more complex, and some would say, confusing “dashboard” system of pie charts and text that rates school are a number of criteria.  An extended editorial in yesterday’s L.A. Times lauds the State Board of Education for making changes to the old, outmoded system but thinks it still needs some tweaks to make it more understandable.  An L.A. group called Parent Revolution, a pro-choice organization that likes to use the parent-trigger law to turn under funded and poorly supported schools over to charters, has offered a couple of suggestions for improving the new school accountability plan.  The Times describes what Parent Revolution is proposing and thinks it should be adopted by the State Board.  “At this point California has spent years without an accountability system at all,” the editorial reminds, “while it shifted to a new testing system based on the Common Core curriculum standards and got busy fashioning this new dashboard. The resulting charts are supposed to provide information about everything from school culture to how well prepared students are to go on to college or decent jobs.”
The Myth of “Failing” Public Schools
And finally, ever wonder why the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies are constantly talking about the “failing” public school system?  I refuse to refer to traditional public schools in that way.  I would rather everyone adopt the descriptors  “underfunded” and “poorly supported,” which is much closer to reality.  Paul Thomas, Professor of Education at Furman University, taught English at a rural high school in South Carolina for almost 20 years.  He used to blog under the “Becoming Radical” website but recently changed the name to radical eyes for equity. [Ed. note: Anyone notice that several of my favorite bloggers have recently changed the names of their websites?  Am I missing something?  Do I need to join the trend?  But I digress!]  Furman believes the idea of “failing” public schools is really a “selffulfilling prophesy” which just so happens to be part of his title.  He references the Ron Wolk article in ED WEEK (Furman refers to that publication as “the queen of misinforming edujournalism.”) that I highlighted in the “Charters and Vouchers”section above.  “Edujournalism,” Furman complains, “has been for decades a harbinger of the current threats to democracy posed by, not fake news, but post-truth journalism, the sort of enduring but false claims that drive mainstream media and remain unchecked by the public.”
*MONICA O. MONTGOMERY is a cultural entrepreneur, who curates unique and interactive museum exhibitions that pop up in non-traditional and traditional venues. Monica believes museums should be in service to society. She is the founding director of the Museum of Impact the world’s first mobile social justice museum.
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             


Ed News, Friday, March 3, 2017 Edition


A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues

Tuesday is the Consolidated Municipal and Special Election date for L.A. County.  Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm.  Be sure to vote if you are registered and have not already cast your ballot.
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And now to the news.

“I don’t teach. I just show them why to learn, what to learn, 
how to learn, and the ultimate purpose of learning.” 

― Debasish Mridha

UTLA President Re-elected
Bargaining unit members of United Teachers Los Angeles overwhelmingly returned Pres. Alex Caputo-Pearl to office for a second 3-year term.  He received over 82% of the votes cast according to a story in Wednesday’s L.A. Times.  A little over a quarter of the membership returned ballots.  For preliminary UTLA election results see Tuesday’s “Ed News.” “Caputo-Pearl will have little time to savor his victory because the union is locked in another election struggle, over three of seven board seats on the L.A. Board of Education. The union and affiliated unions,” the article reports, “are expected to spend well over $1 million to retain a board that is generally pro-union.  Supporters of charter schools are expected to pay even more to try to tip the balance.”
LAUSD School Board Races
The redqueeninla blog returns to reporting on the exorbitant amounts of outside money being poured into the 3 LAUSD school board races on Tuesday by the pro-charter corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies.  A big chunk of the money is aimed at defeating incumbent board president Steve Zimmer in District 4 that stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley.  The redqueen lists some of the billionaires by name and who specifically they are contributing to.  “Sure our public school system has problems, but all is not unremitting disaster and there’s still a process intact for ordinary citizens to claw their way toward collective improvement.  The moment we remove public transparency, accountability and control of our children’s education and our nation’s future,” the author cautions, “is the moment we sell our democracy downriver to plutocratic ‘special interests.’  That’s the future Zimmer’s opposition connives to establish.  A public Education sector privatized for corporate ends.  It’s no future for our children and it’s no future for our democracy either. . . .  The stakes are that stark.”  [Ed. note: You may need to click on the charts and graphs she includes or hit the “Zoom +” button to be able to read what they contain.]                  Peter Dreier, professsor of Politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College, weighs in on the billionaires who are using their outside financial influence to defeat board Pres. Steve Zimmer in a hotly contested LAUSD school board race (see above).  Dreier’s commentary appears on THE HUFFINGTON POST and he names names and lists some of the organizations backing the challengers.  “The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call ‘school reform.’  What they’re really after,” he charges, “is not ‘reform’ (improving our schools for the sake of students) but ‘privatization’ (business control of public education).  They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education.”            Diane Ravitch’ blog endorses candidates in two of the three LAUSD school board races ahead of the election on Tuesday.  In District 2 she urges a vote for one of the two challengers against incumbent Monica Garcia and in District 4 she picks incumbent Steve Zimmer.  “It seems every school board race in Los Angeles is a struggle for the existence of public education,” she observes.  “That is because Eli Broad and his billionaire friends pour millions of dollars into local school board races (and Eli is one of the few billionaires who actually lives in Los Angeles) to try to control it.”
Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos IS the Sec. of Education.  There’s no arguing that fact.  Whether she should be in that job is a whole other story.  Since her appointment was announced in late November, the “Ed News” has highlighted a a myriad of items detailing her advocacy for charters, vouchers and choice, her lack of practical teaching experience and her dislike of traditional public schools, among other issues.  TheCenter for American Progress (CAP), a progressive public policy and advocacy group, perused her financial disclosure forms during her Senate confirmation process and after and discovered some rather disturbing trends.  An investigative piece on the organization’s website reveals a number of alarming investments she has, so far, not made any effort to divest herself from.  “Overall, DeVos’ paperwork showcases an extensive web of investments, several of which raise eyebrows. . . .  Unfortunately,” the piece points out, “senators could not ask DeVos any questions about what is in the OGE [Office of Government Ethics] paperwork during her confirmation hearing.   In an unprecedented move that applied to no other Trump nominee, DeVos’ hearing went forward before the paperwork was finished.  Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP, never had a chance to ask about it.”  
Trump and Education
Pres. Trump delivered his first speech to a join session of Congress on Tuesday night.  He briefly mentioned education, calling it the “civil rights issue of our time,” which several previous presidents had also done.  In addition,  he repeated his campaign rhetoric regarding his plan to divert billions of federal taxpayer dollars ($20 billion) into a “tax credit scholarship program” (vouchers) for students to use at private or parochial schools.  The “Politics K-12” column for EDUCATION WEEK reviews the speech and some of the other issues Trump raised.  “The push for school choice is no surprise—it’s the education issue Trump talked about most often on the campaign trail,” it mentions.  “And Trump picked an education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who spent decades advocating for expanding vouchers and charter schools.”                            Jeff Bryant, on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, is troubled by the verbiage Pres. Trump used about education in his speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday night (see above).  Bryant finds Trump’s proposals for school “choice” and vouchers to be rather dangerous as they could easily lead down the slippery slope of promoting religious fundamentalism at TAXPAYER EXPENSE.  He describes some of the textbooks used in religious schools that voucher wielding students could be attending.  Whatever happened to that founding fathers’ provision in the Constitution about separation of church and state?   Want a peek at how this might look around the country?  Of the roughly 2,300 private schools in Florida,” he points out, “more than 1,500 accept voucher money, and of these voucher-accepting schools, about 45 percent rely on them for at least half of their students.  About 70 percent of these schools are religiously affiliated, ‘including some where religion is a central focus.’  Now, Trump wants to roll that out nationwide.”  “This is an alarming post,” Diane Ravitch’s blog warns regarding Bryant’s story.  “Read at your own peril. . . .  Read the entire article.  Ask yourself whether religious fundamentalism provides the kind of education that our nation’s children need to prepare for a complex world.”  Ravitch is being rather kind in her admonition.               Mike Klonsky’s SmallTalk Blog has an analysis of Trump’s speech to Congress.   See if you can figure out what Klonsky thought of it from his title: “Trump’s Empty Statements on Education.”   He picks up on a couple of the points Trump tried to make.  “Trump’s vapid speech to the Joint Session of Congress last night revealed, among other things,” Klonsky complains, “that he is an educational know-nothing.  As you might expect, the speech was void of any real vision for the future of public education or school reform.  It amounted to little more than a sound-bite ad for market-driven schooling.”            This is pretty telling.  Today Pres. Trump made his first official visit to a school as president and it was to a CATHOLIC CAMPUS in Florida where over 85% of the 350 students are able to attend due to taxpayer provided vouchers.  That’s a photo-opp fraught with meaning.  Valerie Strauss discusses the trip prior to its taking place on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post.  “Trump has repeatedly expressed his interest in expanding school choice,” she reminds readers, “which includes voucher and tax credit programs that use public dollars to fund tuition and other educational expenses at private and religious schools.  Opponents say these programs violate the constitutional separation between church and state and harm traditional public education systems where the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren are enrolled.  But they have grown substantially in the past decade, and DeVos has been a leader in the choice movement for decades.”              The Politics K-12″ column for EDUCATION WEEK reports on Pres. Trump’s visit to a Florida Catholic school this morning which was his first stopover at a school as president (see above).  He was accompanied by Betsy DeVos and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).  “Symbolically, it’s telling that Trump picked a Catholic—not public—school for his first school visit,” it points out.  “President Barack Obama, a charter fan, picked a charter in the District of Columbia for one of his earliest school tours, although he went to a Catholic school as president-elect, back in November of 2009.  And President George W. Bush choose a public school in Tennessee.”               Valerie Strauss follows up her blog about Pres. Trump’s visit to the Catholic school in Orlando, Florida, (see above) in her blog for The Washington Post.  She describes what took place, who attended and what the message and meaning is of the stop.  “Trump is the first sitting president to visit a Catholic school,” she mentions, “since Ronald Reagan visited St. Agatha Catholic School in the Archdiocese of Detroit on Oct. 10, 1984, years after he was elected.”
Public Attitudes About Education
California is unarguably a very progressive, blue state.  Texas, on the other hand, is a deeply conservative, red state.  The Texas Politics Project, which is a partnership between the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, polled 1,200 registered voters in February about their attitudes on a number of general subjects.  One question had to do with what steps could be taken that would be the “most effective in improving K-12 education?”  The top choice selected by 21% of respondents was “Reducing the number of standardized tests students must take;”  number 2 choice picked by 20% of respondents was “Increasing funding for the public school system.”  Click on the boxes at the bottom of this bar graph to view a particular demographic breakdown of the numbers. The results are rather intriguing, particularly when you remember Texas is such a Republican state.  Imagine what the findings might be here in California.
Teacher Training
When you were working on your credential did the preparation program include any sort of training for working with students with disabilities?  [Ed. note: That was a long time ago for me (1972), but to the best of my knowledge, my answer would be “no.”]  A story inTHE HECHINGER REPORT finds that many teacher training programs even today offer little, if any, instruction in working with students with disabilities.  “The need for teachers who have both the knowledge and the ability to teach special education students is more critical today than ever before,” it suggests.  “A national push to take students with disabilities out of isolation means most now spend the majority of their days in general education classrooms, rather than in separate, special education classes.  That means general education teachers are teaching more students with disabilities.  But training programs are doing little to prepare teachers.”  The article goes on to illustrate its point through the experiences of one middle school math educator in New Jersey who began teaching in 2012.                Is your district facing a teacher shortage?  Are there not enough newly credentialed educators in your state to meet the demand?  Why not have that district create its own teacher preparation program?  That’s exactly what the Las Virgenes Unified School District (Ventura County) is doing starting in the fall.  Thanks to ALOED member Nancy Kuechle for sending along an article from The Acorn newspaper that describes just how the LVUSD is planning to develop a credential program of its own.  “Educators currently receive their credentialing through the Ventura County Office of Education,” it spells out.  “District Assistant Superintendent Clara Finneran said Las Virgenes has specific goals focused on reducing suspension and expulsion rates among students that don’t coincide with the VCOE.”
The Teaching Profession
Although it is not often included in state history standards, more and more teachers and districts are including units on the history of white nationalism in the U.S.  In the past year or so, the country has seen an upsurge in hate crimes and the formation of hate groups.  The author of an essay on the LIVING in DIALOGUE blog is a history teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  “Although white nationalism has always been a dominant, if not the dominant ideology in American history, white nationalists in the twenty-first century often embrace policies of voter restrictions, immigration restriction, segregation, flight from public schools, and the defunding of any public programs at any level that are perceived to transfer public funds to minority groups.  Moreover,” he continues, “the current resurgence of white nationalism seems to be fueled by the prospect of a minority majority in the near future.  Demographers have established that people of color will outnumber white Americans in about thirty years.”              Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) gets at the essence of the teaching profession in an impassioned defense of teachers.  “The art of teaching cannot be confined to one definition for every school day.  The art of teaching is different on different days,” she contends, “with different classes of students, and is different with individual students.   The art of teaching does not exist in a silo of one word.  One of the administrators who worked in my district said it best, ‘Teaching is the only profession where you have to make 30 decisions in a 40 minute period that can impact a child’s life.’  Teaching is not one thing or the other.  Teaching is many things all at once.” Hear!  Hear to that!
Proposal to Start School Day Later for California Teens
An editorial in Friday’s L.A. Times commented on a story in the Feb. 18th edition of the paper about a bill introduced in the California legislature that would allow the school day for middle and high school students to start sometime after 8:30 in the morning.  The editorial prompted a single letter-to-the-editor that appears in yesterday’s Times.  It is from a retired middle school teacher who worked at a school that began at 7:30.  The author of the letter was in favor of the later start.  
Charter Schools  
Intelligence Squared U.S. held a fascinating debate on Wednesday in Manhattan on the topic: “Charters Schools are Overrated.”  Arguing in favor of that statement are Gary Mirron, professor of Education at Western Michigan University, and Julian Vasquez Heilig, professor of Educational Leadership at CSU Sacramento and co-founder of the NPE (Network for Public Education).  [Ed. note: An ALOED colleague and I heard Dr. Heilig speak at Antioch University’s Culver City campus on February 16.  See the Feb. 24, edition of the “Ed News.]  Arguing against the statement are Jeanne Allen, chief executive officer of the Center for School Reform, and Gerard Robinson, a former Florida education commissioner and resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  The “Charters & Choice” column for EDUCATION WEEK has a recap of the debate which includes a poll of viewers prior to and after the event about how they felt about the topic.  “The debate comes at a time when expanding school choice, including charter schools, is shaping up to be the main agenda for K-12 under President Donald Trump,” it mentions,” who brought the issue up during his first formal address to Congress.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been one of the biggest champions for school choice for years, pouring millions of dollars from her family’s fortune into supporting charters, private school vouchers, and other forms of choice.”  The winner of the debate was the side that changed the most minds among the online and live audience viewers.  You can read the article and check out the before and after responses by clicking here and you can view a video (109:41 minutes) of the debate on the Intelligence Squared U.S. website.                Vicki Cobb, President and founder of iNK Think Tank, Inc., and prolific author of nonfiction books for children, viewed the debate about charter schools (see above) and commented on it for THE HUFFINGTON POST.  “My ‘lane’ is quality education for every child.  So, I am interested in the problems and processes that go into starting a school from scratch. Republicans and education ‘reformers’ frame this as ‘choice’ and believe that choice is essential to the republic,”  she suggests.  “But, if you’re a parent that can be misleading. Even if your child is in a local public school, you have choices—you can send your child to another public school, or a magnet school, or get involved in contributing time and ideas to your own local school. For people of color in poor neighborhoods, charters represent a seductive alternative to the local school, which may have been labeled “failing.’”     Friday pop quiz: How many states allow charter schools?  Answer: 43 + the District of Columbia.  Kentucky could soon become the 44th state as a bill to do just that is working its way through the state legislature according to an item in EDUCATION WEEK.  Both houses of the Bluegrass state’s legislature and the governor’s office are controlled by the Republicans, so prospects are excellent that the bill will eventual become law.  It now goes to the state Senate.  “House Bill 520 would let local school boards and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington,” it explains, “contract with private groups to create charter schools in their communities.  Each of these schools would be governed by an independent board of directors that must include two parents from the school’s students. The contracts would have to be renewed every five years.”
LAUSD Sues City Over Toxic Cleanup Costs
The LAUSD filed suit against the city Housing Authority in an attempt to recover costs of cleaning up lead and arsenic contamination at David Starr Jordan High School in Watts. An article in today’s L.A. Times reviews the situation and the latest legal action.  “The district says that the contamination seeped into the soil from a neighboring parcel of land,” the piece explains, “that the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles bought in 2008 to develop.  The school district says the school’s arsenic and lead levels are currently safe but that the housing authority needs to take responsibility for the work that’s already been done as well as for any future work. . . .  The site was used for heavy industry from the 1930s to the 1970s.  Scrap metal was stored there, and furnaces melted scrap iron for use in steel products.”
Supporting Public Schools
The “K-12 Contrarian” column for EDUCATION WEEK offers “Some Things You Can Do to Support Public Education Now.”  It provides 5 concrete suggestions that counteract some of the arguments that our traditional public school system is “failing.”  Here’s one idea from the list: “Get to know the issues—and especially learn your history.” “There are no shortcuts.  Get involved.  Make a commitment.  Write a letter.  Work to elect good people to the school board,” the author urges.  “Get on the school board yourself. There can be no democracy without a good education system.  It’s up to us to make sure everyone has access to one.  It’s hard, slow, deliberate work protecting public education, but it’s worth it.”
Guns in Schools
Does Pres. Trump plan to end gun free zones around the nation’s schools?  He promised he would do that during the campaign.  Will he follow through and if so, when?  Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG thinks that “is a bad idea” and gives 5 reasons why.  “Children deserve a safe environment in which to learn,” he concludes simply.  “Adding guns to our already overburdened public schools is throwing a match at an already explosive situation.”  Be sure to check out the photo that leads off this piece–scary!
Students in Montebello Protest Proposed Staff Cuts
Hundreds of students in the Montebello Unified School District staged a walkout yesterday to protest proposed staff cuts for the district.  Issues of corruption and mismanagement have plagued the district over the past several months and fiscal problems go back to the 1990s according to a story in today’s L.A. Times.  “More than two decades ago, students walked out of schools in the Montebello Unified School District, protesting millions of dollars in budget cuts.  On Thursday,” it begins, “history repeated itself, with hundreds rallying at the district office to protest hundreds of potential layoffs.”
A Correction
And finally, in the Feb. 24th edition of the “Ed News” I indicated that another ALOED member and I attended a speech by Julian Vasquez Heilig at the Culver City campus of Antioch University on the wrong date.  It should have read February 16th.
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.