The ED NEWS
A Blog with News and Views of Critical Education Issues
[Ed. note: Wow, a body tries to take a short vacation to enjoy the Spring Break and who would guess so much education news would emerge during Palm Sunday, Passover, Good Friday and Easter. Anyway, this edition of the “Ed News” has a lot of information to digest. Just a reminder: I don’t make the news, I just try to report it for you. My suggestion: try not to take it all in in one reading.]
And now to a LOT of news.
“Knowledge is the name professors give to the confusion they create.”
― Marty Rubin
San Diego USD to Fight Islamophobia and Bullying
The San Diego Unified School District approved a plan earlier this month to combat Islamophobia and bullying on its campuses. The program will be introduced to faculty and staff during the remainder of this school year and will commence at the beginning of the fall semester. A story in the April 8th, L.A. Times describes why the district decided to go in this direction. “A 2015 report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations,” it notes, “found that 55% of Muslim American students surveyed in California said they had been bullied because of their religion. In July, the San Diego school board directed district staff to work with CAIR in developing a plan to address the issue locally.”
ALOED member Larry Lawrence and Joan Davidson, educator and parent activist, were prominently featured in a piece on Diane Ravitch’s blog about some sleuthing they engaged in to find out what’s going on behind the scenes at an office of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) at UCLA. The company provides the Common Core-based standardized tests and materials for California and 14 other states. That, however, is down from a peak of 25. The office will be moving at the end of June since UCLA severed its connection to the organization. “The SBAC organization is using public funds,” Davidson writes by way of introduction to her and Larry’s notes, “but refuses to make public their agendas, minutes, meeting locations, budgetary decisions, etc. Since the tests are secret as well, someone in one of the 15 states who contract with SBAC needs to explain to the public how they are using public funds without any public information disclosable to the public.” Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, offers a primer on the economics of standardized testing. He explains how government legislation mandates schools give standardized tests which means it creates a forced market for the products being sold by the testing companies. It’s all very simple but at the same time extremely pernicious. “In the case of government mandating consumers to buy a particular product, it’s perhaps the strongest case of a captive market. Consumers have no choice but to comply,” he perceptibly points out, “and thus have little to no protection from abuse. They are at the mercy of the supplier. It’s a terrible position to be in for consumers, but a powerful one for businesspeople. And it’s exactly the situation for public schools and the standardized testing industry.” What is the real, total cost of standardized testing programs for states? A bill recently introduced in the Texas legislature would mandate that figure be determined and made public. A commentary by Sara Stevenson, a librarian at a middle school Texas, in The Austin American-Statesman, suggests the costs are more than just what a district pays a company for the tests it administers. There is also costs for test prep materials and salaries paid to personnel to administer the tests among others. “If Texans know the true cost of all this state-mandated testing,” she maintains, “we can all come together to eliminate or severely dial down these tests with the shared goal of using our talent and our treasure more wisely.” Valerie Strauss turns her “Answer Sheet” column in The Washington Post over to Stan Karp, veteran educator and an editor of the “Rethinking Schools” magazine which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Karp’s topic: “Why High School Exit Exams are a Waste of Time.” He points out that, as part of the backlash against standardized tests, more and more experts are questioning the value of high school exit exams. California and 9 other states have recently ended or postponed their tests and the Golden State went so far as to issue diplomas retroactively to students who were denied them due to not being able to pass the assessments. “There are several reasons for this retreat, including the research on exit testing,” he relates, “which clearly shows that exit tests don’t help the students who pass and hurt the students who don’t. They increase dropout rates and incarceration rates without improving college participation, college completion levels, or economic prospects for graduates in states that have them.” Karp proceeds to review much of the research that reinforces the supposition that the tests are not useful.
The Teaching Profession
A previous edition of the “Ed News” highlighted a bill (SB 807) introduced in the California legislature that attempts to address the teacher shortage plaguing this state. It would exempt teachers from paying California state income taxes which would, in essence, give them a 4%-6% pay increase. The idea behind the legislation is that it would help attract and retain teachers in the Golden State. An editorial in the April 9th, L.A. Times is skeptical of the concept. “Studies of why teachers leave the profession don’t generally find that their salaries — admittedly low compared with professions that require similar educations — are at the top of the list,” it points out. “Heavy workloads, disruptive working conditions, lack of autonomy and a perception that their work isn’t respected tend to be the more common concerns.” The editorial in the Times about offering teachers a break on paying state income taxes (see above) drew 3 letters that appear in Saturday’s paper. The first one makes the point that increasing salaries will not convince educators to remain in their classrooms. “To the editor: As a high school English teacher with 10 years of experience in the classroom,” the author begins, “I want to adamantly stress that there is only one overriding reason teachers quit: the steady erosion of authority and respect.” Over the years the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of interesting teaching techniques. Here’s another one: “Expansive listening.” Elena Aguilar, the author of this commentary in “The Art of Coaching Teachers” column for EDUCATION WEEK, is a veteran K-12 educator and a transformational-leadership coach and consultant who works out of Oakland, CA. She defines the technique and describes some ways teachers can implement it in their classrooms and everyday lives. “Expansive listening takes courage. It takes practice. It takes fierce commitment to a different way of being,” she relates. “This kind of listening and questioning requires a voyage into the deepest unknown. You need not abandon all opinions nor dishonor your experiences. You need to be willing to be changed by what you hear.” Aguilar proceeds to offer some concrete tips on how to achieve all of this. When schools and districts face teacher shortages, as many now are, that also means they probably don’t have enough substitutes of fill in for educators who call in sick. Previous editions of the “Ed News” have highlighted the problems of teacher shortages, THE HECHINGER REPORT takes on the issue of a shortfall of substitutes and how it impacts students. Often this situation effects high-poverty districts, special education students and schools with high numbers of English Language Learners the most. The article focuses on how Niagara Falls High School on the New York/Canadian border deals with the problem. “Turning to substitutes at all can create cause for concern,” the item mentions. “Research shows that academic achievement declines the more days students spend with subs.” Valerie Strauss, on her “Answer Sheet” blog for The Washington Post, features some new research on how the demographics of the K-12 teaching force have changed in the U.S. between 1987-88 and 2011-12. One of the more significant trends has to do with the number of minority teachers. Even though the amount more than doubled over the quarter century of the study, the total still hovers at less than 20%. The figures are broken down into many different categories. “From 1987 to 1988 and 2011 to 2012, researchers found that the teaching force became much larger, by 46 percent; more diverse, though minority teachers remain underrepresented; and less experienced,” Strauss points out. “There were, however, large differences among different types of schools and academic subjects.” The column includes a copy of the full report (80 pages) titled “A Quarter Century of Changes in the Elementary and Secondary Teaching Force: From 1987 to 2012.” The study was released by the U.S. Dept. of Education based on figures analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics. More and more teachers are making their resignation letters public and the “Ed News” has highlighted a number of them in the past. A new study of these “I Quit” missives finds they are not just individual statements of why the educator is leaving but are quickly becoming a much broader plea to rally like-minded people to social action. The “Teacher Beat” column for EDUCATION WEEK features the report. “In the past five years, U.S. teachers have increasingly shared their resignation letters online—in blogs, on Facebook, Youtube, and on local and national news sites—where the missives have gone viral. These letters come from novice and veteran teachers of all subjects and grade levels, in urban and suburban settings all across the country. Linking these letters,” it relates, “is the view that education in the United States is headed in the wrong direction, and that the best course of action is to leave the classroom and let the public know why.” The article includes a link to the full study (11 pages) as published in the journal “Linguistics and Education.” It’s titled “With Regret: The Genre of Teachers’ Public Resignation Letters.” Are you a future teacher or an educator who is contemplating changing districts? If so, this one is for you. Ariel Sacks is a middle school language arts teacher and instructional-support coach. In the “Teaching for the Whole Story” column for ED WEEK, she offers an “Interview Tip for Teachers: Be Prepared to Be Specific.” She offers a “few tidbits of advice” for those facing a job interview including how to deal with questions you might typically be asked. “A move into a new teaching position,” Sacks concludes, “is a great time to reflect, connect to your purpose as a teacher, and mine your experiences for those specific, positive examples that will show strangers what you are capable of in the classroom.”
[Ed. note: I spent a number of my off-track times with the LAUSD at what used to be called “Teacher Selection and Recruitment” at their downtown headquarters on Grand Ave. doing intakes and interviewing new teachers and those experienced educators seeking to change districts. Sacks’ guidance is right on based on my experiences.] Sacks promises to offer a second tip for successful job interviewing in the future.
Betsy DeVos just selected Candice Jackson to serve as the acting head of the Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and Jackson, apparently, is a real doozy. She will fill that job until a permanent nominee is chosen and then will become a deputy assistant secretary at the OCR. ProPublica has a profile of this latest appointment. “Although her limited background in civil rights law makes it difficult to infer her positions on specific issues, Jackson’s writings during and after college suggest she’s likely to steer one of the Education Department’s most important — and controversial — branches in a different direction than her predecessors. A longtime anti-Clinton activist and an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian,” it explains, “she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.” I told you she was a humdinger. Steven Singer, on his GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOGreacted to the choice of Candice Jackson to serve as the acting head of the DoE’s Office of Civil Rights (see above). You can probably guess from the title of his essay how he feels about her: “Dept. of Ed Hires Anti-Civil Rights Crusader to Protect Student’s Nonexistent Civil Rights.” “This is the kind of administration,” Singer ends derisively, “that will finally ensure that never again will any white person ever be inconvenienced by people of color and all their needs! Never will the poor or minorities ever receive any federal help that could be perceived by white people as extra help – if we forget about all that we have helping us. Finally we’ll all be equal. And some of us will be even more equal than others!
Be sure to check out the highly photo shopped pictures that lead off and conclude the piece. DeVos has been busy, of late, filling some open positions in the Dept. of Education
(see 2 items above for one of her more controversial choices). A story in EDUCATION WEEK
reviews 9 of her latest selections, including that of Candice Jackson. “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,” it begins, “has announced a slate of hires for key positions in the Department of Education—many of whom have been working in the agency since the beginning of the Trump administration in unofficial capacities.”
Betsy DeVos has waded into the student loan issue
and her latest actions are not very promising. The New York Times
has run several articles over the past month on the debt problems plaguing students and what the new administration is or is not doing about it. In its latest installment the paper looks at how DeVos has rescinded a key rule instituted under Pres. Obama to try to clear up some of the confusion over how the student loan program is managed. “It was a high-stakes move: Her department administers $1.3 trillion in loans on behalf of nearly 43 million student borrowers. At issue is which companies will handle the bulk of those loans in the future,”
the article explains, “and how they will do it. Under the Obama administration, the Education Department was on the verge of selecting a single vendor to build a new system for servicing its student loans, in what was expected to be one of the largest federal contracts outside of the military. But on Tuesday,
[April 11], Ms. DeVos signed an order rescinding key parts of that attempt to streamline the system — essentially hitting the reset button on the Obama-era plan.”
A nomadic LAUSD charter school will be closing its doors at the end of this school year after several forced location changes led to a severe drop in enrollment. The final nail in the coffin for the Westchester Secondary Charter School came last week when the County Board of Education voted not to renew its charter for another 5-year term. An article in the April 10th, L.A. Times details what happened to the school. “Its enrollment, now at fewer than 220 students spread among grades 6-12,” it explains, “peaked in 2014 and never recovered. Its students’ scores on the state exams were comparable to those at nearby schools such as Crenshaw High School and Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets (formerly Westchester High School), but a county report found it hadn’t met any of its other academic goals. ‘The educational program at Westchester is not likely to be of educational benefit to the pupils who attend,’ the report said.” A new report from the group In the Public Interest (ITPI), out of Oakland, finds that charter schools continue to expand and siphon off precious taxpayer dollars from their traditional public school counterparts even as the demand for charters and their need declines. The study is featured in an item that appeared in the L.A. Times last Tuesday. The analysis “looks at where charter schools are increasing in number and where schools are needed based on enrollment. The two trend lines do not correspond, researchers found — especially in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” the article relates, “where the number of school-age children has declined even as the number of charters has exploded. . . . The report points out that traditional school districts can’t build new schools when real or potential enrollment fails to justify expansion. But those rules don’t apply to charter schools,” it continues, “which can open anywhere and qualify for state funding or subsidies to build or lease facilities. The report says public funds helped open and sustain at least 450 charters in areas with plenty of existing classroom space.” You can find an overview of the study including its 8 key findings by clicking here which includes a link to the full ITPI report (59 pages), titled “Spending Blind–The Failure of Policy Planning in California Charter School Funding,” or the full study can be accessed here. “The California charter school industry has been growing rapidly for the past twenty years. From less than 200 schools in 1998,” the Introduction to the full study points out, “the industry has grown by more than 600%, to over 1,200 schools serving nearly 600,000 children, or nearly 10% of the state’s students. And this growth is poised to continue into the future, with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) declaring a goal of serving one million students by 2022.”
Some good news for the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools charter network which manages 28 middle and high schools in Los Angeles. 67 teaches complained that the organization was spending taxpayer money to fight off their effort to join UTLA
, the teachers union that represents educators at the LAUSD. A state audit, made public last week, cleared the network of any mismanagement of pubic funds or fraud but did direct it to refrain from the skirting of regulations regarding the sharing of parent and alumni private information. A story in Friday’s Times
reports on the audit’s findings. “Alliance did spend nearly $1 million to fend off unionization, the audit found. But none of that money,
it mentions, “was taken out of the schools’ budgets, diverted from classrooms or drawn from public funds. Instead, the charter network relied on private contributions. According to the audit, it raised about $1.7 million from a network of private donors and benefited from another $2 million in pro bono legal work. As of June 2016, Alliance had spent about $915,000 — including $426,000 on consulting fees, $107,000 on legal costs, and $31,000 for flyers and letters to parents and teachers — in fighting unionization.”
Wow! That seems like an awful lot of money to spend in an attempt to keep teachers from joining a union. The group Great Public Schools Now, which is a loosely organized front for the Eli Broad-led attempt to move up to 50% of LAUSD students into charters, is flexing its financial muscle once again. In an attempt to curry favor with the district’s traditional public schools it has provided $750,000 grants to two successful schools
in order to have them recreate new campuses in their image. An article in Friday’s Times
describes the awards and how they came about. “Union leaders and charter school critics remain skeptical of Great Public Schools Now, which is less than two years old,”
it notes. They’ve called its aid to L.A. Unified a form of tokenism compared with relatively vast sums that well-heeled backers of the group have provided in years past to charter operators. These critics have said they expect Great Public Schools Now to continue that pattern.”
Traditional public education is under assault from the corporate “reformers,” privatizers and their allies. The “Ed News” has chronicled this onslaught on many occasions and is one of the reasons this blog even exists. The U.S. Congress is on its Spring Recess until April 23rd, and Jeff Bryant believes this is an ideal opportunity to get involved in the fight to save our public schools. He refers to his small moment as “The Resistance Recess.” Writing on the Education Opportunity NETWORK, he reviews some of the stories describing how the corporate “reform” movement is trying to replace the traditional public system with charters, “choice,” vouchers and other strategies. He explains how proponents of the public schools can get active and touts the NPE’s “Toolkit” which explains school privatization through a series of 13 one-page fact sheets and an interactive graphic that was highlighted in the April 7th, edition of the “Ed News.” If you missed that, Bryant includes a link where you can find it. “Whether you have school-age children or not, you have a lot at stake in the struggle to ensure public schools continue to benefit the public,” he implores.” “Public education is America’s most collaborative endeavor by far. We all pay taxes to support public schools. Schools are community anchors like main streets, town halls, public parks, churches, and community centers. And we depend on public schools to prepare our future workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens. Public schools are the foundation of our democracy,” Bryant continues, “where students learn to respect and appreciate others who are different from them and schools model civic values to students and the community. But public schools are imperiled, which means our democracy, and our future, is too.” Want a peak into the possible dystopian future of public education? Jeff Bryant, this time writing for The Progressive, titles his piece “Erie, Pennsylvania’s Schools Are a Canary in the Coal Mine of Education.” He describes the latest hobson’s choices confronting the low-income schools in Erie. The picture he paints is not a pleasant one and confirms his admonition in the item above that now is the time to actively fight for our traditional public schools. Bryant describes the myriad problems plaguing the Erie schools and what their limited options are. “All these economic educational hardships, which are well documented, might sound extreme,” he suggests. “But it’s not as if Erie is a special case. A 2015 analysis by the federal government found schools that serve poor kids are increasingly financially disadvantaged nationwide, while schools for better-off children are increasingly given a funding advantage by state and local lawmakers.”
The Role of School Superintendents
What kinds of characteristics make for a strong AND successful school superintendent? Nicholas A. Fischer held a number of assistant superintendent and superintendent positions in school districts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware and Virgina as well as working for the Massachusetts Dept. of Education. He is currently a school-management consultant and coach. His commentary, titled “Leading a School District Can Be Controversial, Embrace It,” appears courtesy of EDUCATION WEEK. He makes a major point of saying that being worried about political repercussions shouldn’t drive one’s decisionmaking. “School and district leaders must have a core set of beliefs that allows them to stand their ground and risk their jobs over contested decisions. Despite pushback, they’ll find constituents who are willing to support the kinds of leaders who pursue what is in the best interest of students, parents, and school staff. The function of schools,” Fischer concludes, “is to make sure that young people have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. And a skilled leader should never fear taking a political risk when it comes to helping children become the best they can be.”
ALOED members Randy Traweek, Larry Lawrence and I attended a talk by noted author and former UC Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff on Thursday evening at the IMAN Cultural Center in Culver City. Lakoff, who recently retired after a 50 year career in the classroom, spoke about how progressives can and should interact with conservative Republicans and Pres. Trump supporters. He briefly reviewed his theories of how conservatives and progressives are brought up differently and addressed the topic “What To Do Now: How We Can Win With the Right Message.” He spoke for about 90 minutes and took questions from the audience for about 45. You can read more about his ideas on contemporary politics and personalities at his George Lakoff blog by clicking here.
Vaccination Rates Increase
Since California tightened requirements for vaccinations in 2015 the rate for students getting the shots has increased significantly despite some controversy over the legislation. A piece in Thursday’s L.A. Times reports on the latest figures and includes a graph and 2 maps illustrating the statistics. “New data released Wednesday,” it points out, “showed that the percentage of California’s kindergartners as of last fall with all required vaccinations rose from 92.8% to 95.6%. Los Angeles County’s rate jumped from 90% to 95%, and Orange County’s from 92.5% to 95.5%.” An editorial in Friday’s Times was laudatory of the 2015 vaccination law in California and impressed with the gains in inoculation rates it achieved (see above). “This data is cause for celebration, albeit a measured one. Though there are fewer counties in the vaccination danger zone,” it relates, “some remain, mostly in the north end of the state. Eighteen percent of schools in the state still have immunization rates lower than 95%. Those shortfalls must be eliminated. Also, the vaccination rates are only for entering kindergartners. Older kids who were previously exempted weren’t required by SB 277 to update their shots. There will be gaps in the collective immunity levels until those students either reach 7th grade, which has its own immunization requirements, or move on.”
Starting the School Day Later
The “Ed News” has highlighted several studies that find that starting the school day after 8:30 am leads to some positive outcomes for middle and high school students. A State Senator in California is trying to do something about it. Anthony Portantino who represents the 25th Senate District that covers portions of the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys has introduced SB 328 which would mandate middle and high schools in the state start the day no earlier than 8:30 am. A story in the “Time and Learning” column for Education Week reviews the research about the later starts and previews the legislation. It focuses on a new study by Pamela Malaspina McKeever, a researcher at Central Connecticut State University, who just so happens to be an elementary school principal as well. She discovered a positive correlation between later school start times and increased attendance and graduation rates. Who could possibly be against that? “McKeever’s study looked at data for 30,000 high school students enrolled in 29 different high schools across seven states,” the article explains. “She compared graduation and attendance rates for these schools one year before they implemented a start time after 8:30 and two years after they made the schedule change. She found that the average graduation rate rose from 79 percent to 88 percent. The average attendance rate rose from 90 percent to 94 percent.”
California Graduation Numbers Continue to Rise
The figures for high school graduation rates are often used as a key indicator of how successful schools and districts are. The news in California continues to be positive. The state’s 2015-16 graduation rate rose a little less than 1% over the previous year while the number for the LAUSD jumped 4.8%. Some critics were a bit skeptical of the results, claiming too many graduates are still not prepared for college or a career and that a few districts used various questionable methods to pad their numbers. A story in Thursday’s L.A. Timesprovides the latest developments. The statistics are augmented by several bar graphs.
The concept of “grit” as it relates to students and learning has been quite fashionable. Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, popularized the idea and the ALOED Book Club even discussed Paul Tough’s “How Children Succeed” several years ago which placed a strong emphasis on grit. However, there are critics and doubters of the whole notion. Christine Yeh is a professor of psychology and education and co-director of the Center for Research, Artistic and Scholarly Excellence at the University of San Francisco. You can count her among the detractors when it comes to promoting grit. Her commentary, for EDUCATION WEEK, is titled “Forget Grit. Focus on Inequality” and spotlights a new study that has some major misgivings about the stress on grit. “Grit is an easy concept to fall in love with because it represents hope and perseverance, and conjures up images of working-class individuals living the ‘American dream.’ However, treating grit as an appealing and simple fix,” Yeh complains, “detracts attention from the larger structural inequities in schools, while simultaneously romanticizing notions of poverty.”
Vicki Abeles on Ending Homework
Vicki Abeles, author of “Beyond Measure” and director and producer of the documentaries “Race to Nowhere” and “Beyond Measure,” a companion to her book, took part in a discussion about doing away with homework yesterday morning on Larry Mantle’s “AirTalk” program on NPR station 89.3 KPCC. They were joined by Jay Mathews, education reporter for The Washington Post and listeners who called in during the program with questions and comments. The piece is titled “Under Pressure: Should Homework be Abolished for Elementary School Students?” You can listen to the segment (21:35 minutes) and read a short overview by clicking here. [Ed. note: The ALOED Book Club discussed her book last month and the ALOED Educational Film Series took in a screening of “Race to Nowhere” several years ago.] Abeles also wrote an op-ed piece for motto, a TIME magazine online newsletter, titled “Why I Think All Schools Should Abolish Homework–It Should be the Exception, Not the Rule.” “How long is your child’s workweek? Thirty hours? Forty? Would it surprise you to learn that some elementary school kids have workweeks comparable to adults’ schedules? For most children, mandatory homework assignments push their workweek far beyond the school day,” Abeles writes, “and deep into what any other laborers would consider overtime. Even without sports or music or other school-sponsored extracurriculars, the daily homework slog keeps many students on the clock as long as lawyers, teachers, medical residents, truck drivers and other overworked adults. Is it any wonder that,deprived of the labor protections that we provide adults, our kids are suffering an epidemic of disengagement, anxiety and depression?”
Working With Students With Autism
Sesame Street recently introduced Julia, a muppet with autism. Many classrooms have students who are on the autism spectrum. With those two things in mind, EDUCATION WEEK presents a short video (4:18 minutes) featuring Laura Anthony, a clinical psychologist with the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Health System, who offers 3 tips on how to work with autistic students. Here’s one: “Tip #2 Teach Acceptance.”
Vouchers and School “Choice”
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case tomorrow morning that, although not directly related to education, could have serious implications for the federal expansion of vouchers and other private school “choice” initiatives. EDUCATION WEEK reviews the case and its issues regarding the separation of church and state. The main question in the case is whether state money may be used to improve a Missouri church’s preschool playground. You’ll have to read the item to see how that relates to vouchers and tax credits that might allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend religious schools. The court is back to its full complement of 9 justices with the recent seating of Neil Gorsuch and that could affect the outcome. “The case has drawn significant interest,” the article explains, from groups that are more interested in what the court’s eventual decision may mean for school choice.” An item in the “School Law” column for ED WEEK describes a late breaking twist to the court case (see above) that could render the question at hand moot. The governor of Missouri decided on Friday to reverse state policy that denied the church the chance to apply for the grant to improve its playground. That could throw a wrench into the works of the case facing the Supreme Court. “The arguments in the case are scheduled for 10 a.m. [tomorrow]. The justices could decide to scrap the case as moot,” this story points out, “or could proceed with the arguments, during which they could give further consideration of the governor’s action before moving to the merits.” Stay tuned for any new developments. Arizona had the first vouchers, aka educational savings accounts (ESAs), in the country and now has themost far-reaching voucher program in the nation and school “choice” proponents are looking to make it even broader. An item in ED WEEK reviews the expansive new law that the governor signed at the beginning of this month. “In 2011, Arizona became the first state in the country to approve such savings accounts, but only for students with disabilities. Since then,” it explains, “Arizona slowly has expanded the program to other student groups.”
Beware those initial, seemingly innocuous voucher programs (see above). They often grow into monsters! What started in Arizona as a plan for special needs students has morphed over several iterations into a much larger and more expensive use of taxpayer funds despite overall general opposition to the concept. Gene V. Glass, currently a lecturer in the College of Education at San Jose State, on his Education in Two Worlds
blog, explains what’s going on in the Grand Canyon state. “The latest incarnation of the program will expand the program by 5,000 students per year until a cap of 30,000 is reached. Even Republicans,”
he notes, “were reluctant to support the expansion, probably because of persistent non-support of vouchers among the voting public. The latest PDK Gallup poll continues to show more than 60% of parents opposed.”
The Case Against Corporal Punishment
Dr. Michael Flanagan, member of the BATs (Badass Teachers Association) once again makes the case for eliminating corporal punishment in our nation’s classrooms. Despite his and others’ arguments, you may be surprised at how pervasive the practice remains. “Corporal punishment is regularly used in 19 states; 15 states expressly permit it, while another 7 do not prohibit it. It is illegal in 28 states [including California] and Washington DC,” he reports. “The majority of the states that still permit corporal punishment are Southern states. Nationally, there were 163,000 cases of corporal punishment during the 2011-12 school year alone. Alabama paddled 19,000 students in 2013-2014, and Texas subjects more than 30,000 students a year to corporal punishment. Of the 19 states where corporal punishment is legal in schools, 11 states were former Jim Crow states, 14 states are Right To Work States and all went Republican in the last presidential election.” Flanagan illustrates his case with a number of charts and graphs.
A Model for Eliminating A-F Grades on Report Cards
Middle and high school students in the Windsor Locks Public School District are no longer bringing home report cards with A-F grades. The small Connecticut town located just south of the Massachusetts border is in the fifth year of an experiment with a new mastery-based system for evaluating student learning. This year’s freshman class will be the first to graduate with a mastery-based diploma. THE HECHINGER REPORT has a detailed story about the new plan, how it works and some of the resistance that has developed to it particularly around the issue of how it will affect college applications. “Each semester, progress is the goal. Students who take longer to learn something aren’t penalized for it, and they don’t get the chance to give up and move on. Actual mastery is the new bar for passing classes,” it spells out. “Teachers have had to get more creative in helping students understand new concepts, and students have had to take a lot more responsibility for their own learning. Sitting quietly at the back of the room is no longer an option in classrooms that prize student engagement.”
LAUSD Hopes to Promote Better Nutrition
The LAUSD board is expected to address two resolutions at its regular meeting today related to student nutrition and health. The first would end the partnership with McDonalds’s in which the chain hosts “McTeacher’s Night” fundraisers. The second would create a vegan option for every meal served in district cafeterias. The “Education Watch” column in today’s L.A. Times discusses both initiatives. “District guidelines already prohibit schools from seeking sponsorship from corporations that market, sell or produce products that may be harmful to children, including alcohol and firearms as well as high-fat and high-calorie foods and drinks,” it points out. “Still, McTeacher promotions have taken place more than 120 times from 2013 through 2016, according to research provided by the Boston nonprofit Corporate Accountability International. . . . At the fundraisers, teachers get behind the counters at the fast-food restaurants while parents and students line up to buy food. A portion of sales goes to the school or a school-related organization. The Corporate Accountability group said that McDonald’s asks for a minimum of 10 teachers and a principal to attend events and to promote them, according to public records obtained from school districts.”
Congratulations! You may it all the way to the end of this edition.
I warned you at the outset that there was a lot to read and digest.
You are to be commended for your perseverance!
Dave Alpert (Oxy, ’71)
Member ALOED, Alumni of Occidental in Education
That’s me working diligently on the blog.