Ed News, Tuesday, March 7, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 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.
                                      .                                                                       http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/images/editor/iModules%2520Tiger.jpg&imgrefurl=http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=254&h=535&w=589&tbnid=HpSKtombb69zFM:&zoom=1&docid=b__GuALUiVQjxM&hl=en&ei=eoUbVY37HJXhoASho4KgDg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCYQMygJMAk
 
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)  
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.             
                 

 

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