Ed News, Tuesday, March 28, 2017 Edition

The ED NEWS

 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.”
                                      .                                                                      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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